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Two of the north’s bravest trotters are set to cash in on the frailties of trotting big boys over the next month.  Temporale and Massive Metro have already paid for their Australian campaigns for trainer Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett with big performances at Melton over the last two weeks. Temporale won the A$50,000 Dullard Cup in a rare group one win for Hackett’s green and white racing colours 11 days ago, while Massive Metro was a strong third in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star at Melton last Saturday. While plenty of the Kiwis who contested that carnival are already home, both the South Auckland trotters are staying on in Australia for three more races and the final one in particular looks perfect for them. The pair next contest the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on February 14 followed by the A$100,000 Grand Prix at the same track on February 29. They will then head north to Menangle for the A$50,000 Trotters Mile on March 7, which is Miracle Mile night. Already one of the hotshots of the open class trotting scene in Oscar Bonavena has returned to New Zealand, where his connections hope a break will help him strengthen up. And while Great Southern Star winner Tornado Valley will meet the Kiwis in their two Victorian races, he can’t make the trip to Menangle. “He is the worst traveller we have ever had,” explains driver Kate Gath. “It is not nerves because when he gets to the track he is fine but he never stops moving in the float. He is like he is tap dancing the entire trip. “We took him to Ballarat two weeks ago and he was in a lather by the time we got him there so he definitely couldn’t do nine hours in a float to Sydney.” So while the Wallis-Hackett pair will be competitive in both their upcoming Victorian races, the Menangle Mile should be well down on the class of the Great Southern Star. “There is nothing for them here and they are handling the racing so well over there it makes sense to stay,” says Wallis. “Temporale is a old pro and he won well the first night but never got a chance getting back and wide last week while Massive Metro took a while to settle in but was far better on night two. “So it is great to have A$200,000 worth of races for them at this time of the year.”   Michael Guerin

An extraordinary night for harness racing reinsman Anthony Butt, who claimed both the three-year-old Group 1 features, and a ground-breaking performance by Lochinvar Art, highlighted a stunning Night 2 of the TAB Summer of Glory. Butt doubled-down on a sublime Saturday evening at Tabcorp Park Melton when he added the Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby to an earlier Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Oaks triumph, with Line Up carrying his favouritism status with aplomb in the $200,000 feature. Butt, a former Melton resident who’s recently moved to Sydney, led from the outset with Line Up, spacing the chasing bunch with a 26.8-second third quarter before closing with a 27.8-second final 400 metres, which was enough to win by 1.6 metres from Grant Dixon’s Governor Jujon. “He’s a lovely horse, very relaxed,” Butt said. “He just went to sleep in front, that’s what he likes. When I pulled the plugs around the bend he really zipped away. It was a big effort.” It capped a big night for Butt, who earlier won the $150,000 Victoria Oaks with Dr Susan for New Zealand co-trainers Nathan Purdon and Cran Dalgety. Dr Susan actually broke her gait in a false start, but second time around would break the hearts of her rivals with a 26.3-second third quarter to set up victory in the Group 1. The all-the-way win was scored by 4.4 metres from favourite Stylish Memphis, a satisfying win for co-trainer Dalgety that he dedicated to Bacchus Marsh reinsman Gavin Lang, who is battling ill-health. “I just saw my good friend Gavin Lang today,” Dalgety said post-race. “Gavin’s having a wee bit of an off time, if I can dedicate a race I’m going to dedicate it to that good man Gavin Lang. It seems a bit hollow tonight not having him win one of these big races.” The three-year-old classics were almost overshadowed by Lochinvar Art’s extraordinary performance in the Group 1 Alabar 4YO Bonanza, where he not only beat highly touted Self Assured but won in a 1:48.6 mile rate, the first time a horse has broken the magical 1:50 barrier in Victoria.“He’s just a legend really,” Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said. “I’m chuffed and lost for words. He’s just a champion.” There was also plenty of fun on track when Always Fast won the Mercury80 for Kima Frenning and Emma Stewart, capping the terrific 1200-metre series that began in front of thousands at Melton on New Year’s Eve. But it’s perhaps the Allied Express Casey Classic and DNR Logistics V L Dullard Trotters Cup that will create most conversation this week. Those two features are likely to be key lead-ins to this Saturday’s headliners on Night 3 of the TAB Summer of Glory back at Tabcorp Park Melton – the $500,000 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup and the $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star. Those two crowns form Victoria’s richest pacing race and Australia’s richest trotting race respectively and will draw Australasia’s most talented harness racing combatants to battle for a place in equine immortality. Kiwi Mach Shard reaffirmed he’ll be a contender in the Hunter Cup with Saturday night’s bold win in the Casey Classic. By Tim O’Connor Reprinted with permission of The Star Weekly

Bolinda trainer Kari Males is hoping it's third-time lucky for stable star Red Hot Tooth in Saturday night's What The Hill Great Southern Star. The classy mare, who was a luckless favourite for the lucrative feature in 2018 and finished fourth at big odds 12 months ago, heads to the $250,000 event on the back of a second placing in the DNR Logistics V L Dullard Trotters Cup. Males was over the moon with the horse's effort behind Temporale on Saturday night, when sitting behind the leader and getting home along the inside to be beaten eight metres. "I think running second in that field was like a win for us. We were pretty happy with it," Males said. "She beat a lot of good horses home. We were rapt - we were as happy as had we won really." Males is after a change of luck at Tuesday night's barrier draw, with Red Hot Tooth having not started from inside gate five during her last six runs. It has been a somewhat frustrating campaign for the daughter of Yankee Paco, who has broken under pressure in feature races at Bendigo and Cranbourne and been unable to win any of her seven starts this preparation. "I've been pretty happy with her. She's sort of galloped when we haven't really known why," Males said. "She's had a new driver (Kerryn Manning) on the last few starts, so maybe it's just a little bit of a combination of someone new getting used to her and things like that. "We've just played around with her feet a tiny bit and she seems to be right now. "She's probably a lot stronger looking this time in... she's probably finally matured that bit more and has had that hard racing in the fast class to sort of strengthen her up. I think she is going as good as she ever has." The What The Hill Great Southern Star, for the open class squaregaiters over the staying trip of 2760m, is a major highlight of the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup program, Night 3 of the TAB Summer Of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton. The barrier draw for the headline races will be conducted at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow night. For details about snapping up a ticket for the barrier draw click here.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Connections of history-making Victorian speed machine Lochinvar Art now have an enjoyable decision to make for their harness racing superstar-where to next? Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder in Paris (Ponder) stopped the clock in 1.48-6 in winning the $100,000 G1 Alabar 4yo Bonanza at Melton on Saturday night. It was the first time the magical 1.50 mile rate had been smashed in the State. Watch the race replay here!  "We'll sit down with David (trainer-driver David Moran) and talk it over in the next few days. We have a few options, but there's certainly exciting times ahead," jubilant owner Kevin Gordon, said yesterday. "In winning the Bonanza, we now have a gold ticket straight into the $200,000 Chariots of Fire in Sydney in just under four weeks' time. David is very keen to give him a start between now and then," he said. "There's the AG Hunter Cup as well as the $35,000 Echuca Pacing Cup coming up, so there's plenty to think about." Gordon and his wife Leonie are best-known for their association with greyhound racing, having claimed many of the major features, including the Paws of Thunder, the Sydney Cup and Christmas Cup. But they rate the recent victory by pacer Lochinvar Art as the biggest thrill in racing. "Apart from the Bonanza being such a prestigious event, being the first Victorian to break a 1.50 mile rate just takes it to another level," Gordon said. "He went absolutely super. A lot of horses don't progress from their 3yo days, but we are thrilled Lochinvar Art has taken that next step. He has developed physically and is bigger across the back and he's shown this time in he's a lot stronger too. "The win was a credit to David and he's surely now cemented himself as a top trainer. He works hard and deserves all the success he gets." Moran worked forward in the Bonanza, waiting until the leading brigade found their positions before taking up the role as pilot. The talented horseman had a pre-race plan to cover as little ground as possible, but he was hoping his main rival (Mark Purdon's $1.10 fav Self Assured) would be called upon to do "that little extra" at some stages. "I needed him to do a bit more work because it was the only way I was ever going to beat Mark - his horse is so talented," Moran said. "It did fall into place for us. While we were one-off and then in front, he was working out three wide to get to being one-off, then I was happy to keep the speed on and have them running." Self Assured tried his heart out and got to within 4.7m of the winner, but final splits of 27.3 and 26.4 in a race run in record time, made the task most difficult. "When I opened up just before the final turn and pinched a break, I thought and hoped it just might be mathematically impossible for Mark to get to me." Moran said he had "a few troubles" with Lochinvar Art in the leadup to the Bonanza. "He's just been so full of himself this preparation. He's been a handful and actually tried to kick me out of the cart in the Shepparton Cup. While it's good he's feeling so well, he can be a bit of a ratbag," he said. "I've altered a few things with him, and we should now be fine. I suppose it's just being a colt coming out in him every now and again." Lochinvar Art's connections are naturally aiming at the season's big races, but Moran said they were mapping out a careful campaign. "We won't be over racing him like last season, when I think we ran in the first Classic 3yo event and then continued until the last as well. In between he had a trip to Qld. That was a huge year for him," he said. "We've made a conscious decision not to give him an over taxing campaign, but in saying that, he has pulled up terrific. He was pig rooting and charging about this morning while I was trying to change his rugs, so he's feeling pretty good."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Trotting fans should get ready for the era of Oscar, who makes his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight in the Group 1 V L Dullard Trotters Cup, the lead-up to next week’s $250,000 Great Southern Star. His full name is Oscar Bonavena, the New Zealand trotter many are predicting will soon be the best in Australasia, if he’s not already. The great horses, even those in waiting, often end up with one name, like Brazilian soccer players. We get to know them, love them, speak of them so often they become like old familiar friends. Blackie (Blacks A Fake), Quinny (I’m Themightyquinn), Trigger (Smoken Up) and even a one-word champion in Lazarus quickly became Laz. The difference is they all earned their nicknames the hard way. Oscar hasn’t yet. He is like the young gun footballer playing with the men, who just looks faster than them. Several times this season Oscar has jogged past very good horses, including Inter Dominion champion Winterfell at Cambridge last start. But he is yet to win a race worth more than $50,000 and in his greatest test to date he had to settle for third after sitting parked in the National Trot at Alexandra Park two starts ago. He was made to race tough outside the leader, blunting his weapon of sheer speed. And when young upstarts have to play tough with hardened old warriors they can be exposed. Champion trainer Mark Purdon says that defeat may help Oscar overcome his second line draw tonight. “He learned from that,” Purdon said. “He is very fast and sometimes wants to go flat out and he didn’t do himself any favours when he got beaten. “But it taught him to look after himself and the next start at Cambridge he was far more relaxed. “That could be really crucial over the next week because, as we saw at Ballarat last week, you can’t sit back in races over here, so I might have to move with him mid-race. So racing kinder will be important and I think he will.” Purdon thinks so highly of Oscar he will stake him for every major race in North America next year, so if the small but athletic trotter turns out as good as the boss thinks he is the Australasian era of Oscar may be cut short. Purdon is, as so often, at the centre of the New Zealand attack on Melton tonight and realises Self Assured will probably have to sit parked outside Lochinvar Art in the 4YO Bonanza tonight while Stylish Memphis faces a huge task in the Victoria Oaks. “But I actually don’t mind her (gate 13) draw,” he said. “She has so much speed I think she is better coming from behind them and as long as she gets a cart into the race she can still win.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Guerin

AS is so often the case, Mark Purdon is the key player heading into tonight's huge Melton meeting. Purdon co-trains and/or drives favourites in four of the five major races on the night, including the All Stars’ two most exciting horses Self Assured and Oscar Bonavena. Self Assured has firmed from $1.50 into $1.30 with the Aussie TAB for the Group 1 4YO Bonanza, while Oscar Bonavena has been $1.85 into $1.65 for the Group 1 Dullard Trotters’ Cup. His other key players are: Stylish Memphis ($2.50 favourite in the Victoria Oaks) and Thefixer ($1.65 favourite in the Casey Classic). It looks a dominant hand, but but none of the four races are straight-forward on paper. “Self Assured has come through that huge run at Ballarat really well, but it looks like he’ll have to sit outside Lochinvar Art. He’ll still be very hard to beat,” Purdon said. “It’s hard to see how Oscar’s race will play out because there’s six off the front and six off the back, but he’s very well going into it. I think he’s also learnt a lot from the National Trot defeat and will be a better horse for it.” And barrier 13 has certainly presented a big challenge for Stylish Memphis, who Purdon has been caretaker trainer of and will drive in the Oaks. “It looks like Dr Susan will go straight to the front and if she gets it easy, she’ll be hard to run down,” he said. “Ideally I’d like to drive my filly to come with one run because she’s so fast, but that will depend on the tempo. I don’t want to have to put her into the race too early because she can get keen outside them, as she showed last week,” Purdon said. Even Thefixer has drawn the back row (gate nine) and although he has class over most of his rivals, it won’t be easy against fellow Kiwis Triple Eight (gate seven), Mach Shard (10) and locals like the luckless Ballarat Cup runner Rackemup Tigerpie (two), My Kiwi Mate (six) and in-form NSW visitor Cash N Flow (eight).   By Adam Hamilton

FORMER champion Kiwi driver Anthony Butt is genuinely buzzing heading towards Melton’s huge meeting on Saturday night. Despite his stellar record in some of Australia’s biggest races, headlined by seven Hunter Cup wins, Butt’s record in the Victoria Derby and Oaks has been bleak. Remarkably, he hasn’t won a Derby and has only jagged the one Oaks title, aboard Geoff Small’s brilliant Pullover Brown way back in 2003. “My one chance of winning the Derby was Lavros Star (1997). I won the heat on him, but got suspended and Ricky May won the final on him,” Butt recalled. The now NSW-based Butt is confident of turning it all around at Melton this week. And the punters have thrown their support behind him. Butt trains and drives heavily-backed Derby favourite, Line Up, who ran blistering time leading throughout in his heat at Ballarat last week and is drawn to lead again from gate three. He’s been $2.40 into $2.25 on the Aussie TAB since drawing gate three. “It’s a fantastic draw, especially being inside Governor Jujon, who looks the main danger,” Butt said. “Line Up really impressed me last week. He only came to us a couple of weeks before the heat, but obviously I’d driven him in those big races over in NZ. “He’d been working well and I was keen to hold the front. He did a terrific job in quick time after having to sprint three times. “He’s a great chance of leading again and has come through the heat win really well.” Butt’s hopes of winning a second Oaks sit with Cran Dalgety’s speedy and improving filly, Dr Susan, who led, then took a trail on Stylish Memphis and got clear too late when second in her heat at Ballarat. “She was only starting to wind-up on the line last week. I was keen to hold the front, but Mark (Purdon, driving Stylish Memphis) had one crack at me and then his filly started to pulling hard, so when he came again I took the trail knowing it was a heat,” Butt said. “There will be no handing-up this week, that’s for sure. We’ve drawn really again (gate five) and can hopefully find the front, while Stylish Memphis is outside the back and will have to work hard to get around the field and outside of us. “Maybe she will just be too good Stylish Memphis, but Dr Susan is one of those fillies who has just absolutely thrived on the trip away. She’s getting better and better.” Dr Susan has been backed from $3 into $2.50 and is now equal favourite with Stylish Memphis on the Aussie TAB.   Adam Hamilton

Emma Stewart looks to have a stranglehold on the final of the Mercury80 after scoring a third win in the four-heat series at Tabcorp Park Melton. And the Cardigan-based trainer also appears well placed to secure the lucrative bonus for connections of Fourbigmen, who set a new benchmark time of 82.1 seconds on Friday night. The fastest winner in the series snares an extra $20,000, half of which is collected by owners and the other half split by the trainer and driver. Chris Alford drove the first heat winner Liftntorque on New Year’s Eve and was at the controls on Friday night as Fourbigmen darted through along the sprint lane to land a convincing five-metre victory. “He had a nice run in there behind the leader and the pace was on sort of all the way. He felt really good and once the run came, he just powered through then,” Alford said. The champion reinsman said he wasn’t bothered if he drove Liftntorque or Fourbigmen in the final. “They’re both nice horses… whichever one they put me on I’ll be happy with,” Alford said. Michael Stanley’s Soho Nolita came home strongly to pip leader Major Exclusive for second, therefore booking a place in the $50,000 final next Saturday night. The qualifiers for the feature from the first three heats include: Liftntorque (Emma Stewart), Van Mara (Andy Gath), Always Fast (Emma Stewart), Gilty Hanover (Kari Males), Off The Radar (Richie Caruana) and Call Me Hector (Matthew Cooper). While his father Ted missed out on reaching the Mercury80 final with Major Exclusive, who is the final's emergency, young trainer Blake Caruana scored his second career win as a trainer at Melton on Friday when Better Exclusive produced a long-odds victory in the Allied Express Pace Final (2240m, NR 56-66). Caruana was ill and unable to make the track on Friday night, but would have had something to smile about as the horse dug deep to hold off runner-up Dan Fernando by a head on the line. “Blake would have been jumping up and down in the bed, that’s for sure,” young driver Connor Ronan said. “It was a big step up in class tonight. Three starts ago he won the equivalent to a C1 and then to win a race like this, where there are some very nice horses in it, it’s a credit to the team and the horse.” HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

You could barely wipe the smile off Richie Caruana’s face after he landed a breakthrough metropolitan victory while securing a spot in the lucrative Mercury80 final on Friday night. The Rockbank trainer took the drive behind his horse Off The Radar and he relished the 1200m sprint, charging home to score in the third heat of the series at Tabcorp Park Melton. He came from off the speed to run over the top of pre-race favourite Call Me Hector, who endured a tough run but battled on to also clinch a place in the final. Caruana, who had only trained 12 winners before Friday night’s triumph, said it was great to now be part of the $50,000 showdown on January 25. “It’s a bit of a thrill being in a race like that - I’ve never been in one. It’s going to be a good feeling,” he said. Caruana only trains a small team of horses part-time, but has had plenty of fun with Off The Radar, who has now won 10 career races. Four of those have been since racing under the Caruana name. “I didn’t know what he was going to do today, honestly, because he is a bit of a lazy horse, but he can hold his ground for a bit of distance,” Caruana said. “He keeps on going.” Off The Radar clocked 84.3 seconds during his win on Friday, which was the slowest of the three heats. Always Fast is the clubhouse leader after posting a time of 82.8 seconds, which was slicker than stablemate Liftntorque’s run of 83.4 seconds. The quickest horse of the series scores a $20,000 bonus, with $10,000 paid to the successful owner(s) and $5000 going to the trainer and driver. The last of the four heats will be run this coming Friday night, January 17. Meanwhile, Sammy Showdown continued his progression towards being an elite squaregaiter with a fifth-straight win in the Allied Express Trot (1720m, NR 70-85). Trained and driven by Myrniong’s Kylie Sugars, the four-year-old was a convincing winner of the $20,000 event, which was the biggest stakes race of his career to date. Sugars was “rapt” with the performance. “He sprinted hard and he sprinted hard to the line,” she said. “I looked over my right shoulder straightening up and I could see Kate (Gath and Majestuoso) coming and I think he heard her too and he kicked again. “But what I really was happy about was at the start, how he accelerated through.” Driving honours on Friday night went to Josh Duggan, who scored wins behind Alice Kay (Empire Stallions Pace Final, 1720m, NR 52-55) and Will I Rocknroll (IRT Australia Pace, 2240m, 4YO+), while nine individual trainers claimed success on the card.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

KATE Gath’s golden run continued when she won both features at Saturday’s Shepparton Cup meeting. Gath teamed with trainer Emma Stewart and Victoria’s most improved pacer, Phoenix Prince, to snare the $60,000 Group 2 Shepparton Gold Cup and earlier with her husband Andy andMcLovin in the Group 3 George Gath Trot. Phoenix Prince is clearly Victoria’s country cups star right now with the latest win following victories in the Geelong and Cranbourne Cups as well as second in the Bendigo Cup and third in the Stawell Cup. Gath has been aboard in four of those runs, including the Geelong Cup win, while Jodi Quinlan partnered Phoenix Prince to win at Cranbourne. The Shepparton Cup was Phoenix Prince’s most important win yet, beating all of Australia’s three Auckland Inter Dominion finalists – Sicario (fourth), My Kiwi Mate (sixth) and San Carlo (seventh) – along with emerging star Lochinvar Art (fifth) and Our Uncle Sam (second). Our Uncle Sam found the front and copped some midrace pressure from San Carlo, who weakened, while Our Uncle Sam was only beaten a head. Lochinvar Art was thehardluck runner, being shuffled to four-back on the inside and storming home late when he saw some daylight from a hopeless position. McLovin has bounced-back to winning form at his first run since illness derailed his Auckland Inter Dominion campaign. The former Kiwi gelding got the job done – only just – but did show plenty of fight to lift after looking in strife on the last bend to snatch a head overSundons Courage in the Group 3 George Gath Trot at Shepparton on Saturday night. While it was great to see him back in winning form, he did have a lovely one-one trail and was entitled to win and win with more ease given the closing splits of 58.0 and 29.4sec at the end of a 2min0.7sec mile rate for 2190m. He’s sure to be fitter for the run, but will need to lift plenty for his date with the likes of OscarBonavena, etc in the Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton on January 25 and the Group 1 Great Southern Star a week after that. The win certainly meant plenty to trainer Andy Gath. “It’s a great thrill to win this race again in honour of my legendary grandfather,” he said. __________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S great to haveCran Dalgety back in the Aussie feature race mix. His emerging filly Dr Susan capped her Victoria Oaks preparation with a very impressive win in the $50,000 Group 2Raith Memorial at Menangle on Saturday night. Fresh from a well-held third in the Sires Stake final at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve, Dr Susan underlined the depth of talent on this year’s Kiwi crop. Anthony Butt bustled her out of gate five and had a crack for the lead from local KeepRockin through a brisk 26sec opening quarter, but then had to grab hold and drop in behind the leader. Rather than risk being pocketed, Butt came off the leader’s back at the 500m and zoomed away with a big lead, until local outsiderVincenzina emerged from the back and roared home to miss causing an upset by just a head. Although the margin wasn’t great, Dr Susan did the do the early work and paced an impressive 1min52.1sec mile. The heats of the Oaks are at Ballarat next Saturday night. Dr Susan’s win underlines why another Kiwi, Stylish Memphis, is clear favourite to win the Oaks given she did more work and easily beat home Dr Susan on New Year’s Eve in Auckland. __________________________________________________________________________________ ONE horse with enough sheer speed to at least test Self Assured in Saturday week’s 4YO Bonanza is Hurricane Harley. Emma Stewart’s pacer simply packed too much speed for his older rivals despite sitting parked in yesterday’s Hamilton Cup. Although sitting parked is not his go, it was only 1660m and turned into an 800m dash with a 54.3sec last half. Hurricane Harley had too much sheer brilliance for the leader and main rival Duke Of Wellington to win by a neck. The race was robbed of much interest with the scratching of buzz pacer Lumineer, who was shooting for his 16th win from just 18 starts. “He has a float mishap. It’s nothing major, just some superficial stuff, but we’d never take any risk with him after the problems he’s had,” trainer Ange McDowall said. __________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER Kiwi Our Alfie Romeo isn't just the best mare in WA, she looks one of the best in Australia. Greg and Skye Bond's five-year-old thrashed a good field at Gloucester Park last Friday night, leafing throughout to win unextended by 8.1m and dashing home in 55.6 and 27.4sec. The daughter of Washington VC won 12 of her 20 runs in WA last season and has raced eight times this term for four wins, two seconds and a third. __________________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING former Kiwi filly Tiffany Rose looks right on target for a NSW Oaks raid despite suffering her first WA defeat at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere had eight starts at two in NZ for seven placings, some in the top races, and then won her first five starts in WA for trainer Mike Reed. She drew the outside, gate nine, drifted back to last and stormed home for a close third to WA's other top filly, Double Expresso, last Friday night. Driver Chris Lewis won the race when he mad a mid race move to sit parked on Double Expresso and dug deep to win in 1min57.4sec mile rate for 2130m. __________________________________________________________________________________ ONE of Australia’s most loved and popular pacers,Emain Macha, added to his fantastic record with an easy win in the Italian Cup at Globe Derby on Saturday. The six-year-old fifth win from nine starts this campaign took his record to 32 wins from 54 starts with another 13 placings and over $270,000 in earnings.   Adam Hamilton

Aldebaran Park produced the quinella pair, Keayang Ignite and Aldebaran Knox, in a heat of the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for harness racing three-year-old colts and geldings at Tabcorp Park Melton. A fortnight later Keayang Ignite led throughout in the Group 1 $50,000 Final, winning by 17 metres in a 1:59.6 rate for 1720 metres with the last 800 in 57.5 and the final 400 in a stunning 27.9. A $15,000 buy at the 2018 Australasian Premier Trotting Sale for the Levarg Racing Group, the colt has banked $37,980 from four wins in as many starts. Aldebaran Park is offering a half-brother Keayang Ignite by exciting first crop sire Aldebaran Eagle as Lot 268 at the APTS sale at Oaklands Junction on Sunday, February 2. Aldebaran Eagle   17th Group success Tornado Valley NZ, Skyvalley’s most outstanding son and the reigning Trotter of the Year, grabbed his 17th Group success when he won the Group 3 Aldebaran Park Bruce Skeggs Memorial Trotters Cup at Cranbourne for the second time. The gelding has now won 31 races. My Skypocket and Black Valley, both members of Skyvalley first crop, became his sire’s ninth and 10th $100,000 earners when they won at Melton and Albion Park respectively. Skyvalley's bonny daughter Fear Not, who was bred by Aldebaran Park, notched win No.7 at Ballarat, coming off a 30 metre handicap to send her stake tally over the $140,000 mark. With six crops racing, Skyvalley has left 55 individual winners from 85 starters in Australia – a 65 percent strike rate – and they have amassed over $3 million in stakes, an average of $35,000 per starter. Ten have earned in excess of $100,000 and 24 have banked over $50,000. Skyvalley   Cup triumph Godofthunder, a gelding by frozen semen sire Yield Boko, won for the sixth time in the Trotters Cup at Launceston, while Aldebaran Bonny, a five-year-old gelding part-owned by Aldebaran Park scored his second win at Cambridge Raceway, New Zealand. New arrivals New foalings at Aldebaran Park: Colt: Endsino – Aldebaran Eagle Colt: Sundonna – Aldebaran Eagle By Peter Wharton

Top reinsman Greg Sugars believes potential superstar Ride High felt much better when winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, improving on his 4YO & 5YO Championship showing last month. Despite only having a metre to spare on the line, the Clayton Tonkin-trained son of Art Major made light work of his opposition in the TAB Multiplier Westburn Grant Free For All (2240m). It was the five-year-old’s second start back from a long injury lay-off and his first since November 9 when scraping home for victory over Hurricane Harley. “He had the race obviously comfortably in his grasp and I just tried to look after him as best I could,” Sugars said of Saturday night’s front-running display. “He probably overdid it a little bit. Once I eased him, he’s eased too much and they run him to a slightly narrower margin than what we would have liked. “But it’s nothing to be too concerned about. We took a lot of positives out of the horse. He felt a lot sharper than what he did in his first-up run to me and I’m pretty happy with what he did. “If I had have been fair dinkum and sort of pushed him right out, I think he would have held a pretty decent margin and looked very, very impressive.” Owner-breeder Peter Gleeson told thetrots.com.au last week that a number of big Group 1 races were on the table for Ride High, including the illustrious Miracle Mile in March next year. Sugars said it would now be a matter of getting the runs into Ride High, which has been to the races just twice since late August 2018. “Obviously they are going to target some of the big races coming up early in the new year so I think we will just race wherever is suitable just to get a few runs under his belt and make sure he is in cherry ripe condition by the time those good races come up in January,” Sugars said. Ride High has now won 10 of 11 career starts for more than $200,000 in prizemoney. On Saturday night, Sugars landed the second leg of a winning double behind Joe Abela-trained Madena Sky in the Emerald Lake Logistics Trot (1720m, NR 67-77). John Caldow also drove a double, firstly partnering Michelle Eastman’s Aleppo Murphy to win the Schweppes Kids Christmas Party Trot (2240m, NR 78-100) and then Dallas McIntyre’s Sarah Bonus in the Pooch Beauty Salon Pace Final (1720m, 4YO+ NR 46-51). Training honours were shared, with 12 different people getting in the winner’s circle on Saturday night.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Owner-breeder Peter Gleeson believes his star pacer Ride High had some of the brilliance taken out of him before a much-hyped return to racing last month. The Clayton Tonkin-trained and part-owned son of Art Major won his first start back from injury at Tabcorp Park Melton on November 9, but was far from breathtaking in a narrow victory over Hurricane Harley, who ran him to a half-neck despite some cheap sections in the lead. Gleeson felt Ride High worked too hard in two trials, which included a sizzling effort alongside Tam Major that equalled Lennytheshark's 2040-metre Tabcorp Park 2018 record. "He didn’t look so impressive when he won that race, the (Group 2) 4YO & 5YO Championship, and I said to Clayton a few days later that I reckon he’s had the edge taken off him in those two trials and he said: ‘so do I’,” Gleeson told thetrots.com.au. Gleeson said Tonkin had then backed off the horse in his work and given him some time between his next run, which will be in this Saturday night’s TAB Multiplier Westburn Grant Free For All (2240m). “(Clayton) won’t start a horse unless he is 100 per cent happy with the way it’s going to go,” Gleeson said. “He wants to win every time he goes out… not only with Ride High, but with any horse he has got.” Gleeson, 70, has been involved in horses for most of his life and believes Ride High could reach - or even surpass - the heights of a grand pacer he bred named Safe And Sound. That son of Safely Kept won close to $1 million in prizemoney in a career that captured many big races, including the 2002 A. G. Hunter Cup. "If he stays sound, he’ll be as good as Safe And Sound, or maybe better,” he said. “Clayton just thinks he is the best horse he’s ever had. So we just have to wait and see how it all unfolds … the biggest worry is little niggling injuries that come along. “And you never know from one day to the next when they’re going to go amiss. And then you spend your life trying to patch them up again.” Ride High will be driven by Greg Sugars on Saturday night and has drawn barrier four in the small field of eight starters. His rivals include Greg Scholefield’s recent Stawell Pacing Cup champ Emain Macha, Mick Stanley’s top-liner Rackemup Tigerpie and Peter Manning’s quality mare Reciprocity. Saturday’s 12-race card kicks off from 4.54pm.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Eight-year-old Fake Smile produced a thunderous finish to capture the Evolve Stone Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Craig Demmler-trained gelding was lining up for just his third run back from a three-and-a-half-year injury layoff, but he was able to sprint past rising superstar Lumineer at the end of the 1720-metre Group 3 sprint in a slick 1:52.3. “This horse has been an amazing story what he’s come back from. Craig deserves all the credit because it’s been a long road back and a lot of hard work,” winning driver Jackie Barker said. “I think he’s done his tendon three times, so to get him back to the races is an enormous effort. Craig and the team have done an amazing job.”                                                                                    --Photo by Stuart McCormick Barker, who is making a bit of a habit of producing barnstorming-finish wins at HQ, bided her time from the back-row gate 11 draw tonight as others set a brisk tempo at the front. Pick Up Line led from the pole but eventually handed up to Deedenuto after 600m and a lead time of 6.9secs followed by a 27.4 opening split, with Lumineer working around to the breeze for the last lap. They kept moving with a 57secs middle half-mile and Fake Smile was on the move wide from the back. With Barker throwing everything at Fake Smile the son of Grinfromeartoear (out of Fake Left mare Counterfeit Girl) pounced on his rivals in the straight for a 1.3m win over a brave Lumineer, who had to lose no admirers after his tough effort in defeat, with Pick Up Line third just ahead of Brackenreid, Smart Little Shard and Blingittothemax. “When you draw the second row over the sprint it’s never going to be easy but this horse really flew home,” Barker said. “If he can stay sound and keep going I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.” Barker said she was “grateful for the opportunity to drive Fake Smile”, adding “I think you have got to be 100 per cent dedicated if you want to try and make it. And I do want to make it, so I’m grateful for the opportunities and I’ll go anywhere to get them.”   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Michelle Eastman is thriving in her new role with the Maryborough Harness Racing Club, but hasn’t let the job get in the way of her passion for training. Eastman, who took over as secretary of the club just a couple of months ago, will prepare Aleppo Murphy for his second start back from a long spell at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. The son of Sundon has endured a string of issues that have seen him only race once since late May, having produced a solid fifth in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup last week. “We were happy with that because he was first-up for six or seven months and he’d never been over that distance (2650m) before,” Eastman said. “He only just got pipped by Tornado Valley, Save Our Pennys and Magicool and they are all good horses. We are hoping for a lot of improvement this week.” Aleppo Murphy, a winner of eight races, will start off the 10-metre mark in Friday night’s DNR Logistics Trotters Handicap (2240m, NR 70-120) for in-form driver James Herbertson. “We have changed a few things with him. We don’t have a headcheck on him anymore, which he used to really resent. We felt that it made him trot better, so this time in we have taken the headcheck off and he has been putting his head down and doesn’t seem to be so fractious before the start,” said Eastman, who trains from Shelbourne. “If James can get him away well - he is going to be out on his own because he is out of the draw - and baring incidents, he should not be far away.” Eastman said she was “absolutely loving” her new full-time position with Maryborough, which she took over from club stalwart Les Chapman. “It’s such a different role to what I’ve ever had. I’m just enjoying the real change (from) being in the finance sector most of my life,” she said. “It’s really good. I’m always surrounded by people, got a great team of volunteers and really starting to make some changes.” While Eastman’s focus will be on the opening race on Friday, many punters will be looking to the feature events on the card. Two heats of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship (1720m, NR 70-79) have drawn good fields, with runners vying for a place in the $30,000 final at Melton on November 22. There is also two Group 3 events - the Garrards Popular Alm Free For All (2240m, NR 90-120) and the Alderbaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All (2240m, NR 80-120). The nine-race card kicks off from 6.18pm. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR MORE FROM MICHELLE EASTMAN:   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

The rise and rise of Magicool will be put under the griller at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday night when Chris Svanosio's stable star takes on some of Victoria's best in the Aldebaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All. Fresh off superb victories punching the breeze at Melton at Melton on November 2 and then in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup the following Thursday, Magicool opened a $1.80 favourite with TAB.com.au for Friday's feature despite his outside-the-front-row draw. He's since eased to $2.25, with Jilliby Babavska shortening from from $3.80 to $2.40, a movement that won't surprise trainer-driver Svanosio. "It will be pretty tough just looking at it quickly from the draw," Svanosio told the Trots Talk radio show. "He's drawn barrier seven, he's done it pretty tough his last couple of starts, but I will still probably end up back closer to the tail of the field against some pretty good horses, so he will have to step up again to be in the finish I'd say. "You've got to have a few things go right when you are drawn out there, it will be tough, he's well, but it will be tough for him." Having said that, the lightly-raced six-year-old has shown the ability to surprise even his trainer, including with his Trots Country Cup Championship victory at his last start. "He's old enough, but he hasn't done a lot of racing. To have those two runs five days a part, sit in the chair both times and the way he finished off at Yarra Valley I was very impressed with how he handled everything," Svanosio said. "He surprised me at Yarra Valley, I didn't think he should have been able to do that - to sit there over 2600 and sprint home like he did on a pretty ordinary day. He was fantastic." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO TUNE IN TO TROTS TALK   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

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