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Victorian junior concessional driver Sam Barker is a young man with an energy and passion for the sport of harness racing that’s sure to take him places. And lately the 21-year-old has been quietly going about ticking off items on his “things to do” list. Barker drove his first Melton winner last month, something that he’s longed to achieve, and then prepared his first winner as a licensed trainer. “It was exciting times there for a while. But I got a bit of luck and it all fell into place,” he said. “I just hope it continues because I’d love to get more driving opportunities, especially while I still have my five-point claim.” Barker has been working for over three years at the Long Forest stables of Andy and Kate Gath, situated between Melton and Bacchus Marsh, west of Melbourne. “They are just fantastic and have been a huge influence on my career. Not only do they teach you a lot, but it’s always in a professional manner,” Barker said. “Both Andy and Kate are very good role models. I am enjoying my time with them that’s for sure.” It was with some irony that Barker beat his “boss” Kate when he posted his first Melton victory aboard five-year-old horse Success Counts (Imperial Count-Successor (Sundon) at odds of 12/1. “I was a bit nervous when Kate was getting an inside run on the stablemate Galleons Glory because my fellow trotted a little bit rough up the home straight the previous week and ended up in a gallop,” Barker said. “I just wanted him to keep trotting over the final stages and thought he could run a nice race – and he did. “It was so good that Andy and Kate, along with the owners, gave me the opportunity.” Barker, who now has a small team in training himself, said he had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Kelvin. Kelvin Barker, based at Ballarat, has been a well-regarded trainer-driver over the years.  However he’s now concentrating on the training side to good effect, posting a career-best season last season, with a dozen winners. “Dad has about 10 in work at the moment and is still enjoying it,” Barker said. “Further down the track it’s my aim to establish myself as a trainer. I see my future in that role,” he said. Barker registered his first training win at Ballarat recently with bay mare Beat The Drums (Modern Art-Highview Congo(McArdle) with Kate Gath taking the reins. “I own that horse myself after buying it off Barry Finnis, who lives in South Australia,” he said. “But most of the horses I’ve got belong to a friend in Lyndon Turner, who is a reasonably big breeder. He is right into it and does pretty well.” Barker said from a very young age, he had always wanted to get involved in harness racing. “I attended Ballarat Christian College. I finished Year Nine and then it was virtually off working with the horses,” he said. “When I’m asked to name my favorite track I suppose I should say Melton because I’ve now driven a winner there and it is okay – but despite the very cold nights in winter, I would have to label Ballarat as the best.” Barker has been in good form so far this season from limited driving opportunities. He has posted three wins from 11 drives.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Jason Lee isn’t afraid to take a glance at the stars with in-form square-gaiter Jilliby Babavska following his third successive triumph on Saturday night. Lee was at the controls as the son of Sundon burst through along the sprint lane to take out the Pryde’s Easi Lyte Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton, putting a third picket on the fence. Trained by his brother Paddy, Lee said the big races across the summer carnival were on the agenda for the six-year-old. “I would love to have him win a Group 1 race - that would be awesome if he could do that,” Lee said. “There’s probably no real standouts in the trotters at the moment, apart from maybe Tornado Valley when he is up and going, and probably six or seven other really nice ones. “Obviously McLovin went super Saturday night, but I reckon in the big race (Alderbaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint) with the right run, (Jilliby Babavska) could have won the race.” A leg injury that required a pin to be inserted into a back fetlock saw Jilliby Babavska sidelined throughout 2018. He eventually returned to the races in May this year and has strung together eight wins since. Lee didn’t take much prodding to label Jilliby Babavska one of the quickest trotters he’d driven. “I reckon he is one of, if not the, quickest trotter I’ve sat behind for sheer speed,” Lee said. “He is definitely a difficult horse to drive, but in terms of speed I haven’t driven a lot of trotters that can reel off 27 quarters like he was able to do there a couple of weeks ago at Melton. “When you hit the button, it’s just like driving a fast pacer. He has just got that sheer speed. He has definitely got the attributes to turn into a Group 1 winning trotter." Lee said it’s likely Jilliby Babavska would be nominated for the Group 3 Maryborough Trotters Cup on Sunday.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

A breathtakingly even field will collide for the right to be a Smoken Up Sprint champion, throwing up scenarios that have trainer David Aiken among the many “really looking forward” to the Group 2 dash. The preparer of three of the past four winners of the sprint – Lennytheshark in 2015 and 2017 and Wrappers Delight (pictured) last year – Aiken’s well positioned to add a fourth in only the sixth staging of the race, but admitted to being intrigued to the many tactical ramifications. In particular, the question who will lead? While Aiken has reigning champ Wrappers Delight drawn in gate one and lightning beginner Audi Hare in gate four he said there was no easy answer, but added reinsman James Herbertson and Audi Hare would be advantaged by their mid-row draw. “The middle is probably the best barrier at Melton at that distance,” Aiken said. “Wrappers Delight is pretty quick out, but it depends on how it plays out. We probably have our best chance with Wrappers Delight, but Audi Hare will be doing his best to cross him.” He said “the barriers couldn’t have worked out better” for the stable, and some form analysts were confident Aiken’s runners would be leader and leader’s back in the early stages. Among that number is Good Form’s Jason Bonnington. "The quandary for punters here is that there are perhaps four different conceivable speed map scenarios and each one has the potential to badly mitigate and significantly elevate the winning chances of several runners,” Bonnington said. "The fact is Audi Hare has Coastal-like gate speed, he's the fastest horse off the arm in Victoria and as a specialist miler and last start winner I'm favouring the concept that he will lead and hold. "What happens after that from a pressure perspective probably relies largely upon Born To Rocknroll, but if Audi Hare does lead I think they'll run a freakishly fast mile with several horses rolling up to occupy the breeze and fireworks throughout." So, Aiky, if Audi Hare leads what’s next? Let’s start with can Wrappers Delight follow his stablemate out and retake the lead? “A horse like Phoenix Prince is very quick out, it will probably cover up the outside,” Aiken said. “Cant Refuse comes out quickly. I don’t know about retaking.” So it’s not completely off the table, but at least very unlikely. Which begs, if Audi Hare leads, does he hold the front? “If it was 2200 metres Audi Hare would be handing up, but he is good over 1700. If he leads he will definitely hold them.” So, in that case, Herbertson would attempt to hold the front for as long as possible, with Wrappers Delight – whose driver is yet to be finalised – to be leader’s back hoping his stablemate can take him to the sprint lane. “(Wrappers Delight) likes the distance, especially if he doesn’t have to do a lot of work,” Aiken said, adding he expected “a pretty quick mile, at least the (one minute) 52 mark”. One horse who may ensure that pace is Buster Brady, trained at Aiken’s stable by Kima Frenning. A prodigious talent, Buster Brady may have lost a few fans after another “weird” run in last Saturday’s Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup, when he again lost momentum about 800m from home before crashing the line late, having eased to $6.50 with for Saturday night’s Smoken Up Sprint after opening at $5.50. “It’s frustrating,” Aiken said of Buster Brady’s fade-outs. “He seems to be better leading, when he’s back in the field he seems to drop off at the wrong time of the race and then pick up again. “I’ve never seen a horse do what he does and then remake the ground. He doesn’t do it when he’s on top, it’s weird what he does.” Aiken has an enormous opinion of Buster Brady, particularly when he leads. “I think he’s the best horse in Victoria, he’s the best horse here (at my stable).” So what role will he play Saturday night? Aiken said he was a candidate for an early move to the breeze “unless there was super pace on”. All will be answered from 9pm on Saturday night.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Smoken Up’s hooves will again imprint Tabcorp Park Melton’s straight Saturday night, when Lance Justice will reunite ‘Trigger’ with the site he made his own. The 17-year-old superstar of the sport will lead a deep field out for the TAB Smoken Up Sprint, the Group 2 classic that kicks off at 9pm. “It’s pretty big,” Justice said. “Not many horses have races named after them.” Track goers will not only be able to enjoy Smoken Up’s on-track return but visit the winner of more than $3.6 million in stakes in stall 61 at Tabcorp Park. “He loves people, loves children,” Justice said of the 12-time Group 1 winner, who had 41 of his 153 starts at Melton. “Melton was one of his favourite tracks. He’s been there from the start,” Justice said. “After they completed the earthworks they had a press event and Smoken Up worked on the track with no top on it, just up and down lumps and hills. “He raced there in its first meetings. He owned the joint and held the track record there when he retired.” Smoken Up’s 1:51.1 track record – set on February 4, 2012 in the Sky Racing Free For All (pictured) – stood until February 6, 2016, when Cold Major lowered the mark to 1:50.8. It’s now in Cruz Bromac’s keeping, having won his mile on January 27, 2018 in 1:50.7. While Smoken Up won’t be giving any records a nudge when he waltzes out on Saturday night, his long-time trainer-driver will be thrilled race goers will again be able to tip their hats to one of the greats. “They always say about good horses, you judge them by the company they keep and Smoken Up had to race against half a dozen of the toughest horses," he said. “He had Im Themightyquinn, Blacks A Fake, Mister Feelgood, Mister D G, Monkey King, Terror To Love – a group of horses who were champions on there own.” Smoken Up will then return to his retirement paddock at Ballan, which he shares with fellow Group 1 champion Sokyola. “They didn’t used to like each other for a fair while, but now they are really good mates.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Trainer Adam Kelly is hoping the "good" version of Friends turns up at the races this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Toolern Vale-based horseman has described his recent stable acquisition as a quirky character who isn't always at the top of his game, but knows he will need to be somewhere near his best to measure up in the DNR Logistics Pace (rating 70-79). "He's a bit of a thinker and you can get a good Friends and you can get an average Friends on race day," Kelly said. "It can be anything from his manners, he can switch off. He has just got a few tricks." Managing owner Paul Brumby sent the horse to Kelly following a fourth placing for former trainer Luke Watson at Mildura in May. And the move has been a rewarding one for connections, with the son of Bettors Delight winning four times since. The seven-year-old was successful at his first two starts for Kelly at Kilmore and Cranbourne, won at Mildura on August 2 and then again at that same circuit just last week. "He's up in grade (on Saturday night), but we thought we would chuck him in and see where he measures up," Kelly said. "When he goes as good as he can, I'm sure he will measure up." Friends, a winner of 10 from 57, has drawn nicely in barrier one and will be driven by Greg Sugars. Stablemate Ten Spanners, which is raced by Brumby and a similar group of owners to Friends, is another bound for Melton on Saturday. The trotting mare has raced six times for Kelly since arriving from South Australian trainer Ryan Hryhorec, winning at Victorian headquarters last month. She has drawn gate six for the weekend's Melton City Much More Trot (rating 70-85) and will be partnered by Kima Frenning. "The owners sent her over from Adelaide hoping she'd be able to win a race in town, which she has done," Kelly said. "And I'm sure she has got a couple more in her with a bit of luck. "She hasn't had a lot of luck since she won. Hopefully on Saturday night if she has a bit of luck, she won't be too far away. "I don't have a lot of trotters, which isn't by design. But if you wanted a safe, lovely trotter, she is probably the one." The daughter of Tennotrump has won 12 of 52 career outings. Saturday's 11-race card kicks off at 5.22pm and winds up with the last event at 10.35pm. Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

CHRIS Svanosio hopes a stellar 2018-19 harness racing year can be the building block to even bigger and better things this season. The young trainer-driver ended the season second among Bendigo region trainers with 43 winners. Only former five-time Victorian leading trainer Glenn Douglas notched up more (112). Svanosio also steered home 68 winners as a driver. It was in the sulky where Svanosio put the lid on a season to cherish, guiding the Sydney-trained Tough Monarch to Group 3 victory in the TAB Coulter Crown at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. The seven-year-old lived up top his moniker with a tenacious win, to give Menangle trainer Rickie Alchin his 18th success with the gelding from 52 starts. It was Svanosio' second win aboard Tough Monarch at Melton following previous success in June 2018. The driver-horse combination also teamed up for a third in the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix in March, behind the David Aiken-trained Big Jack Hammer. "(Tough Monarch) has come down to stay with me a few of times now - he's a pretty nice horse to have for a couple of weeks," Svanosio said. "He's in the (Maori's Idol Trotters) Free For All against this Saturday night against Tornado Valley, Big Jack Hammer, Kyvalley Blur and all the big trotters, who have won multiple Group 1 races, and possibly going back to Sydney after that. "We are happy to have him here. "He's a big chance (in the free for all), he was terrific on Saturday night. It will be a tough test; there are some good trotters around. "Kyvalley Blur has won half a million (in prize money) and Tornado Valley has won something similar. There were a few more horses in the noms, but the field has got whittled down to the very best." Tough Monarch gave Svanosio his second Group race win for 2018-19, on the very last night of the season. He notched his other in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series Final for four-year-old entires and geldings with his own horse Kyvalley Finn in July. Those wins were just two of the highlights of a productive and ultimately hugely successful season. "It was a great year .... obviously the biggest win was the Vicbred Super Sires with Kyvalley Finn, but I also spent about five weeks in America during the season," he said. "We were very happy with the number of winners we got this season, hopefully we go even better this year. "I have some nice horses here coming back, like Kyvalley Finn and Anywhere Hugo, and some nice young ones. There's every chance there's some nice ones among those." There has been plenty of early success this season, with Svanosio scoring a driving double with Wild Imagination (Ruth Arthur) and Roslyn Gaye (Gary Merkel) at Echuca on Tuesday night.   By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

BREEDERS Crown heroine Emma Stewart doesn’t have time to reflect. After winning three of the eight Group 1 finals at Melton last Saturday night, Stewart has switched her focus to the first big Group 1 of the new season, the $200,000 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 12. And she’s not mucking around. “We’re setting six or seven horses for the race,” she said. “There’s the horses like Born To Rocknroll, Rocknroll Icon, Tam Major and Maraetai, who went through the Breeders Crown and then a few others we’ve got close to racing again. “Shadow Sax is only a week away from a trial and The Storm Inside is pretty much on the same timeline as him. We’ve got some really good open-class horses to work with. “Ride High is another, but he won’t be ready for the Victoria Cup. The good races early next year are his go.” Stewart wasn’t as upbeat about Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy, who narrowly cheated death only a few months ago, ‘He got through it and he’s healthy again, but we’ve got him to the fast work stage again and we’re just not as happy as we’d like to be with him. We’ve got a few things to work through there,” she said. Both of Stewart’s Breeders Crown 2YO final winners – Be Happy Mach and Maajida – have gone for breaks. “Be Happy Mach is up with the best two-year-old’s we’ve ever had and I’m sure he’ll come back really well,” she said. “And even though Maajida had some good draws in the big races, I’m sure she’s top shelf as well.” Stewart joined the chorus of trainers, drivers and owners pushing for a review of what time in the season the Breeders Crown is run. “Absolutely we need to move it. It’s one of the biggest meetings in this part of the world and we need in summer when more people will come to the track to watch the great horses,” she said.   Adam Hamilton

OH WHAT a night - a great result for A-P-G… With six Group races for pacers conducted in Melton during the weekend, Australian Pacing Gold purchases dominated proceedings in emphatic style. The home of harness racing in Victoria hosted another marvelous Breeders’ Crown night which saw four Group Ones and a pair of Group Twos contested. APG Sales graduates captured each of the Group One Finals, while Goodtime Heaven was triumphant at Group Two level. A Sydney buy, Goodtime Heaven rounded out her four-year-old season by leading throughout for trainer Courtney Slater. Part-owned by the Slater family, Goodtime Heaven boasts 12 wins and three placings from 18 starts for a bankroll of $224,017. Earlier on the card record-breaking horsewoman Emma Stewart made a clean sweep of the two-year-old division when Be Happy Mach and Maajida turned their Finals into one-act affairs. Confirming his status as the nation’s premier freshman, Be Happy Mach stretched his record to an impeccable 10 wins and a third from 11 starts by rating 1:56.2 over 2240 metres, with his time nine-tenths of a second quicker than Maajida. With Greg Sugars holding the reins, Maajida led throughout to extend her record to seven wins and a second from eight starts for earnings of $271,800. As for the three-year-olds, Max Delight and No Win No Feed confirmed their position at the head of their crop by adding another top shelf win to their ever-growing tallies. Having already secured the New South Wales and Tasmania Derbys, Max Delight has won nine of his 16 starts for the season, with three placings and $299,310 also to his credit. No Win No Feed annexed her third Group One of the term, following wins in the Bathurst Gold Bracelet and New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge Final.   APG Media

THE similarities are remarkable. Just as the All Stars barn continued dominates so many of the juvenile features in NZ, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin do the same in Australia. It was underlined again when Stewart and Tonkin snared the two richest Breeders Crown finals at Melton last night with Be Happy Mach winning the $300,000 Group 1 2YO colts and geldings pacing final and Maajida winning the fillies’ equivalent. Winning drivers Chris Alford (Be Happy Mach) and Greg Sugars (Maajida) both heaped praise on the genius of Stewart and Tonkin. “This guy’s had a long season and done plenty of travelling, but kept getting better through it all. He hit a new peak in his last run of a long season. That takes some doing as a trainer,” Alford said. Sugars added: “It’s just been a pleasure to be part of the season with this filly. The thing people don’t probably see is how well-mannered Emma and Clayton’s horses are. You very rarely see one of theirs without great manners.” Be Happy Mach matched young Kiwi trotter Ultimate Stride for “win of the night” honours. Alford launched him early from an outside back row draw, burned through a 27.7sec opening quarter to bludgeon his way to the front from heavily-backed Kiwi raider Zeuss Bromac and then win as he liked. “He’s a really special young horse and just such a professional. To sprint as quickly as he did at two different parts of the race, but relax in between … that’s real maturity for a young horse,” Alford said. Be Happy Mach’s win cemented him Aussie 2YO of the Year honours with 10 wins and third from just 11 starts and $344,215 in earnings. Kiwis Perfect Stride (third) and Zeuss Bromac (fourth) ran good races, but were simply outlassed by Be Happy Mach. Perfect Stride stays in Australia and goes to Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith in NSW, while Zeuss Bromac will also continue his career in NSW. Maajida led and made a one-act affair of her 2YO fillies final, finishing the season with eight starts for seven wins, a second and $271,800. Stewart and Tonkin also landed the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final with the much-improved Tam Major, who came around to sit parked early and won like a horse headed to the Grand Circuit. “He’s racing like a killing machine,” driver Chris Alford said. “He wanted to get going at the 600m, so I just cut him loose and away he went. “He’s gone from just behind the best ones the past couple of years to winning the Vicbred and Breeders Crown this season.” _____________________________________________________________________________ CHAMPION driver Luke McCarthy was still smarting hours after superstar Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany’s shock loss in her Breeders Crown final. And that’s despite the fact McCarthy is a part of the team who trains the filly who beat her, the massively improved No Win No Feed. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong there,” McCarthy said. “Tiffany should’ve won easily.” Our Princess Tiffany had to sit parked outside Miss Streisand, but McCarthy knew he had her beaten down the back straight and went for home. “I was just about around the leader and I’d have been off and gone and the race was over, but Miss Streisand veered up the track, took me out and the winner got the run through,” he said. “She kept coming, but that burn the back straight and being pushed out like that, it really cost her.” You could still argue the very best version of Our Princess Tiffany this season would’ve picked herself up again and still won. But maybe that’s disrespectful to No Win No Feed, a former battling Victorian filly who has now won three Group 1 races this season. “She’s been super consistent this filly and just kept stepping-up. Things obviously worked out well for us in the run, but she was still good enough to take advantage of it,” driver Todd McCarthy said. _____________________________________________________________________________ MAX Delight surely locked away Australian 3YO of the Year honours and added some Tasmanian flavour to Crown night with his win in the $200,000 3YO colts and geldings final. Driver Todd McCarthy made the most of the good draw (gate two) to lead, pinched a soft lead time and Max Delight scorched home in 54.6 and 27.8sec to beat a fast-finishing Out To Play. It followed wins in the NSW and Tasmanian Derbys earlier in the season. Max Delight is owned in Tasmanian by big spending owner Michael Maxfield. “I was able to get a bit of breather in front while they sorted themselves out early and then he was so brave in that slick last half,” McCarthy said. It was McCarthy’s second Group 1 win on the night after he teamed with No Win No Feed to cause a huge upset in the 3YO fillies’ pacing final. “It caps a great season, especially down here at Melton,” McCarthy said. Most notably, McCarthy won the Victoria and Hunter Cups as well as the Inter Dominion at Melton this season aboard Tiger Tara.   Adam Hamilton

One of the proudest nights of Phil Williamson’s career has come at a cost. But the Kiwi trainer isn’t about to let that take the gloss off his group one double in the space of 35 minutes at Melton in Victoria on Saturday night. Williamson produced Liberty Stride (three-year-old fillies) and Ultimate Stride (two-year-old boys) to record massive wins in their divisions of the Breeders Crown, the first winning by 19.4m which seemed like a dramatic demolition job until Ultimate Stride nearly doubled that, winning his final by 37.8m after sitting parked. That set up a Kiwi clean sweep of the only three trotting finals they contested at the rich Breeders Crown meeting with Kratos a promoted winner of the A$80,000 three-year-old trot final after first past the post All Cashed Up, who beat him by a nose, was relegated for galloping. His win was the fifth Breeders Crown success for South Auckland trainers John Dickie but while he and son Josh had to have their little trotter trained to perfection to win, Williamson was still the star of the show. Liberty Stride was unheralded just two months ago yet her development curve has been so steep she now rates as one of the most exciting young trotters in Australasia, but Williamson won’t get to take her to the next level next campaign. Owner Emilio Rosati has decided to leave Liberty Stride in Victoria to be trained by Brent Lilley whereas Williamson will be bringing Ultimate Stride home. “Emilio bought her (Liberty Stride) off us so he gets to make those choices and it is hard to argue with because there isn’t a lot here for a four-year-old trotting mare,” says Williamson. “So if she qualifies for the Australian invite for the Jewels we might get her back but I’m sure what Emilio does with her long-term will depend on how she is racing.” Williamson was stoked by his first group one double, especially after spending nearly six weeks in Australia training just the two horses. “I think we had eight starts here for six wins, a second and gallop so they have really done us proud. “I was pretty excited last night. Group one don’t usually come easy but they both absolutely bolted in so I had time to enjoy them.”Ultimate Stride’s win was a bonus for Williamson who originally thought his juvenile season was over until Sydney-based Rosati talked him into tackling the Crown. “It was a real after thought but he thrived on the trip and while it is only two-year-old racing I think everybody can see he is a real open class trotter in the making.”
While all three New Zealand-trained trotters won their finals the pacers had to settle for placings, with Best Western second in the three-year-old fillies final in which fellow Kiwi filly Princess Tiffany was surprisingly beaten into third after nothing went her way. And the juvenile pacing boys pair of Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac were outpointed by the local star Be Happy Mach in their A$300,000 final.   Michael Guerin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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