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New Year’s Eve took on special significance this year with Tabcorp Park Melton hosting 12 Group 1 Vicbred Finals showcasing the most talented colts, fillies, horses and mares that Australia has to offer with Harness Racing Victoria, Tabcorp Park and Sky Racing doing an exceptional job presenting all the night’s action to viewers. Nights like New Year’s Eve are usually memorable simply because they are New Year’s Eve - nights, we anticipate and remember. In particular, this was a New Year’s Eve most of us were looking forward to – with all the challenges 2020 presented, we were all happy to see the back end of it and move on to a happier and healthier 2021. But for Empire Stallions, it was truly a memorable night, as their stallions sired the winners of 4 of the 6 Vicbred Super Series GR1 Pacing Finals! Captaintreacherous, Modern Art, Somebeachsomewhere and Western Terror each had a Group 1 winner in the 2YO Fillies, 4YO Entires & Geldings, the 3YO Fillies and 2YO Colts & Geldings divisions respectively. Kimble, a talented son of Western Terror - I’m Wrongly Accused - Bettor’s Delight pulled off the upset of the night winning the 2YO Pacing Colts & Geldings GR1 $130,000 Final. While the two leaders and heavy favourites, Idyllic and Major Moth were engaged in a front-end speed duel, Kimble took advantage advancing from three back on the pegs to blast past the leaders to win by six metres. Kimble was bred and is raced by CJ & JM O’Connor and is trained and driven by Matthew Craven. “So proud of this fella” Craven said. “He has just continued to improve and improve all the way along. And tonight, when he went to the leaders at the top of the lane, he just pinned his ears back and had a full crack. That’s what we love about him.”  To watch the video replay of Kimble click here One of the most anticipated matches of the night was the $130,000 Vicbred 2YO Pacing Fillies division. It was Tough Tilly against her unbeaten stablemate Ladies In Red. But this night, Tough Tilly was much the best claiming victory while leading every step of the way. The daughter of Captaintreacherous - Beninjurd - Art Major races to promote awareness of the outstanding foundation she represents, EB Research Partnership Australia, and is named for Tilly Wilkes, one of the brave young ladies afflicted with this disease. Driver Kate Gath, dressed in the EB Research butterfly silks, was understandably emotional after her win. “Tilly proved that she is tough like her name says and she was just too good tonight” Gath said. “There is no race I have wanted to win more - for EB Research, Tilly and everyone suffering with EB – its’s just a great story and I’m so lucky to be a part of it.” This terrific filly is trained by Emma Stewart, was bred by Benstud Standardbreds and is raced by Benstud Standardbreds & CURE EB. Tough Tilly is from Captaintreacherous’ first Australian-sired crop of 41 two-year-old winners and gives her sire his third Australasian GR1 winner this season. To watch the video replay of Tough Tilly click here In the $130,000 3YO Pacing Fillies Final, Maajida thrilled the audience with yet another sensational victory. It was back-to-back Vicbred victories for this brilliant 3-year-old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere - Arterial Way - Art Major who also captured the Vicbred Final and Filly of the Year honours last year at two. After sprinting up to the outside of the leader at the bell from post 8, Maajida sat in the death until the top of the stretch when she pulled ahead to outstay her rivals to the wire in MR1:55.5. Driver Greg Sugars commented “She just keeps winning, that’s all you can ask for. She has a never-say-die attitude and just keeps getting the job done.” This was the 17th win – her 3rd at the GR1 level – all from 23 starts for Maajida who is trained by Emma Stewart. She is raced by her owners/breeders the Johnson family from The Rock, NSW who were on hand to accept the trophy. To watch the video replay of Maajida click here. Every time Lochinvar Art steps foot on the racetrack, electricity fills the air and we have grown accustomed to watching his exciting performances. Lochinvar Art is certainly no stranger to Tabcorp Park Melton as he holds multiple track records there over short and middle distances.  But tonight’s win in the $130,000 Vicbred 4YO Entires & Geldings Final performance was nothing short of spectacular as he pulled away from the field with a :26.9 third quarter and raced on to win convincingly by 30 metres! His trainer/driver David Moran said “tonight he probably felt the best he’s ever been. I thought he would be three or four lengths the winner, but he was 10 lengths the best.” From his 47 career starts, Lochinvar Art, a son of Modern Art, has 25 wins, 14 seconds and 7 thirds to his credit, $986,556 in earnings and a record of 1:48.6. This was his fifth Group 1 victory and with this remarkable win, he has stamped himself as the best 4YO and older performer in Australia – full stop. To watch the video replay of Lochinvar Art click here “Empire works extremely hard to choose the best stallions, with the best bloodlines and the best race careers who we feel will best cross with Australasian bloodmares to produce winners” said Empire principal David James. “It is so gratifying when your hard work pays off and New Year’s Eve was just an amazing night – wow! Not many farms can take credit for their stallions siring four Group 1 winners on a single race card.” Besides the four Group 1 champions, the Empire influence was also evident on the broodmare side of two Vicbred trotting winners. Always Ready, who won the $100,000 4YO Trotting Entires & Geldings Final, is out of a mare by the Empire alumni Yankee Paco and the winner of the $100,000 3YO Trotting Fillies Final, Majestic Belle, is out of the Modern Art dam Avid. Another interesting point regarding the Vicbred Finals – of the 12 Group 1 races, five of the winners were sired by stallions that are available in Australia via frozen semen – Andover Hall, Captaintreacherous, Ready Cash and Somebeachsomewhere.   

Jamieson Steele, who won his ninth race at Tabcorp Park Melton last Saturday and has now earned in excess of $100,000, is a six-year-old harness racing gelding expected to graduate far beyond his present rating. The Million Dollar Cam gelding came from a seemingly hopeless position on the home turn to mow down his rivals, tramping his last 800 in 54.7 seconds. The mile rate was 1:54 for 1720 metres. Jamieson Steele was one of six Million Dollar Cam winners over the holiday period. The Yirribee Pacing Stud sire produced a double at Redcliffe with Gina Tarantella, who posted her fifth success on end, and Getaloadathisgirl, together with the Globe Derby Park winner Alimonie, Spirited (Temora) and Isntthatright (Albury). Million Dollar Cam has sired 102 individual winners in Australia to date and progeny earnings of $4.5 million for an average of a creditable $30,300 per starter. Tintin In America, the sire of 2019 USA Horse of the Year Shartin, led in winners on both sides of the Tasman. Nimah Franco NZ, a six-year-old mare, led from end to end in 1:56.1 at Albion Park, while Jack Tar rated 1:58.4 winning his fourth race at Cambridge Raceway, New Zealand. Peter Wharton

Star Kiwi mare Our Princess Tiffany has another Group 1 feature at her mercy. Now in the care of Dean Braun, the four-year-old returned to something like her very best form to thrash major rival Miss McGonagall in her Vicbred semi-final at Melton on Tuesday night. Now she’s drawn gate two for the $130,000 final on New Year’s Eve at Melton at dominates betting at $1.25 with Miss McGonagall (gate six) next best at $7. “She landed in a good spot early and felt great in the run,” driver Chris Alford said. “She quickly had the favourite covered when I let her rip and really hit the line strongly.” The daughter of Art Major has won three of six runs in this Aussie stint with Braun and taken her record to 38 starts for 21 wins, 11 placings and $878,262. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Australia's best pacer Lochinvar Art should ice a magnificent year with victory in his Group 1 Vicbred 4YO entires and geldings final. His 18 starts this season have netted 12 wins, four placings and included Group 1 wins in the Victoria Cup, Chariots Of Fire and 4YO Bonanza along with second in the Miracle Mile. Lochinvar Art stamped his class with a dominant Vicbred semi win – in a blistering 1min53.1sec mile rate for 2240m in wet and windy conditions – on Tuesday night. Already the standout in his division, he drew the pole for the final and is a $1.15 favourite. “Mindful he’s got a big few months ahead, I haven’t done much with him at home so he’ll improve on what you saw in the semi,” trainer-driver David Moran said. Beyond the Vicbred final on New Year’s Eve, Moran’s targets are the Shepparton Cup (January 16), Ballarat Cup (January 23), Hunter Cup (February 6), Newcastle Mile (February 19) and Miracle Mile (March 6). _____________________________________________________________________________________________ The rampaging Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin barn is primed to build heavily on its already amazing 25 Vicbred Grand Finals. Incredibly, they have the favourite and/or second favourite in eight of the 10 Group 1 Vicbred finals at Melton on New Year’s Eve. Their headline acts are glamour juveniles Ladies In Red, he filly who is chasing a perfect 10 wins from as many starts this season, and Major Moth, who is trying to complete the Breeders Crown/Vicbred double. Ladies In Red led and won her semi as she liked, but drew the worst possible alley (gate eight, inside back row) for the final and is a $1.50. Stablemate Tough Tilly, who looks the leader from gate two, is $2.70. “It’s pretty scary how easily she does it,” Ladies In Red’s driver David Moran said after the semi. “I really never moved on her tonight, she seems to be getting better.” Major Moth came from the back row to easily win his semi and will have to do the same from gate nine in the final. He’s a $1.55 shot with stablemate and other semi winner, Idyllic, at $2.30 from gate two. “I got around and controlled it so easily (from the death) tonight,” Major Moth’s driver Damian Wilson said after the semi. “He’s such a dominant horse. He’s shown the fastest two-year-old around and those past two wins show he’s as strong as any of them as well. I can pretty much drive him how I want. “Idyllic was good winning his semi two and he’s got the draw to make it a contest in the final.” Tonkin and Stewart only have three trotters in work and they are all major winning chances in their respective Vicbred finals. The improving 2YO filly Banglez (gate one) is $3 second elect behind Chris Lang’s Evas Image (gate eight, $2.80). Utopia has been backed from $2.50 into $2.10 from gate five in the 2YO colts and geldings final. And Cover Of Darkness is $1.60 to stretch his unbeaten record to nine wins despite a back row draw (gate 10) in the 3YO colts and geldings final.   Adam Hamilton

KATE Gath has her first Victorian metropolitan driving premiership in the bag. A winning double on trotters McLovin and Monaro Maro at Melton on Saturday night stretched Gath’s lead to a commanding 11 wins over Chris Alford. Gath will join Kerryn Manning as just the second female to win the title. McLovin’s win, his second in a row, was one of the highlights of the night and showed he was back very close to his best form as Victoria’s major trotting races get closer. Despite sitting outside glamour mare Dance Craze, McLovin looked beaten on the final bend but just keep digging in and snatched a 1.1m win in the Group 3 Freestone Trotters’ Cup. He ripped home in 56.6 and 28.4sec from the death. It followed Gath’s easy win on talented former Kiwi mare Monaro Maro, who, like McLovin, is raced by Norm Jenkin. _________________________________________________________________________________________ HISTORY-MAKING trotting filly Pink Galahs is chasing her 14th win from just 20 starts in a Vicbred qualifying heat at Maryborough today (Monday). It was only a couple of months back when Pink Galahs upstaged Australia’s best trotters to win the Group 1 Bill Collins Sprint on Victoria Cup night. She’s since added the Victoria Derby, Victoria Oaks and looks to have the Group 1 Vicbred final (December 31) at her mercy back against her own age and sex. Cover Of Darkness, one of just three trotters Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin have in work, is chasing his eighth win from as many starts from gate four in his Vicbred heat (race three) today. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A CONFIDENT and aggressive Shane Graham drive helped young Kiwi star One Change score an upset win in “The Creek” Christmas Cup (2680m) at Albion Park on Saturday night. Just a week after he finished fifth to King Of Swing in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake over the same trip, Graham bustled One Change off the gate from barrier four and worked to the front while hot favourite Colt Thirty One was headed-off from the pole. Despite clocking a blistering 75.9sec lead time for the 2680m and 28.1sec first quarter of the last mile, One Change thrived in front and dashed home in 55.8 and 27.4sec to beat a gallant Bright Energy with Colt Thirty One third. One Change, who boasts six wins from 10 starts during his stint with Vicki Rasmussen in Queensland, clocked a brilliant 1min54.6sec mile rate, which was just 0.9sec outside the track record set by Colt Thirty One in the 2019 Blacks A Fake. _________________________________________________________________________________________ CASH N Flow’s stunning 13-race winning streak at Menangle is over. The former Kiwi star was unable to find his favourite spot in front and finished fourth to the emerging Whereyabinboppin in the Group 2 Harold Park Cup (1609m) at Menangle on Saturday night. Whereyabinboppin blasted to the front in a scorching 25.5sec opening quarter, steadied the tempo for a 59.4sec split from the 1200-400m and then dashed home in 26.8sec to win easily for trainer Shane Sanderson and driver Cameron Hart. The son of A Rocknroll Dance boasts 12 wins from just 19 starts. The other eye-catcher at Menangle was Craig Cross’ recent stable addition, Expensive Ego, who made it two wins from as many starts for the barn when he scored by 10.3m in a 1min51.1sec mile on Saturday night. The rising four-year-old, who had 13 months out with injury, has raced just 10 times for eight wins and a second. He looks a genuine Chariots Of Fire contender. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A BRILLIANT Colin Brown drive helped classy pacer Vampiro return to winning form in a strong free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. And Team Bond’s rising seven-year-old smashed the clock with a 1min54.1sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. The hot pace was set by an overly keen leader Bletchley Park, who ran the middle half in 56.5, third quarter in 27.2 and still held-on bravely for second. Vampiro sat three pegs until the gaps appeared at the 350m and Brown set out after Bletchley Park and brushing past him to win by 2.6m. It was mixed result for Team Bond, who also had third placed Galactic Star, but their former WA Cup winner Mighty Conqueror stopped badly after sitting parked and was found to pulled-up lame in his off foreleg. Team Bond’s WA Derby winner Patronus Star suffered his first defeat in eight WA starts, but certainly lost no fans when a first-up second as he builds towards the upcoming 4YO features at Gloucester Park.  The hype around two-year-old Lavra Joe continues to build after he sat parked and dug deep in a blistering 1min54sec mile rate for 2130m for trainer Ray Jones and driver Chris Lewis. The son of Roll With Joe has got better as his busy season has rolled-on with 21 starts netting 10 wins, three seconds and three thirds. _________________________________________________________________________________________ EMILY Suvaljko is young driver going places. Just a couple of weeks after missing the Group 1 WA Pacing Cup winning drive on Vultan Tin because of suspension, Suvaljko got some compensation with a double, including the feature race, at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Fittingly, she replaced her father, Shannon, aboard Vivere Damore and led throughout to win the $50,000 Group 2 Christmas Gift. The Suvaljko’s like keeping it in the family as it was Shannon who substituted for Emily to win aboard Vultan Tin. Emily completed her double just 30 minutes after Vivere Damore’s win when she caused an upset to score on Cyclone Banner for trainer Ray Williams. _________________________________________________________________________________________ EMERGING gelding The Shallows upstaged Tasmania’s two best pacers, Ignatius aand Ryley Major, to win one of the state’s biggest races, the Golden Apple in Hobart on Saturday night. The big guns had 30m handicaps to overcome and had to be content with fourth (Ignatius) and fifth (Ryley Major), while The Shallows won well from a 10m handicap. It capped a great season for The Shallows who has won 12 of his 19 stars this term for a career record of 14 wins from 30 starts.   by Adam Hamilton

“He could be winning very soon,” says Nikkita Ross as the Trots Life Blackbook swells to 12, five of whom will step out at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Part of the Metrospective segment on SENTrack on Mondays, the Blackbook is the result of Ross and host Jason Bonnington scouring Saturday night’s metropolitan racing to shortlist those on the cusp of success. The new column launched last week, with all seven entrants having since raced, returning four second placings and a third, with Itz Longtall Sally, Bullys Delight, Somebeachshadow, Sammy Showdown and Spring In His Step all rewarding each-way plays. Return Soldier finished seventh and Repeat After Me fifth, with the latter the only runner to face the axe. “He didn’t do any early work and didn’t finish the race off like you would have hoped, so he comes out of the Blackbook after just sneaking in the week prior,” the panel found. But there were six new additions. Here’s this week’s who and why: Bullion Lady (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12) NIKKITA ROSS: She was well back in the field in a strong mares’ race and worked to the line really nicely, making good ground and running past some nice horses late. Gobsmacked: (Blackbooked: 6th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R8 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: This bloke was flying during lockdown number one and his run in a heat of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs indicated he’s not far from breaking through again back in a regional assignment from a decent draw. Little Yankee (Blackbooked: 1st at Melton on December 12). Every rise in grade has the potential to be catastrophic for a horse like this little fellow but he seems to lift for every challenge presented. He’s heading into the Vicbred Super Series deep end now but looks to have serious scope. Mr Bohannon (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: I still don’t know exactly how to assess this fellow, but he went up in my estimation when sitting parked and fighting like a caged lion in heat two of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs. He is the one to beat in next week’s final based on that performance for mine. Steel Screens (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N9 at Melton on Saturday) NIKKITA ROSS: Was last at the 400m and had to make a wide run around the field in a quick last half, finishing strongly into second. A really good effort to make the ground that he did. He is a consistent horse who can break through for another win in his right race soon. Sundons Courage (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R10 N7 at Melton on Saturday). NIKKITA ROSS: Made a mistake at the start and lost plenty of ground before chasing and doing his best work late in a really quick last quarter, to be beaten by less than 14 metres by arguably the best trotter in the country at this point in time. His run prior was also very good and if he can do everything right, he could be winning a race very soon. Of the existing Blackbookers, only Bullys Delight has an engagement. He will contest the APG Melbourne Sales Pace at Melton on Saturday night.   Harness Racing Victoria

The Pryde’s EasiFeed three-year-old fillies’ class was tonight turned on its head with Emma Stewart’s series favourite failing to qualify, a stablemate making her claim and then Sweet Louise monstering the second TAB Breeders Crown semi-final. The latter was a great sign for trainer Phil Chircop and owner-breeder John Dorrington, with their lightly-raced Sweet Lou filly knuckling down in the closing stages and leaving her rivals in her wake. Having her first start for reinsman Chris Alford, Sweet Louise crossed to the lead from gate two and controlled proceedings from there. “She got out pretty good at Bendigo last week and I thought the one horse (Beautiful Woman) wouldn’t be in for too much of a battle, it was just whether we could come out quick enough to hold the wide ones and she did that pretty well,” Alford told Trots Vision. “They all seemed to grab hold so it worked out pretty well.” Sweet Louise had it largely her own way until the final bend when seasoned Amelia Rose emerged to throw down the gauntlet. “Around the last turn she was half loafing,” Alford said. “Phil said she might hang a bit on the last turn and she was running a bit sideways, and (Amelia Rose) got to her real quick and I thought it might zip straight past her. “I pulled the ear (plugs) off and she just really knuckled down and ran up the straight pretty strong.” Off a 27.8-second third quarter Sweet Louise hit the line in a 27.5-second final quarter to put 14 metres on the rest of the field, with Its Beaujolais running into second. And it would seem there is a lot of improvement left in her. “For a big girl and a three-year-old she’s like driving a little baby, she just runs in and out,” Alford said. “When she has her mind on the job she’s all right, but just while she’s in front she was just floating all over the place. “John (Dorrington)’s been in horses for a long long time, as has (trainer) Phil (Chircop), so it would be great if they could get a big win next week.” Sweet Louise advances to next Saturday’s finals along with Its Beaujolais, Dr Susan, Amelia Rose, Soundsofcash and Burnfouru. There they will have to contend with Techys Angel, who earlier won the grade’s first semi-final with an eye-catching performance. The race was notable for series favourite and reigning champion Maajida tiring into eighth and therefore failing to qualify, but that didn’t detract from the performance of the winner, Techys Angel, for reinswoman Kate Gath and trainer Emma Stewart. "Clayton (Tonkin) said all along that she's not just fast, she's tough as well,” Gath told Trots Vision. “Her revving up had made that tricky a couple of starts ago, but she's much better now. As a result she showed what she's able to do and she's definitely got a terrific hope next week.” Impressively, Techys Angel seemed to take no harm from being used early, with Gath guiding the Alto Christiano filly from gate seven to the breeze in a 44.6-second lead time. “She's got pretty good gate speed, but so do a few of the others,” Gath said post-race. “We got around not too hard and she relaxed good.” There was plenty of activity throughout with leader Keayang Jackie holding the front while the running lane cycled through a series of horses in the breeze, which would ultimately see Techys Angel shuffled four back in the running line. Gath showed a patient hand before emerging with 200 metres to go, drawing off The Pantheist’s back to win by 4.8 metres, with the latter claiming second while Louisiana Jo, Final Peace, Keayang Jackie and Belladonna Girl also booked finals places. "She was great,” Gath said of the winner. “Tonight she showed what she's able to do and what Clayton's said that she can do the whole time. Those second and third quarters she was just jogging in behind them, she just did that really easily.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Damian Wilson is daring to dream of delivering loyal supporters, owner-breeders Len and Irene Parker, with a TAB Breeders Crown after winning impressively with Major Moth in tonight’s first VHRC Caduceus two-year-old colts and geldings’ semi-final. Wilson had to roll through plans A, B and C in the run but ultimately pulled the right rein to see his Art Major colt emerge victorious for trainer Clayton Tonkin. “It was a very tricky draw tonight,” he told Trots Vision, having started in gate eight behind Sayitaintso Joe. “It was hard to work out what was going to happen in the run and what everyone thought would happen was totally opposite to what did happen. “I was (originally) happy just to drive him quiet, hit the line and qualify for the final tonight, but after being four back the fence everything changed. Just one of those things.” As he described, Major Moth was buried deep on the pegs in the first 100 metres, prompting Wilson to move into the running line and then follow up the three-wide train for the last lap. The race changed complexion when leader and favourite Beyond Delight suddenly dropped out, but Major Moth plowed on, tracking up One Two Many and then running past leader Bar Room Banta to salute by 8.5 metres. “He proved (he’s a contender) tonight and last week,” Wilson said. “(Last week) he probably went as quick a lead time as anything and got home in 26.8. Not many horses can do that. He’s definitely a chance." And it paints the prospect of rewarding a long-time backer. “I’ve known Lenny (Parker) for probably 10 or 12 years. He always sticks behind me. I might put a bad one in, but he’s always got my back. He’s a good bloke," Wilson said. “(Breeders Crowns) don’t come around very often and I’ve got the chance this year, so let’s hope I can make the most of it.” His main threat may well come from Emma Stewart’s Act Now, who found the front from gate three in the second semi-final and led all-the-way to win by three metres. On an eventful night it was a rather uncomplicated race for reinswoman Jodi Quinlan and owner-breeders Bruce and Vicki Edward. “He’s really in his element when he can lead and just bowl along,” Quinlan told Trots Vision. “He likes to bowl along at a nice rate. He foxes a little bit, when they come up outside of him he feels enormous, and then when they drop off a bit he drops off a bit with them. He does wait for them a little bit, but when he goes, he goes all right.” Their real test came at the top of the straight when Kerryn Manning emerged off the leader’s back to make a play for the win on Watts Up Sunshine, but Act Now had all the answers and was able to hold the Rickie Alchin runner’s challenge at bay. “When Kerryn came to the outside of him I had to shake him up a little bit, but he’s one of those – when they get to his wheel he just plods along at his own tempo.” Joining Act Now and Watts Up Sunshine in advancing to the final from the second semi-final were Jacks Hawk, Go Dancing, Tuppence and Electric Eye. They will be joined by first semi-final qualifiers Major Moth, Kimble, Swayzee, Bar Room Banta, One Two Many and Drain The Swamp.   HRV - Michael Howard

Most Aussies thought it was a daring raid, but Kiwi trainer Josh Dickie knew his filly. This looks one of the best crops of juvenile trotters Australia has seen, but Dickie trumped them all with Mexicana in yesterday’s $50,000 Group 1 Redwood Classic at Maryborough. While many of her key rivals galloped early from the stand or struck trouble, Mexicana trotted away superbly from inside the back row from driver Greg Sugars and worked around to take the lead after 600m. Talented local Illawong Barmah, who led then took a sit, came at Mexicana late, but the Kiwi was just being nursed by Sugars as she finished off in a 57.7sec last half to win by 1.4m. “I never pulled the ear plugs and got too serious on her,” Sugars told Trotvision. “She was actually pretty casual out in front. She felt really strong on the line, so I think there’s plenty more there. ‘I’m extremely thankful to Josh (Dickie) and his team and to Trevor (Casey) and the owners to trust me with this filly. She is a beautiful girl.” Mexicana gave Dickie by far his biggest win since taking over training the family team from his father John. And there’s a strong Aussie connection through Dickie’s partner, Sammy Kilgour, who has many friends back in Victoria. Mexicana now heads to the Breeders Crown where heats will be at Maryborough on November 12. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ There is just no stopping pin-up girl Pink Galahs. Matty Craven’s pint-sized darling dominantly won her third Group 1 race in less than a month when she stormed to victory in yesterday’s Victoria Trotters’ Derby. Things looked tricky with a lap to run when the gifted and speedy Elite Stride made a lightning move around the field to take the lead, which buried Pink Galahs three pegs. But some welcome luck came heading to the last bend when Gimondi galloped behind the leader and helped Pink Galahs get to the sprint lane quicker and that was the end of the race. Pink Galahs blasted through the opening to win running away by four metres over Elite Stride with a gallant Powderkeg third after sitting parked throughout in a solid 2min1.2sec mile rate for the long 2690m trip. A jubilant Craven celebrated with a big victory salute over the last 50m when it was clear he had the classic won. In the space of a month, Pink Galahs has upstaged the best trotters in Australia to win the Bill Collins Sprint then added the Victoria Oaks and Victoria Derby. “This is just unbelievable,” Craven said. “I thought it was amazing enough when she won the Bill Collins and now she’s gone on and done it again and again … she’s just the most amazing filly.” _________________________________________________________________________________________________ It was fitting Majestuoso returned to Maryborough to land the win that showed he was ready for the big league. Just over 12 months ago the Andy Gath-trained gelding showcased his abundant potential by unleashing a huge sprint to win the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough. Yesterday it was the speed he showed at the start and his all-round display which showed why driver Kate Gath has been buzzing about his future prospects. Majestuoso, best known for balancing-up early and sprinting late, blasted off the gate from barrier six to lead and win the free-for-all. It completed changed a race where glamour mare Red Hot Tooth was backed into $1.60 favourite because most expected her to rip across the field early from gate seven and lead. But she had to sit parked and never looked likely to get past Majestuoso, who beat the talented Wobelee by 3.5m with Brandlo Prince third and Red Hot Tooth in fourth spot. “We weren’t surprised he showed that sort of gate speed, but with him it’s always been in the back of your mind to make sure he trots at the start,” Kate Gath told Trotsvision. “He was keen in the score-up so I gave it a shot and once he found the front he relaxed really well. “There’s no standout in the open-class trotting ranks now and he’s got the ability to match them, so that’s where we are headed.”   HRNZ

A fresh Australian mile record for a two-year-old trotting colt was established by the Love You colt Affaire De Cover of 1:59 – bettering the previous record of 1:59.6 held by Blitzthemcalder by 3/5th of a second – when he won the $30,000 Trot NSW Final at Menangle. Affaire De Cover, who registered his first success, clocked quarters of 29.7, 30.4, 30.5 and 28.4 on the rainsodden track. Watch the race replay click here! Bred and raced by Tim Cregan, the colt is the fourth winner out of the Live Or Die mare Nigella Bites NZ, who won twice as a pacer at three years. Another ‘new’ two-year-old winner by Love You was the filly Amour Maternal, bred and owned by Haras Des Trotteurs’ principal Pat Driscoll, who won at her third start at the all-trotters meeting at Maryborough. Love You was also represented by the Dunedin, New Zealand winner Bev K’s One, while Andoverlov, a winner at the Ashburton Flying Stakes meeting, is from a mare by Love You. Love You is a member of the powerful Haras Des Trotteurs sire roster for the 2020/21 season.     by Peter Wharton

IT was the win that had it all. Three-year-old filly Pink Galahs did the unthinkable beating Australia’s best open-aged trotting stars in the $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Sprint (1720m). And the post-race interview with trainer-driver Matty Craven was raw, emotional and about the greatest advertisement you’d ever get for harness racing. The love for the horse, pride Craven had in his filly and overall buzz of the win totally overcame the young horseman. “You wouldn’t think it would make me so emotional, but it has. She’s just something else this filly,” he said as tears flowed freely. “I’d love to see her heart when she leaves this earth, it’ll be huge. If all horses tried as hard as her, this game would be easy.” The pint-sized Pink Galahs, by colonial stallion Skyvalley, landed the one-one trail and squeezed into the open rounding the final bend before storming home to snatch a head win over the leader and hot favourite Dance Craze in a 1min54.3sec mile rate for 1720m. Just 0.6sec outside Keystone Del’s track record. Most trainers wouldn’t dream of running a three-year-old against Group 1 open-aged trotters and, yes, this is an elongated season, but it was still remarked for Pink Galahs at just her 16th start. She’s won 10 of them with four placings. Dance Craze had to bustle to lead from the pole, something she hasn’t done often, and was excellent in second. Tough Monarch looks on target for a return trip to NZ where he won at Group 1 level on Cup Day last year after a ripper third. Andy and Kate Gath’s stars Tornado Valley and McLovin both disappointed in ninth and eighth spots. Both will be fully vetted tomorrow (Monday), especially Tornado Valley, who pulled-up “quite distressed” in the words of Kate Gath to stewards. __________________________________________________________________________________________ ANTHONY Butt didn’t hesitate to declare Elite Stride the fastest and best young trotters he’s driven. But, just as quickly, he added the three-year-old Muscle Hill colt has a long, long way to go to be spoken of in the ilk of champion trotters like Lyell Creek and Take A Moment. “He’s not the complete package, but his speed and potential is amazing. If he keeps developing he could be something special, but he’s got a few million and a stack of big open-class races to win before I’d compare with those others,” Butt said. Elite Stride unleashed a 26.7sec split down the back straight to blast to the front and then was nursed to a three-metre win over the promising Red White An Bloom in the $30,000 Group 2 Holmfield (1720m) in a 1min56.6sec mile rate. Bred and owned by Emilio and Mary Rosati, out of their former US trotting mare Real Babe, Elite Stride raced 10 times for nine wins, a second and earned $100,190. He’s got all the big three-year-old trotting races to come, including the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown. __________________________________________________________________________________________ THERE was a lot to like about Mighty Conqueror’s racetrack return. The reigning WA Cup winner opened a campaign aimed at defending that crown with a terrific second to Convert Denario at Gloucester Park last Friday night. It was his first run since winning the WA Cup in January and came after being scratched from a race two weeks ago. While Convert Denario led and dictated, Mighty Conqueror was trapped deep early, eventually found the spot outside the leader and kept coming to be beaten just 2.5m in second spot. They went a solid 1min55.9sec mile rate for the 2130m and ripped home in 56 flat and 27.8sec. Mighty Conqueror will certainly improve off the run and he’ll need to when he meets WA’s benchmark horses at the moment in Chicago Bull and Shockwave in coming weeks. His new stablemate, former top class Kiwi mare Wainui Creek, also impressed despite being beaten at her first WA run for Team Bond. Wainui Creek sat outside classy local Millwood Molly and failed a whisker to run her down in what turned into just a sprint home in 56 flat and 27.3sec against the mares. Most Kiwi horses improve with their first experience around Gloucester Park and, as you’d expect, Wainui Creek looks like she’ll be as good as any mares in WA. __________________________________________________________________________________________ THE signs were terrific with injury-plagued superstar Turn It Up’s comeback run at Albion Park last night (Saturday). Having his first run since winning the Harness Jewels 4YO final on June 1, last year, Turn It Up settled last from an outside back row draw and came right around the field in blistering closing splits to finish third to Queensland’s best pacer, Colt Thirty One. New trainer Vicki Rasmussen, who now leases the former Auckland Cup winner, would have been thrilled with Turn It Up’s own closing splits of 54.3 and 26.9sec.  It was the first time in his 16 start career he’s finished further back than second, having won 11 of them. Colt Thirty One controlled the race from outside the leader and won well by 4.4m from the leader, Secretagent Tycoon. Turn It Up was 10.3m from the winner. In other Queensland news, another injury-plagued star Hectorjayjay showed he was close to a racetrack return with a sharp Albion Park trial win last Friday. __________________________________________________________________________________________ YES it’s a different and elongated season, but Australia may never have seen a two-year-old crop quite like this. At Menangle last night, Victorian trainer Mick Stanley’s two star youngster Bar Room Banta and Soho Almasi brilliantly won their NSW Breeders Challenge semi-finals. Bar Room Banta smashed the Australasian two-year-old, posting a stunning 1min50.3sec mile, which took 1.1sec off Ignatius record. On loan to Craig Cross and driven by Luke McCarthy, Bar Room Banta still looked quite strong on the line, but runner-up Tasty Delight was mighty in second spot, just 1.1m from the winner. The other colts and geldings semi went to exciting local Watts Up Sunshine, who actually finished second to the exciting He Aint Fakin, but got the nod on protest in a 1min52.9sec mile. Soho Almasi stalked her main danger Arma Renegade in the second of the fillies’ semis and cruised past her in a 26sec last quarter at the end of 1min52.6sec mile to win by 6.6m. The first fillies’ semi was a stroll in the park for the brilliant Anntonia in a cosy 1min54sec mile. She looks the only possible threat to Soho Almasi in the final. Earlier in the night at Melton, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin flexed their muscle by snaring the first five home in the $50,000 Vicbred Home Grown final for 2YO fillies. The times were off the charts with winner Ladies In Red’s 1min51.9sec mile rate for 1720m taking a whopping 1.6sec off Nostra Beach’s 2YO fillies’ race record at Melton. As good as Ladies in Red was snatching a last-stride win over a very brave Tough Tilly, who sat parked, Tonkin insisted their were a vintage crop. That’s evidenced by just 2.6m separating their first five home in the record time. Tonkin and Stewart also grabbed first (Act Now) and third (Major Moth) in the Home Grown colts and geldings final in a 1min53.2sec mile rate. __________________________________________________________________________________________ YOU can also throw Idyllic in the conversation of our best two-year-olds. It might only have been a ho-hum Geelong race last Friday, but Idyllic equalled the all-aged track record as a two-year-old at just his sixth race start. And that’s after sitting parked, running a 58.3sec middle half and still running home in 57.3sec. The Clayton Tonkin-trained youngster rated 1min55.6sec for the 2100m, matching the record of his ex-stablemate Dee Denuto. At the same meeting, Tiger Tara’s baby brother Stingray Tara made it three wins (and a second) from his four Aussie runs for Geoff Webster. __________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was a close call, but classy former All Stars pacer Im Anothermasterpiece made a winning debut for new trainers Jess Tubbs and Greg Sugars at Melton last night. Remarkably well graded given his Kiwi form in the top races, the entire led, dictated and just staved-off the promising Denis William along the sprint lane to win by a head. “He’s only been here about 10 days and we’re still learning about him. It feels like he might be stronger than he is fast, but at least he go the job done tonight,” Sugars said.   By Adam Hamilton

AUSTRALIA’S most exciting pacer Ride High looks set to miss all the big summer races with a suspensory ligament injury. Trainer Clayton Tonkin confirmed the injury and scratched him from Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. Fears emerged Ride High’s shock defeat – just his second loss in 18 starts - in last Saturday night’s Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint was caused by a lot more than his hard run or a lack of fitness. “It’s a suspensory (ligament). We’ve just found out. It’s his nearside front leg,” he said. “We knew something wasn’t right the other night.” If there is any upside, Tonkin said the diagnosis was minor. “The vet says it isn’t bad, but these things are never good, either,” Tonkin said. “He’s got to have six weeks of light jogging and rehab, then be scanned again. We’ve got to hope it scans well after that and go from there.” Ride High roared to the front at the 400m in the Smoken Up and looked set for an easy win before weakening uncharacteristically from the top of the home straight to finish fifth as a $1.10 favourite, beaten almost 13m, by $126 outsider Rishi last Saturday night. Although immediate post-race checks didn’t reveal anything, Tonkin suspected there was an issue. Ride High’s injury robs the Victoria Cup of its headline act, but, thankfully, Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup winner King Of Swing is confirmed to travel down from Sydney for Saturday night’s feature  He looks set to be one of a staggering five Cup runners for trainer Craig Cross. The others being: Balraj, Cash N Flow, Alta Orlando and Bling It On. Champion driver Chris Alford is set to snare the King Of Swing drive unless Luke McCarthy is granted a permit to travel which excludes him from quarantining for two weeks when he returns to NSW.   Adam Hamilton

IS pacing sensation Ride High alright and will he tackle the Victoria Cup? Those are Aussie harness racing’s burning questions after Ride High’s shock defeat – just his second loss in 18 starts – as a $1.10 favourite in Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Tabcorp Park Melton. The pacing powerhouse went from cruising to the lead at the 400m to beaten 150m later and wilted to finish almost 13m from $126 upset winner Rishi. Victoria Cup betting remains suspended until Ride High’s status is clearer given he was a $2 prepost favourite before last night. Whether he tackles the Victoria Cup hinges on extensive veterinary tests, while Victoria Cup nominations close at noon (Melbourne time) today (Monday). Driver Kate Gath seemed dumfounded straight after the race: “He felt terrific in the run, but started to struggle at the top of the straight when he hit the lead.” Harness Racing Victoria stewards ordered an immediate post-race veterinary inspection, but reported “no significant findings.” HRV’s integrity chief Brent Fisher added: “We spoke to Emma Stewart (co-trainer) who stated it was three weeks since (Ride High) last raced and his work during the week was nothing different to usual. “(Stewart expressed) some concerns something isn’t right so will be getting a full vet check in the next few days.” Ride High had a throat operation late last year after it was found he had only “about 50 per cent breathing capacity.” He returned to win six races in effortless style and blistering times this campaign. The final field and barrier draw for the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup are released at 9.30am Melbourne time tomorrow (Tuesday).   Adam Hamilton

With a brilliant dash up the sprint lane three-year-old filly Pink Galahs bettered Australia’s leading trotting mares and delivered Matt Craven a victory dripping in sentimental delight. The trainer-driver dedicated the win to Pink Galahs’ part-owner Bryan Healy, son of Ric Healy, who produced the extraordinary Maori family that changed Australian trotting, which includes Sumthingaboutmaori after whom tonight’s race was named. “That’s one for Bryan in Queensland,” Craven told Trots Vision post-race. “I am sure he’s having kittens up there on the Gold Coast. “All his mates will be at the pub and to win a race named in the honour of his great mare (Sumthingaboutmaori), I’m sure he will be super thrilled tonight, as will Caleb (Lewis) and Laura (Lewis). They will be super excited and very proud of their little filly.” Bryan shares ownership of Pink Galahs with daughter Laura and her husband Caleb. The Skyvalley filly is out of Sweetasay, whose lines lead back three generations to Maori Mia, dam of Maori’s Idol, and a fourth generation to the great Maori Miss. Now Pink Galahs is writing an extraordinary new chapter of trotting success in the Maori family, having tonight registered her ninth win in just 15th starts, despite her last six starts having been run outside of her age group. “We were a bit concerned we had been way to easy on her and the reason she was here tonight was because we needed to get a run into her before the Oaks,” Craven said. “There’s not a lot of options for her, she’s put herself in this position basically because she’s been so good.” Tonight’s Aldebaran Park Sumthingaboutmaori Trotters Free For All was a whole nother level, with the likes of Dance Craze and Red Hot Tooth contesting for the Group 3 prize. Pink Galahs tagged on to the back of leader Imsettogo out of the gates, with Red Hot Tooth again doing heavy work in the breeze while Dance Craze loomed likely with her typical late run. But it was Craven’s runner, benefitting from a perfect run on the pegs, who had enough late zip and plenty in the tank to score by 2.1 metres. “Tonight we had the ideal trip in the box seat right behind the leader. Against this class of horse, stepping up against the older mares, super experience, well performed horses, she’s going to need that trip at the moment,” Craven said. “She’s probably all heart. Considering we have been so easy on her, she was great to the line and I think she will take a lot of benefit out of that. It’s a big thrill for me.” And it has the Terang trainer optimistic about his filly’s chances as the three-year-old classics near, beginning with the $60,000 TAB Victoria Trotters Oaks on October 17 at Melton. “It’s a great ride that she’s given us, hopefully we can take this form into the age feature races that are coming up, the Oaks, we could have a throw at the stumps at the Derby maybe,” Craven said. “Then we’ll just have the (Vicbred Super Series) in December.” And, if all goes well, the Great Southern Star? “Every time we’ve raised the bar she’s stepped up to it,” he said. “There’s one thing that we know: that she tries hard. She’s got good speed, you’d love to see her following the fence in a race like that. It wouldn’t be beyond her by any means.”   HRV - Michael Howard

REIGNING NZ Cup champion Cruz Bromac launches a campaign aimed at defending his crown when he tackles a strong Minuteman free-for-all (2240m) at Melton tomorrow (Saturday) night. It’s his first run since being sidelined with a fetlock injury after the Auckland Cup last New Year’s Eve. Managing owner Danny Zavitsanos is thrilled to have him back at the track and expects a bold showing despite a back row draw (gate 10) and quality opposition, headed by Lochinvar Art (gate 11) and Zennart (seven). “Amanda (Grieve) and Dean (Braun) think he’s at least as well, if not better, than the same time last year, which is great to hear,” he said. “We’re sure he’ll run well this week and then it’s into the Victoria Cup two weeks later. “All going well in these two runs and I told Mark (Purdon) he’ll be back to over to him to get ready for the (NZ Cup) again.” Zavitsanos, who “lit-up” Addington with his post-race celebrations last year, said Cruz Bromac was booked to return. “He’s booked with IRT for the 12th or 14th (of October), so we just need to be happy with his next two runs and he’ll head back over. It’s just a shame we won’t be able to go with him because it’s such a special day,” he said. Champion driver Chris Alford is aboard Cruz Bromac for his return, which is a vote of confidence given he’d been approached to drive Craig Cross’ Zennart and one of their many runners in the Victoria Cup. Kerryn Manning has picked-up the Zennart drive. Lochinvar Art, who smashed the clock when a monstrous second to Hurricane Harley, has been backed from $1.80 into $1.60 to atone tomorrow night. Zennart has firmed from $4.80 into $4.60 second elect, while Cruz Bromac is next ($4.60 out to $5).   by Adam Hamilton

ONLY a late change of plans will thwart the first clash of superstar Aussie pacers Ride High and Lochinvar Art at Melton next Saturday night. Ride High’s trainer Clayton Tonkin confirmed his pacing sensation would chase his 17th win from just 18 starts in the $30,000 Minuteman Free-For-All (2240m), while Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said it was “very likely” his charge would be there as well. Lochinvar Art lost no admirers when a monstrous second in scorching times at Bendigo on Saturday night. The Chariots Of Fire winner smashed the clock from a horror draw and after doing all the work when a mighty second to Hurricane Harley in track record time. He was timed to run his last mile of the 2150m race in a mind-blowing 1min50.9sec, some of it three and even four-wide. “His run was massive under the circumstances,” Moran said. “And, as I said going into it, he needed the run. He’ll take a lot out of it. “I’ll give him the day to make sure he’s come through it well, which he seems to have, and make a final decision tomorrow (Monday), but I will most likely back-up next week. “He thrives on racing every week and he needs the hard racing to be right at his top for the (Victoria) Cup.” Confirmation Ride High will run this week means he will almost certainly bypass the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Melton on October 3 and continue his routine of racing every second-week by going straight to the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup (2240m) on October 10. In other Victoria Cup news, it’s growing increasingly likely Sydney sensation Cash N Flow will stretch-out from his beloved sprint racing to the 2240m of the Cup. Cash N Flow won a staggering 12th successive Menangle mile race last night (Saturday) and broke the magical 1min50sec mark for a record eighth time. “We’ll chat with the owners and make the final call, but we’re not worried about him going out to 2240m, especially the form he’s in at the moment,” driver Luke McCarthy said. McCarthy and Craig Cross are sending Australasian 2300m record-holder Zennart down to race against Ride High and Lochinvar Art. And McCarthy said three of their stars – Balraj, Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow – were definite to go straight into the Victoria Cup without racing again. Bling It On is also a Victoria Cup definite, but he will race against King Of Swing at Menangle next Saturday night. And what about King Of Swing for the Victoria Cup? “No update from last week. It really depends on the restrictions. He’ll be ready to go if I can get in/out (of Melbourne) easily. We probably won’t decide until the last-minute,” McCarthy said.   By Adam Hamilton

He may be by some way the second highest stakes earner contesting tonight’s headline pace but few fly under the radar like this five-time Group 1 placegetter. Sicario, whose season includes a country cup win and seventh placing in the Inter Dominion final at Auckland, returns tonight amid a stellar Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace field. While the spotlight will draw to the two horses on his outside, Major Times and Lochinvar Art, Brent Lilley’s five-year-old is well-placed to add to his $427,125 in career stakes win. Reinsman Chris Alford said Sicario had only known top-flight competition and he was optimistic there was more success in store for the gelding, who's first up from consecutive Kilmore victories in April. “He did really well in the Inters and every race that he’s contested has been free-for-all or above,” Alford said. “He’s had three or four trials. Although trials aren’t races, he’s going to be pretty close to the mark and he felt super in his last couple.” Sicario comfortably won his three trials from August 2 to August 16, including getting home in a 56.9-second last half at Maryborough last start when he impressed his reinsman. “He does feel a lot stronger this time that what he did last time in,” Alford said. And he has no doubt he has the speed to match that improved strength. “I think you’ll find that he ran the fastest last half ever at Auckland when four or five wide on the track in one of the Inter heats, so he’s always had the ability,” he said. “He probably can’t do the work against the best ones, but if he gets the right run he’s always dangerous.” And that includes tomorrow night, when he’ll start from gate nine, behind Rupert Of Lincoln, from where Alford will plot a path forward. “We’ve got a good trailing draw so he should be able to push through,” he said. “Whether we get a chance to get around in front of the other ones (Lochinvar Art and Major Times) could be problematic, but we will just have to play it by ear.” Tonight’s race is a fortnight since Major Times upset $1.10 favourite Lochinvar Art, with the latter found to be suffering a minor viral infection post-race, while third-placed My Kiwi Mate has drawn gate eight and again lies in wait. The race streams at 7.35pm on Trots Vision, with the following race – the Yabby Dam Racing Trot – another must-see match-up with Dance Craze and Tornado Valley making their return to clash with Red Hot Tooth, Big Jack Hammer and Wobelee among a glut of Group 1 winners. Click here for more on the high-class trot.   HRV - Michael Howard

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