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Bad Boy Brad’s ascension continued on Saturday night in front of a large harness racing crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the 2017 Exclusive Homes Maltese Cup. The Diane Giles trained six-year-old produced a withering sprint for driver Lance Justice to capture the silverware in a stirring four-way finish, with first through to fourth separated by not much more than a long head. The Gunbower Cup winner has already won six races from 21 starts this season, Bad Boy Brad’s assessment climbing from C7-M0 to M3-C12. Video: Re-live Bad Boy Brad's Maltese Cup win Bad Boy Brad (Righteous Hanover-Bubbas Babe) rated 1:54.1 to overhaul south-west Victorian pair Jivin Cullen (trained by Brad Hunt and driven by Glen Craven) in a photo finish officially by a half-head, with a head further back to Roy George (Matthew Craven) and another head to Upanatom (David Aiken/Mark Pitt) in fourth. Bad Boy Brad launched late down the outside against a 27.7 last quarter and a 28 secs third split and looks destined for bigger assignments again. Long Forest husband and wife team Andy and Kate Gath secured a winning double and three second placings for the night, successful with trotters Clover Mac (Dream Vacation-Clover Lass) in the SEW Eurodrive Trotters Handicap in 2:00.3 from the 2240-metre standing start and Posseidon (Fling It-Maori Acacia) in the Rayner Real Estate 3YO Trot over 1720m in 1:59.8. Click here to view all results from Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night Click here to listen to the winning drivers on HRV YouTube  Cody Winnell

This was a weird Victoria Derby.  Most watching spent the middle stages of the race in disbelief as Mark Purdon eased the most dominant heat winner and $1.40 favourite, Vincent, out of the race.  Vincent always needed a little luck after drawing the worst possible barrier (eight, inside back row). Well, at least he needed no bad luck.  The race was over for the regally-bred son of Art Major when, soon after Purdon was able to extricate himself from being stuck on the inside, the pace slackened up front and the horse trailing him, Blue Moon Rising, crashed into his sulky and burst a tyre.  You could see a startled Purdon look around immediately and, after assessing, the problem he eased Vincent out of the $200,000 race.  While all of this was happening, last season’s Breeders Crown 2YO champion A Little General pounced on the lead and driver Chris Alford slowed the pace to a dawdling 46.8sec lead time. That’s as so as you’d ever see them go in a feature race.  In a stop-start affair, maybe caused by everyone looking, wondering and waiting to see where Vincent was, Alford still keep cruising with a 61sec middle half.  Vincent’s stablemate Motu Meteor made the early move to sit parked and loomed as the main threat to Our Little General, but the leader packed too much speed, dashed home in 54.7 and 26.6sec to win by 4.1m from Motu Meteor with John McCarthy’s Astride a close-up third.  For all of the top young horses Emma Stewart and Clayton have trained, this was their first Victoria Derby win.   “He’s been a pleasant surprise to be honest, but we’ll certainly take it,” Tonkin said. “Given how small he is, we thought he might not go on, he doesn’t look like a Derby horse, but he’s got one on the board now.  “He’s such a pro and always puts himself into the race. When he got that slow a lead time, I knew he’d be hard to beat.  “Vincent may well have been too good, but the way the race was run and the slow lead time our guy got, it would’ve taken something special from Vincent to come around the field and beat us.”  Tonkin savoured the win with some of the stable’s most loyal owners, which included well-known Aussie racing media man Andrew Bensley.   The co-trainer was also left wondering what might have been with the stable’s best three-year-old The Storm Inside, who is rated vastly superior to Our Little General, but sidelined by injury.  “He’s a bit special. It’s a shame he wasn’t here, but we’ll get him back and then you’ll see why we are so excited about him,” Tonkin said.  Motu Meteor, who will stay in Victoria with Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell, fought on well for second and is maturing with every race start.  Adam Hamilton

RIVAL harness racing trainer Shane Tritton was the most interested onlooker as Lazarus worked a lot harder than expected to win the the Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton last night (Saturday).  It booked Lazarus his spot in next week’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire, but also raised some queries about the pin-up horse of Australasia.   As he has done a few times before, Lazarus appeared to struggle at top speed rounding the final bend in a race.  But, as great horses do, he found a way to come deep and win, which most others found impossible with the pattern of racing last night.  Tritton, who trains the Chariots second favourite Salty Robyn, is big on homework and will have carefully noted Lazarus’s battle on the final bend.  When you have won the NZ Cup by a record margin and the Victoria Cup, dropping back to race your own age should be stroll in the park.  Tritton isn’t so sure that will be the case for Lazarus at Menangle next Saturday night.  In fact, the always upbeat and confdent Tritton thinks he can beat him with his emerging star Salty Robyn.  Salty Robyn goes ino the Chariots having won his past 10 starts.  And he has run time, too. Salty Robyn’s PB is a 1min49.2sec mile and that was sitting parked.  Tritton think he can much quicker if needed.  Facts say that will be needed to test or beat Lazarus.  That’s because Lazarus’ trainer Mark Purdon thinks he can run a faster mile than his stablemate Have Faith In Me, who paced 1min47.5sec beating Lennytheshark in last year’s Miracle Mile.  If Salty Robyn has any hope, the barriers need to go his way and he needs to stay in front of Lazarus.  “I’m so looking forward to it. My horse could not have had a better build-up and he’s ready to fly. Lazarus won’t get this race on a platter,” Tritton said.  Tritton will have two Chariots runners with his emerging Anything For Love also making the field.  Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen will have three runners with Our Waikiki Beach and Lets Chase The Dream joining Lazarus.  Lets Chase The Dream showed he was primed with another dominant win at Menangle last night.  Despite sitting parked for much of the race, Lets Chase The Dream controlled the race from the “death” and dashed home in 55.3 and 26.7sec for a 1min52.2sec mile. It followed a 1min49.9sec win a week earlier.  Adam Hamilton

Persistence and patience blended with talent to see Glenferrie Typhoon win the Pryde’s Easifeed $300,000 Great Southern Star, a super harness racing training and driving performance by Andy and Kate Gath. After a season plagued by disappointing runs, Glenferrie Typhoon’s undoubted talent spilled on to Tabcorp Park Melton with a blistering run, stopping the clock at a 1:58.0 mile rate, 1.5 seconds under the old track record. The all-the-way win gifted the $300,000 feature, the richest trotting race in Australasia, to a proud group of owners and a triumphant local stable. “It’s a huge thrill,” Andy Gath said. “I know he had the draw and everything, but he still had to do it. “I’ve always had a great affinity with the trotters and they have really emerged in Victoria, there are so many good trotters around and it’s such a great race to win and great to have it on like this with the Hunter Cup. Such a big night and it’s a huge thrill.” Sharing that delight was his wife, Kate Gath, who had been put through the ringer as Glenferrie Typhoon battled to re-find form. The Majestic Son gelding ran second in this feature last year amid an outstanding run, made all the meritorious by the fact he was suffering from a bladder stone. He resumed late in 2016 but two poor performances saw him tipped out for another spell. A sixth placing in The George Gath at Shepparton preceded a win against far more modest competition at Melton on January 30, when Glenferrie Typhoon appeared to switch off and have his considerable lead gobbled up.  “He’s done my head in over the last couple of months, I did everything I could to get him trotting,” Kate Gath said. “I haven’t conceded. I tried a few different things again on Monday and he couldn’t trot it out up the straight. I didn’t know what else to do, I know he’s got the ability and thank goodness we got it right on the night that we needed to get it right on.” From gate one Glenferrie Typhoon held off Maori Time’s advance to find the front, but the pressure was persistent with one challenger after the next coming to the breeze to press forward. Josh Dickie then guided favourite and reigning champion Speeding Spur on to Glenferrie Typhoon’s back and when they hit the straight it became a race in two. “If I got a lot of pressure I was going to play it by ear and see how I felt, but he just travelled so good the whole way I couldn’t hand handed up if I wanted too,” Kate Gath said. “When Speeding Spur got on my back I thought “oh no, this isn’t good, this wasn’t part of the plan”. “(Glenferrie Typhoon) was just travelling so well the whole way. When I got to the corner he was still travelling and I know he can get a bit hot in the straight and I thought, all right, we’re going to run now, they are going to have their chance but they are going to have to catch me.” And in the match-race between Glenferrie Typhoon and Speeding Spur it was the Victorian who held on by a half-neck. “His ability’s always been there, we know how good he is, so it’s just fantastic that he was able to get the job done tonight,” Kate Gath said. “All the owners are here, absolutely over the moon.” Sunny Ruby ran a brave third for Sam Smolenski, having been the best runner from deep to finish 9m shy of the leader. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Our Little General (Mach Three-Kabbalah Karen) caused a minor harness racing upset by taking out this year’s $200,000 Victoria Derby on Hunter Cup night at Tabcorp Park Melton. Last season’s Breeders Crown winning two-year-old rated 1:56.8 to beat a Mark Purdon trained pacer, not the $1.40 All Stars favourite Vincent, but the $25.60 shot Motu Meteor driven by Grant Campbell. Vincent copped a bad flat tyre and had to be pulled out of the race at the mile mark, much to the chagrin of punters. All the while Our Little General was in front, out of trouble, making his own luck for champion reinsman Chris Alford. The General pumped out quarters of 30.3, 30.7, 28.1 and 26.6, Alford looking around at the bell, no doubt wondering where his much vaunted opponent was. Trained by Victoria’s leading trainer, champion horsewoman Emma Stewart, Our Little General has now earnt over $360,000 in stakemoney. “He’s a great little horse,” Alford said. “Emma and (partner) Clayton (Tonkin) do a great job. I went in with confidence, not that I could beat the favourite, but that he would run a great race. “When he kicked on the turn he was really strong.” Motu Meteor ran second, beaten 4.1m, while Luke McCarthy guided Astride into third.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Hunter Cup night is Victoria’s biggest harness racing meeting and one of Australia’s major racedays. Our Aussie correspondent ADAM HAMILTON casts his eye over the major races at Melton on Saturday night. HUNTER CUP – RACE 8 Going with LENNYTHESHARK (13) at the better value than SMOLDA (9). One of the two should win. Thought Lenny savaged the line well in last 50m at Ballarat and will strip a lot fitter. Will be a fascinating tactical battle with both drawn the back row. BLING IT ON (5) is the other class runner. Strong effort when did plenty of work for third in Vic Cup last week. Next best is the much-improved ALLBLACK STRIDE (3) who smashed the clock in Vic Cup when fifth. Has the speed to use good draw. HUG THE WIND (11) is a blowout chance on his strong recent NZ form. SUGGESTED BET: Lennytheshark (13) to win at $3.80 or better VICTORIA DERBY – RACE 4 Not even the worst possible draw (gate eight) stops me thinking VINCENT (8) will just win. You’d never see a more impressive Derby heat winner than him last week. He’ll have to earn it from draw as it’s likely he will snag right back and settle a mile from the leaders. Looks a star. WRAPPERS DELIGHT (1) is a big improver and had no luck last week. Main danger from pole. OUR LITTLE GENERAL (2) will be fitter for first-up run last week and drawn to use his early speed. MOTU METEOR (12) and BE JACKS LEGEND (10) won their heats and have claims despite back row. SUGGESTED BET: Vincent to win is $1.60 or better GREAT SOUTHERN STAR – RACE 6 Going for a blowout with WA trotter CARDIGAN BOKO (4) at big odds. Top run from impossible position last week and drawn to use his gate speed this time. Worth an each-way ticket. Defending champ SPEEDING SPUR (5) is the one to beat, but has to be some query on his fitness after just one (terrific) run back from injury and long spell. Can’t take odds-on. ON THUNDER ROAD (2) was always in trouble crossed from the pole last week. Big threat from more suitable draw. QUITE A MOMENT (11), GREAT THINGS HAPPEN (10) and SUNNY RUBY (13) have claims with any luck from back row. SUGGESTED BET: Cardigan Boko each-way at $12 or better LADYSHIP CUP – RACE 3 IMPOSSIBLE to tip against Mark Purdon’s A PICCADILLY PRINCESS (4). No luck in last two Perth runs, then won both Victorian runs, albeit in slightly easier grade, in style and running times. Drawn well, should be too good. BERISARI (5) is a tough and class mare. Suited here, the main threat. ROCKER BAND (7) blasted through along the inside to win a weaker race here last week. Draw hurts, but has the class. MILLY PEREZ (11) is flying, but outside back row over 1720m makes it hard. SUGGESTED BET: A Piccadilly Princess to win if $1.60 or better 4YO BONANZA – RACE 9 Non contest – it’s all LAZARUS (2) back against his own age. Only interest in the times and margins. THREE WAYS (8) ran second to Lazarus in the Victoria Derby at this meeting last year and continued to improve since. Needs luck from inside back row, but is second-best horse in the race. BRALLOS PASS (9) ran a huge second to Three Ways here then disappointed at Menangle last week. Place chance on best form. Place hopes also to ROCK OF AMERICA (1) and BATTLE BORN (4). SUGGESTED BET: Brallos Pass the place at $2.80 or better SUMMARY BEST BET: R5 n11 Hughie Green – loved his massive second on debut for new trainer-driver John Cremin at Ballarat last Friday. Looks well graded despite outside back row draw. Like him at $2.20 or better BEST VALUE: R7 n1 Glenferrie Burn – nice trotter who can cause the minor upset over High Gait. Hoping for $3.50 or better   BEST ROUGHIE: R6 n4 Cardigan Boko – as outlined above HRNZ News

The scene has been set for a magnificent Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton after an outstanding fortnight of harness racing. The PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup set the foundation for a magnificent TAB Summer of Glory, which began with last weekend's Eynesbury Victoria Cup. Grand circuit superstars Lazarus, Smolda and Lennytheshark performed superbly to finish 1-2-3 in the Group 1 Ballarat cup. The 2015 (Lennytheshark) and 2016 (Smolda) Inter Dominion winners then sat out Victoria Cup night but the third of the equine jets set Tabcorp Park alight. Lazarus - with his group of loyal and prominent owners in attendance - destroyed a talented Victoria Cup field, obliterating the cup record and becoming just the fourth four-year-old to win the $400,000 race. I was on track to see Mark Purdon's protégé crush his rivals in the Victorian Derby 12 months earlier and the strong on-track crowd once again stood and applauded as Lazarus strolled past the post for a dominant win. I couldn't help but wish I owned him, which is where Sunday's APG yearling sales may come into consideration! The entire Victoria Cup night was sensational. The racing immense as Purdon put on a driving and training clinic to collect five victories in the cart, four of which were trained under his and partner Natalie Rasmussen's guidance. In a race that may have escaped the attention of some, I was eagerly watching the action in race three as my mare, Highview Christina, regained some form and at any old odds ($28 the place) rumbled home for a gallant third. Despite being known to put in the odd average run, I look forward to seeing how 'Apples' goes in Saturday's final of the Rising Stars Pace. Vic Cup night was something special, on and off the track, but Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night promises to be even better! Five Group 1 races, with question marks everywhere thanks to some challenging draws to the favourites and a grand old warrior on the quest to repeat his 2016 Hunter Cup victory. In the last edition of the stand start, Smolda fought off fellow Kiwi Ohoka Punter for the bulk of the $500,000 kitty. But, arguably Smolda's greatest rival is back. After overcoming some issues in the Inter Dominion, Lennytheshark looks ripe for the Cup, despite drawing worse than Smolda's gate nine (Lenny will nearly drag driver Chris Alford across my feet as he begins from gate 13). New Zealanders Vincent, Speeding Spur, A Piccadilly Princess and Lazarus are all favourites to collect the other four Group 1s but there are more than enough locals to keep some of the big trophies on our soil. Away from the races, Collingwood AFL Women's superstar Moana Hope will be fresh off her AFLW debut and will be signing footballs and taking photos. So, five Group 1 races, my own horse in a Group 3, the sport's megastar rolling around at $1.04 plus entertainment, great food and a great crowd - the finale to the 2017 Summer of Glory is guaranteed to be amazing! I'll see you all there (and IF Highview Christina wins, it's my shout in the owners’ tent)! by Josh Jenkins Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017

Star New Zealand trotter Speeding Spur is chasing a piece of harness racing history this weekend. The Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton is the next leg of the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series and the Auckland based star looms as the horse to beat. A relatively new race for the elite trotters, the race was first staged back in 2013 and run under a fairly radical format, the event is the richest in the southern hemisphere. Initially modelled on Sweden’s universally revered Elitlopp, the Great Southern Star originally featured two Group 1 heats with a final all run on the same programme. Both heats will be drawn randomly staged over Melton’s 1720m trip with 10 horses progressing to the decider later in the night. And the Kiwi trotters have dominated with outstanding performer Vulcan winning the inaugural series before Keystone Del, Stent and last year’s winner Speeding Spur all swept to glory. But the 2017 version has been drastically altered with the event now becoming a straight out race being staged over the staying journey of 2760m. A full field of 12 with an emergency runner drawn will chase the major prize on offer. And it’s a high quality line-up with trotters representing all parts of the globe. So, can Speeding Spur become the first trotter to claim back to back titles? Prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, the Pegasus Spur entire has recently returned from injury and many thought the Great Southern Star would come too soon but following his excellent return last week at Alexandra Park when second, he now has a shot at further glory. Speeding Spur will start from gate five. Glenferrie Typhoon represents husband and wife partnership of Andy and Kate Gath, a runner-up last year behind Speeding Spur has drawn the inside gate and the last start winner will be looking to go one better this year. Quality New South Wales trotter On Thunder Road was luckless last week in the Dullard Cup but his winning effort two starts ago at Ballarat in the Cochran Cup gives him an excellent chance at redemption. The Darren Hancock trained and driven gelding starts from gate two. Cardigan Boko possesses a cosmopolitan flavour, bred in Sweden and trained in Perth, the flashy looking stallion starts from gate four and rates highly amongst the chances. The son of former world champion Varenne is prepared by Clive Dalton and will be handled by champion reinsman Chris Lewis. Another import is Daryl Boko; the former Finnish trotter is now trained in New Zealand by Tim Butt, a previous winner of this race through Vulcan. The Majestic Son gelding has drawn gate nine and will be handled by master reinsman Anthony Butt. Giant New Zealander Great Things Happen who is on loan to ace local horseman Greg Sugars also boasts strong recent form. The Love You gelding starts from gate ten. Local star The Boss Man must overcome a tricky draw of the inside of the second-line (gate 8) but the Scott Dyer trained and Ellen Tormey driven son of Bacardi Lindy boasts excellent recent form. Like Kate Gath, Tormey is hoping to become the first female driver to win the race. Classy mares Maori Time, Heavenly Sister, Quite A Moment, KD Muscles and Sunny Ruby are all chasing a slice history with a victory this weekend because no mare has ever won the Great Southern Star. All mares boast very strong credentials and loom as legitimate threats. The speedy beginner Maori Time has drawn nicely in gate three while Heavenly Sister (gate 6), Quite A Moment (gate 11), KD Muscles (gate 12) and Sunny Ruby (gate 13) may require some lady luck.   The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 8.30pm local time. Chris Barsby

Australia’s premier summer harness racing carnival at Tabcorp Park Melton is being supported by a $180,000 joint funding package announced by the Andrews Labor Government. The Government is contributing more than $90,000 to the Summer of Glory Carnival through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund Raceday Attraction Program. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) is matching the Government’s contribution. The first day of the carnival took place on Saturday, 28 January, and attracted a crowd of more than 3000 people. The carnival will conclude this Saturday, 4 February, with the prestigious $500,000 Hunter Cup, the $200,000 Victoria Derby Final and the $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star for trotters. Stakemoney for the carnival will exceed $1.8 million and entertainment will include live music, a DJ, roving performers and Chenda drumming. A range of children’s activities will include an animal farm, face-painting, jumping castle and atomic drop-slide. Return shuttle buses will transport patrons from the regional harness racing centres of Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Maryborough, Warragul, Cranbourne, Kilmore, Echuca, Terang, Geelong, Horsham, Stawell and Hamilton. Harness racing in Victoria generates more than $421 million in economic benefit each year and employs almost 4000 in full-time equivalent jobs across the state. Quotes attributable to Minister for Racing Martin Pakula “The Andrews Labor Government is proud to support the Summer of Glory Carnival which provides top quality harness racing for the community.” “I commend Harness Racing Victoria for its hard work in bringing together this year’s carnival which includes entertainment off and on the track.” Quote attributable to Harness Racing Victoria CEO David Martin “Harness Racing Victoria is grateful for the Government’s support and with some of the best pacers and trotters in Australasia competing at the Summer of Glory we can guarantee exciting racing and top-notch entertainment.” http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/hot-summer-harness-racing-carnival-at-tabcorp-park/

A couple of weeks ago Speeding Spur wasn’t going to defend his Great Southern Star title, but now he’s an odds-on favourite. A slashing first-up run at Alexandra Park combined with an ideal draw saw the Aussie TAB install Speeding Spur a $1.80 favourite for Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 feature at Melton. There no doubt he has the class, but does have he the fitness in a very different Great Southern Star to the one he so magnificently won last year? Gone are the heats and final, but also gone is the one-mile trip. The Great Souithern Star is now a one-off 2760m staying test. Barrier five certainly helps Speeding Spur’s prospects, but whether he should be as short as $1.80 is big question. He does have a couple of noted speedsters drawn inside him in Maori Time (three) and WA raider Cardigan Boko (four). Maori Time may take a sit on Speeding Spur, it is very doubtful Cardigan Boko would. The draw wasn’t as kind to last week’s Group 1 Dullard Cup winner Sunny Ruby, who will start from outside the back row (gate 13) with David Butcher aboard. The other runners with Kiwi flavour are Tim Butt’s Daryl Boko (gate nine) and Quite A Moment (gate 11), who is in the care of Lance Juistice. Star Aussie On Thunder Road, who wasn’t suited by gate one last week, is much better placed from two this week and looks as a major player. The X-factor is Cardigan Boko, who ran better than his sixth indicates last week, and has the gate speed to lead or take a forward spot from barrier four. VINCENT’S hold on Victoria Derby favouritism eased after he drew the worst possible barrier for Saturday night’s $200,000 final. “The one barrier I didn’t want was eight,” trainer-driver Mark Purdon said. That’s exactly where Vincent drew, meaning it is likely Purdon will have to drag him right back at the start to avoid being bailed-up on the marker pegs. Vincent may still be too good judging by his breathtaking heat win, but he eased from $1.30 to $1.50 on the Aussie TAB and is likely to start even longer. The news wasn’t much better for the other two Kiwi finalists. Vincent’s stablemate, Motu Meteor, drew outside the back row (gate 12), while Barry Purdon’s Be Jacks Legend is off the back row (gate 10). The winners from the draw were last season’s Breeders Crown 2YO winner A Little General, who might be the leader from gate two, and last week’s luckless third-placegetter Wrappers Delight (gate one). Mark Purdon had better luck in the draws with Lazarus (gate two, $1.04) in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza and A Piccadilly Princess (gate four, $1.45) in the Group 1 Ladyship Cup. His Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me will start from outside the front row (gate seven) in the free-for-all (race seven) where he looks a league above his six rivals. Purdon also has his comeback trotter Prince Fearless in the final event on Hunter Cup after making the long trip to Boort to win the Central Victorian Trotting Championship last week. Adam Hamilton

Saturday night’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton is wide open after a harness racing barrier draw that saw the two “all-in market big guns” draw the back row. Reigning Inter Dominion champion Smolda drew gate nine for Mark Purdon, while 2015 Inter Dominion hero Lennytheshark came up with barrier 13 for David Aiken. TAB.com.au reacted by opening both Lennytheshark and Smolda equal $3.20 favourites post-barrier draw but quickly snapped Smolda back into $2.80 with Lennytheshark out to $3.50, while Bling It On firmed right into $4.60 after being double figure odds most of the way through. Yayas Hot Spot was a significant firmer, into $17 after drawing the pole – should emergency Adam Cartwright not gain a start – for Sydney power couple Shane and Lauren Tritton. Meanwhile, last weekend’s Victoria Cup placegetter Bling It On also firmed considerably after drawing barrier five, the John McCarthy-trained 41-time winner into $4.60. Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup Barrier Draw 1: Adam Cartwright (Em) 2: Yayas Hot Spot 3: Allblack Stride 4: Ideal Success 5: Bling It On 6: Cruz Bromac 7: Messini 8: Guaranteed 9: Smolda 10: Im Corzin Terror 11: Hug The Wind 12: Young Modern 13: Lennytheshark TAB.COM.AU FIXED ODDS FOR THE HUNTER CUP THE FIELDS FOR TABCORP PARK MELTON ON SATURDAY NIGHT GREAT SOUTHERN STAR, DERBY BARRIER WRAP Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

It’s a knockout. The triumphant performance of New Zealand pacer Lazarus in tonight’s (Saturday) Gr.1 $400,000 Eynesbury Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton had to be seen to be believed after he embarrassed his rivals in the 2240m harness racing feature. It was eerily similar to his New Zealand Cup thrashing back in November when successful by an ever expanding margin. The brilliant pacer joins only Sinbad Bay and Holmes DG as winners of the Victoria Cup as a four-year-old. Starting as a clear favourite after landing gate six, Lazarus ($1.50 fav) pushed hard from the gate and found a forward position early before Purdon allowed the Bettor's Delight entire to stride freely down the back straight on the first occasion to take the lead from Major Crocker with a mile left to travel. The lead time was covered in 44.2 seconds. With Mach Doro galloping wildly at release point and then Hectorjayjay also making a rare error, the race took on a completely different look in comparison to most speed maps. Many thought the race was over once Lazarus found the front. Lazarus travelled strongly in front and covered the first half of the final mile in splits of 30 and 28.6 seconds. Bling It On worked clear from the inside and moved around the outside while Allblack Stride also made a mid-race move before Hectorjayjay charged around to sit parked over the final lap. At this point, rivals were chasing in vain. Entering the back straight, Lazarus powered along in front leaving rivals starting to feel the pinch while others jostled for better positions. The third quarter was covered in 27.4 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Purdon lifted the reins and his star pupil left his rivals tapping out as he inflicted more pain with a scintillating final sectional. He finished off his rivals with a 26.4 final split. Lazarus defeated Major Crocker ($81.80) by 12m while Bling It On ($14.20) grabbed third a further 7.7m away. The final mile was clocked in 1:52.4. The race time was 2:36.6 – a mile rate of 1:52.5 which easily eclipsed the previous race record of Smoken Up who set a mark of 1:53.4 when successful in 2011. It also smashed the track record which previously belonged to All Eyes On Us at 1:53.2. “He’s a very special horse, perhaps the greatest I’ve ever trained.” Purdon stated immediately after the race. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017 The victory was his third in the event following previous victories with Young Rufus (2003) and Brabham (1998 – trainer). The winning effort also elevates Lazarus to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit with 200 points following his victories in both the New Zealand and Victoria Cups; his stablemates Smolda (120) and Our Dream About Me (100) are next. Perth pacer Chicago Bull has also amassed 100 points. Only two legs of the APG Grand Circuit remain this season. Next week, the Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National Hunter Cup takes place; the 2700m mobile event will be staged at Melton. Chris Barsby

Vincent had to be vulnerable after covering so much ground on the first lap in his heat of the harness racing VHRSC Victoria Derby tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton.  But when he put paid to Sydney star Blue Moon Rising approaching the home bend – with daylight to the rest of the field – he looked anything but susceptible. The Mark Purdon trained and driven three-year-old son of Art Major-Kept For Pleasure gapped them, 12.3m his winning margin. He glided through the last half in 55 seconds flat, 26.9secs the final quarter-mile. “He’s got everything going for him. He’s a lovely horse. He’s got a great heart,” Purdon said after the 2240-metre race. “He was unlucky he got injured as a two-year-old otherwise he would have been here for the APG but that’s the way it went and it may have turned out a blessing for it.” While Vincent looks clearly the one to beat come next Saturday’s $200,000 three-year-old classic, Purdon-trained stablemate Motu Meteor (Bettors Delight-Silksngems) might be the opportunist should he draw well. The Merv and Meg Butterworth owned gelding won the third heat of the Derby at Melton in 1:57.3, sprinting sharply up the sprint lane after getting smother throughout behind race leader Jilliby Kung Fu. “He got the perfect run and capitalised. He’s a nice little horse. He has probably flown under the radar a little bit,” Purdon said. “He’s not without a chance (in the big one) and if he draws like he did tonight it’ll play right into his hands.” Jilliby Kung Fu stuck on for second beaten 2.6m after crawling through his first half in 62.7. They ripped home in 28.4 and 26.4. Meanwhile, making it three out of three for “Purdon-trained Derby heat winners” was Be Jacks Legend (Bettors Delight-Larissas Rose), trained by Barry Purdon – Mark’s older brother and NZ’s most successful trots trainer ever. Be Jacks Legend went 1:55.0 from barrier seven to topple Emain Macha by 2.2m with Wrappers Delight third. The winner was driven by Zac Butcher and is owned by leviathan all-codes owner Terry Henderson, who has won a Melbourne Cup with Doriemus and also owned two-time Kiwi harness horse of the year Chokin.  “I love being back here,” Henderson said post-race. “Especially on nights like tonight when you see the best of the best … it’s just fantastic to be involved.” Butcher said Be Jacks Legend would only continue to improve. “He was a January foal so he is still growing and developing and learning the way of the game,” Butcher said. “This guy did it pretty tough over the last lap and he really stuck to his guns.” Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Driving against the likes of some of Australasia's most accomplished harness racing reinsmen in a Grand Circuit race is something Chris Geary did not expect to achieve so soon in his career. Up against names such as Purdon, Lang, McCarthy and Alford, Geary will be going head-to-head with the best of them after landing a dream drive in Saturday's Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. Geary was offered the drive on the Craig Cross-trained Mach Doro. It will be the first time Geary drives that pacer in race conditions and also the first time driving in Victoria. "They probably look at the formguide and say, who is this kid?" the 19-year-old said. "I've always watched races like the Victoria Cup and thought one day I'd like to be a part of it but I didn't expect it to happen so soon. "Hopefully these opportunities keep rolling around and I have to thank Craig and the connections for the opportunity and to be asked to be part of such a prestigious race. "It would be awesome to win it but just being part of the race is very special to me. "My horse has drawn well in barrier one and the plan is to punch out as hard as he can until one of the top horses comes around. "Ever since this horse arrived in Sydney I've had a big opinion of him." Geary has also picked up two drives in heats of the Victoria Derby on the night. This includes on the Shane and Lauren Tritton-trained Blue Moon Rising and also the Cross-conditioned Zahven Banner. "Blue Moon Rising is a nice horse," Geary said. "Some were disappointed with his run in the Canberra Derby but he made a lot of ground and went better off the track. "Zahven Banner is a really nice horse too that has come a long way in a short amount of time." But before all of this Geary will take part in Junee's TAB.COM.AU Carnival of Cups meeting on Thursday. He has been invited to contest the Club's annual City VS Country Drivers Challenge along with other Sydney-based drivers David Morris and Brendan Barnes. Geary will also drive Major Steppe for his father John Geary in the Phoenix Accounting and Business Services Junee Pacers Cup (2170m). Major Steppe has drawn inside the second row for the feature race and is currently an $8 chance with TAB Fixed Odds. A winner two starts ago, Major Steppe is having his first start at the Junee track like the $3.50 favourite Mammals Flash that is also first up from a spell. Geary's big weekend will continue into Goulburn's TAB.COM.AU Carnival Of Cups meeting on Sunday. He has a drive in four of the eight races at that meeting including in the main feature, the Goulburn Soldiers Club Frank and Edna Day Goulburn Cup (2240m). Originally booked with four drives in the Group 3, Geary has elected to stick with the grey pacer Clancys Fobwatch over the likes of the $3.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite Yayas Hot Spot. "I'm sticking with Clancys Fobwatch, he is racing in super form at the moment," Geary said. "He is always thereabouts and if the race is run to suit then I'm sure he will be in the finish. "He is driven the same every week and hopefully he gets the right run as he deserves to win a race like this." Starting wide in barrier seven, Clancys Fobwatch is the $4 third favourite behind Yayas Hot Spot and Spare Me Days, the second elect at $3.60. Geary is currently the leading driver in New South Wales. AMANDA RANDO

Mark Purdon’s genius extended beyond his own harness racing stable with the Kiwi producing one of the drives of the night to set up another New Zealand victory. Purdon delivered trainer Sam Smolenski “a career highlight” when he steered Sunny Ruby to the Group 1 $50,000 Haras Des Trotteurs V L Dullard Trotters Cup   at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. The winning move came in the opening metres when Sunny Ruby (gate three) capitalised on K D Muscles’ (gate two) early pace. Purdon tagged on the back of K D Muscles, crossing favourite On Thunder Road (gate one) to guide his mare into the box seat and give her an armchair ride into the race. That meant the Kiwi mare, who has a sizzling sprint, had plenty left in the tank to open up in the sprint lane and hold out a super run from Victorian horse The Boss Man. Purdon’s drive was the talk of the track post-race. “(On Thunder Road) was just struggling to hold (leader) Kate Gath’s back and there was just enough room to squeeze in,” Purdon said. “I was a bit lucky.” He’s been “lucky” plenty of times. “Mark’s a great driver,” Smolenski said. “She got a great run.” Sunny Ruby won by a half-head from The Boss Man, continuing trainer Scott Dyer and driver Ellen Tormey’s brilliant summer with the seven-year-old trotter, who has snapped up the Horsham, Cobram and Yarra Valley trotters cups. Quite A Moment finished third for Lance Justice and all three are likely to carry on to next Saturday’s $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star, the richest race in Australasia. “Next week’s the one we want,”Smolenski said.  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Great Western gelding Wheatsheaf Avaball will greet the harness racing starter for the 200th time in the APG Sale Pace on Monday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. It will be the popular 11-year-old’s last time at the races. Trainer-driver Michelle Wight said “Charlie”, as he’s known in the stables, would spend his retirement years on the family property. “He’s here for life,” she said. “He has been preparing for his retirement. He has been broken to saddle and he even made an appearance at the Ararat show this year, finishing third in his lead class before backing up at Horsham races the next day sporting curls from being plaited up!” Wight and husband Craig first leased Wheatsheaf Avaball in 2010 from Darren Cole, Terang horse trainer and Wheatsheaf Hotel proprietor. The couple purchased him three years later when their lease expired. Now, in the words of Wight, “Charlie is so much part of the family that we bought his mum from the Alabar sale a few years ago. We now also have Charlie’s three-year-old sister by Grinfromeartoear and a yearling three-quarter brother by Mafioso”. RE-LIVE WHEATSHEAF AVABALL'S TERANG WIN FROM MARCH LAST YEAR Although he’s never won a metropolitan race, Wheatsheaf Avaball has been a rock-solid competitor every time he’s stepped on to a racetrack, earning over $111,000 with 17 wins and a further 60 minor placings. “He is such a tough and honest horse that I have often gotten Facebook messages from random people asking after him or congratulating us after a win,” Wight said. “We were going to retire him last year when he got to $100,000 (in stakes) but he was still going so well that we decided to aim for the 200 starts. “He loves local tracks and has an amazing record at Horsham. He hasn’t won many races there but produced some huge runs. “It’s funny when you go back through his race replays, so many times the caller says as they go over the line, ‘big run by Wheatsheaf’ or something along those lines.” Wheatsheaf Avaball has drawn barrier five in the third race on Monday night at Melton.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager) Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Monday 09 January 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Monday 09 January 2017

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