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The Carrick Pacing Club struck gold when it invited Melbourne Cup-winning strapper Stevie Layne to be a special guest at its harness racing Cup Day meeting last Saturday. Payne, who has Down syndrome, won the hearts and admiration of the nation after the horse he 'looks after', Prince Of Penzance, won the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Payne arrived at Carrick with his Melbourne Cup strappers trophy that he was pleased to show off to all who were keen to take a peek and have a photograph taken with him and his trophy. Payne was accompanied by thoroughbred trainer Jarrod McLean who operates Stealth Lodge Racing and is the foreman for Darren Weir at his Warrnambool training complex where Prince Of Penzance is prepared. The Carrick club organised a celebrity pony trot race and Longford thoroughbred trainer Mick Burles was be back to defend his 2015 title but the star was once again Stevie Payne who shared a tandem sulky with experienced thoroughbred trainer Nigel Schuuring and they won the second round of the pony trot races.   Peter Staples

At the start of the harness racing season Major Callum was little more than a horse with some potential but five months on has developed into an open class pacer. Major Callum notched his seventh win of the season when he powered his way to an impressive win in the Carrick Cup on Saturday, much to the delight of his trainer Juanita McKenzie. Major Callum helped his trainer tick off a bucket list item when he gave her a first Tasmanian country cup by winning the Scottsdale Cup three weeks ago. He was a game second in the New Norfolk Cup last Tuesday but he was at his best winning the Carrick Cup. He will find it a bit harder now that he's into free-for-all class but he has done a great job and gone further than I thought he would," McKenzie said. Major Callum was partnered by Ricky Duggan who drove four winners at the meeting with his other winners, Master Paige, Little Jethro and Parwill. ;He probably lacks the high speed to be a successful free-for-all horse but he makes up for it with his toughness," Duggan said. Being tough is one of the traits that makes him one of McKenzie's favourite horses. A long time ago and after he won his first race I said I wouldn't care if he never won another race but thankfully he's won a lot more," McKenzie said. Peter Staples

THE Plunkett family has been involved in harness racing in Tasmania for over 90 years so the win by Little Jethro in the E C Plunkett Memorial at New Norfolk On Tuesday was special for many reasons. Little Jethro powered home to win the race courtesy of a brilliant drive from Ricky Duggan and after the race it was an emotional trainer Rod Plunkett who spoke of the thrill of winning a race named in honour of his late father Ted Plunkett. "To win this race is an absolute thrill as it is named in honour of Dad who had harness racing in his life from day one and he passed it on to us," Plunkett said. "To win the race and have Mum here (Jessie) here to see it also was really special," he said. When asked how long he would be staying in the game Plunkett said: "My grandfather trained a winner here at New Norfolk in 1918 so I would like to stick around until the Australia Day meeting in two years tome so that the family can celebrate 100 years of training pacers and that would be a great way to go out," In the meantime Plunkett will be chasing more wins with Little Jethro and his driver believes the gelding has what it takes to achieve that goal. "This horse did enough to suggest to me there are more wins in him," Duggan said. "There's not a lot of him but he has a good motor and a desire to win, which is what he showed today," he said. Peter Staples

Problem-plagued harness racing pacer Outback Mach delivered a career best effort to win the $25,000 Devonport Cup over 3020 metres in Devonport last night. Outback Mach was given a gun run in the race by his trainer-driver Rohan Hadley who settled the gelding one-out and three-back and on the back of race favourite Resurgent Spirit. Both horses travelled well to the bell lap when Resurgent Spirit's driver James Austin sent the favourite three-wide to make his run and Hadley was quick to find his back for a cart into the race. Turning for home the end result was never in doubt as Outback Mach gained the upper hand from Resurgent Spirit and then had enough left in the tank to stave off a late bid Black Centurian with Resurgent Spirit hanging on for third. It was Hadley's fourth Devonport Cup win as a driver having won previously with Hunter and Roi Soliel for his father Max Hadley in the 1990s and again with safe Rambler in 2007 that Rohan also trained. The gelding is raced in partnership by the trainer's wife Vikky and Max Hall who also owned Safe Rambler. "We had high hopes for this horse as a youngster because we sent him to Melbourne where he won five races but he developed problems and he has been injury prone which has prevented him from realising his full potential," Hadley said. Peter Staples  

Consistent harness racing placegetter Punt Road Disco emerged the victor in the Burnie Cup at the Wivenhoe Showground last night courtesy of a protest that gave his trainer Andrew Rawlings his first win in the race. Punt Road Disco was the emergency for the race and only gained a start courtesy of the withdrawal of Soo Special that had to be scratched when his trainer Nathan Ford had his appeal against a disqualification dismissed by the Racing Appeals Board on Friday. The Kent Rattray-trained Karalta Dazzler led but his driver Wade Rattray allowed his charge to drift wide on the home turn that led to the wheel of his sulky locking with the wheel of Chief Destroyer that looked set to claim him 100 metres from home. When the wheels of both sulkies unlocked Karalta Dazzler darted back towards the inside marker pegs that caused interference to Punt Road Disco that was powering home inside of Karalta Dazzler. However, Karalta Dazzler made a lunge on the line to defeat Punt Road Disco with outsider Pushkin third ahead of Chief Destroyer. Protests were lodged by the drivers of Chief Destroyer (Paul Ashwood) and Punt Road Disco (Rohan Hillier) claiming interference in the home straight. After a lengthy stewards' inquiry Hillier's protest was upheld while Ashwood's objection was dismissed. "That's my first Burnie Cup win and even though it was on protest I'll take it," Rawlings said. "It sort of makes up for a Burnie Cup I thought I would win on protest as a driver a number of years ago when I was second on a horse named Return Flight and I was confident I would get the protest but it didn't happen." "When we settled well back in the field tonight I thought we had little hope a lap from home but the runs came and he finished off brilliantly and in the end he deserved to get the result," he said. Punt Road Disco is owned by Peter Walker in partnership with Dianne Hampton. It was the gelding's first win since September last year. The gelding was a top two-year-old and has continued to be a more than useful money-spinner with the seven-year-old winning 16 and placing 37 times for career stakes of $127,800.   Peter Staples    

Talented teenage driver Taylor Ford made a wise career move about two months ago when she decided to head north to work for the state's leading harness racing  trainer Ben Yole. Ford has been slowly but surely improving her ability in the cart but since she's been working for Yole she has gone to a new level. In Hobart last night she extended her lead in the novice driver's premiership courtesy of a driving treble. Ford delivered super front-running performances in three consecutive races winning aboard Rajah Wealth, Jean Baptiste and Happy Schnapps and all for her new boss Ben Yole that also increased his lead in the race for the trainer's premiership. Her first winner was Rajah Wealth that was allowed to race outside of the leader for the last lap and a bit and when Ford called on eight-year-old gelding for the supreme effort he drew clear and had enough kin reserve to stave off all comers. It was a stable trifecta with Yole's Philtra Phella and Our Archangel filling the minor placings. Ford then sent Jean Baptiste to the front from the mobile start making full use of that horse's pole position and in the following race she guided Happy Schnapps to an all-the-way win. Peter Staples

Lightly raced five-year-old pacer Alpinion notched a game win for his new harness racing trainer Deborah Williams at UBET Park Hobart last night. Alpinion had been placed at his previous start but that was good enough to give his trainer confidence going into this latest assignment. With talented reinswoman Natalee Emery in the sulky, Alpinion was bustled to hold the lead from the pole position but he settled well once he was established as race leader. When Alpinion was called on to deliver at the business end of the race he was strong enough to fend off all challengers and hit the line over three metres clear of Zumba Bromac with John Snow a head away third. "He is a nice horse and I'm sure after a short spell he will win a few more," Williams said. "He has improved with each start for me and while he continues to do that he will win again," she said. The gelding by Safari is owned by John Timbs who has been racing horses with much success for over four decades. Peter Staples

Former star harness racing juvenile Resurgent Spirit returned to his best at UBET Park Hobart last night to win a free-for-all over 2090 metres. Resurgent Spirit dug deep and kept grinding away after facing the breeze for the last 1200 metres and it was a desperate lunge right on the line that secured him the win over Remember Joe. Resurgent Spirit was ninth in the Hobart Pacing Cup as the $2.50 favourite and finished over 25 metres from the winner. But back to the 2090-metr trip and from a good draw the gelded son of American Ideal was able to recapture his best form. The Roger Whitmore-trained gelding gives the impression he is getting better with racing so the Devonport and Easter Cups could both be back on the radar. Resurgent Spirit was an outstanding juvenile winning his first 13 races as a two and early three-year-old and he captured the feature 3YO event of the season in the Globe Derby Stakes. In recent times his form has waned through a niggling injury but Whitmore has been patient and given his stable star plenty of time to overcome the issue. Peter Staples

Harness racing trainer Ben Yole has made a brilliant start to the season and that he keeps building on his successful team suggests he could emerge as Tasmania's premier mentor by season's end. At UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night Yole added another win to his tally when Happy Schnapps led throughout to win the UBET Pace over 2090 meters with talented novice driver Taylor Ford in the sulky. Despite being well placed in the C2-C3 event Happy Schnapps started at the lucrative price of $5.10. Yole said Happy Schnapps had been going well enough to suggest the five-year-old gelding would make his presence felt and in the end the son of Grinfromeartoear made a one-act affair of the race scoring by over four metres from Soo Special with Laforce 1-1/2 metres away third. The win took Yole's season tally to 32 to be 10 clear of his nearest rival Nathan Ford. The trainer's younger brother Mark Yole has capitalised on the stable's success to be the state's leading driver on 26 wins and well clear of Ricky Duggan (15) and the injured Gareth Rattray (14). Peter Staples  

Emotions ran high at UBET Park Hobart last night when Remember Joe powered home to score an impressive harness racing win in the Smithawards Hobart Pacing Cup. Remember Joe, a horse named in honour of the late Joe McKenzie who was one of the best and most colourful harness trainers of the modern era, delivered a career best performance to win a race that trainer Juanita McKenzie has longed to win. "The Hobart Pacing Cup is a race I have wanted to win as a trainer and to win it with a horse named after my Dad is just amazing," McKenzie said. McKenzie had three runners in the race with outsiders Something Eyre and veteran pacer Our Chain of Command sent around at big odds. "To be honest I wasn't confident about winning the race but I thought Remember Joe would be a chance if he could lead and when that didn't happen I thought it was all over." "But Rodney (Ashwood) drove a perfect race and when he got him to the outside in the home straight Joe just powered home." "I was also worried that Joe might not be able to get the trip (3060 metres) but he proved me wrong," she said. Outsider Truly Blissful ($51) began brilliantly to roll to the front but Ashwood was keen to take that spot and sent Remember Joe in pursuit of the lead. But when that failed he opted to take hold and settle behind the leader. The favourite Resurgent Spirit ($2.60) moved up to face the breeze while the rank outsider Dodgermemate ($81) settled in the one-out-one-back position with the well-backed Jukebox Music ($5.50) on his back in the one-out line. Turning for home it looked as if Remember Joe would fail to gain a clear run but Ashwood cleverly eased into the right spot at the right time. Once in the clear Remember Joe powered home to defeat Dodgermemate by 3-1/4 metres with his stablemate Truly Blissful almost three metres away third. McKenzie said there had been a temptation to take remember Joe back to Melbourne for another campaign but connections have agreed to keep the horse racing in Tasmania. "There are a couple of country cups we'll have a look at before we give him a spell," McKenzie said. Peter Staples  

Veteran harness racing trainer Tommy Jackson was diagnosed with Cancer three years ago and even for a fleeting moment he thought his days were numbered. But the battler from Magra regrouped and decided the best way to tackle the problem, other than medication, was to take a positive attitude and that included buying a horse and getting back into training as small team after taking a year off. At UBET Park Hobart on Sunday night Jackson prepared Finn Mac Kee to win the Eric Reece Memorial, the horse he bought just before he was diagnosed with his illness. It was Finn Mac Kee that kept him going and now he feels on top of the world and doing what he loves most. "I believe Finn Mac Kee is a horse going places and who knows he might he the one I've been looking for all my life," Jackson said. "When he first came to me he had his share of issues but I remained patient and now it's paying off," he said. Finn Mac Kee was well driven by Paul Hill who was quick to act when one of the favourites Sparkling took off three-wide to attack for the lead but when he was unable to cross to the one-out line Finn Mac Kee had cover in the three-wide line for the last lap. When Hill called on the Stonebridge Regal four-year-old gelding for the big effort in the home straight he sprinted clear and left his rivals in his wake. Finn Mac Kee hit the line over eight metres clear of Witch Master with Alpinion almost a metre away third. Jackson said Finn Mac Kee will head to the spelling paddock tomorrow for a six-week break. Peter Staples

Aatute Tasmanian harness racing trainer Dick Eaves almost heaved a sigh of relief when his former star three-year-old filly Barynya returned to somewhere near her best form to win the $20,000 George Johnson feature races' race at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday. Barynya was an outstanding two-year-old and was even better at three, winning the Tasmanian and Victorian Oaks that earned her the Australia 3YO filly of the year title. But she lost form and became a work in progress for Eaves. On Sunday she showed she could be on track to tackle some of the best mares' races in the nation coming from last to storm home and win the George Johnson which is one of the most prestigious mares' events on the national calendar. "We've had our share of issues with this mare for a while but there's no doubt in my mind that she is getting back to where she needs to be to be competitive in the better mares races," Eaves said. Barynya returned to racing from a decent spell in the City of Launceston Cup over 2579 metres last Sunday week in which she finished a respectable seventh. "We had to start her off somewhere and with restricted options she had to go around in the Launceston Cup over 2700 metres which was a tough ask for a first-up assignment." "But we looked after her and today she's produced what I expected." "That's the best way to drive her. Settle her at the back and come from behind with one decent sprint." "A couple of times in Victoria she was driven tough and did plenty of work but that's not how to get the best from her," he said. Eaves has plans to tackle some of the best mares' races on the calendar. "We will aim her at the Ladyship Mile in Sydney and there's a couple of real good mares races in Melbourne so that's where she will most likely be heading but in the meantime we'll tackle a couple of free-for-alls at home before she heads interstate," Eaves said. Peter Staples

Lightly raced harness racing mare Zumba Bromac was a very impressive winner of a heat of the Eric Reece memorial over 2090 metres at UBET Park Hobart on Sunday. The Juanita McKenzie-trained four-year-old was resuming from a four-month spell but made light of the task. With Ricky Duggan in the cart the mare began well from her outside front-row draw to lead the one-out line and when the leader quickened noticeably in the back straight the last time Duggan allowed his charge to fall in behind and take a trail. When he eased her out to make a charge in the home straight she sprinted quickly and went on to score easily from Cardinal Finn and Thatswhatshesaid. The second heat was taken out by the Tommy Jackson-trained Finn Mac Kee that faced the breeze for much of the race before forging clear of race leader Young Bruiser close to home. The final heat was won by the Rodney Ashwood-trained Sparkling, another four-year-old mare that is only lightly raced with this latest outing her fourth but she has won three and been placed second in the other. The Reece Memorial final will be held in Hobart in a fortnight. Peter Staples

Star Chamber will attempt to make it back-to-back wins in the Tasmania Cup when he lines up in the Tasmanian Pacing Club's premier harness racing event over 2579 metres at UBET Park Hobart today. The Nathan Ford-trained gelding won the race last year as well as a string of other feature events and he tuned up for tonight's assignment with an impressive win in the City of Launceston Cup over 2698 metres at Mowbray last Sunday night. Star Chamber was clearly last season's best free-for-aller in Tasmania and he was recognised for his efforts when awarded the Beautide Medal for outstanding achievement on home soil for the 2014-15 season. Tonight he starts from the outside of the second row (13) but that should have no effect as he is usually taken back at the start and saved for one powerful sprint at the end of his races. His opposition tonight is strong, especially from interstate with the Victorian Lets Elope from the Brent Lilley stable expected to improve at his second start in the state. Lets Elope was second to Star Chamber last week and that came on the back of an impressive win in the Ballarat Cup in his home state three weeks ago. Another Victorian Hilltop Hustler is fresh from a first-up second in the Stawell Cup two weeks ago which convinced Victorian trainer Michael Stanley to send his handy free-for-all pacer for this race and maybe stay on for the Hobart Pacing Cup. Hilltop Hustler resumed from a lengthy spell to finish a game second behind the Emma Stewart-trained Yankee Rockstar that started a short price favourite ($1.50) to easily win the Stawell Cup but the runner-up was game in defeat. The other interstate invader is Glenferrie Hood that is prepared in Victoria by Ahmed Taiba. Glenferrie Hood will be driven by ace New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt who will be hoping the gelding can improve on his last-start fourth in the Yarra Valley Pacing Cup last Friday week. Peter Staples

In-form harness racing trainer Ben Yole is having a stellar season and the juggernaut continued at UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night where his consistent gelding Happy Schnapps scored a game win in the Northern Tasmania Light Harness Association Cup. The Nathan Ford-trained and driven Jaccka Tom looked set for victory when he dashed clear on the home turn but he was unable to withstand the determination of Happy Schnapps (Mark Yole) that finished too strongly to score by a metre. The pair settled down to a do-or-die duel in the home straight and they finished a long way ahead of the rest of the field. Driver Mark Yole said going into the race he didn't think his horse could beat the favourite Ancient Moonlight that had been way too good for his horse in their heat. But when Ancient Moonlight galloped away from his 10-metre handicap it changed the complexion of the race. ''I still thought I was in a world of trouble in running, because my horse couldn't muster early speed and we ended up in a very awkward spot in fifth place on the pegs,'' Yole said. ''Luckily I was able to track Jaccka Tom into the race when he got a run and my horse then outstayed him,'' he said. Ben Yole is leading in the race for the Tasmanian trainer's premiership with 21 winners to be two clear of Nathan Ford with Todd Rattray two further back on 11 but with the success of Ben his younger brother Mark is leading the driver's premiership table with 19 wins to be two clear of Eric Hollaway. Gareth Rattray who has won the past 10 driver premierships has had a slow start to the season and he is third with 11 wins. Peter Staples

Last season's best pacer to race in Tasmania Star Chamber signaled he is on track to make it back-to-back harness racing Tasmania Cups when he stormed home to win the $20,000 City of Launceston Cup at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. The Nathan Ford-trained and driven seven-year-old came from near last turning for home to get up in the last few strides to defeat Victorian-trained favourite Lets Elope with outsider Call The Marshall a fast-finishing third a metre away. It was a clear message that the gelding was back to near his best and would go into this Sunday's $40,000 Tasmania Cup at UBET Park Hobart at his peak. ''He's not 100 per cent tonight because he's had a light week,'' Ford said. ''I gave him a couple of days at the beach and didn't hopple him on Thursday because I didn't want him fully wound up." ''This race will really top him off and he'll be a lot sharper next week,'' he said. Ford tracked interstate invader Lets Elope all the way and proved too strong for that gelding that is prepared in Victoria by Bret Lilley and was driven by Tasmanian-born Josh Duggan who has been domiciled in Victoria for the past four years. The Tasmania Cup was one of many feature races won by Star Chamber last season which made him clearly the best-performed horse on Tasmanian tracks.   Peter Staples  

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