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As his name suggests, connections of Riverina harness racing star Rusty Crackers have had to endure more than a few moments of frustration with their enigmatic pacer. But the talent of Rusty Crackers (Dawn ofa New Day - Dilingers Comment (DM Dilinger) was on dominant display in the Yenda Producers Leeton Cup on Friday when, parked in the death seat, he sizzled through the marathon 2582 metres scoring a 14 metre win and rating 1:59.6. The win got the new year off to the best-possible start for his loyal connections, but it wasn't without a few anxious moments behind the $1.35 favorite for claiming junior reinsman James McPherson. "He put in a couple of roughies before the start, and he had my heart pumping for the first little while!" James laughed. "But for all his antics, you can't get away from the fact of how he goes, and as soon as we made our way up outside the leader, I knew we could control the race and that he had a bit of class on his side," he said. The win was testament to the composure of the young driver, now starting only his third season in the race sulky - and equal proof of the grit and ability of Rusty Crackers, who added a third country cup to his name with the win. To watch the video replay of Rusty Crackers click here. Rusty Crackers is owned by Matty and Melissa Painting from Coleambally, in NSW, and raced on lease by Jindera reinsman Tom Gilligan and his fiancée Brooke McPherson. Tom works as a farrier and Brooke does shift work at Hertz car rentals, so they share the training duties, with Tom doing the majority of the driving. But Gilligan said Brooke's brother James was able to take the reins when circumstances suited, as they did in taking a full five-point claim for the Leeton Cup. "We all train together at the same place and James has been driving really well," Gilligan said "When we need a concession, we're more than happy to put him on. He had close to 40 wins last season, and he does a great job for us." Gilligan said Rusty Crackers arrived at the stables after his owner Matty Painting experienced health problems in 2018. "Matty asked me to train a few for him for a while, including Rusty Crackers. He'd already won a race, and Matty said the horse had a few dramas and was a bit naughty, but he did like him," Tom said. "When we first got him, he just used to do stupid things, which is a little bit in the breed, I think, but once you get on top of them they go okay. That probably took about 12 months, but he's matured into a really nice horse," he said. Rusty Crackers won at his first start for Gilligan and McPherson at Cobram in June 2018. Since then, he's had another 14 wins for the couple, including the Wagga Wagga Cup and the Temora Cup as well as his latest in the Leeton Cup. He also gave the couple the thrill of their first Menangle win. "I think the little bubble at the start at Leeton might have been a trainers' error perhaps! I think we might have had him a bit fresh," Gilligan said. "Between Brooke and I, we're good cop, bad cop - she spoils him, and I try to keep on top of him! "When we first got him we could hardly get him around a half mile track, he'd hop and skip and have a bit of a canter, but both the Temora and Leeton cup wins were on half-mile tracks and he's matured into a lot better gaited horse." Rusty Crackers got 2021 off on the right foot in what will be a big year for the young couple. They are expecting their first child in February, and also finalising plans to buy their own property. First things first, though, and Gilligan said Rusty Crackers would be next set for the Goulburn Cup on Sunday week. "We are just going to chase him around in a few of the cups this year and see how he goes - I know Goulburn will be very strong, but we have to race the same horses if we go to Menangle anyway, so we'll give him a try and see how he goes," he said. "Probably his weakness is not having really good gate speed, and when you get against horses of that class it's pretty hard to round them up from behind. But if he could just take the next step, we'd be over the moon. "If I had ten like him, I wouldn't have to work! He's tested our patience, but we'd put up with any horse any day of the week if they were talented like him." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

If you asked young Queensland harness racing driver Jordan Topping to name her favorite horse, it's a very safe bet to say she would nominate Voodoo Fella every time. Eighteen-year-old Jordan has landed five wins in the short time since becoming licenced-all courtesy of bay gelding Voodoo Fella (Mr Feelgood-Timid Lady (Fake Left). "He's my number one that's for sure. We've won on three different tracks and I guess we must make a great combination!" she said. And the pair was at it again last Friday night at Brisbane's Albion Park, scoring an impressive victory in the Badcock Group of Companies Pace - a win that was cause for a double celebration. Not only was it Jordan's first success at "the Creek", but she was also celebrating her 18th birthday. "That will always be a memorable birthday present. We've had two wins apiece at both the Marburg and Redcliffe tracks, so to get one at Albion Park was awesome," Jordan said. "He's such a lovely horse to drive and always gives 100 percent. If you look at his form if there's a bad run, it's most likely that I probably stuffed up. It wouldn't have been his fault. "I love it when he gets up on the bit because that's when he's ready for action." Jordan said she was confident of doing well last start, particularly after Voodoo Fella landed the perfect one-one sit. "He was always travelling nicely. When they started to walk a bit, I made my move. It was probably with 600m to go, but he didn't look like stopping at any point," she said. "To be honest, I'm still learning, and the horse is only young and he's probably in the same boat. He's done an awesome job because apart from the wins, he's also had a lot of placings. "David Russell prepares him and I'm down at his place pretty much every day. I help his son Dan out as well because they're only 10 minutes away from where I live at Lockrose." Voodoo Fella started as one of the outsiders at 20/1. He won by 3m from Crown Mojo with a further 5m back to Living Grand. The mile rate for the 1660m trip was 1.55-1. To watch the videon replay of Voodoo Fella click here Jordan said her parents Shane and Sue were supportive of her involvement in harness racing. "Dad was a trainer-driver when he was younger. He gave it away about 20 years ago and is now doing well training greyhounds," she said. "He works a lot of night shift with his job but tunes in when he's able to. Mum comes to watch me when she can." Jordan recently completed her Year 12 studies and plans to do a photography course at TAFE. "That's on the back burner for a while because I'm really enjoying my work with the horses and driving," she said. The youngster, who gets a five-point concession claim, has competed in 40 races for five wins, four runner-up placings and two thirds for over $21,000 in stakes. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Menangle-based harness racing trainer Shane Sanderson has confirmed he will relocate south to be based permanently in Victoria from next month. Shane and his wife Naomi will set up at the growing Charlton Harness Racing Training Centre, in north central Victoria, and will be the third major stable lured to the regional facility. "It's mainly for our kids, Ryan and Abbey, to allow them more opportunities and to give them the chance to grow their careers in the sport," Sanderson said. "But we think Victoria also gives us more options to place some of our lower-grade horses on the country tracks - that's a lot more difficult where we are at the moment," he said. Another NSW team in Anthony Butt and fiancée Sonya Smith hit immediate success when they landed in Melbourne with a strong team last October. They have now made Victoria their permanent base. The Charlton facility already has attracted former Adelaide trainer Greg Norman and up-and-coming trainer-driver combo Michael Gadsden and Denbeigh Wade. The Sanderson team will be another major boost to the well-resourced centre's credentials. The complex offers tenants access to individual stabling complexes, each with a fully serviced 60 x 30 shed, lock-up harness and feed area, internal yoke up and wash areas, two internal boxes and eight adjoining day yards. They also have unrestricted use of the 820 metre Training Track, a 2,000-metre straight track and a swimming dam on site. Fundraising is also underway to install a water walker at the complex. Sanderson said he had been impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of the Charlton officials, when they showed him around last week. "We're bringing a team of 15 and Joe and Andrea (President Joey Thompson and Manager Andrea O'Gorman) have gone out of their way for us - I think they're even talking about building more facilities to accommodate us," he said. "They certainly did a good sell on what Charlton has to offer and the club's obviously having a real crack, so we've really got no hesitation in deciding to go there. "I think facilities like this one are the way for the industry to go - there needs to be something like this in every state because the price of land has just got out of hand for people coming in." Charlton manager Andrea O'Gorman said the club was excited about the new arrivals, describing it as a real "game-changer" for the club and for harness racing in the region. "With Greg, Mick and Denbeigh doing so well, it's another bonus for the local followers - they won't be able to keep up!" O'Gorman said. "But that's what it's all about...creating more interest at the ground level and the development of the training centre is doing just that," she said. "We are just so thrilled with the quality of the trainers we're now attracting - the word's out that Charlton offers a great lifestyle with opportunity to race successfully all over Victoria." Sanderson said recent Menangle winner Loorrim Creek and the promising Smokin Shazza would be among the team to make the move south, along with ex-Victorian Leigha Miller and Flaming Fives; and several now on the comeback trail in Sapphire Swayze, Lucky Lombo and Dikerry. The Sanderson family (L-R Abbey, Shane, Naomi and Ryan) after a win at Menangle with Loorrim Creek The Sanderson family has been based at Menangle for the past four years after Shane got his start in the sport in Queensland. "I didn't grow up in a harness racing family, but we did live at Redcliffe (a bayside suburb of Brisbane) where there was a whole street of trainers near the trotting track," he said. "I'd get down to the Redcliffe trots on Friday night then eventually found my way up to the stables. I started helping out and learning what I could, then eventually got my trainer's licence. "Then when they were setting up Menangle, we put in an expression of interest to give it a go down there." Sanderson has established a more than creditable record since, topping more than a quarter of a million in stakes earnings each season at Menangle. His best was in 2017-18, with 62 winners amassing more than half a million in stakes. In a successful 2020 extended season, he's had nine winners from 43 starts, including a recent treble - two winners at Newcastle and one at Menangle on the same day in December. Shane and Naomi's son Ryan, 17, is a promising junior driver who spent time in Victoria last year, and their 15-year-old daughter Abbey has also recently gained her trials driving licence. "Ryan just loves the sport and Abbey is very keen as well, so we want to base ourselves where they can find opportunities and make the most of them," Sanderson said. "Where we are at the moment, racing is pretty good quality and you need good horses to compete - we race most of the horses we train, and we've got a couple of handy ones, but as everyone knows, they are pretty hard to get!" he said. "From Charlton we think we can access a lot of tracks pretty easily to place our team and we've got all the facilities we need right there, so we're pretty excited to be making the move. "Ryan loved it down there last year, and hopefully he can take up where he left off and build on that. If we're able to supply him with a few horses to drive, that might help him as well." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

An ambitious plan for a mid-year harness racing campaign in the United States is on the radar for Australasia's best pacer, Lochinvar Art. While there are a lot of "ifs and buts" to bring the plan to fruition, trainer David Moran and owner Kevin Gordon have actively been canvassing the concept of spending the Australian winter campaigning in the USA. "We've got a pretty exciting program ahead of us over the next three months or so, with Shepparton, Ballarat and Hunter Cups, then the Newcastle Mile and hopefully the big one, the Miracle Mile," Moran said. "But if he's still going well, we'll look at a short letup then that's when the States would come into play," he said. Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 situation is one of the key uncertainties the camp will need to take into consideration, as well as flight logistics and finding a suitable base. "It would be the trip of a lifetime for me. I'm 33 and I've never been to the USA, and would just love the opportunity," Moran said. "If I could take him over there and train him myself that would be ideal, but if we have to place him with another trainer over there, then that will be another option." David Moran Lochinvar Art has had 18 starts for 12 wins and four placings this season, with Group One successes in the Victoria Cup, Chariots of Fire and Four-Year-old Bonanza, along with a second in the Miracle Mile. He tonight lines up at Melton in the $130,000 Ultimate Machete Vicbred Super Series final and with a barrier one draw, the race will be an intriguing tactical affair at 9.23 pm. Lochinvar Art won his semi-final in dominant fashion, defeating his Victorian rival Hurricane Harley. He'll meet the truly elite in Australasian company in February's Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup and March's Miracle Mile, among them, King Of Swing (NSW), Chicago Bull (WA) and Self Assured and Spankem. As Moran is the first to admit, four months ahead is a long time in racing, but at the moment, he's relishing the thought of what might be. "I don't even have a passport yet, so it's a long way off, and there are lots of uncertainties. But we think he's the best we have down here, and it would be great to give him the opportunity over there," Moran said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

It wasn't all that long ago that Lochie Cook worked in a numbers room at a country Victorian harness racing-now the popular stablehand is putting together an impressive list of numbers of his own. Cook, who is based at Terang in the Western District, recently posted his third driving victory at just his tenth race engagement. "I won at both of my first two drives and thought I was 'King of the World'!" Cook said. "But one of my workmates (reinsman) Jason Lee was quick to point out that it wouldn't be all that long before I come back to earth," he laughed. "And it did take me another eight drives until I landed Jilliby Adore at Horsham the other day, but I'm learning that little bit more every time I go out onto the track." Bay filly Jilliby Adore (Roll With Joe-Jilliby Kate (Jennas Beach Boy) took out the $7000 Alabar Horsham 3YO Classic after a 10 out 10 drive by Cook for his boss, trainer Marg Lee. To watch the video replay click on this link The 20-year-old reinsman had some anxious moments early when debutante runner Smile With Grin shifted outwards soon after the start, resulting in the two runners getting in a tight tangle for a brief moment. Race favorite Jaeden (Jackie Barker) sped to the front and cruised along unchallenged until Smile With Grin moved to the death-seat. Cook was quick to jump on its back and grab the one-one sit. On the home corner, the race became a race in two with Jaeden and Jilliby Adore clearing out from the others. Jilliby Adore did best to win nicely by six metres. Jilliby Adore and Lochie Cook take out the Alabar Horsham 3YO Classic Cook said he got to know the Lee family while working in the numbers room at Terang on race nights. "I would always have a chat with Jason and Paddy. They talked me into going out to the stables and helping them after school. I had no background in trots because my parents weren't involved and didn't follow the sport," he said. "I thought I'd give it a go to earn some extra money and they only wanted me for a few hours each night. When I finished Year 12, Marg offered me a full-time job so I thought I'd use it as my gap year. "Now I've been there over two years and I just love the industry! "It's unbelievable in what they've taught me. The Lee family are fantastic people and the other stable workers are great." Cook said it was Marg Lee who encouraged him to get his trials driving licence. "It's funny to look back and think that I've gone from having never driven a horse, to driving in trials, and now competing at the races," he said. "Ever since I started driving at the races, mum and dad have been following me and dad's got right into it now." Cook said his first two drives, which resulted in wins at Kilmore and Ballarat, both on Keeyang Jackie, were "pretty cool". "I think in one of them we went 1.53 which was awesome," he said. "Despite that I would have to say that Terang is my favorite track. I did heaps of trials there...and besides it's in my hometown. "I can't wait to drive at Melton in a race. I've driven there in trials, but that's the place where you want to be-it's the big stage!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The career of harness racing champion My Field Marshal (Art Major) has come to an end, with a catalogue of achievements that are as much a testament to the raw speed and ability of the horse as they are to the skills and persistence of his trainer Tim Butt. Connections made the decision recently to call time on the eight-year-old stallion's illustrious career, which, in raw numbers reads: 76 starts for 29 wins and 25 placings for $1,493,180 in stakes. Among My Field Marshal's achievements was an astonishing 2018 Miracle Mile victory that would be etched in the memory of every harness racing fan who witnessed it - storming to victory from last in a 1.46.9 mile, placing him in the top mile runs in history and clearly an Australasian record. As a four-year-old Monty (his stable name after famed World War 1 and 2 British field marshal Bernard Montgomery) won almost every major race in New Zealand; at five he won the Len Smith Mile; at six a Miracle Mile; and a Fremantle Cup at seven. Kate Butt's video tribute to My Field Marshal's career But the back story to those remarkable achievements makes My Field Marshal's accomplishments even more notable. A relatively modest 76 starts over a six-year career were largely the result of ongoing soft-palate issues. "He had a wind operation as a three-year-old, and another as a five-year-old, and his wind problems really didn't help him to be consistent all the time," Butt, based at Menangle, said. "But when I got him right, he was probably the best pacer I've trained for speed. He is actually a double rig (his testicles are concealed in his abdomen) so he carries all of those stallion qualities of strength and character. But he's like a thoroughbred in that he's got that athletic look, but doesn't need a lot of work," he said. My Field Marshal winning The Miracle Mile (Scott Hamilton Photo) "He was more fast than tough, and when he was spot on, in his heyday, he was pretty much unbeatable. He's beaten top horses like Lenny the Shark, Hector Jay Jay and Lazarus, and to win a Miracle Mile after two wind operations is really a huge credit to him." But My Field Marshal was no cinch to "keep right", with the risk of lung infections that were an ongoing management issue from the wind operations. Despite that, Butt credits wins with "Monty" among some of his most memorable career moments, particularly in securing him a coveted Miracle Mile - a trophy that had previously eluded the Butt camp. My Field Marshal (Ashlea Brennan Photo) "I trained Monty's mother, Foreal (Washington VC - Krystle (El Patron), for the owners Sid and Shona Brown from Mossgill, in Dunedin (New Zealand)," he said. "Foreal was pretty handy too - she was a NSW Oaks champion and a triple crown winner in Auckland and won a ladyship mile and a heat of the interdominion. "So to train another generation of horses for the same people is pretty special. Sid's dad was a gallops trainer, but Sid has gone towards the standardbreds, and he and Shona breed and race their own horses. They're impeccably cared for - Sid is one of those who does everything right and both of them absolutely love their horses." Butt is also training My Field Marshal's younger full brother, four-year-old Surreal. "He's got the family ability, but he has a few leg problems, so it will just depend whether we can get him back and keep him there," he said. Connections had been considering the racing future of My Field Marshal for about six months. "But in the end, he told us," Butt said. "It's pretty tough with the constant mile racing at Menangle, and we respect the horse too much to have him slip back into claimers or weaker type racing, so we decided to call it a day. "He'll have a new career of some sort, possibly back in New Zealand, or he'll be rehomed with a view to standardbred showing - he'll have a bit of a break first, though and then we'll decide." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Bathurst trainer Chris Frisby has had plenty of highs and lows in the sport of harness racing - but he admits a win with Our Uncle Sam in the Group 3 Shirley Turnbull Memorial on Saturday night was more than a little emotional. "The Shirley Turnbull is the race everyone in Bathurst wants to win because of who the Turnbulls are, and because everyone knew and loved Shirley - it's always a bit of an emotional race and for me this win was a bit of a tear-jerker," Frisby said. "Shirley was a lovely lady and Tony (legendary Bathurst trainer Anthony Turnbull, who is now 90) was there on Saturday night. I had a bit of a yarn with him before the race - it was just an unforgettable night." Although Frisby previously won the 2795 metre feature (with Dinki Di 15 years ago) Saturday night's win, courtesy of a super drive by Frisby's son Anthony, was a case of "third time lucky" for Our Uncle Sam (Sportswriter - Rooftop Fairy (Village Jasper). To watch the video replay click here. The six-year-old finished a close third in the Shirley Turnbull in 2018 behind Our Triple Play (Brad Hewitt) and came frustratingly close 12 months ago with a 1.6 metre second behind Alta Orlando (Craig Cross). Frisby's ride with his star pacer Our Uncle Sam has been nothing short of a fairytale. Chris and Anthony Frisby after their emotional win in the Shirley Turnbull Memorial The pacer was purchased as a yearling as one of the final two lots at the Bathurst Gold Crown Yearling Sale of 2015 - in Frisby's parlance, "a wormy scrawny, hairy little bastard"! "But I did like him, the way I do my buying and breeding. I was still there at the end and just threw in a couple of bids, and ended up with him for $3500," he said. "AD and Shirley's grandson Josh (Turnbull) broke him in, and Josh didn't mind him, and the horse has just kept on improving all the time." Our Uncle Sam has racked up 22 wins from 94 starts, for a bankroll of $647,000. "He has been an unbelievable little horse for me - he's been my milking cow!" Frisby joked. "He's taken me all over the country and to New Zealand and I've met some absolutely brilliant people because of him." At Group One level, Our Uncle Sam finished runner-up in the 2018 InterDominion and 2019 Hunter Cup behind Tiger Tara, and in 2019 won the Bohemia Crystal free-for-all and Platinum Projex Free For All. The trophy presentation at the Shirley Turnbull Memorial The well-travelled pacer, owned by Frisby's wife Judy and Anthony's father-in-law Peter Delaney, is again being set to head south next week. "It's a lot easier to make some plans now that the authorities are doing the programming again - for a while there I seemed to be easing up on them when I should have been working them and then working them along when there was nothing around," Frisby said. "But we will head down to Melbourne and stay for a month or so and go to Melton and the Bendigo and Shepparton Cups and see how we go," he said. "I know the race on Saturday perhaps wasn't quite as strong as it has been in other years, but I'm still pretty happy with where he is at and he's paid for himself to go down now. It's only his third run back this campaign, and he does take a few runs to be at his best. "I had a lot of trouble with his feet when we went to Queensland earlier in the year. He had a big abscess break out and it's left him missing part of the side of his hoof. I took him to Carl O'Dwyer (Kilmore farrier, trainer and horse-shoe manufacturer) and Carl made him up some special shoes and shod him for me. He's a lovely man and brilliant to watch at work. Sam was okay before I took him to Carl, but he's even better now." Frisby's southern campaign leaves a team of 17 in work at home, in the capable hands of Anthony and staff Ronnie Jones and Phoebe Betts. "That will definitely keep them busy because after they finish working ours, they've all got their other jobs to go to. I'm lucky to be able to know they're in good hands, though." Frisby is also keenly watching the progress of Our Uncle Sam's young full brother, which he purchased at the 2019 yearling sales. "But we had to pay $30,000 for him! He's a nice sort, though, a hand or so bigger than Sam. He hurt himself and he's just coming back into work now, so we'll wait and see." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Not everyone who is part of a passionate harness racing family is destined to become a driver or a trainer - but South Australian horse lover Brodie Webster reckons he's about to enjoy the best of both worlds. Webster, who until this season was balancing his veterinary science studies with part-time commitments as a reinsman, recently graduated from university after six years of study. Harness racing is taking a back seat for the time, as Webster counts down to starting his "dream job" at the HorseMed Clinic at Echunga in the Adelaide Hills in mid-January. "It's absolutely a dream come true - I couldn't have written it better! I always thought it would be nice to work in the Adelaide Hills, and of course all I have always wanted to do is work with horses," Webster said. "HorseMed is 100 percent horses, no small animal work, and as well, I'll have the opportunity to work at the sister clinic at Morphetville doing surgery cases that we don't see at the Hills clinic. So all the stars aligned for me, and I just can't wait. "But it will be a steep learning curve for me over the next few years in particular - this is where it all starts really. I've finished the degree, but I have amazing vets and surgeons around me at the clinic and I'll keep learning from them - it's forever learning in vet science, because things change so quickly." Brodie gained his junior driver's licence in 2015 and developed into a more than competent reinsman, piloting 29 winners in his most successful season. "I was lucky to get picked for a six-week scholarship by Harness Racing SA to visit Belgium, Sweden, France and Dubai a couple of years ago," Webster said. "I got the opportunity to visit some of the leading veterinary clinics in Europe and that was amazing - the whole thing was just the trip of a lifetime. I was then also involved with HRA's Young Ambassador Program, which also opened up a whole lot more contacts and friendships. "I've been very fortunate and I'm very grateful to those bodies for their support, as well as the backing of my family the whole time." The 25-year-old son of Ron and Liz Webster grew up in the sport, and still has plenty of family involvement, including his brother Jake who is a trainer, driver and bloodstock/syndication manager with Summit Bloodstock. "I'd always been around horses and I'd love to have been able to make a living of it," Webster said. "But I could see in money, reliability and longevity wise, the sport puts too much pressure on to be a permanent thing, so I started vet science when I finished school," he said. With the increasing demands in his final year of Veterinary Science, he relinquished his driver's licence earlier this year to focus on his studies. Brodie Webster and his partner Bec Cooper "It was getting pretty tight study wise when the time came around to renew my licence, and at the time, I could drive this week and I couldn't the next," he said. "I felt that it wasn't really right for everyone involved, and I was better off to leave it to the drivers who can be consistent, follow the form and do things properly. I really miss it, though, I will say that. But I have some exciting times ahead with work, and I really just want to give that my all for the next few years." Undoubtedly what the veterinary science world has gained is harness racing's loss...but perhaps only for the time being. "We still have one horse, Simon (a recent winner), that Jake is training. He's just a bit of an interest, and someone for dad and me to muck around with and pretend we're still trainers in our downtime!" he laughed. "I think I've got the best of both worlds really - I still get to muck around with a race horse or two but I get to be involved in a whole new dimension to racing and harness racing. "And perhaps in five- or ten-years' time when I am levelled out in my professional work, I might be able to balance things up and train a couple on the side as well!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

West Australian harness racing trainer and driver Kiara Davies still clearly remembers the day her world came crashing down. Bubbly, energetic and full of life, the horsewoman had just celebrated her 30th birthday and was one month into her dream job. "I was just chilling out at home back in March with my partner Michael Young when I found a lump in my breast. I don't know why but my gut instinct told me it was going to be bad news and most likely a tumour," Kiara said. "I knew I had the BRCA1 mutation (which creates a much higher risk of some types of breast and ovarian cancers) so I saw a doctor the following day. An ultrasound referral showed the lump was not a cyst so I had a core biopsy the next day." Kiara said she received an urgent call on March 27 to attend her doctor's clinic. "I was told I had been diagnosed with breast cancer-and it was aggressive and growing quickly. Luckily, I found it when I did because I got told the 4cm tumour had doubled in size in the week before being diagnosed," she said. "All I wanted to know was how do I beat it. I'm a fighter and just wanted to know how I went about dealing with it. The most difficult part was telling my partner and my family." Kiara said the experience taught her never to take things for granted. "It's been a huge eye opener. I had been employed one month earlier to work for Gary Hall snr and was thoroughly happy in a relationship I'd formed with my soul mate Michael," she said. "But I'm pleased to say that I recently had my last surgery and got the all clear-so it onwards and upwards from here. Bring on 2021! V for Victory. Kiara is looking forward to 2021 "I must admit that I've jumped into the jog cart a few times recently when I was feeling well. I hope to get back to training horses, but I'm pretty certain I won't ever drive in races again." Kiara has been a trainer for more than eight years after deciding an accountancy career wasn't a fit for her. She showed exceptional ability as a driver and sits just six short of a significant milestone of 150 winners. "One of my favorite wins was on Sunnys Little Whiz in the G1 Trotters Cup four years ago at Gloucester Park. She was raced by the Howlett family and won 16 races over here," she said. Kiara with her favorite horse, Sunnys Little Whiz. The pair took out the Group One Trotters Cup in Perth in 2016 (Hamilton Content Creators Photo) "I've probably been to about 10 meetings this year. It's been great to shift the focus away from all my hospital visits and treatment and watch the horses again. It's something different to think about." Kiara said her breast cancer treatment involved two lots of surgery, 12 rounds of chemo, three blood transfusions and "so many blood tests I've lost count". "I was so lucky to be under Professor Arlene Chan and Dr Peter Willsher. They were awesome along with my support crew including my mum, dad and sister; my partner Michael, Gary Snr and Karen Hall and best friends Kristy and Tara. "The harness racing industry also showed it's a supportive big family by rallying around me right along the way." Kiara said she was still exhausted and often experienced excruciating pain in her bones. "But it has all been worth it. I finished my chemo at the end of August. Obviously, I've still got appointments along the way and MRI scans every few months, but I stayed positive from day one," she said. "My advice to anyone in a similar situation would be listen to your doctors, don't hesitate to ask for help and surround yourself with loved ones." And for 2021? "Don't dwell on things because life is too short!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Popular New South Wales harness racing trainer-driver Dean Cernovskis is still counting his lucky stars! In a mishap during a race at Goulburn on Monday, Cernovskis and his horse Oscar The Great (Mach Three - Glenferrie Diva (Christian Cullen) careered through the outside fence. Watch the action unfold here:  "I was certainly fearing the worst there for a bit! But both of us came out of it pretty much without a scratch, remarkably!" Cernovskis said. A trotting fan who was having a ride in the mobile barrier car captured all the action on a mobile phone. "It was certainly scary to watch - I think Oscar choked down, and he actually passed out moments before he crashed through the fence," Cernovskis said. "The only thing I was thinking was 'hell, this is gonna hurt'!" he said. "I think I probably had him feeling a bit good for the race, and that, combined with the tempo being so slow, I knew I was in for a bit of trouble. He was charging the whole way, which didn't help." Oscar ended up on the other side of the outside fence lying on his side. "He was a bit stiff today, but we'll give him a few days off and he'll be fine," Cernovskis said "I ended up with some bruising around my stomach and that's about it. I really just can't believe how well we got out of it. I've never had anything quite that scary happen before. "A few years back, ironically with another Mach Three, the horse choked down at the same track. He did the right thing though and staggered onto the grass on the inside of the track, so that landing was a bit softer! "My mates think it's hilarious and I'm copping heaps about it, but I have to admit it's really only now that I can see the funny side of it myself!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Veteran Bendigo harness racing trainer Bill White made a rare appearance at the races this week - and the wily horseman returned home with the spoils. "Dad is 86 and prefers to stay at home and watch them on television. He usually tells us that there's really no need for him to go," his son Ian said. "But when we had three runners at Maryborough on Monday, he decided he'd better come along for the ride." And Bill may have just been the needed lucky charm as five-year-old gelding Blis Valley (Skyvalley-Suelaurian (Keystone Salute) gave a faultless display to take out the Volstead @ Haras Des Trotteurs Trot with Rod Lakey the successful driver. To watch the video replay click on this link. Ian and his wife Susan bred and own the square gaiter, while their stablehand daughter Lauren, 17, was on hand at the meeting to help her Pa Bill out. "Both Lauren and our 14yo son Brent are following in the family harness racing tradition - we were talking about it just recently and they are actually fifth generation participants although Brent didn't go to Maryborough because he had soccer," Ian said. "Dad drove a lot of winners for his father Jack, who was out Eaglehawk way. He used to make up all his horseshoes, using a forge, shaping them and putting in the nail holes. "I now do all our shoeing - I'm self-taught and have picked up plenty of tips from dad." Ian said Bill was proud to have driven winners at the old Showgrounds track, then Moonee Valley and Melton. "He doesn't drive them at home anymore, but he still potters around doing a load of joggers or anything else that needs doing," he said. "Some of the good ones he had over the years included Mystic Robert, a winner of 22 races. He won the Shepparton Cup beating Adaptor (Jack Hargreaves) and also took out the Italian Cup." Among the notable White performers were also Jane's Choice, Brother Pete, Keys To The Ute and a $500 bargain in Miss Tiny Tot. "We got her at a Graeme Board clearing sale that they used to have, and she weighed in at 320kg which was the reason behind her name, of course, but she won $118,000," Ian said. "We haven't had a pacer for years, we're just specializing in trotters. There's a lot of races for them now, but they are getting quicker too. "We breed most of our own and have had a great deal of success from the Keystone Salute line. Occasionally we might see a bargain buy because we always keep an eye out. "My mum Betty has always supported dad with his horses. She follows them but loves her garden these days." Apart from horses, Ian is a teacher, having been at the Castlemaine secondary college for the last 27 years. "While the COVID pandemic didn't work out so well for the students, I ended up with a bit more free time to work the horses. We are doing six at our Huntly property," he said. "When school finishes and once I get past Harcourt on my way home, I'm no longer a school teacher! We just love our 60 acres and the horses. It's on the edge of a State Forest and it's a great lifestyle." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Christmas came early for talented Sydney harness racing young gun Ryan Sanderson who landed his first-ever treble at the weekend. "It was really a bit unexpected. Some of my drives were okay, but I was up against a few nice other horses, so it was a surprise to land three," Sanderson said. Two of his winners at Saturday night's Newcastle meeting were trained by his father Shane, with his mother Naomi the winning owner. The 17-year-old won for his father with Sea Hawke (Mr Feelgood-Spirit Of Fun (McArdle) and Joice Mary (Alta Christiano-Weona (Perfect Art). He also chipped in with a victory for trainer Stephanie Lippiatt with Collina Kay Jay (Alta Christiano-Wingello Lass (Art Major). To watch the win on Sea Hawke click on this link To watch the win on Joice Mary click on this link To watch the win on Collina Kay Jay click on this link "Steph is stabled next to us at the training centre and it was the first time I'd driven for her so that was pretty good," he said. And while Ryan was racking up the personal milestones, his dad was also making his own headlines elsewhere. Shane claimed a Menangle Group Three win just 45 minutes after Ryan wrapped up his Newcastle treble. To watch the win on Whereyabinboppin click here "It certainly was a huge night for dad. He was stoked with his training treble-two at Newcastle and then the feature event at Menangle," Ryan said. Exciting four-year-old Whereyabinboppin (A Rocknroll Dance-Whereyawheeliebin (Modern Art) gave an awesome front-running display to take out the $30,600 Celebrating Harold Park Cup with Cameron Hart in the sulky. "We all went out on Sunday morning for a celebration breakfast," Ryan said. "Dad is planning to give his team five or six days off, so we'll all be having a break over Christmas as well, which will be great." While the treble for Ryan continued his happy association with the Newcastle circuit (he drove his first winner, Don Boston, as a 16 year old at Newcastle) it also marked his first winning meeting since a race fall injury in Victoria two months ago to the day. The teenager was catapulted into the air and a following horse was unable to avoid hitting him when he crashed to the track at a Charlton meeting. Sanderson was flown to Melbourne but escaped serious injuries. His new driving suit had to be cut from him in hospital, and he also had to buy a new vest and helmet to get back to the track. "I was pretty lucky. I got a bit smashed up, but I'm all healed up and back driving now - it was nice to get among some winners though," he said. "Harness Racing Australia reimbursed me and that covered a fair bit of the cost of replacing my gear, which was awesome. I've got to just make sure I stay out of trouble from now on!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Central Victorian reinswoman Ellen Tormey had an unforgettable night out at the latest Mildura Harness Racing meeting, but she admits she didn't make the four-hour trek chock-full of confidence. But there's nothing like a run of luck to turn things around - and Tormey did that on Friday night, putting together a "fabulous five" winners for the first time in her career at the far north west Victorian track. "I had an awful night at Echuca the night before and the previous week at Mildura I think I was on four favorites and they all got run down, so I didn't exactly arrive full of confidence," Tormey said. "I've driven four winners a couple of times before at Mildura but you never expect five winners, and I certainly didn't that night. But it was a great feeling!" Tormey got her first winner in race one, Skippers Swan Song (Western Terror - Beejaykay (Tompkins Hanover) for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway.  Watch the race replay click here! And if that didn't revive her confidence, her next drive in race three, certainly would have despatched any doubts, with Smoke My Motor (Mach Three - Celibacy (Safely Kept) being the easiest of winners, by 28 metres, for Bendigo trainer Kate Hargreaves. In race eight, Tormey partnered Mildura headline act Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Heaven - Dolly Mcd (Mach Three) when, in his customary barnstorming last-to-first fashion, he racked up an amazing 15th win this season on the tight Mildura circuit for trainer Julie Douglas. Tormey then went on to score in successive races: again for Douglas with Elegant Jewel (Mach Three - Hilarious Jewel (Artsplace) and Come On Elvis (Rock N Roll Heaven - Modern Girl (Modern Art) for Mildura trainer Frank Cavallaro. "I was fortunate to be driving some very nice horses, and if you can put good quality horses in a good position you hope you can get the job done. But horses like Bernie Winkle just make you look good!" she said. Tormey, who grew up in Charlton and cut her teeth in the pony trots, became passionate about harness racing watching the trots on TV with her dad (trainer John Tormey). "I was only about 10 or 11, but at that time (former world champion) driver Kerryn Manning was winning everything and because she was a girl, I used to take notice of her," Ellen said. "That's really who inspired me to want to be a driver. When I was a teenager, I worked with Kerryn in school holidays and she was a great mentor. Then when I was 16 I got my junior driver's licence. "Dad has been another big influence. He always gives me pretty direct feedback when I drive for him! "He actually did drive a bit himself, but I wouldn't have called him a driver. I watched him one day drive up the back of another runner in a three-horse race, so whenever he gives me a spray I do remind him about that!" After completing school, Tormey moved to Bendigo to begin her "back up plan", business studies at University, while continuing to pursue her harness racing ambitions. She now drives about 500 horses a year, managing over 50 winners a season in most years (her best is 77). And she continues to put in the big miles to race - in the past week for example, Tormey has had engagements on all but two days, and has travelled to every corner of the State to meet her commitments including Mildura, Shepparton, Kilmore, Echuca and Melton. "There are always a lot of miles and a lot of tracks to drive at. It's pretty busy but I am so lucky to have a part time job at Garrards Horse n Hound - they have been fantastic to me in being really flexible around my driving commitments," Tormey said. "Trainers at places like Mildura gave me opportunities and stuck with me and it's still one of my favorite tracks for that reason, and because it's so friendly. But I also love Bendigo, because it's only two minutes away! And Charlton because it's home, of course. "Your priorities do change as you get older too, I think. I have a partner at home who I have hardly seen in the past week, and in the future I'd love to do some travelling as well. But I still love it and nights like Friday night just make it all worthwhile."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing cult hero Bernie Winkle is looking down the barrel tonight of an extraordinary 15 wins for the season at Mildura. Described by owner Eric Anderson as a "bread and butter" pony, "Bernie's" lightning sprint made him a COVID-19 sensation during the pandemic lockdown, and has given his owners plenty to cheer about, netting more than $100,000 in stakes. Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Heaven - Dolly Mcd (Mach Three) was moved north by Anderson at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown - and proceeded to rewrite Mildura harness racing record books in an exhilarating run of success. Bernie arrived at the stables of Anderson's friend, Mildura hobby trainer Geoff Lucas in mid-April with solid form - but nothing that gave a hint of what was ahead. The seven-year-old strung together 10 wins on end - and in super-impressive fashion, with his sit-sprint style of racing making the fast class event on the Friday night Mildura card compulsory viewing during lockdown. Altogether he's won 14 races from 21 starts since April, and finished out of a place only once. "It's been fantastic - Bernie's always just been a really honest earner and a few things probably suited him better when we sent him up there long-term," Anderson said. "The smaller field sizes and racing mostly against the same horses and drivers every week during that time were the main thing, and also not having to travel - trips to Mildura knock me about these days, too!" he said. "Whatever it was, it was a fun time. We actually found the regional racing model pretty good for us, overall, with the younger horses we had racing down here doing okay as well, but Bernie was certainly the standout. "We were possibly a bit lucky too in that there were some interested parties in America looking at him early in the year and we found he had a bit of soreness in one knee. The buyers decided not to go ahead, but we got his knee treated properly and that probably was a factor too." Eric Anderson The pacer's Mildura trainer Geoff Lucas, who himself ran into career-best form courtesy of "Bernie" agrees. "I think it was a lot to do with the fact that our stables are only 10 minutes away from the track - he'd get home fresh after the race, he'd lick out his feeder and be rearing to go the next week," Lucas said. Bernie Winkle is now prepared back home at Bendigo by Anderson's daughter, Julie, who is the wife of trainer-reinsman Glenn Douglas. With the assistance of experienced horsewoman Roma Pocock, full time staffer Clayton Wishart, Douglas and Anderson himself, the stable has a team of 27 in work. "We've got a great team around us but I'm pretty lucky with my son-in-law...I rate Glenn pretty hard to beat as a horseman." The former Robinvale transport operator and his wife Heather have enjoyed solid success in nearly 40 years in the sport, most notably through the deeds of 1992 Miracle Mile winner Franco Tiger. A regular buyer of New Zealand horses as well as a consistent breeder (his horses race under the "Ozzie" moniker), Anderson estimates he's had "hundreds" through his barn over the years. "I first got involved when I was in Robinvale, and a friend the late Ron Atkinson kept at me to buy a horse. Eventually we did, then we bought another by the name of Sultana Yankee, who won six in a row for us, trained by (the late) Brian Cummings," he said. "That was the beginning and I've loved it ever since. I started buying horses from New Zealand in the 1980s and obviously Franco Tiger (Bo Scots Blue Chip - Tempest Tiger (Tiger Wave) (43 wins) was the best of them, but Bold Cruiser (Live or Die - Holmes Dream (Holmes Hanover) was another favorite. "I'm starting to think againg that buying New Zealanders might be the way to go, because you can race them virtually straight away, but I have bred three mares this year and I have more than enough young ones around here to keep me going for a lot of years yet!" And what's ahead for Bernie? "He's coming up to 200 starts and he's still very sound, so at this stage it will just be Mildura - and more Mildura!" Anderson said. "But I'm coming up 75 and I don't manage the travelling as well as Bernie does! I still like to bring the horses for most of the trips, but I'm thinking I might need to work out a way not to go up and back in the one day - it's too hard to get up and work them the next morning." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When jovial Daylesford harness racing horseman Glenn Conroy and his daughter Lyndal had to decide on a name for their new mare, it was a very simple task. "Lyndal is heavy handed when it comes to feeding animals-it doesn't matter if it's a dog, cat or horse, she is a great feeder," Conroy laughed. "So our trotter Hattie was named after the actress Hattie Jacques. She played the matron in the old 'Carry On' films and she was a big, buxom woman - or perhaps we should say a full-figured girl! "That was our Hattie too. It took me at least four months to get her trimmed down to go to the races!" But Hattie (Skyvalley-Im Sonialeelee (Malabar Maple) showed at Geelong on Tuesday night that she's now in tip-top racing condition with a nice victory in the Yabby Dam Racing Maiden Trot. "I thought we had her thinned down and looking good. But I laughed at Geelong when the clerk of the course chipped me and said I wouldn't do any good because she was too fat!" Conroy said despite the unflattering assessment, he thought the mare was a good chance because her recent form had been consistent. "She was placed twice at Bendigo and before that and there were a few hard luck stories. She's only had seven starts and even in her race debut she should have been a lot closer. I got held up and only got clear when it was too late," he said. Conroy said he did have luck on his side at Geelong after being buried three back on the fence for most of the trip. To watch the video replay click on this link. "I got off heading into the home corner. Lucks a fortune because the horse on my outside broke and I was able to get clear and come down the outside and win," he said. "After I lost my wife Tracey in 2004 to breast cancer, I'd go to the races and then come home by myself. Now Lyndal has to hear my excuses or, in the case of Geelong, listen to what I believed was the drive of the night! "Tracey was a very good driver-much better than me. The first time she drove at Moonee Valley she was successful. I was in the same race at the rear in the dust somewhere. I didn't know that she'd won virtually until we were coming off the track and she told me." Conroy said he would be "lost" without Lyndal's involvement. "We go to the sales together and enjoy our time at the race meetings," he said. "Lyndal does all the work at home. Apart from the feeds, she does the waters and puts in a lot of hours of her time. We do our three horses at 6.30am and then Lyndal is off into town where she runs her own hairdressing business. "Hattie is raced by the both of us along with my partner Josie and we didn't pay a lot of money for her so we're enjoying the ride. She's by Skyvalley and reasonably bred, and is paid up for the Sires and Breeders Crown." Conroy said Lyndal was keen to take up driving, but he'd convinced her to stick with the training side. "Lyndal can drive okay, but harness racing is a tough career. You won't get rich unless you are very lucky and it's so time consuming. After Lyndal and I finish ours, I'm off to help my sister Anne-Maree with another 14 horses. "So each day I'm at my old stables, Ann-Maree's place, then I head home to Gordon where I live, so I've always got plenty of choices for having a cuppa with all my daily stops!" The name Conroy is iconic in trotting in Australia through the outstanding deeds of long serving and highly regarded horseman Bob Conroy, who died three years ago doing what he loved-training horses. Conroy, a gentleman of the industry, was the leading trotting trainer in Victoria for 14 years. "Dad was very good with horses that others couldn't get going. 'Just give it to the Conroys' they used to say-but we're happy with our little niche in harness racing." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Dedicated New South Wales harness racing trainer-driver Dean Cernovskis says he still smiles about his good fortune when he recalls the day he purchased a Kiwi-bred pacer in 2010. "You have to get a bit of luck now and again-and the $20,000 I spent on that occasion was the best twenty grand I've ever handed over!" Cernovskis said. The hard-working horseman, his wife Rikki and their young family hail from the NSW Southern Highlands region and had always wanted a Christian Cullen-bred horse. "I was telling a friend to look out for one. He just straight up told me he'd heard that there could be one, and from a good family, that may be available," Cernovskis said. And a short time later, Cernovskis and a big group of owners, took up ownership of Daniela Hantuchova (Christian Cullen NZ-Blistering Belle (Butler B G USA), named after the Slovak tennis star of the early 2000s. "I was part of a syndicate of about 20 who owned and raced her-and we all had a very good time along the way. The same group had about six horses going around at one stage," he said. Daniela Hantuchova posted 13 wins and 11 placings from 74 starts for stakemoney of $87,000. She retired with a best winning mile rate of 1.53-6. But the icing on the cake is that the mare is now starring in the breeding barn, much to the delight of Dean and Rikki, and Rikki's parents John and Lesley O'Sullivan. "We bought out the other owners when she retired from racing," Cernovskis said. "Her first foal was a colt by Bettors Delight. He sold as a yearling for $105,000 at the Sydney APG sales and now races as Drop The Hammer," he said. "He's won 20 races and over $210,000 in stakes as a trotter. The funny thing is that he could go along okay as a pacer, but he did have a bit of action, so they tried him trotting first." The next foal out of Daniela Hantuchova was Game Set Major, sired by Art Major, and raced by the Cernovskis and O'Sullivan families. Game Set Major, a four-year-old gelding, has now raced and won in three different States following a victory last weekend at TABcorp Park Melton. To watch the video replay click here The lightly-raced pacer won at his very first race start at Brisbane's Albion Park in July last year-and followed up in August/September this year with a hat-trick of wins at that same venue. Game Set Major has also been successful at NSW venues in Menangle and Wagga. Cernovskis said he watched the Melton victory from the driver's room at Menangle. "I had a runner in the opening race at Menangle half an hour after the Melton event-so I did go out with my heart pumping that's for sure," he laughed. Cernovskis drove Scoob Operator, which finished 8th to Motu Gatecrasher (Jack Callaghan) in the $16k Schweppes Pace. "We didn't get beaten by much. I was happy because he ran very well." He then competed in the following race with Stormy Raider who was runner-up in the $30k G3 Christmas Gift. Cernovskis said he decided to leave Game Set Major with a friend, Craig Turnbull, who is based near Shepparton. "Craig is a great horseman and would have looked after our bloke like he was an InterDominion runner. It was great to get the Melton win because he was eligible for his VicBred bonus," he said. Game Set Major is on his way home to the Cernovskis property at Gunning, between Goulburn and Yass, and will have a short let-up. "I really believe the horse has a bright future. He's quite green at the moment and doesn't really know what to do. He's so much like a big kid, but when the penny drops we're going to have some fun," he said. The husband-and-wife team is training a team of eight horses, while they also have seven broodmares. "Rikki is busy being on foal watch at the moment, so I've been the one going to the races - it's an exciting time of the year, with the little ones arriving," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

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