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There was class personified when some of the biggest names in Australasian harness racing flew into Melbourne from Queensland winter campaigns this week. Heading the list was the next superstar for the powerful New Zealand All Stars stables, three-year-old gelding Self Assured (Bettors Delight-Star of Venus (Christian Cullen), who is unbeaten in six race starts. Two of his Kiwi stablemates in Princess Tiffany (Art Major-Dancing Diamonds (Bettors Delight) and Jesse Duke (Bettors Delight-Daisy Dundee (In The Pocket) also made the trip. Boom Victorian colt Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder In Paris (Ponder), possibly the best Australian juvenile going around at the moment, was also on the plane south. The quartet were all air freighted from Brisbane. Check out the composure of Lochinvar Art and Jesse Duke arriving at Melbourne airport here: David Moran, partner of trainer Laura Crossland, said Lochinvar Art had enjoyed a few days off in a grass paddock before making the trip home. "We left him with some friends of ours in Kylie Rasmussen and Darren Weeks and he looks a picture. The short lay-off has done him wonders," Moran said. Lochinvar Art was sensational in two runs at Albion Park, finishing runner-up both times to Self Assured in the $31,600 South East Derby G3 (July 13) and then the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. "He needed the run on the first night, but he showed he was cherry ripe with an amazing performance to hang in there in the Derby which was run in race record time," Moran said. "Both Laura and I believe that effort wasn't far off being his best-ever run in his 25 career starts," he said. "And after all that, he pulled up unbelievably. He reminds me a bit of the old-school horses - he's so tough, he's got a big heart and just gives it his all." Lochinvar Art at the beach with Alex Alchin Self Assured recorded a mile rate of 1.54-2 for the 2680m Derby with closing quarters of 26.7 and 27.1. To put it into perspective, the time was only 0.5sec slower than that of Colt Thirty One who took out the Group 1 Blacks A Fake - a Grand Circuit event - at the same meeting. Lochinvar Art, Our Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke will now campaign in the coming Breeders Crown Series, kicking off at Ballarat on August 9. Semis will be run at Bendigo eight days later with the $200,000 final at Melton on August 24. Self Assured, owned by Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so is heading home to New Zealand, to prepare for his next campaign - the All Stars website confirming a nomination for the Alexandra Park Inter Dominion is likely. "He will fly out to Auckland soon and spend time on agistment. We aim to have him back up and going in November," Purdon said Purdon and his partner Rasmussen are currently taking a short holiday on the famous Gold Coast, before also heading "back to work". "We always try and pencil in a break after a major carnival, otherwise it's so difficult to get away. We cut our numbers back to 40 after the Jewels and our next focus is on the new season." The recent victory was Purdon's 182nd Group One as a winning driver and his 100th as a trainer. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Ace Myrniong harness racing driver Greg Sugars now has one up on his legendary father Ross. The father and son are household names when the kitchen table conversation turns to trots and had both driven five winners at a meeting on two occasions - that was until earlier this week. A rugged-up Greg headed up to a cold and muddy Shepparton with a full book of driving engagements at the 10-race fixture and scored a "fab five" to go one clear of his dad, on that score, at least. Sugars, who is based with his wife Jess Tubbs at "Larajay Farms" in the beautiful hamlet of Myrniong (population of around 400), posted doubles for Jess and for former South Australian Greg Norman and the fifth winning drive for Justin Torney. "I did think on paper I had a few chances, but you don't start putting ticks beside them because there's always something that can upset the apple cart," the respected reinsman said. "The two horses that Jess had running had been working nicely at home, so I was reasonably confident there. And Greg Norman (who is making Charlton his home at present) has his team going along very well." The Norman pair were Gozo (Shadow Play-Gigglybits (Die Laughing) and ever-consistent Edwin Bromac (Mister Big-Elly Bromac (Badlands Hanover). Success for Jess was with BetAmerica (American Ideal-Splendid Bet (Bettors Delight) and Huli Nien (Rock N Roll Heaven-Soho Cannes (Royal Mattjesty). Justin Torney's winner was Mister Joe Major (Art Major-Little Fib (Village Jasper). Ross Sugars landed five winners on a card at Gawler on August 12, 1980, and Globe Derby Park on June 27, the following year. Greg performed the feat at Maryborough on January 23, 2013, and then three months later at a Melton meeting. "I'm not expecting dad will be too concerned I've got one up on him," Greg laughed. "He's semi-retired now, but helps us out around the stables, which is awesome. He has a bit of experience behind him!" Greg is the third generation of the Sugars harness racing dynasty, a powerhouse stable in South Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Greg's grandfather, 94-year-old Len is a Hall of Famer and still an active follower of the sport, but copping the wrath of stewards in 1977 opened the door for his young son Ross, who had just gained his B Grade Driver permit. Ross burst onto the scene, driving three winners at his first three drives: Red Score, Hallett and Perkandi. It was a world record back in November of 1977 and could quite easily still stand. The famous harness racing family relocated to Victoria over 14 years ago and has continued to make a huge impact. Myrniong, situated 15 kms west of Bacchus Marsh, was established among lush wheat fields that provided prospectors with a food source during the gold rush of the 1850s. These day's it's providing a more than lucrative location for a hard-working and talented racing couple! Jess has had 370 starts for the season with 64 wins and 90 placings while Greg is on the cusp of recording his best-ever season with 237 winners and 353 placings at an impressive win-place to starts ratio of nearly 47%. His record of 257 victories was posted in 2012/13, while two seasons later he was just three short of that number, finishing with 254. "If I could have a few more nights such as at Sheppparton, I'd be right on track for a personal best," Greg quipped. "I honestly didn't know where I was up to, but it has been a great season. I always seem busy I can tell you that much." Sugars has topped the ton in the past 12 seasons (including the current one) in Victoria, with eight of these being over the 200-winner threshold. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Champion Adelaide harness racing horsewoman Danielle Hill has wasted no time in getting back to business. Hill, who this week returned to race driving after suffering horrific injuries in a race fall at Globe Derby Park five months ago, has driven at three meetings and has been successful at each one of them. "I guess I have to thank my partner David Harding as he really pushed the envelope when I told him I'd been given the clearance to go back driving," Hill said. "David didn't beat around the bush. He virtually just said that's fantastic - you're back, so you're on and get out there," she said. "He did let me do some fastwork on Thisexcusebetterbeit at Globe Derby earlier in the week and we went pretty quick, quicker than I work at home, because that's what we were wondering I'd feel going fast. But the horse just felt sensational and from that point on I was good to go." Hill said leading up to her return at Globe Derby last Saturday night, she had "a few butterflies" beforehand. "But once I got to the track, I felt eerily calm. That probably sounds a bit funny. But it's the only way I can describe it." Hill was sent out a $2 favorite on Saab Magic in the Claiming Pace at her first appearance. After working forward early, the pacer finished second to Futurist (Darren Billinger). At her next drive, Hill was again runner up, this time aboard Indiana Dreaming. The victor was Don't Tell William (Lisa Ryan). The winning breakthrough for the returning champ came in the $17,000 TAB Graduation Championship Final when Hill came with a late run to score with Thisexcusebetterbeit (Bettors Delight-What's Your Excuse) trained by her partner David Harding. To watch the video replay click on this link. "It was a great feeling to get a winner. Yes, I can feel the injury to the leg and the knee, but I think that'll always be there. Yes, I was a bit nervous but at some point, the adrenaline kicked in, and that's what you feed off in race driving. At some stage through the night, I realised I was back out on the track, I was feeling that adrenaline rush - and it felt good!". Two days later Hill was back at South Australia's headquarters and landed a double, being successful for Luke O'Neill with Truscott Hall (Angus Hall-Truscott Photo (SJ's Photo) in the Trotters Handicap and later with the Shane Loone-trained Millwood Chloe (Ohoka Arizona-Chloe Hanover (Holmes Hanover) in the Motor Group Pace. A four-hour trip over the border to Mildura on Wednesday night was rewarded with a win at the 805-metre track on Arakbell (Betterthancheddar-Atlarak (Tinted Cloud) for Ryan Hryhorec. "I do love competing at the Mildura track and if I keep getting drives over there, I'll turn up. The way they've banked the corners, the horses get around it well and the racing's good," Hill said. And there's a fair bet that Dani will be hitching a ride over with brother Wayne, who is a regular - and most successful - driver at the far north-west Victorian fixtures. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura    

South Oakleigh horsewoman Janine Stewart had an infectious smile, an unconditional love for family and a passion for harness racing. Sadly, the adoring wife, mother and grandmother lost her courageous battle with cancer last week. Janine had been a B Grade trainer for a little over two years, but a recent Facebook posting said it all: "Janine became a friend to all she crossed paths with in harness racing". After graduating as a mature age student from the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul in 2016-being recognized as Student of the Year-Janine began to follow her dream of buying and then preparing her very own horse. Well-known horseman Steve Austen, from Labertouche, near Warragul, said he first got to know Janine about seven years ago. "I was then training out of the Southern Speedways complex, Oakleigh South and she turned up one day wanting to talk about horses, training methods and other information," Austen said. "Soon afterwards Janine would be there every day helping me on a voluntary basis. She was just a lovely person with a fantastic nature. She became a great friend. "One day we talked about the training centre course which I had completed myself. So she rang the co-ordinator Des Hughes to find out more and no time later she'd enrolled. "After earning a stablehand's and trainer's licence along the way, I saw a lot more of Janine. "She just had such a love for the sport and she'd often be my strapper but also help out with feeding up and whatever other chores were needed. "I can honestly say that I would have struggled to keep racing without her because I was then trying to juggle the horses with full-time employment." After winning the Student of the Year award, a humble Janine said she had learnt something at the centre every single day. "It has been life changing and my next step is to buy a horse and start training," she told friends. Janine did buy a horse named Glam Rock and trained the gelding at Southern Speedways. The horse had his first start for the rookie trainer at Yarra Valley on March 9, 2017, and finished third, driven by Greg Sugars. It was just seven runs later, fittingly at Warragul, on June 5 that Janine landed her first victory. Glam Rock had been unsuccessful in 33 races prior to that day. And after a few placings at Cranbourne and Warragul, the pair tasted further success, again at Warragul. On both occasions, Greg Sugars was the successful driver. They had a handful more runs before Janine became ill. Sadly, Glam Rock was the only horse Janine got to the races, but she achieved a number of lifelong dreams in a short time. Glam Rock, now racing in South Australia, for trainer-driver Gina Bell, ironically again put his best foot forward just four days after Janine's passing, winning at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park track. In a nice touch, Steve Austen wore the race colors registered to Janine at Cranbourne last Sunday. "I wanted to do something fitting and I was rapt, along with Janine's family, when the stewards gave me permission," Austen said. "Janine's husband Michael was there, along with their children Kiah, Connor, Heath and families, including Janine's granddaughter. "Heath got married only few weeks ago and Janine was determined to be well enough to attend - and she did with flying colors!" A funeral for a popular and well-liked Janine will be held tomorrow, Friday, at 2.30pm in Mordialloc, a beachside suburb of Melbourne. Harnesslink extends its thoughts to Janine's family and friends.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When Adam Shaw got a job about 15 years ago working on a farm near Melton, just outside of Melbourne, his promising harness racing career took a back seat. "My dad and grandfather had a farm when I was a kid and I always thought I wanted to do the same. I still kept involved with horses, but it was through rodeo competitions," Shaw said. "It was kind of always in the back of my mind to one day return to harness racing because I did enjoy it," he said. And that opportunity first gathered momentum last year when Shaw successfully completed 10 trial drives and regained his driver's licence. Fast forward to a recent Warragul meeting, at only his fifth race drive back, and Shaw showed he hadn't lost touch with an impressive victory with four-year-old Smart Little Shard (Smiling Shard-Jules Hanover (Holmes Hanover) in the $7000 Toyota Pace. To watch the video replay click here. The driving engagement came through helping out trainer John "Bulldog" Nicholson, who prepares his team at a property neighboring the farm where Shaw works. "I've known 'Bulldog' for many years, and I was doing trackwork, just to keep my hand in, as well as a heap of shoeing and some breaking-in," Shaw said. "I was keen to do well. I just didn't want any dramas because I'd fallen out twice in the early days of my career at Warragul. I didn't tell anyone before the race because I didn't want to be a jinx," he said. "On the positive side, I had driven a winner there though, back in the day. "Hopefully with the win I might've been promoted to second string stable driver, because there's a few others above me! Winners are grinners! Adam Shaw didn’t waste much time notching up a first win back. "But, seriously, I've got the attitude that I'm about if I'm needed. It's early days, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it this time around." Shaw said he initially got into harness racing through his parents being friends with well-known studmaster, trainer-driver Bill Le Sueur and his wife Merrilee, who run Pine Lodge Stud at Oaklands Junction. "I left school when I was 16 and my dad told me I'd better go and help Bill. I learnt a lot and went from training to race driving. I won at my first two drives at Echuca and Geelong with the same horse in Current Assets. "I thought how easy is this caper?! Of course, I found out that it wasn't always that easy. But I did go on and drive probably about 20 winners. It was a great grounding under Bill and I later worked with Stephen Dove at the Knight stables at Kilmore and his legendary father, Don. "There were good times with all of them and I actually drove my first and only double when I was working for Don Dove." Over the past 20 years, Shaw has been involved with rodeo events, including bull riding, barrel racing and team roping. "I've been tangled up with that on most weekends. I've always loved the rodeo, probably going back to my early 20s," he said. "I still do the team roping now whenever I can." Team roping is also known as "heading" or "heeling" a steer with two mounted riders - the header has the job of roping the steer to allow the heeler to rope the animal's back legs. Shaw said his farm job involved running a property of 1000 acres all under irrigation, through a recycled system, growing lucerne, running sheep and cattle, as well as agistment. "I thought it would be okay when I took it on. It was only part-time, but I'm still here and enjoying it," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Former talented Melbourne basketballer Hellen Scott is now shooting the lights out in the harness racing world. Scott, who has a team of 10 pacers in work at Albury, produced 80/1 longshot Grinning Punter to score a last-stride victory (a “buzzer-beater” in basketball parlance) at Wagga’s Riverina Paceway last Friday afternoon. Grinning Punter (Grinfromeartoear-Lucy Lynne (Christian Cullen) upset his more fancied rivals in the $6890 Pace for horses with a national rating up to 69. The gelding was driven a treat by concession driver Chris Judd, with the pair going wide on the home turn and arriving just in time in a blanket finish. Scott played for the Melbourne Tigers back in the 1980s under her maiden name Hellen Fewkes and had an awesome career representing Victoria in the sport. Hellen’s mum didn’t have a car licence, so public transport was the only option to get to training sessions.  The devoted youngster would travel by train from the family home at Faulkner to Melbourne, and then make her way to Albert Park. Hellen and her husband John left city life behind and made Albury their home in 1993, but Hellen was not lost to basketball, staying involved through coaching at schools up until this year when funding was cut. While John works with a landscape business, Hellen and their 19-year-old son Baily take care of horse training duties. John said seven-year-old gelding Grinning Punter had promised “to be anything” when he was purchased a few years ago from New Zealand by a group of keen owners. “The times he was capable of doing were just crazy.  He showed his potential at the old Wagga track by winning in 1.57 with a last half of 56.6 seconds. I thought he could win a city race without any problems,” John said. “But unfortunately, he ran into a patch of bad luck, firstly developing a heart murmur (an abnormal sound that originates from the heart valves), then fracturing a cannon bone when we sent him up to Sydney to be trained, which meant a long spell. “We’ve had him checked by vets and the heart is normal now, but he’s not going anywhere near like he was two-and-a-half years ago.” John said however Grinning Punter had been showing pleasing form leading up to his boil-over victory. “There’s no way the horse should have been those odds. He’d been quite good with a few placings and then wasn’t comfortable on the Albury track,” he said. “One of the owners Sandy Taylor was in the United States and somehow had some money on each way at 40/1, so she was very excited. Sandy and her husband Price and his brother go to the races and watch the horse whenever they can because it’s their first venture into the sport. “The other owners are Craig English, Glenn Teesdale and his son Jarman, and successful jockey Simon Miller and they’re also keen supporters.” The Scott team plans to keep racing Grinning Punter in suitable races at country tracks on a regular basis over the next few months. “He has never adjusted to the Australian heat and always goes better in winter and spring,” John said. “Baily is just busting to get his driver’s licence after doing a lengthy apprenticeship at the stables at home. Let’s hope when that time comes, he clicks with Grinning Punter and there’s some more longshot winners!” *Hoofnote: Grinning Punter finished a close-up second at Wagga yesterday paying a healthy place dividend of $3.60.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The fairytale has continued for Swedish young gun harness racing driver Kima Frenning with a significant milestone. Frenning, 27, who has rapidly etched a name for herself in the sport in Australia, posted her 100th winner for the season with a pillar-to-post win at Kilmore late last week. "I was asked early on if I'd set any goals for 2018-19, and I did say of course I had and it was to get a century," she said laughing. "It was just an unrealistic statement at the time because I never thought I'd actually get there. "I will be honest and say I knew I was getting close awhile back. It's exciting, but I'm very lucky to be given good horses to drive. Without the support of the trainers who keep putting me on, I wouldn't be where I am today." Frenning had no cause for concern in reaching the magical 100 as former Kiwi gelding Raptors Flight (Bettors Delight-Circus Flyer (Falcon Seelster) was effortless in recording his second win for the David Aiken stable since crossing the Tasman Sea. The pacer zipped to the front and after getting an easy time early had things under control from that point. He got into third gear up the final stretch in 30.2 and 27.5. "He is so laid back. I had to get into him a bit, then he woke up," Frenning said. Kima hard at work in the feed shed The popular horsewoman so far hasn't had time to celebrate her remarkable achievement, with drives at most meetings. "We are pretty much at the races five nights a week. It's so busy, but I hope to squeeze in a little celebration soon," she said. And the victories have kept coming for Frenning since the milestone win - she was successful with the David Aiken-trained pair - Dynamic Bromac (Live Or Die-Diana Bromac (Holmes Hanover), at Bendigo on Friday night and then Big Jack Hammer (The Pres-Running Pinevale (Wesgate Victory) in the G3 Touch Merchant Trotters FFA at Melton the following night. She was again in the money yesterday at Cranbourne. This time for Dean Braun with bay filly Buzinga (Bettors Delight-Safedra (Mach Three), a promising type stepping out for the first time in Australia. Frenning has been a remarkable success story after deciding to take a break from studying law at home for some travel to get away from another cold winter. She arrived in Victoria nearly five years ago as a talented monte rider, where trotting harness horses compete under saddle with riders like jockeys. After landing a job in a top stable and igniting her harness racing career, Frenning was a sensation in the montes. "I always had a love for horses and my family back home all took riding lessons. My dad Goran is a hands-on person and thought riding was something we could all do as a family," Frenning explained. "So that meant my mum Hima and sister Sarah also had to join in," she said. "My parents aren't into it now, but they have been out to Australia to watch me at the races. Sarah is busy studying environmental science as well as being a vegan cook." Frenning said she tried to watch as many races as possible to keep improving herself. "I probably have a role model in Kerryn Manning, who is a wonderful reinswoman. She is also humble and so down-to-earth. "I will be happy if I can keep getting winners. I need to save up as I get home once a year and I'm hoping I can do this next Christmas." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

It's testament to the grit of champion South Australian harness racing driver Danielle Hill that there's not a hint of nerves in the leadup to her much-anticipated comeback to race driving at Globe Derby tonight. It's the second time that Hill has faced a comeback after horrific - potentially career-ending - injury but for the premiere reinswoman there's only excitement about getting back to the sport she loves. "I'm fine now but I'll probably be a bit edgy when I get there no doubt. I'll settle in though - I'm just excited to be back," Hill said. "It just all happened really quickly in the end. I've been hoping to get back but the doctors haven't given me the green light. But then this week they just told me that I'm good to go," she said. "I haven't been to the trials, but I did have a little fast-work test-run there (Globe Derby) mid-week and it felt great. I'm just jumping straight back in!" Danielle Hill takes the reins for three drives at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park tonight - the same track where five months ago, in the Group Three SA Pacing Derby she suffered a tibial plateau fracture (to the shin and knee) in a sickening crash. Hill was leading on Im Sir Blake when the pacer choked down and veered out before crashing into Major Exclusive (Darby McGuigan) and leaving Culture King (Paul Cavallaro) with nowhere to go. The horrific pile up left Hill and Cavallaro seriously injured, Cavallaro with a broken wrist and severe lacerations to his face and Hill requiring surgeons to later insert 12 pins and two plates to repair bones, ligaments and cartilage in her left knee and shin. In a strange twist of fate, Hill and Cavallaro had been involved in another shocking crash in 2010 at almost the same spot at Globe Derby - on that occasion, Hill was off the scene for an extended period, again with traumatic injuries including a broken jaw and head and facial injuries. Hill's return to the spider has been no walk in the park with months of rehab needed to strengthen the muscles supporting the damaged bones and ligaments. "I was hoping for swimming and massages - that would have been nice! The rehab team have been great, but they basically just told me to hit the gym, three days a week, so that's what I've done," Hill said. "I needed to bear weight and create and strengthen muscles to support a long-term recovery. And strangely enough I've actually turned into a bit of a gym junky. "It's not something I have ever done before, because with horses you don't really need exercise and let's face it, you don't have the time - but definitely it makes you feel different and stronger and I've really loved it. I'll probably need to keep it up, but that's not a bad thing at all." Hill and her brother Wayne followed the family trade of harness racing and she shares a passion for horses with her partner, trainer David Harding. Danielle and Wayne Hill combined to finish second at Mildura yesterday with Robbo She said being away from the stables was one of the things she found hardest about her layoff. "It was hard to stay away. You can only watch so much TV and I'm not into just sitting around anyway," she said. "I had a gopher and I just used to putt around the stables and around the horses and keep up with what was going on. "People said to me don't you think about getting hurt again, or if something goes wrong, but you just want to get back to it because it's what you love. "Yes, sure it's in the back of my mind, but I'm not worried about my leg - you can still drive with a prosthesis! It's the head you've got to worry about, and I'll worry about looking after that first. "But the thing with both of my bad accidents is that they were just that - freak accidents. They were no one's fault and that's part of what we do in our job. "I hear people every day talking about having to deal with this or that client, or this or that customer, or some terrible workplace. That's not me. I get to come out here and work with these guys - the horses. "How lucky am I that I can do this for a living? I just can't wait to get back out there." Hill has won the past three South Australian Driver's premierships, and, at the time of the February incident was a runaway leader for the 2019 title. It took her brother Wayne until June 8 to reel in his sister's lead in the title. Ken Rogers has since claimed the lead with 98 (Hill on 95 - and Danielle will take up where she left off in February, on 82 wins.) "I've still got time to catch them, don't you reckon?" Hill quipped. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A former Kiwi pacer destined to become a star in NSW has a huge fan in ace Sydney harness racing horseman Robert Morris. Three-year-old gelding Balraj NZ (Art Major-Mahendra (Courage Under Fire) has burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion, with three spine-tingling undefeated runs. Prepared by astute hobby trainer Shaun Simiana, who trains at Hawkesbury, Balraj has not only got faster at each of his three appearances on Australian soil, but his winning margins have got bigger. Morris was understandably impressed with Balraj's first two runs, but his most recent start at Newcastle took the cake when he absolutely blew away his rivals to set a new track record of 1.50-9 and a winning margin of 55.9 metres! "The horse has been a bit of a surprise packet because he's still got a lot to learn, which might sound scary," Morris said. "He's still a little green and certainly not your typical horse that glides along. He can get on one rein at times, as well as become a little rough," he said. "But incredibly, while there's a lot for Balraj to learn, there doesn't seem to be an ending to him. The horse is quite unreal in the way he just gets the job done. "There's certainly some fun times ahead for Shaun (trainer) and his three mates who purchased the horse. He's certainly exciting and Shaun has him looking an absolute picture." Newcastle Harness Racing Club secretary-manager Wayne Smith believed Monday's winning margin was the biggest seen at the track, beating the effort of the Shane Tritton-trained Arms Of An Angel (32.4m) in 2015. Balraj blitzes them!  The photo finish of this week’s record-breaking Newcastle run Prior to crossing the Tasman Sea, Balraj had three unplaced runs at Addington, Rangiora and Omakau, but then turned it around with two wins at Forbury. Two months later, Simiana produced his newly-acquired pacer at Penrith where they won a qualifying trial over 1720m in two minutes. It was four weeks later when they returned to Penrith, but this time it was at the races. Morris worked forward in the early stages, and despite having to balance him up on the final bend, Balraj was too good. He won by 7.1 metres in 1.58-7. The next assignment was Newcastle on June 14. After galloping for a few strides at the start, the youngster again went forward. Morris allowed him to stretch out over the final stages and they recorded a 25.7m victory in an impressive 1.52-7. But it was his latest performance at Newcastle that has everyone, rightfully so, touting Balraj as a shining star of the future. In taking out the $6360 Tooheys Pace by one of the biggest winning margins ever seen at the venue, the pacer eclipsed the previous track record of 1.51-4 held by Majordan, by half a second. "I knew we were running along, but the time did surprise me," Morris said. "The third quarter was 26.4 and he went a bit awkward around the bend, but then he straightened up and dug in again with a final split of 27.9. He's got some class about him." Morris said Simiana had only ever worked small teams of horses. "He's always had one or two going around and does them as a hobby around his work. "They decided to buy one from New Zealand with the idea of having a bit of fun. They all love the sport and I'm certain they are in for some great times." Morris, 27, who began driving professionally just over a decade ago, has now landed more than 1250 winners. The Menangle Park based reinsman forms a formidable combination with his talented, horse training wife Kerry Ann.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

While highly regarded harness racing trainer Dean Braun is closing in on a sensational milestone of 850 winners (and career earnings topping $7.6M), it was two recent wins that he will always hold close to his heart. Braun, based at the small town of Lara, 18 kms north east of Geelong, scooped the two feature events at Kilmore - the $14,000 Vin Knight Memorial Pace and then the $24,000 Popular Alm Sprint. "I was only a kid, but Vin Knight was a freak horseman during his time. There probably hasn't been any better than him since," Braun said. "Everyone in the sport just had to watch him in action; he was flamboyant, a huge drawcard. But most of us maybe didn't really appreciate just how good he was. Vin was a man before his time." (The inimitable Vin Knight drove his first winner at Kilmore on July 6, 1970, two months after his 16th birthday. During the following two decades he landed an amazing 721 metro winners as well as hundreds of country victories and drove in 10 consecutive Interdominion grand finals. But tragically, at the height of his career, Knight took his own life in April 1991, aged just 36.) Braun said it was a great honor to win the Vin Knight Memorial Pace with bay mare The Charging Moa (Changeover-Special Ops (Armbro Operative) driven by Kate Gath. To watch the replay of this race click on this link. "The mare caught my eye when I was up in Queensland about eight months ago and my partner Pauline McColgan bought her. The horse got travel sickness coming down here, so we were forced to give her break," he said. "It might have been a blessing though, because she returned to racing in brilliant form. She won first-up at Melton in mid-April then had no luck whatsoever in some of her recent races, so I was quite surprised that she was $29 when she won the Vin Knight feature." Braun said while he was a huge admirer of Knight, he was also in awe of former pacing great Popular Alm (1976-2000), and equally proud to capture the feature named in his honor with Ana Malak (Bettors Delight-Anna Livia). "I have been lucky to have won the Popular Alm Sprint previously, but it means a lot because we all marvelled over his racetrack performances," he said. Popular Alm, or "Poppy" as he was affectionately known, won 49 races from 62 starts. He was part owned by a group of Mildura friends including Don Carrazza, John Green, Ken Grivec, Maurice Kasses and Greg Pardo. While punters let The Charging Moa slip under their guard, there were no such oversights regarding Ana Malak. The brown horse, sent out a $1.50 favorite, was driven by Greg Sugars. "Greg and Skye Bond initially sent Ana Malak over because the WA handicapping system wasn't all that suitable," Braun said. "The horse was getting better and better through racing consistently against the stronger ones here, but I always knew he would go back home at some stage," he said. "That was his last run for me this campaign. I would have loved to have held onto him because he was a like a motorcar when he was at the front end." To watch the video replay of this race click on this link. Braun has raced boutique teams since he started training over 20 years ago and has found a handy niche in continually turning over his stable representatives. "We buy horses, race them and when the time is right, move them onto the States," Braun said. "I'm always on the lookout for horses in Australia and New Zealand. The sport in North America is flourishing at the moment, and I'm only too happy to be part of that," he said. "We had Shartin (TinTin In America-Bagdarin) for 13 starts (7 wins) and she has won $1.8M in USA, and recently became the first pacing mare to earn $1M in a season." Braun is also kept busy helping Pauline at their Melton Saddlery business. "She works hard, so I do whatever I can there. Besides we are in a perfect position of having a fantastic stable foreman in Amanda Grieve," he said. "I was actually in Sydney for the Breeders series around the time of our that Kilmore double, so much of the credit must go to Amanda. She really does a top job." Braun only has a small team at present, but continues to stamp his authority with 29 wins and 23 placings from 88 starters this season. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There is a Harry Potter spell for just about anything...and isn't it fun to imagine how these charms would improve our lives? It's been nearly two decades since J.K Rowling's famed wizarding series hit the big screen in the form of 2001's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone, if you're in the USA!). And a little bit of magic happened that same year for Ballarat harness racing trainer-driver Stephen Clarke. Clarke paid $3500 for a filly - the namesake of a witch at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Fleur Delacour (Nicholas Branach-Agincourt (Pure Steel) was to be the lucky charm for the Ballarat-based trainer - and he's made full use of the fortunate Harry Potter moniker in the 20 years since. Clarke's stroke of luck arose from his friendship with well-known trots couple Ross and Mary Conway, of St Arnaud. "On one of my trips to their place, Ross told me they were wanting to cut down and had planned a clearance sale," Clarke said. "So I turned up and bought two horses - a young one, which never raced because it injured itself in a paddock, and Fleur Delacour who had previously won at Charlton," he said. Fleur Delacour turned out to be a fantastic money spinner and posted a Hamilton win along with Bendigo and Cranbourne placings in her first five starts. And the success didn't stop there. She finished with 11 wins (including a Melton triumph with Brian Gath in the gig) and 18 placings for over $50,000. "She has also been a success as a broodmare with two of her four foals being winners," Clarke said. Her first foal by Die Laughing, Isabelle Delacour (yes, Fleur Isabelle Weasley nee Delacour was the full name of the Harry Potter character) finished her racing career with 10 wins and 17 placings for $70,000. "Isabelle Delacour was mated with Village Jolt and produced a colt, now racing as Monsieur Delacour, who has had four placings from 11 starts as a 2yo," Clarke said. "He's certainly shown enough to suggest that he has some future. He's been a bit stiff in a few of his races," he said. But the star of the stable is Fleur Delacour's most recent foal, Miss McGonagall (named after the stern Hogwarts professor, Miss Minerva McGonagall). Sired by Modern Art, Miss McGonagall was a recent winner at Melton in the $12,000 Vincent Vicbred Super Series (3yo fillies) Bronze Pace. To watch the replay of this race click on this link Miss McGonagall – winner of her past two at Bendigo (John Caldow) and Melton (Jason Lee) Clarke said Miss McGonagall got off to a slow start early in her career. "She got sick and then missed a lot of the nice sires' races. We later changed her training routine and she has been great this season with four wins. If she stays healthy, she will only improve," he said. Clarke is somewhat unusual in the sport, being a breeder, owner, trainer and driver, and following his father into harness racing. His father Jim raced horses successfully for many years including the top-class Key Everest (22 wins), Move on Sparky (nine) and others. "I'm currently only working two and I'm happy with that because we're pretty much knee deep in mud with all the rain at the moment. Dad has two trotters to bring back too, once the weather improves," he said. While Clarke enjoys the driving side of the sport, he's preparing to take a back seat with 16-year-old son Connor keenly working towards becoming a reinsman after coming through the pony trots. And youngest daughter Reagan is following along in their footsteps, recently inheriting Connor's speedy pony. Yes, we're all mere Muggles in this sport, relying on our own attributes to improve - but a little bit of Harry Potter magic does occasionally prevail. If not, what's wrong with a bit of imagination?! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

One of harness racing's most popular administrators, Cobram Harness Racing Club secretary manager Bob Watson, reckons he deserves the chance to ease up. At nearly 80 years of age, the long-serving secretary-manager has handed the reins of the dynamic northern Victorian club to fellow committee member Karen Dwyer. Karen managed her first meeting last week since taking over the role and it marked a significant changing of the guard. Bob has been involved with the Cobram Harness Racing Club for more than 20 years and was a life member when he took up the secretary's role. "Things weren't going along that well for the club at the time - they advertised for a secretary and I was looking for a change and applied, not really thinking I would get it," Bob said. "I loved the sport and loved the club. I'm a local born and bred and have been in the Cobram area all my life - in fact I was at the first trots meeting at Cobram 60 years ago with my dad," he said. "It's been fun, it's had its highs and lows, like everything, but there's never a dull moment and you're dealing with some of the best people you will find and that's where the real rewards are." Bob admits he was always "horse mad", over the years being involved in showing horses, playing polo cross, as a harness racing owner, thoroughbred owner-breeder and various equine management roles. He was stud master at Denison Farm (later Eliza Park Stud) for 28 years and he and his wife Margaret set up and still run a thoroughbred agistment property, Rosewood Park at Tocumwal. Bob, a life-member at Cobram, took up the role at a difficult time for the industry and inherited a club with a small member base, limited sponsors and facing some obvious financial challenges. "I'd always been around horses, the sport and harness racing people. I'd also spent time around the club as the honorary clerk of course for 22 years, so I thought I might be able to help," he said. "I was perhaps a bit more confident that some of the other committee members, but basically we set our sights on living within our means. "That meant a lot of voluntary work, cutting unnecessary expenses and finding new members and community sponsors." The club has been able to build a four-box trainer's facility on-course, upgrade water and power supplies, improve the drivers' and members' rooms and upgrade the amenities. "Most of it was done with grants - but you've got to do the work to win those and that's a big job," Bob said. "Margaret came on board after the first couple of years, and she's terrific at that sort of thing. I was also lucky to have the support of some fantastic committee members and the backing of our community. That engagement is critical and will become even more important in future." Margaret Watson Bob has twice been recognised at HRV's Premier awards night for his expertise in managing the club - in 2011 as Secretary of the Year (part time) and in 2017-18 as Secretary of the Year. But more than that, Bob and Margaret are known throughout Victoria and southern New South Wales for their passionate support of the sport and its people, well beyond their Cobram harness racing community. The couple have been key drivers of initiatives like the club's iconic Pink Day at the races in May (a hugely successful fundraiser for the Jane McGrath Foundation), and Margaret is also the energetic scribe behind the club's lively social media presence on Facebook. "She's not much younger than me, but she knew that social media was a way to reach people in a new way, and she loves writing people's stories," Bob said. "The thing that really gives us a thrill is supporting local people and the battlers. If an underdog wins a race in town, that's what we love and it's great to tell people about it - and people love to read about it." New secretary manager Karen Dwyer comes to the role with a harness racing background, after moving from Bathurst with her horse trainer husband Darrell two years ago. Bob Watson has officially handed the reins at Cobram HRC to Karen Dwyer "I'm definitely there for Karen if she needs me, but I'm not looking over her shoulder - I didn't want anyone looking over my shoulder when I started!" Bob said. "Margaret will still be involved for a while and we won't be leaving the area, because this is home. But when you're nearly 80, there are other things you want to do, and we have daughters in Melbourne, Sydney and in Ireland we'd like to spend some more time with. "It's a new chapter for the club and for us - but it's a fantastic club and a great industry and I hope we're still getting stronger and continuing to progress well into the future." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing veteran reinsman Jim O’Sullivan, who makes no secret of still having an unbelievable love of the game, wound back the clock at Swan Hill this week. The highly respected horseman, now in his early 70s, showed fine touch to take out the Elliott Print Pace with brown gelding Sands Of Zanzibar (Art Colony USA-Spy Games (Armbro Operative USA) in one of his rare visits to the far north-west circuit. After not showing much gate speed at all, the pair found themselves buried three back the pegs early on.  But O’Sullivan was quick to pop off into the one-out two-back position, then got shuffled back to near-last with 600 metres to go. A well-timed run out five wide saw Sands Of Zanzibar snatch a narrow win. O’Sullivan, based at Heathcote, near Bendigo, is well remembered through the deeds of terrific horses like My Lightning Blue, winner of the 1987 Inter Dominion grand final at Christchurch; Yankee Loch who took the 1991 Trotters Inter at Moonee Valley and multiple cups winner Quite Famous, purchased from the Charles family at Mildura. O’Sullivan enjoyed a tremendous relationship with big-spending owner Alan Hunter in the heady days of the 1980s and 90s. Another more recent highlight was becoming the 17th recipient of the Gordon Rothacker Medal In 2017. These days O’Sullivan trains a small team and can be found helping out other trainers with farrier duties, as well as cheering on his daughter Shannon, who is steadily making her mark as a talented junior driver. A passionate and successful competitor in the annual Indigenous Drivers’ Series in NSW in recent years, Danny Gibson, is again wearing a huge smile. Gibson, who lives at Elrington, near Cessnock (two hours north of Sydney), made the long trip to Albury on Tuesday along with nine other drivers. The popular hobbyist took the honors in the HRNSW and Tabcorp Park heat, landing 3yo filly Madame Annie (Sportswriter-Madame Lily (John Street North USA) for trainer Robert Walters. Madame Annie showed her customary gate speed and was well rated by Gibson, who had a handy eight metre advantage up his sleeve at the finish. The mile rate was a creditable 2.00 for the 2170m journey. Gibson and his wife Janelle aren’t afraid to travel.  Earlier this year they hit the road for a 13 hour trip to campaign with two horses at the famous NSW Silver City mining town of Broken Hill. They tasted success with Evils Afoot and enjoyed a holiday to remember! Danny and Janelle Gibson Buyers at this Sunday’s Shepparton Mixed Sale have some interesting opportunities to invest in the bloodlines of promising sire Auckland Reactor (Mach Three – Atomic Lass (Sokys Atom), who’s continuing to get winners on both sides of the Tasman. Offspring of the former champion NZ pacer were again to the fore this week, winning in good style in WA and NSW. Chestnut gelding Gold Horseshoe (Auckland Reactor-Aussie Vision (Grinfromeartoear) looked good at Pinjarra for trainer Colin Reeves and driver Morgan Woodley. Sent out the punters’ elect at $2.30 fav, the three-year-old came with a late rush and proved too good. Astute NSW trainer Dean Chapple produced Aucklander (Auckland Reactor-Leagueoferown (Fake Left) to land the money at Tamworth on Thursday. Chapple took the reins and had a four-metre advantage over his rivals on the line. One lot at the Shepparton sale that will generate interest from buyers is the magnificent-looking Lot 27 weanling filly.  The youngster, out of Passionate Embrace, is one of several offered on behalf of clients by Alabar Farms. There’s also an unnamed colt by Auckland Reactor out of Elegant Art. Breeders should also take note of broodmare Kitty Macguire (Badlands Hanover-Tuapeka Dancer) who has a positive to Auckland Reactor. The Shepparton sale starts at 12 noon. Auckland Reactor Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of Victoria's most experienced harness racing drivers David Aiken is the first to confess he's a "fair weather reinsman" these days! "I just don't handle the cold weather all that well," Aiken, based at Avenel, said. But on a chilly, windy day at Cobram this week, when the thermometer topped just 13 degrees, "Aikey's" rare appearance didn't go unnoticed by sharp-eyed followers of the sport. He produced an exciting prospect in former Kiwi pacer Raptors Flight (Bettors Delight USA-Circus Flyer NZ (Falcon Seelster USA) to take out the $7000 Hygain Pace for 52 to 55 rated pacers. To watch the video replay click on this link. "We hadn't taken him to the trials and I just thought I'd take the reins to see if he was happy in his gear and pacing okay under race conditions," Aiken said. Those who saw the run would have given Aiken a unanimous thumbs up as the gelding scorched through the first quarter in 27.7 and followed up with 30.5, 28.9 and 29.2 for an impressive 1.56-3, easily the fastest time posted on the day. Raptors Flight across the line at Cobram "We go up to Cobram a fair bit because it's a good track and it's an easy drive from our stables," he said. The win took Aiken to the top of the Trainer of the Year premiership table at the track. Raptors Flight, owned by New Zealand interests, was sent over to Victoria by champion Kiwi trainer Barry Purdon, the older brother of Mark, and quite possibly his country's most successful trots trainer ever. Aiken said the horse had a low assessment under the new national rating system. "He's assessed an M1 and three or four runs back raced in the Auckland Cup, but coming out here he was only a C2, so he had a huge drop at Cobram. I really like him and he's only going to improve," he said. Exciting prospect Raptors Flight and trainer-driver David Aiken "Over the concluding stages he felt a little lazy, but I'm still learning about him. He had a six-week break in between his last New Zealand run and making his debut for us. "Barry (Purdon) has a high opinion of the horse so I'm very pleased I was lucky enough to get him." Raptors Flight, who incidentally started his career in sensational fashion with four from four, now has six wins and five placings from 35 appearances. He's earnt $82,000 along the way. "I haven't looked at the program to see where we head next, but he's now still only a 56 rating so there will be an ideal race somewhere," Aiken said. The ever-consistent Aiken stable is ticking along nicely with 85 wins and 121 placings for the current season. "We won some nice ones early, then had a bit of a slow patch, but things are picking up again," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

With nowhere to go and nowhere to be, a day at the beach is just what you need, so the saying goes! And that certainly sits nicely at the moment with crack Victorian harness racing colt Lochinvar Art, who is enjoying a working holiday frolicking in the sun, surf and saltwater of the Pacific Ocean at Redcliffe, north of Brisbane. "l gave him a nice hit-out at the Redcliffe track and then we decided to head to the beach - it was his first-ever dip in the sea and he absolutely loved it," trainer Laura Crossland, of Kialla, near Shepparton said. "He was walking around without a worry in the world. But we did get a bit concerned at one stage when he looked like he wanted to enjoy a roll in the water! "Thankfully I wasn't leading him at the time. Our friend Alex Alchin had that job, but he had it all under control." Lochinvar Art (Modern Art USA-Ponder In Paris (Ponder USA) is lining up in the Group Three 2019 Egmont Park Stud South East Derby at Brisbane's Albion Park on Saturday night. The promising youngster, owned by a keen supporter of the sport Kevin Gordon, has drawn barrier three, but is likely to start from the two hole with the race emergency on his inside. It will be the first time the pacer has competed at the track, commonly known in the industry as "the creek", and Crossland and her partner-reinsman David Moran are looking forward to it immensely. "We've never been here before and I have just got the surprise of my life with news that I'm driving at the meeting now as well as David," Crossland said. "There's an invitational race for female drivers and I got a guernsey there. I have also got the pick-up drive on one of my old favorites in Hashtag in another event," she said. "I've had to ring David and tell him to bring up my driving pants and boots when he catches the plane on Friday. It's exciting." Crossland said the pacer had now spent a week up north, after his close second ten days ago in the Group One Vincent Alabar NSW Breeders' Challenge. "He came up not long after that run at Menangle and he pulled up unbelievably," she said. "He's thriving on the change of scenery and hasn't been unsettled at all by the different surroundings, so we couldn't be happier." Lochinvar Art has a remarkable record, never finishing further back than third (12 wins and 11 placings) in his 23 starts. Saturday night's derby at Albion Park has some depth, particularly with the Purdon-Rasmussen All Stars team having the brilliant Self Assured and Jesse Duke. "There are a couple of locals in Trojan Banner, Star of Montana and We Salute You who all go really nice, too," Crossland said. "Then we will be in the big one, the $100,000 Queensland Derby on the following Saturday, July 20." Lochinvar Art will then fly home and after three or four days enjoying paddock life, the young Crossland-Moran team have the rich Breeders Crown series at Melton in their sights. While Crossland is enjoying the winter sunshine up north, albeit spending a huge amount of time with their 3yo sensation, it's left a busy schedule for Moran and 15-year-old Cody who've kept the big team going at home. In addition, there have been race meetings at Melton and Cobram where Moran was in demand as a driver. "Being busy is just all part of the game. But I can say Cody and myself are looking forward to Friday when we fly up to Brisbane to join Laura and the horse," Moran said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

It could be described as a classic David and Goliath contest, but a small hobby harness racing trainer from central Victoria is prepared to give it a crack. Tim Mortlock, of Maryborough, made a snap decision a few days ago to tackle one of the big events at the Brisbane Winter Carnival with his in-form filly Seemepearlywhites (Grinfromeartoear USA-Numismatic (Elsu NZ). The three-year-old pacer has drawn the three alley in this Saturday night's $100,860 Group One TAB Queensland Oaks. "It's by far the biggest race I've ever competed in that's for sure," Mortlock said. "There's some red-hot opposition, but there's no use whatsoever sitting at home wondering, is there? "Our filly has improved since her first win a month ago - her next two placings were okay and then she was very good in winning at Maryborough this week. The race replay from Maryborough: "We are realistic to know that the Purdon-Rasmussen superstar in Our Princess Tiffany looks pretty much over-the-line. But hopefully we can be somewhere in the mix not too far behind the likely winner." Mortlock said the owner of his horse, Greg Eeles spent 40 years living in Queensland before shifting to Victoria about 12 months ago. "Just lately Greg got a bit sick of the cold weather down here and actually had a holiday up north -he only came back home to watch his horse at Maryborough on Monday," he said. "Now he's volunteered to head back up to Brisbane in the car with me, the horse and float! "Greg decided to ask well-known horsewoman Lola Weidemann to be our race driver because he's used her a lot in the past." Mortlock said his previous biggest quest was the Breeders' Plate at Leeton years ago. "I finished third in the heat and then did no good in the $30,000 final after drawing terribly and having no luck," he said. The Maryborough mates are hoping to be at their temporary stables at Redcliffe, 40 minutes north of Brisbane, by late on Thursday night. Mortlock is employed with a fencing contractor, but said he'd only just told his boss he wouldn't be around for a few days. "I rang Greg (Eeles), to ask him what he thought about the idea of the big trip north and when he agreed we went straight into planning mode - but it was then I remembered that I wouldn't be at work for four or five days! It was a bit of a late call by us, but the boss was fine with it all, and hopefully we can have some luck," the happy-go-lucky Mortlock said. Two other Victorian stables will also be competing at in Winter Carnival feature events at Albion Park on Saturday. The talented Laura Crossland-David Moran team at Kialla has star youngster Lochinvar Art lining up in the $31,000 2019 Egmont Park Stud Group 3 South East Derby. The Jeff McLean stable at Terang also has a representative in the same feature with Nancy's Boy. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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