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Michael Taranto is a big supporter of harness racing in Australia. The Managing Director and CEO of Seelite Windows and Doors previously raced up to 50 or 60 horses but has streamlined his team to 16 trotters including one broodmare. In what will be a first for Taranto, he will watch horses he part owns race in feature events in Australia, USA and Sweden in the space of 30 hours this weekend. Normally Taranto would be in Sweden preparing to attend Sunday's Elitlopp but due to commitments at home he will be travelling to Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night to watch Livin The Life compete in the NSW Trotters Derby. "I think I have had four runners now at Menangle for four duck eggs but I am still going to make the trip up on Saturday night to watch Livin The Life compete," said Taranto. "Livin The Life was purchased at the first Australasian Premier Trotting Sale essentially by a band of Cranbourne committee people, he has won three races already but he will have his work cut out for him this weekend." While Taranto acknowledges it is a big step up for the son of Dream Vacation he is glad to have a runner in the Gr. 1 feature. "I won't die wondering, I'm a believer that if a horse is eligible to race then it should go and race and I applaud his trainer Michael Hughes for taking the NSW Derby path with Livin The Life. "The horse is not without a fluker's chance of winning and I think he will appreciate racing on the big 1400 metre track." After Saturday night Taranto will wake up on Sunday morning and tune into to watch his three year old colt Aldebaran Eagle race in the New Jersey Sires Stakes final at the Meadowlands. "I race him in partnership with Duncan McPherson from Aldebaran Park, he was purchased at the 2013 Harrisburg sales with the aim of purchasing a potential stallion that could stand in Australia at some stage in the future. "The plan with him was to stake him up for everything that we could, have him perform well in some big races and then bring him to Australia, we have to decide whether to leave him in the US for the Breeders Crown in November but if we don't he could come to Australia and race here later this year." Taranto confirmed Aldebaran Eagle is well bred and has already run a mile in 1:53.0. "He is extremely well bred, he's not the best three year old in New Jersey but he is very competitive and after placing in two heats he has qualified for the final on Sunday morning our time. "I hope that his race is part of the Sky coverage on Sunday morning from the Meadowlands but if it isn't I will watch it on the web via the Big M website." The third of Taranto's runners will compete at Sweden's Solvalla racetrack in a mares' race on the Elitlopp programme. "Excellent Boko is a mare that Duncan and I purchased after a trip to Boko Farms several years ago, John Bootsman does it very well because when you do a tour of Boko Farms he hands out an A4 piece of paper as you head into each paddock with the horses and their prices. "This small, runt like weanling walked up to me and wouldn't stop following me, she didn't leave my side the whole time I was there so I took note of her breeding and went back to the hotel room where I was staying and studied her pedigree." Excellent Boko is by Broadway Hall from Exciting Kronos and Taranto liked the mixture of American and European bloodlines. "Excellent Boko had a three year old relation that had just started racing so when I next saw John (Bootsman) I told him that Duncan and I were interested in buying her. "After receiving some advice we left her in the hands of trainer Timo Nurmos and he has done a fantastic job with her, she is going to be racing the A grade Swedish trotting mares on Sunday but we couldn't bypass the opportunity of having a runner on Elitlopp day." Taranto understands that his three runners have a big job ahead of them on the weekend but he is thrilled to be a part of three big meetings around the globe. "I've never experienced anything like this an owner of horses, it is something that is very special for me and while I will only watch the horses in America and Sweden on television, I will get the pleasure of watching my trotter compete at Menangle in the Derby." Greg Hayes

The New South Wales Trotting Oaks was run at last Saturday nights harness racing meeting at Menangle and as expected Arya produced a polished display to take out the Group  1 feature. Trevor Casey must be racking up those frequent flyer miles points as he once again crossed the Tasman to watch one of his star trotters compete and he was duly rewarded when Arya showed that manners are just as important as ability and luckily she has got big dollops of both. The minor highlight of the race was the run of the Italian bred filly My Tribeca who put up a huge performance after getting badly checked at the start. Bred to northern hemisphere time, My Tribeca was only born on the 14th of May 2012 so was barely a three year old on Saturday night and was only having her second lifetime start which adds even more merit to the run. Both Arya and My Tribeca now head to the Victorian Trotting Oaks on Saturday week and the rematch should be worth going a long way to see. Greg Hayes spoke to the connections of both horses post race. Harnesslink Media   

Harness racing trainer Anton Golino had his first runner in a race in October 2013. After spending years travelling overseas and gaining international experience with various horsemen, Golino returned to Australia and took out a training licence. Since then the 34-year old has had 48 runners for 16 winners and 18 placings but his trotting strike rate is even better. Golino trained trotters have won nine of the 15 races they have competed in with a further three finishing second. Arboe won Saturday night's Gr. 3 La Cooaracha at Tabcorp Park Menangle while stablemate My Tribeca finished second in the NSW Trotters Oaks. "It was a great night for the stable, Arboe is a really good horse, she is only lightly raced but she was a little difficult to get going when she first arrived," said Golino. "The daughter of french stallion Love You has a mind of her own but she's starting to put it all together now and I think she has got a bright future." Arboe defeated classy mare Claudys Princess on Saturday night but Golino is not getting too carried away. "The La Coocaracha was a very good field, I thought if she found the front she would be very hard to beat, Claudys Princess was very good in defeat, it was a huge run and if you reverse the draws it probably would have been a different result. "Arboe is really tough so over a mile we had to go forward from the draw but I think she'll get over distance and the further the race is the better she will be." Golino will now take Arboe to Victoria in a fortnight and driver Todd McCarthy will be offered the drive. "Todd will get the option to come if he wants, he's definitely going to retain the drive on Arboe and My Tribeca that's for sure." Arboe is raced by Pat Driscoll's Yabby Dam Farms Pty Ltd and Golino was full of praise for him. "Pat is an unbelievable guy, he is really passionate about trotters and I really think he can change the sport down here in Australia. "He puts a lot of time, money and research into his breeding, he has imported some really nice horses but it is just the beginning because in five years time he will have had a massive impact on the sport." My Tribeca ran an impressive race when finishing second in the NSW Trotters Oaks despite galloping soon after the start and will now also head to Victoria. "The filly by another French stallion called Goetmals Wood was a little unlucky, she got flattened at the start, hit a wheel and galloped but she put in a massive run for a horse having her second lifetime run. "She's a big filly physically, I think she would weigh close to 500 kilos now, I am tipping when she is fully grown she'll be 16 hands plus." Greg Hayes

New Zealander Trevor Casey is enjoying a lot of success with his team of harness racing horses both sides of the Tasman. The popular owner has 30 horses including Australasia's best trotter Stent, leading two year olds Our Waikiki Beach and Lazarus and Saturday night's NSW Trotters Oaks winner My Arya. Saturday night's victory meant a lot to Casey as he bred the talented daughter of Angus Hall. "I did breed her and she's the only daughter that Belle Galleon (Stent's mother) has had and I certainly will be retaining her as a broodmare at the end of her career," said Casey. "I raised her right from day dot, watched her grow up, then saw her get broken in and have since watched her all the way through." Casey chose to target the New South Wales Trotters Oaks rather than the NZ Harness Jewels after a narrow defeat in the Menangle feature twelve months ago. "My Arya could have got into the Harness Jewels and she would have been a show but I wanted to win the NSW Oaks because I ran second last year with Daenerys Targaryen and I wanted to come back and have another go at it and we were successful." "We won't be coming back for the NSW Trotters Derby next week, the Victorian Oaks is the week after which means she would have to race four weeks in a row and I just don't think that's fair on her." While at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night Casey took the opportunity to speak with club officials about Stent returning to race on the 1400 metre track. "Stent will be back, I actually said to the team here tonight I'd like to see a mile race here for the open trotters again, I would really love to see the horse at Menangle over the mile again because I think he could go 1:52.0." My Arya's trainer Brent Lilley was excited with the victory and thought her manners took her a long way. "She's proved over here she's the best trotting filly at the moment but I thought the run of the second horse (My Tribeca) was great, My Arya has got manners but the gap between her and the rest is definitely closing," said Lilley. "In saying all that, we still wouldn't swap her for any of them, so after the Victorian Trotters Oaks she will head towards the Breeders Crown and then spell." Greg Hayes

National Trotguide’s Amanda Rando has looked at Saturday night’s harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Menangle and believes there are a couple of good bets.  The quaddie looks an attractive option too with a $20,000 jackpot courtesy of the TAB.  The feature race is the sixth event, the $40,000 Gr.1 NSW Trotters Oaks with some very talented fillies engaged. Amanda’s best bet, Arboe will compete in race seven the Gr. 3 La Coocaracha.  The lightly raced Arboe is trained by Anton Golino and has already won three of her four race starts.  This will be her toughest test to date with strong opposition from Claudys Princess and Spidergirl. For more value Amanda suggests following the Kerryann Turner trained Stormont Czar in race three.  The son of Bettors Delight has won five of his last six starts with his only defeat in that period coming in the Gr. 2 Carousel.  Regular driver Robbie Morris will return to the sulky. BEST BET – Race 7 Number 4 Arboe NEXT BEST – Race 3 Number 5 Stormont Czar AMANDA’S JACKPOT QUADDIE –    Leg 1       2. Blazin N Cullen. 4. Bettor Bet Black, 8 Smolda Leg 2       4. My Tribeca, 7. My Arya, 8. Fiery Mountain Girl Leg 3       3. My Valerie, 4. Arboe, 9. Claudys Princess Leg 4       2. On Thunder Road, 3. Vincennes, 4. Supper Waltz Wilson Greg Hayes  

Casey Owen worked horses on Tuesday morning and studied law in the afternoon but still found time to drive her first winner when Badewitz scored in the final race at Tabcorp Park Menangle.  Twenty two year old Owen has been involved in harness racing for only two years but has already built a strong passion for the sport. “I grew up in Casino and moved to Brisbane and always liked animals but had never dreamed of working with horses until a few years ago,” said Owen. “I went to London for a year and worked in a law firm over there but really used the time to do some travelling and when I came home to Australia I needed to find a job as quickly as possible.” One of Casey’s best friends is related to the McCarthy family and it was through that connection she got her first start in the industry. “My friend is a cousin of the McCarthys and when I needed a job she asked Todd if he knew of any work that was going and he said that Queensland trainer Shawn Grimsey was looking for a stablehand. “I worked for Shawn for about a year and then Daryl Crapper and Todd heard Ian Wilson was looking for a worker so I made the move to Sydney.” Casey had to learn how to drive track work when she arrived in Sydney but quickly made the decision that she wanted to try her hand at race driving and had her first drive on March 26 this year. “It was really nice to get a win on the board because I had been beaten narrowly in a couple of races and I was wondering when that first win was going to come. “Before the race on Tuesday I thought he was up in grade a bit and if he picked up a cheque he would have done a good job for the stable.” After racing four back on the marker pegs Badewitz stuck to the inside in the straight and zoomed through to record a 1:53.4 victory. “I drive him at home so I know him pretty well and I wanted to make sure he was ready to go in case there was a gap and all of the horses in front moved away from the inside. “I just needed Robbie’s (Morris) horse to shift off the pegs and when it rolled out there was enough room for Badewitz and he is a very quick horse when he sees a hole.” Casey is in the second year of her law degree and while harness racing may have to become a smaller part of her life in the future she confirmed she would always like to be involved in the sport. “At some stage I guess it will have to take a back seat but I’ve been bitten by the bug and I really love the horses, I’d love to have a few of my own in the future but I guess only time will tell.” Greg Hayes  

Star Victorian trained trotting mare Claudys Princess is heading to Sydney for her next start.    Connections decided this week to by-pass this Saturday’s $30 505 Bruce Skeggs Trotters Cup at Cranbourne to run in the $25 000 La Coocaracha feature at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday week.   Kyabram’s Mick Blackmore who trains Claudys Princess said it was tempting to tackle the older and more experienced trotters in the Bruce Skeggs, but believed it was better to keep the four-year-old competing against her own sex at this stage of her career.    ‘‘She likes it a bit longer than the distance (1609m) of the La Coocaracha but she is very adaptable,’’ said Blackmore.   Blackmore said the main missions of Claudys Princess for this season are the Vicbred Super Series when she races against her own age and sex and the Breeders Crown which caters for her own age group.   ‘‘It would be really good to win the Vicbred series again as she has won it as a two and also three year old,’’ said Blackmore.   Claudys Princess has been to Menangle before, winning the Bulli NSW Trotters Oaks last year.   Claudys Princess won the Shepparton Trotters Cup at her last outing with a sizzling finish to record her 16th win in 23 starts.   Gus Underwood - Harness Racing New South Wales

With the Pepper Tree Farm Breeders Challenge finals just over six weeks away it is no surprise to see a number of the leading chances hitting the track in preparation for the rich Gr. 1 events.     The two year old colts and geldings division will be dominated by the unbeaten Our Waikiki Beach and he returned to the trials at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Tuesday with a win in a time of 1:55.8.   A number of his main rivals have also trialled this week with Bathurst Gold Crown placegetter Sams The Master winning at Bathurst on Monday.   The son of Tell All proved too strong for Bathurst Gold Tiara winner Pixies Parlour in the trial rating 1:59.3 for the mile.   Hunter Valley trainer Sam Dimarco also welcomed back his two talented two year olds at the Newcastle trials on Wednesday night with Gold Crown winner Shadow Runner and Gotta Go Gold winning.    Dimarco is eyeing off the Breeders Challenge heats at Newcastle on Friday May 22nd with his well performed pair.   “Both of them did what was expected on Wednesday night and it should have topped them off nicely for Friday week,” said Dimarco.   “The weather wasn’t great so the times weren’t all that important but Gotta Go Gold won in 2:03 while Shadow Runner recorded 2:02.4 in his trial win.”   Dimarco confirmed the recent wet weather had affected their preparations.   “I wasn’t knocked around like some people were with damage to their properties and tracks but because of the rain and the amount of water around it meant that my horses couldn’t work for about four or five days so it set me back a little bit.   “The pair had only been back in work for a few days when the storm hit so I just had to stop and start again, I gave them a few weeks off after the Gold Crown and it has helped I think.”   Gotta Go Gold has grown more than Shadow Runner during the short break.   “The little fellow (Gotta Go Gold) definitely grew during the break and I’m really happy with how the big horse (Shadow Runner) is looking too, I’m looking forward to the Breeders Challenge."   “As soon as the series is over they will both go out for a longer spell, somewhere in the vicinity of two to three months.”   Dimarco’s daughter Marissa owns both but did not look to buy another after the family’s success at Bathurst.   “I tied her hands behind her back at the sales, she doesn’t need any others at the moment especially with these two horses doing such a good job."    “Marissa has some broodmares and will breed a couple in the short term, I think that will keep her busy for a little while.”   The first of the Pepper Tree Farm Breeders Challenge heats for the two year old colts and geldings will be conducted at Wagga on Saturday night.    The Col Thomas trained Bettermatch will race the smart Emma Stewart prepared Kingofthestars.   Greg Hayes - Harness Racing New South Wales

Astute mentors Kerryann Turner and Robbie Morris left the harness racing trials at Menangle  yesterday absolutely thrilled (Tuesday).   Their stable stars Aztec Bromac and Iam Mr Brightside both pleased in public trials and proved conclusively that a Queensland winter carnival campaign is on target.   The Menangle based couple are currently enjoying another hugely successful season, they’re just shy of 100 winners with several months still remaining before seasons end.   A Brisbane campaign was divulged following their most recent efforts where both pacers contested Group 1 events on March 1, Inter Dominion Grand Final day.   “We gave both boys a freshen-up following their most recent efforts and both have returned in very good order, if anything, Aztec must just be a little further advanced in comparison to Brightside but he is a year younger.” Morris said.   Aztec Bromac hasn’t started since contesting the Gr.1 $200,000 New South Wales Derby won by Victorian colt Ideal For Real while Iam Mr Brightside contested the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots Of Fire won by New Zealand star Sky Major.   The Queensland winter carnival features several targets for Aztec Bromac including all Derby features (Queensland, Redcliffe & Gold Coast) plus the inaugural running of the Gr.1 $100,000 Nursery Fly.   Yesterday, Aztec Bromac chased home former North American pacer Johny Rock in a time of 1;53.8 for the 1609m hit-out.   “He went really well and it proved he’s come back in very good order, he can go straight into a race following that trial and we’ll look for something within the next fortnight to start his campaign.   “The Redcliffe Derby takes place on June 5 and I’m pretty sure we’ll be heading up for that race and then we’ll just concentrate on all the other features thereafter, he’s got so much he’s eligible for up there and the prizemoney is very attractive.   “He’s proven that he’s a classy horse with a good future, he proved that he’s competitive against the best colts going around and this campaign fits in really well. His speed is his best asset and he’ll prove tough to beat in anything he contests.”   Iam Mr Brightside finished fourth in his 1609m trial won by classy mare Ocean Diva in a time of 1;58.1 but was never extended at any stage up the home straight.   Obvious targets during his Brisbane campaign include the Gr.2 $50,000 4yo Championship and the Gr.2 $50,000 4 & 5yo Championships in July.   “He went well and it was a really nice start point for him, being a year older he’ll probably take a bit more work compared to Aztec but I was happy with the way he felt up the lane.   “He’ll trial again before we look at a race return for him, he had a good blow after the trial but he’ll tighten up pretty quickly following that hit-out. His next trial will be more serious and that will give us a good guide.   “He’s a high quality pacer that always performs at a high level; he’s no stranger to Brisbane after racing there last season against Bling It On in the Nursery Pace Final. This carnival has some really nice options for him.”   Turner is ranked third in the state premiership behind Shane Tritton and Steve Turnbull while Morris is currently fifth in the state driver’s premiership which is led by Lauren Panella.   Chris Barsby - Racing Queensland

AFTER enduring the effects of flooding, harness racing participant in the Hunter Region will welcome the news the New South Wales Harness Racing Club are donating $20,000 towards the relief fund. The club’s chief executive officer Bruce Christison announced the good news this morning, stating in times like this the Industry needed to rally together. “We have all seen the pictures of the devastation and the club had no hesitation in contributing towards the relief,” Christison said. “Once the Board made the decision to assist, we then contacted Harness Racing New South Wales chief executive John Dumesny to find how best to distribute the funds. “It was agreed that from a logistical point of view HRNSW were in the best position to establish where help was most needed. “It is our expectation the money will go towards horse feed and ensuring the horses are looked after in the short term. “Anyone that has been involved in this type of situation would be aware that even if property is insured the claims process can take a lot of time and the people who have been impacted need to ensure their day-to-day needs are met. “The club hopes this contribution, along with the assistance from HRNSW and other sections of the community, will make the recovery a little easier.” NSWHRC Media

The skills of Mark and Natalie and the success of regular owners, Phil and Glenys Kennard , Neil Pilcher and Australian Marcus Kirkwood were underlined after Natalie's memorable drive to win her 30th Harness Racing Group One in the Len Smith Mile.   Finally after a long  history of frustration which bordered on resignation Smolda reminded Australians of his great class.   It was only in November that his career was in limbo.   His Cup preparation was in disarray and since the beginning of 2014 he had raced only five times.   This was after Mark was the man who insisted that Smolda had the full time off senior veterinary adviser Dr Bill Bishop had recommended. No short cuts.   Reassessing the situation with the horse who won eight of his 12 starts at three including a sensational Harness Jewels victory (1 52.1) and the NSW Derby and when Mark was rating him among the best horses he had trained, it was back to the drawing board.   Promising, then a little disappointing at the Auckland Cup carnival his only win since January 2014 came at Addington in March in a field he had to beat.   But Mark and Natalie sensed that all the racing was helping him after a long time off and with no opportunities here it was off to Australia where he is now unbeaten in two starts on the campaign which is likely to last longer yet.   And a cherry ripe Smolda is suddenly looming in 2015 NZ Cup contention.   But then all his life Smolda has been surprising people.   He was not in keen demand as a yearling shares being advertised on the All Stars site which brought Marcus Kirkwood into a ride he has enjoyed to the full.   Phil and Glenys of course are rarely out of the All Stars headlines and Pilch-well he has always loved his Courage Under Fire's.                                                                      Waikiki Beach   Neil Pilcher became the most successful APG two year old final winning owner in history when Our Waikiki Beach which he races with Trevor Casey and Cheryl Rasmussen won at Menangle on Sunday.   He ran his last 400m in 25.9 and 1.54.3 overall after a superb rating from Natalie who was posting her second APG final win.   Mark has figured in the training of all three of Pilch's wins which began with Mr Nickel in 2011 when the longshot came out best after Fly Like An Eagle got a horrible run.   Last year Follow the Stars was the winner with Pilch again in the partnership.   Waikiki Beach was knocked down to Neil, selected by Mark, for $A50,000 at least year's Melbourne sale and  it is hardly a matter of regret.   He is still unbeaten having won the Welcome Stakes at Addington after winning the Kindergarten Stakes and has won  his heat, semi and Final of the APG series.   OUR AUSTRALIAN RECORD THIS SEASON   13 WINS   Fight For Glory -2 wins - NSW Oaks Prelude. NSW Oaks   Follow The Stars- 3  wins - Caduceus Club   Adore Me - 2 wins - Ladyship Mile G1   Hug the Wind 1 win - NSW Derby Prelude   Waikiki Beach 3 wins - APG heat, semi-final, final   Smolda  2 wins - Penrith Cup-Len Smith Mile   EIGHT  GROUP WINNERS   FOUR GROUP ONES !   OVER $500,000 IN STAKES   Courtesy All Stars Racing Stables    

Australians haven’t seen the last of New Zealand’s latest harness racing star Our Waikiki Beach. Following the freshman’s effortless Australian Pacing Gold victory at Menangle just moments ago, trainer Mark Purdon confirmed the son of Somebeachsomewhere will remain on the mainland during the next couple of months. Instead of heading home for the Harness Jewels, Our Waikiki Beach will stay on this side of the Tasman for the New South Wales Breeders' Challenge. “We are very happy with the way he has come along during this trip to Australia,” Purdon said. “With that in mind, he will stay with Belinda and Luke McCarthy for the Breeders' Challenge. "He also has the Breeders' Crown later in the season." Driven by Natalie Rasmussen, Our Waikiki Beach began swiftly to lead from barrier one, with the remainder of the $322,000 Group One a formality. Never seriously challenged, the colt cruised to a soft 14-and-a-half metre win from Born To Rocknroll, with the quinella provided by Empire Stallions’ sires. Kingofthestars was two-and-a-half metres away third. “From the draw he was always going to be hard to beat, and once he led, the race was well in his keeping,” Purdon said. “I’m very impressed with the way he came away from them up the straight.” With the final 800 metres run in 55.2 seconds, Our Waikiki Beach covered the mile in 1:54.3, extending his unbeaten record to five. PAUL COURTS

Talented harness racing performer Smolda capped off a sensational Australian campaign for New Zealand’s power couple Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen with his win at Menangle just moments ago. With Rasmussen in the cart, Smolda caused a minor upset in the Len Smith Mile – securing the feature in 1:50.6. After enjoying the perfect one-one trail, the son of Courage Under Fire scored by two-and-a-half metres from Beautide, with Lennytheshark two metres away third. The gelding’s victory provided the duo with consecutive Group Ones, having annexed the rich Australian Pacing Gold Final with Our Waikiki Beach less than an hour earlier. Last week Smolda captured the Group Two Renshaw Cup at Penrith. “I couldn’t be happier with that run,” Purdon said. “As I have said before, he was racing well back home without any luck and has really thrived at his two runs in Australia. “He got the great trail today and Natalie drove him to perfection. “It was very pleasing to see him finish the race off like he did.” Along with Our Waikiki Beach and Smolda, Purdon/Rasmussen have also enjoyed victories with exciting youngster Follow The Stars. Also triumphant at Penrith, Follow The Stars was a cut above his rivals in the Caduceus Cup at Melton last Friday night. With Luke McCarthy in the cart, the son of Art Major rated 1:56.8 over 2240 metres to easily account for Mister Wickham and Wingara. Interestingly, all three winners are Australian-bred! PAUL COURTS

Harness Racing two year olds have one of their biggest races of the year on Sunday at Menangle when the $322,000 final of the Australian Pacing Gold for two year old colts and geldings is run. The dominating pre post favourite is the son of Somebeachsomewhere in Our Waikiki Beach from the All Star barn of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Mark has driven the unbeaten colt in his last three wins but in a shock move is handing over the reins to Natalie Rasmussen on Sunday. "We had a long chat about it with Mark wanting me to drive them where as I thought he should keep driving them." "In the end with me driving them, it lets Mark concentrate on having them spot on for the day without having to think about driving tactics so that is what we are going to do, " Natalie told Harnesslink this evening. Our Waikiki Beach has drawn the coveted ace draw at the mile start and appears very hard to hold out going by his two runs to date at Menangle. Another runner that has had a change of driver on Sunday is the stablemate of Our Waikiki Beach in Smolda who is lining up in the Len Smith Mile against Beautide. Natalie will also take the reins on the son of Courage Under Fire who has fought his way back from serious injury to race once more at the highest level. Smolda may lack the high speed of one or two in the Len Smith Mile but he is super tough and right in the zone at the moment. Natalie warmed up for Menangle on Sunday with just two drives tonight at Addington which both came up trumps. It took her winning drives for the season to 43 from just 111 drives and she has placed on 35 occasions as well. The All Star barn have cut a swathe through Australasian harness racing scene over the last few years and it is their ability to change things around like the drivers on Sunday which gives them that edge that keeps them on top. Harnesslink Media  

New Zealand’s latest exciting harness racing star Our Waikiki Beach appears to have been ‘gifted’ Sunday’s Australian Pacing Gold Final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Not only has the unbeaten youngster drawn perfectly in barrier one, his main danger – Goodtime Sammy – has been scratched. Goodtime Sammy is yet to experience defeat from four starts for co-trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Also successful at his four outings, Our Waikiki Beach appears certain to lead throughout the 1609-metre sprint. To be driven by trainer Mark Purdon, the son of Somebeachsomewhere is blessed with gate speed, which has Purdon oozing confidence. “I couldn’t have asked for more from the draw,” Purdon said. “From there he should be able to hold the lead and will be very hard to beat. “He is a beautifully-gaited pacer and just does it so easily. He’s very laid back and takes everything in his stride.” Purdon is hoping for a Group One double on the program, with talented pacer Smolda engaged in the Len Smith Mile. Victorious in last week’s Renshaw Cup at Penrith, Smolda hasn’t fared as well as his stablemate in the draw and will begin from gate six. Defending title holder Beautide is the raging $1.30 favourite from four. Smolda is the only other runner under double figures at $7.50. “I was very happy with his run last week and his work has been solid since,” Purdon said. “I don’t know if we can beat Beautide, but we will certainly let him know we are there.” PAUL COURTS

Twenty three year old harness racing reinsman David Morris has had a week he will never forget and it is not over yet. Morris's partner Stephanie presented him with a baby boy on Sunday night and with two good drives at Melton on Friday night and another three at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon he looks set to continue his celebrations in style. "I don't know how to explain what I am feeling, it is just unreal but to be there for the birth of Riley Anthony Morris was something very special," Morris said. "Steph was great through the whole labour and it lasted 28 hours, she was very tired initially but she is great now and we are both looking forward to getting Riley home for the first time." Morris was booked to drive in the final race at Menangle last Saturday night but left the track early to be with Stephanie after she went into labour. "Neither of us expected the labour to last 28 hours but it was definitely worth it in the end, he is just perfect." "I've spent a lot of time at the hospital with Steph and Riley since Sunday but I'm going to have to leave them for a day later in the week when I go to Melbourne to drive on Friday night." Morris has been booked to drive both of the Sloys' fillies in the Australian Pacing Gold semi finals and he believes they should make the final. "Hazels Girl was very good in her APG heat at Menangle, she felt like she did when she ran the Australasian two year old fillies record on debut." "Although that initial run knocked her around a bit, I think we just drove her upside down and back to front at Bathurst in the Gold Tiara heat, she likes to run along and we went back to those tactics last start." Hot Shot Woman is yet to win a race in her four start career but she has already been placed at Gr. 1 level after she finished second in the Gold Tiara at Bathurst. "Hot Shot Woman just keeps getting better and better all the time, I think she should have won her heat, she snuck through for fourth but she never got clear running." "The gap was only big enough room for her to squeeze through with 50 metres to go but after the line when there was enough room for the sulky she charged past the rest of the field, she is a nice filly that's for sure." At Menangle on Sunday Morris has been booked to drive Louboutin, Zenable and Im Alex. "I haven't had a good look at the fields for Menangle on Sunday just yet, I've had a few other things going on obviously but I'm looking forward to getting back to Sydney on Sunday to be a part of the big afternoon of racing." Greg Hayes

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