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Challenging conditions saw the toughest emerge and reinforce their dominance on TAB Breeders Crown night, when eight Group 1s were captured amid some unforgettable triumphs. Emma Stewart's two-year-old pair Maajida and Be Happy Mach only added to their lofty reputations, Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson produced a trotting double from his only two contestants, Yabby Dam Farms lost one on a protest but captured another and there was even an upset or two. Relive all the winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Breeders Crown night with this rolling blog. TEE CEE BEE MACRAY WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI BREEDERS CROWN GRADUATE CUP An extraordinary start to the night as Tee Cee Bee Macray, the horse who means so much to trainer Jess Tubbs and reinsman/husband Greg Sugars, salutes in the Graduate Cup. Having been trained to great heights by Tubbs's late father, Alan, Tee Cee Bee Macray's victory tonight was his first since Alan's passing, some 37 starts ago. "That's just amazing, that's one for Dad," Tubbs said. "Been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues, we've all just worked through them and he's been really well lately. "It just worked out so well tonight, I'm just so proud for Dad. (Tee Cee Bee Macray) by all rights shouldn't really be here, he's ovecome a lot of health issues, a few surgeries along the way, it's been a long way back. Dad was so patient with him and spoiled him, he's a bit of a brat and a handful to deal with but we just love him." Sugars has enjoyed plenty of big wins, but few have meant more than this. "I would have given up just about every win this season to get this one over the line. There's been a lot of downs, a few ups along the way and a lot of criticism and a lot of weight on our shoulders from everyone but it just means the world to us."   LIBERTY STRIDE WINS THE FATHER PATRICK @ NEVELE R STUD 3YO TROTTING FILLES FINAL: A perfect Anthony Butt drive and a very good horse in Liberty Stride, trained by Phil Williamson, kicked off the night's TAB Breeders Crown Group 1s with a dominant victory. There was plenty of heat on early in the three-year-old trotting fillies final but every move played more in the hands of Liberty Stride, the well-back favourite, and when the moment came Butt streaked clear to win for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati. "We had high expectations but you never know with these young trotters. Got a really good run and it worked out beautifully," Butt told Sky Racing Active. "I wanted to be a little bit aggressive but take my time as well and nurse her, got into a good spot down the back, I was lucky to drop in and then Johnny pulled in front of me getting to the back and got a beautiful dragged into it and she jogged it. Won really easily." Butt gave much credit to Williamson and his owners, with the Rosati's producing not only the winner but also second placed Emerald Stride. "Emilio and Mary have been really good lately supporting me and given me some really good drives so, long may it continue. Also Phil Williamson, great mate from New Zealand. We've been mates a long time and he's got some great boys who drive at home so very lucky to get a call up."   ULTIMATE STRIDE WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL: Ultimate Stride was spectacular in winning by almost 40 metres in the two-year-old trotting boys' final to leave no doubt who was the best horse in the class. It was a second consecutive Group 1 win for trainer Phil Williamson, reinsman Anthony Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, with Ultimate Stride unbeaten in his Victorian campaign and capping it with a Crown. "He is a nice horse, very nice horse," Williamson told Sky Racing Active. "He showed that he was a wee bit dominant on them, without stating the obvious he is a wee bit smart isn't he? "His mother (One Over Kenny), she won a million, (his sire) Love You was pretty good too, so it's a bit of a combination made in heaven you might say. When you hit the jackpot you've got yourself a good horse." Williamson said they knew Ultimate Stride was a very good horse from "the very first day". "Day one I said we have got a very special horse here," he said. "He just oozed class right from when we bought him at the sale. He's just a quality horse." It's great reward for the Rosatis, who Williamson said had "put a lot into the game". "He's had probably his fair share of disappointments so it's great to give him some upside. It's what we do it for."   NO WIN NO FEED WINS THE WOODLANDS STUD 3YO FILLIES FINAL Opportunity knocked and Todd McCarthy burst through to produce a boilover with $43-shot No Win No Feed saluting in the three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown final. All the drama again surrounded Our Princess Tiffany, the brilliant All Stars three-year-old who looked lacklustre in her heat, improved in her semi-final but ultimately outpointed in tonight's Group 1 after a testing run punching a stiff breeze. Instead it was No Win No Feed, trainer Craig Cross and reinsman McCarthy who pinched the headline, with McCarthy steering his filly to the front from gate six, getting cover from Miss Streisand and then stealing a march on the field when the latter hung wide and enabled him to gain the front again at the final bend. That set up a 3.5-metre win ahead of Jeremy Young's Best Western, with Our Princess Tiffany a close third. "She's been a terrific filly," McCarthy said. "She's been super consistent all season, she's really come a long way, she's done a great job. "I probably would have liked to have held the front but Chris (Geary) come at me pretty hard and I was happy to take the sit at that time. I know that filly (Miss Streisand). I've driven her before and she can get up the track. I never thought it would be at that point in the race, but it worked out good for us."   TAM MAJOR WINS THE HYGAIN BREEDERS CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS Tam Major's advancement this season was capped with a powerful victory in the four-year-old Breeders Crown Championship, a title to add to his Vicbred Super Series success for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart. Alford couldn't have been more glowing in his praise when speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "There was good speed early and we were able to get around at the right time," Alford said. "He's just racing like a killing machine at the moment. "He got a good breather there for a little bit, about the 600 he wanted to get on with the job, so I said let's go racing." Seated in the breeze for much of the race, Tam Major wore down leader Rackemup Tigerpie and held off sprint lane stablemate second-placed Major Times to reinforce that he's a Grand Circuit contender of the future.   KRATOS WINS THE WHAT THE HILL 3YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was a drama-fuelled finish to the TAB Breeders Crown final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, with a first-past-the-post All Cashed Up galloping in the closing stages and prompting a protest from second-placed Kratos. Only a nose separated Anton Golino's trotter from the Kiwi challenger, trained by John and Josh Dickie, with Majestuoso just a head back in third. HRV Chairman of Stewards explained their decision to Brittany Graham on Sky Racing Active. "They are always so difficult to do when they are so close to the line," Mr Day said. "The relevant rule requires that when a horse does break gait that either it doesn't gain ground or, importantly, doesn't maintain ground. When they gallop so close to the line it's very hard for them to lose ground, or alternatively not maintain their ground, and we were satisfied that when All Cashed Up broke in the final 50 metres, initially while in a gallop, it did maintain its position. "Mindful of the very small margin between the two of a nose, we were satisfied the protest ought to be upheld and we amended the placings."   MAX DELIGHT WINS THE IRT 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was an impressive and clinical performance by Max Delight as the David Aiken trained horse was placed in front by Todd McCarthy out of the gates and controlled a class field to win another Group 1. The front row draw proved beneficial and while a strong clan of Emma Stewart runners and highly-rated Lochinvar Art had to shuffle and work to gain their best chance, Max Delight was always in control and with 26.8-second and 27.8-second third and fourth quarters had enough in reserve to hold off Out To Play. "He was super," McCarthy told Sky Racing Active. "We got out of the gate quick, once he held up easy enough I think everyone knew he was going to be there. I was able to a bit of a breather while everyone sorted themselves out and he was just so brave in that slick last half." McCarthy gave great credit to trainer Aiken, whose confidence was rock solid despite the semi-final fourth placing. "David's so good with these horses and he said after that run (in the semi-final) last week 'don't worry, he will be better next week'. Full credit to David, he had him spot on. "I've been very fortunate to be able to drive some great horses throughout the season and I can't thank the owners and trainers I've been involved with enough for that. I've had a pretty good season here at Melton, it's a pretty good place to me."   BE HAPPY MACH WINS THE DOWNBYTHESEASIDE 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL Chris Alford drove Be Happy Mach like he was the best horse in the race and he only served to further prove that reputation in the run with a commanding Breeders Crown Group 1 victory. A significant exclamation was put on the talented Mach Three colt's season for trainer Emma Stewart, with Be Happy Mach coming from the back of the field to tackle Zuess Bromac for the lead. While trainer-driver Zach Butcher initially responded, Alford wouldn't be denied, muscling to the front and despite that early work blazing away on the final bend to set up a seven-metre win from an impressive second-placed Youaremy Sunshine. Alford had plenty of praise for the champion when talking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "He had a bit of a chequered passage early," Alford said. "Two galloped in front of him, he hit one wheel and it didn't even faze him, he just rolled around and had to put it to the leader to wrestle the front off him. "Once you buzz him up then he'll drop the bit and go 31 and a half and just walk along, let another one head him and when it's time to go he goes. "(At the final turn) it was just like he hit the turbo button and his arse just dropped and off he went." It's been a significant two-year-old season and the champion reinsman's confident much more is to come. "You look at the size of him now, he's only going to get bigger and stronger and that's a bit scary."   MAAJIDA WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI 2YO FILLIES' FINAL The professionalism of Emma Stewart's runners was to the fore for a second successive TAB Breeders Crown final with, like Be Happy Mach before her, Maajida capping a dominant season with a royal performance. Greg Sugars easily held the front from his advantageous draw and while those behind him shuffled for a good sit, Maajida was clinical in careering away to a 12-metre win ahead of a valiant Iolanta for Mick Stanley. Sugars, speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race, gave plenty of credit to the Stewart stable. "Not only do they get the best out of them ability-wise but their manners are first class," Sugars said. "It's very rare for them to have an unruly horse in their stable, especially their youngsters, they do a terrific job. "She's relatively lightly raced this one but she's got a lot of runs on the board. It's just been a pleasure to be a part of it. "She was fortunate enough to have good draws right through this series, which have helped. She's got better and better as the races have gone on. Very happy with her, she felt very sharp tonight and did leave the gate a lot better, which made it a lot easier."   IM READY JET WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING FILLIES' FINAL A difficult night for Yabby Dam Farms gained a significant silver lining as Anton Golino and Glen Craven captured their Group 1 when Im Ready Jet put in a scintillating finish to win her TAB Breeders Crown final. Having lost a protest in the three-year-old boys class after All Cashed Up galloped in the closing stages, there was no question as to the winner in the fillies' final with Im Ready Jet careering away for a 20-metre win from Jaxnme and Illawong Stardust. "She was just jogging at the 400 and it was just a matter of trotting to the line," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "I was quite surprised on her last start how quick she can run a last quarter. I knew if the pace was on and she was thereabouts in the run she would be hard to hold out." Craven was particularly pleased for Golino and Yabby Dam Farms owner Pat Driscoll. "They put so much into the sport. Unfortunately that poor bloke (All Cashed Up)'s run three seconds in Group 1s now, but that's how it's going to be. This filly, she's something special."   GOODTIME HEAVEN WINS THE VINCENT @ ALABAR CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO MARES The pressure came but you wouldn't have known it as reinsman Glen Craven and mare Goodtime Heaven sat cool as a cucumber in front and then when it came time to win the night's final title they put paid to all comers. The Courtney Slater-trained leader held the front and withstood pressure from $2.70 chance Art Series in the breeze, with the latter's reinswoman Amanda Turnbull attempting to hold at bay favourite Nostra Villa's three-wide advance. Craven and Goodtime Heaven answered the challenge with a 28.5-second first quarter and then had enough to get home in 57.7 seconds for the final 800 metres to take the Crown with a nine-metre win from Major Sea. "It's been a nice night after all, a second and two wins, I'll take that," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "She didn't get it all her own way tonight, she's such a good little racehorse, she's so quick off the arm and was able to settle and let the horse outside the leader sit in front of her the whole way. When I asked her to go she went good."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Ballarat harness racing stables made a clean sweep of group races at Tabcorp Park Melton trots on Saturday. Emma Stewart took out one group 2 and two group 3s on her way to seven victories for the night, while Michael Stanley captured group 2 and Anton Golino a group 3. Young Gordon reinsman Darby McGuigan was a major beneficiary of another big meeting for Stewart. McGuigan had a double with Maraetai ($2 favourite) in the group 3 $30,000 Melton Pace Final, 2240m, and Liftntorque ($1.40 favourite) in the Melton Toyota Pace, 1720m. Stewart's other wins came with Be Happy Mach ($1.60 favourite) in the group 2 $50,000 Tatlor Stakes for 2yo colts and geldings, 2240m; Shining Oro ($2.60 favourite) in the group 3 $30,000 DNR Logistics Vicbred Platinum Pace for mares, 2240m; Born To Rocknroll ($1.30 favourite) in the COGS Service Pace, 1720m; Two Times Bettor ($4.60) in the Alabar 3yo Classic, 1720m; and Major Times ($1.40 favourite) in the Rhys Evans Social Club Pace, 2240m. Stanley denied Stewart another success when Iolanta ($5.70) produced the run of the night to take out the group 2 $50,000 Tatlow Stakes for 2yo fillies, 2240m, with Stewart runners filling the next three placings. Iolanta looked out of contention when she galloped from the pole and tailed off about 50m. Stanley managed to catch the field and then with the leaders feeling the impact of a quick pace, switched to the inside and stormed home in a mile rate of 1:57.5. The daughter of champion sire Bettors Delight was having only her second race start. Golino produced French-bred Egee Money ($4.20) to lead all the way in the $24,000 Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters' Free-For-All for mares, 2240m. Click here to see the full results. By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier  

He's trained more than a few handy trotters over the journey and now harness racing's Keith Semmens is convinced he has another in Downunder Barkers. Forty-seven starts into his career and with an impressive win at Tabcorp Park Melton last Saturday night under his belt, Semmens believes the five-year-old gelding is only now starting to realise his full potential. If anyone would know it is Semmens, who has scored a bunch of feature race victories throughout his more than 50-year career, including a pair of Bendigo Trotters Cups wins with horses he bred, Cons Poem (1991) and Poets Corner (1999). "He's taken a while to wake up to what he's supposed to be doing, but he is really going well at present," the said. "He does have a lot of ability, but he's taken his time finding out how to put it all together. "Saturday night was pretty impressive. We were concerned whether he would measure up to horses of metropolitan standard, but he it looks as though he has." Semmens, who is based at Campbells Creek, rates Poets Corner, a winner of 21 starts, as one of the best horses he has trained and was optimistic Downunder Barkers could eventually reach the same level. "He (Downunder Barkers) is getting towards that level now," he said. "It's hard to compare them because things have improved so much with tracks and with sulkys and shoeing and feeding. Horses that could go 2:04 one time are going 1:59 now." Downunder Barkers, who stretched his career record to sevens wins (two at Melton) and seven placings from 47 starts, is one of three horses currently being raced by Semmens, in conjunction with his sons Jon and David. The other two - Adelle and Shield Maiden - are currently being trained by Gavin Lang and Glenn Conroy respectively are racing in good form. That is especially the case with the three-year-old trotting filly Adelle, who has won all three starts (twice at Ballarat and once at Bendigo) for the Semmens family since being purchased from New Zealand a few months ago. Her trainer Lang was in the sulky for Downunder Barkers' win on Saturday and was equally as upbeat as Semmens about the five-year-old's potential. "He's got a great finishing burst when he is in form and at the moment he's a very happy horse and racing accordingly," the champion trainer-driver said. "He has always showed he has the scope to race at metro level, the way he is hitting the line at the moment he would not be out of place in metro level races." Semmens expects Downunder Barkers to have his next start at the showcase Redwood All Trotting Carnival at Maryborough on August 4. Victoria's most unique harness racing meeting, highlighted by the running of the $50,000 Redwood Classic for two-year-olds and $75,000 Victoria Trotters Derby, both Group 1 events, it's an event Semmens is keen to involved in. "It's a great meeting - you probably need to be a trotting freak to realise it, but it has come on from one two-year-old race to a huge attraction," he said. "We will head there hopeful. Things can always go wrong but he's definitely up to that standard and we hope we can win." By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

HAVING bounced back from her shock Vicbred Super Series exit, talented filly Treasure is ready to add another feature to her collection. Among the favourites in the state-wide futurity, Treasure finished an unceremonious ninth in her semi-final as the $2.50 equal favourite. The Emma Stewart-trained youngster quickly reacquainted herself with the winners’ circle by securing the Vicbred Silver Series Pace at Tabcorp Park Melton at her following start. Pleased with the two-year-old’s condition, Stewart is confident Treasure can also capture the Australian Pacing Gold Championship at the same venue on Saturday night. To be driven by premier reinsman Chris Alford, the daughter of Art Major has drawn to lead throughout from barrier four. As such, TAB Fixed Odds have Treasure listed as a prohibitive $1.65 favourite. Treasure’s stablemate – Amelia Rose – is the only other runner under double figures at $4.20 from gate seven. Stewart will also be represented by Jo Dina, which is on the third line of betting at $13 from her outside of the back row draw. “All three are working well and ready to run a good race,” Stewart said. “Treasure has drawn best and is the one to beat.” Stewart also has Mirragon in the colts’ and geldings’ division, with the son of Art Major drawn barrier seven. Runner-up behind APG purchase Yejele Hammer in the Group One Vicbred Final, Mirragon is a $1.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite. “Mirragon is also working a treat and will be very hard to beat,” Stewart said. APG Media

Kilmore harness trainer Bill Milner took out the biggest race of his career when his four-year-old gelding Dellsun took out the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series 4YO Silver Trot at Tabcorp Park in Melton on Friday, July 5. Mr Milner has been breeding and training horses for harness racing for 20 years while working as a farrier for Racing Victoria and the Kilmore Racing Club for 45 years. Mr Milner said the $25,000 race was the biggest win of his career but they nearly didn’t race. “I was talking to my mate five minutes before acceptance and he said I should go in it so I rang up and they let me in,” he said. “I thought he’d win because he went well the week before. Chris Alford drove him and he goes good for Chris. He normally goes forward on him but this time he took a sit and went back and flew down the outside and we won.” Mr Milner started out showing horses for top trainers like Frank Shinn, Kevin Murrary and Vin Knight. “I worked for Vinny Knight for 25 years shoeing his horses when he was the leading trainer in Australia. You learn a little bit from everyone and it helped me with my training,” Mr Milner said. Mr Milner is with his horses every step of the way, from the time they’re foaled and all through their racing career, training them at his property in the shadows of Kilmore racecourse with a 400m track around his house. “It makes it a bit more special because you’re beating people who have money and are paying big dollars for horses and these are all homebred horses,” Mr Milner said. “I’ve had my share of winners, I don’t win a lot of races but I’m just a country trainer. I don’t train for people, I tried that but it’s too hard. I just do it to give me something to do. It’s a good hobby.” Reprinted with permission of The North Central Review  

EMMA Stewart’s dominance of the rich Vicbred finals night reached new levels last night (Saturday). Stewart and co-trainer Clayton Tonkin took a thumping 23 pacers to Melton to contest the six Group 1 finals. Not only did they win five of the six finals (and ran second and third in the other), but they also snared the trifecta in four of the finals and the quinella in five of them. Their greatest dominance came in the 3YO colts and geldings final where they trained the first four home: Out To Play beating Demon Delight, Fourbigmen and Hurricane Harley. Although Chris Alford does the bulk of the stable driving, he only landed two of their Group 1 winners last night with drive of the night aboard Tam Major in the 4YO entires and geldings and Kualoa in the 3YO fillies. Greg Sugars drove Maajida to a powerhouse 2YO fillies win over stablemates Amelia Rose and Jemstone. David Moran teamed with pint-sized 4YO mare Pistol Abbey to add to her wonderful season. And Gavin Lang, long-time No.1 driver for the stable, was back in the fold to win on Out To Play. It took a lovely drive and monster upset for Yejele Hammer to deny Stewart and Tonkin and cleansweep of the final in the 2YO colts and geldings. Trained and driven by Mick Stanley, Yejele Hammer had the gun run behind Stewart’s leader Pandering with favourite and another Stewart runner, Mirragon, on the outside. Just when it seemed Mirragon was set to win, Yejele Hammer found daylight and powered home to win at $55 with Mirragon second and Pandering third. Most of the stars of Vicbred finals night now plot a course towards the Breeders Crown. _______________________________________________________________________________________ A TRIP to Queensland is still a goer for Majordan despite his surprise defeat at Menangle last night (Saturday). Kevin Pizzuto’s star speedster found the task of backing-up just six days after his blazing Group 1 Len Smith Mile win beyond him. It wasn’t helped when he had to run a sizzling 25.9sec lead quarter from the extreme outside draw. Majordan was under pressure at the top of the home straight and weakened for third to Courtsinsession and Loorim Creek in a 1min50.0sec mile. _______________________________________________________________________________________ AUSTRALIA is getting a new $1million harness racing and it will be in NSW, but that’s about all we know at the moment. The exciting news broke last week when the Aussie TAB released a new bet type and it was confirmed revenue from it would fund a string of stakemoney hikes and/or new races in NSW thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. It is understood the new $1mil race will be a final of a series where horses qualify through heats run across NSW. More details are expected later this month, but it’s clear the race won’t be for open-class horses. _______________________________________________________________________________________ INSIDERS will tell you Gary Hall Sr thinks Ideal Liner is his next Chicago Bull. The champion trainer has loved Ideal Liner since he first joined his stable last year, but he’s really starting to show everyone how good he is this campaign. The son of American Ideal made it seven wins on end, and eight from nine runs this campaign, when he scored at Gloucester Park last Friday night. “He has all the makings of a really, really nice horse and he’ll get his chance to show that next season. He’s doing everything we ask of him now and doing it well,” Hall Sr said. _______________________________________________________________________________________ THE more you see of trotter McLovin, the more you think he can win a really big races. At first the Andy Gath-trained gelding looked fast, but now he’s developed the strength to compliment it. McLovin had to dig deep, but was to the challenge when he sustained a long three-wide run in a sprint race to beat the classy Save Our Pennys in the Group 3 Noopy Kiosk free-for-all (1720m) at Melton last Friday night. Since coming to Australia at the start of the year, McLovin has won nine of his 14 starts with another two seconds and two thirds. ___________________________________________________________________________________ POPULAR husband-and-wife team Gary and Debbie Quinlan were left wondering what might have been after their exciting pacer Professor Tom won the free-for-all at Melton last night. The Quinlan’s had pushed and hoped for the gelding to get a run in last week’s Len Smith Mile, but were told he didn’t make the cut. “It was disappointing because he’d gone to another level and this is his window, but we’re thrilled to pick up another win this week,” Debbie Quinlan said.   Adam Hamilton

In addition to the sweet taste of victory Saturday night's racing at Tabcorp Park was also an opportunity to fine tune for the forthcoming Vicbred Super Series, with several victors signalling their intention to tackle the sires' stakes. Chief among them was Mirragon, winner of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Home Grown Classic for two-year-old boys, a Group 2 that was snapped up by 3.6m for trainer Emma Stewart and reinsman Greg Sugars. "The horse did a terrific job and I think he's going to have a nice future and (the owners) are going to have a lot of fun with him," Sugars said. Mirragon was able to outpace stablemate and leader Pandering from the breeze to register a third win from four starts, the only blot on his copybook being a fifth in his Australian Pacing Gold heat when he broke while challenging for the early lead. "It's pretty unlucky that the only time things didn't go to plan it was in a pretty important race," Sugars said. "He's certainly got the talent and the ability to say he wouldn't have been out of place in a race like the APG, it just wasn't our day that day and it didn't all go to plan. "Anyway, that's in the past now, but apart from that all his race track performances have been pretty handy." Mirragon will likely be well favoured for the Alabar Vicbred Super Series for two-year-old colts and geldings, which kicks off with the heats at Bendigo on June 18 ahead of the June 29 semi-finals and July 6 finals, both at Tabcorp Park Melton. The three-year-old colts and geldings heats will follow at Kilmore on June 20 and Watch List looms as a likely starter after the Mick Stanley trained and driven colt, whose owners include AFL footballers Josh Jenkins, Tex Walker, Brad Crouch, Matt Crouch and Michael Hurley, added a fifth straight win in Saturday's DNR Logistics Pace Final. "He's just a horse who, as he's matured and got a bit smarter, he keeps stepping up, so rapt with how he's progressing," Stanley told TrotsVision in the wake of Saturday night's victory. "Although (Vicbred) is going to be another step up ... he's shown that he's worthy of a go so we'll probably head there and then give him a spell after that." Saturday night was also a chance for four-year-old mare Parisian Opera to push her claims for the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series trotting title, with heats to be held at Kilmore on June 27 ahead of the July 5 finals at Tabcorp Park Melton. Parisian Opera won Saturday night's last race, the TAB Multiplier 4YO Trot, for trainer Anton Golino and reinsman Jason Lee, who said the Ready Cash mare had "come a long way". "She was only a T0 when she first kicked off her campaign, now she's a TM1 and she's done a terrific job. The team at home have done a terrific job. "Just had a quick chat to (trainer) Anton (Golino) on the phone earlier and he just wanted to set her for the sires. Get through tonight, she wasn't wound down, she's been pretty kind to since her last run. He just said that she would need tonight's run, but she was obviously just good enough to be able to hang on and he'll set her for the sires."   HRV Trots Media

It's full steam ahead for Michael Stanley's Grand Circuit star Soho Tribeca after a successful return to the trials at Tabcorp Park Melton yesterday. Stanley partnered the six-year-old in a modest hit-out alongside stablemate Rackemup Tigerpie, who was driven by Gavin Lang. Soho Tribeca won the trial by a narrow margin, zipping home in a 57.48-second last half. The Burrumbeet-based Stanley said he was pleased with how both horses got through the run. "They both stepped away really clean and went the first lap pretty steady. We just let them find their feet and then just upped the pace gradually," he said. "They both hit the line under a hold and had a really good hit-out without going over the top first-up." Soho Tribeca hasn’t been seen at the races since July 2018 after fracturing a leg in the Sunshine Sprint in Queensland. Successful surgery and a long rehabilitation program has followed to get the star pacer back at the track, which is likely to occur in the Del-Re National Italian Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, June 15. "Soho Tribeca will have a couple more trials and we will gradually increase the speed we go - just step him up each time," Stanley said. Stanley said it had been a long road to recovery for the one-time Inter Dominion favourite. "He spent three months in Queensland (post surgery) and then spent another three months here (at Burrumbeet) pretty well locked up in a small stable and taken out for a walk," he said. "It's been a long, slow process and now we are back to somewhere where we can start thinking about getting to the races again. "When it first happened you are always fearful they might not race again, so at least we have got to a stage where it looks a real possibility we are going to get back there." Rackemup Tigerpie, who last raced in the Group 1 Chariots of Fire in February, is being aimed at the Alabar Vicbred Super Series, which has heats in Ballarat on June 21. Stanley said he was likely to give the son of Rock N Roll Heaven one lead-up run prior to the start of the series. Arguably the horse's career-best effort came in last year's Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup when he finished a narrow second to Thefixer. Stanley sent around four other horses at Tuesday's trial program, including Macey Jayde, Vicstar Sharazzz, Iolanta and Keilah. Macey Jayde is also being sent towards the Vicbred Super Series, while Stanley was full of praise for Iolanta, an unraced two-year-old Bettors Delight filly who looks "above average".     Tim O'Connor for Trots Media

PUNTERS think champion driver Chris Alford’s 51st birthday will be extra special at Melton on Saturday night. Alford is perched on 99 Group 1 career wins after missing out reaching the ton with minor placings in the two Australian Gold finals at Albion Park last Saturday night. But his drive in Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queen of the Pacific at Melton – Tell Me Tales – has been smashed in from $2.60 to $1.85 favourite despite a back row draw (gate 11). And it just happens to coincide with the day Alford turns 51. “It all looks good, doesn’t it … home track, a mare I love, my birthday … I think she’s going to be very hard to beat,” Alford said. “The longer distance (2760m) will really suit her. She won so well a couple of weeks back and I watched her run last week and it was huge given the run she had. “I’m sure she’s the best mare in the race and she can make her own luck, which gives you so much confidence.” Tell Me Tales sat parked to brilliantly win the first leg of Victoria’s mares’ “triple crown” the 1720m Make Mine Cullen on May 4, then did a power of work when a fantastic third to stablemate Berisari in last week’s 2240m Angelique Club Pace at Melton. “The draw gives us a great chance of staying in front of Berisari and working forward from there. She drew well and controlled the race in front last week, the draws makes it a lot harder for her this time,” Alford said. In an astonishing example of trainer Emma Stewart’s dominance, she has five of the 12 runners, including three of the first four in betting. Her runners are: Tell Me Tales (gate 11, $1.85), Berisari (13, $5), Delight Me (three, $8.50), Pistol Abbey (four, $34) and Frankincense (two, $41). Alford actually has an outside chance of bringing up his 100th Group 1 win earlier in the night with veteran trotter Kyvalley Blur, who is a $10 shot of a 10m handicap in the $50,000 Australian Trotting Championship. Andy Gath’s former Kiwi trotter McLovin (barrier one, $2.80) is favourite from the rejuvenated Savannah Jay Jay (two, $3.20).   Adam Hamilton

A delighted Matt Craven’s enjoying the drive as he attempts to guide Tell Me Tales towards a feat achieved only three times, a clean sweep of the Mares Triple Crown. The Terang reinsman’s making the most of a rare pairing with the Emma Stewart stable, steering their Tell All mare to victory in last Saturday’s VHRSC Make Mine Cullen and he's hoping to repeat the dose in this Saturday’s second leg of the three-leg series. Tell Me Tales will have to be very good to scoop up the Angelique Club Pace and register a 19th victory from 26 starts when Craven guides her from outside the back row at Tabcorp Park Melton amid a full and talented field. “It’s going to be a tough ask,” Craven said. “If you work off last week’s race, if anything Berisari put in the run of the race.” Berisari, another Stewart runner, finished fourth last Saturday after leading the three-wide train and will be advantaged by her gate four draw for this weekend's middle-distance Group 3 pace. “(Berisari’s) drawn the front line and will possibly be able to dictate the race, which will make it tough,” Craven said. “We will have to come with one run. “Emma’s team are all good quality mares. We know how good Delight Me is at her best, Berisari and Pistol Abbey had a good run last week. The draw definitely makes it interesting. “You don’t expect to win every week when you are racing high quality mares, but I definitely want to give her the best chance.” Tell Me Tales means more to Craven than just picking up a quality catch drive, in particular his respect for owner/breeder Helen Head and, indeed, the mare’s breed. Craven oversaw the purchase of Tell Me Tales half-sister - an Art Major filly named Shes Offlimits bred by Helen Head - for $8000 at Australia Pacing Gold’s 2017 Autumn Sale. “It was before Tell Me Tales had done anything, which is probably why we got the filly so cheap,” Craven said. “We thought a bit of Shes Offlimits. She had very, very good speed. She was very, very fast, but unfortunately just wasn’t very sound. She had bad luck along the way, having fractured her leg in a trial and then this time in did a tendon.” It would put paid to her racing career, but in a considerable silver lining it was the filly’s breeder, Helen Head, who stepped forth when Shes Offlimits was returned to sale for a broodmare career. Craven said it was a “terrific result for us and her”, and it was also understandably significant when Helen Head called last week ahead of Tell Me Tales victory in the VHRSC Make Mine Cullen. “Helen’s been a stalwart of harness racing and it was nice to get a call from her,” Craven said. And even nicer to reward that faith with a win, when Tell Me Tales overcome her back row draw, sat in the breeze throughout and saluted. “When you are drawn out the back over the shorter distance it is never easy,” he said. “She was wide to the death in a solid quarter off the back, she had no breather and in the straight was still strong. It was a terrific effort. “Just to sit behind such a wonderful mare, she’s just beautiful to drive. It’s a credit to Clayton and Emma the way they turn them out and it was a nice surprise to get that drive. She’s the standout mare. They will have to be good to beat her.”   Michael Howard Trots media

A much needed sprinkle of Stardust could be just what the doctor ordered for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan, whose long road back from injury could be met with a timely pick-me-up. Illawong Stardust, the half-sister to Quinlan’s prodigiously talented but trying trotter Illawong Armstrong, produced an eye-catching 17-metre victory in today’s Tabcorp Park Melton trials, reaffirming the filly’s talent that it’s hoped will soon translate to the race track. “She seems to be pretty faultless, but she has to prove it on race day,” Quinlan said of Illawong Stardust, who has broken at both her starts, belying the good temperament she has shown at home to Quinlan and partner Craig Demmler. “Craig did all the work early days because I was hurt and liked her from day dot,” Quinlan said. “Being from that family, they all seem to do things wrong. At home she seems fairly faultless but at the track she has galloped both times.” She hasn’t raced since her April 3 sixth placing after a paddock fall led to a cut knee “and so we had to back off her”. Today’s Tabcorp Park trial of seven two-year-old trotters marked her track return and she couldn’t have been more impressive in cruising to the lead and dictating throughout, crossing the line 17 metres ahead of Brent Lilley’s Magical. The latter has had two starts, breaking on debut and then running second in her second start on April 3, the same race Illawong Stardust started favourite and broke. “For her trial she was only about 75 per cent but she went quite well,” Quinlan said. “She’s probably not trotting 100 per cent, but she is pretty good. Ability wise her performance (in the trial) didn’t surprise. If she has half the ability of her brother and more brains it will take her a long way.” If she pulls up well Quinlan will direct her to the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for two-year-old trotting fillies at Maryborough next Thursday (May 9), which feeds into a $50,000 final at Melton on May 18. Strong performances would be a timely fillip for Quinlan, who’s still on the comeback trail from a horrific injury suffered when she was kicked in the side by a horse on Christmas Eve. Quinlan was left with a lacerated kidney, spine fractures and a long road to recovery. “I’ve been back to the doctor’s yesterday and am into hospital for a day on the 9th of May with a few pain-related issues,” she said. “I’m at the four months mark, I was hoping to be back, but because my internal organs have had so much trauma they are relating to me as a car crash victim. They’ve just said I’ve got to be patient. “I’m quite stiff and scratchy from the spinal challenges, but am getting around a hell of a lot better than what I was.” She has purposefully scaled back her operation from 23 horses to 10 and praised her owners, “who have all been so supportive. I’ve been very lucky”. And she has left the door open to returning to the sulky, driven mostly by the want to again guide her trotters to glory. “I like to think someday I will (drive again), especially to drive my trotters. At some stage I’d like to, but I’ve got to look at the big picture.” In the meantime she will continue to ride the bumps from the sidelines with owner Dr Martin Hartnett as both Illawong Stardust and her big troublesome brother Illawong Armstrong try to transform their potential into prize winnings. Quinlan said Illawong Armstrong, who hasn’t raced since December 29, would trial next week ahead of what looms as the seven-year-old’s final campaign. “It will be his last hurrah,” she said. “He’s getting to the end of his tether, but he is up and going and his next month will tell me what he has left. He has had fantastic ability, but not the brain span unfortunately.”   Michael Howard  for Trots Media

Queensland will have three representatives lining up in the prestigious Group One $150,000 Lazarus Victoria Oaks for the 3YO pacing fillies at Melton on Saturday night. The Sunshine State boasts the favourite and second favourite Belle Of Montana ($1.30) and Smart As Camm Be ($6), and $151 outsider, Betamerica. Belle Of Montana is owned by former Ladbrokes chief, Dean Shannon (Montana Park Pty Ltd); Smart As Camm Be is trained and driven by Kylie Rasmussen, and owned by Pam Smart and her son Chris; while Shannon Price and Raboki Pty Ltd own Betamerica. They have drawn one, six, and 10 respectively. Rasmussen was not perturbed by Smart As Camm Be’s wide draw. “The outside of the front row isn’t the worst possible draw for her because I think she prefers to win her races from back in the field. “Obviously the one-horse is the filly to beat, but if we can get a nice trip and can get one go at them, she has the gait, will, and ability to get close to the favourite – if not beat her,” Rasmussen said. Those comments came three days after Smart As Camm Be waltzed to an easy victory as the $1.50 favourite in the second Victoria Oaks heat at Melton’s Tabcorp Park on Saturday. The Cammibest filly also drew six that night and stopped the clock in 2:43.1. Her mile rate for the 2,240m mobile was 1:57.2. The Barry Purdon trained and Zachary Butcher driven Belle Of Montana beat Miss Streisand by half a neck in her first heat. The $1.20 NZ-based ‘hot-pot’ drew nine and won in 2:39.9 with a slashing 1:54.9 mile rate. “We can only focus on what our filly can do and not what the others have done, but I do know how good Barry’s filly is. “My girl travelled and settled in very well. She will be a lot stronger this week because she has adjusted to the surroundings well. This is her first trip away and I’m very proud of her. She can win,” Rasmussen said. Smart As Camm Be has now won 11 of her 13 starts and banked $148,135. The Stanmore horsewomen also brought her stable star, Lilac Flash, to Melbourne as a travel companion last week. However, that black Bettor’s Delight gelding proved to be more than just a travel mate. The 5-year-old notched up his 19th win in 52 starts ($142,231) in a $20,000 M1 to M2 Pace on Saturday. The $3.30 second favourite drew nine and won with a blistering 1:51.6 mile rate for the 1,720m mobile. He has drawn four in the $24,000 Captain Sandy Free-For-All at 7.30pm on Saturday. But all the attention will come two races later at 8.30pm when Australia and New Zealand’s best fillies will do the business. Price, who owns the American Ideal filly, Betamerica, couldn’t believe her brown pacer was paying more than $150 to win the coveted Oaks. “I thought her run last week was a cracker and I can’t believe that she is one of the outsiders in the field. She will need luck on her side but I am very happy with Larajay Farms’ performance with her so far this season,” Woolloongabba-based Price said. Betamerica is trained by Jess Tubbs and will be driven by Greg Sugars. He will start from three on the second row this week after finishing a close-up head second in the third heat behind the $2.60 favourite, Kualoa. TAB’s opening odds for Saturday’s 2,240m mobile are: Belle Of Montana $1.30, Smart As Camm Be $6, Kualoa $7, Two Times Better $21, Miss Streisand $23, Enchanted Stride $23, Victoria Brew $34, Tangoingwithsierra $51, Wellsaidlucy $71, Vena May $81, Swimsuit Edition $126, Betamerica $151, Single Tree Road $151.   Duane Ranger for Racing Queensland

It may have taken a few runs for Scoob Operator to hit his straps since crossing the Tasman but – thanks to a bit of hard work – the Kerryn Manning-trained gelding is starting to make up for lost time. Manning, who will pilot the ex-Kiwi in the TAB Multiplier Pace at Tabcorp Melton Park on Saturday night, said the five-year-old had to overcome a few issues during the early stages of his Aussie career. “He wanted to hang and not find the line a little bit,” Manning said. “I said to Merv (Butterworth, owner with wife Meg), ‘I don’t know how we are going to go here because he doesn’t really want to try at the end’ but I have just been working him a little bit harder and he is starting to look really fit.” The five-year-old has won his past two starts, with Manning saying the most recent triumph at Stawell was his best Australian run so far. “He did a little bit of work but ended up getting a bit of cover and having not a bad run, but when I pulled out I wasn’t really expecting him to run past Jilliby Madonna as she has been going really good,” she said. “He showed a bit of toe; I was really happy with the run.” While a less than ideal draw will make things difficult on Saturday night, Manning says she expects Scoob Operative to make his presence felt in time should be draw a good alley in town. Manning also hopes Our Bare Knuckle will be in the mix for her first metropolitan win in the Beraldo Coffee Pace over 1720m. She said the mare – narrowly beaten at her last two starts, the last in a 1:54.2 mile rate over 1690m at Maryborough – had been “certainly knocking on the door”. “She has stripped a lot fitter (but drawing) four is slightly awkward; she has got nice gate speed but she’s not brilliant, so over the short we are probably going to have to work forward and hope to not do too much to get a posse,” Manning said. “It is a nice even field so she’s in with a bit of a chance if the luck goes her way.”   Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

For Maree Campbell, the best thing about her mare Lucinda Mac's win at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday was being able to share the moment with the horse's owners. And there were quite a few on course as the promising trotter broke her duck at harness racing headquarters, finishing all over the top of her six rivals despite squandering the start. If that impressive effort is any guide, it won't be the last time her owners celebrate, with Lucinda Mac - the daughter of four-time Group 1-winner Danny Bouchea and Lucky Kentucky - developing into a more than handy trotter for her Maiden Gully trainer and the group. The four-year-old has now won two of her last three starts, the only blemish being a previous start second at Melton behind the impressive Anton Golino-trained mare Parisian Opera, who is undefeated in her past three runs. Campbell credited some of the mare's recent run of form to the handiwork of champion reinswoman Kerry Manning, who picked up the winning drive at Ballarat on March 15 and has remained in the sulky ever since "She loves Kerryn ... not that I think it would have made much difference if another driver had been on ... but she has certainly found form for her," she said. "We had a few of the owners there and that's what it is all about, the atmosphere after she won. "Especially when she galloped at the start, we were all a bit 'oh no', but she got up which was really exciting. "We were really happy with her run when Greg Sugars finished fourth with her at Melton (on March 9), but then she won for Kerryn. "Had Greg not gone on holidays he would have had the drive when she won at Ballarat, but Kerryn has since had a win, a second, and a win, which we are not complaining about." The mare has now won three times in 12 starts, dating back to October 22, for a career record of three wins and five placings from 23 starts. Campbell intends backing Lucinda Mac up this Saturday in a similar class race at Melton and is confident she can continue to make her way through the classes. "She appears to have pulled up really well and while she is doing that we will continue to keep running her," she said. Lucinda Mac was part of a winning treble on Saturday for Manning, who sits seventh on the Victorian drivers premiership with 57 wins. By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Less than a week after blowing out the candles on his 20th birthday cake reinsman Jack Laugher continued his ascent up the Alabar Concession Drivers' Premiership with a Tabcorp Park win on Saturday night. In the midst of his first full Victorian season since crossing Bass Strait early last year, Laugher was content to sit Glenn Douglas's Wotchawaitingfor in the breeze in the Big Screen Company Pace Final before clearing out at the turn to register a 29th win for 2018-19. Laugher, who sits sixth on the concession drivers' premiership, talked to Rob Auber post-race about how he was starting to find his feet amid Victorian racing. "It's always handy when you are driving nice horses who can do that sort of work like he did tonight, and to drive for good trainers always helps," he told TrotsVision. "A couple of other kids have lost their claim now, so I've started to pick up a few nice drives off them. It's all working out well at the moment. "It took me a little to know the horses, but once you know what you are driving and know the drivers around and the others horses it gets a little bit easier."   Trots Media

A working holiday could not have started any better for visiting New Zealand harness racing horsewoman Mandy Telfer. And after winning first up in the $30,000 Allied Express Jodies Babe last Saturday night, she is looking right down the barrel of back-to-back victories at Tabcorp Park Melton this weekend. “I was pretty happy to get the money– it took the pressure off a little bit,” a jubilant Telfer said. Highly talented five-year-old Our Step Up NZ (Art Major USA-Dance Card NZ (Albert Albert USA) didn’t put a foot wrong for catch driver John Caldow with an all-the-way win in the prestigious mares event. The horse is trained by Telfer’s brother Steve, who is based at Papakura, a suburb of Auckland, in northern New Zealand. “Being the stable foreman, I seem to get the travelling jobs with the horses, but I thoroughly enjoy it, particularly when they show their best,” Mandy said. “Our Step Up only flew in late at night on the Wednesday, but I was rapt the way in which she handled it. I jogged her the following morning and she was fresh as a daisy and then she had a light hopple-up on Friday. “We decided not to change her routine because that’s the way we do them back home and John (Caldow) drove her in the fast work session so he could get the feel of her. “She is really a no-fuss animal.  Nothing upsets her at all and she’s so easy to do anything with. Probably the best way to describe her is that she’s a very, very nice horse!” That seems to be an under-statement. Our Step Up will contest the Happy 70th Birthday Ollie Vicbred Pace at Melton this Saturday night, a race worth $20,000 and restricted to Vicbred mares M0 to M1. Telfer said a back-row draw wasn’t as bad as it seemed, particularly being two off the inside. “She has come through her first run of this campaign out here really well. I’m thrilled how bright she is and I really believe she goes better coming from behind,” Telfer said. “But there are some nice horses in the race, so we’ll find out how we are measuring up. “All going well I think Steve is keen to look at the Tenderprint C4 to C8 heats and $25,000 final at next month’s Mildura Pacing Cup carnival. “Then it will be back to Melton for a few more feature mares races including the Angelique Pace, The Make Mine Cullen and hopefully the Group One Queen of Pacific.” Our Step Up at Melton last Saturday night Telfer said in a Victorian campaign last season in June and July (considerably shorter than what is planned this time) Our Step Up earned over $20,000. “We had wins at Shepparton and Ballarat before running second in a 4yo Vicbred mares heat and then 4th in the $125,000 final at Melton behind Tell Me Tales,” she said. Telfer said the Mildura trip would be nostalgic, as the siblings’ father, Geoff, who lost a battle with cancer in June, 2017, was born, bred and educated in the town. “Then later on both dad and mum, Fran, prepared and drove a big team at Broken Hill where they lived - winning trainer and driver premierships along the way. “Mum, who lives at Ariah Park, a small town in the NSW Riverina near Temora, is one of the owners in Our Step Up. “The horse was bred by Stonewall Stud and is raced by the stud along with the Fillies Syndicate No 9, both managed by my brother Stephen’s partner, Jill Stockman. Our Step Up “There’s been quite a few syndicates mum has got involved with and she loves travelling and watching the horses, even more-so when we bring them out here.” Mandy, who worked for the strong Eric Anderson-Glenn Douglas team at Bendigo for two years, said despite since living in NZ for the past five years, she still enjoyed any Australian trips. “We have relatives out here and I’m actually staying with a cousin in Mark Watson and his wife Michelle at Kyabram,” she said. “It’s nice to get away occasionally as Stephen has 45 in work and on top of that they purchased 12 horses at the yearling sales. So it’s a busy operation although we do have six full-time staff. “The season has been a bit quiet, but things are about to ramp up with some classy two and three-year-olds just back in training.” Mandy admitted she was enjoying a very laid-back time of it, with just one horse under her care. Prior to flying out, the Telfer stable raced a big team of 15 horses at an Alexandra Park meeting at Auckland! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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