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Aa she has on numerous occasions, harness racing premier horsewoman Emma Stewart made a clean sweep of a race series’ heats at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. Appearing to have access to an endless supply of talented pacers, Stewart has dominated qualifiers in recent years, with her stock going on to capture the various Finals, including running quinellas and trifectas! This time around Stewart secured the three Australian Pacing Gold heats, with each of her winners heading into the Group One decider with a perfect record. The $350,000 Final is scheduled to be conducted at Melton on May 5. Winner of his four starts, Centenario led throughout from barrier two to score by 10 metres from Fides, with Soho Thunderstruck a metre-and-a-half away third. “I said before the race he was the stable’s best chance in the heats and it remains the case going into the Final,” Stewart said. “Everything he has done so far has been spot on and he’s getting better with each start. “He’s a very nice type which has a lot going for him.” Driven by Chris Alford, the son of Americal Ideal rated 1:55.4 over 1720 metres, with his time 2.3 seconds quicker than his stablemate, Hurricane Harley. Also driven by Alford, Hurricane Harley began quickly to lead from gate three before accounting for Major Exclusive and Fourbigmen, which is a stablemate of the winner. Successful at his two starts, the colt is expected to be a major improver during his next outing. “He’s got so much raw ability,” Stewart said. “It’s all coming natural to him.” Hardhitter rounded out the APG onslaught when he also set the pace on his way to a two-and-a-half metre win from Arggghhh, with Young Rooster three metres away third. Winner of his two starts, including a 1:54.7 effort upon debut, the son of Mach Three rated 1:58.2. “Like the other two, there is a lot to like about Hardhitter,” Stewart said. “He’s also going to bet better again by the Final.”   APG Media

There are a number of moments a trainer will never forget as their career unfolds and we saw one of those at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Kate Hargreaves and Alex Ashwood produced the lightly raced American Ideal filly Ideally Say Yes to take out a heat of the rich Australian Pacing Gold series in what was a tough win from the breeze. It wasn't Hargreaves first win at Victorian HQ but it will  be just as memorable as claiming the first race on Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night last year. The filly arrived in her heat at just her fourth start but now she heads to Sydney to take on the best fillies available in the $350,000 Group 1 final on April 28. "We went up to the yearling sales to buy a horse and we went through the process and picked out a few we liked and we had planned on syndicating the one we bought but it didn't work out and all of the horses we had our eye on went for too much money," Hargreaves said. "I was ready to head home, a bit disappointed we hadn't been able to purchase anything and I heard in the sale ring a filly went for $8000 and I looked around to see where Alex (Ashwood, partner) was so we could leave and he had bid on this filly. "He thought he had brought a colt at the time but it ended up being this girl and we got her home and she didn't have the best legs and I just said to him 'what have you done'. "We were really lucky that a few people like Shannon and Paul Nixon were willing to buy in to help us out and a few of my friends from work purchased their first share in a horse, so it's pretty exciting for everyone." TORNADO BREEZES IF there is one constant at trotting's elite level it's that change is inevitable. It often comes in different ways with one era ushered out as another arrives. That shift has been occurring in recent years with Keystone Del handing over the baton to Monbet but with that run at the top fleeting due to injury, the search has continued for the next superstar of the gait. Right here, right now there may not yet be a standout but with Sparkling Success annexing the Great Southern Star, Maori Time set for an Elitlopp campaign and Tornado Valley emerging from nowhere, the next generation has arrived. The reputation of Tornado Valley went up another notch on the weekend as he was forced to sit parked for the second straight start.  But this time he had one of the top three or four trotters in Victoria on his back in Red Hot Tooth and he simply crushed his rivals. There's an argument to be made that she wasn't at her brilliant best but after conquering Sparkling Success in the Australian Trotting Grand Prix to bust his metropolitan maiden just four starts ago, there's little doubt Tornado Valley will be a major player come Inter Dominion time. ORANGE'S ZEST AN aggressive Blair Orange drive behind Sheriff proved the difference in an exciting New Zealand Derby on Friday night. Despite the race lacking the star factor that the injured Chase Auckland would have undoubtedly brought it was a race to remember for many reasons. The Nigel McGrath-trained son of Bettor's Delight has now won six from 10 but it was his third in the Great Northern Derby behind Chase Auckland and Sicario that saw many sit up and take notice early last month. During the mid-race shuffle, Orange wasn't content to handover the breeze once he found it and that allowed him to move on to the lead down the back straight on the final occasion. With challengers coming at him left, right and centre, Sheriff was able to grip on from Pat's Delight and Sicario who rushed home late. Heroes KATE HARGREAVES A young trainer who has produced a number of talented types but to have Ideally Say Yes winning an APG heat over the weekend on the way to Sydney was a special effort. GARY HALL SNR Plenty were doubting Western Australia's master trainer heading into the WA Derby but high-profile, and high-priced, purchase King Of Swing was simply too tough. EMMA STEWART Had Berisari and Kualoa winning at Melton but Fiscal Fantasy may have provided the biggest smiles for the team. DANIEL LAIRD Only has a small team but has done a terrific job with Shady Dancer and celebrated with a memorable salute at Terang. Horses to Follow MISS SUGARANDSPICE This was a horror story for those on at massive odds when she got it all wrong but still rattled late. She heads to a race on Tuesday at Mildura. MAGICAL MARN Never saw clear air at Melton on the weekend and is ready to win. MY CASH It's hard to know exactly where this girl's ceiling is but she was a most dominant winner at Ballarat through the week. Coming Up MILDURA – TUESDAY       $10,000 Mildura Cup Heats MILDURA – THURSDAY       $12,000 Mildura Trotters Cup MELTON – FRIDAY       $20,000 Coulter Crown       $11,000 APG Heats 2YO Colts and Geldings MILDURA – FRIDAY       $50,000 Mildura Pacing Cup (Group 2)         $25,000 Mark Gurry And Associates Cup  

It is easy to understand why premier harness racing trainer Emma Stewart has a high opinion of Centenario. Not only is the two-year-old unbeaten from three starts, he has won in impressive fashion, including at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. After racing in the ‘death seat’, Centenario staved off a late challenge to capture the Shakamaker Classic, much to Stewart’s delight. “He’s a very nice colt,” Stewart said. “We’ve been more than happy with everything he has done so far.” With Chris Alford in the cart, Centenario was caught outside his stablemate, Fourbigmen, which led from barrier three. Forging his way to the front at the top of the home straight, the son of American Ideal dug deep to score by a head from Major Exclusive, with Fourbigmen 11 metres away third. Owned by a large syndicate, Centenario rated 1:56.3 over 1720 metres. “He sat in the breeze at his last start too when he won well and he showed he can’t keep finding tonight,” Stewart said. “He’s also won leading and can come off the speed…there is plenty of upside to him.” An Australian Pacing Gold purchase – as are the placegetters – Centenario will be aimed at the rich APG race series. The series starts with heats at Pinjarra on Monday, followed by Albion Park and Menangle on April 10 and Melton on April 13. Should all go according to plan, Centenario will then contest the $350,000 Final at Melton on May 5. APG Media

TM TV ventured to Tabcorp Park Melton for the Women's Cancer Foundation's Night at the Trots and Pryde's EasiFeed Australasian Premier Trotting Sale. The 15-minute special is a trots celebration to be savoured, tipping its hat to Team Teal and the fabulous trotting breed. Click here to enjoy the video. Video: All Clear It was a monster night at Melton when the all-trotting card included four Group 1 wins. Hear from the winning drivers in All Clear. Click here for this week's video  Audio: HQ HRV GM of Integrity Brent Fisher, VTDA president Lance Justice, clubs CEO Toby McKinnon and Emma Prosser joined HQ. Listen to latest weekly podcast  Cups double-header We heard from Mick Stanley, trainer of Soho Tribeca, ahead of the Kilmore and Boort cups. Click here for the podcast and story   The Guerin Effect Michael Guerin gives Oz punters a head start with best bets for New Zealand's trots racing. Read Michael Guerin's preview   Delightful overs Blake Redden's hunted value on Kilmore Cup night and thinks he's found one at juicy odds. Click here to get the good oil   Into the blackbook Three more horses are in Cody Winnell's blackbook after another week scouring Victorian trials. Click here to get the inside running

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has agreed to trial a sprint lane extension at Tabcorp Park Melton following a submission from the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association (VTDA). The sprint lane will be extended by 40 metres for an initial one-month trial. The basis of the trial is to assess the pattern of racing and evaluate whether the extension provides horses with greater opportunities to win. The new sprint lane will see the red peg positioned at the 190m mark and the sprint lane completely open at 168m. The initial trial will run from Wednesday March 14 up to and including Friday April 13. HRV is encouraging feedback from all industry stakeholders, including participants and punters during the trial. To have your say, email info@hrv.org.au and include ‘Sprint Lane Trial’ in your email subject.  Harness Racing Victoria

Former New Zealand trotter Tornado Valley signaled his class with a stunning all-the-way harness racing victory in the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Grand Prix at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight (Saturday). Aided by a brilliant front-running drive from Kate Gath, the richly talented Skyvalley gelding defied race favourite Sparkling Success and Sky Petite in the 2240 mobile start feature. Having his third local start, Tornado Valley went one better than his effort last week when a runner-up behind Red Hot Tooth in the Knight Pistol at Cranbourne. Showing good gate speed to lead from his handy draw, Tornado Valley controlled the tempo of the event while Sparkling Success was forced to work hard without cover. The lead time was covered in 45.2 seconds. Tornado Valley traveled strongly throughout; the first half of the final mile was covered in splits of 30.9 and 30.7 seconds. The first move in the race came via Vincennes who eased three-deep passing the 1000m mark. Entering the back straight, Gath allowed Tornado Valley to stride boldly while Sparkling Success chased gamely on his outside. The third quarter was covered in 28.7 seconds. At the top of the straight, Tornado Valley and Sparkling Success were set for an epic stretch battle but Tornado Valley failed to yield while Sparkling Success tried valiantly. Tornado Valley held Sparkling Success by 1.9m while Sky Petite was further 11.3m away in third after sitting one out/one back throughout. The final split was covered in a very slick 27.7 seconds. The winning mile rate was 1:57.2 – well outside of the track and race record of 1:56 held by Keystone Del when successful in 2016. Tornado Valley is raced by Queensland based owner Norm Jenkin (of Flashing Red fame). It is the second time Andy Gath has prepared the winner of the Grand Prix after scoring with inaugural winner, former star trotting mare La Coocaracha back in 2001. An obvious long term target will be the recently re-introduced Inter Dominion series which will be staged in Victoria later this year. Tornado Valley joins Amaretto Sun (Dominion) and Sparkling Success (Great Southern Star) as winners of an Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters event this season, the final two legs will be staged in Auckland next month. And the race to be crowned the 2017/18 APG Trotting Master is very much alive. The $100,000 H R Fisken & Sons ANZAC Cup is scheduled for April 20 while the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup will take place the following week, both events held at Alexandra Park. 7 9:30pm SEELITE WINDOWS & DOORS AUSTRALIAN TROTTING GRAND PRIX (GROUP 1) 2240M $100,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 TORNADO VALLEY NZ      Fr4 4 Andy Gath Kate Gath   $ 12.20   GS L 1 SWAB   BAY GELDING 6 by SKYVALLEY NZ out of BEGIN (NZ) ()  Owner(s): Jenkscraft Pty Ltd  Breeder(s): P L Gaugler, T M McMillan 2 SPARKLING SUCCESS      Fr6 7 John Meade Chris Svanosio 1.9m $ 1.50 fav  PRU 3WE OLM 2 3 SKY PETITE      Fr5 6 Dean Pattison Michael Stanley 13.2m $ 23.80   PRS GS 4 4 SAVANNAH JAY JAY      Fr3 3 Stan Cameron Neil McCallum 14.3m $ 60.20   PRS GS 3 5 REGAL PEPPERELL      Fr1 1 Michael Barby Anne-Maree Conroy 15.0m $ 36.10   PRS BB ODM 5 PH RR HUE USL 6 VINCENNES      Sr2 9 Anton Golino Jason Lee 16.6m $ 18.80   8 3WL 7 MAORI TIME      Sr1 8 Brent Lilley Gavin Lang 19.9m $ 12.60   PRS 12 3WLT 8 MY TRIBECA ITA      Fr2 2 Anton Golino Nathan Jack 21.7m $ 9.30   6 9 KYVALLEY BLUR USA      Sr3 10 Brent Lilley Chris Alford 22.6m $ 10.30   10 3WLT Scratchings   THE BOSS MAN 5 Track Rating: Gross Time: 2:43:2 Mile Rate: 1:57:2 Lead Time: 45.2 First Quarter: 30.9 Second Quarter: 30.7 Third Quarter: 28.7 Fourth Quarter: 27.7 Margins: 1.9m x 11.3m   Chris Barsby

There is so much at stake for harness racing star Victorian trotter Sparkling Success this weekend. The John Meade prepared six-year-old lines up in the third leg of the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters, the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Obviously the rich prizemoney is a key focus but an outright lead in the Trotting Masters is another attraction, Sparkling Success shares the lead with New Zealand trotter Amaretto Sun following his longshot triumph in the opening leg of the series, the Dominion at Addington back in November. The Grand Prix was first staged back in 2001 and won by La Coocaracha, it features a great honour roll including former champion Sundons Gift who won the event four years in succession (2007-10). Other great names include Take A Moment, Sumthingaboutmaori, Vulcan, Stent and last year’s winner On Thunder Road. The five leg Trotting Masters takes in the Dominion, Great Southern Star, Grand Prix, ANZAC Cup and the Rowe Cup. And with Amaretto Sun remaining in Christchurch, Sparkling Success has the perfect opportunity to add to his Great Southern Star triumph. Regarded as the best trotter in Australia, Sparkling Success must overcome gate seven, the outside of the front-line, in Saturday’s 2240m mobile start feature. Last week, in the Knight Pistol at Cranbourne, he finished a gallant third behind Red Hot Tooth and Tornado Valley after making an early break. Despite the wide draw, punters will rally around their star performer. And with a possible trip to New York for the $1.3 million International Trot at the end of the year looming, victory will only enhance his burgeoning reputation. But rivals will come thick and fast. New Australasian record holder Maori Time looms as a legitimate threat despite her tricky draw, the inside of the second-line. Maori Time rated 1:51.5 when successful in the Gr.1 $50,000 Trotters Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle on February 24. Prepared by master conditioner Brent Lilley, the former New Zealand horseman shoots for his second victory in the Grand Prix following his triumph two years ago with millionaire performer Keystone Del. Courageous performer Kyvalley Blur also represents the Lilley stable, the veteran gelding continues to race in excellent form highlighted by his victory three starts ago in the Dullard Cup. Kyvalley Blur has drawn the outside of the second-line, gate 10. Gun young trainer Anton Golino is represented by both My Tribeca and Vincennes, both unplaced behind Maori Time in Sydney last start. My Tribeca has drawn ideally in gate two while Vincennes draws directly behind his stable in gate nine. Former Kiwi trotter Tornado Valley showcased his immense talent last week when finishing gamely behind Red Hot Tooth at Cranbourne after proving costly in his Australian debut on February 23. Prepared by Andy and Kate Gath, the Skyvalley gelding has drawn nicely in gate four. In-form mare Regal Pepperell tackles her biggest challenge to date but boasts outstanding recent winning form. A winner at 5 of her past 6 starts, the Michael Barby trained mare has claimed both the Hamilton and Wedderburn Cups during her recent form burst. Regal Pepperel will start from the coveted inside gate. Another classy mare in Sky Petite will prove competitive despite drawing awkwardly in gate 6 for trainer Dean Pattison. Unplaced last week at Cranbourne behind Red Hot Tooth, the Skyvalley mare scored three starts ago in the Crystal Bucket at Echuca. Savannah Jay Jay aims for his biggest victory and draws handily in gate three for trainer Stan Cameron, but the Armbro Invasion gelding is winless this season in eight starts. The Boss Man (gate 5) is an early scratching. 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 next month. Chris Barsby

Warragul trotter Miss Intense is chasing a feature race win this Saturday night. The seven-year-old mare, having just her tenth race start, will compete in the $20,000 Breed For Speed Silver Series Final at Melton for trainer Jenni Lewis and driver Greg Sugars. Miss Intense has stuck a rich vein of form since returning to racing in November. After successive wins at Geelong and Melton, Miss Intense produced an eye catching second in a heat of the Silver Series at Bendigo recently, and is sure to give her supporters a sight in Saturday night's race. In many ways the story of Miss Intense is similar to that of Lewis' former top trotter of a decade ago, Billy Royle. Both horses are out of the mare Ivy Jean, and both suddenly found considerable racetrack success as older horses - Billy Royle won one race from his first 26 starts but ended up going on to win several feature races, and compete in an InterDominion series, as an older horse. While this weekend's race is the biggest test to date for Miss Intense, she is in the best form of her career at the right time, and has earned an opportunity in the feature event. Saturday's meeting is a major fundraiser for the Women's Cancer foundation.   Kyle Galley  

The good fortune continues for the harness racing Queenslanders in Victoria. Fresh from their success in the Victoria Derby with Colt Thirty One two weeks ago, rookie pacer Scheu Creek proved too classy for his rivals in the $20,000 Swift Signs Premiere Stakes at Tabcorp Park Melton last night (Friday). The Premiere Stakes is the first feature for juvenile pacers held in the Garden State. Prepared by master horseman Peter Manning, aka King of the Kids, the Caribbean Blaster gelding led throughout in the 1720m feature easily defeating race favourite Major Exclusive and Soho Thunderstruck in a time of 1:56.8. He recorded sectionals of 29.3, 31.3, 28.9 and 27.8 seconds. Kerryn Manning, the world’s most successful horsewoman of all time, took the winning drive for her father. Scheu Creek is raced by his breeders, Dr Pat and Rhonda Aldons and their partnership with Manning spans close to 20 years. “It’s a very satisfying moment to win a race, let alone a feature event so naturally we’re all pretty excited because we didn’t expect it. We bred this guy and his mother was very slow, she didn’t even make it to the trials but she’s proving to be a handy little broodmare so there’s hope for all those other breeders out there.” Dr Aldons said. Scheu Creek is a half-brother to Miss Rivkah (2 wins – Art Official). It was third time lucky in the Premiere Stakes after finishing third last year with Night Ninja while Miss Rivkah was unplaced two seasons ago. The Brisbane based couple has spent close to 40 years in the racing game spanning both codes, thoroughbred and harness, and still gets great satisfaction every time they win a race wherever that may be. Their team of horses is spread across New Zealand and Australia and with several trainers. Over the years they enjoyed great success through the likes of former Australian Derby winner City Rogue and star New Zealand filly Hot Shoe Shuffle while Town Royal, OK Chevalier, OK Jaque, Christian Miracle, Afro Samurai and BG Royal also proved to be great money spinners. Thoroughbred winners include the likes of Row Boat, Driving Creek, Ring True, Napper Tandy, Take A Shot, Some Joy and Pat Kash among others. In recent years, the couple have scaled back their New Zealand breeding operation and moved many of their mares to Burwood Stud on the Darling Downs of Queensland. “We made a decision to bring many of our mares a little closer to home, Noel and Christine (Denning) do a wonderful job catering for the mares and foals each and every year. We’re still breeding up to a dozen horses each season and we send the pacers to Peter while many of my gallopers stay here in Queensland. “All our foals are born and bred in Queensland but we try to focus mainly on Vicbred stallions nowadays, we’ve got several mares that trace back to the famed Black Watch line and hopefully we’re starting to get the results that we set out to achieve. “We’ve got some nice youngsters on the ground by good sires and the bulk of the mares are in foal again, we’ve used the likes of Captaintreacherous, Western Terror, Well Said, Shadow Play, Pet Rock, Heston Blue Chip and Alta Christiano so fingers crossed. “I like the Vicbred futurity scheme and I think Peter is a wonderful trainer of young stock. Our plan is to race them in Victoria before relocating them back to Brisbane for my son Ben to train.” The Aldons family still race horses in New Zealand with Cambridge horseman Mike Berger while gallopers are in work with Cox Plate winning trainer Moira Murdoch. And the Australian based gallopers are in work with Grafton horseman John Shelton and the Sunshine Coast based John Johnston. As a leading thoracic physician at The Prince Charles Hospital, he finds a perfect balance with his busy work life and his horses. “As a whole, the entire family enjoys the horses so I never miss a trick because I’m reliably updated at all times on their progress. “The big aim is to breed a top liner, we’ve been lucky along the journey but to breed and race a quality horse with the family would be something very special. Who knows, we might be on the way.” The Aldons family currently has three two-years-old’s in work with Manning. Hoofnote; Scheu Creek is the first winner for Caribbean Blaster Hoofnote; Scheu Creek (pronounced ‘Shoe’) is a stream located between South Johnstone and Wangan QLD, named after Heinrich Gottfried Scheu, the first settler in the Innisfail (far north Queensland) area, in 1880. Racing Queensland

Star pacer Cruz Bromac will be on the plane to America next week if his owners and Avalon harness racing trainer Dean Braun receive an offer they can’t refuse. The dual Group 2-placegetter will run at Melton on Saturday night in what could be his last Australian start as American buyers close in on the New Zealand-bred horse. Cruz Bromac returned to racing last Saturday night after a 12-month lay-off, winning with pure arrogance in a last-to-first victory at Tabcorp Park Melton, which has sectional gurus scratching their heads. “He’s a pretty special horse,” Braun told the Geelong Advertiser. “There’s a bit of conjecture about the times still, but they’re happy to agree he ran his last mile in 1.50.75, so off the track, it’s nearly unheard of I suppose. “I expected him to win, he’s the best horse I’ve put a bridle on, but I didn’t expect him to run those sectionals, especially wide on the track. “But it didn’t surprise me he did do it.” But the six-year-old won’t compete in Saturday’s feature $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup (2760m) after missing a week’s work with hoof injury earlier in his preparation. “The plan was always to go to the Hunter Cup but when he missed that week’s few days work, it was a bit hard for him to go there and race horses like Lazarus that are seasoned horses,” Braun said. “We took the softer option this week and I’d say after this week there’s a big chance he’ll do his future racing in the US. Cruz Bromac winning first up from a 12 month spell to mature. “They’ve bought two off me in the last 12 months, being Nike Franco, and she’s gone and made US$400,000, and Shartin, she had her first start the other day and won in 1.52.10 over there. “They’re pretty happy with the ones I’ve been sending and this horse has been on their radar for a little while. With the money we race for here, it’s nearly impossible to keep these good horses here with the money you can get overseas. “I’ve waited 20 years for this horse, but it’s pretty good money.” Cruz Bromac and Geelong trainer Dean Braun. Picture: Peter Ristevski But should the deal fall through, Cruz Bromac could head towards the rich $750,000 Group 1 Miracle Mile in Sydney later this month. “If he doesn’t get sold, absolutely. He’s the perfect horse for Menangle and a mile suits him,” Braun said. Cruz Bromac wasn’t the only horse to impress for Braun last Saturday, with Carlas Pixel and Stars Align both running Group 1 placings in the Ladyship Cup and 4YO Bonanza, respectively. While Stars Align will bypass the $200,000 Chariots of Fire in favour of a country cups path, Carlas Pixel will be on a float to Sydney. “She’ll probably contest the Robin Dundee (February 17) and then onto the Ladyship Mile (February 24),” Braun said. “All things being equal, she would have a pretty good chance I would think.” By Damien Ractliffe, Geelong Advertiser Reprinted with permission of The Geelong Advertiser  

Only three legs remain in the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season. And the race is on to be crowned champion harness racing pacer of Australasia. On Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton, the Gr.1 $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup will take place and it will be a brutal staying contest over the distance of 2760m under mobile start conditions. It will be relentless, energy sapping and survival of the fittest type stuff. History proves that. The A G Hunter Cup is the premier staying contest on the Australian calendar. First staged in 1949, the iconic event has undergone several changes but there has always been one constant, a great name alwys sits on the roll of honour and the 2018 version will be no different. As it stands, champion New Zealand pacer Lazarus leads the way with 200 points following victories in both the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominion while the Sydney trained Tiger Tara sits equal second with Chicago Bull on 120 points while Soho Tribeca and Lennytheshark sit close by with 105 and 104 points respectively. And all will start in the A G Hunter Cup with the exception of Chicago Bull. So, victory is crucial. Lazarus, prepared by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, is the horse to beat owing to his fabulous record and his unbelievable appetite of staying contests. The further they go, the better he performs. His victories in the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominion solidify this point while his last start effort in the Gr.1 $300,000 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park only underlines his tag of Australasia’s premier stayer. The Bettors Delight entire sat three-wide throughout in the 2536m contest before going down by a head margin to millionaire pacer My Hard Copy who sat on his back with perfect cover. Everybody witnessed it but most couldn’t believe it. It drew comparisons with some of the greatest staying efforts of all-time and deservedly so, coincidentally, the most common reference made was that of Elsu when successful in the 2005 A G Hunter Cup at Moonee Valley. And here it is where Lazarus may have to reproduce another supreme staying effort, or something similar to Elsu to win this weekend. The triple millionaire will start from gate 3. Lazarus has not raced since January 12 owing to a minor setback but is looking to keep his unbeaten Melton record in perfect order. Enigmatic pacer Heaven Rocks also represents the All Stars stable and comes into the event fresh off a brilliant performance in the now traditional lead-up race, the Gr.1 $100,000 Ballarat Cup two weeks ago. Natalie Rasmussen, a winner of the 2008 A G Hunter Cup aboard Blacks A Fake, will again take the drive behind Heaven Rocks. The big striding gelding has drawn gate 9, two off the second-line. Defending Hunter Cup champion Bling It On completes an unbelievable comeback when he lines-up this weekend, most thought he would not race again after sustaining horrific injuries in a race fall at Albion Park last June. But the millionaire pacer has returned in excellent order and caught the eye last week with an eye-catching second behind Lennytheshark in the Casey Classic. Bling It On will start from gate 2 and has the services of star reinsman Luke McCarthy. Highly decorated pacer and fan favourite Lennytheshark is hoping to snare his first victory in the A G Hunter Cup this weekend following his third placing last year behind Bling It On and Yayas Hot Spot. The David Aiken trained and Chris Alford driven star has won most majors in his home state yet the Hunter Cup silverware has proven elusive to date. Lennytheshark will from gate 8, the inside of the second-line. A top-two finish will push his career earning past the $3 million mark. Tiger Tara has drawn the coveted inside gate and most expect the Kevin Pizzuto trained entire to lead, and for a long way. A winner over Lazarus during a heat of the Inter Dominion series in Perth when leading at fast pace, the Bettors Delight seven-year-old was overpowered by Lazarus in the final after setting a moderate mid-race speed. Tiger Tara will play a major role from his inside draw. Last start Gr.1 $450,000 WA Pacing Cup winner Soho Tribeca must overcome the shocking draw of gate 13, the outside of the second-line for new combination of Michael Stanley and Greg Sugars. Soho Tribeca was transferred to his new base after winning the Perth feature for Bryan Cousins and Kim Prentice. The last mare to win the A G Hunter Cup was the mighty New Zealander Blossom Lady who claimed back to back victories in 1994/95 and pint-sized performer Ameretto is hoping join the exclusive club. Prepared by 2015 Hunter Cup winner Kerryn Manning, Ameretto will start from gate 10. Manning will sport the “Team Teal” silks as a part of the sport’s leading ladies to raise valuable funds and crucial awareness for ANZGOG – Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group. Last year’s runner-up Yayas Hot Spot returns for Shane and Lauren Tritton, the talented gelding has drawn gate 6 and will be handled by Jack Trainor. Yayas Hot Spot finished second behind Tiger Tara last week at Goulburn in the Frank and Edna Day Memorial. Durable gelding Messini, trained by Brent Lilley and driven by legendary horseman Tony Herlihy lines up in his third A G Hunter Cup after contesting the previous two editions. Messini has drawn gate 4. Herlihy partnered 1997 winner Surprise Package. Emerging talent Shadow Sax starts this weekend for trainer Emma Stewart, a winner of the Gr.1 $100,000 South Australian Cup at Globe Derby two starts ago before finishing a gallant third in the Gr.1 $100,000 Ballarat Cup behind Heaven Rocks and Lennytheshark at his most recent start. Amazingly, ace reinsman Gavin Lang is yet to win the A G Hunter Cup. Shadow Sax will start from gate 5. Kialla pacer San Carlo represents the combination of trainer Stephen O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley but must overcome an awkward draw of gate 11. The Mach Three gelding finished third last week behind Lennytheshark and Bling It On in the Casey Classic. In-form pacer Moonrock, from the stables of Sonya Smith, has also drawn the second-line and runs from gate 12 but has the services of the most successful reinsman in Hunter Cup history in Anthony Butt. Butt has won 7 Hunter Cups – Blossom Lady (1994/95), Mister D G (2004), Mr Feelgood (2009), Stunin Cullen (2011), Choise Achiever (2012) and Mah Sish (2013). Mister Wickham is the listed emergency and has drawn gate 7 for trainer Lee Evison and US Hall of Famer driver David Miller. In total, the 13 runners have won 316 races while amassing more than $13.1 million in stakes. The A G Hunter Cup is scheduled as race 7 and listed to start at 9.02pm local time. Chris Barsby

Sparkling Success has arrived. He’s well and truly announced himself. And he did it on the biggest stage possible, dominating his harness racing rivals in the Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight (Saturday) – the second leg of the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. In the biggest and richest square gaiting event staged in the country, the John Meade trained and Chris Svanosio driven trotter proved too classy for his rivals in the 2760m mobile start feature defeating New Zealand raider Temporale and Hey Yo in track record time. The six-year-old Great Success gelding proved his greatness with a hard fought victory in a time of 1:58.7, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:58.8 set by last year’s victor Glenferrie Typhoon. Boasting outstanding credentials, punters kept the local star safe in the market before an aggressive Svanosio drive landed the prize. Vincennes was able to spear to the lead from a wide draw and dictated terms while race favourite Red Hot Tooth was left without cover in the early stages. Sydney trotter On Thunder Road worked forward and took up the role on the outside of the leader while Sky Petite and Sparkling Success quickly made their moves. The lead time was covered in 84.2 seconds. With Vincennes leading, Sparkling Success eventually parked outside with 1400m approximately left to run. The first half of the final mile was covered in 30.5 and 30.2 seconds. Entering the back straight, Vincennes led Sparkling Success while The Boss Man, Temporale and Hey Yo gained economical trips against the pylons. Red Hot Tooth made a solo three-wide move with Daryl Boko tracking the move, both Speeding Spur and My Tribeca sat well back in the field as the tempo quickened. The third quarter was covered in 28.8 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Sparkling Success raced clear of Vincennes while The Boss Man, Temporale and Hey Yo all found room to move and loomed as legitimate threats. But Sparkling Success wouldn’t be denied and held Temporale by 1.2 metres with another 1.7 metres back to Hey Yo in third position. The final quarter was covered in 29.9 seconds. Race favourite Red Hot Tooth wilted to finish at the rear of the field. “This is unbelievable, he won the Maori Mile two starts ago but this race easily tops that, this is the biggest race on the calendar in Australia for trotters.” A jubilant John Meade declared, a dairy farmer from Cudgee in the state’s south-west. Sparkling Success boasts an outstanding record of 15 wins from 30 starts while his earnings now exceed $360,000. The next leg of the APG Trotting Masters takes place at Melton with the running of the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix on March 10. Sparkling Success now joins Dominion winner Amaretto Sun as the leg winners of the 2017/18 APG Trotting Masters to date. 6 9:00pm PRYDE'S EASIFEED GREAT SOUTHERN STAR (GROUP 1) 2760M $300,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 SPARKLING SUCCESS      Sr3 10 John Meade Chris Svanosio   $ 4.10   PRS PRU 3WM 2 SWAB   BAY GELDING 6 by GREAT SUCCESS USA out of DIAMOND INSITU (CR COMMANDO USA)  Owner(s): J F Meade, M B Meade  Breeder(s): J F Meade, M B Meade 2 TEMPORALE NZ      Sr1 8 Tony Herlihy Tony Herlihy 1.2m $ 5.70   PRS PRU 5 D/F$ 3 HEY YO NZ      Fr5 5 Sonya Smith Greg Sugars 2.9m $ 48.30   PRS 3WE RES 7 SWAB 4 THE BOSS MAN      Fr1 1 Ellen Tormey Ellen Tormey 7.3m $ 47.90   PRS PRU GS 3 5 MY TRIBECA ITA      Sr4 12 Anton Golino Nathan Jack 10.2m $ 35.20   PRS 8 HO HUE 6 VINCENNES      Fr7 7 Anton Golino Jason Lee 15.3m $ 79.30   PRS GS L 1 7 DARYL BOKO FIN      Fr2 2 Tim Butt Anthony Butt 17.6m $ 25.10   PRS W2 3WLT LW 8 SPEEDING SPUR NZ      Sr5 13 John Dickie Josh Dickie 24.6m $ 6.30   PRS W3 3WLT LW 9 SKY PETITE      Sr2 9 Dean Pattison Michael Stanley 27.8m $ 56.70   PRS 3WM 4 10 KYVALLEY BLUR USA      Fr6 6 Brent Lilley Chris Alford 30.2m $ 11.60   PRS RAS INC W4 3WLT 11 ON THUNDER ROAD NZ      Fr4 4 Darren Hancock Darren Hancock 57.3m $ 17.70   PRS 3WE 6 BUP SD1T 12 RED HOT TOOTH      Fr3 3 Kari Males Zac Phillips 77.2m $ 3.10 fav  PRS GS W1 3WL TIRE QUER VXAR SWAB WI Scratchings   FABRICATION 11 Track Rating: Gross Time: 3:23:6 Mile Rate: 1:58:7 Lead Time: 84.2 First Quarter: 30.5 Second Quarter: 30.2 Third Quarter: 28.8 Fourth Quarter: 29.9 Margins: 1.2m x 1.7m   Chris Barsby

Interest in Lot 214 at next week’s Ladbrokes Australian Pacing Gold Sale in Melbourne is expected to increase following tonight’s harness racing four-year-old Bonanza at Tabcorp Park Melton. While the filly was always going to attract some spirited bidding, the number of buyers looking to purchase the yearling is destined to grow. From lightly-raced mare Slip Slop Slap, the youngster is by top stallion Somebeachsomewhere, which sadly lost his battle with cancer last week. Not only are daughters of Somebeachsomewhere likely to be hot commodities, Slip Slop Slap boasts the impeccable record of six winners from seven starters The top matron, however, is better-known as the dam of Jilliby Kung Fu, which produced a phenomenal performance to capture the Group One. With Jason Lee holding the reins, Jilliby Kung Fu was caught three-wide from barrier seven before moving forward to settle in the ‘death seat’ as Stars Align set the pace. Forging his way to the front in the shadows of the post, the entire scored by a metre from Stars Align, with Motu Meteor a metre-and-a-half away third. “He’s really grown into himself,” Jason Lee said. “Ever since we purchased him at the APG Sales we’ve always thought he would be a nice horse and he’s gotten better with age. “He’s come back this year with a bit more weight on him and he’s definitely taken another step.” Also successful in last season’s Group One Vicbred Final, the Marg Lee-trained son of Four Starzzz Shark will head to Menangle in a fortnight for the Chariots Of Fire. “Getting straight in to the Chariots Of Fire is terrific,” Marg said. “I’ll just keep him going along at home before we head up for that.” APG Media

Australian Pacing Gold has kicked off tonight’s (Saturday 27th of January) stellar Tabcorp Park Melton program on a high, winning the first Group One of the harness racing program. Leading throughout from the pole, Our Golden Goddess proved too slick for her rivals on her way to victory in the Ladyship Cup. Stretching her winning streak to five, the five-year-old rated 1:53.3 over 1720 metres for trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. Our Golden Goddess was purchased, and is owned, by Merv and Meg Butterworth, who selected the mare at the 2014 APG’s Melbourne Sale. To be given a few easy days, Our Golden Goddess will then be targeted at next month’s Ladyship Mile at Menangle. “I’m not sure what there is between now and then, but we’ll be heading to the Ladyship Mile,” Butterworth said. “I know she will have a few easy days, then start working towards the Mile.” The multiple feature race winner is by Art Major from Localize, with the dam presented in next week’s Ladbrokes APG Melbourne Sale by another daughter also by Art Major. APG Media  

BUZZ Aussie three-year-old Lumineer’s quest to continue his unbeaten streak headlines a stellar and fascinating start to Melton’s Nights of Glory Carnival at Melton tomorrow (Saturday) night. ADAM HAMILTON casts his eye over the feature races on the card: VICTORIA DERBY (Race 7) Can’t tip against LUMINEER (6) in his quest for ninth win from as many starts, but he’s drawn wide at by far his biggest test. POSTER BOY (7) has always looked elite and his heat win was enormous. Needs luck from outside draw, but sure to run well. SPANKEM (4) returned to winning form in his heat and draws well again. MARAETAI (3) is untapped and ran a super race against Lumineer in heat. CODY BAILEY (1), COLT THIRTY ONE (11) and THE DEVILS OWN (13) also have some claims in hot field. SUGGESTED BET: Lumineer to win if he gets to $2.80 or better. Saver on Maraetai at $9 or better. GREAT SOUTHERN STAR (Race 6) Daunting race for punters. Emerging mare RED HOT TOOTH (3) has been heavily-backed and looks the leader, but this is a huge step-up for her. I’m going with SPARKLING SUCCESS (10) despite the back row. His past two runs have been huge. KYVALLEY BLUR (6) returns from terrific NZ campaign and flew in a trial against the pacers last week. TEMPORALE (8) needs luck from inside back row, but is flying. SPEEDING SPUR (13) would win at his best, but comes into this with form query. DARYL BOKO (2) and ON THUNDER ROAD (4) also command respect. SUGGESTED BET: Sparkling Success at $5 or better. LADYSHIP CUP (Race 5) Ripper race, but OUT GOLDEN GODDESS (1) is all class, unbeaten in four runs this campaign and looks leader from the pole. Should win. Her stablemate AMERETTO (8) will follow her throughout is all class. Obvious threat if she’s primed first-up. Purdon/Rasmussen pair A PICCADILLY PRINCESS (10) and PARTYON (2) are next best. CARLAS PIXEL (3) could place. SUGGESTED BET: Our Golden Goddess to win. 4YO BONANZA (Race 8) Looks a real match in two between OUR LITTLE GENERAL (1) and STARS ALIGN (3). Going with OUR LITTLE GENERAL to use the pole, lead and run them ragged. STARS ALIGN will be fitter for first-up win, is tough and will make a real race of it. JILLIBY KUNG FU (7) would’ve been favourite from a good draw, so keep him safe at odds from gate seven. BEACH SURGE (6) is a raw talent with place claims. SUGGESTED BET: Our Little General to win at $1.90 or better. CASEY CLASSIC (Race 4) Veteran champ LENNYTHESHARK (1) will be fitter for late-closing second to Heaven Rocks in Ballarat Cup last week. Drawn to lead and win from the pole. SAN CARLO (2) is an exciting talent going places. First-up from a break and expecting big run. BLING IT ON (5) caps his Hunter Cup prep, but will need luck to win from out in gate five. MESSINI (3) is flying, but up in grade. Place hope. SUGGESTED BET: Trifecta 1 to win from 2,5 for second and 2,3,5 for third. SUMMARY BEST BET R5 n1 Our Golden Goddess BEST VALUE R6 n10 Sparkling Success BEST ROUGHIE R7 n3 Maraetai Adam Hamilton

Nothing – not even a 10-day suspension – could wipe the smile from harness racing driver Shannon O’Sullivan’s face at Tabcorp Park Melton, on Monday night. Four months after gaining her B-grade driver licence, the 18-year-old from Heathcote broke through for her first win when she partnered the Frank Pangrazio-trained Showgun Thomas to victory in the night’s opening race. The overdue win came in her 52nd race start and not before her fair share of near misses with six seconds and five thirds for a tidy win and places to starts ratio of 24 per cent. O’Sullivan, who is the daughter of harness racing legend and 2017 Gordon Rothacker medallist Jim O’Sullivan, said it was an amazing feeling to finally break the drought. “It was a great feeling …. I was smiling going across the line and I couldn’t stop smiling after the race,” she said. “It was great that dad was there too. “Dad drove me down to Melton because we had two horses in at Maryborough a couple of hours beforehand. I had to drive them first and then be in Melton for the first (race). “I got another second and a fifth at Maryborough and then the win at Melton.” The win led to some good-natured ribbing between daughter and father, who has literally driven and trained thousands of winners during a 50-year career in the sport. Shannon went one-up on her famous father as the first of the pair to score a win at the headquarters of Victorian harness racing. “Dad reminded me afterwards that he had never won at Melton and then he told me I had done something else he hadn’t and that was win a race going 1:54, which he never had,” she said. “It’s probably the best place to win a race and it’s good to be one-up on dad, which is very surprising.” The good-natured and polite young driver said she had been quietly confident of ending her winless streak when first offered the drive by Pangrazio. Showgun Thomas, a five-year-old gelding, had won his previous two races for his Lockington-based handler at Echuca on New Year’s Day and Swan Hill (January 11). “He had good form and had ran good times - I’ve been at the races and watched him race and he’s a very consistent horse,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought if I got the right drive and got a good position then we would be a very big chance of winning it. “I was confident in the horse in being able to do a lot of work and still being able to finish off the race.” A humble O’Sullivan, who is weeks away from starting her Bachelor of Exercise Science at La Trobe University, copped her suspension on the chin and already has a few drives lined-up for her return on February 2. She hoped her breakthrough win and knack for rarely being outside the top five in her races would lead to increased opportunities going forward. “I got a couple of phone calls after my win asking could I drive and I was like ‘I’m so sorry I can’t’,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s racing – it happens. I coped it because I knew I was in the wrong.” By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

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