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Star Queensland pacer Colt Thirty One sprouted wings over the final stages of the $35,000 Swan Hill Harness Racing Club's Pacing Cup last night to snatch victory - to the delight of drinkers at the bars. Ace trainer-driver Grant Dixon, who was Australia's leading trainer last year, timed his run to perfection in the long Swan Hill straight to nail Shepparton star San Carlo right on the line. It was a thrilling finish, and an enthralling race, despite the Group Three feature attracting only a small field of five. Owned and bred by industry stalwarts Kevin and Kay Seymour, of Solid Earth Pty Ltd, Colt Thirty One (Mach Three-Charm Personified (Perfect Art) was the toast in each of the three on-course bars. The Seymours promised to shout the bar for an hour after the event if their sensational five-year-old took out the Cup. And more than 175 patrons took up the offer at the club bars! Chris Alford made his intention known from the outset in the Cup on the Emma Stewart-trained Tam Major. Alford gave his pacer full steam when the gate released and booted through to hold out the $1.80 favorite San Carlo (Bec Bartley). San Carlo dropped in behind the leader, and when the tempo eased, the five were in single file for a time. Bartley popped out to step up the pressure with a lap and a half to go and Dixon was at the rear of the field seemingly smoking his pipe. Down the back straight for the final time, Tam Major and San Carlo put the pedal to the metal and the race was on in earnest. The pair were locked together around the home corner, and Dixon had positioned himself perfectly, tracking San Carlo. Just when it looked like the leaders had it between them, Colt Thirty One gathered momentum, then hit top gear when Dixon released the ear plugs half way down the home straight. Watch the race click here! The official margin was a head by 3 metres, in a time of 1:57.5 (for the 2790 metre trip) a second outside Menin Gate's track record. The last half was run in a blistering 55.5 sec. The Swan Hill victory did no harm at all to Colt Thirty One's Interdominion credentials - he looks primed and ready to take on the Kiwis in November and December. A winner of 33 of his 48 starts, Dixon plans to give his pacer a couple more runs to keep him "on song" before heading to New Zealand. "It will most likely be at Melton but I'll have to look at the race programs," he said. Colt Thirty One is ranked two for the ID19 Auckland Alexandra Park, with the Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen trained Spankem the top seed. Chris Alford was at his finest with four of the seven winners on the Swan Hill program. He won on Valiant Charger ($1.30 favorite); Ramseys Hope ($4.10); Mass Destruction ($3.30 favorite); and The Storm Inside ($1.04 favorite). The latter trained by Emma Stewart, recorded a new track record for the mile of 1:52.3, slicing more than a second off the previous best. Hoofnote: There was a bitter-sweet side note to Colt Thirty One's victory, with the news that his dam Charm Personified passed away on Thursday. The mare was sold by the Seymours to David Boydell two years ago. Charm Personified developed complications after giving birth to an American Ideal Colt at Egmont Park Stud. Charm Personified left Charming Allie, Charms on a Roll and Colt Thirty One, as well as a Mr Feelgood youngster, a yearling American Ideal colt and the latest day-old colt.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

While many eyes on Friday night will be on the horses ranked second (Colt Thirty One) and eighth (San Carlo) in the ID19 rankings, it’s a third horse whose run in Friday’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup could prove his Grand Circuit worth. The rise and rise of Tam Major has been a high point of 2019, having won nine times and placed a further five in 15 starts, with his eighth in the Victoria Cup the first time he’s failed to place since January. “The last six months he’s really come of age and been racing great,” reinsman Chris Alford told Trots Talk ahead of Friday night’s cup, when he will again team with trainer Emma Stewart to shoot for silverware. “His run in the Victoria Cup was a pass mark, his first run against the best ones – sitting midfield it was just so hard to make any ground.” Tomorrow night will again expose him to the best, with New Zealand-bound pair San Carlo and Grand Circuit winner Colt Thirty One drawn directly outside Tam Major. Alford said he’d look to press forward in the 2790-metre cup. “The field’s not long been out and I’ve only had a quick look, but I think I’d like to try and keep the advantage and stay in front of the other two big guns if possible." The champion reinsman has a quality line-up of drives throughout the night, including Stallions Australasia Swan Hill Trotters Cup contestant Mass Destruction, who he told Trots Talk was “a really quality trotter when he’s right”. “He may have just had a couple of niggling little issues, which has caused him to break in his last couple, but with just the two horses off the front hopefully he can just ping to the front and lead them a merry dance.” And he’ll then polish the night off with The Storm Inside in the Kiel Tiling Swan Hill Mile, in which he expects they will be “blazing”. CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN IN TO TROTS TALK   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

The 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year, Menin Gate, is exactly the kind of horse racing fans warm to; a fierce competitor with a will to win and a tenacity that stables him in the hearts of punters. His trainer and driver, Michael Stanley (of Burrumbeet), describes Menin Gate as "a warrior", and now that he's back, all going well, he promises to be a headline act at this year's Victorian TAB Inter Dominion. Last Friday night's courageous 3SH Swan Hill Cup win saw Menin Gate's customary fight in full view, holding off fitter challengers such as Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup winner Im The Boss and rising metro star Magical Marn to win the second leg of the Victorian Trots Country Cups Championship at his first run back in almost 18 months. "He'd been in work for quite some time," Stanley told RSN's One Out, One Back this morning. Read the full story here   Cody Winnell Trots Media

Menin Gate and King Denny have turned back the clock to record stunning victories in Friday night’s Swan Hill pacing and trotting cups. Form and injuries have meant it has been a long time since either of the pair graced the winner’s circle, but the duo set up tantalising tilts at this year’s Inter Dominion series with the wins. The heavily-backed Menin Gate led from the get go, holding off spirited late charges by Im the Boss and Magical Marn to take out the 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. 'The Birchip Bull's' mile rate of 1.57.3 equalled a track record over 2790m (set by Arden Rooney in 2015) and was the 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year’s first race back after a 16-month layoff due to injury. In the What the Hill Swan Hill Trotting Cup, King Denny found good coverage from Sky Petite before turning three-wide on the final bend and coming home for a hard-fought win ahead of Our Dreamlover and Sky Petite. It was the 2014 New Zealand 3YO Trotter of the Year’s first win since May 30 2015 and one trainer Michael Gadsden described as a “surreal” moment. “He was such a good horse in NZ as a three-year-old and he’s been through four or five other stables since. So to finally get him somewhere near what you know he can do was a real thrill,” he said. “Everything went to plan well. He hasn’t been stepping away from the tapes real well lately and it’s been costing him. He’s been getting off slow. I said to Denbeigh (Wade) if he gets away well enough see if you can go around and get some cover and it worked out perfectly really.” Menin Gate trainer Michael Stanley said it had been a hard-fought pacing cup win. “We probably had to kick up and go a little bit harder in the lead time than we expected (but) we were able to back off in the first half," Stanley said. “I was a little bit concerned that Im The Boss didn’t do much work and when I was getting a breather he got around really cheap but full credit to the horse, he sort of had that feel about him that he wanted to win and he didn’t give in, he wanted to be the winner.” The wins are likely to place the pair more firmly in the Inter Dominion series calculations with the next lot of TAB Inter Dominion pacing and trotting championship rankings due out at 10am on October 31. “Hopefully with the win we can get (Menin Gate’s) ranking down below 30” Stanley said. “Hopefully we can be in that spot now where we are in contention.” After two rounds of the Trots Country Cup Championship, Im the Boss leads on eight points, ahead of Menin Gate (five points) and Three Ways, Bad Billy and Magical Marn (three points each). In the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship, King Denny joins Father Christmas (six points each) atop the leader board, ahead of Our Dreamlover, Margaret Ruth and Kyvalley Barney (three points each). On Saturday, the third leg of the Trots Country Cup Championship will be the Cranbourne Pacing Cup, while the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship resumes at Yarra Valley on November 8.   Mark Smith Trots Media

If Gottashopearly can produce a minor miracle and qualify for December’s TAB Inter Dominion series, he’ll be positioned to become the pride of Tamworth. For the duration of the three-week ID18 series at least, the Country Music Festival preparations will take backseat as the Richard Williams-prepared steed takes on the best in Australasia’s premier harness racing series. Heck, if Gottashopearly wins they’ll have to replace the Golden Guitar with the bronzed pacer. “We’ve definitely thrown him in the deep end of the pool,” acknowledged trainer Williams on RSN’s One Out, One Back this morning. “He won our feature at Tamworth over 2700m and rated a 2:01 mile rate on a 750m track. As far as the Inter Dominion nomination is concerned it wasn’t really on the radar until we sort of thought, everything ticks the boxes for him. He loves the quick back-up and he’s a genuine stayer. "We’ve taken him to Brisbane and Menangle to step him up and see what he’s got. He wouldn’t disgrace himself, so we thought we’d throw him in and have a stab. And if it’s not this year, who knows, maybe next year.” Gottashopearly has already jumped 11 spots in the TAB ID18 rankings since the initial positions were released earlier this month, but he’s still got a long way to go. He’s up to 92 (from 103), starting out second-lowest ranked of the 104 entrants. A forward showing in tomorrow night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup would see him thunder up the charts. And there’s money in the market to suggest he just might – backed from $31 to $14 with TAB.com.au’s fixed odds market for the Swan Hill Trots Country Cups Championship feature. “We haven’t driven 12 hours for nothing,” Williams said when asked about the pacer’s chances at Swan Hill. Similar to fellow Swan Hill Cup and ID18 contender Im The Boss, Gottashopearly is a former claimer. “Basically I was nagging the owners to claim the horse about four months ago and they weren’t real keen on him … they ended up claiming him to keep me quiet. Now they’re pretty big fans of him,” Williams said. Cody Winnell

Menin Gate trainer Michael Stanley is just looking for a competitive hit out from his new star recruit in Friday’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. But it wouldn’t surprise him if the horse pulled off a first-up win. The 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year is a surprise starter in the race - his first start since being sidelined with a fractured pelvis 16 months ago. Stanley said the plan had always been for Menin Gate - who joined his Burrumbeet stable in August - to make a run at this year’s Victorian Inter Dominion series after arriving in good health after such a long spell. But two impressive trial wins at Maryborough in the past two weeks saw him nominate the seven-year-old ahead of schedule. “To be honest, I didn’t plan on racing him this early,” Stanley said. “He’s had a slow build up, we haven’t rushed him. We’ve had no little niggles with his injury. Everything has gone really well. “His first trial he didn’t do too much, we just sat last and didn’t pull out until the straight and let him run home under his own steam. And when I pulled him out he really attacked the line, he wanted to beat the others. So I was really impressed with that. “I took him to the trials (again) on Sunday and I thought I’m just going to push him out a bit and give him a really good hit out and just see if he is sharp enough to go to Swan Hill. And he was super. The times he run were equivalent to what he’d have to run in a race.” Stanley said while his expectations for Friday were simply for Menin Gate to get through the race and be competitive, he believed the former Group 1 winner was up to the pace for a cup win. “It just looked like an ideal race to step him out in first up,” he said. “Going for the Inter Dominion, we’d like to get our ranking down and be peaking for when that’s on, but he’s definitely forward enough that he’ll run a really good race first up for sure.” Friday night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup is the second leg of the Trots Country Cups Championship, which kicked off at Kilmore on September 27. The David Aiken-trained Im The Boss, who was a last start sixth in Saturday night’s Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, will be out to record a fifth country cup, having won at Shepparton, Mildura and Cobram last season before saluting at Kilmore last month. Stanley said the plan against the country cups champ would be to use the favourable gate three draw to set the pace early. “(Menin Gate’s) a really good front runner and a hard horse to pass, so that’s probably the plan,” he said. “We’ve got Im the Boss on the back line and a couple of handy sprinters in the middle of the front row, so if we can keep them behind us that’s probably the ideal way to tackle it early on. “(But) the expectations (for this one) really are just to get him back to the races and be competitive. Anything above that is a bonus.” Stanley also has the backmarker in the What the Hill Swan Hill Trotters Cup in Sky Petite, who he said would look to build on a first-up fifth in the Maori Miss Trotters Free for All. “Her work had been fantastic since before she went to Melton first up,” he said. “I think she probably just overdid it a little bit early. The lead time was fairly quick, I think the second quickest of the night, even with the pacing races. So first-up from a spell, with that quick lead time, she ran through the middle section a little bit too quick and she got tired. “(But) I think she was beaten by one of the best up and coming trotters we have in Dance Craze, who sat on her back and she fought on well. She only got beat the eight or nine metres. “The country cup races probably suit her better than the 2200m mobiles. With the long 2700m stand she’ll have time to settle and follow them into the race, instead of being the one that does the work. There’s a couple of nice trotters in that race though, so it’s going to be a good race, but I’m sure she’ll race really well.”     It promises to be a ripping night at Swan Hill, with gates to open at 5pm and the course hosting free children’s activities, a punters' club plus a range of different options to take in the night’s racing. While the corporate box and private deck have sold out, patrons can still snap up a dinning ticket or a place in the Pooles Pavilion via www.swanhilltrots.com.au Mark Smith Trots Media

From the producers of such star titles as Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay comes an intriguing tale of a stayer named like a sprinter, and a harness racing gelding named like a colt. Airing exclusively at Swan Hill live on Saturday night, it’s Thereal Usain Colt in the Group 3 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. Trained by Aiken Racing, the former Kiwi takes his place in the opening leg of the Trots Country Cups Championship and, with champion reinsman Gavin ‘the Iceman’ Lang in the sulky, a forward showing looks assured. David Aiken, who spearheads the Avenel operation responsible for last weekend’s Allied Express Victoria Cup champion Lennytheshark, says Thereal Usain Colt will improve on whatever he does this weekend. “He’ll get better as he goes along but he’s the perfect country cups horse,” the master horseman told Trots Media. “In New Zealand he’s raced against the likes of Have Faith In Me and I’ve been really happy with what he’s done at home since we’ve had him.” Championship success is a key aim for Thereal Usain Colt, with $25,000 to the trainer and connections of the Trots Country leader at season’s end (the Championship ends with the running of the Horsham on April 22). However, Aiken isn’t ruling out Thereal Usain Colt shooting for Summer of Glory success with the Hunter Cup the obvious target. “We’ll wait and see how he goes between now and then,” Aiken said. Punters jumped on Thereal Usain Colt early this week for Swan Hill, his fixed odds tightening from $3.8 into $2.9 with TAB.com.au. Multiple metro winner Egodan is second-favourite for ‘Rocket’ Rod Petroff, while Young Modern is on the next line of betting for the commanding Emma Stewart/Chris ‘the Puppet’ Alford combination. Messini is $8 fixed odds, the seven-year-old having returned in good nick this this prep for Brent Lilley and Anthony Butt, while popular mare Milly Perez is also single-fire odds for Larry Eastman and John ‘JJ’ Caldow. 3SH Swan Hill Cup night is one of the most popular meetings on the trots calendar and the club is going all out to deliver patrons a night to remember. “We’ve got loads of activities for kids, live music and roving entertainment, plus the always popular pony trots,” Swan Hill secretary Marnya Watson said. “You’ve got to see these pony trots kids in their colours and the cute ponies, it’s a great spectacle. “We’ve also got a punters’ club again and if you pre-book a ticket in that at our website (www.swanhilltrots.com.au) you will go into the draw to win one of two massive $200 betting vouchers on the night courtesy of TAB.com.au. “We’ve got a panel of pros running the punters’ club and they’ll give you a great shot at turning your $20 per ticket into a profit.” As has been the case in recent years at Swan Hill the club is once again embracing its role as a community supporter, giving away $10,000 in cash to community groups on the night. Five community groups will benefit from the random draws. “It’s a way of giving something back to our community and highlighting that the trots is a caring industry and we’re all for supporting deserving groups and being an active community player,” Ms Watson said. The club will feature on a 3SH live broadcast at the Community Tree (the main street) between 10am and 3pm tomorrow (Friday), with free passes to Cup night up for grabs. “We’d love to see local people come down and say hello and we’ll be giving away tickets to Cup Night,” Ms Watson said. For bookings and more details visit www.swanhilltrots.com.au Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The race for the $25,000 Trots Country Cups Championship bonus is under way and harness racing star Hectorjayjay has drawn first blood. The David Aiken-trained gun scored four points for winning Saturday night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup, runner-up Guaranteed for trainer Emma Stewart picking up two points and stablemate of the winner Smudge Bromac on the board with one point for third. The Trots Country Cups Championship turns to Maryborough on Sunday where a quality field will clash, including the expected return of reigning Country Cups king Yankee Rockstar who will be out to defend his crown this summer. Twenty-five cups make up this season’s Trots Country Cups Championship with Yarra Valley (November 3) and St Arnaud (November 13) in coming weeks. The $25,000 Country Cup Championship bonus will see $15,000 going to the winning horse’s owners and $10,000 to the trainer. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Swan Hill harness racing club manager Marnya Watson was pleased with the attendance and the atmosphere at Saturday night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup meeting. Ms Watson said the dining room attendance was “up about 300 per cent” on the most recent cup meetings and the crowd overall was larger than last year. “The atmosphere was great on the lawns trackside and in the dining room. Very relaxed and everyone had a good time. “We have got quite a vast track, so it’s quite spread out but there were lots of people in the beer garden and the marquees near the front straight. There were also lots of people outside and upstairs was totally booked out.” Ms Watson said the club had approached local marketing differently this year and it paid dividends. Rather than focus all of its spend on traditional forms of advertising the Swan Hill club committee offered a $10,000 carrot to key local service groups and charities and encouraged them to engage with their members and networks. “We had four groups, Riding for the Disabled (RDA), the Swan Hill Hospice, Rotary Swan Hill and the CFA Volunteers, and we colour coded all the tickets so that we could tell which group secured the most patrons on-course,” Ms Watson said. “The first group got $5000, second $2500, third $1500 and fourth $1000. These clubs are so well connected in the community and the promotional material they were able to distribute to their audiences ensured we got an excellent crowd.” The CFA secured the most patrons and thus scored a valuable $5000 boost for its coffers. “It worked very well and the key was to reach new markets,” Ms Watson said. “We can easily reach harness racing people, but these community groups can reach many other people who previously haven’t been involved in the trots. “Already we’ve had a lot of community groups keen to do it next year, so that will be great.” The club’s local media coverage was strong this year with a radio live site set up on the Friday before the cup meeting featuring interviews and the new Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Trots Interactive virtual reality experience. “The local paper (The Guardian) this morning had a three-quarter page spread on the cup the second page in, plus more in sport. We definitely got more in the paper this year,” Ms Watson said. “The Guardian is really appreciating it too, because we’re having regular conversations and engaging with them.” Ms Watson said feedback on the new Trots Interactive experience was “well received”. “Anyone who did it was really happy with it,” she said. “It was taken upstairs to the dining room, which was a really good move because everyone in there loved it.” Ms Watson said all who saw star pacer Hectorjayjay mercilessly slay his rivals in the cup would appreciate the memory, but added she received feedback from punters bemoaning “too many short-priced favourites”. “I definitely received more feedback on that issue on the night, but unfortunately that’s something that’s not within my scope,” she said. Ambassadors Billy Brownless and Larni Salathiel were also on course at Swan Hill to entertain and mingle with the crowd. Association of Country Clubs CEO David Brick said he was pleased Swan Hill's crowd was up on last year. "The crowd was up and the pre-promotion in town the day before really hit the mark," he said. "While Hectorjayjay was a short-priced favourite, in terms of quality to get the Inter Dominion favourite to the venue was a drawcard. "It's on to Maryborough now (on Sunday) for the traditional Kilmore Cup timeslot and they're hoping to build on a successful Redwood Day, which saw an increase in patronage and wagering." Exciting first-starter Phoenix Prince and rising star Hickstead were among favourites to salute at long odds-on, while punters got it wrong with Our Star Dust, sent out $1.10 and finishing second to Johns Grin at $10. The Swan Hill Cup was the first of 25 Trots Country Cups that form the Trots Country Cups Championship. This Sunday the action rolls into Maryborough. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Hectorjayjay has struck first blow in the 2016-17 Trots Country Cups Championship with a barnstorming win in tonight’s harness racing 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. Despite having to overcome gate seven in the $30,000 Group 3, the star six-year-old was sent out $1.40 favourite with punters and made light work of his barrier early when he thundered by Johnny Fox after about 125 metres. Once he grabbed the lead role Hectorjayjay was indomitable. For the remainder of the 2790-metre trip he and reinsman Josh Aiken would ensure things played out on their terms. And when Aiken loosened his grip a half-mile out, Hectorjayjay exploded for a 53.1secs final 800m (third and fourth quarters in 26.8 and 26.3secs). It's also worth noting at the finish Hector still had the plugs in. Guaranteed (Gavin Lang, breeze for the last 1700m and a $3.80 second-favourite), Smudge Bromac (Mark Pitt, one-one and $21.20) and Johnny Fox (Kerryn Manning, leader’s back and $15.20) were left in a race of their own when the winner whooshed off into the distance, Hectorjayjay finishing officially 24.4m clear of runner-up Guaranteed in a mile rate of 1:57.6, with Smudge Bromac third beaten 24.9m and Johnny Fox fourth and 27.6m from the winner. Meanwhile, at Menangle in New South Wales Hectorjayjay’s stablemate, Inter Dominion winning champion Lennytheshark returned to the track with victory in the Garrards Kevin Newman Free for All over a mile in a polished 1:49.9 for reinsman Chris Alford. Both the Aiken top-liners are bound for the almost $2million Inter Dominion series at Gloucester Park in November/December before chasing more feature riches in Victoria and New South Wales early next year. By winning tonight Hectorjayjay (Dream Away-Sheer Finesse) has speared to the early lead on the Trots Country Cups Championship ladder, with the table topper at the end of the 25 Victorian Country Cups to receive a $25,000 bonus. The Trots Country Cups Championship will roll into Maryborough next Sunday for the $30,000 Maryborough Gold Cup. RELATED: DOUBLE FOR MCDERMOTT STABLE AT SWAN HILL Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

This season’s Trots Country Cups Championship will carry a $25,000 carrot to the harness racing connections and trainer of the winning horse. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) today announced the elevation of the Championship, which aims to assist country clubs to attract competitive and quality fields for their annual feature race. Elevating the Trots Country Cups Championship will assist in creating a powerful narrative across the Victorian feature race carnival, beginning at Swan Hill on Saturday night with the running of the 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup (Group 3) over 2790m and culminating on April 16 next year at Warragul. Overall 25 Trots Country Cups will make up the Championship. The points system for this year’s Trots Country Cups Championship will remain the same as last year with four points awarded to the winner of each cup, two points awarded for running second and one point for running third. Stay tuned for more Trots Country Cups announcements in coming days. Tune into Sportsday on your local radio station this Friday night to listen to the trots’ new weekly Trots Country Cups show, Trots Talk. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

“It’s like driving a Ferrari”. That’s how young gun harness racing reinsman Josh Aiken today summed up his first hit-out in the gig behind star pacer Hectorjayjay. Aiken, 23, drove the brilliant six-year-old at the Shepparton trials last Thursday, where he came in first ahead of Inter Dominion winning champion stablemate Lennytheshark in a rate of 1:55.7 (55-second last half). “I said straight afterwards I think I might have gone too slowly on him but he ran home in a 55secs last half and a 26.2 last quarter,” he said. “It was just unreal.” Today Aiken received the news he’d be piloting the David Aiken-trained 31-time winner in Saturday night’s Group 3 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. Hectorjayjay’s regular reinsman, Gavin Lang, has committed to Emma Stewart-trained 2014 Swan Hill Cup winner Guaranteed, who is first-up since the 2015 A.G. Hunter Cup on Saturday. “I’m excited to have picked up this opportunity,” Aiken said. Swan Hill is the first of 25 Trots County Cups to be held across Victoria. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager) Fields for Swan Hill, Saturday 15 October 2016 Form guide for Swan Hill, Saturday 15 October 2016

Messini will burst into the start of the Trots Country Cups Carnival in outstanding form and with bold future harness racing plans. Brent Lilley’s head-down bustling pacer will contest next Saturday’s Swan Hill Pacing Cup, the first of the country cups season, before heading across the ditch to contest the Kaikoura Cup, New Zealand Trotting Cup and NZ Free For All in New Zealand. Ownership syndicate manager John Wilkinson revealed the intended journey after his fabulous six-year-old by Art Major out of Mesmerizing won the VHRSC Classic in a 54.4 final 800m at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight, Saturday the 8th of October. “They were sensational sectionals,” Mr Wilkinson said. “It was a slow pace early, but to run those sectionals at the end is a credit to Anthony Butt and the trainer.” The open class race started at a walk with Stunning Grin leading the pack to a 49.1 lead time and 31.7 first quarter, before the fun started as they approached the final straight. Messini came off favourite Ohoka Punter’s (breeze) back and hit the line 1.9m ahead of Flaming Flutter (leader’s back), with the Nathon Purdon trained and driven Ohoka Punter a short-half head back in third. “The first half took forever and I was in a pretty good spot and couldn’t really do anything about it,” Butt said. “I just had to sit there and hopefully have a crack at some stage. “(Messini) really come good tonight, probably the best he’s run since I started driving him. He really come out and sprinted.” The performance helped seal plans to pursue another bold plan in New Zealand. “He’s getting better with each run and Brent’s got a pretty ambitious program for him,” Butt said. “If he heads to New Zealand, he raced really good over there last year. He won’t be out of it. “He loves the standing starts. (The NZ Trotting Cup’s) not going to be easy, Mark Purdon’s got a great team over there, but the two-mile really suits this guy.” Mr Wilkinson, a co-owner along with Peter Males, Robert Owen, Gary Dowling, Adam Wilkinson, Jenny Scott, Scott Benger and Sean Pulverman, said connections were buoyed by Messini’s campaign last year, when he finished second in the Kaikoura Cup and fifth in the NZ Trotting Cup. “The competition is going to be very tough (this year), particularly Mark Purdon’s horses, but (Messini) is a good standing start horse,” Mr Wilkinson said. “He showed last year that he can go very well from the standing start and over the longer journey.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

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