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Raging Bull's first winner is now his first Group Race winner. Bare Knuckle put a month's worth of unlucky runs behind her when she made her Australian harness racing debut a winning one at Tabcorp Park Menangle last Saturday night. Sent out favourite in the #30,000 J L Raith Memorial, Bare Knuckle won the Group 3 mile event in quite sensational fashion because she paced roughly for a brief period at the start and gave away any advantage she'd had by drawing three behind the mobile. Settling last of the eight-horse field after that, Bare Knuckle remained there until well inside the 600m point when Natalie Rasmussen pulled off a piece of pure driving genius - shooting up the inside to a position three-deep, then using the camber of the final bend to come through between her rivals swinging for home. It meant Bare Knuckle was quickly into a position to pounce from, and that she did, steaming home centre track to win the event 'going away' by nearly four metres. With the four sectionals of the mile zipping by in 26.9, 29.5, 27.6 and 27.5, Bare Knuckle stopped the clock at a sizzling 1:51.5 - but with how much of a start she was giving her rivals as the halfway point came and went, Bare Knuckle must've also paced her final 800 metres in close to 54 seconds to get home. It was an emphatic example of the Raging Bull filly's sheer speed, something which Rasmussen and co-trainer Mark Purdon have always rated about her. Bare Knuckle's 1:51.5 mile was just two-tenths of a second outside the fastest mile recorded by a 3-year-old filly on Australian soil, an honour which just happens to belong to her illustrious stablemate Partyon who achieved the accolade in the exact same event last season.

Top class former Kiwi pacer My Field Marshal won’t return to racing until the New Year. Trainer Tim Butt, now firmly making Menangle home, revealed his stable star was overcoming a minor hoof issue and had been shifted from Victoria to his Menangle base. “I’d say it’s more likely he will return in the Bendigo Cup now (January 6),” Butt said. “It’s nothing serious, but I wanted to get him up to Menangle to keep a close eye on him.” Butt had planned to race My Field Marshal through December, including a sprint race at Ballarat on Boxing night. My Field Marshal hasn’t raced since as strong second to Lennytheshark in the Yarra Valley Cup on November 9. Butt is glad he skipped the Perth Inter Dominion. “It would’ve been great to be part of it, but it wasn’t in the best interests of the horse,” he said. “Now I can have a fresh horse going into races like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile. “That was a pretty brutal Inter Dominion on the horses. “I know I’ve got a horse who, with the right draw and luck, can match it with any of them.” In other news, Butt spoke out strongly urging officials in Victoria, NSW and NZ to bring back the trotting section of the Inter Dominion over the next three years. “It’s got to happen. It’s the ultimate,” he said. “It adds another dimension to the Inter Dominion.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO David Martin confirmed there would be “some type of trotting” component to next year’s Inter Dominion. “Just what that is we aren’t sure as yet,” he said. “We should be in a position to talk more about it in February.” Adam Hamilton

One of the strongest catalogue of horses on pedigree will be presented at the 2017 harness racing edition of the Garrard’s Horse and Hound Ready2Run Sale this Sunday at Tabcorp Park Menangle. There are 29 two-year-olds on offer plus a qualified but unraced three-year-old called Define Patience (by Betterthancheddar from an Artiscape mare). Most of the leading sires in the world today are represented in the catalogue including Art Major, Bettors Delight, Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire, Mach Three, Rock N Roll Heaven, Sportswriter, Well Said and Western Terror. Three of the sale lots are paid up and eligible at this stage for the lucrative Australian Pacing Gold Series.  These include a Mach Three full-brother to the $100,000 plus earner Alderbaran Macha, a lovely Western Terror filly from the NSW Raith Memorial winner Im A Happy Girl (1:55.6, $137, 005) and an Art Major filly from the 14 win mare Serene Angel (1:56.3, $72,633). The big spending NSW based yearling buyers Emilio and Mary Rosati have for the first time entered eight youngsters under their banner of E & M Stride.  For many years now Emilio and Mary have purchased some of the bluebloods of Australian and New Zealand catalogues with many of those purchases being fillies.  This has resulted in E & M Stride becoming one of Australia’s biggest Breeders, hence the youngsters have been prepared for the 2017 sale by highly experienced Victorian horse educator Mark Hayes. Lot 4, a filly by Art Major from the Falcon Seelster mare Blossom Stride could be a star of the future.  Her immediate family has produced the brilliant fillies My Willow (1:51.4, $304,416), Tricky Styx  (1:54.1, $419, 988) and Rain Girl, a group one winner in NZ, before producing the 2001 Australian Horse of the Year Atitagain.  Then there are two year olds out of the half sisters to the champion pacers Excel Stride (1:50.3, $769,464), Pembrook Benny (1:53.6, $907,890) and Make Mine Cullen (1:53, $874, 178). Another new vendor to this edition of the Ready2Run Sale is Victorian breeder Peter Salathiel.  The tip is that these two geldings are well-educated and ready to go and could scorch the Menangle circuit on sale day.  Lot 2 is by Well Said from the $100, 000 plus winning mare Ay Tee Em and is related to the three times Interdominion winner Imthemightyquinn.  Lot 13 by Big Jim from the Presidential Ball mare Foxi is a half-brother to the recent Menangle winner The Village Creep.  That win in 1:52.8 took his earnings to almost $50, 000.  When it comes to educating young horses in NSW, the names of Rickie Alchin, Mark Hewitt and Wayne Sullivan reside at the top of the list.  They consistently turn out young horses that feature in many of the two-year-old classic races.  Between them they are educating 18 of the two-years-olds in the catalogue, whilst Wayne also trains the three-year-old Define Patience.  Lot 5 being prepared by Mark Hewitt is likely to be one of the last if not the last of the progeny of Christian Cullen to be offered for sale at a public auction.  Aside from being the son of the super sire Christian Cullen, the colt has a pedigree to die for.  He is the first foal of a sister or half sister to three $100,000 earners, including Bamako Mali and Shezallattitude, whilst his grand dam and third dam won 31 races between them. Rickie Alchin is preparing two-year-olds for owners based in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and these are being promoted on his own website and the Ready2Run website with both photos and videos. The trialling will commence at 9am this Sunday, with all horses being swabbed on the day.  A complimentary breakfast will be served from 8 am prior to the commencement of trialling. Click here to download catalogue Dyanna Thommeny

Keinbah harness racing trainer Roy Roots jnr will have one eye on The Black Prince at Newcastle when he tries to break his duck with two runners in a Menangle country series final on Saturday night. Roots jnr has Seven Scotches and Disco Katie in the $20,800 CO monthly Menangle final as well as seven runners on the nine-race Newcastle program. His Menangle pair will start from gates seven and eight respectively as Roots tries to score a first finals win in the series. “I’ve won about 10 heats but never a final,” Roots jnr said. “I’ve never had many draw good as well. They’ll acquit themselves well but there’s a couple of smart ones drawn in close. If we can get up close and be handy, you never know, we might run over the top of them. “He's a horse on the up, Seven Scotches. He’s improved with every run. She’s the same, she’s kept improving and it was a good run last start. She was unlucky not to win.” Louth Park trainer-driver Darren Elder has stable star Shannonsablast in the feature group 3 Kevin Robinson FFA, an event the pacer was runner-up in last year. Roots jnr, meanwhile, has about half of his stable in work featuring at Newcastle on the same night. Exciting three-year-old The Black Prince (race nine) leads a team featuring Second Major (one), Architecture (two), Gargzdai Girl (three), Bending Spoons (four), Officially Shady (seven) and Bailees Girl (eight). “They’ve all drawn well this week so it wouldn’t surprise me if two or three of them won,” Roots jnr said. “The Black Prince, he’s a good horse and going places.” The Black Prince won first-up at Newcastle last week after coming from New Zealand and winning a Menangle trial. “It’s hard to get races at the moment for him,” he said. “There’s no three-year-old races standing up. I’ve nominated him at Menangle three times without getting a start, so he’s racing older horses but he’s got a bit on them.” By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Luke McCarthy said it’s his best moment yet Bling It On’s breathtaking win first-up from injuries most thought would end his career was one of the best stories our great sport has produced. It was June 17, this year when Bling It On crashed to the track at Albion Park and so badly mangled his knees, the first focus was on just saving the reigning Hunter Cup winner. Weeks later, when the superstar pacer was out of the woods, McCarthy showed me the graphic photos of Bling It On’s front knees. “You saw the photos … how bad the knees were … I didn’t think he’d race again,” McCarthy said. Imagine his emotion when Bling It On, first-up since the fall, unleashed a withering finishing burst from back near last to blow his rivals away in a scorching 1min50.8sec mile at Menangle last night. “It was such a thrill just to get him back to the races. I was quietly confident he could regain his best form in time … his work had been really encouraging at home,” McCarthy said. “I told the owners he’d need a few runs after his time out and that he was carrying a bit too much weight, but then he comes out and does that. You can only shake your head. “Given he’s done that, and felt so sharp doing it, there’s no reason he can’t get back to his Hunter Cup form. He felt like he already was and I know there is a lot of improvement to come.” A defence of his Hunter Cup crown at Melton in early February is the first major target. “He’ll go to another Menangle free-for-all in two weeks, then to the Shirley Turnbull Memorial (Boxing Day) because it’s 2700m and I want to get a staying run into him before going to Melbourne,” McCarthy said. “Then he’ll have another free-for-all run at Menangle in mid-January. He’ll go Melbourne, possibly even for the Ballarat Cup before the Hunter Cup as well.” The extra layer to the Bling It On story is the fact he’s already served or booked to serve over 100 mares this season. “He’s been popular,” McCarthy said. “As Dad (John) said, he’ll probably get another 30 bookings off the back of this comeback win.” McCarthy said Bling It On’s recovery and successful comeback had been a huge team effort. “So many people have played a role,” he said. “I’ve got to give special mentions to Mark McGarry, the Albion Park vet who cleaned him up so well on the night of the fall then the team at Gatton University, who did the most amazing job,” he said. Adam Hamilton

Trainer Shane Tritton believes his former Grand Circuit pacer Mach Beauty might have flown under the radar of some harness racing followers. The Group 1 winning pacer finished third-placed to Charlaval at Tabcorp Park Menangle last week and following that effort, Tritton thinks Mach Beauty is a promising prospect at Menangle tonight. Engaged in race two, the gelding has drawn barrier eight for the 1609m challenge with Tritton’s wife Lauren taking the reins. “He got everyone excited last week with his run and if it was a mile I think he would have won,” said Shane. “He is a horse that I think most punters will underestimate . . . he doesn’t win very often but he is really on his toes at the moment and going by the way he went last week he should go close to winning this race.” Mach Beauty recorded a mile rate of 1:52.3 to produce his latest win back on July 29 and has placed in four of his nine starts since. A win by Mach Beauty or Bettor Ops in race one could set the tone of a successful night for ‘Team Tritton’ who also have the two favourites in the Group 3 Sue Kelly Ladyship Stakes (1609m). Leading the pack as the $3.80 TAB Fixed Odds favourite is Our Classical Art that will be driven by freelance reinsman James Rattray. “James has driven for the stable a few times before and when Lauren can’t drive one we always look for the best available driver,” said Shane. “I’m not worried about the wide draw with this mare as she has enough gate speed to cross. “I’m really happy with both mares.” The other mare is $4.20 second elect Miss Riviera Belle, which will begin from the widest draw. “I’ll have to see what the owners want to do with her in this race and if she comes with one run at them or not, a lot will depend on how the race is panning out,” said Shane. ‘Team Tritton’ also have the second favourite in the following event, with Lombo Kotakinabalu (nine) the $4 hope in the Allied Express Pace (1609m). The $1.90 favourite is Bling It On (12). The stallion is having his first start back since falling in a race at Albion Park last June. “Bling It On is obviously there but we are in a position to be a bit more aggressive,” said Shane of Lombo Kotakinabalu. “We are just starting to get some fitness into him, I probably wrap him up in cotton wool too much, and Lauren said after his win the other week that it was the best he’s ever felt.”  Amanda Rando

When you feel like you are on the best horse in the race it’s a great start. And that’s exactly how harness racing driver McKayler Barnes felt when she drove seven-year-old gelding Gotta Go Artelect at Tabcorp Park Menangle today as the pair made a one-act affair of the Kari J. C. Caffyn Indigenous Drivers Plate. Barnes spurred Gotta Go Artelect out of the gate in a 27.3s opening split and virtually left her rivals gasping for air as the son of Art Major cruised to one of the most impressive wins in the seven years this feature race has been contested. Able to back the speed off slightly with a 30.9s second split, Gotta Go Artelect was never seriously pressured by his rivals and the Wayne Dimech-trained gelding had plenty left in the run home, rating 55.8s for his last half to score by eight metres from Im Twice The Delight (Bruce O’Brien) with Got The Scoop (Jimmy Brown) a fast-finishing third, a further four metres further back. Barnes qualified for this feature when she drove Blackbird Power to finish second in a heat at Parkes to qualify for today’s final. She missed the Wagga and Tamworth heats but had already sealed her spot in the big race. “That was just awesome,” said the excited young lady as she returned. “The horse went to the line super and I didn’t even need to pull the plugs,” she said. “He just felt so strong. “I know Wayne (Dimech, trainer) from when I first began driving. “To be honest they said this horse was a bit mad so I was bit nervous when I first went out. “I just hoped he’d settle a bit.  “Coming around the final bend I gave him one tap with the whip and he just felt super. “I won a lady drivers race at Peak Hill but this certainly compares and is probably my biggest win. “This series is great and more people are getting involved every year. “I also love the colours they presented to us . . . they’re cool.” Michael Court

Few can match harness racing trainer-driver Blake Fitzpatrick's expertise with square-gaiters. And the Cawdor reinsman's talents handed him not only another feature but a quinella when his horses topped the table at today's Campbell Advisory Jill McGrath Franco Australian Trotters Cup at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Fitzpatrick only had two runners in the 2300m standing start Group Two and both trotted almost faultlessly to fight out the finish of the race. The only problem was that Blake decided to drive Blazing Under Fire ($5.20) in the event while handing the drive on the stable's other starter Mistercool Sea Eyre to in-form young reinsman Jack Trainor. Fitzpatrick looked to have the race in keeping turning for home when he dashed Blazing Under Fire to a commanding lead after setting the pace for most of the race. Unfortunately for Blake that made him a sitting shot for something else in the race and luckily it was the last-start Melton winner Mistercool Sea Eyre ($4.30 favourite) that emerged from the chasing pack to chase down the leader and emerge triumphant. Iona Grinner Robert Morris came off 20m and trotted well to finish a handy third, coming from well back in the field. Still there were hard-luck stories aplenty in the race with several runners galloping away and losing all chance, including Graeme Hartman's in-form pair Later and Luvstuenthral who bombed their chances at the get go. Michael Court

A charmed run behind the leader saw a perfect start to Indigenous Drivers Plate Day at Tabcorp Park Menangle today for local harness racing trainer-driver Jimmy Brown. Aided by a 10 out of 10 drive by Brown, five-year-old gelding Blackbird Power scored an impressive two-and-a-half metre win over Trilight Brigade and Cyclone Charlie in the first of two $20,000 Menangle Where Horses Fly Series finals at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Brown made good use of Blackbird Power's gate speed to hold the lead for the early part of the race as the field came out humming with an opening 26.8s first split of the mile. Pressured by Lets Katchmeifucan, Brown was content to hand up the lead and bide his time until they turned for home. It was vintage Brown as the man who first hatched the idea for an Indigenous Drivers' Series drew roars from the crowd as he moved Blackbird Power across the path of tiring horses and made his run down the middle of the track to score in a 1:52.7 mile rate. "Now for the big one," grinned the popular reinsman as he returned with the Gavin Kelly-trained pacer. "It would be great to now go out and make it a double. This series has ignited so much interest among not just the indigenous drivers, but everyone in harness racing. "And I'd love to win it . . . and mark my words, if it's not today, then I will one day." Meanwhile no-one knows the Menangle track better than local reinsman Rob Morris and Newcastle trainer Mark Callaghan was quick to call on him to handle his finalist in the second of the $20,000 Menangle Country Series finals. Morris did the rest, steering five-year-old gelding Vega Star to a fighting 1.4m win over Sky Diamond with Plato O Plomo a further 2.5m back in third place with the winner rating 1:52.2 for the flying mile. Morris has a habit of winning Menangle races for Callaghan and the Hunter reinsman has returned the favour many times at Newcastle. Vega Star has now won four in a row for Callaghan who must be looking at a return to Menangle 'Headquarters' with some even-richer races in mind. Amanda Zammit

He is now the voice of harness racing in New Zealand but Australian homebred racecaller Mark McNamara was the special host at the Harness Breeders New South Wales annual Awards Night last Saturday. Held at Tabcorp Park Menangle, breeder-owner Pat Driscoll received the highest accolade when presented with his HBNSW Life Membership. In the AGM preceding the Awards Night the following long time contributors to the breeding industry were elected as life members: Janet Moore, Peter Neil, Tom Reay and Paul Hurley.  Their achievements will be recognised at the 2017/18 Awards Night. The full list of HBNSW award winners for the 2016/17 season were: DON CLOUGH OAM AWARD - Graham Bullock BROODMARE OF THE YEAR - Miss Brazilian - bred by Sloys Company SIRE OF THE YEAR - Million Dollar Cam USA HORSE WELFARE AWARD - Marie Neil & Joanne Andersen 2YO COLT/GELDING of the Year - Ignatius - bred by Rattray Family Trust 2YO FILLY of the Year - Nostra Villa - bred by Patrician Park, Brett Coffee and J Boag 2YO TROTTING COLT/GELDING of the Year - La Grange - bred by Yabby Dam Farms 2YO TROTTING FILLY of the Year - Queen of Clevedon - bred by Danny Rothwell and Christie Rothwell 3YO COLT/GELDING of the Year - Vincent - bred by Sloys Company 3YO FILLY of the Year - Tell Me Tales bred by Helen Head  3YO TROTTING FILLY of the Year - Dance Craze - bred by Yabby Dam Farms 4YO+ COLT/GELDING of the Year - Aztec Bromac - bred by Rob McCardle 4YO+ MARE of the Year - Eye See Diamonds - bred by Mary and Jackie Gibson 4YO+ TROTTING COLT/GELDING of the Year - Quillabamba - bred by Kevin Hipkins 4YO+ TROTTING MARE of the Year - Red Hot Tooth - Bred by Graham Bullock NSW BLUE AWARDS: 2YO COLT/GELDING of the Year - Lucky Unlucky - bred by Weona Standardbreds 2YO FILLY of the Year - Shes Sporty - bred by Brooklyn Lodge 3YO COLT/GELDING of the Year - Jilliby Bandit - bred by John Starr 3YO FILLY of the Year - Elle Yeah - bred by Matthew Nagle AMANDA RANDO | MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

High-class kiwi pacer Franco Nelson is moving to Australia. Trainer Shane Tritton confirmed the son of Christian Cullen would arrive at his Menangle stable on Friday. "It's exciting to have a horse of his calibre join the team. I know he's in the twilight of his career, but he raced in great form last season and has been out for a good break," he said. "I'm certainly not thinking he's joining the stable with retirement just around the corner. Quite the opposite, the handicapping system here is great for extending the careers and creating opportunities for horses like him. "And I've got a good record of rejuvenating older horses like him if you take a like through Mach Beauty, Suave Stuey Lombo and others." Tritton said the McKay clan, majority owners of Franco Nelson, initiated the move. "The McKays had horses with my Dad (Peter) and have sent me one already. They have said for a while they are keen to support me," he said. Franco Nelson hasn't raced since a second to Addington on May 12 when trained by Robert and John Dunn. He's battled injuries through his career, but still managed 65 starts for 18 wins, 22 placings and earned $758,127. "He ran some great races last season, including that unlucky fifth in the Inter Dominion final," Tritton said. "He's been out spelling so we are getting him from scratch. The aim is to have him back and primed for the Miracle Mile Carnival." In other stable news, Tritton is focused on a Perth Inter Dominion raid with the speedy Yayas Hot Spot. "I want to time-trial him at Penrith this Thursday night then I think we will go first-up into the Smoken Up (Melton, October 6) then the Victoria Cup (October 14)," he said. "Then it's onto Perth where he will love the tight track. Tritton's star four-year-old of last season Salty Robyn is recovering from surgery following an acute bout of colic. And his former glamour mare Arms Of An Angel is close to a racetrack return. "That's got us all excited. She's only a month away," he said. Adam Hamilton

KIWI star My Field Marshal headlines another big weekend of Victoria Cup and Perth Inter Dominion lead-up racing in Australia. Tim Butt’s stable star looks a class above his rivals in the Group 3 Garrards Horse and Hound Pace (1609m) at Menangle on Saturday night. My Field Marshal is drawn the extreme outside, but the added race fitness of a narrow first-up defeat and the early scratching of Little Rascal – the horse who tipped him out first-up – makes him a stand-out. If he is to be a serious player in the Victoria Cup and Inter Dominion, My Field Marshal really needs to beat a handy field lacking any genuine A-grade stars at Menangle. His most interesting rival is former star Kiwi juvenile Messini, who is not only down to run against My Field Marshal at Menangle, but also to tackle the $20,000 VHRSC Classic (2240m) at Melton 24 hours earlier. Messini certainly looks better suited at Menangle where he will challenge for favouritism in an even field from gate five. His major rivals look to be Flaming Flutter (gate six) and Maximan (seven). Still in Victoria and the state’s buzz pacer, San Carlo, is shooting for his 18th win from just 21 starts in the Alabar Pace (2150m) at Bendigo on Saturday night. San Carlo lost no fans when he dipped in open-class feature racing for the first time when a close third to the flying mare Ameretto in the Group 2 Breeders Crown Graduate free-for-all at Melton at his most recent run on August 25. Trainer Steve O’Donoghue is keen to tackle both the Victoria Cup and Inter Dominion with San Carlo, who has been plagued by injuries through his career. The key Inter Dominion flavour race at Gloucester Park on Friday night is the Spring Pace (race seven) where the Gary Hall Sr four of the 11 runners: Ideal Alice (gate one), American Boy (four), Novic Nightowl (seven) and Beaudiene Boaz (11). And even the Friday night Hobart meeting in Tasmania has some Inter Dominion interest. Father and son combo Barrie and Todd Rattray are considering Perth raids with stable stars Devendra, Pachacuti and Roger Ramjet. The trio all line-up in the free-for-all (race three) at Hobart. The Aussie TAB’s latest Inter Dominion market has Lazarus favourite at $4.50 from Chicago Bull ($5.50), Lennytheshark ($8) then My Field Marshal and Tiger Tara at $12.   Adam Hamilton

A $4000 purchase price resulted in a Group 2 win when Shes Sporty took out an Alabar Breeders Challenge Blue Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. Winning the two-year-old fillies’ edition, Shes Sporty climbed to Group success in just 10 starts. The daughter of Sportswriter and the former ‘Race-A-Pacer’ mare Alyceforall was bred at Brooklyn Lodge and purchased by Kylie Kennedy at the Bathurst Gold Yearling Sale last year. In her succinct racing career she has already won three races and placed on two occasions, earning $42,180 in prizemoney along the way. And in her most recent success, secured a personal best winning mile rate of 1:55.3 giving reinsman Blake Jones a significant milestone too. “It was my biggest win,” Jones said. “She is a bit of a handful to drive but she’s been a lot better lately and she’s starting to figure out what it is all about.” This provided Jones his 77th winner for the season his 427 winner overall. Shes Sporty is trained by David Kennedy and provided the Narrandera mentor with his 475th winner. Amanda Rando  

Our Little Digger’s Group 2 Alabar Breeders Challenge Blue win at Menangle last Saturday night was an emotional victory for Clayton family. The gelding was one of the last horses bred by the late John Clayton from Bathurst. Named after the breeder himself, Our Little Digger overcame his wide draw to take out the feature and his saddlecloth number (10) was an omen according to part-owner Mary Clayton. “This horse was bred by my late husband, who hasn’t been gone all that long, and is named after my late husband and he’s wearing his number tonight so we had a bit of help from above,” Mary said when accepting the winning trophy. “It’s been a real journey but it’s something that has kept our family going . . . my son Darren is also a part-owner.” Trained and driven by Bernie Hewitt, Our Little Digger clocked 1:52.8 to win the feature giving the Georges Plain mentor a race-to-race double as he won the following Group 2 with Taylors Reason. Snaring both three-year-old legs of the 2017 Breeders Challenge Blue Finals, Hewitt added to his Breeders Challenge success rate having now won five Breeders Challenge Finals overall and four of those have been Blue Finals. Hewitt’s success in this feature began in 2014 when Read About Lexy won the Breeders Challenge Blue two-year-old fillies final. A year later he won the three-year-old fillies’ edition with Pass The Magic and in 2016 with Ima Black Beauty. However, it was just last month Hewitt obtained his first Group 1 winner when winning the Alabar Breeders Challenge three-year-old fillies’ final with Royal Story. AMANDA RANDO  

Multiple Group-winning reinsman John McCarthy strengthened his feature race strike rate when landing a dream drive in an Alabar Breeders Challenge Blue Final last Saturday night. McCarthy was handed the reins on the Craig Cross-trained Lucky Unlucky in the feature at Tabcorp Park Menangle as usual driver Luke McCarthy had commitments in Queensland. This drive gave McCarthy yet another Group win to his name as Lucky Unlucky took out the Group 2 two-year-old colts and geldings’ edition. McCarthy, who just earlier this season trained his 2000th winner, has now won more than 60 Group races as a driver. And a change of tactics to drive the gelding proved to be the winning move according to McCarthy. “He’s been, hence his name, a bit unlucky and been going back in the field and doesn’t seem to try so hard when he goes back,” McCarthy claimed. “I spoke to Craig and Luke before the race and they said see if you can go forward and try and find the front or sit outside the leader, he might try a lot harder for you and he certainly did.” Lucky Unlucky worked forward from gate six, led, and went on to record a personal best mile rate of 1:54.0. He was purchased at the Sydney Australian Pacing Gold Yearling Sale for $20,000 by owner Vicki Rasmussen and has won $47,829 in prizemoney after 11 starts, two wins and five placings. The son of Roll With Joe is out of the Artsplace mare Specialize, who is a daughter of the former Grand Circuit mare Sabilize.   Amanda Rando  

Injury has brought a sudden end to Spanish Armada’s champion season. The multiple group one winner has a suspected hairline fracture and will miss the rest of this term, including her final major aim for the season, the Breeders Crown in Victoria in August. Spanish Armada was slightly lame on Wednesday after running on strongly in a trial at Menangle on Tuesday and was immediately examined by a vet. “The x-rays haven’t found anything conclusive yet but they suspect a hairline fracture,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. “Obviously she is too good to take any risks with so that is her done for the season. “If that is all it is then I am confident we can get her back to the track in time, but even if she never raced again she has nothing left to prove, she has had an amazing year.” Spanish Armada dominated the three-year-old filly features at Auckland at Christmas but her reign looked threatened by then unbeaten stablemate Partyon when she returned from Australia and beat her in the Northern Oaks. But Spanish Armada extracted her revenge three times, all at group one level, winning the Nevele R Final, NZ Oaks and Harness Jewels, with her Oaks victory one of the great modern-day performances by a New Zealand pacing filly. The All Stars still have Partyon, who races in the Queensland Oaks on Saturday, being aimed at the Breeders Crown. “She is coming back to her best, as we saw with her win over there last week,” said Purdon. Most of the stables open class superstars as pleasing the boss in their work, with Dream About Me and Smolda doing hoppled work while the enigmatic Have Faith In Me is looking happy and sound at this early stage. And the news is all good with Horse of the Year in waiting Lazarus. “He has just started jogging again and he looks wonderful,” enthuses Purdon. “He hasn’t gotten any taller but he has thickened out in the shoulder and hind quarters. “So I couldn’t be happier with him and while the New Zealand Cup is his main aim the Inter Dominions in Perth are a very realistic option this time around.”  Michael Guerin

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