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SURE it was Inter Dominion weekend in Melbourne, but the most remarkable training performance took place on the other side of Australia. Greg and Skye Bond produced a truly remarkable result with the first five – yes, five – placegetters in Australia’s second biggest four-year-old feature, the $200,000 Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park last Friday. They had half the field with the Bonds sixth runner, Thisbeachrighthere, finishing 10th. It was hugely-hyped Kiwi import Ana Malak who took first prize, with driver Ryan Warwick taking advantage of the pole draw to lead, dictate terms and rip home in 55.6 and 28.2sec to win by a whisker. But the run of the race without doubt came from stablemate Mighty Conqueror, who sat parked for driver Dylan Egerton-Green and just kept coming. He’d have won in another half a stride and in a slick 1 min57.5sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. “He could be the real deal,” co-trainer Greg Bond said. “He’s a big fella still filling into himself, so there’s probably still some upside with him which is exciting.” There should be upside to Ana Malak as well. He battled a minor, but niggling hoof issue which limited his racing preparation for the Nugget. He won the big won at just his third start for Team Bond. The next three home for the Bonds were Fizzing, Bright Diamond and Bettor Aim. “We really like this batch of horses and it’s great to get a result like this,” Greg Bond said. With WA’s best pacer, Chicago Bull, sidelined, Bond is looking at running the cream of his four-year-old crop against the older horses in the Group 1 open-class features, the Fremantle and WA Cups, next month. _______________________________________________________________________________________ GRANT Dixon has his sights set on next year’s Auckland Inter Dominion with Queensland’s best pacer, Colt Thirty One. Dixon toyed with running in this year’s Melbourne series, but opted to stay home to ease his stable star into open-class racing through some home state features. And Colt Thirty One completed the double, following last week’s easy Xmas Cup win with a narrow but fantastic Group 2 Queensland Cup win last night. The son of Mach Three came from an outside back row draw, did all the work and dug deep to win a whisker in a slick 1min55sec mile rate for 2138m, beating stablemates Smooth Showgirl and Avonnova. “We did think about taking him to Melbourne, but I’m glad we stayed here and went through these races,” Dixon said. “I know Kevin (Seymour, owner) will want to chase the Inter Dominion next year if he’s going well enough.” Next stop is a trip to Sydney to target Australia’s biggest four-year-old race, the Chariots Of Fire, which promises to be an epic this year. Think of horses like Chase Auckland, Spankem, Im Pats Delight, Ride High, Poster Boy, Ignatius and maybe even WA pacers like Ana Malak and Mighty Conqueror. _______________________________________________________________________________________ WHAT a night it was for the girls at Melton on Inter Dominion final night. Kate Gath took centre stage with the Trotting Final win aboard Tornado Valley, but females won six of the 11 races on the card. They were: Kima Frenning (race two, Pizza Queen), Amanda Turnbull (races four and five on Conviction and Ellmers Image), Gath (races six and seven on Star Of Memphis and Tornado Valley) and Jodi Quinlan (race nine, Glenferrie Blade). Turnbull turned around an otherwise frustrating Inter Dominion series to win the consolation in gritty fashion with Ellmers Image and the free-for-all with Conviction. Conviction’s win was one of the runs of the night, simply running his rivals ragged in front in blistering times. His splits were 28.9, 28.2, 28.5 and 28.3sec for a 1min53.5sec mile rate over 2240m. Let It Ride finished strongly, but had his chance when second, while Buster Brady simply worked too hard outside the leader in the blistering times and did well to fight on for third. It was great to see Quinlan, one of the pioneering females at the top level, snare the Group 3 Richmond Lass win aboard Glenferrie Blade for partner, Craig Demmler. Glenferrie Blade trailed the leader and got clear when favourite Delight Me crushed the leader, My Harmony Blue, and kicked-away, but couldn’t sustain the sprint. They ran a 1min54.4sec mile rate for 1720m and it was a sprint home in a 54.4sec last half and 27.1sec last quarter. _______________________________________________________________________________________ MIRACLE Mile winner My Field Marshal will have to head to Perth without a lead-up race. A deluge of rain caused the abandonment of the Menangle meeting last night where My Field Marshal was due to return. Trainer Tim Butt is keen to get My Field Marshal across to Perth early for a lead-up run the Celebrity Sprint on December 28 ahead of the big Fremantle and WA Cup double in January. In a coup for Gloucester Park, Mark Purdon said he was “seriously considering” sending one of the All Stars’ open-class stars across for the Fremantle and WA Cups as well. “Nat and I need to sit down and think through it, but there is a flight which makes it attractive,” he said. _______________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to see one-time budding star Mr Mojito returned to winning form at Gloucester Park last Friday. It was the now six-year-old’s first win since scoring at Melton on September 17, last year, when trained and driven by Kerryn Manning. Now with Ross Olivieri, Mr Mojito boasts a win and two seconds from three starts back from an injury which sidelined him for almost a year. He’s still very lightly-raced with 30 starts netting 12 wins, five seconds and two thirds. The free-for-all on the same night went to Kiwi import Rocknroll Lincoln in impressive style after leading and copping plenty of pressure in a sharp 1min54sec mile rate for 2130m, including closing splits of 55.9 and 28.4sec. Rocnkroll Lincoln’s win was his ninth from just 19 starts for trainer Justin Warwick. Another winner with a strong Kiwi flavour on the card was Our Angel Of Harlem, who dropped sharply in grade, led from the pole and thrashed a moderate field by almost 17m in a 1min57.3sec mile rate for 2130m.   Adam Hamilton

Tiger Tara’s TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship win at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night capped an extraordinary year for harness racing trainer Kevin Pizzuto and his family. In August the New South Wales horseman was involved in a serious road accident, which could have cost him and his horses their lives. Aboard the float that day were Tiger Tara and three stablemates, with Pizzuto in the driver’s seat. Another driver ran through a stop sign and a collision was unavoidable. The resultant impact fractured the horseman’s sternum and ribs, tore his ligaments in both arms as the steering wheel shattered in two, and left him with hidden scars every time he thought of taking the road again. But bloodied and broken that day, Pizzuto’s thoughts were only on his horses. “My driver came and got the horses which I’d gotten off the float … and then I went to hospital,” Pizzuto said. “He (Tiger Tara) was lying down up the front of the float and I thought he’d broken his back. I was shattered. I had blood coming out everywhere, but when he got up, my heart, yeah ... just relief.” Two months after the accident Tiger Tara pummelled his rivals in the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup. Then, in November he produced one of the gutsiest runner-up efforts in modern times when second in the Group 1 New Zealand Cup. “I’ve always said he’s the toughest horse in the land… I knew he was good, but last night, that was something else,” Pizzuto said of the ID18 win. “I’ve had him better than I’ve ever had him, this prep. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’ve pulled ourselves up and that was amazing.” Tiger Tara, with gun reinsman Todd McCarthy aboard, took up the front-running role early in Saturday night’s Grand Circuit decider and went on to break rivals’ hearts off the back with an unforgettable 26.3secs third quarter. The son of Bettors Delight got up the lane in 27.9 to rate 1:53.9 over the 2760m trip, McCarthy’s winning salute encapsulating the glory in a snap. And the final twist, Pizzuto’s daughter Courtney accepted Mikey Hawli’s marriage proposal on track in front of the huge crowd after the victory. Courtney said yes, and so did Kev. “He had to ask me first,” Pizzuto said. “The horses were scoring up... I was praying we’d win after that. He’s a good bloke and a hard worker.” Trots Media - Cody Winnell   Trots Media - Cody Winnell

It has taken John Caldow more than 30 years – and 26,215 races – to land an Inter Dominion final drive. After tomorrow night the veteran Melton reinsman will have driven in two. Caldow will pilot Wilmas Mate in the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship Grand Final at Tabcorp Park just after 9pm before taking the reins behind Cash N Flow in the pacers’ final at 9.45pm. Wilmas Mate (gate 12) and Cash N Flow (gate 13) have copped horror draws, but bad luck hasn’t dampened Caldow’s mood. “I have been to a lot of the Inter Dominions; if I haven’t been there I have certainly been watching them,” Caldow said. “It is a race everyone wants to win, unfortunately we have drawn bad but it is nice to be in it anyway.” Caldow said he was expecting the finals to be intriguing affairs, especially the pacers. “I think it is going to be a great race; the one (Galactic Star) will hold up for starters and who he decides to hand up (the lead) to, or whether he decides to (hand up) or not, will be interesting,” he said. “The draw has brought everyone in with a winning chance so there is going to be a lot of moves for that reason. “Gavin (Lang) has drawn 3 (on Im Pats Delight) and he will be going forward. The speed will be on early with everyone looking for their positions." Caldow said he would “be out the back watching it all unfold”. “I imagine I will be going the short cuts and seeing what happens. I need them to go mad to give him any possible chance, especially early,” he said. In the trotters’ final, Caldow said he expected Speeding Spur to make favourite Tornado Spur’s bid for the lead harder than he had been accustomed to in the heats. “I am sure the one (Speeding Spur) will get out a lot quicker this time after getting crossed at Ballarat and they will be going hard,” he said. “Wilmas Mate is going OK, she seems to be getting better with each race. (We’ll) need it to be a true, good staying race to give her any chance whatsoever.” Caldow, who has driven more than 100 winners in a season on 20 occasions, said ID18 was only the second Inter Dominion he had been involved in. “I won a heat in Perth (in 2004) with Mister D G and we had Nolarama in the (same) series,” he said. “But I have never driven in a final so I am looking forward to it.”   Shaun Campbell

Trainer John Dickie is full of honesty and hope heading into the A$150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final with Speeding Spur. Because while the Kiwi trainer is honest enough to admit his millionaire trotter may have lost his sheer speed, he is also hopeful his stamina may snare him one of the most important races of Dickie's career. Dickie trains the now seven-year-old with his son Josh and after two wins in his three heats of the series Speeding Spur is the clear second favourite for the 2760m mobile at Melton on Saturday night. He has the advantage of the ace and at his peak of two or three years ago would be a dominant favourite but that honour instead lies with Tornado Valley, who was unbeaten in his heats. Dickie admits that is fair. "On their form in this series Tornado Valley has looked the best horse. "But that doesn't mean we can't beat him," says Dickie. "He is faster than us, which is how he beat us in the sprint heat at Ballarat last week. "Our fella doesn't have that sub-27 second quarter (400m) in him like he used to and that makes it hard to beat Tornado Valley. "But the distance and the draw helps us. "If we can hold the lead Josh (driver) will have options." The most logical of those would be making Tornado Valley work to get the lead and hope he gets fired up and leaves himself vulnerable at the end of a hard 2760m for Speeding Spur to grab him. He used those tactics against another speedier rival in Enghien in the Rowe Cup last April, handing up in the middle stages when many would have expected Speeding Spur to stay in front. After a long, brave career punctuated by at least two serious injuries Speeding Spur may simply not be as sharp as he used to be but he looks certain to get his shot on Saturday night if he is good enough. "But to do that we have to hold the lead early, so that will be Josh's first job." The Dickie family has been involved with elite level trotters for decades so the reinstatement of the trotting Inter Dominion after a six year hiatus is a huge deal for them. "To me the two biggest races in Australasia are the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominions. "Sure I would like it to be worth more money but if we win on Saturday night that won't bother us because I have wanted to win the Inter since I started training." Speeding Spur is the $3.30 second favourite behind Tornado Valley while in Saturday night's A$500,000 pacing final the money has come for Cruz Bromac, who has been the shortener on both sides of the Tasman, slightly pushing out the prices of fellow Kiwi favourites Spankem and Im Pats Delight. Michael Guerin

There’s an art to having horses at the peak of their powers on the harness racing big stage, and Mark Purdon and Nat Rasmussen mastered it years ago. Tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton the pair’s brushwork was typically brilliant on the Tabcorp Park Melton canvas, producing a winning double from the opening three TAB Inter Dominion pacing heats with Spankem and Cruz Bromac. Western Australian Galactic Star claimed the other pacing heat for another well-known training partnership in Greg and Skye Bond, the six-year-old holding off local star San Carlo. “I’ve got a lot of respect for San Carlo, he’s one of the better horses in the series, so I thought ‘if we hang on here we’re pretty good’, so I was so proud of him,” Galactic Star’s reinsman Todd McCarthy said. “I think so,” McCarthy said when asked if Galactic Star was a serious ID18 player. “He’s one of those horses if he gets a good draw he can certainly be in the money.” Galactic Star took up the running early with Mach Doro leader’s back from the pole, while Bec Bartley took San Carlo to the chair for the final six furlongs. At the finish just a neck separated Galactic Star and San Carlo, the second horse losing no admirers, the winner rating 1:54.1. Mach Doro boxed on for third ahead of Motu Meteor and Cant Refuse, both those long-shots securing important points for Kerryn Manning and Matthew Craven respectively. Spankem – just a four-year-old – produced a 1:54.3 mile rate to win his heat by 3.2m over Im Pats Delight, while Tiger Tara got back and charged home late into third place. Given Spankem is here with the four-year-old features front-of-mind – the Bonanza and the Chariots – how’s he going to go once there?   Todd McCarthy couldn’t have been more proud of Tiger Tara. “I was rapt with him.” “I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. There was a bit of a breeze up the home straight so I was happy to drive him with a sit tonight.” My Alpha Rock finished in fourth place after initially leading – as promised by trainer Shane Tritton – from the pole, while Wrappers Delight lost no fans with his fifth placing. The last heat of the night for the pacers was the quickest with Cruz Bromac taking up the running for Rasmussen and pacing 1:53.8 to score by 5.1m over Cash N Flow. Series late entrant Maximan produced a big run to finish third despite his back-row draw and Our Uncle Sam was fourth. The ID18 series rolls into Ballarat on Tuesday night before Cranbourne next Saturday night. Click here for Videos and resultsfor first night of Inter Dominions Trots Media - Cody Winnell  

The form guide held true with Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur reinforcing their reputations with opening night wins in the TAB Inter Dominion trotting championship. While Victorian hopes Save Our Pennys and Maori Law would have only gained admirers, the big two retained that title with the pre-series favourites, who are both stabled at Andy Gath’s Long Forrest property, amassing complete performances. Speeding Spur, for New Zealand father-and-son team Josh and John Dickie, skipped to the front and after a pedestrian 32.2-second first quarter was untroubled, his 56.2-second last half putting 8.5m between himself and second placegetter Maori Law. “He’s very good,” trainer John Dickie said post-race of Speeding Spur. Tornado Valley’s wide draw meant reinswoman Kate Gath would have to work harder to find the front and, once she did, Save Our Pennys, in trainer-driver Gavin Lang’s hands, was menacing on the leader’s back. After a 27.7-second third quarter they got home in 29.2 and stopped the clock at a 1:57.0 mile rate, only a second outside Keystone Del’s track record, with Save Our Pennys 1.4m off Tornado Valley while Tough Monarch, who did plenty of bullying work, was a further 14.7m back in third. It was a satisfied Andy Gath post-race, who said it was nice to have Tornado Valley “show a bit of a statement”. “We came here knowing that he was in good order and it’s always nice to come to the first heat and show what you can do,” Gath said. “We were pretty pleased, he had to work hard to get the lead and then he got mid-race pressure and challenged by Save Our Pennys and was still really strong on the line. He’s just got a great knack for winning.” Gath was confident the tough run did his trotter no harm. “He’s pulled up really good. I’ve already taken him home and he’s good as gold, jumping out of his skin. I don’t think it will hurt him or affect him, it will probably just make him better if anything,” Gath said. “He’s a horse we think will thrive through this series, he can cop racing, can cop work and always pulls up really good.” Speeding Spur winning his heat on night one.          - Stuart McCormick photo And so the focus turns to Tuesday night’s second lot of heats at Ballarat, when the Tornado Valley-Speeding Spur rivalry will only be magnified after they were drawn in the same heat. Both are outside the front row, with Tornado Valley (gate seven) outside his rival (gate five) and Save Our Pennys looming ominously in gate two. “We know he’s drawn wide and we have Speeding Spur and Save Our Pennys drawn inside us, and they were really good performers as well,” Gath said. “You expect both of those (Save Our Pennys and Speeding Spur) to be going forward and we’ll be going forward as well. “It’s a really strong heat. Realistically we probably can’t lead from there, but he’s a really good short-course horse. He’s going to have his work cut out but he’s a good horse. “We always try and win every race we are in and it won’t be any different Tuesday night.” Click here for Videos and results for first night of Inter Dominions   Michael Howard Trots Media  

Tim Butt is a man that knows how to train big race winners. For over two decades he has made it his business to not only plunder the riches on offer in the Shaky Isles, he has also targeted the biggest races in Australia. Now however, the tables have turned and the ex-Kiwi horseman now calls Sydney home. It may not be as far to travel but the task is no easier as Let It Ride arrives at this year’s TAB Inter Dominion as, in many ways, the forgotten horse. After a devastating win in the Blacks A Fake through the Queensland winter, he has been taken along slowly as an early season five-year-old. “People maybe forget that a lot of the big guns either weren’t at their best or weren’t in the Blacks A Fake but I was really pleased with him obviously,” Butt said. “He maybe can’t win this weekend from the draw but he should get a nice run and he’ll be finishing off well.” While he hasn’t yet captured the heights of last campaign, which saw him run second in the Chariots Of Fire before claiming the final Grand Circuit race of the season, Butt has been happy with his progress. “It’s very hard at Menangle when you’re drawing 10, so I’ve been happy with his three runs this time in,” he said. “You don’t really know until you do it but I think he’s the kind of horse that will get through the series. It’s made easier if you get a couple of soft runs through the heats but he’s a good leader as well.” Wilmas Mate has landed on Aussie shores for the first time since taking out the Victoria Trotters Derby and a Breeders Crown Final in 2016 and she’s heading to Butt’s Sydney base after ID18. “I’m rapt to get her. I’ve only had her about 10 days but her last run was actually quite good and she just hadn’t been having much go her way in New Zealand. “This series might come up a bit quick for her but she has drawn well for the first heat and after this I’m confident she’s going to do a really good job up at Menangle in the future.” Blake Redden

This year’s TAB Inter Dominion is shaping like no other. In the past few years the star power at the top end has been irresistible: We’ve been blessed with the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark and Smolda just to name a few. And that meant that before the series had started most knew roughly how it was going to shake out come finals night. The same can’t be said for ID18. Connections of horses that sit outside the top three and even top 10 seeds for the series would still be holding genuine hopes of being competitive in a fortnight’s time. One horse which comes into the race with some left-field form is Mach Doro. Victorian’s might be quick to dismiss him after a down-the-track effort in the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup but he worked hard early and after not finding the pegs his chances were effectively over. Regular driver Luke McCarthy explained how favorable this week’s gate one barrier draw has been. “I’m pretty excited that on Saturday night I’ll be able to leave the gate on the bit with him,” McCarthy said. “The Victoria Cup didn’t work out for him and with the way the conditioned racing works at Menangle he’s been drawing tough barriers and we’ve had to really use him hard off the arm to make sure he gets to the pegs. “Being able to come out neutral and get the perfect run on paper on Saturday night means that this looks his chance to measure up and we’re expecting him to be in the finish.” The task will not be an easy one but there is some supporting evidence that the son of Mach Three can be a factor through the series. He defeated series favourite Tiger Tara four starts back on their home digs and while an argument could be made that the latter was still building into his preparation; it’s still a performance worth noting. McCarthy will also drive Cash N Flow and again the barrier draw gods have been kind with the polemarking draw. “His run in the Geelong Cup was OK. I did have to use him mid-race and we probably don’t know quite how good Buster Brady is yet so it might look a lot better in hindsight,” he said. “If Cruz Bromac comes out as quickly, as he can, then I should be able to hold-up behind him and get every chance from there.”   Blake Redden

SHANE Tritton is someone who walks it like he talks it. Tritton is often outspoken about pre-race tactics and delivers on what he says. That’s why he giggled to himself when some doubted his vow “300 per cent My Alpha Rock will be holding the lead if he can” in the opening heat of the Inter Dominion pacing series at Melton on Saturday night. “Of course we want to lead. He’s won all his races leading or sitting parked. Why wouldn’t anyone think we would want to look for a soft option after drawing barrier one. We’re there to win, not run second or third,” Tritton said. “Not only will he hold the lead if we can, but we will bowl along. That’s his style, he’s a free-runner this horse. It’s how he goes best. “I think he’s the one to beat if he leads. I can’t see how they’ll get past him.” By “they”, Tritton is referring to two of the big guns of the series in Tiger Tara (gate four) and Wrappers Delight (two) in the strongest of the opening round pacing heats. If My Alpha Rock holds the front, this heat as all the ingredients of a seriously heated contest. Wrappers Delight is sure to try for the front and can get fired-up, while Tiger Tara only knows one way and he’s sure to be right up in the firing line. It could bring zippy Kiwi four-year-old Im Pats Delight ($7.50) into the mix from a good trailing draw (gate nine) with Gavin Lang aboard. Punters, buoyed by Tritton’s confidence, have backed My Alpha Rock from from $4.40 into $3.40. Tiger Tara has eased from $2.60 to $3.10, while Wrappers Delight has been $2.90 to $3.20. Tritton also holds the key to the second pacing heat with Franco Nelson (gate two), who has eased from a crazy $2.30 opening price to $2.60. “This is his chance with such a great draw to compared to his main dangers. I’m as keen as anyone to see how he measures up. He’ll be very hard to beat if he can find the front,” Tritton said. The support has been for star Victorian pair San Carlo (gate 10, $5 to $4.20) and Shadow Sax (gate 10, $7 to $6) despite their back row draws. Mach Doro has also firmed from $7 to $6 from the pole. Other chances in that strong second heat include WA raider Galactic Star (gate four, $9.50) and emerging NSW talent Ellmers Image (gate three, $10). The third pacing heat is a all about Cruz Bromac as far as betting goes with the All Stars’ NZ free-for-all winner firming from, $1.50 to $1.28 given he looks the leader from gate four. Plenty of eyes will be on Let It Ride as well, but he will need from lots of luck from an inside back row draw (gate eight). _________________________________________________________________________________ AUSSIE punters have unleashed on the two big guns of the trotting series to win their heats. In the opening heat, Australia’s best hope Tornado Valley – the $2.60 favourite for the final – has been crunched from $1.70 into $1.45. Kiwi star Speeding Spur is even shorter at $1.28 (in from $1.35) in the second heat after drawing to find the lead in the weakest of the heats from gate two. Tornado Valley’s trainer Andy Gath found himself having to dismiss “rumours” the star trotter was under an injury cloud. “Not sure where the rumours originate from that Tornado Valley is under an ‘injury cloud’. I can assure you that I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment. Admittedly he had a foot abscess some weeks ago, but (he’s) good as gold now,” Gath tweeted. Tornado Valley is drawn wide on the front row (gate six), but has plenty of gate speed and and is sure to press for the front from the likes of Wilmas Mate (one), Tough Monarch (two) and Alderbeck (four). Speeding Spur’s heat lacks depth, he possesses early speed and gate two give him every chance to lead, control the race and win as he likes. Adam Hamilton

The leading Kiwi hopes have been big winners in the draws for the opening rounds of the Inter Dominions at Melton on Saturday. So much so that star pacing chance Cruz Bromac and leading trotter Speeding Spur both look set to start long odds on in their first night heats. Seven horses, three pacers and four trotters will represent New Zealand as the Inter Dominion returns to Victoria and the trotting series makes a comeback after a six-year absence. While this year's series is lacking a champion like last season's Inter hero Lazarus, the Australian team is also short of some big names, meaning while down in absolute class, both series have an even look to them. And the opening night should see a big points haul for the most favoured New Zealand contenders. NZ Free-For-All winner Cruz Bromac has opened $1.45 favourite for the final pacing heat of the night, which is by far the weakest, evidenced by the fact former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow is the clear second favourite at $4.50, with the Tim Butt-trained Let It Ride the $6 third choice from one on the second line over the sprint trip. The opening pacing heat will see Tiger Tara (barrier four) and Wrapper's Delight (two) battle for favouritism in a heat where Spankem (five) and Pat's Delight (nine) could be racing for first-night points rather than a win. Pat's Delight could at least settle handy as he follows out the fast-beginning Wrappers Delight. Speeding Spur opened $1.35 favourite for the first trotting heat after drawing ideally at barrier two and being able to avoid series favourite Tornado Valley, who has drawn barrier six in the second heat. Monty Python has barrier five in the Speeding Spur heat, while Wilma's Mate (one) and Alderbeck (four) contest the Tornado Valley heat. The series has heats at Melton on Saturday, Ballarat next Tuesday and Cranbourne the following Saturday before the two finals, A$500,000 for the pacers and A$150,000 for the trotters, are staged at Melton on Saturday, December 15. Meanwhile, New Zealand already has a major transtasman series winner in harness racing, with Sheree Tomlinson bolting away with the Australasian Young Drivers Championships in Queensland over the weekend.   Michael Guerin

The first major pieces of the puzzle has fallen into place with today's staging of the TAB Inter Dominion Pacing and Trotting Championships' barrier draws for harness racing heat night one at Tabcorp Park Melton in Melbourne. Drawn live on Sky Racing 2 and to the TAB's Facebook audience of 500,000 followers, presenters Jason Bonnington and Greg Hayes hosted today's proceedings, which were conducted by HRV handicapper Paul Oxenford and steward Dan Caruana. CLICK HERE TO WATCH AS THE BARRIER DRAWS UNFOLD The TAB.com.au's markets saw some instant movers, with pacing series favourite Tiger Tara snapped in from $3.20 to $2.60 by punters, after a tantalising front row draw outside polemarker My Alpha Rock and front runner Wrappers Delight. There was misfortune for Victoria's two most likely with Shadow Sax and San Carlo both drawing off the back row in heat two, while All Stars' entrant Cruz Bromac shortened from $1.55 to $1.35 in the final heat amid expectations he could find the front and win from gate four. Speeding Spur has a dominant grasp on the first of the trotting heats, opening at $1.35 with the TAB after the top rated Kiwi drew gate two, while rival Tornado Valley was listed a $1.50 pop from gate six in the other heat. The draws for the TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship: Draws for the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship:   Trots Media

He has been there, he has done it and now he is hoping to do it again. Premiership winning harness racing trainer-driver Steve Turnbull is set to head south to Victoria next week after receiving the news that two of his stable stars have ranked high enough to compete in the 2018 Inter Dominion. Having won this very race back in 2002 at Harold Park with Smooth Satin, Turnbull is hoping to relive the glory of winning the prestigious Grand Circuit event. Both Joes Star Of Mia and Conviction will be heading to Victoria on Thursday hoping to earn a spot in the final with the first round of heats commencing on the December 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton. With both horses in career best form, Turnbull is confident that his team can do enough in the heats to earn a spot in the final. “I couldn’t be happier with their condition,” Turnbull said. “They’re both working sensational at home so we’ll just have to wait until the fields come out and hope for some decent draws.” While Turnbull has always rated Conviction highly, he is very impressed with extent of improvement seen in Joes Star Of Mia, having won his last start at Tabcorp Park Menangle stopping the clock in a blistering 1:49.3. “Earlier on Conviction and Atomic Red were the better race horses but Joes Star Of Mia has really stepped it up, especially in the last six weeks he’s come so far,” Turnbull said. “I’m hoping they’ll be split in the heats so Amanda (Turnbull) can drive them both initially but she also has one in (Elmers Image NZ) so we’ll just have to see.  “I don’t know who I would pick to drive if they both make it, there’s nothing separating them at home.” The second round of Inter Dominion will be run at Ballarat on December 4 and the last night of heats will be run at Cranbourne on December 8 with the final taking place back at Tabcorp Park Melton on December 15. AMY REES

Gavin Lang will be looking to continue his stunning training strike rate at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight when he gears up three runners in the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final. The champion reinsman said My Kiwi Lady, My Cash and Solid As A Rock had strong form leading into the Group 3 race over 1720m. “They have been racing well; (it’s a) tough race, of course but they have earnt their spot,” he said. While Lang will drive six-year-old mare My Cash, who has won her last three, he says “it doesn’t necessarily mean she has the best chance”. “She is by a stallion called Mach Three and the progeny can be a little bit headstrong as a rule – she’s no exception,” he said. “Probably on paper she is the pick of my three horses but, like I say, she is a little bit different (and) knowing her little tricks is probably an advantage, hence the reason why I have chosen to drive her.” Lang’s training record – 3403 starters since 1979-80 for 727 wins – speaks for itself, although personal circumstances led to a hiatus of horses running under his name (official records show he trained just the one starter from 2003-04). But he was never completely out of the training game. “I used to assist Brent Lilley when he first came out from NZ and then Adam Kelly,” he said. “(Then), through a little bit of pressure from long-time clients and owners and schoolfriends I grew up with, they sort of pressured me into training again in my own right.” Since dipping his toe back into training in 2016-17, Lang has scored 40 winners from 107 starts. “Even when I trained in the past one thing I was always pretty proud of was the strike rate I have always had with my horses; me and my wife Megan, we are fortunate to have a good band of owners and a reasonable band of horses,” he said. “It is a tough game and if I am going to take a horse to the races I want to be taking one that has a reasonable chance if things go our way, because I have been around as long as I have I am sick of going around there just for the fun of it; it doesn’t pay the bills.” Lang will be hoping his impressive strike rate continues into next month’s TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship, where he will gear up Save Our Pennys – who resumes in Saturday night’s Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup at Geelong – and drive Maori Law. “(Save Our Pennys) form last time in was sort of impeccable (but) he had a little setback at the start of this preparation, so his return to the track has been delayed,” Lang said. “Resuming this weekend (is) not ideal (as) you would have liked to probably be a little bit further advanced going into a series like the Inter Dominion, but he is very honest and never makes an error so, given that, he is a chance of making it through to the final. “Maori Law has a very good record; same deal with him, he was pretty plain at his last start probably about four weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since but has been trialing up pretty well, so he’s good enough to get through to the final as well. “As far as the pacing ranks go, I don’t even know if I have a drive yet but, as I have always found, if you have got a licence you just never know what is around the corner.”   Shaun Campbell Trots Media

Three-time Inter Dominion winning trainer Chris Lang is hoping to make his long-awaited return from a spell next week. It has been three years and eight months since Lang last graced the track, stepping away from the sport he loves in 2015 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. A masterful horseman, the now Riddells Creek based 58-year-old trained Galleons Sunset to win trotting’s greatest prize in 2008, and scored back-to-back ID successes with Sundons Gift in 2009 and 2010. In a nutshell, Lang was diagnosed with a mishmash of medical conditions – scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and Reynaud’s Syndrome. “It’s a connective tissue disease,” Lang said. “I was hoping by stepping away from the driving it might resolve the issue, but it has stayed the same. It hasn’t gotten any better, but hasn’t gotten any worse. “I’m hoping I can manage myself a bit better this time.” The lengthy spell has revitalised the charismatic trots man. And if desire, skill and a fiercely competitive spirit mean anything, it won’t be long before Lang’s name is once again being etched on Group 1 trotting honour rolls.  “The hunger’s really good. The three years off has been a great thing for me,” he said. “Sometimes an extended spell can change a horse, and it’s certainly changed how I feel. I’ve got fresh eyes, a fresh outlook … everything is new again.” The prospect of training quality trotters excites Lang. He has 10 horses in work, including Next Thru for owner and friend Richard Matthews. That horse is a half-brother to Let Me Thru, who Lang trained for Matthews to win six Group 1s between 2009 and 2011 – including the $150,000 Australasian Trotting Championship Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Additionally Lang also has smart mare Derrie Aire and untapped CR Commander colt Miyabomba – a half-brother to Cobram Cup winner Quillabamba and a full sibling to 2011 Victoria Trotters Oaks runner-up Moyabamba – in his stables. All going well, Miyabomba will be Lang’s first runner at Kilmore next Wednesday. “I’ve had to have 15 trial drives because of the extended break and I’ll wrap those up this weekend,” Lang said. “The goal now is to win another three Inter Dominions.”   Cody Winnell

“HE’S as good as any of the three-year-olds in the stable!” That’s the high praise from trainer Emma Stewart when discussing unbeaten Australian Pacing Gold purchase Demon Delight. Especially considering her team includes Group One winners and fellow APG graduates Hurricane Harley and Centenario, which was named 2017/18 Victorian Two-Year-Old of the Year just moments ago. But with an average winning margin of 11 metres, it’s hard to argue with Stewart’s huge wrap. “I’ve got a very big opinion of him,” Stewart said. “He’s only had three starts and is still on the way up, but he’s as good as any of the three-year-olds in the stable! “We are definitely looking at races such as the Victoria Derby with him.” Demon Delight maintained his perfect record with a commanding triumph at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. With Chris Alford holding the reins, the son of Bettors Delight began quickly to lead from the pole as Im Sir Blake worked on his outside. Striding clear around the final bend, Demon Delight was untouched to score by 15-and-a-half metres from Prosecco Boy, with Im Sir Blake six metres away third in a slick 1:52.7 over 1720 metres. “After leading he was never going to be run down,” Stewart said. “His ran a quick time without being tested, which shows how much upside there is to him.” APG Media

HIS name is a question which is easily answered following Whats In The Esky’s victory at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. Unbeaten from three starts this season, Whats In The Esky made sure there is an abundance of premium refreshments in the iconic Aussie cooler this morning! “We couldn’t be happier with him,” trainer Allan McDonough said. “There are a few of us in him and we all love a drink. “The Esky is full and we'll be enjoying his win on a perfect sunny spring Sunday. “I’m fixing a few fences at the moment, but I’ll be reaching into the Esky soon enough.” McDonough explained the four-year-old’s name extends from a comment made following the purchase of a colt at the 2015 Melbourne Australian Pacing Gold Sale. “Adrian Darcy was with us at the sale and he was the only one there with an esky,” McDonough recalled. “After he put up his hand for the winning bid the auctioneer said ‘sold to man with the esky’, which is what we named that horse…Manwiththeeski. “Now the ‘esky’ part of it has rolled on from there.” Purchased at the 2016 Australian Pacing Gold Sale, Whats In The Esky has thrived since returning from a spell, with his latest win coming with Greg Sugars in the cart. After finding the lead from barrier three, Whats In The Esky was eased to take a trail behind Wanted Lady, which was surged to the front from gate four. Angled away from the pegs leaving the back straight, the son of Western Edition cruised to an effortless seven-and-a-half metre win from the pacemaker, with Ozzie Major a half-head away third in 1:58.1 over 2240 metres. “His work and form since I moved to Ballan has been sensational,” McDonough said. “I expected him to come back better after a short break, but not as much as he has, which has been a bit of a shock. “Since being at Ballan I’ve been able to fast work him, where as previously I couldn’t do it as much on my smaller tight track, and he has grown a leg. “He is beating my metro horses at home so I can’t see any reason why he won’t go through the grades. “There is a race at Ballarat next week that I will enter him and then keep going along from there.” APG Media

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