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If we could hear it 'from the horse's mouth', it's pretty obvious what harness racing superstar Smoken Up will be wishing for. With today (1st of September) the beginning of the Australian season, Smoken Up and his standardbred counterparts are celebrating their birthday. Marking his 12th birthday with a party and cake at trainer Lance Justice's stable in Melton, Victoria, Smoken Up is on the verge of retirement. To be more precise, the son of Tinted Cloud is due to have his last start at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Taking that into consideration, Smoken Up is likely to be wishing for a 'fairytale ending'...least that's what Justice and the gelding's connections are looking to achieve with the multi millionaire. Justice was fortunate to enjoy a perfect end to former stable star Sokyola's career at Moonee Valley on June 22, 2007 when the son of Soky's Atom accounted for The Warp Drive and The Phantoms Guest. "We were lucking enough to have a happy ending with Sokyola and with a bit of luck we can enjoy the same with Smoken Up at Tabcorp Park next Saturday night," Justice said. "We will know how our chances are shaping up a little better on Tuesday when the fields come out and can see where he has drawn. "I'm a realist and am fully aware it's unlikely to happen, but at the same time we can enjoy the ride, hope for a good draw and then hope for the best on race night. "Whether he wins or not, it's going to be a joyful and sad occasion at the same time as it's the end of an era." Successful upon debut for Justice at Yarra Valley on March 8, 2007, Smoken Up has registered a further 71 victories and 48 placings from 141 starts for earnings of $3,588,949 to be Australasia's third richest pacer behind Blacks A Fake ($4,575,438) and Im Themightyquinn ($4,567,456). His wins include two Miracle Miles, four South Australia Cups, four Len Smith Miles and the Victoria Cup, with his best time of 1:48.5 coming at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 30, 2011. Smoken Up has claimed 13 Group Ones across the Southern Hemisphere, won at 15 tracks and set numerous records, including becoming the first standardbred on this side of the equator to better 1:50. PAUL COURTS

Kialla trainer-driver David Moran enjoyed a winning double with two of his in-form pacers last night at Tabcorp Park Melton. Both The Baggy Green (a four-year-old mare by Art Major out of Lady Waratah) and Our Santa Catalina (a three-year-old filly by Rocknroll Hanover out of San Sophia) carried their strong Breeders Crown form into last night's meeting and both recorded strong victories. The Baggy Green, who ran second to Frith in the four-year-old mares’ Breeders Crown Final last time out, found the back of early leader Earth Angel last night used the sprint lane at the finish to wind up for a 2.3-metre victory in the Alabar Pace, Race 1, over 1720 metres. Earth Angel led for Josh Aiken with Isabelle Delacour (Jason Lee) parking in the breeze after a failed attack for the front. Glenferrie EJ (Jodi Quinlan) ran second after a sustained run three-wide, while Earth Angel boxed on gamely for third. The Baggy Green started at $2.20, kicking the night off on a winning note for punters. Moran’s second winner came up in Race 4, the Harness Breeders Vic 3YO Classic over 1720 metres. He drove Our Santa Catalina, who scored an upset win over last-start Group 1 winner Just Cala (Amanda Turnbull) by 1.8 metres, with Madison Louise (Chris Alford) third. With 1200 metres to go Moran and Our Santa Catalina eased three-wide from the one-out-one-back spot and moved to the breeze outside race leader Dazzling Arden. At this stage Turnbull had the $1.40 favourite Just Cala in last position. Down the back, though, Turnbull started her move, taking the Dennis Picker trained filly around the field three-wide. But the leaders quickened up with middle sectionals of 29.9 and 28.4, Just Cala forced to work hard for the bulk of the final lap. Once the field straightened up for the run to the judge, Our Santa Catalina shook off Dazzling Arden and then hit the line in a 27.8 final quarter. Just Cala simply didn’t have the firepower at the finish as Our Santa Catalina – who ran third in a Breeders Crown semi-final at Ballarat two starts back – showed enormous grit in the run to the line. Our Santa Catalina has now won seven of 20 starts. Leading reinsman Nathan Jack was the other driver to pick up a winning double last night, piloting Bad Habbott to a 2.7-metre triumph in the Home Timber and Hardware Melton 3YO Trot for trainer Russell Commens before finishing the program aboard Shared Interest, the Russell Jack trained gelded son of Angus Hall obliterating his rivals by 18.1 metres in the Haley Toulmin 2YO Trot over 1720 metres. Other winners on the card were Action Kosmos for Geoff Webster and Emmett Brosnan in the Tab.com.au Trot and Game We Play in the Empire Stallions 3YO Pace Final for trainer-driver Craig Turnbull, the son of Courage Under Fire too strong as the long odds-on favourite in the race Karkarooc who finished a well-beaten seventh. In-form mare Tandias Bromac won the Pet Rock Pace for trainer Amanda Grieve and driver Chris Alford while the Michael Stanley trained and driven Young Modern won the Woodlands Stud Pace over 1720 metres. Gumdrops won for trainer Steve Zammit and driver Rodney Petroff in the Breeders Crown Broodmare Noms Close 1 Sept Pace, and the Chris Lang trained and driven Lord Liam won the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap. The Victorian harness racing spotlight turns to Cranbourne tonight (Saturday) with the first of 11 races at 5.35pm. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

Trainer David Lewis says Abettorpunt cannot afford another setback if he is to contest this year’s New Zealand Trotting Cup in November. Lewis said Abettorpunt had recently fallen victim to a virus which flattened the majority of his Hamilton stable, but the six-year-old is now back in full work and a $31 shot for the NZ Cup with tab.com.au. “We had a little hiccup unfortunately. Most of my horses had a virus so I had to lay him down for a few weeks and we missed the Breeders free for all. That had been the aim,” Lewis said. “Now I’m hoping to get a couple of runs into him in Melbourne before I go and hopefully everything goes right between now and then, because if he’s not 100 per cent he won’t be going.” Lewis said Abettorpunt was still an “85-90 per cent” chance of contesting the NZ Trotting Cup but said the son of Bettors Delight couldn’t afford any more mishaps. “Plan B might be to take him to Queensland for a feature race there, then it’ll be up to Sydney,” he said. “The Inter Dominion is the plan in the New Year and I’d like to go back to South Australia for the SA Cup and work my way back through Victoria for some country cups. A bit similar to last year, I was happy with the pattern we went with.” Lewis said fans were yet to see the best of Abettorpunt, who finished his last preparation with a Group 1 triumph in the Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All at Menangle. He also won last year’s Casey Classic at Tabcorp Park Melton and ran an unlucky fourth in the Del-Re National Hunter Cup. Brett Cox, who works for Lewis, will travel with Abettorpunt if he heads to New Zealand while Matthew Craven will take the reins. “He loves the stand start and distance races so it would certainly suit him,” Lewis said. Terror To Love is $4.40 favourite for the NZ Trotting Cup, just ahead of Christen Me at $4.60, with Smolda ($5.50), Im Themightyquinn ($6.50), Adore Me and For A Reason ($10), and Locharburn ($12) next in the market. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

John Hallam’s in-form rig Karkarooc should prove hard to beat in Friday night’s Empire Stallions 3YO Pace Final (Race 3) at Tabcorp Park Melton. The son of Courage Under Fire and mare Phichai, a half-brother to Hallam's Group 1 winning mare Wyperfeld, has won three straight races, his most recent in 1:58.4 when 11.8 metres too strong for A Bit Ruthless at Shepparton. “He’s as promising a horse as I’ve had for a while,” Hallam said. “He’s very inexperienced. He hasn’t had a lot of trialling. He’s got blistering gate speed, which he won’t be able to use from the second row, but I’m not really fussed about that. “I don’t care where he settles. If they go too slow up front he’ll go up and around them and if not I don’t mind if he comes with one run at the end.” Hallam, who trains from Kialla, said as Karkarooc progressed through the grades to higher class races he would become more of a sit-sprinter. “When he gets in against those better horses I think that will be his forte." Nathan Jack has driven Karkarooc at two of his past three wins and will steer him again on Friday night. Jack and Hallam will also combine in Race 1 with Million To One mare Ezee Duzit Lombo. The six-year-old has been in ultra-consistent form of late without winning, finishing second at her past two starts at Swan Hill and Shepparton. “You certainly couldn’t get much closer than that she’s been getting of late,” Hallam said. Ezee Duzit Lombo ran on powerfully two starts back off a slow speed up front to finish second at Swan Hill before another runner-up effort last time out when beaten a head by Stunning Grin. While she has been settling back in the field in her recent starts, Hallam said Ezee Duzit Lombo was likely to be driven more proactively from gate three on Friday night. “Over the 1720 metres at Melton if you’re getting too far back you might as well not come,” he said. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

  If you listened to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga throughout the season you would have the thought he was either a nutcase or a genius.   As it turns out, he is the latter thanks to Major Crocker success in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders’ Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton.   At any point during the year, if you got into a conversation about Major Crocker, Vallelonga would have told you in no uncertain terms he was good enough to win at Group One level.   Sure he finished second in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, but to the casual observer the son of Art Major was a step below the best.   Much to Vallelonga’s delight – and “I told you so’s” - Major Crocker is now a top shelf winner.   “I never had any doubt he was good enough to race against, and beat, the best of his age,” Vallelonga said.   “He just needed that ounce of fortune to take one out and today he got it.   “This is only his first season of racing and he has come such a long way, but I knew all along what he was capable of.”   Driven by Greg Sugars, Major Crocker began swiftly to lead from barrier three, but was instantly challenged by Hectorjayjay for the pacemaker’s role.   Given little peace, Major Crocker was then challenged by Saloon Passage before Bling It On became the third opponent to ‘have a crack’ as Sugars, in a race winning move, elected to take a trail.   Enjoying the run of the race along the pegs, Major Crocker was angled into the passing lane during the latter stages before regaining the lead in the last stride to score by a head from Bling It On.   Alleluia, which gained a late three-wide trail, was two metres away third.   “He had to work hard to get there, but I was happy when we found the lead,” Sugars said.   “Then around the home turn I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling.   “The others were flat out and he was just cruising.”   Covering the last half in 56.6 seconds, the year-old rated a slick 1:55 for the 2240 metres to provide Vallelonga with his initial Group One triumph.   “I’m just over the moon with him,” Vallelonga said.   “To be honest I am just lost for words right now.   “I knew he was ready to run the race of his life.   “I’m not saying I declared him the winner, I just knew how good he was feeling and that he was ready for a big effort.”   Sent to for a spell the following morning, Major Crocker will spend up to three months in a paddock.   “It has been a long season, but he has handled it like a seasoned trouper,” Vallelonga said.   “I will give him eight to 10 weeks off then aim him at races such as the Chariots Of Fire.   “I’ve always said he would be better as a four-year-old after he had a season of racing under his belt and hopefully that will remain the case.”   Bred and owned by Gary Crocker, the gelding took his tally to nine wins and seven placings from 24 starts for earnings of $264,665.   Paul Courts    

Australian harness racing fans...You have been warned! Not only will Follow The Stars be back next season, he will be better, stronger, faster.   Okay, Six Million Dollar Man reference aside, that was the call from New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon, who believes Follow The Stars will improve following a good break.   Having proven himself the Southern Hemisphere’s premier freshman, Follow The Stars is poised for  a stellar campaign as a three-year-old. Not only will he tackle the various majors on the Shaky Isles, he will return across the Tasman for several features such as the Victoria and New South Wales Derbys.   Purdon also plans to be back at Tabcorp Park Melton for the Australasian Breeders’ Crown – a race  Follow The Stars made his own last Sunday. “There is something special about this horse,” Purdon declared. “He has a real X-factor about him. “I would say he is more than up with the best two-year-olds I’ve trained...he is the best. “He will go home and have about eight to 10 weeks off now, then I’ll get him ready for our Derbys at home. “After that he will be back in Australia for the Derbys and the Breeders’ Crown again.”   Purdon’s “he is the best” statement is huge considering the outstanding two-year-olds he has  prepared. Headed by Il Vicolo and Light And Sound, the list includes Fly Like An Eagle, Lennon, Major Mark, Mr Nickel and The Court Owl – all multiple feature race winners.   As for Purdon’s plans, they represent a bleak season for Aussies as Follow The Stars already boasts an unblemished record from six mainland starts. Furthermore, the latest was the colt’s most impressive. Pushed forward from the outside of the front row, Follow The Stars worked to the lead as his talented stablemate, Kept Under Wraps was eased to take a trail. Never in danger of being beaten, the son of Art Major provided Purdon with an ‘armchair’ drive as he cruised to a soft five-metre win from Kept Under Wraps. My Field Marshall, which was three-wide without cover from the bell, was seven metres away third.   “That was a great run,” Purdon said. “I couldn’t have scripted it any better. “After he got to the front without doing too much work he was never going to be beaten. “He just did it so easy and had plenty in reserve at the finish.” Covering the last half in 55.7 seconds, the two-year-old rated 1:56.7 for the 2240 metres.   Raced by similar connections to Kept Under Wraps, Follow The Stars extended his record to an  impeccable 10 wins from 11 starts for earnings of $455,410.   Paul Courts    

While relaxing in a paddock after another successful season, outstanding mare Frith is set to deliver more exciting news…well sort of! Frith’s first foal is due within the next few weeks via a surrogate mother. The youngster, which is destined to be a sales topper, is by boom sire Mach Three. “She’s out for roughly two months now, but she will still be providing us with a highlight during that time,” trainer Bruce Harpley explained. “Because she had such a long break after the Breeders’ Crown last year, Bernie and Dianne (Kelly, owners) put her in foal to Mach Three. “Now the surrogate mother is due to foal next month, so it will be interesting to see if she has a colt or filly. “If it can turn out to be anywhere near as good as its mum, then we can look forward to plenty more good times.” The unborn youngster will have a massive shadow to step out from given the extent of Frith’s feats. A daughter of Four Starzzz Shark, Frith boasts 29 wins and eight placings from 38 starts, including consecutive Breeders’ Crown Finals – the most recent coming at Tabcorp Park Melton last Sunday. With Harpley in the cart, Frith was quickly angled away from the inside of the second row to be three-wide and pushing forward at the start as Arma Xpress set the early pace. Allowed to stroll to the front during the middle stages, Frith was never fully extended on her way to a three-and-a-half metre win from The Baggy Green. From dual Breeders’ Crown winner Lady Waratah, The Baggy Green was also bred by the Kellys. After working overtime in the ‘death seat’, Im Smouldering was two metres away third. “As much as it is a thrill to win such a big race, it’s also a relief to get the job done,” Harpley said. “It can look easy on paper, but it’s never the case as you’ve still got to get out there and perform at your best. “She had to work a little more than I would have liked to find the front, but she still had plenty left at the finish. “She’s just such an ideal racehorse as she has strength, speed and brains to boot.” Covering the last half in 57.5 seconds, the four-year-old rated 1:56.6 for the 2240 metres, stretching her bankroll to $794,972. To be given “about seven weeks off”, Frith will be aimed at the major mares’ races next season beginning with the prestigious Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. “I haven’t spoken to Bernie yet, but she will have about seven weeks off now,” Harpley said. “That will see her back racing about early to mid January, which gives her a couple of months racing to be ready for the Ladyship Mile. “Further down the track, I’d like to bring her back to Melton for the three main mares’ races in May, particularly the Queen of the Pacific. “She hasn’t had a crack from the stand, but I can’t see it being a problem.” Paul Courts    

Boom youngster Eljaykay Phoenix registered a slice of harness racing history at Tabcorp Park Melton last Sunday.   Triumphant in the prestigious Australasian Breeders’ Crown, Eljaykay Phoenix became the first trotter to capture Victoria’s ‘big three’ two-year-old events.   Beginning with the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series, Eljaykay Phoenix then annexed the Redwood Classic before rounding off his season in the Crown.   The three Group Ones have been run simultaneously since 1998.   Heading into the futurity, the David Aiken-trained freshman was one of five squaregaiters to complete the Sires’/Redwood double.   The features have been part of the racing calendar since the Redwood’s inauguration in 1986, with Young Trouper capturing both that year.   Kano Regal followed suit in 1996, with Storm Blazer achieving the milestone in ’99.   Former star mare, Jauriol, became the only filly in the crew when she outclassed the ‘boys’ in 2004.   Thrilled with Eljaykay Phoenix debut term, Aiken believes the son of Sundon is capable of repeating the dose as a three-year-old.   “I don’t want to sound like I’m ahead of myself, but he is capable of doing it all over again,” Aiken said.   “I’m not saying her will, as a lot will have to go his way, but the ability is there.   “He is just such a natural racehorse and I can’t see any reason why he won’t improve next time in.”   Driven by Aiken’s reinsman-son, Josh, last weekend, Eljaykay Phoenix worked to the lead from barrier seven, after his main danger, Shared Interest, was eased to take the trail.   Given a ‘breather’ during the middle stages, Eljaykay Phoenix strode clear along the home straight to score by three-and-a-half metres from Shared Interest.   After travelling two-back along the pegs, Kyvalley Boomerang was 10-and-a-half metres away third.   “Once I was able to find the front with him, I knew he would be hard to run down,” Josh said.   “Then when I was able to back off and make it a sprint home, they were never going to catch him.   “He is such a great young trotter and it’s been a privilege to be driving him.”   Covering the last half in 58.6 seconds, the gelding rated 2:04.7 for the 2240 metres, taking his record to an imposing eight wins and two seconds from 10 starts for earnings of $169,622.   To be given a lengthy spell, Eljaykay Phoenix will be aimed at the various Derbys, along with his Vicbred and Crown title defences next season.   “He has all the attributes of a star and should come back better again after a spell,” Aiken said.   “I haven’t decided how long he will have off and will have to count backwards from the main races next season.   “The majors don’t start until late in the season, so he probably won’t race again until at least February.   “That will give him between eight and 10 weeks off.”   Paul Courts  

It was a case of third time lucky for top harness racing mare Spidergirl in the Australasian Breeders’ Crown. Missing the Final as a two-year-old, Spidergirl then finished fourth in the three-year-old division won by Quite A Moment last season. Returning for another crack at Tabcorp Park Melton last Sunday, the David Aiken-trained trotter was simply a class above her rivals when driven by premier reinsman Chris Alford. Aiken is naturally stoked Spidergirl upstaged the ‘boys’ to cap off a tremendous campaign with a Group One win. “She has had a wonderful year and this just tops it off perfectly,” Aiken said. “She’s met and bettered every challenge we’ve set for her and I couldn’t be happier with the year she’s had. “She is just a terrific mare which gives her best every time she goes around.” Beginning swiftly to lead from the pole, Spidergirl was allowed to roll along as Blitzthemcalder worked in the ‘death seat’. Fending off the initial challenge on the home turn, the daughter of Yankee Spider proved too slick as she completed a two-metre win from Glenferrie Typhoon, which finished along the sprint lane. Blitzthemcalder battled on to be 10-and-a-half metres away third. “What can you say about her...she is just a great mare,” Aiken said. “The draw was in her favour today and she was good enough to take advantage of it.” Rating 1:58.7 for the 2240 metres, the squaregaiter covered the last half in 57.3 seconds. To be given a short spell, Spidergirl will be aimed at next season’s majors, with the Great Southern Star the primary target. “I’ll give her a bit of time off and have her back and ready for the main races around Christmas,” Aiken said. “Obviously we’d like to have her in the Great Southern Star, which she is guaranteed a place in, so we will work her campaign around that.” Owned by Kevin Riseley’s Sheron Park, Spidergirl extended her record to 19 wins and eight placings from 31 starts for earnings of $292,587. Paul Courts  

Since settling into her new digs at Shepparton, rising-star reinswoman Amanda Turnbull has notched two Group 1 wins at Tabcorp Park Melton in just a couple of months. The 24-year-old followed up a Vicbred Super Series win last month with a Breeders  Crown triumph yesterday, steering Just Cala to a 1.2-metre win in the Bettors Delight @  Woodlands Breeders Crown Final for three-year-old fillies. Turnbull, who grew up driving hundreds of winners a season while based in Bathurst,  would have especially enjoyed that yesterday’s winner was trained by a New South  Wales country horseman in Dennis Picker. “It’s all going really well,” Turnbull said of her transition to Victoria. “We’re going to wait until next season before we get some more (horses) in but we’re  going on a holiday to Hamilton Island first and then when we come back it’ll be all go.” Just Cala, a filly by the indomitable Art Major out of a Kiwi mare named Lilsistar, found  the front yesterday from barrier one, showing far more speed off the arm than she had  in her previous two starts. “I thought Spicy Stride would cross me before the race but once I was able to hold her  out I was lucky enough to be able to be in front, which worked out really well,” Turnbull  said. Turnbull handed up to the challenge of Nike Franco, who was set alight from the rear of  the field early, grabbing the spot behind the Luke McCarthy-driven race favourite. As the field headed towards the home turn McCarthy was starting to ask Nike Franco for  more and Turnbull had to decide whether to wait for the sprint lane or ease across the  heels of the leader and death-seat horse Quick Draft to make her run wide. She took the latter option, which in turn allowed Tasmanian filly Barynya to storm  through on the inside after a three-back-the-pegs trail. “Luke was asking for his filly to show a bit more while Chris (Alford) was sitting quietly  on his,” Turnbull said. “I was travelling really well at that stage so I decided to go to the outside of them. “She let down like she has the first two times I’d driven her. “It was a great feeling to win it.” Turnbull has already driven 1041 winners in just seven seasons in the sulky, a remarkable achievement for someone so young. This season she has driven 133 winners from 660 drives. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

On harness racings big day at the Breeders Crown finals at Tabcorp Park Melton yesterday, there were six pacing races up for decision. There was a great mixture of stock by all the sires in great demand by breeders in Australia. Bettors Delight, Mach Three and Sportswriter all had representation but by the end of the days racing, one stallion stood head and shoulders above the competition - Art Major His stock won three of the six pacing finals and sent breeders a clear message with the breeding season just around the corner. If anything this season, the gap in Australia between Art Major and the chasing pack  at  the age group level has grown larger and more pronounced. As the season draws to a close Art Major is $368,000 ahead of Bettors Delight on the 2 year old sires list and $1,166,000 ahead on the 3 year old list and that really confirms what a spectacular season he has had in Australia. Yesterday the two year old and three year old sections of the Breeders Crown finals were dominated by Art Major. Follow The Stars was outstanding in the 2 year old colts/geldings final, burning to the front from the outside of the gate and giving nothing else a chance from that point. But for being wiped out in the Harness Jewels in New Zealand, Follow The Stars would have been unbeaten at two. Being bred the way he is, if Follow The Stars can kick on at three then he certainly has all the credentials to be given a chance in the stallion barn. Major Crocker was a super winner of the 3 year old colts /geldings final. Used up big time early to hold the lead on two occasions, Major Crocker still found enough in the straight to pick up the outstanding Bling It On. It was a real statement from Major Crocker and he looks to have the all round game to be a "major " player next season and beyond. The third winner on the day was Just Cala  in the 3 year old fillies final who has stepped up to another level in her last few starts. A brilliant winner of her semi final, Just Cala showed that was no fluke with another outstanding performance against the best fillies going around in Australia. The Alabar team would have been smiling at those results but the cherry on top for them would have been the run of Jk Shesalady in the eliminations of the She's A Great Lady at Mohawk in Canada. She was the fastest of the elimination winners yesterday in a time of 1:51.1 and by over seven lengths and looms as the filly to beat in the $480,000 final next weekend. Art Major has always been an elite sire but right at the moment his stock worldwide are on an unbelievable run. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing needs its pin up stars and there’s no bigger star at the moment in Australasia than Follow The Stars. Punters backed Follow The Stars into $1:10 after a brilliant semi final win at Ballarat last Saturday. One punter dropped $50,000 on Follow The Stars at that money and he would have had few worries during the running. The Mark Purdon trained son of Art Major was at his brilliant best today at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Final for two-year-olds. Working straight to the lead despite an outside-front-row draw, Follow The Stars controlled the race like he has done nine times before (from 10 career starts -- and his only defeat came in the Harness Jewels in New Zealand when he got knocked over, so he arguably he should have a perfect record). Follow The Stars cruised home by 4.9 metres over stablemate Kept Under Wraps for Greg Sugars, while My Field Marshall, from the Tim Butt stables, made it a trifecta for the Kiwis. While the Kiwi trainers dominated the race, there was a strong Australian connection with the winner – with Lauriston Bloodstock having bred the winner. Follow The Stars recorded a winning mile rate of 1:56.7, finishing off with a smart 55.7secs for the last half-mile. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria    

Harness racing driver Mark Purdon has paid tribute to Brent Lilley after winning the Pegasus Spur @ Woodlands Breeders Crown 3YO Trotting Final with Our Twentyten. The Kiwi horseman, who has driven three Group 1 winners today at Tabcorp Park Melton, said Lilley had done a super job with Our Twentyten, who is by Muscles Yankee out of Regal Volo. “Credit to Brent,” he said. “He’s got him absolutely spot on for today and he’s done a fantastic job.” Our Twentyten started $1.70 favourite on the tote but had his work cut out for him rounding the home turn when pole marker and pacesetter Bad Habbott, who ran a mighty race, kicked clear. Purdon took Our Twentyten back behind the leader at the final bend before peeling out again and overpowering the Russell Commens trained son of Sundon in the last 150m. “He tested me on the corner and I dropped in but by the time we straightened up he felt good again,” said Purdon. Lilley said he was thrilled to notch the Group 1. “He’s done a super job since we’ve had him. I’m grateful to Mark for the opportunity,” he said. “He’ll go for a well-deserved spell now.” Asdenro ran third for Haydon Gray, while Master Hugh was fourth for Chris Svanosio. Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria  

Gun up-and-coming harness racing reinswoman Amanda Turnbull combined with New South Wales trainer Dennis Picker for Group 1 glory today at Tabcorp Park Melton. Turnbull steered the Picker trained filly Just Cala to victory in the Bettors Delight @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Final for three-year-old fillies over the runner-up Barynya and third placegetter Quick Draft. Turning for home Just Cala eased off back of the two leaders, Nike Franco and Quick Draft which allowed Tasmanian Barynya access to the sprint lane. While at first glance punters may have thought it was the wrong move by Turnbull, the young gun driver’s decision paid off in spades as Just Cala thundered down the outside to edge out Barynya at the line. “In the run she was hanging a bit so I was a bit worried about her going into the sprint lane,” Turnbull said of her home-turn decision post-race. “She was travelling pretty good though and she really found the line.” Just Cala went a 1:58.6 mile rate and scored by 1.2 metres. Quick Draft battled on well for third after sitting parked. Nike Franco, which ran to the front early from a back-line draw for Luke McCarthy, got away with a cheap first half (63.6) but isn’t finishing her races off like we know she’s capable of. She ran fifth behind fourth-placed Tuscan Breeze. Picker said it was the biggest win of his career. “Definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had anything to do with,” he said. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

Vince Vallelonga’s three-year-old Art Major gelding Major Crocker made it five wins in a row by taking out the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown Final for 3YO geldings today at Tabcorp Park Melton. In what became the race of the day, Greg Sugars took the in-form pacer to the lead early and held out a fierce challenge from Simone Walker on Hectorjayjay. Once Major Crocker had found the markers first he then had to fend off another challenge, this time from Nathan Hurst aboard Saloon Passage, which galloped at the start but quickly got going again. A quick lead  time of 43.8secs was followed a first quarter of 29.5 before the on-pace runners finally got some reprieve when Bling It On ran to the front and was followed into the race by his co-favourite Our Sky Major. A second quarter of 30.1secs was the calm before another storm as Bling It On took it up a notch down the back, ripping out a 27.2secs third quarter. Our Sky Major appeared to be travelling well coming to the turn while Sugars and Major Crocker were cruising up behind. In the straight Sugars took Major Cruiser up along the sprint lane and overpowered Bling It On stride by stride, eventually getting his head in front right on the line. Queenslander Alleluia ran on powerfully from the back of the field to finish third for Grant Dixon, while Our Sky Major battled on gamely for fourth. The mile rate was a slick 1:55.0. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria  

New South Wales trained Marty Monkhouser has made it two straight wins with an all-the-way triumph in the Empire Stallions 4YO Breeders Crown colts and geldings’ final today at harness racing headquarters at Tabcorp Park Melton. Lauren Panella delivered the perfect drive aboard the Shane Tritton trained son of Village Jasper, whose second quarter of the last mile – 32.5 – had to have played an important role in the victory. Marty Monkhouser found the lead early from gate six despite there being plenty of talk about the front line’s gate speed pre-race, though she had to work for it. Race favourite Bit Of A Legend worked around the field to the breeze but did have to put in some hard yards out three-wide early. Turning for home the final time, Marty Monkhouser kept on kicking, holding off all challengers to score by 1.4m over Bit Of A Legend and Dexter Dunn, with Majestic Mach finishing third for Grant Dixon. The winner’s mile rate was 1:57.6. It was an ultra-gutsy performance by Marty Monkhouser, who has now won 10 races from 35 starts. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

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