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As a 100/1 shot, Dark Side was certainly the roughie of the harness racing field in the running of the West Diggers Tamworth Pace (2360m) at Tamworth Paceway, but he came up trumps. Maddison Simon took the drive for her grandfather and trainer Len Simon behind the Mach Three nine-year-old gelding, owned and raced by Maureen Simon, Len's wife. "I held the lead and was hoping for the best - hoping that he could hold it all the way, and he did," Maddison said. "Once we all settled down into the race, I was just hoping to hold that lead." To watch this race click here Dark Side notched his third win for the season, with Maddison guiding him to two wins in October last year over 1980m. "He [Len] said that he [Dark Side] worked well in track work this week and I didn't really believe him but he was right," Maddison said. The race certainly had some challenges for Dark Side, who had commenced from the three barrier. Dark Side had opposition not long after the start, with the first lot of pressure coming from the Clayton Harmey-trained Choisir Damoure (Jake Hughes). That was followed by $2.40 race favourite Azur Express (Blake Hughes), before Got The Scoop (Anthony Varga) applied pressure on Dark Side. Another challenge came from the Tony Missen-trained Are You With Me (Tom Ison), who put in a three-wide run from the back of the field just before the bell sounded. "He (Are You With Me) got his head in front on the final turn," Maddison said. "I was a bit concerned then but Dark Side just come through and held on." She added: "We were both head to head down the home straight." Art I Special (Scotty-Jon Welsh) was 2.4m away in third place. Maddison picked up the The Pub Group Drive of the Night. With the lifting of the regional racing zones last Wednesday, the base prize money has increased from $4000 to $6000. It had been at $4000 since May 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Northern Daily Leader

Harness Racing Group one glory has commenced, with the running of the $100,000 TAB-sponsored regional championship finals. Tamworth has a shot on Saturday night in both the Hunter Region Championships Final at Newcastle and the Menangle Metropolitan Championships Final. Moonbi trainer and reinsman Dean Chapple will be carrying the Tamworth flag in the $100,000 Hunter Region Final, with Emm Aye Dee starting from the three barrier after qualifying for the race on May 9 at Newcastle in taking out the opening heat. The Sportswriter mare is raced by James Sills, and won the heat by a short half head and in a mile rate of 1min 57.1sec. For Chapple it will be another race on his "bucket list" to be ticked off in his lifelong journey in harness racing . He will have a warm-up for the feature when he contests the Hunter Regional Championships' $9,690 B consolation race with Right On With It - who he also trains and drives. The horse finished third to Elsie Gem in the eighth heat. "At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, we're there [in the final]. So, it's off my bucket list. It's great." Chapple told the Leader earlier this week. "Obviously being in a race like this it's the next level. So, I've gotta tick all the boxes going into this race." Fellow Tamworth trainer Graham Moon will see his stable runner Corsini contest the Menangle Metropolitan Championships' $14,970 A consolation race. The horse has drawn the four barrier and will be driven by Maitland reinsman Brad Elder. The Newcastle final will also be a big showcase for former Tamworth reinsman Tom Ison, who is relishing a purple patch in his career. He will take the reins behind the Adam Ruggari-trained Hazelnuts - a $3.30 favourite and the winner of the fourth heat.   And let's not forget Caitlin McElhinney - who recently moved from Nowra to Tamworth - and will take the reins behind the Neil Thompson-trained Ultra Bliss in the Newcastle final. Ultra Bliss will start from the 10 barrier after winning the ninth heat. Meanwhile, the Tamworth-owned Star Major will commence from the four barrier in the $100,000 TAB Metropolitan Regional Championships Final. The Art Major gelding is trained and driven by James Rattray and raced by Tamworth's Dean York. The championships are showcasing the best of the best in the regions, with Bathurst hosting their final on Wednesday night. The race was a dream come true for the Parkes father and son combination of Malcolm Hutching (the trainer) and his son Brett (the reinsman). Their win in the TAB Western Region Championships Final, with Terryrama, was a boil-over. Terryrama had a 2.3-metre win over the Josh Turnbull-trained and Nathan Turnbull-driven Bettor Jiggle and paid $81 for the win. Wagga will host the Riverina Regional Championships Final on Friday afternoon. +++ MAITLAND reinsman Blake Hughes was the star of last Sunday's Tamworth harness meeting, in driving five winners on the eight-race program. It is the second time the young reinsman has achieved this feat, with the other five-win day also coming at Tamworth. Hughes achieved three winners for his boss and mentor Clayton Huarmey behind Azure Express, Gold Reactor and Choisir Damour, before giving Tamworth trainer Tony Missen a training double with Are You With Me and I'm So Better. "It's pretty good to equal the record," said Hughes, with I'm So Better being his fifth winner on the night. "I took off with her at the 400[m] mark and she went pretty good. "I forgot about it (the record) and didn't know how many wins I was up to for the night but it was a good feeling once I realised I had the five." Missen has only had I'm So Better for two race starts. "You can't do more than win but she is a beautiful mare to do anything with," he said. "She came to me from Canberra." Hughes almost made it six winners but had to settle for a third placing with the Russell Murray-trained Penny A Packet in the last race. By Julie Maughan with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Mitrhys Magic is back! After spending 15 months on the sidelines the nine-year-old gelding resumed racing at the Tamworth harness meeting last Thursday and achieved a winner straight up. "It's good to have him back to the track," reinsman Anthony Varga said after the win. Mitrhys Magic - or Barry as he is affectionately known around the stables - had his last race start at Maitland back in January 2019. "He bowed his tendon, and being an older horse it took a while longer with training but we got him back to the track," he said. Raced by John and Noelene Varga, Mitrhys Magic won the Johns Auto Service Pace by 11.8 metres over Apollon (Dean Chapple) with Lettucefireharvey (Michael Formosa) a further 6.5 metres away third. Mitrhys Magic commenced from the eight barrier and had to avoid race interference on the first turn when Louth Park Watch broke stride. "We were pretty lucky to see the horse gallop in front of us but everything worked out well and we missed the interference," Varga said. Mitrhys Magic settled into his racing rhythm four back on the outside running line in heavy rain while Lettucefireharvey headed up the field. "I was happy to be racing there though it would have been nice to be in the one by one," added Varga, who elected to make his race move 600 metres from home. "He (Mitrhys Magic) cruised up to them pretty easy and then at the 400 he put his foot down and did his best work." Mitrhys Magic will now have a start at Newcastle on Monday in the Trots TV Pace. "We will back him up at Newcastle. The field is the same class as was at Tamworth," Varga said. "Dad (John) is over the moon with the win and getting back to the track. Barry is his favourite horse and everything has been going good so far." He acknowledged trainer Ernie Mabbott for his help and expertise with Mitrhys Magic. "Big thanks have to go to Ernie Mabbott - he was happy to have Barry back at the track as well," he said. Mitrhys Magic - cleverly named after two of the Varga family grandchildren - Mitchell and Rhys - has shown good race form over the years with 93 race starts for 15 wins and 43 placings and will be looking to add to the winning tally at Newcastle on Monday afternoon. Varga has four drives at the Newcastle meeting - Mitrhys Magic and White Wash for the Ernie Mabbott stables, Rolamax for Tamworth trainer Neil Kliendienst and Cams A Million for Hunter Valley trainer Cameron Davies. Julie Maughan Reprinted wiuth permission of The Northern Daily Leader  

Conquer The Day will be making a return to the Tamworth Paceway this Thursday in the hope of making it déjà vu for her owner Debbie Finlay and her trainer husband Mick. A welcome addition to the Gunnedah stables, the five-year-old Roll With Joe mare produced a first up win for the couple at last week's Tamworth harness meeting. To watch the race click here. "We brought her (Conquer The Day) out of Wagga. It was Deb who picked her as she always wanted a Roll With Joe horse," Mick said. Conquer The Day also shot him back into the winner's circle with his last win as a trainer listed back in January 2011, with the win of Frostbitten at Muswellbrook. The couple have enjoyed success in the interim as owners, with other trainers handling their pacers. Unfortunately with the COVID 19 protocols Debbie was not permitted to be at the meeting to witness her horse taking line honours. "It was a good win," Mick said after Conquer The Day had won the ANZAC Day Pace. "The young grandson and Deb had to watch the race at home as they can't be here. [But] She is ecstatic." "I worked the mare with Tony (Missen) the other day in Tamworth and he said she worked good enough and when you look at Tommy Ison as a reinsman - from when he has come from driving the mini trotters to now, he has just matured that much." Mick had engaged the inform reinsman to handle Conquer The Day and thought he may have been picking up a place cheque in the last 600 metres of the race, but was full of praise for Ison's drive. "Over on the corner I thought we might run a hole here. But then "Magical Tommy" (referring to Ison) - he reminds me a bit of another reinsman in Peter Wellington - he can read a race and when to get a horse out," he said. "We are lucky to have young drivers like Tom, especially me." It was the first of three winning drives for Ison at the meeting, just short of his own personal record set at the Easter Monday meeting when he drove five winners on the program. Commencing from the one barrier, Conquer The Day went straight to the lead before Ison elected to hand up and take a run in behind the new race leader in Bailees Girl (Sam Ison) "We came out of the gate quick early and did a bit of work - the lead time was pretty quick 26.6 (seconds). I thought to hand up was my best chance to stay in the race at the end," Ison said. Making his race move as the field entered the final turn, he extricated Conquer The Day from the inside running before racing three wide. "She was three wide at the bottom turn and we went to the line good," he said. "She just started kicking away down the home straight." Conquer The Day went on for a 3.7 metre win over Nice One John (Brendan James) with Bailees Girl 3.8 metres away third. "I am happy to just get one win this week - I do drive a few horses for Mick and he was pretty rapt with that win," Ison added. For Finlay, who as the trainer has had to overcome restrictions with the COVID 19 pandemic, the win was something to treasure. "I can't work the horses at Gunnedah - I can only jog the horse at home and then I have to come over here to Tamworth as the showground is locked at home," he said. "I have been coming over from Gunnedah to work with Tony and Joy Missen and thanks to them otherwise we probably wouldn't have been here." Conquer The Day has drawn the four barrier in the Multiquip Hatchery Pace on Thursday, while Ison is listed for seven drives on an eight-race card. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Mamoi Valley Independent

"It was full on. I don't remember the harness racing fall, but it was pretty strange waking up with all the pain." That was how the 17-year-old Tamworth reinswoman Elly Chapple summed up how she felt after being involved in a horrific race fall in the Inverell Cup on March 29. Chapple, driving the No 2 horse, was checked when the horse to her inside blundered and fell - resulting in Chapple being tipped from her gig and run over by horses. "I remember turning into the back straight and getting a run up to the barrier with my horse, as I wanted to cross the field," she said. Chapple has no recollection of the fall after being knocked unconscious. "The first person I saw was Mum standing over the top of me. The track attendants - Jeff Enks and Paul Harper - were the first to get to me and they were talking to me but I don't remember [that]. "I couldn't move, and [I] do remember being lifted into the ambulance. "I thought I had done a collarbone and broken my arm, and the ambulance guys put a neck brace on me - they prepare you for the worst. "I feel blessed to come out of it with just a broken elbow, although I have got plenty of bruising and skin off me." Chapple is set to celebrate 12 months in the harness racing industry as a reinswoman after opening her account at the Narrabri Easter meeting last year.  DRIVEN: Chapple is keen to resume racing. Photo: PeterMac Photography   "I enjoy the sport and it was always something I was going to do - I love competing and driving every week. "Dad (Dean Chapple) was in the same race at Inverell and he was a bit shocked that I was still on the track when he came back around." Chapple and fellow Tasmworth reinswoman Sarah Rushbrook, also injured in the accident, were conveyed to Lismore Hospital via the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Rushbrook underwent surgery after suffering to breaks to her femur. She also suffered cracked ribs. Chapple said: "I am so pleased that Sarah and I were in the chopper together, I was so worried. She said she remembers everything but I think it will be better for me that I don't remember. "I knew I was bound to have a race fall one day but didn't realise how quick it happens - it was like I was going up to the gate and then I was on the track." In her short career Chapple has driven three winners and had numerous placings. "I think it will take me a while to get back to driving. I'm keen but I just have to get my strength back." Chapple was transferred to Tamworth Hospital on Tuesday and operated on the following morning. She was back home on Thursday. "I will have a slab on my elbow for two weeks and then they will put a fibreglass cast on for eight weeks. "Everyone has been so supportive. The number of messages from different states ... it has been overwhelming but nice to have everyone's support." For her parents, Dean and Julie, it was a mercy dash to link up with her in Lismore, with her 13-year-old brother Jack at home watching vision of the fall. "Jack was at home but he kept it all together for us - feeding the horses at home and looking after them," Chapple said. "He was the foreman while Dad was away with me. "And Mum held it together for all of us - she was great." For Chapple, a year 12 student at Oxley High School, the next challenge will be the HSC. "I have the HSC and I am left-handed - that is the elbow that is broken." But given that most students are isolated at home due to the epidemic, it is unclear how year 12 students will be assessed at the end of the school year. No horses were injured in the accident. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

After taking out last years running of the Garrard's Horse & Hound Tamworth City Cup seven-year-old harness racing gelding Gottashopearly showed he still had the stamina to take home a winner's cheque in the 2020 running of the feature race. Trained by Jake Mitchell it was a boost for the young Wyee trainer who was producing his second career winner as a trainer after engaging the services of Sydney reinsman Leigh Sutton. "We got rolling early and he is a great horse out in front - to the horse's credit he was too tough for them," Sutton said. "We will be happy that we got this one - the horse has been a grand old horse - he is just a machine." Gottshopearly went to the lead from the three barrier, setting a nice tempo with quarters in 30.7 seconds; 31.7 seconds; 28.9 seconds and 28.2 seconds. "Sometimes his form looks worse than it actually is," Sutton said. "If he can find the top around here it is nearly game set and match -he beat some nice horses then." Gottashopearly had a 6.3 metre victory over this year's The Pub Group Gold Nugget winner in Royal Gamble (Jack Callaghan) and Bathurst pacer Fouroeight from the Mat Rue stables. "I won a race on him (Gottashopearly) at Menangle over the long trip and he was in front then - he just does the job," Sutton said. "He has taken me on a journey this horse. We finished third in an Echuca Cup and it is a nice reward for the owners." Gottashopearly has had 18 career wins and 24 placings and was enjoying his first race start since racing at Bankstown in August last year. After winning last year's Tamworth City Cup with a mile rate of 2.01.1 for the 2360m, the Rocknroll Hanover-Saabette gelding clocked a mile rate of 2.00.5 for the same distance in the 2020 running. He has an with the Tamworth Paceway after being crowned the 2018/19 Horse of the Year at Tamworth. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Louth Park harness racing trainer Melanie Elder hopes a better draw can help Ashark step up in a tougher Golden Guitar Final (1980m) featuring four Hunter chances at Tamworth on Thursday night. Ashark was third in the final last year when it was a $25,000 event at listed level. The race has been elevated to group 2 ($50,000) status. Despite the rise in class, Ashark was a strong heat winner on Sunday. Elder's brother, Brad, gave Ashark a sit behind the leaders on the pegs before the five-year-old produced a winning run from the back straight. The combination are hoping for a repeat in the final after drawing gate seven, the inside of the second line. Last year, Ashark was taken to last from a wide draw and he came three-wide the last lap. "It's probably that bit better of a draw this year," Melanie said. "He can follow the one [Battle Chimes] out and probably get a nice easy run on the pegs. "It's not really his go out wide. He's better with a quiet run so the draw is in our favour this year. He won from seven on Sunday so hopefully it plays out like that again." Ashark was a $26 chance with the TAB and the long-shot of the Hunter-trained quartet. Nulkaba trainer Clayton Harmey has the best chance, Wet My Whistle ($4.40), which has gate four. Wet My Whistle, a full brother to group 1 performer Hug The Wind, took his unbeaten Australian record to five with an all-the-way heat win on Sunday. It was a relief for Harmey, who was concerned about a lack of fitness before the heat. Owner Allan McColl wanted to race Wet My Whistle after it became clear a few weeks earlier that New Zealand-bred horses were eligible to compete. "He's got it against him tomorrow but he's good, I worked him this morning, and I wouldn't swap for him any other horse in it," Harmey said. "He's a hard horse to train. When Allan bought him from New Zealand I thought he was very ordinary, and then he went to Bankstown and won by 60 metres. "But he just shows you nothing, he's a tiny thing, but he's bred to be a champion. "I would have liked to draw one or two but we're there, it's a race I've always wanted to win and if we don't this year, we'll be back again next year trying. "He's got bigger fish to fry. He'll get to metropolitan grade and win, but just the prestige of this race, to win for Allan after what he's done for me in such a short time, that would be great." Harmey believed Roll With Lachlan ($7), from gate three for Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding, was a threat after his second to Wet My Whistle on Sunday. Sawyers Gully trainer Cameron Davies has heat winner Battle Chimes ($18) from one. Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of Newcastle Herald

Cessnock-based teenage harness racing driver Blake Hughes has created history with a "fab five" night he's going to remember for many years to come. "I thought I had a few nice drives at Tamworth, but it turned out to be amazing," he said. The 17-year-old became the youngest reinsman ever to drive five winners at a meeting - and achieved the record just 11 months into his driving career. And with an ounce of luck it could have been a "sensational six" as he went down by nostril with one of his other drives. "I'm still chuckling a bit about the narrow defeat because I honestly thought I'd got up on that one!" Hughes said. The youngster is working for astute trainer Clayton Harmey and four of his winners were for his mentor. The other one was prepared by Jarred Hetherington, of Narrabri. While Hughes got a treble at Newcastle not that long ago, he's the first to admit that Tamworth has been a "happy hunting ground" for him. "I've probably driven at the track four or five times previously, and each time I've been lucky enough to go home with a winner. I'll make sure I keep going there in the future, that's for sure," Hughes said. While growing up in Maitland, the horse-mad Hughes admits that he would spend every spare minute at the stables of his uncle Paul Morgan. "I'd be around there all the time after school and at weekends. Then when I heard Clayton was looking for someone to help out at his stables, I jumped at it," he said. "I had to convince mum (Jennifer) as I'd only done the first term of Year 11 at school. But she was okay with it and is now my biggest supporter, coming to all the meetings which is great. "Mum was at Tamworth the other night so of course she was pretty excited for me." Hughes said he had a reasonably slow start to his career. "It actually took me about 20 drives before I got my first winner at Newcastle. I ended up with 15 wins last season, but getting a few winners lately is giving me more opportunities," he said. "I get a five claim as a concession driver and other trainers are starting to take a bit more notice, so it's all good." Hughes' older brother Jake was also in the action at Tamworth, landing the winner of the opening event in Three Mugs In (Tell All USA-Taralinger (D M Dillinger), trained by Greg Franklin. Jake is employed by leading gallops trainer Chris Lees. The five winners for Blake at Tamworth were: Chevrons Reward (Rocknroll Hanover-C C Lobell (Christian Cullen); Tap It In (Mr Feelgood USA-Get Happy (P B Bullville); Jimmy The Editor (Bettors Delight USA-Easy Falcon (Falcon Seelster); Platinum Revolution (Changeover NZ-Champagne Franco (Falcon Seelster) and Lady Sharnae NZ (TinTin In America-Lets Appeal (Holmes Hanover USA).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Elly Chapple has achieved something she has quietly been working towards - her first harness racing career winning drive. At last week's Tamworth harness meeting, Chapple piloted Right On With It to establish that first winning drive. "I had no words to describe the feeling of winning the race after the finish - I couldn't stop shaking, it was crazy," stated the near 17-year-old who also picked up The Pub Group Drive of the Day. Coming up through the Mini Trot ranks via the Tamworth Club, Chapple progressed on to make her debut into the senior driving ranks back in April at the Narrabri Carnival of Cups meeting.  WINNING FEELING: Right On With It bests Onahi Delight (Leigh Sutton) and Ghost Gum (Stacey Weidemann).   It was only fitting that Elly should have her first winning drive in the Tamworth Regional Mini Trot Association Pace over 1609 metres last Thursday on her home track. "It was good being in the mini trots before as it helped a lot in getting a bit more confidence," stated the vibrant young lady who had been part of the mini trot scene for many years before graduating to the registered races. Chapple, a Year 11 student at Oxley High School, recounted her driving efforts and how she came to gain the success with Right On With It. "I drew the five barrier and landed up one-by-one behind Layby Lenny (Anthony Varga), which was a perfect spot," she said. "We were aiming to go forward to lead but the one-by-one presented itself and it was perfect." With the grey pacer Ghost Gum, piloted by Stacey Weidemann, leading the field, Chapple was playing the race out in her mind and holding back her run, before placing an impressive three-wide run around the field from the 400-metre mark. "He felt super the whole way. I nursed him up around the bend and just waited for as long as I could and the horse couldn't have done a better job," added Chapple. "I probably had to go a little bit earlier than what I wanted to because Leigh Sutton came around with Onahi Delight. I had to go in the back straight a bit before I had planned to. But other than that it was perfect "I was so excited I just waited up for as long as I could and I just knew I had to go for it. "Dad said from the start that Right On With It would be my first winner. He was my first fast-work drive." Right On With It held on for a neck win over Onahi Delight, with Ghost Gum three metres away in third place. For Moonbi trainer-reinsman Dean Chapple, he enjoyed sitting on the sidelines along with his wife Julie, watching as his daughter succeed. "Elly's win was just out of this world - it was a 10 out of 10 effort," said Dean. "We have been working towards this win for a while. "That would be up there with any of my wins. I was sitting there going not now not now. I was driving the race for her from the sidelines." Dean, who is leading the drivers premiership at Tamworth, had success himself at the meeting - training a double with Right On With it and new stable acquisition Aucklander. Aucklander won the opening event of the day, the TAB.Com.Au Three-Year-Old Pace, which also placed Chapple into the winner's circle with the reins. "It was a good run by Aucklander - I got into the one-by-one and then I took off," Dean said. "He ended up getting cover for the last lap and I pulled out at the 400m and he was just too good." Aucklander had a four-metre win over Shez Got Bling (Madi Young) with A Paradigm Shift (Peter Hedges) another two metres away in third place. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Last week the Tamworth Harness Racing Club received the good news that their Golden Guitar feature race will be elevated to a Group 2 $50,000 race from January 2020. This week Harness Racing NSW chairman Rod Smith made another announcement: New South Wales will have a new $1 million race to go with the $1 million Miracle Mile. The race will be funded from negotiated arrangements between the racing industry and Tabcorp, and it will include a new bet type, odds and evens. The $1 million final will be the culmination of a series of races across NSW. The final concept for the series is slated to be endorsed by the HRNSW board this month. "We have injected funding into established feature races and carnivals, and now I am proud to say we are giving participants an opportunity to race for high stakes with horses which are not at the top level of our code of racing," Smith said. "This race provides for participants in the country, provincial and metropolitan areas, including as far away as Broken Hill, to compete in their own back yards. "All the owners and trainers really need is the horse good enough to win the $1 million race." **** THE HRNSW Rising Star Series has had a close finish, with Jake Hughes, who was representing the Hunter Valley and North West, finishing second to Metropolitan reinsman Joshua Gallagher. Hughes was leading the series heading into the final two races at Menangle last Sunday. Hughes had a winning drive at the Penrith meeting on Thursday evening, behind the Paul Fitzpatrick-trained Dee Double You. They raced to a 14-metre win. On his home track of Newcastle on Friday night, 18-year-old Hughes picked up another win when he drove Tralee Rocks for Tamworth owners Ernie and Anthony Mabbott. Gallagher finished on 82 points, just two points ahead of Hughes. Jake's younger brother Blake drove a winner at last week's Tamworth meeting, behind Chevron Reward, for his boss Clayton Harmey. Blake, at 16 years of age, has only had two drives at Tamworth. He finished last in his first start. *** AT LAST week's Tamworth meeting, siblings Tom and Emma Ison had a dead heat in the Pace. Tom drove the Dwayne Brown-trained What A Flight while Emma handled Bailees Girl, for her father Andy. "I thought he (Tom) had beat us," said Emma, whose previous winner was in January at Tamworth with Tepary. For Tom, there was a second glance when he noticed his younger sister had joined him at the finish line. "At that last second, I was surprised that it was Emma on the outside. But I thought she had beat me by a neck or so, as she was finishing that quick," he said. **** THE premierships are starting to take shape at Tamworth, with Dean Chapple leading the drivers premiership (25 points) - just five wins ahead of Lola Weidemann.  Chapple last won the drivers premiership in 2013/2014, with 35 wins. Weidemann leads the Hygain trainers premiership, with 27 wins. Narrabri trainer Jarred Hetherington is second with 16 wins. The horse of the year premiership s a close one, with Narrabri pacer Kid Montana, from the Shepherdson stables, locked on 22 points with Too Goo For You, from the Weideman stables. *** READY To Bloom, from the Mitch Faulkner stables, will have a start in the $20,000 Multiquip Club Menangle Country Series Final at Menangle on Saturday night after finishing second in a heat at Peak Hill. Harness racing will return to the Tamworth Paceway next Thursday. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Tamworth's Ison family have once again placed their names into the chronicles of harness racing history in the north west. For siblings Sam, Tom and Emma it was an Armidale harness meeting back in 2018 when the trio first came to prominence after driving a winner each on the program. Thursday's Tamworth harness meeting saw the Ison name being registered in yet another significant flair when Tom and Emma Ison had a dead heat for the win in the Ladyship Pace. Tom Ison accepted the drive behind the Dwayne Brown trained What A Flight and from the one barrier it appeared as if the 10-year-old mare was going to have an all the way win. That was until younger sister Emma placed in her bid for supremacy for the race title with a three wide run and a dash down the home straight with Bailee's Girl. "The win was brilliant and it is so good to share it with Tommy too" stated Emma. Emma Ison was engaged by her father Andy Ison to take the reins behind Bailee's Girl - a five-year-old mare that he both owns and trains - which certainly made the race a family affair. What A Flight was setting the race tempo while Miss Catalina (Lola Weidemann) raced out in the breeze. "We copped a bit of pressure in the race but she got home" added Ison of What A Flight who is raced by Tanya Welsh with the mares last win recorded at Newcastle back in October last year. Older brother Sam Ison elected to sit his pacer Roll With Tricky in on the leaders back in the running of the 1980 metre race while Emma Ison was in turn posted three back on the inside running line with Bailees Girl. The final turn into the home straight saw Emma Ison masterly bring Bailees Girl out of the inside running line to race three wide and sprint down the home straight. "She (Bailees Girl) sprints really well - she is a good sit and sprint horse but I didn't think I would catch him (Tom) by the time we hit the line" added Emma "I was sitting on the back of Sam (Roll With Tricky) and travelling really well. I knew if we got a crack we would get somewhere" "I thought he (Tom) had beat us" added Emma who welcomed the win with her last winning drive being at Tamworth back in January behind Tepary. For Tom Ison who governed the field from the outset with What A Flight there was a second glance when he noticed his younger sister Emma had joined him at the finish line. "At that last second I was surprised that it was Emma on the outside but I thought she had beat me by a neck or so as she was finishing that quick" added Tom Ison. "It was a special moment - absolutely" added Tom "there is no one better to have a dead heat with than your little sister" Elder brother Sam Ison finished fourth with Roll With Tricky in the race - just missing out on making it a family trifecta before he himself presented in the winner's circle later in the meeting. Sam Ison drove the Greg Coney trained Lettucefirestar to an all the way win in the Garrard's Horse and Hound Pace. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Harness Racing New South Wales has today announced another prizemoney injection elevating Tamworth's Golden Guitar to Group 2 status. Prizemoney for the time-honoured feature has doubled and the 2020 edition will be worth $50,000 in stakes. Minister responsible for racing and Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the announcement shows that regional racing keeps going from strength to strength. "We want our regional racing scene to continue to grow, which is why this investment in Tamworth's Golden Guitar Harness Race is so important," said Mr Anderson. "The Country Music Festival in Tamworth is such an iconic event and we can celebrate an iconic harness race as part of it." This announcement further strengthens HRNSW's stance on regional feature racing, making the Golden Guitar the most prestigious harness event in the state's north. A record quarter-of-a-million-dollars will be distributed throughout the upcoming Golden Guitar Carnival, held over three meetings. Meanwhile record prizemoney, in excess of $1.5 million, will be distributed by the Tamworth HRC in the next financial year as advised by HRNSW Chairman Mr Rod Smith. "Our commitment to regional harness racing and in this instance the north-west is well demonstrated," said Mr Smith. "Next year HRNSW will provide $1.5 million in prizemoney at Tamworth double what was available to participants a short five years ago. "In the last four years the number of race meetings at Paceway Tamworth has increased from 20 to 30 and I compliment the Club and the participants for demonstrating to my Board how strong our industry is in the region." Tamworth Club Chair Ms Julie Maughan was thrilled by the announcement. "Absolutely rapt," said Ms Maughan. "My Board and the participants work hard for the betterment of the north-west and to achieve our objective one of which was Group status for our flagship race is fantastic for all. "This has been achieved through the generosity of HRNSW and we thank Rod (Smith), his fellow Board members and John (Dumesny) for providing the funding." To assure the future of harness racing in Tamworth, HRNSW purchased the Showground in 2016. Since, HRNSW has injected $1.5 million into the property by virtue of a roof over the race stalls, a new Officials Pod and other works to make the property more presentable. Also horses stabled and trained at the track have increased from 15 to 60 and the Club now conducts 30 meetings a year (in 2014 it was only allocated 20 meetings). Next year's Golden Guitar, on Thursday January 23, will be the 41st running of the feature. First run by the Tamworth Harness Racing Club in 1979, some quality pacers have won the event including in recent times Mach Beauty who then went on to contest the Miracle Mile and Inter Dominion.   AMANDA RANDO MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER HARNESS RACING NEW SOUTH WALES  

Tamworth's Sarah Rushbrook ticked all the boxes with the win of Gotta Rush at last week's Tamworth harness meeting when listed as owner, breeder, trainer and driver. Gotta Rush won the Psarakis Accounting Pace after overcoming some inference on the first turn of the 1980 metre event before Rushbrook elected to travel three wide around the field to take the lead. "I got checked on the first turn and ended up three wide. I decided to push forward and the lead was there so I took it," said Rushbrook after the win. "I drove her like she was a good horse" added Rushbrook who is more than proud of the efforts of the four-year-old mare, especially after a short period of health issues with Gotta Rush." Gotta Rush gained her first win back in April 2018 at Narrabri followed by three minor placings before spending 10 months in the paddock with an unknown alignment. "We took her away from the track as we could not pin point the illness- even sent her to Randwick Equine with no result - but she is back on track now - and I'm glad," added Rushbrook. Gotta Rush resumed her racing back in April this year and with four runs back produced the impressive win. "She switched off turning for home - she only does what she needs to until something comes at her - then she is like a cattle dog and fights," relayed Rushbrook. Newcastle on Saturday night will be the next start for Gotta Rush who will commence from the three barrier in the Firestorm Fire Protection Brisbane Stakes. "I have to give her an opportunity," added Rushbrook with Gotta Rush having only 26 career starts for two wins and four placings. Young guns Jack Callaghan and Jake Hughes have been selected to represent the Hunter/North West Regions at this week's 2019 New South Wales Rising Star competition. The event pits some of the best and brightest young drivers from around the state against each other and sees them battle it out for the top prize. Callaghan at just 17, has had 35 career wins and states his father Mark Callaghan along with John and Todd McCarthy as his biggest career influences and is looking to make harness racing his career and to drive Group 1 winners. Hughes (Hunter/North) also aged 17 has had 27 career winning drives including his last winning drive being last Monday at the Maitland meeting behind Royal Lefty from the John Radley stables. The first round of heats will take place at Tacborp Park, Menangle on Tuesday. Tamworth will host its next harness racing meeting on June 27. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Roll With Tricky deserved her win in the Hazell's Farm & Fertilizer Ladyship Pace at Tamworth. Harness racing punters were in agreement - when they sent Roll With Tricky out as the $2.70 favourite. "It was a nice draw and I wasn't too convinced about the 1980 metres but she went good," was how trainer and reinsman Sam Ison summed up the win of the five-year-old Roll With Joe mare. The two barrier was certainly to Roll With Tricky's liking, with her heading straight to the lead. She was joined by Always A Lexus (Madi Young) from the five barrier, who took up running outside of Roll With Tricky. "Always A Lexus was eyeballing us all the way but my mare kept going and didn't care," Ison said. With Always A Lexus kicking just ahead of Roll With Tricky by half a length as the pair raced out of the back straight on the final occasion, Roll With Tricky was prepared to take the challenge to Always A Lexus. "I tried to stay there and she didn't give up - she kicked again," said Ison of Roll With Tricky, who dominated down the home straight to come away for a metre win over last-start winner Whoseashadylady (Stacey Weidemann). Maghera Maggie (Anthony Varga) was another two metres away in third place. Roll With Tricky has shown some steadfastness over the past month, with a second in a heat of the Club Dubbo Golden Gig series at Tamworth. She then headed to Dubbo for that final on May 24 - where she finished second, beaten by six metres by Rocknroll Dude. "If we could have got out earlier in that Dubbo race, it would have been good. But we got stuck in a pocket and had to chase to the line, but we were happy with her run," Ison said. Roll With Tricky is raced by Ison's partner Naomi Newman. "As an owner I think Naomi is pleased - she does a lot of work with the horse as well," Ison said. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Too Good For You was exactly that in the running of the Perc Verning Memorial at the Tamworth harness racing meeting on Thursday afternoon - too good! With the enviable barrier draw of the one barrier reinswoman Stacey Weidemann rated the four-year-old gelding well out in the lead whilst undertaking race pressure from Jackeroo Shannon from the Sarah Rushbrook stables racing out in the breeze. "He doesn't get a good barrier draw too often and when he does you have to make the most of it," stated Stacey Weidemann of the one barrier for Too Good For You. "Jackeroo Shannon was probably the one at the start that we thought if we hold him out, we lead. I knew I had to hold him out to stand a good chance." After commencing from the two barrier Jackeroo Shannon kept the race pressure on Too Good For You until the final 150 metres where Weidemann motivated her charge around the final turn to come away for a 10.8m win over Tap It In (Tom Ison), with Jackeroo Shannon a further 3.5m away third. Too Good For You "He is a bit of fun this little horse - he is a pleasure to have. We have had a good run with him since the owners gave him to us," added Weidemann, who was notching her second win in the feature race after guiding Fours Enuf Tas to the win in 2016. Raced over the 2360m Too Good For You recorded a mile rate of 2.03.6 minutes for the race distance in achieving his eight race win from 48 starts. "He finished the race off on his ear and you couldn't have asked him (Too Good For You) to finish it any better," Weidemann said. Named in honour of the late Perc Verning, who was a founding member of harness racing at Tamworth, this year was the fifth running of the memorial race.  The presentation with Jack, Bev and Spud Verning - children of Perc Verning. Photo: PeterMac Photography.   The inaugural winner back in 2015 was Alyeska Dream, which was fittingly trained by Perc's son Spud Verning. "Dad loved his harness racing and he would be up there looking down on us today," Verning said. The Weidemann name is now listed on three occasions with Stacey Weidemann taking the 2016 running followed by Lola Weidemann in 2017 with Rocknroll Annie. The Puritan from the Richard Williams stables won the 2018 running. With Lola Weidemann training Too Good For You she went on to pick up a winning double at the meeting as a trainer when Miss Catalina won the Pitt Express Ladyship Pace with Moonbi reinsman Dean Chapple taking the catch drive. "I have been fortunate to get a few drives off Lola - it's a nice stable - the horses are tough and easy to drive," Chapple said. "We had to drive for luck and there wasn't much going our way for a while but we got luck in the home straight. She (Miss Catalina) is a mare with 215 race starts - she is just a marvel - she saw the gap and she went for it." After sitting three back on the inside running line Chapple saw a gap on the home turn guiding Miss Catalina clear to come away for a half neck win over a fast finishing Roll With Tricky (Sam Ison) and Myanga Sportsgirl (Stacey Weidemann) 2.5m away third. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

It all came down to the perfect run in the $12,000 Garrard’s Horse & Hound Tamworth City Cup for the harness racing locally trained Gottashopearly to take the line honours. Trained at Tamworth by Richard Williams the win proved to be a popular one for the 2018 Tamworth Horse of the Year with Maitland’s Brad Elder handling the reins. He got a perfect run and when I pulled him out, he just let down super like he does,” Elder said. “Richie has done a terrific job with the horse and has really taken him to another level.” Gottashopearly was purchased by Jake Mitchell, Tracey Lee and Josh Lee back in May 2018 and has achieved five wins for his new owners, which included the Psarakis Accounting Marathon back in August 2018 over the 2730 metres. Gottashopearly (Rocknroll Hanover-Saabette) also made the cut off point for the 2018 Inter Dominion before connections elected to send the six-year-old gelding to the paddock for a “freshen up” before the commencement of the Tamworth HRC January racing carnival.  “For a $3000 claimer Richie has done a good job with the horse,” Elder added. For Williams, who set up his stables at Tamworth two years ago after moving from Queensland it was an achievement. “It is a race we have targeted for a while, it is not the richest race in the country but being the Horse of the Year for last season here at Tamworth he (Gottashopearly) deserved to win it so I am happy,” he said.  Gottashopearly's trainer Richard Williams and reinsman Brad Elder “Brad was always the first option on the horse and he has got a terrific strike rate - he just can’t pull the wrong rein.”  Elder has had three drives behind Gottashopearly for three wins! That would be a 100 percent strike rate. “Full credit to the horse and my partner Ashleigh who does a lot of work with the horse as well,” he said. He is frequently driving up the Highway from Maitland to compete at the Tamworth meetings and was last season’s leading reinsman at the club. “It was a pretty good achievement tonight,” he said. “I come up here all the time and it’s good to win a local race with a local horse.”  READ ALSO:  I’m Norma Jean makes most of good fortune to claim Golden Guitar ‘He’s got speed’: Yesnomaybeso fulfils potential in winning Starmaker “When I saw the fields come out and he drew the eight barrier I thought this is not real good as he might get buried but Hedges Avenue (Mitch Faulkner) did alright and kicked up a bit.” From the eight barrier Gottashopearly took the trail throughout the race behind Hedges Avenue from the Ernie Mabbott stables who commenced from the one barrier. With the field racing out of the final turn for home in the 2360m race Elder extricated Gottashopearly out of the inside running line, gaining the lead and coming away with a 3.9m win over Franco Tariq (Nathan Dawson) with Sam’s Cam (Nathan Xuereb) 5.3m away third. “We got out and he came home strong,” Elder said.  There was no luck for race favourite Blackbird Power (Jimmy Brown) from the Gavin Kelly stables who had travelled the long distance from Tapitalee near Nowra, sustaining a flat tyre and being forced to retire from the race a lap from home. “I thought the horse (Gottashopearly) could win but I thought if Blackbird Power got the chair, I thought he would stick like flies to honey and I would never get out but he got a flat tyre,” Elder said. It was a top night for both Williams and Elder. Williams saw his stable “pin up boy” Midnight Montana take out the Tamworth HRC Volunteers Appreciation Pace with Josh Gallagher taking the reins, while Elder also had a driving double, taking out the Tamworth Harness Racing Club Golden Guitar Consolation with Dawn Magic who is trained by his father Darren. By Julie Maughan   Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader    

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