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Popular harness racing couple Dean and Nicole Molander are facing a busy, yet exciting, month. Beginning with a hit-and-run mission to Melton this weekend, the Molanders will make several trips across the Murray River during the next few weeks. The border hoping will cease on December 19 when the Molanders officially leave their New South Wales base to move into their new Riddells Creek property. Astute trainer Adam Kelly has been preparing his team on the property, which includes two tracks, swimming facility and several dams. “We are really looking forward to the move,” Nicole said. “The time was right for us to head down to Victoria, so we’ve bought a property in Riddells Creek.” Citing the handicapping system in New South Wales as a major influence on their decision, Molander also stated the extra opportunities for trotters was also a factor. “The handicapping in New South Wales has become frustrating to say the least,” Molander said. “The handicapping is not that flash at Menangle and we are finding it hard to get competitive races there. “We also have three trotters, which are better catered for in Melbourne. Plus we are in a position to buy a place and you get more for your money in Victoria and it’s still close to Melton.” As for the first trip south, Dean will bring outstanding squaregaiter Keystone Del to Tabcorp Park for the Derby Royale Free-For-All. Keystone Del is the sole runner off the second row in the feature named after the 1978 Inter Dominion champion. Winner of his last nine starts – including two this campaign - Keystone Del has been installed favourite at $2.20, with local performer My High Expectations next in line at $4.80 after drawing the outside of the front line. “He has come back in great form,” Molander said. “We couldn’t be happier with him. “He’s pulled up well from his run last Saturday night and should be hard to beat again.” Following his Group Three performance, Keystone Del will return to New South Wales, with plans of heading back to Victoria two weeks later. The son of Dr Ronerail has been aimed at the Bill Collins Mile on Cranbourne Cup night, followed by the V L Dullard Cup a week later. The Dullard Cup is part of the Ballarat Pacing Cup program on December 13. “When he returns for the two main races in December he will stay in Victoria at Brent Lilley’s place as we move into our new home a week after the Dullard Cup,” Molander explained. PAUL COURTS

Promising harness racing performer Yankee Rockstar earned an interstate trip with his win at Melton last night. To be more precise, Yankee Rockstar will head to Menangle for next week’s Mount Eden Championship heat, with the bid of qualifying for the Final on November 29 – Miracle Mile night. Co-trainer Emma Stewart confirmed the trek across the Murray as reliant on Yankee Rockstar’s latest outing, in which he performed stylishly. Stewart, who prepares her team with partner, Clayton Tonkin, is no stranger to Mount Eden Championship success, having captured last year’s edition with boom pacer, Guaranteed. “Although he won his first two starts this time in, he wasn’t overly impressive,” Stewart said. “We’ve had the Mount Eden series in mind for him, but were waiting to see how he went tonight. “He’s done a top job and now will be heading to Sydney next week.” Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, Yankee Rockstar was given time to settle from his second row draw before being sent forward three-wide to test the leader, Motu Prince Of Peru , from the ‘death seat’. Overpowering the front runner on the home turn, the talented son of Rocknroll Hanover cruised to an impressive 11-and-a-half metre win from Supreme Genes, with Motu Prince Of Peru a metre-and-a-half away third. “He’s a very nice type and was always going to be hard to beat despite the draw,” Stewart said. “Although he worked in the breeze, he just did it so easy up the straight and won with a bit up his sleeve.” Covering the last half in 56.9 seconds, the entire rated 1:56.7 for the 2240 metres, taking his record to an imposing 10 wins and two placings from 13 starts. The four-year-old’s success was the opening leg of a double for Stewart, Tonkin and Lang who combined to score with Metro Mike. Also overcoming a back row draw, the son of Metropolitan accounted for Our Burning Desire and Hes Kinky in 1:55.7 for the 2240 metres. With no major plans in mind for the six-year-old, the top training partners will select suitable targets as they become available. PAUL COURTS

Leading harness racing trainer Amanda Grieve remains confident her latest promising campaigner – Sparkling – can remain unbeaten at Melton tonight. Producing a sensational debut victory at Ballarat a fortnight ago, Sparkling faces a small, but select, field over 1720 metres. Drawn wide in barrier six, the daughter of Mcardle has improved since her maiden voyage and is “more than capable” of overcoming the obstacle according to Grieve. “She was very impression on debut, which wasn’t a surprise,” Grieve said. “She’s come through the run well and her training since has been pretty good. “It’s only small, but a handy field, so she will need to improve again. “The draw isn’t the best, but with a bit of luck, she is more than capable of winning.” Citing Morton Plains as the one to beat, Grieve rates Rebel Diamond as the one to watch. Morton Plains, which will come from gate seven, finished second behind Sparkling, having won her two previous starts. Winner of the Australian Pacing Gold Consolation last season, Rebel Diamond completed a stylish first-up win at Shepparton earlier this month. The daughter of Art Major has drawn barrier five. “Morton Plains is a very nice filly and I know Rebel Diamond has some wraps on her,” Grieve said. “It’s not going to be an easy race by any means.” To be given a short break after tonight’s run, Sparkling will then be aimed at various features, with the Victoria Oaks the main objective. “She will have a wee break after this, then we will see how she shapes up when she comes back,” Grieve said. “If she can match it with the better ones we will aim at the Oaks. “We’re not getting carried away just yet as it is only early days and she has a long way to go.” PAUL COURTS

Little did Joshua Smyth realise sparking a friendship with Sarah Tippet would lead to a love affair. While the details of their relationship remain private, Smyth’s love story stems from his new passion – harness racing. After meeting Tippet’s father, astute trainer Ken, Smyth became smitten with the industry and was soon a regular helper at the stable. “I was dating Sarah and asked her what her father did for a living and one day went down to the stable,” Smyth explained. “I just fell in love it and now get there as often as I can. “I’m a carpenter by trade, but on Saturdays, holidays or whenever I’ve got spare time, I’m at the stable. “It’s something I just love doing.” With his lust for competition growing, Smyth quickly obtained his driver’s licence which saw him enjoy the ‘honeymoon’ portion of the sport by registering a win at Melon last Friday night. Partnering the Tippet-trained Regal Equation, Smyth reined the son of Sierra Kosmos home at $90 on the tote to capture the country-front event. Not only was it Smyth’s initial success at Victoria’s premier track, it was his maiden trip to the winners’ circle. “I’m just rapt,” Smyth declared. “To get my first winner is very exciting and something I will definitely remember. It is just such a buzz.” Working towards his metropolitan licence, Smyth’s long term goal is to train a small team. “I’m hoping I can pick up a few drives here and there and get out onto the race track more often,” Smyth said. “To get a metropolitan licence and then win a metro race will is my next goal. “Further down the track, I’d like to get my trainer’s licence and train a winner or two.” PAUL COURTS

Star trotter My High Epxectations will continue his trek towards some of harness racing’s biggest events when he lines up at Melton on Friday night. Kept fresh since his win at the same venue last month, My High Expectations is engaged in the time-honoured Chris Howe Trotters’ Cup. Trainer David Aiken is using the Group Three as a stepping stone towards majors such as the V L Dullard Cup, which is one of the many highlights on Ballarat Cup program on December 13. Drawn ideally in barrier three, My High Expectations is expected to lead throughout the 2240-metre journey to register another effortless win. “I couldn’t be happier with the way he is going,” Aiken said. “I gave him a few days off after his last start and his work since has been terrific. “From that draw he is going to be very hard to beat. “These races are good lead-ups to targets such as the Dullard Cup.” Aiken will also be represented by in-form mare, Cold Sister, which will begin from gate six with the horseman’s reinsman-son, Joshua, in the cart. Cold Sister has also been kept fresh since finishing second behind My High Expectations on October 17. “She also had a few days off after that run,” Aiken said. “I’m very happy with the way she has been working and she’ll be thereabouts again. “The draw is a little awkward, but she’s good enough to overcome it.” PAUL COURTS

Multiple feature race winner Bitobliss is poised to create a slice of harness racing history at Melton on Friday night. Engaged in the Smoken Up Sprint, Bitobliss is aiming for his third win in the Group Two. The Smoken Up Sprint has been run under several names throughout the years, with Harness Racing Victoria changing it again, this time to honour the recently retired champion. Originally run as the Melbourne Mile on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – staged over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered in July. Bitobliss was successful in the 2011 and ‘12 editions of the event, with another victory to make the stallion the first pacer to win the Sprint three times. As it stands, the son of Blissfull Hall is one of only five dual winners, with the ‘famed five’ including Our Sir Vancelot, Shakamaker, Sokyola and Melpark Major. Our Sir Vancelot won over 1940 metres in 1996 before returning to score over a mile two years later. Bitobliss’ prospects of a third triumph were bolstered by the perfect draw – barrier one. Thrilled with the starting position, trainer Scott Stewart is confident his stable star can lead throughout. “The draw is ideal,” Stewart said. “Not only is he coming out of the pole, his main danger Maximan is off the second row. “He has pulled up in terrific shape from his first-up win at Kilmore almost two weeks ago and will be better again this time around. “His work has been terrific and he is in top order for this.” Should Bitobliss perform as expected, Stewart will take him north of the Murray for next week’s Coca-Cola Sprint at Menangle in hope of qualifying for the Miracle Mile at the same venue on November 29. PAUL COURTS

Connections of the exceptionally-bred harness racing performer Vanderley are confident he is ready make up for lost time. Successful at two of his first five starts, Vanderley was sidelined in May 2013 before returning at Tabcorp Park Melton last night for leading horsewoman Emma Stewart. Registering a strong victory with Gavin Lang in the cart, the five-year-old is capable of completing a smooth transition through the grades according to Stewart. Vanderley is owned by Stewart's partner, Clayton Tonkin. "He is a nice type, which can certainly win his share of races," Stewart said. "He has come back a maiden as his wins were as a two-year-old and three-year-old, which puts him on an easy mark. "Although his win tonight was only in a C0, he is capable of bigger things and shouldn't have much trouble getting through the classes." Eased into stride from the outside of the front row, Vanderley worked three-wide without cover from the bell before accounting for Stylishgate and Grininalltheway. Covering the last half in 56.7 seconds, the stallion rated a slick 1:56.6 for the 1720 metres. "Although he was first-up for a year-and-a-half we felt he would be too sharp for them," Stewart said. "His work at home has been impressive and he was ready to run a good race. "This run will do him the world of good and he will be better again next time out." By boom sire Art Major, Vanderley is from broodmare gem, Secret Life, which boasts five winners from six starters, including two Group One stars. Also members of Stewart's stable, Beauty Secret ($337,436) and Major Secret ($235,642) head the dam's progeny. In fact, Beauty Secret reminded her younger half-brother "who's boss" when she scored first-up later in the evening. With Lang holding the reins, the daughter of Armbro Operative was never fully extended in beating Shakti Bromac and Glencoe V C in 1:58.6 for the 2240 metres. "She has come back well," Stewart said. "We'll be looking at the main mares' races with her, with the Ladyship Mile the main aim further down the track." The clan also traces back to outstanding performers such as Safe And Sound, Gold Rock, Massarua and Doubter. by Paul Courts, for

Despite reports to the contrary, comeback hero Philadelphia Man was never going to compete in the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore on Sunday. A notable absentee from the fields, Philadelphia Man is being kept fresh ahead of the Smoken Up Sprint at Melton on November 7. Co-trainer Emma Stewart confirmed the rising star’s plans, stating the son of Art Major “was never heading towards Kilmore”. Philadelphia Man returned from a 27-month absence to register a scintillating victory at Melton last Friday night. “Kilmore was never part of our plans,” Stewart said. “He will be kept ticking along at home before the Smoken Up Sprint.” Should the six-year-old race as expected in the Group Two, Stewart will head to Menangle for the Coca-Cola Sprint a week later in a bid to earn a berth in the Miracle Mile. Australasia’s premier speed test, the Miracle Mile is scheduled to be held at Menangle on November 29. “At this stage he will be racing in the various sprints to try and get into the Miracle Mile,” Stewart said. “He has pulled up great from his first run back, so now we will work towards the Smoken Up Sprint. “Then we will see how he is after that run and go from there.” The Smoken Up Sprint has been run under several names throughout the years, with Harness Racing Victoria changing it again, this time to honour the recently retired champion. Originally named the Melbourne Mile and run on Melbourne Cup eve, the 1609-metre dash was then combined with the Pacing Australia Legends – run over 1940 metres - to become the Legends Mile, then The Legends before being altered in July. PAUL COURTS

Harness racing driver Chris Alford is confident in-form mare Tandias Bromac will have no trouble handling the step up on class at Melton tomorrow night. The Amanda Grieve-trained pacer has won three of her last four outings, including a last-start 1:58.5 win in an M2-M4 at the same venue. Despite competing against the likes of fellow rising stars Maximan and Bettor Rock On, the five-year-old is ready for the acid test according to the premier reinsman. “It’s a good test for her, but she’s racing very well,” Alford said. “She won’t disgrace herself.” Early race favourite Keayang Cullen was scratched this morning, leaving Maximan a short-priced elect, but Alford said he would have preferred the Marg Lee-trained getting remaining in the field. “Keayang Cullen would probably have kept them rolling up front,” Alford said. “Tandias Bromac can come out of the gate well, but against this kind of class, she’s better driven a bit quieter, so it didn’t help that he got scratched.” HRV Media

One of harness racing’s forgotten stars will make his highly-anticipated return at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. Sidelined for more than two years with leg problems, Philadelphia Man will contest an M0 for co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Pleased with the Group One winner’s progress, Stewart is confident the son of Art Major is ready to resurrect his once promising career. “He has come up really well and we couldn’t happier with him,” Stewart declared. “He’s had a couple of trials and done well in both. “More importantly, he has pulled up in great shape each time, with no signs of problems.” Much to connection’s dismay, Philadelphia Man’s comeback has been marred by an awkward second row draw. Successful at his last seven starts before injury struck, the stallion will begin from barrier nine, with the in-form Cool Machrista to come out of four. “The draw isn’t the best, but that’s racing,” Stewart said. “As long as he stays out of trouble and pulls up without any issues we will be pleased. “We’ve got bigger targets in mind beyond his first run back, so a win will just be the icing on the cake.” Handy pacer Jadahson will also return to the power couple, with the exceptionally-bred gelding to begin from gate nine as well. By Falcon Seelster from top producer and former star mare, Jadah Rose, Jadahson is first-up since May. The stallion will be joined in the 2240-metre contest by his well-bred stablemate, Born Again Sassy, which has fared better in barrier two. By Mach Three from Group One winning youngster Sassy Sarah, the mare is fresh from her first-up second at the same venue last week. “Jadahson has come up well, but again the draw isn’t the best,” Stewart said. “Whatever he does this week he will improve on as he gets race hard. “Born Again Sassy did well first-up and will go close again from the draw.” PAUL COURTS

Talented trotter Elegant Image will continue to be taken along slowly ahead of harness racing’s Trotting Masters. Successful at Tabcorp Park Melton last night, Elegant Image has been aimed at several majors by trainer Andy Gath, who is confident the son of S J’s Photo can make his presence felt at the highest level. With events such as the Bill Collins Mile and Dullard Cup on the agenda, Gath’s primary target is the Great Southern Star in March. “At this stage I will race him in the free-for-alls, which are on about every fortnight, as we prepare for the better races close to Christmas,” Gath explained. “Long term, I’m looking at the Great Southern Star.” With Gath’s wife, Kate, in the sulky, Elegant Image was driven with extreme confidence outside the leader, El Paco. Overpowering the front runner on the home turn, Elegant Image appeared to be set for an easy win before Cold Sister issued a late challenge, only to fall a half-head short. I See Icy Earl, which raced two-back in the running line, was 11 metres away third. “It’s never easy to win in the breeze in this company, especially at Melton, but he’s done well again,” Gath said. “It got close on the line, but he was holding off the other one. “I’m pretty happy with his run and he will continue to improve.” Covering the last half in 57.3 seconds, the squaregaiter rated 2:00 for the 2240 metres. “They don’t go much quicker for the distance and he’s done it in the breeze at only his second run back,” Gath said. “Like I said, I’m happy with where he is at.” PAUL COURTS  

Rising harness racing star Maximan maintained his unbeaten Australian record with a ‘Smoken Up style' victory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. First-up for seven weeks, Maximan registered his third win for trainer Andy Gath, who is thrilled with the gelding’s performance. Driven by Gath’s reinswoman-wife, Kate, Maximan began brilliantly to lead from barrier six but was given no peace in front as in-form gelding, Exciteusinthecity, applied pressure from the ‘death seat’. Fending off the initial challenge turning for home, the son of Armbro Operative was passed by Cut For An Ace along the sprint lane during the latter stages before fighting back to score by a head. “That was a super run,” Gath said. “He is first-up from a spell and is in need of the hit out. “To be headed like he was and fight back the way he did is pretty impressive. “It was a Smoken Up type performance and if he can be a quarter as good as Smoken Up I’ll be rapt.” Covering the last half in 57 seconds, Maximan rated a slick 1:55.5 for the 2240 metres, taking his record to 12 wins and 12 placings from 34 starts. Citing next month’s Kilmore Cup as the six-year-old’s first major target, Gath believes Maximan can make his way to some of the major races during summer. “I will aim him at the Kilmore Cup via the Nyah Cup,” Gath said. “I’m not sure if he will have a run before then. “I’ll just wait and see how he pulls up.” PAUL COURTS

Two of harness racing most promising pacers return to racing at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. Maximan will step up to open company in the Preux Chevalier Free-For-All, while Bettor Rock On will take his place in an M1-M2 Pace. Both are unbeaten since crossing the Tasman, with Maximan successful at his two outings for trainer Andy Gath. The son of Armbro Operative faces a tough first-up task after drawing awkwardly in barrier six over 2240 metres. Last season’s Bendigo Cup winner, Im Corzin Terror, will also make his return in the feature and will come out of gate give for trainer Amanda Grieve. Maximan and Im Corzin Terror’s assignment has been made all the more difficult thanks to the presence of in-form gelding Exciteusinthecity. A rampaging son of Metropolitan, the Darren Cole-trained Exciteusinthecity has won five of his eight starts while finishing second in the other three. A member of the Ross Sugars stable, Bettor Rock On has also received no favours from the ‘barrier Gods’ after drawing the outside of the front row. Going on his trial form at the same venue recently, Bettor Rock On should have no trouble overcoming the obstacle as he aims for his sixth consecutive victory. PAUL COURTS

Following a successful cameo appearance, promising harness racing youngster Spinners Boy is heading to the paddock. Brought back in work purely for the Empire Stallions Home Grown series, Spinners Boy accomplished his mission by capturing tonight’s Group Two Final at Tabcorp Park Melton at his second run from a spell. Spinners Boy was first-up in his heat when fourth behind Another Broadway before annexing the rich decider in impressive style. Pleased with the gelding’s performances, trainer Chris Alford will give Spinners Boy “four to six weeks off” before targeting features such as the Victoria Derby and Empire Vicbred Super Series. “He will go back to the paddock again now,” Alford said. “I’ll give him four to six weeks off, then bring him up slowly. “He’s only had three starts and has already shown he is above average. That said, I don’t want to push him. “If he is forward enough when the Derby comes around I will put him in a heat, otherwise we’ll just wait for the Sires’ a little further down the track. “We’ve taken our time with him so far, so no need to change that now.” With Alford in the sulky, Spinners Boy was lucky to avoid early trouble from his second row draw to settle towards the tail of the field as Abitgoingonhere led while being pressured by Shadow Of Fortune. Angled three-wide leaving the back straight, the son of American Ideal quickly sprinted to the lead before cruising to a soft eight-and-a-half metre win from Midnitedelite, with Upwardly a nose away third. “I thought he would go really well despite the draw,” Alford said. “Although well beaten in his heat he still went well considering he was first-up. “For a few days earlier in the week he was a bit flat, but he came good as the week progressed and was pretty sharp tonight.” Rating 1:56.6 for the 1720 metres, Spinners Boy covered the last half in 58.9 seconds to take his earnings to just over $35,000 for owners Katie and Sam – Alford’s kids! “I don’t think I’ve ever had better owners,” Alford said. “Win, lose or draw, the ‘sling’ is the same…a hug and kiss from both of them!” PAUL COURTS

Well-bred harness racing youngster Kira Jo picked a great time to break her maiden status. With just two thirds to her credit from her previous eight starts, Kira Jo captured the $50,000 Empire Stallions Home Grown Classic at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Thrilled with the breakthrough victory, trainer Vivian Tomren “never doubted” the daughter of Art Major was capable of scoring in the Group Two. “She actually went along really well during the Breeders’ Crown series and her work since has been terrific,” Tomren declared. “This week is the best she has worked and I just felt with a bit of luck she could win. “The ability is there, it’s just a matter of her getting a few breaks go her way at the same time she puts it all together.” Driven a treat by talented reinsman Emmett Bronsan, Kira Jo was given time to settle into her stride from the second row as Lombo Medlyn Miss led from barrier four. Angled three-wide along the back straight, Kira Jo sustained a strong sprint to score by a half-head from Snip Of Grand, with Glory Daze four-and-a-half metres away third. “The second row was always going to be tricky, but she showed tonight she is good enough to overcome such obstacles,” Tomren said. “Emmett drove her perfectly. After letting her come out on her own, he took off at the right time and then got the best out of her up the straight.” Covering the last half in 60.1 seconds, the filly rated 1:57.4 for the 1720 metres. To be given a well-deserved spell, Kira Jo will be set for several local features throughout the season, with Tomren also eyeing off interstate riches. “She will have about six weeks off now,” Tomren said. “After she’s been out for four weeks though I will go and have a look at her as she can get pretty fat pretty quickly. “It will all come down to how she is travelling at the time, but I’ll be setting her for races such as the Oaks and Breeders’ Crown again. “I’m also willing to do a bit of travelling with her for some of the Oaks races as the travelling will be good for her. “She’s got her share of ability and I can’t see any reason why she won’t keep getting better as the season goes on and she gains more experience.” PAUL COURTS

Astute harness racing trainer Darren Cole is hoping the connection between his rising star Exciteusinthecity and former champion Gammalite can extend beyond their place of residence. One of the greatest pacers produced in the Southern Hemisphere, Gammalite thrilled onlookers with his brilliant mix of speed and seemingly endless supply of stamina during the 1980s. Gammalite raced 179 times in Australia and New Zealand for 94 wins, 33 seconds and 19 thirds, picking up a record $1,386,480 in stakes. The stallion’s biggest victories include two Inter Dominions, fourth South Australia Cups, the Queensland Pacing Championship and the A G Hunter, Western Australia and Fremantle Cups. A son of Thor Hanover, Gammalite was prepared throughout his career by the late Leo O’Connor at his Terang stable, which is where the connection to Exciteusinthecity begins. Following O’Connor’s passing, Cole purchased the horseman’s property, with Exciteusinthecity domiciled in Gammalite’s former box and yard. As such, Cole entered Exciteusinthecity in tomorrow night’s The Gammalite at Tabcorp Park Melton for sentimental reasons. “I became close friends with Leo’s wife, Maureen before her passing after moving up here and The Gammalite just seemed like the right race to try and win,” Cole declared. “He isn’t flash from the stand, but I’d like to win it given he know lives and relaxes exactly where Gammalite did during his wonderful career and retirement." The feature will mark Exciteusinthecity’s second attempt from the tapes, however, Cole isn’t concerned about the gelding’s lack of experience. The son of Metropolitan’s previous standing start was in last season’s Stawell Cup when he began roughly before finishing eighth behind Arber. “We’ve been working on his standing start manners to prepare for this and I’m sure he will go away safe enough,” Cole said. “As long as he can go away safely and be in touch with the field early, I think he will be a real winning chance.” Following his 2760-metre appearance – during which he will begin from a 10-metre handicap – Exciteusinthecity will be given a brief freshen up as Cole selects suitable targets. “At this stage he will have a few light weeks to brighten him up,” Cole revealed. “He has been up for a while and a break will do him good. “I haven’t really got any plans picked out for him as I just like to take it one step at a time. “If he can keep racing like this and be competitive against the better ones, then I guess we will have to look at some of the main races down the track.” PAUL COURTS

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