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One of last season's top harness racing two-year-olds Usain Jolt returned to racing with a brilliant win in the Bevan Lee's Butchery Pace over 2200 metres in Launceston on Friday night. Usain Jolt won the Dandy Patch Stakes final in Hobart before ending his two-year-old campaign with a game second to Offthetopofmyhead in Launceston in early July last year. His trainer Tony Petersen gave the gelded son of Village Jolt plenty of time off and while his trial form leading up to his return wasn't flash the three-year-old relished being back in racing mode. Driver Ricky Duggan allowed Usain Jolt ($1.80) to settle midfield from his second-row draw but when the pace slackened over a lap from home Duggan sent his charge around the field to face the breeze outside of the leader Entreemaindesert ($10.50). The second elect Buster William ($4.30) had enjoyed a cosy run in the one-out line so when his driver Mark Yole eased out to make his charge and he joined Usain Jolt turning for home. The pair drew clear of the rest and for a fleeting moment it looked as if Buster William would have the edge but when Duggan called on Usain Jolt for the big effort he drew clear and went on to score by about eight metres from Buster William with near rank outsider Blues Ace ($81) a closing third. Peter Staples

Well-bred juvenile Semowillrev made an impressive harness racing debut in Launceston on Friday night to take out the Debutante Stakes over 1680 metres. The Craig Hayes-trained and driven two-year-old settled third while the favourite Feelin Dusty ($1.65) led and set a solid tempo but when another first-starter Invest cruised up to face the breeze, Hayes was quick to latch onto that horse's back to take cover from a strong headwind. Feelin Dusty kicked clear on the home turn and looked set to keep his unbeaten record intact but when Hayes released the brakes Semowillrev charged to the lead and went on to defeat Feel Dusty by a comfortable margin with Invest a distant third and just ahead of Maybe Jack. Semowillrev is by Sportswriter from the unraced mare Sur La Page (x Somebeachsomewhere) and he was knocked down to Hayes at the Australian Pacing Gold Yearling in Melbourne last year for $35,000. The gelding had trialled brilliantly on three occasions leading up to his debut, which is why punters backed him in to start the second-elect at $2.50. Last season Hayes had a lot of success with another two-year-old Scooterwillrev and if Semowillrev can match that horse's juvenile feats he is destined to win more races. Scooterwillrev was unbeaten from six starts in Tasmania last season but he failed to flatter in the Breeders Classic series in Victoria. Peter Staples

Underrated Falcon Seelster mare Zumba Bromac broke through or an overdue harness racing win when she emerged triumphant in a thrilling three-way photo-finish in C3-C4 pace over 1680 metres at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. The Juanita McKenzie-trained mare was slotted into the one-out-two-back position by driver Ricky Duggan from a second-row draw and she travelled sweetly to the home turn where Duggan was the first to ease into the three-wide line. But Gareth Rattray aboard Jetcraft, that had enjoyed the one-out-one-back position for most of the race, went ahead of Duggan's charge forcing Zumba Bromac four-wide at the top of the home straight. Race leader Deploy surrendered when Jetcraft swept to the lead and while the Deborah Williams-trained gelding gave his all over the final 100 metres Zumba Bromac was able to find enough to make last-ditch lunge to win by a nose with Deploy fighting on gamely to grab third only a half-head away. It was Zumba Bromac's second win for the season from 10 starts but it was her eighth career win from 28 outings. Peter Staples

Rocknroll Turbo was one of last season's better two-year-old pacers in Tasmania and from what the well-bred colt showed first-up at Luxbet Park Hobart last night he will be very competitive in feature three-year-old harness racing events this year. The Paul Hill-trained colt won at his first two starts as a two-year-old and ended that campaign with a second to Usain Jolt in the Dandy Patch Stakes final. Hill confirmed the colt suffered a stifle injury during his last start as a two-year-old and required plenty of time in the paddock to recover. "This Rock N Roll Heaven colt is the real deal so when he suffered the stifle problem we just topped him straight out and gave him all the time he needed to fully recover," Hill said. "I've taken my time with him since he came back into work because he's still growing into himself. "Tonight was just a glorified trial really because he's certainly capable of running really good times if required." Driver Rohan Hillier allowed Rocknroll Turbo to fall off the gate from barrier five and settled last but when Hillier called on him to sprint heading into the back straight the last time he hauled in the leaders quickly. However, Hillier halted his progress by slotting into the one-out-one-back position so as not to have the colt punching into a headwind. When they hit the home straight Hillier let the colt loose and he went on to score by over 15 metres from Safari Sunshine that faced the breeze for the last lap with Shesastandout a close-up third. Rocknroll Turbo clocked a mile rate of 2.02s over 1609 metres but it could have been a lot better had the driver so desired. Peter Staples

Veteran Tasmania harness racing trainer Paul Hill has enjoyed great success with juvenile pacers for many years having prepared the best two-year-olds in the state for the past two seasons. At Luxbet Park Hobart this week Hill produced another highly promising two-year-old in Feelin Dusty that made an impressive debut by winning against older horses. Feelin Dusty was nominated for a two-year-old event but when insufficient nominations were received the field was opened up to three-year-old and older non-winners which produced a field of seven. Hill had no qualms about running his juvenile against older and more experienced pacers and the end result revealed why. "They put the race on so that the two-year-olds could get race experience and I was only too pleased when it was kept on the program with older horses in the field," Hill said. "I've had a fair opinion of this horse from day one and I'm sure anyone who saw how he handled his debut would agree he shows great potential. "I've had some very god two-year-olds in the stable in recent times including Hillview Jake and Chica Bella that were named the state's best two-year-olds in their respective sex categories in 2015 and I reckon Feelin Dusty is right up there as far as ability is concerned." Hill partnered Feelin Dusty on debut and sent the well-bred gelding (Mr Feelgood-Maybe Elite) straight to the front from the pole position (gate 1). Once in front Hill allowed the colt to bowl along at his leisure and when he called on him to sprint turning for home he left is rivals in his wake. Feelin Dusty powered to the line to score by 7-1/2 metres from three-year-old filly Hayley's Comet with Tell Mia Story over two metres away third with the winner clocking a respectable mile rate of 2.02. Hill says Feelin Dusty will progress to the Debutante Stakes in Launceston next Friday. Peter Staples

TASMANIAN harness racing trainer Troy Hillier has made some handy purchases over the years but his latest venture is his best. Hillier claimed nine-year-old pacer Im Barney Rubble in a claiming race at Melton in Victoria at the end of October last year for $10,000 and yesterday at Luxbet Park the gelding scored an emphatic win in the $20,000 Hobart Pacing Cup over 3060 metres. Im Barney Rubble ($4.80) started off the front row in the standing start event and stepped straight to the front with the trainer's twin brother Rohan Hillier in the sulky. The gelding set a solid pace and when he was asked to extend turning for home he careered away from his rivals to score by 27 metres from Major Callum ($3 favourite) with Just Knew $4.90) a half-head away third. "I had my eye on the horse for a while before I bought him because I thought he might be able to win a few races here in Tasmania," Troy Hiller said. "He was with trainer Lance Justice and the horse wasn't going all that well having not won for about 30 starts, which is why he was put in claiming races over there. "But I'd watched replays of a few of his runs earlier in the year and I thought a change of scenery and different training environment might rejuvenate the horse so I took a punt and claimed him. "He ran second at is first start for me in Launceston in the Danbury Park Cup but two starts later he won his Hobart Pacing Cup heat and that almost paid for him. "He's led today and in the end he's absolutely blitzed them so hopefully he can retain this form and go on and win more races." Im Barney Rubble (Life Sign-Pebbles) has had 120 starts for 19 wins and 13 minor placings form $171,000 in prizemoney and Hillier confirmed his next main mission will be the Devonport Cup.   Peter Staples

The Tasmanian harness racing industry is in mourning over the death of one of its greatest advocates Doug McKillop who lost his battle with a long-term illness last week. McKillop was involved in many aspects of the industry with is love of the Standardbred leading to him developing a breeding empire that produced some of the best pacers to grace Tasmania and interstate tracks over three decades. He part-owned Tasman Lodge at Westbury where he stood well-performed stallions Atashy, Merchant Marine and Lindy’s Loadicea. McKillop later purchased a property at Gilbert Hill, Perth (Tas) where he employed Bill Dornauf as private trainer of what was named Keppoch Lodge, so named after the village Keppoch in Scotland from where the McKillops originated. Some of the stars that emanated from Keppoch Lodge include Gold Display (34 wins), Majority Rules (19), Tasman Boy (13), Pollick (13), The Exchange (10), Traceys Lass (), Terrific Lass (14), Shy Ticket (36), Chris Columbus (16) and Miley Rose (10). He was considered a top Tasmanian harness racing administrator. He was an inaugural member of Launceston Pacing Club (LPC) and served as that club’s chairmen and vice-chairman. McKillop was a long term member and chairman of the Tasmanian Harness Racing Board and served as a member of the steering committee formed to negotiate the transfer of harness racing from Elphin to the Mowbray complex now known as the Luxbet Racing Centre. He also was a member of the now defunct Racing Directorate and he was harness industry representative on the TAB Board for 13 years (up to 1996). As a director and founder of McKillop Insurances in Launceston, he ensured his business was a major sponsor of harness racing events for many years. In 2011 he was awarded the Edgar Tatlow Medal and last year he received his greatest reward for his service to the industry by being inducted into the Tasmanian Harness Racing Hall of Fame.   Peter Staples

Southern Tasmanian harness racing fans are in for a treat at Luxbet Park Hobart on Sunday night with the New Year's Day meeting boasting two of the Hobart club's best races. The eight-race card features the Hobart Pacing Cup and Eric Reece Memorial finals with both considered wide open affairs. The Hobart Pacing Cup will be run over 3060 metres and comprises a field of 14 that made it into the race through a series of heats. Likely favourite Resurgent Spirit has already been scratched from the race which paves the way for the emergency Idle Hands to gain a start. Victorian-owned Just Knew qualified for the final with a fifth in the first heat in Hobart four weeks ago but he has since scored two impressive wins, the latest in the Meander Valley Cup at Carrick on Tuesday. Just Knew is trained in Victoria by Keith Cotchin but he left the horse in Tasmania after the Hobart Cup heat to be prepared for the rest of his stay by Mellissa Maine who rates the six-year-old gelding a good chance of winning the final. "He has to back up from Tuesday's win but he has done all the right things since that run so hopefully he can have a bit of luck go his way on Sunday night," Maine said. Just Knew, a winner of 12 of his 68 starts, will be driven by Maine's life partner Gareth Rattray who also has a good opinion of the horse. The son of Mach Three hadn't won a race since June when he arrived in Tasmania for a tilt at the Hobart Pacing Cup. The Reece Memorial final over 2090 metres boasts an even field of 12 with heat winner Couta Rocks expected to start favourite given the way he delivered the knockout blow to his rivals in his heat last Sunday week. It was his fifth start in the state since arriving from Victoria in September and trainer Paul Hill says the gelding has thrived since his heat win. Couta Rocks is owned by Tasmanians who raced the horse in Victoria where he notched a win and four minor placings before landing in Hill's stables at Tea Tree. Peter Staples

Victorian pacer Lets Elope joined a small but elite harness racing group when he powered his way to victory in the $40,000 Luxbet Tasmania Cup over 2579 metres at Luxbet Park Hobart yesterday. In winning the Group 3 event he became only the third horse in the history of the race to win in consecutive years with Motu Crusader (2012-13) and Tailamade Lombo (1998-99) the only others to have achieved the feat. It also was a double for Tasmanian-born driver Josh Duggan who delivered a brilliant tactical drive to secure victory. Five Star Anvil was the short-priced favourite ($1.40) and when driver Zac Phillips sent him straight to the front those who took the prohibitive odds would have been content while Major Callum ($31) faced the breeze with Pachacuti ($13) on his back and Lets Elope ($3.90) settled last. When Phillips allowed the favourite more rein leaving the back straight the last time the 10-year-old sped clear but Duggan had Lets Elope would up and chasing hard and Pachacuti looked a winning chance when he peeled three-wide to challenge. But when Duggan called on Lets Elope for the supreme effort the Brent Lilley-trained eight-year-old dug deep and had enough in reserve to score by two metres. "It was always going to be a race of tactics and thankfully ours (tactics) paid off," Duggan said. "It was a great thrill last year to win the race because it's my home town cup but to win it again is a bit special." Lilley said eight-year-old gelding by Real Desire had been racing well without luck in his home state and was quietly confident he had the gelding in top shape for the assignment. "We had him in a few races where he had to be driven for luck and often things didn't pan out but just prior to sending him down here to Tassie I was confident I had him in as good a condition as he's been in this prep," Lilley said. "He's been a very good horse for his owners because that his 24th win and he's been placed more than 30 times and he's won almost $500,000. "I sent the horse to Paul Ashwood who has been looking after him here in Tasmania so I think we'll leave him here for a month or so and let him go around in some of the nice free-for-alls coming up." Peter Staples

Spitfire Rose gave her harness racing trainer-driver Rohan Hadley his biggest win in ages when she toughed it out facing the breeze to win the $20,000 George Johnson feature for mares at Luxbet Park Hobart yesterday. Spitfire Rose ($5) raced outside of the leader Angels of Demons that was backed in to start the $1.40 favourite but when Hadley asked his charge to extend turning for home she forged to the lead and went on to score comfortably from outsiders Modern Chic ($51) and Zumba Bromac ($17) while the favourite capitulated and finished a distant last. It was Spitfire Rose's second win in the race having been successful in 2014 when driven by Gavin Lang. "She is a very good mare and I'm sure she has plenty more to give," Hadley said. "Today was more a race of tactics because I thought that if I had my mare at the favourite all the way then my mare's toughness might shine through and that's pretty much how it panned out. "We've got a few plans for this Jereme's Jet mare next year and hopefully she can win another nice race." Hadley suffered an illness about two years ago that kept him sidelined for about eight months which is why he had to call on Gavin Lang to drive the mare in the 2014 George Johnson. Peter Staples

Veteran Tasmanian harness racing trainer Paul Hill received an early Christmas present when former Victorian pacer Couta Rocks stormed home to win a heat of the Eric Reece Memorial over 2090 metres at Luxbet Park Hobart yesterday. With ace driver Ricky Duggan in the sulky, Couta Rocks ($3.40 fav) settled beyond midfield from his wide second-row draw but looked to be travelling comfortably when Duggan sent him three-wide around the field in the back straight the last time. The leader Iden Amrak ($3.60) was placed under pressure turning for home with Pockets of Courage looming as the winner but when Duggan eased his charge to the outside of the field the gelding answered the call and powered home to defeat Entreemaindesert ($34) with Shesastandout ($4.80) working home well to grab third ahead of Pockets of Courage. It was the five-year-old Art Major gelding's first win for Hill and first in the state with his only other win coming at Shepparton in Victoria over a year ago. "I'm pleased with his effort today and even though Ricky (reinsman Duggan) said he knocked off a bit when he hit the front he is improving all the time and I'm confident he'll continue to win," Hill said. The Eric Reece Memorial final will be held in Hobart on New Year's Day. The first six home in each of the two heats qualified for a final berth. Peter Staples

Yankee Avenue is now a part of Tasmanian harness racing history after winning at King Island on Saturday. The Ian Johnson-trained and driven 9YO gelding is the first trotter in 59 years to win a harness race in Tasmania. Tasmania does not cater for trotters but they can participate in pacing races. The last trotting race in Tasmania was won by Lampton at Carrick in 1927. Three year old trotting filly Fathers Wish won twice against the pacers in 1948 before the squaregaiter Elmo Raid recorded her only win at Devonport in 1957. Others tried to enter the elite list. New South Wales mare Jenny took on the pacers in the 1962 Tasmanian Pacing Championship but was unplaced in both heats. Garron (Geoff Coulter) raced in the mid-seventies in Tasmania but failed to add to the list of winning trotters. Ratz (Torado Hanover – Wytchita) was foaled in 1988 for Scottsdale breeders Rodney and Denise Boyle. The colt demonstrated a clear preference for trotting and Victorian trainer/driver Ken Tippett guided him to a successful mainland career winning 15 races from 60 starts including the 1992 New South Wales Trotters Derby. Ratz raced in Victoria’s best open class trotting races. He was sent home for a spell in May 1994 and time trialled in 2:02 at Launceston to set a Tasmanian trotters record before wintering on the lush pastures around Scottsdale. Johnson credits his former father-in-law, Victorian Don Smith, as the one who introduced him to trotters. “Don was a master trainer of trotters and I was lucky enough to jog Melpark Maid twice. She was a classy mare and her wins included the 1993 3YO Trotters Sires Final,” Johnson said. Around the same time another Victorian trotting trainer, Don Rudd, started to visit King Island enjoying the island racing season (December and January) and regular trail rides with Johnson, who resides at Grassy. In August 2015, Rudd contacted Johnson and recommended the rising 8YO trotter Yankee Avenue as a horse that may be suited to King Island racing. At that time his record was five wins and two minor placings from 39 starts and with a T2 assessment he was able to compete as a C0/R0 against the pacers. “It was a bit of a longshot as none of the locals can recall a trotter on the island and our first race meeting was two centuries ago in 1894,” said Johnson. “However, as Yankee Avenue was free (no cost), and I loved trotters he arrived on the island within two weeks.” Last season Yankee Avenue raced at each of the seven meetings but proved to be hit and miss from the standing starts. He was placed second the three times he trotted throughout but the closest he got at the other four, after galloping early, was 40 metres behind the winner. The first meeting for this season was on Saturday (3 December 2016) at the 1570 metres Currie racetrack and Yankee Avenue was on his best behaviour and annihilated the other four starters to win by 49 metres. “I’ve done a lot of work on his barrier manners and he utilised his speed to put a space in them early. After that it was pretty straightforward. Just let him run as he can break if restrained and the sit sprint caper is not for him,” Johnson explained. Yankee Avenue progresses to the R1 and better race for the remainder of the King Island season. “It will be a new ball game but he is a real racehorse. Yankee Avenue responds to good hands and I am enjoying the challenge,” added Johnson. Sixty one year old Johnson is typical of many locals with a strong work ethic and prepared to try almost anything. Johnson also has a thoroughbred trainer’s license and trains Carbon Storm that finished fifth in a 1200 metre maiden on Saturday. Johnson no longer has the trail ride business but has branched out into other ventures at Grassy including tourist accommodation, off the beaten track tours and the award winning Wild Harvest restaurant. The next King Island meeting is on Saturday 17 December with the usual mixture of five thoroughbred and two harness events. The other dates are Boxing Day, New Years Day, January 14, 21 and 28. Follow the link to watch Yankee Avenue win at King Island on 3 December 2016.  Harness Racing Victoria Race programme for King Island, Sunday 01 January 2017

The return of the Mini-Trot series has been well received by harness racing industry participants and the general public, evidenced by the interest shown in a series of heats run at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. Six youngsters contested the two heats last night and that has been common throughout the series that gives youngsters with an interest in harness racing an opportunity to get the feel of driving in races at the same venue as the professionals. In Launceston last night Makenna Hillier, daughter of popular trainer-driver Rohan Hillier and his wife Tanya, partnered Edie Bets to victory in both heats despite coming off a handicap mark of 360 metres. Also competing were Jackson Burke aboard Poppie; Matilda Rawlings with Rocka Fella; Sara Wilkin who drove Snapcracklepop; Brodie Davis who guided Sky Valley and Mitchell Ford replaced Gracie Jones who was unable to compete. Wayne Yole has taken on the Mini Trotting series as a project and he says sponsors are starting to come on board and he is excited about the Mini Trot heats in Hobart at Luxbet Park on Sunday night where the drivers will compete for the Hobart Cup with up to eight drivers likely to contest the two heats. Sunday night's meeting at Luxbet Park Hobart will boast the running of the $40,000 Group 3 Tasmania Cup. Heats of the Mini Trot series will be held at all venues around the state until mid-April. Peter Staples

Lightly raced five-year-old pacer Always A Show delivered a harness racing career-best effort to win the Maxfield Drilling Pty Ltd Pace over 2200 metres at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. Always A Show stepped brilliantly from the pole position to hold the front and from there it was little more than a procession. The Craig Hayes-trained and driven gelding settled well and traveled comfortably to the home turn the last time where Hayes called on the son of Always A Virgin for the supreme effort and he responded magnificently booting 10 metres clear. Me Mate Les burst from the pack in a late bid to chase the leader down but he fell short by almost four metres with Boutique Art 20 metres away third. Peter Staples

Well-bred harness racing three-year-old pacer The Village Sneak broke through for her first win with an emphatic all-the-way victory in the Crown Lager Pace over 2200 metres at Luxbet Racing Centre in Tasmania. With leading reinsman Gareth Rattray aboard, the Michael Laugher-trained filly stepped straight to the front and when she was pressured by the favourite Sea Sky in the home straight she dug deep and refused to wilt and went on to score by 1.2 metres from the favourite with outsider Freds Under Fire a closing third 5.4 meres away. The Village Sneak is by Village Jolt from the Courage Under Fire mare Im Sneaky. She went into the race having been placed only once from five tries but this win will do her confidence the world of good and she can only improve as she goes forward. Outside of the winner the most encouraging run in the race belonged to third placed Freds Under Fire that dropped off when the leaders sprinted but under strong driving from his driver Craig Hayes he made up good ground over the concluding stages to place third. The gelded son of Courage Under Fire has his sire's conformation but he also might have inherited a bit of his heart and will to win. Freds Under Fire is definitely one to follow over the coming months. Peter Staples  

Class Victorian harness racing pacer Five Star Anvil sounded a warning that he has lost none of the talent that entitled him to be a serious Inter Dominion contender last season by scoring an emphatic win in the City of Launceston Cup over 2200m at the Luxbet Racing Centre in Launceston last night. The performance was seen as a warm-up for next Sunday's Group 3 Tasmania Cup in Hobart. After enjoying the run of the race in the one-out-one-back position the Adam Kelly-trained gelding claimed the lead at the top of the home straight and went on to score comfortably from last year's Tasmania Cup winner Lets Elope with Chopstix Boris a game third after training the leader throughout. Five Star Anvil was partnered by his regular driver Zac Phillips who has had a long association with the 10-year-old gelding. The Bettormack led from gate two and driver Todd Rattray ensured a solid tempo but he was the first beaten when the eventual winner arrived to take control turning for home. Lets Elope ran on well from back in the field and did enough to suggest he will be a chance to make it back-to-back Tasmania Cups next Sunday night. Listen to what driver Zac Phillips had to say after Five Star Anvil's impressive win in the City of Launceston Cup. Peter Staples

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