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Two regally related harness racing fillies will take winning form into next Saturday night’s $322,000 Australian Pacing Gold fillies final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Tonight’s lead-up APG Semi-Finals at Victorian metro trots headquarters saw Fiore Stride and Molly Kelly do their families proud, both victorious ahead of the big dance. Fiore Stride, whose dam Under The Mattress is best known for producing superstar Smolda, went 1:57.7 and defeated Mark Purdon-trained Just Makemine Diamonds tonight for reinsman John Caldow. “She travelled nice in the run. The leader (Just Makemine Diamonds) was knocking off and not concentrating and to (Fiore Stride’s) credit she out-stayed them,” Caldow said. Owner Emilio Rosati was on course at Melton to see his latest star stride to victory and the Cobbitty team behind the daughter of Art Major have reason to take confidence into next week. But standing in the way of the Sydneysider capturing ‘belle of the ball’ status is Smythes Creek trainer Emma Stewart, whose two rising star fillies fought out the first of tonight’s Semi-Finals in a quicker time of 1:56.5. Frith’s full-sister, Molly Kelly, by Four Starzzz Shark out of Jackie Kelly, defeated stablemate Nostra Beach in the finish by a head for reinsman Chris Alford. And Alford drew comparisons between the fledgling filly and her mighty millionaire older sister. “She’s a big raw girl … she’s like Frith in her early days. She used to gawk around a bit when Bruce used to drive her and this one’s a lot like her, so hopefully she can go on to have a career like she did,” Alford said. “The run should do her good for next week.” Alford had the choice of drive between Molly Kelly and Nostra Beach tonight and said the barrier draw was probably the only thing that gave Molly the nod.  “Clayton (Tonkin) couldn’t separate them in trackwork but the draw probably helped me (make the decision),” he said. Callmequeenbee ran third behind the Stewart stablemates in the first Semi, while Passions Delight, who was supreme in her heat win when holding the lead and copping pressure throughout, tonight was crossed early and finished third after travelling in the box seat throughout.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Promotions, cup programs and ownership were top of the agenda when representatives of Victoria’s harness racing country clubs attended Tabcorp Park Melton today for the 2017 Club Marketing Seminar. More than 30 attendees represented the majority of the country clubs at the seminar, which featured a range of guest speakers. Association of Victorian Country Harness Racing Clubs CEO David Brick said the forum was a chance for the clubs and Harness Racing Victoria to discuss marketing and promotions strategies for cups, feature events, industry branding and strategic initiatives. “Forums such as these are vital to developing the relationship between clubs and HRV as well as developing the knowledge of club managers and secretaries,” Mr Brick said. “Importantly the forum provides an opportunity for clubs to network and discuss and share initiatives such as syndicates, race night video promotion and social and digital media advertising.” HRV CEO David Martin, who outlined his strategy as part of the seminar, said it was fantastic to be a part of forum that “encouraged proactive discussion between our dedicated country club administrators and HRV”. “It is important as an industry we are all working together and our marketing messages are on brand, closely aligned to our strategic goals and communicated openly to our country clubs,” Mr Martin said. The seminar began with a presentation by HRV marketing staff members Ryan Stanaway and Courtney Thompson, followed by a branding and advertising presentation by Matthew Kelly of Collaborate Communications. Opportunities via the Victorian Racing Industry Fund were detailed by Mark Brett from the Office Of Racing before Tori Glenister, HRV ownership manager, discussed club syndications. Mr Martin then closed the seminar with his presentation. Ms Thompson said the seminar had been an opportunity for HRV to help ensure the clubs had the tools to succeed in their marketing and media endeavours. “HRV has an important role to play in helping the clubs enact a modern, effective and consistent marketing strategy,” Ms Thompson said. “It was great to be able to get everyone in a room and to collectively set the foundations for another successful season.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Rockstar Angel claimed the night’s premier prize and more glory could well be on its way after an eye-catching harness racing victory at Tabcorp Park Melton. A trip over the Tasman to contest New Zealand’s Jewels and an almighty crack at May’s lucrative mares races could be in Rockstar Angel’s path after David Aiken’s four-year-old mare saluted for driver Michael Bellman in the $40,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Mares Sprint Championship. “She’s just unbelievable,” Bellman said. “She just keeps battling away and she just keeps running quarters.” And that was how she broke them down tonight, winning in a career best 1:53.0 mile rate after Bellman advanced from the second row of the draw, not settling until he found the breeze outside leader Ideal Lifestyle. There was little time to switch off, with a 28.3 first quarter spilling into a 29.5 second quarter. Rockstar Angel advanced on the leader amid a 27.2 third quarter that thwarted favourite Somerocksomeroll’s attempt to challenge. Come the last 100m there were only three left with gas in the tank and it was Rockstar Angel who separated herself from Beau Reve and Ideal Lifestyle. “(Trainer David Aiken) and (owner) Brendan James said we’ve got a plan, we’re going to stick to it and her grand final’s tonight, we will have her peaking,” Bellman said. “To team Aiken’s credit, they do a wonderful job and I’m just the lucky bugger that gets to drive her and repay Brendan and Anne (James) for their faith in me, so it’s nice to pick up a great race.” Having won five of her last 10 starts and placed in all runs, that careful planning is paying great dividends for the mare whose win tonight took her stakes north of $100,000. “She has just got better and better,” Bellman said. “Last week we just got beat for speed on the turn, but if you watched her she just kept coming and coming and coming. “Brendan said trust your judgment, go for broke and tonight’s our grand final, if we get beat we get beat trying.” Further good times appear to lay in her path. “She’s a lovely mare and she’s got an invite to the Jewels, so that’s on the tables now with that win,” he said. “The trip away, if Brendan decides to take it, would do her the world of good and just scope her for a better mare later in the season. She’s going to be a lovely cups horse and whatever he puts her in, Queen Of The Pacific and all the mares races, that’s all been part of this plan and she’s just putting it together beautifully.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The Victorian Heats of the Australian Pacing Gold Fillies series at Tabcorp Park Melton on Thursday night saw two stables dominate. Harness racing trainers Nicole Molander and Emma Stewart each produced two winners in the four heats with promising fillies, Saphirique and Passions Delight (Molander) and Nostra Beach and Molly Kelly (Stewart). “She’s a nice little filly. Not saying she’s the best two-year-old filly I’ve ever driven but she’s got the great manners as a rule and it gets them a long way,” reinsman Gavin Lang told Trots Media’s ‘All Clear!’ post-race. Lang also steered Passions Delight home in her heat. “You burn them up early like that and then continued pressure throughout the race sets it up for something that’s sat back and done nothing, but she still had the courage to kick away when I asked her for the effort,” he said. Chris Alford drove both of Stewart’s winners. On Nostra Beach Alford said:  “She was really good, she came out nice and just worked to the front. She relaxed really well and at the top of the straight a couple came wide so I clicked her up and she took off really well.” He was similarly glowing in his praise for Molly Kelly. “She’s a full-sister to Frith, so she’s really, really well-bred. Only had her second start tonight, she got a bit keen at stages but once she learns the caper I think she’ll be quite handy,” Alford said. Click here to hear from the drivers in this week’s edition of All Clear! Don't forget to subscribe to Trots Media's YouTube channel for the latest videos from the HRV media unit.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Harness racing trainers Nicole Molander and Emma Stewart dominated last night’s Australian Pacing Gold two-year-old fillies’ heats at Tabcorp Park Melton. Four heats of the rich series were contested and the two abovementioned women won all four. Stewart produced Nostra Beach (Somebeachsomewhere-Amarillen) and Molly Kelly (Four Starzzz Shark-Jackie Kelly), while Molander’s successes came with Passions Delight (Bettors Delight-Passions Promise) and Saphirique (Bettors Delight-Sapphie Lil). Passions Delight rated the quickest time of the night with a run of 1:56.0 to score by 6.2m over runner-up Im Monica (Eddie Tappe). Driven by Gavin Lang, Passions Delight led and had to be in for the fight throughout as Amelias Courage (Kerryn Manning) poured on the pressure mid-race. It ensured a strong pace before Amelias Courage weakened to finish sixth beaten 16.1m.   Stewart-trained debutant Pistol Abbey (Alford) got into third place. Saphirique produced the second-quickest mile rate for the heats, winning by 3.8m in 1:56.2. The first leg of a winning double for Lang, the champion reinsman put Saphirique into the box seat when Our Chateau Lafite worked to the lead early for Daniel Jack. Saphirique got the sprint lane in the straight to score by 3.8m over War Dan Bad Girl (Nathan Jack), who worked home solidly, with Our Chateau Lafite holding on for third beaten 8.6m. Beautifully bred Nostra Beach hardly had to exit second gear to win her heat for the powerful Alford/Stewart combination, winning in a leisurely 1:59.8. A half-sister to both Villagem and recent Victoria Oaks winner Miss Graceland, Nostra Beach cruised through middle splits of 32.9 and 31 before coasting home by 11.3m (28secs last quarter). Early leader Miss Victoria finished second for Lance Justice, while Dixirosalie finished on well into third for Jason Lee. Molly Kelly, a little sister of both Frith and Stening, gave Stewart/Alford another win in Race 8, rating 1:58.3 to score a half-head win over rank outsider Major Gait, who gave quaddie players a scare, hitting the lead in the straight before the favourite fought back along the inside. Driven by Ron Wicks, Major Gait’s debut was superb. She’s one to follow. Saucy Dreams led from the pole for David Druitt and held on for the minor podium place. Albion Park in Queensland and Menangle in New South Wales will hold APG fillies’ heats on Tuesday before the semi-finals at Melton on April 28 and the final on May 6. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Tonight’s Good Friday Appeal Sulky Race at Tabcorp Park Melton was a huge success. The Trots community gathered to support a group of harness racing  drivers who replaced horses, pulling the sulkies which were driven by children of participants. All the kids described the how much fun the race was as they ‘drove’ up the Melton straight over 100m in front of the crowd. VIDEO: Check out the colour and excitement of the Sulky Race at Melton Tabcorp Park’s Troy Anderson won the race, with an excited young Blake McDonough in the sulky. “It’s all about bragging rights when it comes to these things, so pretty happy to get the result in the end," Anderson said. “I looked over about half way down the straight and thought I might be able to pull up but actually had to start digging a bit deeper.” Asked what was his favourite bit, Blake McDonough replied: “going fast!”. “It was good fun for a good cause. I'm not too sure (Troy) was in his class. He looks like an AFL footballer against the drivers, so I think we might check what class he is, he might be a free-for-aller against the maidens today," Josh Aiken, who finished second, said. Hayley Fino, in Aiken’s sulky, said “when I saw Troy coming from the outside I was like, that’s it, we don’t have it”. The night doubled as the trots’ community’s annual Good Friday Appeal fundraiser, with the Fino family playing a driving role in setting up the event. Tomorrow, Rachael and Jason Fino will appear on Channel 7’s Good Friday Appeal coverage along with son Nathan, where the amount raised by the trots’ community will be revealed. Click here to donate via the Trots Good Friday Appeal page Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin completed the Victorian three-year-old harness racing classic double last night at Tabcorp Park Melton with Miss Graceland powering home in the Nevele R Stud Victoria Oaks Final. Having won the Victoria Derby in February with Our Little General, the Smythes Creek power partnership’s stake winnings for the season surpassed the million-dollar mark courtesy of last night’s success with their star filly. It is the sixth season in a row – and seventh time overall – Stewart has hit seven figures in stakes. Miss Graceland, the headline act among a Stewart winning treble last night, is by Rocknroll Hanover out of Amarillen. She cleared out for a 10.5-metre win over race favourite Petacular, with Sheza Sharpie 18m behind the winner in third place. “The filly really deserved to get a good win and we’re rapt,” Tonkin said. “She’s on the way up. She had a couple of easy kills in the country and then last week she put the score on the board and this week she’s really come on.” From barrier seven, driver Chris Alford steered Miss Graceland into the running line back in the field early and was soon trailing Petacular. With about a mile to run Alford made his move three-wide, Petacular’s Michael Stanley tagging the second-favourite to move into the action. Petacular got to the breeze for the last lap, with Miss Graceland again trailing the race favourite one-one. At the home bend Stanley and Petacular had put the leaders away and raced to the front. Shezallapples was the first horse beaten after going too hard early. Miss Graceland got to the outside and the race became almost a carbon copy of the heat a week prior but with one fairly important difference: The placings were reversed. This time Miss Graceland got the better of a typically gutsy Petacular, careering clear over the concluding stages. RE-LIVE MISS GRACELAND'S NEVELE R STUD VICTORIA OAKS TRIUMPH “The Vicbred is about six weeks away. She’ll have a quiet week then she’ll tick along going towards that,” Tonkin said when asked about plans for Miss Graceland. Stewart is now on 98 winners for the season from 280 starts. Miss Graceland's owner, Akram Younan, dedicated the win to his filly's breeders, Tasmanian stalwarts the late Rick Hinds and his wife, Naomi. “Rick passed away and this win was in honour of him and his wife, Naomi,” Younan said. Younan, who also races thoroughbreds, said he was “proud” of Miss Graceland and very thankful for the training performance of the Stewart camp and Alford’s drive. OAKS FINISHING ORDER 1st - Miss Graceland: Brilliant drive and was strong at the line. She's on the up. 2nd - Petacular: Typically brave. She's destined to draw a good barrier in a G1 soon! 3rd - Sheza Sharpie: Almost last at the furlong, went widest & charged late. Nice run! 4th - Flying Moth: Ripper filly. Very consistent & was another big run here. 5th - Angel In White: Was right in the race for 3rd at any old odds. Finished off well enough. 6th - Keyang Secret: Had to burn early & lost momentum before turn behind tiring leader. Good run. 7th - Sanna Cruza: Hit line hard and ran into some dead ends. Forgive. 8th - Our Lady Madonna: Came from last. She'll improve. 9th - Beach Garden: Didn't hit the line as hard as some thought she would.  10th - Shezallapples: Used up petrol early. Powering along in front didn't seem her go.  11th - Nomi Malone: Probably just a bit outclassed against some of these.   12th - Anybeach Anywhere: Pulled hard in the run, which didn't help.   Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

A sizeable offer has been lodged and rejected in relation to unbeaten harness racing youngster Lumineer.  Stretching his undefeated status to three at Tabcorp Park Melton last night, Lumineer was a $30,000 Melbourne Australian Pacing Gold purchase for trainer Angela McDowall. The son of Sportswriter has been ultra-impressive, with his latest performance – a heat of the APG race series – nothing short of spectacular. As such, McDowall was presented with a six-figure bid for the colt, which was quickly turned down. “He is not for sale at this stage,” McDowall said. “My family owns him and we are happy to keep racing him. “We try every year to find one that is competitive, so to have one going as well as he is, is just a dream. “But that said, you never say never!” Driven by Jason Lee last night, Lumineer was settled in the ‘death seat’ from the outside of the front line as Higherthananeagle led from four. Angled down into the sprint lane at the top of the home straight, Lumineer grabbed the lead in the last stride, scoring by a head from Higherthananeagle, with Concealment 26 metres away third. “What a great run,” McDowall said. “From a tough draw, and with the high opinion on Higherthananeagle, I wasn’t overly confident. “I was hoping he would do enough to qualify for the next round.” Covering the last half in 55.7 seconds, the two-year-old rated a scintillating 1:53.8 over 1720 metres, with his time four seconds faster than Stefsbest in the following heat. Leading throughout from the pole, Stefsbest was never fully extended to account for Jimmy Locke and Justice Served in what was an emotional victory for connections. Trained and driven by Ahmed Taiba, the son of Sportswriter is named after the multiple feature winning horseman’s nephew, who died in tragic circumstances several years ago. “He is named after Haas’ son, who was killed tragically a couple of years ago when only 18,” Taiba said. “We’ve been waiting until we got the right horse to hold and carry his legacy and we’re confident we’ve found the right one. “To have him win his heat so easily is a great result and hopefully he can do a top job in the rest of the series.” Short-priced favourite Yankee Roller maintained his perfect record by annexing the final heat for record-breaking horsewoman Emma Stewart. Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, the son of Rock N Roll Heaven scored from Jilliby Lorenzo and Ourbeachsomewhere in 1:58.5. APG Media

The rise of Red Hot Tooth continues. The four-year-old harness racing mare stunned a field of older, more experienced rivals to take out last night’s Haras Des Trotteurs Australasian Trotting Championship at Tabcorp Park Melton. Trainer Kari Males has had confidence in Red Hot Tooth the whole way through, nominating the daughter of Yankee Paco-Karaka Tooth for a potential Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star berth over summer. Last night, with regular driver Zac Phillips in the gig, Red Hot Tooth produced a faultless display from the standing start conditions to rate 2:01.0 for a comfortable 6.2m win over fellow mares Sky Petite (five-year-old) and Illawong Helios (six) in the $50,000 Group 1 over 2760m. The win was Phillips’ third Group 1 triumph in the last month. WATCH RED HOT TOOTH'S GROUP 1 WIN AT MELTON “It’s funny how it works. It takes a long time to get one and then I get three in a few weeks,” Phillips said. “She’s such a great trier. I was talking to Paul (Males) during the week and he said ‘if she trots to the front just go fast enough that they can’t go near you’. “The art of training is setting horses for races like this and Paul and Kari have done a great job with that over the years. No one works harder than them.” Red Hot Tooth booted well clear at the home bend and produced final splits of 28.8 and 28.4. She completed the marathon trip in 3mins 27.5secs. Race favourite On Thunder Road finished 10th, while two other horses well in commission that finished back in the field were Sunny Ruby (eighth) and Cruisin Around (11th). “I just can’t speak highly enough of her… she’s just a little superstar,” a clearly elated Kari Males said post-race. The win was Males’ 250th career victory. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Emotions and anticipation will be at a premium at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight when Stefsbest takes his first step towards the ultimate goal. Engaged in an Australian Pacing Gold heat, the colt is chasing a berth in the $322,000 Final, which is scheduled to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 29. Like all connections, everyone associated with Stefsbest will be thrilled to capture the rich decider, but in the two-year-old’s case, prizemoney plays second fiddle to their motive. A well-bred youngster, Stefsbest is named after trainer Ahmed Tabia’s nephew, who died in tragic circumstances several years ago. “He is named after Haas’ son, who was killed tragically a couple of years ago when only 18,” Taiba said. “We’ve been waiting until we got the right horse to hold and carry his legacy and we’re confident we’ve found the right one. “I’ve got a high opinion of him, and of all the APG horses which have passed through my stable and into this series, such as Sushi Sushi, Ghadabest and Bus To Harland, he is right up there with them. “I’m confident he is capable of winning a Group race and doing his namesake proud. “We will learn more about him tonight, but I am looking forward to it.” A debut second at Cranbourne a fortnight ago when starting from the second row, Stefsbest has drawn to lead from the pole, with Taiba issuing an ominous warning. “We’ll be trying to lead at all costs and adopt a take no prisoners approach,” Taiba said. “If someone can sit outside him and beat him, good luck to them, but we won’t go home wondering.” By Sportswriter from Smyrna Duruisseau, the all-American bred freshman is a half-brother to multiple Group One winner, Follow The Stars, which annexed the 2014 APG Final at Melton. by APG Media

Petacular and Shezallapples won their Nevele R Stud Victoria Oaks heats at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. Touted as the best harness racing filly of her age in Victoria, Petacular notched her 12th win at start No.17 in a mile rate of 1:56.3 to take out her heat and will start a short-priced favourite in next Friday night’s $150,000 Group 1 Final at Melton. Tonight's heats showed it will be no procession, however, for the Burrumbeet filly from Michael Stanley’s stable. Sydneysider Shezallapples looked strong winning the second heat, albeit in a slower time of 1:57.7. Trained by David Thorn, Shezallapples (Sportswriter), like Petacular (Somebeachsomewhere), was a Group 1 winner at two via the Breeders Challenge Final at Menangle. Driven by Jim Douglass, Shezallapples controlled the Oaks heat once in front. She had 5m to spare over Sanna Cruza in the finish, the latter handing up the lead to the winner early, while Keayang Secret finished third for Jason Lee. Emma Stewart-trained Miss Graceland finished second to Petacular last night, beaten 2.3m, but driver Chris Alford was pleased with the run and tweeted post-race his filly could potentially turn the tables on the favourite in the big dance. “I thought Miss Graceland went super, hopefully draw better next week and reverse result,” he wrote. If Miss Graceland does defeat Petacular it will be the first time she’s ever been able to do it, the head-to-head record between the pair reading six-zip in favour of Petacular for now. Flying Moth, Beach Garden and Our Lady Madonna rounded out the top six in heat two, while Anybeach Anywhere, Sheza Sharpie, Nomi Malone and Angel In White finished third to sixth in the first heat. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

A 1:56.3 run in last night’s Tabcorp Park Melton VHRSC Sires Classic (Group 3) saw Emain Macha further enhance his race record and give Naracoorte harness racing trainer Greg Scholefield a metro feature trophy. Scholefield has, in recent times, boasted one of the strongest strike rates in the sport and Emain Macha is his stable star, with stake earnings of over $107,000 after last night’s win, which was his 13th at start No.17. Emain Macha initially had a crack for the front but was held out by both polemarker Misterfreeze and Rocknroll Icon from gate two. Reinsman Greg Sugars slotted three-year-old gelding by Safari into third position on the pegs, following Chris Alford on Rocknroll Icon and Emmett Brosnan aboard pacesetter Misterfreeze. Inside the final mile Alford took Rocknroll Icon to the lead and at the 1200m Sugars angled Emain Macha away from the markers. You wanted to be on one or the other. Off the back the final time, Rocknroll Icon tried to pinch the race but Emain Macha always had the leader in his sights. At the home bend – after a 28.4 third split – Emain Macha swept to the front and opened up over the final 100m for a 4.3m win, sprinting home in 28.1secs. Rocknroll Icon finished second and Albarock ran his usual honest race in third. Meanwhile, Andy and Kate Gath finished with a winning treble at Melton, taking out the City of Melton Stampede with Armbro Operative-Clifton Beauty gelding Maximan, the Western Base Vicbred Pace over 1720m with Major In Art-Henin Hardenne five-year-old gelding The Culture, and the Choose Atherstone Pace Final over 2240m with four-year-old Courage Under Fire-Village Glow gelding Firenglow. Maximan added his name to the Stampede honour roll, the annual six-furlong dash at Melton seeing the Gath gelding edge out perennial fast-finisher Tee Cee Bee Macray by a half-head in a time of 1:23.5. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Cardinia builder Phil Ellery has been a familiar face on trotting tracks in Gippsland and beyond for many years, but not only as a trainer and driver of horses. Phil is a regular driver of the mobile starting barrier at a handful of tracks. In fact he drove the vehicle for the first mobile start in many years of the famed A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton last month. Last Wednesday, Phil was on hand as usual piloting the starting car at the Warragul Pacing Bowl. And he managed to make the most of his "down time" during the running of the one standing start event on the program, the trotters handicap. Phil produced his trotter, Just Hold On, as one of the entrants in the race. And for good measure, he won the race too, ending a drought of almost 20 years since his last racetrack success. The majority of punters gave Just Hold On very little chance of victory on Wednesday afternoon, and the eight-year-old veteran of only seven race starts went around as the rank outsider in betting at odds of almost 60-1. But Phil knows his horse best, and proved that Just Hold On does have some ability. And just hold on the gelding did, defeating fellow local Innocent Fling by a narrow margin after a stirring battle for the length of the home straight. Another Gippsland horse, Gavlenn Sunset, ran third to produce a local trifecta. Pleasingly, the three placegetters have all given their local connections confidence that similar performances might occur in their upcoming starts. The trotting ranks are gradually strengthening again in Gippsland and Phil Ellery will be hoping his next winner is not too far away. His last success before Wednesday was with Carlewis at Moonee Valley in September 1998, although he has not had a lot of horses race since. Fellow local horseman Ray Mathews bred Just Hold On, raced by Phil and his partner Trish Lammens. The pair also secured a $1500 Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club bonus as lucky owners in one of the Sports Club's sponsored races last Wednesday. Talented junior reinsman Darby McGuigan will no doubt rank Warragul as his favourite track after a driving double on Wednesday. McGuigan, who drove two winners at the February meeting, after a further winner at the season opening program in December, steered Gozo Beach and Gozo Lighting to victory for trainer Bill Galea. Cranbourne trainer Jayne Davies produced the quinella in the third race with Soho Beijing beating Ravello Rock. Winning connections also received a $1500 VHRSC owners bonus for their win. Bongiorno Boys showed a welcome return to form in winning the first race for trainer Beau Tindale and driver Michael Bellman, while Graeme and Gavin Lang combined with Warminster to gain a narrow victory in the final event. Harness racing fans in Gippsland are now beginning to count down to the biggest day for the year at Warragul with the Pacing Bowl Cup meeting next along on Easter Sunday afternoon, April 16. Kyle Galley

Zac Phillips is one of the most popular young drivers in Australia and now he’s one of the most wanted as well. Phillips broke through for his first Group 1 win on Une Belle Allure at Melton last Saturday night and found the perfect way to celebrate … with another Group 1 win 30 minutes later on Red Hot Tooth later. Then, just for good measure, he backed-up to add the Wangaratta Cup aboard Four Ex Dan yesterday (Sunday). “It’s unbelievable. I’m still pinching myself,” Phillips said. “To win three big races across the weekend for the three stables who most support me is pretty special.” Although Une Belle Allure’s Need For Speed Princess final was Phillips’ first Group 1 win, he said Red Hot Tooth’s Group 1 Breed For Speed Gold final victory was “as good as it gets.” “Of course your first Group 1 is amazing, but to team up with Paul and Kari (Males) for that Group 1 with Red Hot Tooth was extra special because they have been there supporting me and giving me opportunities since I first started driving as a 16 year-old,” Phillips said. Rewarding loyalty also gave an extra edge to Four Ex Dan’s Wangaratta Cup win. “Adam (Kelly, Four Ex Dan’s trainer) is who I worked for when I first started out and his support has been there all the way through,” Phillips said. Sentimentality aside, it was Une Belle Allure’s win which was the most important in Phillips’ career. That’s because the three-year-old filly is part of the Yabby Dams “army” with trainer Anton Golino and owner Pat Driscoll. With a lavish farm full of regally-bred young trotters, Yabby Dams is poised to dominating trotting ranks. “I’m good mates with Todd Matthews (who works for Yabby Dams) and he put in a word for me a while back, which led to me getting a few drives for them,” Phillips said. “They are already a big force and only going to get much bigger with the stock they have.” Une Belle Allure, one of a staggering six of the 10 runners Golino trained in the race, camped on the leaders, got into the clear on the home bend and nabbed favourite and stablemate Dance Craze to win by nose. Golino trained the first four home with Nieta third and My Chimera fourth. Adam Hamilton

On Thunder Road got back on track with an impressive harness racing win in the Group 1 feature race at Tabcorp Park Melton on Australian trotting's showcase night. Trained and driven by Darren Hancock, the six-year-old Bettor's Delight pacer-cum-trotter restored supporters' faith with  a 2.5m win in the $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix. “He’s a lovely horse,” Hancock said. “He went off the rails a little bit in big races, he looked like being good, but he just had a few littles issues. Overall he’s done a great job.” After a win in Ballarat’s E. B. Cochran Trotters Cup the summer looked to be at On Thunder Road’s feet before 10th placings in the V. L. Dullard Trotters Cup and Great Southern Star saw the brakes put on his campaign. A short freshen up was in order and On Thunder Road returned with a vengeance at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. “I’d like to thank (trainer) Wayne Potter, he’s done a lot with him,” Hancock said. “He helped me with him the last couple of weeks. (On Thunder Road) has just got better and better. He’s just so tough.” Sluggish away from gate three, On Thunder Road was led up three-wide, eventually sweeping straight past the breeze position to claim the lead from Clover Mac. Favourite Sunny Ruby settled one-out one-back behind Prince Fearless, who sat outside On Thunder Road as 59.3 seconds lapsed in the first two quarters. On Thunder Road maintained a strong pace through the third quarter (29.0) to spread the field and make it tough for the swoopers. Only Clover Mac, who Kate Gath dove down the sprint lane, threatened down the straight, with Sunny Ruby unable to make ground. On Thunder Road held all the cards and saluted by 2.5m to Clover Mac, with Daryl Boko running into third. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A magical 35 minutes for Melton harness racing driver Zac Phillips also produced a mighty thrill for trainer Kari Males and owner Graham Bullock when Red Hot Tooth captured Group 1 glory at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Phillips first Group 1 triumph on Une Belle Allure was followed quickly by his second when he found the front mid-race and Red Hot Tooth put in a searing performance to win the $50,000 Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Series Final. “Unreal, words can’t describe how this feels right now,” Phillips said. “It’s a little bit surreal, I think I’m going to have to get back into the drivers' rooms and pinch myself. Massive thrill.” They are the high emotions that were shared by Males, who was full of pride for her Yankee Paco four-year-old mare. “She’s an absolute little superstar, I just love her,” Males said. “She’s very casual, she’s like a kids pony half the time, she just plods around half asleep, but when she gets on the track she just does the job.” Nica Macdonon initially held High Gait and Red Hot Tooth at bay, with High Gait directed into the chair while Phillips waited and then had a second crack at the lead when Charming Lavra loomed up on his outside at the bell. “It definitely surprised me the one (Nica Macdonon) holding up early,” Phillips said. “I knew it got out of the gate good, but when Ants came (on Charming Lavra) I was confident (Nica Macdonon) would be happy to sit on me once it had done that little bit of work early. “Once (Red Hot Tooth) found the front she was travelling so good, when Jason (Lee on Heavenly Sister) got up outside her she was just on the bit. She just felt like she was never going to get beat.” After a 58.8s first half she peeled off a 28.7 third quarter and in the final straight she looked a class above, winning by 1.6m to Heavenly Sister with Illawong Helios 10.2m back in third. “She’s just a great little trier,” Phillips said. “When she’s in front she’s hard to get past. “Paul and Kari have been massive support for my career and this horse is unreal. She means the world to me. She was my first winner at Menangle, my first Group winner and my second Group 1 winner. “She’s a different horse as a four-year-old. It was always a worry whether she’d improve from a three-year-old and take the next step, but I definitely think she’s proven this time in that she’s done that.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

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