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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryley Major cashed in on his undoubted talent and crashed through his metropolitan maiden status at Tabcorp Park Melton on Monday night, rewarding his patient Tasmanian connections. A winner of 12 of his 17 starts and now $100,307 in stakes, the six-year-old Art Major gelding had his second start at Melton and on the mainland Saturday when he was comfortable throughout, finding the front from gate five and careering away to a 5.6m win in a 27-second final quarter. Victory in the $20,000 DNR Logistics Vicbred Pace was great reward for trainer-driver Rohan Hillier, who's nursed Ryley Major back from a tendon injury. "As a three-year-old he was unbeaten, I think, in 10 starts," Hillier told Trots Vision. "Then he went amiss, it's been a long road back. He's been off the scene for three years. Fingers crossed he can stay sound." Having not raced since the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series bronze pace at Melton on July 7 2016, Ryley Major won a pair of trials in February and March this year before making his long-awaited return at Launceston on March 17, when he won by 4.6m. That prompted Hillier to jump Bass Strait and make hay while the sun shined. "He's got a tendon, it's not perfect, but at the moment he's going quite well," he said. "He was really good last week first-up from the long break, so we thought while he's sound and racing well we'll come and try and steal some Victorian money." Trots Media 

Exciting Duke Of Wellington won tonight’s 30th renewal of the City of Melton Plate at Tabcorp Park and secured Great Western trainer-driver Kerryn Manning her second Plate success. Fifteen years had passed since Manning’s first Plate win, aboard Run Albert Run in 2004, and she declared tonight’s triumph “a big thrill” before adding she felt her four-year-old son of American Ideal was destined for big things. See bottom of article for Manning's list of $50k+ feature race wins “It’s a very nice honour roll (for the Melton Plate) and to join it is a big thrill. I think this horse can be the same as them (top-line past winners), he’s certainly got the talent but he’s still got a bit of learning to do,” she said. Perusing the honour roll of Plate champions reveals names such as Hectorjayjay, Make Mine Cullen, Melpark Major, Shakamaker, Sokyola and Tailamade Lombo just to name a few. Punters put their faith in the Duke and Manning, sending the pair out as a commanding $1.4 favourite. They rolled forward out of the gate, but War Dan ($10.70) and James Rattray found the pegs first and wouldn’t relent to the favourite. “I always thought War Dan may try to hold the front,” Manning said. “I was prepared for that.” The ensuing fight was enthralling, with first and second splits of 29.9 and 29.5 followed by a 28 third sectional and a 28.9 run home. War Dan wouldn’t lie down, but Duke Of Wellington was too classy – despite covering more ground – and held a 1.5m buffer at the wire to record a 1:54.6 mile rate. “He got a bit wobbly at the start … he over-raced quite a bit during the first lap, too. Eventually he settled at the 1200m and I was just hoping too much damage wasn’t done by then,” Manning said. Rishi ran third, with Jilliby Chevy and Somebeachshadow rounding out the top five Plate finishers. Duke Of Wellington is raced by Merv and Meg Butterworth. He has had five runs for three wins with Manning since moving to Australia after a successful New Zealand three-year-old campaign. “He’s had a little time between runs this time in, so he’s still on the way up I think,” Manning said. “His fitness is pretty good. That’ll top him off nicely.” Meanwhile, trainer Stephen Telfer combined with local reinsman John Caldow to win the Allied Express Jodi’s Babe with five-year-old Art Major mare Our Step Up, who led throughout from gate two in 1:54.0 over 1720m. Our Step Up finished 1.5m clear of Reciprocity, who was charging home for Manning in second place, with Share The Road third and Juice Brogdon fourth.  Race favourite Berisari failed to beat a runner home. Highly rated Andy Gath-trained trotter McLovin won the 2Contstruct Scotch Notch Memorial over 2240m in 2:01.0 with Kate Gath in the gig. The last-start Charlton Cup winner made it back-to-back successes by finishing 4.7m clear of stablemate Kingdom Come, with polemarker Jerichos Trumpet third and consistent Savannah Jay Jay fourth. Michael Stanley trained and drove Watch List to win the Group 3 VHRSC Victoria Sires Classic in 1:55.7 over 2240m, the $5.9 second-favourite out-sprinting the $2.1 punters’ elect Crime Writer by 2.1m. Stanley sent Watch List to the front from barrier three early before handing up and using the sprint lane late. Titan Bromac finished third, 3m from the winner, with Perfect Major fourth. Driver Kima Frenning combined with trainer David Aiken to win the night’s sprint feature, the 1200m Quest for Success Stampede, with four-year-old Mach Three gelding Higherthananeagle. Predicted fireworks didn’t eventuate as Frenning found the lead easily from gate two before thoroughly dictating terms in a gross time of 1:22.2 to jog home by 8.7m over Benicio and Vinny Chase, who both followed the peg line, with Vee Rock fourth. If the sparks had flown horses in this race might have broken 80seconds. Check out the full results from tonight’s Tabcorp Park Melton meeting   Kerryn Manning’s $50,000+ Feature Race Wins  1997 Australasian Trotting Championship Final $125k – Knight Pistol  1999 El Dorado Final (3YO C&G) $150k – Sky Strike  2000 Vicbred Super Series (4YO Mares) Final $100k – Jilliby Magic 2000 Chariots of Fire $200k – Lombo Rapida 2000 Vicbred Super Series (3YO Fillies) Final $100k – Jilliby Melody 2001 Vicbred Super Series (4YO Trotters) Final $50k – La Coocaracha  2001 Bill Collins Trotters Mile $50k – La Coocaracha  2001 Australian Trotting Grand Prix $100k – La Coocaracha 2002 SA Trotters Cup $50k – La Coocaracha 2002 Australasian Trotters Championship $100k – La Coocaracha  2002 Rowe Memorial Cup, NZ $100k – La Coocaracha 2002 Legends Mile $50k – Hearts Legend 2003 Australian Pacing Gold Final (2YO C&G) $288k – Kathryn Dancer 2003 Vicbred Super Series (2YO C&G) Final $100k – Blatant Lie  2003 Australian Pacing Gold 3YO C&G $100k – Blatant Lie 2003 Australian Pacing Gold 3YO Fillies $100k – Yada Yada Yada 2004 Australian Pacing Gold 2YO C&G Final $300k – Emmas Only 2004 Vicbred Super Series 3YO Trotters Final $50k – Broke As Usual  2004 Vicbred Super Series (2YO Fillies) Final $100k – Kinda Arty Lombo 2004 Breeders Crown (2YO C&G) Final $190k – Emmas Only 2004 Kilmore Cup $100k – True Cam 2004 Bill Collins Trotters Mile $50k – Sammy Do Good  2005 Victoria Derby $150k – Emmas Only 2005 Vicbred Super Series (4YO E&G) Final $100k – Blatant Lie 2005 Vicbred Super Series 3YO Trotters Final $50k – Tennotrump  2005 Vicbred Super Series 2YO Trotters Final $50k – Split Image 2007 Vicbred Super Series 3YO Trotters Final $50k – Donttellmehetrots 2007 George Johnson $50k – No More Trouble  2008 Tatlow Stakes 2YO Fillies Final $50k – Ananz 2008 Victoria Trotters Oaks $50k – Mystic Hush 2008 NSW Sires Stakes 2YO Fillies Final $100k – Ananz 2010 Australian Pacing Gold 2YO Fillies Final $300k – Leilani Lombo 2010 Vicbred Super Series (3YO Trotters) Final $50k – Mister Castleton 2015 A.G. Hunter Cup $400k – Arden Rooney  2015 Mildura Pacing Cup $50k – Arden Rooney 2015 New Zealand Trotting Cup $765k – Arden Rooney  2017 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Final $50k – Imprincessgemma 2017 Breeders Crown Graduate Free for All $60k – Ameretto 2017 Norm’s Daughter $50k – Ameretto 2018 Ladyship Cup $100k – Our Golden Goddess 2018 Queen of the Pacific $100k – Ameretto 2019 City of Melton Plate $50k – Duke Of Wellington     Cody Winnell for Trots Media

Kerryn Manning (pictured) can't help but have a little giggle when she talks about her stable star Duke Of Wellington. In her words, the son of American Ideal is a "big dopey thing". Despite his quirks, the lightly raced four-year-old has undeniable class and looks destined to become a regular performer at the top level. "I'm not sure how much talent he's got, but he shows quite a bit at this stage so hopefully he can keep building on that," the Great Western trainer said. "He's very large, very heavy and very dopey. "He feels like you aren't going very fast, but you are. That's a good thing..." Bought by prominent owners Merv and Meg Butterworth after nine career starts, Duke Of Wellington then claimed the Group 2 Southern Supremacy Final at Ascot Park before heading to our shores. His four Australian runs have returned two placings – including an eye-catching third in the Group 1 TAB Multiplier 4YO Bonanza (1720m) – and wins at his last two starts. And the most recent demolition job in the DNR Logistics Pace Final (2240m) at Tabcorp Park Melton has him a warm favourite to make it three on the trot at the same venue this Saturday night. Manning will be in the sulky for Duke Of Wellington's crack at the Group 2 City of Melton Plate XXX (2240m). "Obviously it's a fairly solid and strong field, so he's going to have to be at his best to beat them, but he certainly has a bit of a draw advantage (barrier four) on some of the better ones in it," Manning said. Looking forward, Manning and the Butterworths have plans to take the horse to some feature races in Tasmania or back home in New Zealand. It won't be an ultra busy night for Manning at headquarters tomorrow, but it could still prove a memorable one. She will drive her father's horse Reciprocity in the Group 3 Allied Express Jodie's Babe (1720m). Manning will also be at the controls of Maree Campbell's Lucinda Mac, which looks a nice chance from the good draw in the Economix Vicbred Trot (1720m). And her night should finish on a high in the last race of the program, the Atherstone Pace Final (2240m). Manning's husband Grant Campbell will drive Yankee Lincoln, which is a red-hot favourite to win the C1 only event. Manning also prepares this son of American Ideal for the Butterworth family. Tim O'Connor

A mighty battle between two very fine fillies may be a lovely taster of things to come this season as Emerald Stride added a second Group 1 win with a last-stride victory. Fremarkspoetry would have lost few admirers in the IRT Need For Speed Princess Final when she overcome missing the start by 15m-plus before circling the field and boxing on bravely for trainer Courtney Slater and reinsman Glen Craven, ultimately beaten only a half-head. Emerald Stride’s trainer-driver David Miles was willing to cede the lead to Fremarkspoetry when she arrived and then made his play in the final stages, drawing on his pacing-bred trotter’s great finish to capture the bulk of the $50,000 purse. “The second filly was enormous. I actually did get a little glimpse of how far back she was and I thought we might have been holding the front there for a while,” Miles told TrotsVision post-race. “This filly’s quite quick.” With a Redwood win and Breeders Crown placing in the bank, Emerald Stride’s carving out quite a career for herself after a few plan changes in her early days. “She came to me as a pacer, obviously, a Bettors Delight (and) the mare’s a half-sister to Well Said, which (owner) Emilio Rosati paid extravagant amount of money for the mother,” Miles said. “The day I rang him and said he had a trotter he wasn’t real happy, but I’m pretty sure he’s happy now.” And it’s hoped those good times will continue with Emerald Stride likely to see a lot of racing for the remainder of her three-year-old season. “We’ll make hay while the sun shines. Next year they all get bigger and stronger and we are not sure if we are going too and they might get better, so while she’s in the top echelon we may as well go in all those races if we can,” Miles said. “At this stage she will go to Bathurst for the Coronet, then I think she’s got the New South Wales sires, because she’s not Vicbred, and then, of course, the Oaks. So she’s got a little bit of a torrid season, but we’ll just play all of those as they come.”   Michael Howard for Trots Media

Can Tornado Valley go back to back in the Grand Prix? The Gr.1 $100,000 Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix takes place this weekend at TABCORP Park, Melton and the reigning Inter Dominion champion is the horse to beat despite a second-line draw in the 2240m mobile start feature. It’s the 4th leg of the six race 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series. And the race to be crowned the Trotting Masters champion is very much alive; Marcoola (101 points) leads from Tornado Valley, Dance Craze and Sky Petite (all with 100 points). Both Tornado Valley and Dance Craze start this weekend in the Grand Prix. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley is unbeaten in nine starts this season while boasting an overall record of 19 wins from 23 starts since crossing the ditch last year and joining their Long Forest stables. His haul of feature race victories is as impressive as his current win streak which includes a clean sweep of the Inter Dominion series back in December. Interestingly, his first victory on Australian soil came via this event last year, the Skyvalley gelding proved too slick for Sparkling Success and Sky Petite in solid time which announced his arrival as a major force in the trotting ranks. Following his triumph in the Grand Prix last season, Tornado Valley would win another six races in succession before tasting defeat again. At his most recent start two weeks ago, Tornado Valley scored a tradesman like victory in the Knight Pistol which followed a setback and ultimately ruled him out of the recent Great Southern Star. The last trotter to go back to back in the Grand Prix was the great New Zealander Stent (2014/15) while champion trotter Sundons Gift holds the record with four consecutive victories in the event (2007/08/09 & 10). Tornado Valley starts from gate 11. The Gath stable is also represented by another former Kiwi performer in McLovin, unbeaten in three local starts against easier opposition. While rising in grade he must also overcome a nasty front-line draw, he starts from the outside in gate 7 with young Zac Phillips booked to take the drive. Great Southern Star winner Dance Craze will carry plenty of support, the last start Bendigo winner is prepared by Anton Golino and will again be handled by Glen Craven. Dance Craze, a daughter of inaugural winner La Coocaracha (2001) is looking to become the fourth mare to win the Grand Prix following on from Allegro Agitato (2005) and Sumthingaboutmaori (2003). The regally bred mare is the only representative of the fairer sex this year and will start from gate 5. Last start Gr.1 $50,000 Menangle Mile winner Big Jack Hammer is chasing his third straight feature race success following his victories in the Dullard Cup and Menangle Mile last weekend. Prepared by David Aiken, the in-form trotter will be handled by Josh Aiken. Big Jack Hammer starts from gate 10. Sydney trained trotters Blazing Under Fire (Blake Fitzpatrick/Jack Trainor) and Tough Monarch (Rickie Alchin/Chris Svanosio) are chasing feature race success and both land handy front-line draws. Blazing Under Fire will start from gate 4 while Tough Monarch starts from gate 6. Both trotters come out of last week’s Menangle Mile where they chased home Big Jack Hammer. The last Sydney trained winner of the Grand Prix was On Thunder Road two years ago (2017). Leading trainer Brent Lilley is no stranger to success in the Grand Prix after scoring with Keystone Del in race record time (1:56.0) back in 2016. This year, the former Kiwi horseman is represented by both Monty Python (Greg Sugars) and Rock Tonight (Brad Chisholm). Sugars scored back in 2013 with Vulcan while Chisholm is taking his maiden drive in the feature. Monty Python will start from gate 3 while Rock Tonight starts from gate 12. In-form locally trained trotters Savannah Jay Jay (Stan Cameron/Neil McCallum), Kheiron (Peter Lane/Chris Alford), Fabrication (David Abrahams/Jason Lee) and Deltasun (Terry Young/Gavin Lang) all boast winning claims. And the quartet all land good draws; Savannah Jay Jay (gate 1), Kheiron (gate 2), Fabrication (gate 8) and Deltasun (gate 9). Gavin Lang is chasing his second victory in the Grand Prix after partnering Sumthingaboutmaori (2003) while McCallum, Alford and Lee are all chasing their maiden success. The Grand Prix is listed as race 7 and scheduled to start at 9.30pm local time. The two remaining legs of the APG Trotting Masters will be staged at Alexandra Park in Auckland during April/May.   Chris Barsby

APG Australian Premier Trotting Sale graduate Alpha Male is poised to provide trainer Emma Stewart with her second Group One for squaregaiters. Chasing just her fourth win with a trotter, Stewart is odds-on to capture the Need For Speed Prince Final. Successful with Manwarra Dollamaka more than a decade ago, Stewart’s second win came with Alpha Male in the Group One Home Grown Classic last December. “I won a race at Geelong with Manwarra Dollamaka in 2005, which was the only winner I’d had with a trotter before Alpha Male,” Stewart said. “That said, trotters haven’t been a big part of the stable.” Sent for a spell following this top shelf victory, Alpha Male returned to secure a Need For Speed Prince heat in Maryborough last week. Despite drawing the back row in Saturday night’s $60,000 Final at Tabcorp Park Melton, the three-year-old son of Majestic Son is rated as a $1.40 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds. “He did very well in his heat and will benefit from the run,” Stewart said. “His work has improved and he’s in pretty good shape “The draw makes it tough, but he is going well enough to overcome it.” Although Montpellier is regarded as the biggest threat as the $5.50 second elect from barrier four, Stewart considers Archleo has a major danger. Runner-up to Alpha Male in the qualifier, Archleo is listed at $13 from gate three. “I liked Archleo’s run in the heat and think he will be right in the finish on that effort,” Stewart said. Alpha Male was purchased from 2017 the APG Premier Trotting Sale, with this year’s edition being conducted on Sunday. “We purchased Alpha Male at the Trotting Sale as he looked like a nice type and has certainly turned out that way so far,” Stewart said. “Everything he has done suggests he can develop into a pretty handy trotter.” APG Media

Charlton Harness Racing Club and Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) are joining forces to deliver the first ever Punters Party at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, March 16. Charlton will host its Cup night at Tabcorp Park Melton while development continues on the club’s new multi-million dollar multipurpose facility, and in addition to great racing the club and HRV are promising a night to remember for punters in the Legends Room (previously known as the Toolern Room). The Punters’ Club Challenge will be centre stage as the Carroll Brothers, Brett and Darren, represent Charlton, while the HRV GoodForm duo of Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden represent “the rest”. “We wanted to take the opportunity to create a fun and engaging way for people to learn about the best way to have a flutter on the trots and also see how our form experts use their expertise to tackle the punt,” club Marketing Manager Andrea O’Gorman said. “The punters can come and try their luck by buying a ticket in the popular punters’ club, either one or both, and we’ll have rolling progress reports on the Punters Club Challenge throughout screens at the venue and in the room, with MCs Cody Winnell and Toby McKinnon interviewing the punters’ club members and keeping the room updated with how their investments are tracking.” Leading bookie "Tara Tom Hogan" will be one of two bookmakers attending on the night and he'll be fielding in the room at the function for punters to 'Take on Tom'. For just $95 patrons will receive entry to the Legends Room Punters Party, a food and a drinks package from the first race to the last, a stack of entertainment and the chance to win a stack of great giveaways. There will be giveaways galore in the form of “second chance TAB ticket draws”, where losing TAB tickets can be entered into a barrel with draws taking place between races. Already other prizes include several $100 TAB bets and an In-Harness Experience for two ($770 value) courtesy of HRV, a four-person Redwood Rattler package ($380 value) including entry to the annual Seelite Windows and Doors Redwood Classic Day courtesy of Maryborough Harness Racing Club, a table for six in the Terrace Dining Room ($210 value) at Ballarat trots courtesy of Ballarat and District Trotting Club, a $500 Members Draw betting voucher on the night courtesy of Charlton Harness Racing Club to celebrate its 500th member signed, and a Helloworld Bendigo Accommodation Package valued at $1100 courtesy of Charlton and its sponsor. There will be more exciting giveaway announcements as we get closer to the night. “We’re looking forward to putting on a great show, having a lot of fun, getting the room engaged in the punting side of our sport and hopefully making some cabbage,” GoodForm analyst Jason Bonnington said. “The Carroll brothers do a fantastic job volunteering their services right across Victoria to run punters’ clubs and they’re very knowledgeable. “There will be some great banter between us and them and patrons will enjoy hearing different angles to approaching form study.” But the punting side of things is just part of the fun, with an in-room DJ busting out tunes between races, a fully stocked bar and loads of opportunity for patrons to socialise as the night steps away from a traditional “sit-down meal” function and replaces it with a more casual, cocktail style affair. Punters Club tickets are $20 each on the night and you can choose to side with Team Charlton or The Rest. Or you can of course put your faith in both! Places are limited, so get in quick to avoid missing out by contacting Andrea O’Gorman on 0499 701 322. Seats are available on a shuttle bus from Crown Casino on the night at just $20 for a return ticket to and from Melton, making it easy for punters to attend. Ask Andrea for details.    Giveaways at the Punters Party (SO FAR) include: 10 X $100 TAB betting vouchers (courtesy of HRV) Value $1000 In-Harness Experience for two at Tabcorp Park Melton (courtesy of HRV)  Value $770 Four-person Redwood Rattler Package (courtesy of Maryborough HRC)  Value $380 Dinner for 6 in Terrace Dining Room at Ballarat Trots (courtesy of Ballarat Trots) Value $210 Helloworld Bendigo package (courtesy of Helloworld Bendigo & Charlton HRC) Value $1100 Members-only $500 betting voucher (courtesy of Charlton HRC)  Value $500 Legends Room booking options for Punters Party $95 per person Drinks package from first race to the last race, finger food and grazing table throughout night $50 per person  (non Charlton HRC members) One drink on arrival, finger food and grazing table throughout night $45 per person (Charlton HRC members only) One drink on arrival, finger food and grazing table throughout night Book by phoning Andrea O'Gorman: 0499 701 322.

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