Day At The Track
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The night clearly belonged to champion horseman Luke McCarthy. The Albion Park Harness Racing Club played host to a superb night of racing featuring the Seymour Nursery Pace Finals for two-year-old and three-year-old pacers. But McCarthy stole the show winning three of the four feature events including both Gr.1 $100,000 two-year-old finals with the Susan Hunter trained Waves Of Fire taking the colts and geldings division while his wife Belinda prepared fillies winner Smooth Showgirl. In total, McCarthy drove five winners on the bumper ten race program. “It was a good night at the office; Nursery Pace night is always a special card of racing and to win both feature events was super then to cap the night with Yank (Bling It On) winning another major is very special, he’s fast becoming one of my favourite pacers of all time.” McCarthy said. The Gr.1 $100,000 colts and geldings final featured highly regarded Sydney trained colt Artistic Flite who started a firm punters elect despite his wide draw but luck in running was against him and McCarthy landed a perfect trail with Waves Of Fire. With Admiral Bronski and Artistic Flite engaging in a survival of the fittest battle, Waves Of Fire loomed big danger approaching the final turn before unleashing a strong sprint over the concluding stages to beat a gallant Artistic Flite with A Good Chance running a brave race for third. Waves Of Fire, a Courage Under Fire – Operative Waves gelding was a maiden prior to the final. The winning mile rate was 1;58.4 for the 2138m. In the Gr.1 $100,000 fillies final, Smooth Showgirl started a clear favourite following her dazzling heat victory over the previously unbeaten Makes Every Scents earlier in the week and McCarthy wasted little time in sending the filly straight to the lead after stable Bamako Mali crossed to the marker line first. McCarthy controlled the pace perfectly with Smooth Showgirl before quickly turning the event into a sprint home over the concluding stages, Smooth Showgirl scored comfortably from emerging talent Feel The Faith while Bamako Mali finished third. Smooth Showgirl, a daughter of Art Major – Golden Showgirl is a graduate of the Australian Pacing Gold yearling sale and is raced by the Gurney Family and Paul Montgomery. The winning mile rate was 2;01.8 with the final section recorded in 27.3 seconds. The Gr.2 $75,000 three-year-old fillies final went the way of strong local talent Charming Allie who outstayed Freedom Is and Storm Delle in a thrilling contest. Trainer/driver Grant Dixon made his intentions clear early that he wanted to be up handy to the speed and kept pushing forward before finding the front nearing the mile marker. Dixon rated the filly perfectly in the first half of the race before sustaining extreme pressure from Morethanmeetstheye down the back straight on the final occasion. In the stretch, Charming Allie dug deep to hold off a brave Freedom Is while Storm Delle hit the line strongly once clear. The Mr Feelgood – Charm Personified filly is raced by her breeders, Kevin and Kay Seymour. The winning mile rate was 1;58.5. And in the Gr.2 $75,000 colts and gelding final, Bling It On clearly proved why is regarded as one of the best talents in the country with an effortless victory. Finding the lead with relative ease from Iam Mr Brightside, McCarthy dictated terms perfectly in front before blasting home in supersonic sectionals and winning by an ever expanding margin. The American Ideal colt raced clear in the home straight to score easily from Iam Mr Brightside and Raring To Go. Bling It On joins elite company as a dual winner of the famed Queensland feature. The winning mile rate was 1;59.0 with final splits of 28.5 and 26.5 seconds. McCarthy also claimed the $20,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final with Mac The Finn while New Zealand owned mare Safedra also added to his loot by winning the Experience the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz QO Pace. The Sydney based horseman has now won the two-year-old feature seven times – Fleur De Lil, Slipnslide, Tip Your Hat, Aussie Made Lombo, Bling It On while both Waves Of Fire and Smooth Showgirl now add their name to the list. The Listed $25,000 Flashing Red Handicap provided young reinsman Trent Moffat with his biggest thrill in the sport after steering veteran campaigner Vegas Bound to victory while his boss Grant Dixon scored in the $14,999 Charity Cup Final with cult pacer Majestic Mach. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)

Habibti may still race in Auckland during the month of December, but that will all depend on how she goes in Australia first. The superstar trotting filly of last season flew out late last week and, according to her co-trainer David Butt, has settled in well at the Victorian property of Susan Hunter. “She has settled in a treat and her work this morning was great,” enthused Butt. Habibti will be eased into her Australian campaign with an M0 on Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton, before she takes on the big fish in next week’s Bill Collins Trotters Mile. “She seems reasonably forward, so I expect her to be very hard to beat on Saturday,” said a bullish Butt. “The plan is to then race her in the Bill Collins Mile next week, followed by the Dullard Trotting Cup and if we are happy with her performances in both of those races she may go via Auckland for their feature trot races on the way home,” explains Butt. Butt has few qualms about Habibti stepping out into the open class ranks, but believes that this Australian campaign will provide her with a good introduction. “It looks a little bit easier than going head-to-head with the likes of Master Lavros, Stent, Peak, and, Stig, straight off the bat” he explains. “Judging by the times she ran last season she should have no problems in open class but you never quite know until you get there,” said Butt. “It’s never easy for a four-year-old trotting mare in open class but, in the saying that, she is a little bit special,” he added. Meanwhile, fellow kiwis Mah Sish and Vulcan will also fly the New Zealand flag at Melton on Saturday. The latter will clash with Habibti in next week’s Bill Collins Mile. “If he can replicate his Australian form from last season he will be hard to beat,” says Butt. “As will Blitzthemcalder if he lines up. They tell me he was pretty impressive in his trial yesterday.” While there is plenty of high class racing coming in from Melton on Saturday, it will be playing second fiddle to Tabcorp Park Menangle, which has a card made up of ten group or listed races, headlined by the $750,000 Miracle Mile. By Mitchell Robertson opened all-in markets on each of the two and three-year-old Breeders Crown finals earlier this week and it didn’t take long for punters to step in with gusto. The most notably backed horses, as is often the case each year, came from the Shaky Isles with Barry Purdon’s Our Maxim an early shortener from $6.50 into $5 before continued support late into the week saw him as short as $3.80. The biggest firmer in the early markets came in the three-year-old boys division with the New Zealand bred gelding Chilli Palmer, for Dean Braun, $26 into $11 before the shock scratching of Border Control saw him wound into $8.50. In the same division Bit Of A Legend for Cran Dalgety continued the theme of Kiwi horses finding support in the market as he was $2.60 into $2.20 and now as short as $1.40 off the back of the second-favourites scratching. Mindarie Priddy is the sole Australian bred representative to find solid money from the punters but at $2.50 when markets were put up, she found plenty of admirers. Immediately trimmed into $2.40, the backing didn’t stop with her into $2.25 before more money came to have her at $1.90 before her semi-final is already run. The other favourite for the series that has continued to be solidly backed is Frith who was as high as $2.50 earlier in the week before the cash came, leaving her the $2.20 outright favourite for the series. Long-priced followers haven’t missed one at $101 either with lightly raced Susan Hunter-trained filly Still In Denial backed down to $61 by Friday afternoon. To back any horse pre-post for the finals on August 18 simply follow this link through to who have a raft of markets available already for Super Sunday. by HRV Media

Tuesday night saw the running of the first four Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown repechages and it wasn’t without upsets. The very first heat saw Our Petite Soeur, from the Emma Stewart camp, upstage her more fancied rivals. The little filly, who is a half-sister to Our Femme Fatale, was able to find and hold the lead from barrier position two. Race favourite Te Amo Bromac dropped onto the leaders back in the early stages and was reeling in the winner up the straight but couldn’t catch her, going down by a half-neck on the line. Luda, who had the one by two trail mid-race, was a close up third with a margin back to fourth. Our Petite Soeur finished the race in a mile rate of 1:59.2 with the last half coming in 57.0. Favourite punters had some reprieve in the next as exciting filly Quick Draft made amends behind Mindarie Priddy in her heat. The David Aiken-trained daughter of Art Major ended up one out and one back mid-race but got the upper hand late, scoring by just under two metres from the Des McQueen winner Fon Design and the Susan Hunter-trained Still In Denial. The mile rate was a slightly slower 2:00.9 with the last half being recorded at 57.8. The colts and geldings had their shot at Breeders Crown glory in the next repechage and it was the upset of the night with A Bit  Ruthless having the cold sit on the odds-on favourite before securing an inside run in the straight and racing clear at the post. Handsome Major had nothing to left to challenge as the $24 roughie steamed clear by almost four metres with Loong Nien safely holding third. With a mile rate of 2:00.8, the winner was timed to run his last half in 57.4. The last qualifier saw a dominant performance from New Zealand’s champion Two-Year-Old Colt or Gelding in Our Sky Major. The Harness Jewels winner drew two but was quickly to the front for Barry and Mark Purdon. After having a slight breather in his first quarter, Purdon kept his charge running, recording the quickest mile rate of the four race in 1:57.3. Bespoke Artist was a solid second albeit nearly six metres away, while Hectorjayjay held third, a further 14 metres behind. The last half came in a brilliant 55.2 and has set Our Sky Major up to be one of the horses to beat come semi-final night when the Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown returns to Bray Raceway. by Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)

Mark down teenage reinsman Zac Phillips as the next big thing in Victorian harness racing.

Gutsy pacer Captain Joy will become a millionaire in Friday's (October 26) Brian Hancock Cup win lose or draw but the Susan Hunter stable is confident a return to his favourite track, Tabcorp Park Menangle, will see the seven year old get back on the winners list.

Connections of talented mare Louvre will target the new four year old Breeders Challenge Mares Final next year in an attempt to clean sweep the harness racing series.

Fresh from a Breeders Challenge Gr. 1 winning double at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon (June 24), the Susan Hunter harness racing stable will return to Victoria chasing more feature race success with talented pair Louvre and Married To The Mob.

Perfect winter weather, a big harness racing crowd and exciting action on Tabcorp Park Menangle's track ensured the success of Sunday's (June 24) Alabar Breeders Challenge day.

Bendigo was the venue for Saturday (April 7) harness racing in Victoria, with a mammoth 12 event program taking place highlighted by four first round heats of the Australian Pacing Gold for Two Year Old Fillies over 1650 metres, all dominated by favourites.

The Kilmore harness racing club conducted a successful meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton on Tuesday July 19, with a mixed bag of winners coming especially from the Melton area. Romsey trainer Leigh Miles continued his terrific season when D M Dilinger/Miss Philpotts gelding Top Tamba scored in the Bolinda Publishing 2-Y-0 Pacers Handicap over 2240 metres.

The odds were always in favour of Louvre possessing her fair share of harness racing racing ability. As the fifth foal of Safely Kept mare My Ami Lee, she is closely related to some of Australia's best underage performers of recent years.

Turn the clock back almost two years and Frank Cauchi's then three-year-old son of Jet Laag, Hilton Fly High, headed to the Queensland Derby as the one of the most highly regarded horses of his generation. But despite his status as a last start Group 1 winner in the $100,000 APG Final at Albion Park, the flashy colt was given little chance of further elite level success because of one outstanding adversary; Captain Joy.

Twenty-one-year-old Ashlee Siejka is set to become the first female driver to drive 100 New South Wales (NSW) winners in a season. While fellow harness racing driver Amanda Turnbull drove 102 winners last year, seven of those came from outside NSW.

This time last week, most Victorian interest across the ditch was squarely focussed on Bonavista Bay approaching the Group 1 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park. Today (Thursday), as the clock ticks down to Alexandra Park's $250,000, Group 1 Messenger Championship, that harness racing spotlight has subtly shifted to multiple Derby winning pocket rocket Captain Joy, following his eye catching run in the very same race.

Gavin Lang believes Alexandra Park and its right-handed way of racing is good for harness racing. He believed top horses like Captain Joy had no problem racing that way around, while many trainers simply preferred not to venture away from the left-handed way around because of a fear their horse won't cope.

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