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Astute Kyabram harness racing trainer Mark Watson could have been excused for having an air of confidence going into Sunday’s Ouyen Pacing Cup. “He didn’t have any luck whatsoever at his previous run when he was eighth at the Charlton Pacing Cup at Melton eight days before,” Watson said. And Brallos Pass (Major in Art-Miss Athens (Bettors Delight) didn’t disappoint Watson and his followers, running his rivals ragged to score an impressive 20-metre victory, after death-seating most of the way. The cup win over 2430 metres served only to underline the toughness of the six-year-old, but also his versatility.  In the previous 14 days he’d scored a blistering come-from-behind win over 1740 metres at the opening of the new Wagga track, before the luckless 8th over 2760 metres at Melton and then the Ouyen win. “He’s a special little horse and I’ve got no hesitation in saying the best we’ve ever had by a long way,” an elated Watson said. “We were lucky to get the run through that we did from the second row, but Ellen (reinswoman Ellen Tormey) did a great job in summing up the situation,” he said.  “When you get to his class, you need a bit of luck, so it was nice that it panned out okay.” Brallos Pass recorded the most impressive Ouyen Cup win seen for many years, finishing well clear of Perspective and the early leader Manganello, scorching over the 2430 metres in 1:58.4. Tormey said Brallos Pass cruised to the line. “The plan was to get to the death seat at some stage, so when we got there very easily, I felt pretty confident from that stage,” she said. To watch the video replay of the race click here. Watson and his wife Michelle prepare a team of 10 horses at their Kyabram property, with the assistance of their sons Luke and Mason. Brallos Pass was purchased at the APG sales in 2013 by Mal and Neil Lennie who had horses for many years with Mark’s father, Mildura trainer, Ian Watson. “The Lennies bought three yearlings that year and dad was cutting down on his numbers, and they asked me if I could take Brallos Pass,” Watson said. “I’m pretty glad I did!  They’ve been terrific owners and although Brallos Pass has been good to them, they’ve put a lot back into the industry since, because they’ve been back to the yearling sales every year,” he said. “Brallos Pass has taken us to Sydney, Adelaide and Queensland, and all over Victoria and we’re just enjoying what he’s been able to do for us. “He is a stallion so sometimes his mind can wander, but when he’s right, he’s a terrific little horse and very versatile.” The Watsons are originally from Broken Hill and moved to Shepparton when “out of the blue” in 2002, Mark was asked by the late Kevin Abrahams to take on the role as private trainer at Meadowbrook Stud. Three years later, Mark and Michelle went out on their own, moving their operation and young family to Kyabram. “It was a fantastic opportunity but the decision to go out on our own was really about balance.  We felt family life was missing out a bit, so we decided to have a go, mainly concentrating on breaking in horses initially,” Mark said. “We still had a few racehorses, but it was really just once a week to the races, which was a much better balance for us. “Gavin Lang, who’d been doing our driving at the time, was fantastic and sent us a truckload of breakers, and that’s how we got started.” The Watsons concentrate these days less on breaking in and more on preparing a racing team for a small number of owners, but Brallos Pass has been the standout success. “He really didn’t show his ability immediately when I broke him in,” Mark said. “Michelle asked me what I thought of him early days and I told her he was a ‘paddler’, which doesn’t sound like much of a wrap now!  “But he absolutely loved his work – you couldn’t work him too hard – and I think it was his third prep where he started to show his depth and that he was going to be something above average.” As a juvenile, Brallos Pass went on to win the South Australian Derby and a heat of the NSW Derby, as well as a heat of the VicBred Super Series (3YO) and third in the final.  As a four-year-old, he ran fourth in the Group One APG 2yo final in Sydney and finished second only to Lazarus in the Group One Bonanza at Melton. The Ouyen win is the high point in an impressive run of form before Brallos Pass’s next assignment, the $60,000 Mildura Pacing Cup Carnival in April. “We were tossing up between Ouyen and the Horsham Cup, but Ouyen being that bit earlier we decided to go that way,” Watson said. “Had we gone to Horsham, it would have been three runs over 2600 metres or more in the space of two weeks, so we decided Ouyen was the better lead up,” he said. The Mildura Cup is unique on the Victorian country cups circuit in that it is run over heat and final conditions on a Tuesday and Saturday. But Watson has good reason to be confident of Brallos Pass’s capacity in the format. “We’ve been to the Mildura Cup with him in 2017 (3rd in the heat, 3rd in the final) and 2018 (3rd  in the heat and 4th in the final) and he’s handled it really well,” he said. “So we’ll give him another shot and see how he goes.” Watson said although Brallos Pass was the undoubted star of the Watson barn at this stage, his half-sister was also a promising prospect. “Miss Artemis (Art Major-Miss Athens (Bettors Delight) will have her first start this week at Bendigo.  It’s a very strong field of two-year-olds she is coming up against and she might need some more time, but I do like her a fair bit,” he said. “We’ve also just tipped out a two-year-old we bought at the sales for the same owners, Esterna (Art Major-Marissima (Christian Cullen) who we think will also do a good job for us.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Kilmore track is always going to hold a special place in the heart of long-time harness racing owner-trainer-breeder Ken Ward. Ward, who is based at Chintin, near Romsey, an hour north of Melbourne, landed a winning double at the Kilmore meeting – his first in over 50 years in the sport. “It’s certainly been a long time coming, but I don’t prepare big numbers, so I’ve probably been a little restricted,” Ward said. “I really regard harness racing as a bit like riding a ferris wheel though, and you’ve got enjoy the high-points!” Ward took out the Jet Roofing Pace with six-year-old gelding Village Skipper (Village Jasper USA-Skipper Patricia (Cam’s Trickster USA) then scored later in the program in the Kilmore Art Expo Pace Final with four-year-old gelding Jamieson Steele (Million Dollar Cam USA-Lady Jade Skipper (Safe and Sound). Both winners were handled in expert fashion by David Miles, who is in brilliant form at the moment. “It’s probably a little different than most people, but we’ve never raced a horse which we haven’t bred ourselves,” Ward explained. “I guess it’s a bit special when you go the whole journey with them, starting off with the breeding part, then watching them grow in the paddock, sorting out names, education and then getting to the track,” he said. Jamieson Steele “All of our horses originate from one mare, Bye Bye Jade (Adios Green-Pleasing (Dancer Hanover) that I got many years ago from my grandfather the late Jack McKay.” “Minyip Jack”, as he was known, was an owner and trainer, who partnered with the famous Melbourne Showgrounds trainer, Jack McKay, who ironically shared the same name, but was no relation. Despite his family involvement, Ward said his interest in the sport probably went back to when he was a young schoolboy and spent many hours watching Gisborne trainer Bernie Robinson prepare his team, headed by the smart pacer, Heroic Action. “I pretty much had the bug back then and have always loved horses,” he said. “We’re lucky because for us it’s a real family affair.  My wife Pat and I breed them, and we race them in partnership with one of our daughters Carissa, who is our eldest, and who works in payroll administration in Melbourne. Our other daughter Hailey also loves getting involved.” Village Skipper is now a four times winner, posting three of his victories this season. The gelding was responsible for a huge run at Kilmore. After settling at least 10 lengths off the lead after being caught wide early, he later went three and four wide down the back for the last time. In a war of attrition, Village Skipper got the upper hand to score. “He can hit a knee a little and there’s some maintenance needed with him, but he does put in,” Ward said. “I actually told young Jayden Barker, who works for our driver David Miles, that he could take the horse home win, lose or draw. At my age, my word is my bond so despite winning the race, Jayden now has him for 12 months. “Jayden gets a junior claim so he should have some fun with him.” Ken Ward The second leg of the memorable Ward double was recorded by Jamieson Steele, in a strong performance from a back-row draw. “It took him 18 starts to break his maiden status because he was a big, slow learner,” Ward said. “To be honest I really didn’t like the horse much at all in the early days. Then one day I took the block winkers off and put a shadow roll on and he settled down greatly,” he said. “Now he’s putting it together and learning how to follow helmets and I think he has a bright future.  This season has been quite good with two wins and three placings from seven outings.” Ward is pinning his hopes on a trio of two-year-olds, sired by Roll With Joe, Grinfromeartoear and Julius Caesar. “I also have an Auckland Reactor weanling filly out of a lovely mare in Skip On Broadway.  She looks the goods and is without doubt the best-looking horse I’ve had in 11 or 12 years,” he said. The Ward stable has produced a few handy performers over the years including Skipper Carissa, a winner of 15 races (eight of these at Moonee Valley) and 20 placings; and Haileys Skipper, who recorded 13 wins (one metropolitan) and 24 placings. “We have a 70-acre property and all of us are involved. I recently retired after working as a Lands Inspector and in the Quarantine service, so I’m full-time with the horses now,” he said. “I may have a team of four in training soon, although with winter approaching, perhaps three is the ideal number.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Cobram Harness Racing Club’s amazing Community Pink Ladies Day fundraiser is on again in May – but if you’d like one of this year’s unique promotional hoodies, the time to order is now! The energetic northern Victorian Club has raised an incredible $130,000 for charity in the 10 years since the McGrath Foundation fundraiser began. Organisers have drummed up huge community and sponsorship support and have turned the Paul Roberts Jewellers Ladies Invitational race day (this year on May 26) into one of the most popular on the region’s racing calendar. “It started because, at the time, there seemed to be a lot of people being affected by cancer, including people in harness racing, so we thought we should do something,” explained Cobram Harness Racing Club’s Margaret Watson. “It started with a fundraising dinner and raffle and it went on to become an annual event that raised about five or six thousand dollars each time with fundraising on the day and by selling raffle tickets,” she said. But Margaret said the event took on a life of its own when the invited female drivers stepped in, led by the tireless Donna Castles, about five years ago. “Donna told us it’s the drivers who get all the accolades on the day, ‘so it’s about time we got on board’ properly,” Margaret said. “That year they donated their driving fees to the McGrath Foundation.  The next year they decided to run a huge raffle and rallied around to get more than 20 prizes from sponsors,” she said. “The following year they raffled a sulky, last year they raffled a car, which was a huge effort, and this year they are doing a $3000 travel voucher and seven voucher prizes. “With their support the whole thing has taken off.” Anyone wanting raffle tickets can buy them from any of the invited female drivers up until the raceday. In addition, the girls have organised eye-catching hoodies to promote the event and to acknowledge the involvement of sponsors.  They’re $50 each, but orders and payment must be made by next Friday March 29 to either Donna Castles (0417 003 376), Juanita Breen (0418 565 310) or Margaret and Bob Watson at Cobram HRC (0409 401 189). The Sunday raceday on May 26 begins with a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of those who have lost their lives to breast cancer and in support of those being affected by the disease. The event has become a popular community and ladies’ day at the races, with everyone invited to add a touch of pink to their outfits.  “We’re thrilled that HRV has come on board this year so we can offer $10,000 in stakes for the invitation race, and hopefully that will give us full fields and a great day’s racing,” Margaret said. The female drivers on the day will be unmissable in their bright pink driver’s pants and invited drivers are: Donna Castles; Rebecca Bartley; Ellen Bartley; Juanita Breen; Monique Burnett; Rita Burnett; Laura Crossland; Kima Frenning; Abbey Turnbull; Tania Ward, Ellen Tormey; Lisa Miles and; Kylie Sugars.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

If ever there was a horse who shouldn’t have “made it”, Great Western Harness Racing trainer Michelle Wight reckons it’s her promising three-year-old Reactor Now (Auckland Reactor-Who’s Sorry Now (Western Ideal). Wight freely admits the accident-prone gelding has presented some challenges – but after two assertive wins in succession, it seems “Goose”, as he is known around the stables, might finally be repaying her dedication. “To put it bluntly, he sat on a post just before he was due to come back into work as a yearling and the injury he sustained was horrible.  We really weren’t sure he would ever race,” Wight said. And anyone who’s ever tended a serious equine injury wouldn’t dare argue. The 16-inch gash in the large muscle mass on the horse’s near side rump was deep and extremely difficult to manage.  But, over a period of four months, Wight and her husband Craig, with the assistance of their vet, managed to nurse Goose back into “one piece”. “We had a few setbacks along the way, including at one stage the internal stitches breaking open, but we got there in the end,” Wight said. But even after the prolonged recovery, the troubles weren’t over for Reactor Now. “We finally got him back into work as a two-year-old and there was another hiccup.  Because of the damage to the muscle, he was a little short in his action on that leg, which we were just working him through slowly,” Wight said. “One day he just worked a little bit lame on the leg and I got the vet to have a look and he’d somehow fractured a pastern bone. So, yes, he has been a project!” she laughed. Wight said Reactor Now’s three-year-old preparation had been necessarily and understandably slow. “We probably had him in work most of the last half of last year and have been mindful of allowing him to make a full recovery and looking after him,” she said. The gelding had his first start at Horsham in February but “got a bit excited” and proved a handful for Wight’s brother-in-law, reinsman Grant Campbell. But Campbell managed the gelding superbly when he returned to the track at Ballarat a month later, easing Reactor Now from the mobile barrier as the leaders poured on the speed.  At one stage in the first lap Campbell found himself 40 metres from the leaders, but unflustered tacked on with 1200 to go, slid into the death seat and applied the pressure.  He hit the front before the home turn and dashed away to score by 12 metres untouched. To watch the video replay of this race click on this link. The pacer was just as impressive at Terang a fortnight later (March 19) when he was caught three wide early, for nearly half a lap, before working to the death-seat.  Approaching the bell, Campbell clicked the big fellow up a gear to surge to the lead.  When he pulled the plugs on the home corner, Reactor Now careered clear, eventually winning by 10 metres, with the last quarter in a sizzling 27.4 (half in 56.6). To watch the video replay of this race click on this link. “He’s always showed his potential, but he’s been a big, awkward, green fellow and he’s taken a lot of time to learn, and probably get the confidence to go fast,” Wight said. “When he’s within his comfort zone he is good, but if you push him beyond that, he can get a bit rough and break,” she said. “But in his two wins he has won well within himself and we haven’t pushed him, so we haven’t really found the bottom of him yet. I think if one came up beside him he would find a little bit because he has got a competitive streak. “It’s fair to say he’s done more than we expected at this stage.” Although horse and connections endured a torrid 18 months, Wight said Reactor Now ticked all the boxes when he was purchased after the APG Gold 2016 sale. “He’s owned by Graeme and Liz Old, their nephew Frank and his wife Robyn and their daughter Narelle Hall and her husband Steve,” she explained. “He was a bit of an afterthought at the sales because all the ones we liked were above our budget. So, at the end of the day we were looking at what had been passed in. “My husband Craig loves to go through the books and choose them from the breeding and Frank prides himself on picking them on looks.  So between the two of them they picked out Reactor Now. Reactor Now “He is a very natural athlete and pacer and even when I was long-reining him he was pacing.  But he was a big fellow and we knew he would take time – just probably not quite this much time!” But it’s no surprise Wight has managed to put the polish on “Goose”, with her reputation for finding a way with problem horses. “This group of owners are the same ones who had Frances Annie – aka ‘The Mad Trotter’,” she said. “We had a five-horse truck and she needed all the dividers out and to travel on her own just to get her to the races. Once we got there, she needed spare stalls either side of her. “Once the lease was up, the owners weren’t too keen on having her back immediately, so we have her out the back in foal (to Skyvalley).  She did test my patience, but she did win $100,000, so you never know!” Reactor Now is entered in the Group 3 Victoria Sires Classic $40,000 for three-year-olds race at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Victorian Central Highlands harness racing trainer Tim O’Brien is aiming to make it two Cups in a week when he makes the long trek to the popular Ouyen fixture on Sunday. O’Brien, of Armstrong, near Ararat, has his stable star Perspective (Art Major USA-Vista Bella (Badlands Hanover USA) in the $14,500 Gregg’s Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup. The pacer’s form has been terrific in recent weeks.  Leading up to his Boort Cup victory last weekend, he’d been placed in four of his previous six runs. “The Boort victory was pleasing because I reckon it was the first time he’s come from behind and got the money for me,” O’Brien said. “We’ve drawn on the inside of the back row at Ouyen so he’s obviously going to have to do it again and try and come home over the top of them.” The six-year-old is raced by Melbourne owner Kevin Murray, who will be hoping to make it back-to-back Ouyen Cup successes, after Perspective won last year, when driven by Mark Pitt. O’Brien said getting the opportunity to train the talented pacer was a “dream come true”. “I think he’s probably won close to $100,000 for us.  He’s been a little goldmine for the connections and kept us going along nicely,” he said. The lucky chance to add Perspective to his stable came through the fact that O’Brien’s father Mick had previously trained horses for Murray years ago. Perspective was purchased at a clearing sale held by Kevin and Colleen Bamford, who decided to turn their interests fully to the thoroughbreds. The couple conducts “Daisy Hill” stud at Doreen, and had the enjoyment of owning and racing 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain. “I think (well-known bloodstock agent) Mark Hoare was in charge of the sale, and he also may have had a bit to do with me getting the horse,” O’Brien said. “Perspective finished runner-up at our first start with him in early 2017 at Ararat and I was thinking he’d been a perfect horse for some nice races at Mt Gambier or up in the Mildura area,” he said. “But I admit I was a little bit off the mark because he’s proven to be a gutsy, genuine racehorse. “He’s got stronger as we’ve gone along, and he’s certainly got a reputation of being as tough as old boots when he’s out in front. He puts his head down and enjoys holding them off, that’s for sure.” And there’s no doubting Perspective has proved to be somewhat of a surprise packet as he’s gone on to land the “first prize” at tracks including Melton, Boort, Ouyen, Wedderburn, Bendigo, Ballarat, Mildura and Swan Hill. All up he has 15 wins and 18 placings for earnings of over $125,000. O’Brien said Perspective is one of the best horses he’s trained. “He’s definitely up there for sure, but Arber and Western Rockstar had a touch of brilliance about them – I think Western Rockstar is still racing successfully in the USA,” he said. “The Ouyen race has attracted some handy performers, but with an ounce of luck we shouldn’t be far away.” And two people who will be cheering for Perspective will certainly be O’Brien’s parents, Mick and Lorraine. “The horse has become a bit of a family pet because he lives in the front paddock at their place so they will be barracking fairly hard too,” O’Brien said. Click here for the field of The Ouyan Pacing Cup next Sunday. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Astute Adelaide-based harness racing trainer Greg Norman decided two months ago to target a country cup 500 kilometres away in outback New South Wales – and now he’s already planning to go back again next year.   Norman, based at Two Wells and private trainer for A.B and T. Cormack Racing Pty Ltd, believed his four-year-old gelding The Deal (American Ideal-Tamara Hall (Real Desire) would be perfect for the rich Rocky Baker Memorial Cup at Broken Hill’s Carnival of Cups meeting last Friday night.   “I was aware the track was pretty tight at 605 metres, but despite The Deal being a big horse, I was very confident he would have no problems handling it at all,” Norman said.   And that proved to be the case – although stable followers may have had their hearts in their mouths briefly when The Deal shied at the finish line with one lap to go.   The Deal shifted up the track and a cheer went up from the big crowd because it allowed their home-town pin-up horse (and $1.90 favorite) Bettatobelucky to kick up on the inside.   Bettatobelucky became a joint leader, setting up the prospect of a sentimental win for trainer, local legend Don Pimm, who hasn’t been well of late.   However, The Deal, under hard driving by Jamie Williams, kicked back in the final lap, getting the upper hand to score impressively from Bettatobelucky in a new track record of 2.02-8 for 2500m trip.   “The horse has been going great this year. He scored at Cobram in January and then back home at Globe Derby Park last month and he’s been placed in five of his six other starts,” Norman said.   “We decided to set him for the Broken Hill Cup race because the $14,000 on offer for a C1-C3 class was unreal,” he said.   “We’ve already pencilled in the event for next year, but we’ll just have to see what suitable horses we have at the time.”   Reinsman Jamie Williams made the trip to Broken Hill with one of the part owners Adam Cormack and a friend, but Norman himself missed the meeting due to campaigning a team of three in Victoria.   “But I’ll be making sure I get a seat next trip – they celebrated fairly long into the night and from all accounts they enjoyed themselves the following day at the big St Pat’s Gallops meeting. I was reasonably envious I can tell you!”   Norman has so far had two runners during this Victorian campaign with Belladonna Girl being 5th at Melton and Edwin Bromac finishing 4th at Boort. Three-year-old Cee Cee In America will compete in the opening race at Kilmore on Wednesday night.   “We are chasing Vicbred bonuses with the three of them and how long we stay will obviously depend on their performances,” he said.   Despite missing the Broken Hill trip, Norman had fond memories of a successful hit-and-run mission “about 30 years ago”.   “A friend of mine in Geoff Lehmann lived up there at the time and invited me to drive one of his horses. Geoff worked at the mines and was just a hobby trainer, but I was able to land the money for him with Amber Alto,” he said.   “I do recall the track being small and it’s quite unique nowadays, I guess. But there’s plenty of people who have similar sized circuits that they train on at home.”   Norman said while The Deal found no problems with the Broken Hill track, his half-sister in Cowgirlsnlace didn’t handle it so well.   “She did finish second, but she got on one rein for most of the trip and Jamie told me he had problems steering her. The horse is a midget compared to The Deal, but it just goes to show that size plays no part in how they run on a tight track,” he said.   “I was thrilled to see Jamie land the cup. He’s a great worker at the stables for me.”   Williams was a highly sought-after driver many years ago when John and Lisa Justice had a powerful team going in Adelaide.   “He was their third-string driver,” Norman said.   “When they left to relocate to Victoria, Jamie went out of the game for a while. He recently got his first winner for six years so now with the Broken Hill success we could say he’s on a roll!”   The Broken Hill Cup is presented (L-R) by Jensen Baker (Rocky Baker's son and owner of Carbine Chemicals) to Adam Cormack, owner of The Deal, driver Jamie Williams and stable supporter Brendan Martin    -photo Coffee Photography and Framing, Dubbo   Norman has 14 in work and is enjoying his association with Terry Cormack and his sons Adam and Ben.   Broken Hill president Tracey Robinson said official estimates put the huge cup-night crowd at around 2000.   “But that’s only people through the gates – not children, who get in free, and there were a lot – and not pass-holders and sponsors, so it was a fantastic result,” she said.   “The betting turnovers won’t be known for a couple of weeks, but the betting ring certainly seemed busy.   “It was fantastic to have Harness Racing NSW CEO John Dumesny on course again, as were chairman Rodney Smith and Director Ken Brown.   “We were excited to be able to show them, not just tell them, how vibrant the sport of harness racing is in Broken Hill, how much community support and energy there is around it, and in particular what a fantastic event the cup is.”   Broken Hill Demo Club Pace trophy presentation with (L-R) Amelia Butler (representing sponsor the Broken Hill Democratic Club), HRNSW CEO John Dumesny, Heseversoclever stable representative Christie Rogers and Coral Ford ( Demo Club)      -photo Coffee Photography and Framing, Dubbo   The opening two events at Broken Hill saw female drivers in the limelight with local Cassie Robinson successful on Rapacious (who equalled the track record) for Don Pimm and visiting SA reinswoman Kaela Hryhorec scoring an impressive win on Serene Change, prepared locally by popular Broken Hill trainer Darren McInnes.   American Beau gave Ray “Raz” Slater success in the last race of the night. Frequent Broken Hill visitor, David Vozlic, from Mildura, was successful with Magic In Her Moves. Another Sunraysia trainer in Boris Devcic, made a rare trip to “the Hill” to score an all-the-way win in the $7500 Demo Club Pace with six-year-old gelding Heseversoclever, who scooted over the 1900m trip in a fast 2.00-1.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

The small New South Wales township of Sofala, near Bathurst, is regarded as Australia’s oldest surviving gold town because it remarkably still attracts prospectors and fossickers more than 70 years since the last gold mine closed down.   And now a five-year-old harness racing gelding, named after the tiny township nestled in the Turon River valley, is about to chase his own riches.   Prepared by enthusiastic Shepparton training-driving couple Doc Wilson and Donna Castles, the in-form Sofala (Safari-Sass And Bling (Falcon Seelster USA) will take the next big step soon with a tilt at Melbourne’s Tabcorp Park Melton.   “The horse has certainly hit his straps in recent weeks on country tracks, so we think he deserves a chance at city racing,” Castles said.   And there’s certainly been a touch of class about his impressive recent victories at Swan Hill (mile rate 1.56-8) on March 7, then eight days later at Cobram with a 13m runaway win in 1.55-9.   While he has an impressive seven wins and six placings from 20 starts for over $30,000, it hasn’t all been down easy street for Sofala, raced by keen stable client Greg Corbett, of Sydney. Sofala will be accompanied to the “big smoke” by his stablemate, trotting mare Fatouche (Yankee Spider-U R Whatu Eat NZ (Frugal Gourmet USA), who was a last start Melton placegetter.   Donna Castles returning to scale with stable star Sofala after his recent win at Swan Hill.   Castles said the pacer had been a work in progress since her partner Wilson broke him in.   “He was so difficult to gait up and would spend six weeks in training, then go out for a bit of a spell, and then back in and out, and so on,” she said.   “Fortunately, Greg is very patient and just leaves it all up to us.”   Castles said his early ill-gaited habits still presented a chink in Sofala’s armour on occasions.   “I’ve got to watch him now and again when driving him in races because he can get his rhythm a little skewiff and lose momentum - but he’s getting better and he’s still learning,” she said.   “It could easily be a bit of a confidence thing now. I think one of the tricks to him is he loves to be out and free-running.   “A few months back at a Shepparton meeting, we drew the inside of the back row and he wasn’t comfortable one bit. He paced terrible and was a handful.”   Castles, who is a daughter of legendary Sydney horseman Jim Castles, and his wife Monica, moved to Shepparton with Wilson 16 years ago.   “We had a smart pacer at the time called Awaba, who we’d raced successfully in three States – NSW, Victoria and Queensland – and we thought he’d be our breadwinner,” Castles said.   “But it wasn’t to be as the horse broke down and that was the end of that.   “We were shattered and couldn’t call off our relocation plans because we had sold our home in Sydney!”   Before going sore, Awaba won nine races and had four placings in 14 starts during a 10-month period from May, 2002. He finished his career with 13 wins and nine placings from 35 starts for over $70,000.   Awaba now lives his life in retirement, apart from serving a few mares, at the Wilson-Castles property.   Despite being around horses all her life, Castles said that while growing up, she and her sister Sandra preferred to play sport.   “We actually hated the horses. We were right into basketball, netball, softball and swimming,” she said.   “Mum and dad would drag us off to the trots meetings and we would just lay on the floor of the car during the trips.   “Dad recently gave up driving because he’s in his 80s, but he still enjoys the training side and has one in work at the moment.   “In my early days with Doc at Shepparton I did harness them up for him and help clean boxes and that sort of stuff.   “Then I found that it was a necessity that I turn my hand to training as big WA breeder Mick Lombardo sent quite a few down to be broken in.   “So, it progressed from there and I’ve had a driver’s license for seven or eight years. I still remember my first drive was at a non-TAB meeting at Cobram because I didn’t want too many people watching in case I stuffed up! But it was all good and I finished in the placings.   “Of course, these days I do enjoy it, particularly when I can get a winner for our stable clients.”   Sixteen-year-old daughter Georgia, who is studying Year 11 at school, gives a helping hand whenever she has the time.   “And it’s much-appreciated because we have a team of 28 at the moment, which can get pretty full on,” Castles said.   “Georgia did the mini pony trots for a while with a lot of success, but she’s devoted to doing well at school now.”   The Wilson-Castles combination has been ticking along nicely this season, but it’s probably no secret they’re hoping there’s another Awaba just around the corner.     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A father and son harness racing combination from the small north west Victorian township of Ouyen teamed up with boom sire Auckland Reactor to steal the limelight in spectacular fashion at Mildura on Wednesday night. Astute horseman Murray Jardine produced highly-talented Mallee Reactor (Auckland Reactor NZ-Our Angel Flight (In The Pocket) and Ian Raymond (Auckland Reactor NZ-Black Dress (Village Jasper) to post an eye-catching double. Both winners were handled by his reinsman son Simon, who drove copybook races to get “the chocolates” on the short-priced fancies. “I’m really enjoying it at the moment because dad has them flying,” a jubilant Simon said. “They’re the only two by Auckland Reactors in our stable, and we are now wishing we had a few more,” he said. “They are two nice horses and we aren’t rushing them, just bringing them along slowly and picking out suitable races in our area as we go. “I don’t know if dad will be tempted in a few months to make a trip south to Melton or not, but I reckon he should certainly think about it.” Mallee Reactor was at least 40 metres off the leaders in the early stages of the opening race on the Mildura program, the DNR Logistics Pace for C1 class pacers, after being caught wide and snagged back to second last. Come On Elvis and Friends set a blistering pace with a sharp lead time, followed by quick opening quarters of 28.6 and 29.7 secs. “I was actually wondering when they were going to ease up because they certainly weren’t waiting for anyone,” Simon said. Friends, a well-backed second-favorite, was pulled up out of the race with broken gear with a little over a lap to go, but Denbeigh Wade still kept her foot on the accelerator with Come On Elvis, recording closing splits of 29 and 29.6 secs. Mallee Reactor, three wide and three back with a lap to go, appeared to be cruising. And this was certainly the case, because when Jardine launched down the back straight, they charged to the lead on the home corner for a super win. While the mile rate of 1.56-4 was a few seconds outside the track record, it’s rarely posted by C1 class competitors on the not-so-spacious 805 metre Mildura circuit. “I think I might have made a bit of an error in running Mallee Reactor at Mildura on December 28 when it was so hot,” Murray said. “His next run about 10 days later when he got third was okay but he wasn’t as sharp as he could have been,” he said. “In saying that, I’m not taking anything away from the two who beat us. They were very good on the night.” Mallee Reactor now has the awesome career record of seven starts for six wins and a third placing for over $21,000. He will race at the Ouyen Cup meeting on Sunday week, March 24, then Mildura on April 2 with his major assignment, the $14,000 Mildura Guineas, on Mildura Pacing Cup night, April 13. The second leg of the Team Jardine/Auckland Reactor double came via four-year-old gelding Ian Raymond, who took out the Tasco Petroleum Pace, also for C1 horses. The pacer, raced by popular Ouyen identity Helen Chisholm, was bred by Helen along with her late brother Ian Raymond, hence the name. “He was always travelling comfortably and dug deep when I asked him for an effort,” Simon said. Ian Raymond lobbed in the sweet seat from the wide six draw and did look the winner a long way from home. After zipping out three wide at the bell, the gelding worked past the leaders on the home corner and cruised to the line with plenty in the tank. Former SA junior driver Jayden Brewin, now based in Victoria, drove a well-deserved double at Mildura, with Cashwrangs Smoker (Chief Marty-Glassawyne (Sports Town) and Ned’s Beach (Somebeachsomewhere-Winter Rose (In The Pocket). Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Country New South Wales harness racing trainer-driver Danny Gibson has always had a bit of a fascination with the famous Silver City mining town of Broken Hill. “It’s probably because we live at a small town called Elrington, near Cessnock (2 hrs north of Sydney) and there’s mining history there,” Gibson said. “It’s a little different to Broken Hill because it’s known for coal, but the similarities are there. At Elrington, though, there’s been a shift over the years because a decline in mining has seen a huge growth in the wine industry.” The other attraction to the ‘Hill was Gibson’s inquisitiveness regarding the town’s tight 602 metre harness racing track, regarded as the smallest in the country. “I’ll have to be honest and say that racing some of our horses at Broken Hill and meeting the local people ended up being on my ‘bucket list’ of things to do,” Gibson laughed. So, when he got two weeks’ holidays from his employment with a hydrocarbon company coinciding with the Broken Hill Carnival of Cups, it was obvious where Gibson and his wife Janelle were headed. Danny and Janelle Gibson They couldn’t have scripted it any better, scoring an all-the-way win with seven-year-old mare Evils Afoot (Live or Die-Smooth Idol (Smooth Fella USA) in the $3000 Seymour Ladyship Pace, one of the features at last Saturday night’s lead-up meeting to the cup. “It was a big surprise because she put on her nervous pre-race performance and that’s never a good sign,” Gibson said. “I was in two minds whether to go forward from the two alley because she had nearly run her race beforehand with all her antics, but I thought ‘what the heck’ and sent her to the lead. “We just lasted, but that’s all you have to do. “It was her first win in 33 starts and she took to the tight circuit like a duck to water!” Gibson said winning the event brought a welcome bonus, in the form of a free stallion service donated by generous supporters Kevin and Kay Seymour. “The main part of the trip, which took 13 hours all up, was to take a break and have a holiday.  We’ve done that and thoroughly enjoyed every minute,” he said. “We’ve found the trots people to be fantastic, but that also goes right across the board. Everywhere we’ve gone around the town we’ve found everyone to be great.” Local horseman Alan Rennie is playing host to the visiting horses, who are “right at home” being trained out of paddocks. Gibson said he was accustomed to driving on small tracks. “I’ve been in the game all my life.  My father Brian raced horses and when I started driving in the 70s, some of the clubs like Tamworth, Maitland and even Newcastle had little tracks,” he said. “Tamworth was special because that’s where I got my first winner during the 1975 Easter Carnival.” But without doubt a huge highlight of Gibson’s career was winning the final of an Indigenous Drivers’ series, transferring his small-track specialist skills to the wide expanses of the 1400-metre Menagle circuit. “I think it was around 2009 when I had my first drive at that track, and it was amazing,” Gibson said. “The horses don’t feel like they are going around corners and they also don’t feel they are going as quick as they are. “I’ll never forget that particular race because it provided me with a win in 1.54-7 - the first time I’d ever run a sub-1.55. That was certainly a huge thrill,” Gibson said. The Gibson team will be at Broken Hill’s only TAB meeting for the season on Friday night (featuring Sky Channel coverage) with last start winner Evils Afoot and traveling companion Kenny Rees (Major In Art-Straight Left). But win, lose or draw, you can bet Danny and Janelle are sure to be talking about their trip to the Silver City for many years to come. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The world’s oldest bookmaker is not ready to call it a day anytime soon. The popular identity will again be beside his trusty board for the famous Silver City mining town’s iconic racing fixtures this weekend – the harness racing Carnival of Cups on Friday night and the St Pat’s Race Club gallops on Saturday. 93-year-old Doug Carroll, from Broken Hill, is not only as sharp as a tack, but has zest for life, energy and enthusiasm – and a sometimes-wicked sense of humor – that would do credit to someone half his age. “I don’t really know what else I’d do – I reckon I’ve pretty much learnt the art of bookmaking, and sometimes punter, over the years,” Doug said with a chuckle. “Unfortunately, I did like the punt as well as the bookmaking. I mixed my gait a bit in the old days and it took me 65 years to realise not to!  I’d win 1000 pound on the book and I’d have to give the bookie next to me 1500! “A bloke told me once that I’d stop the sun from coming up!  I think he was pretty well right. I’ve had some good times and some good days and never made a fortune, but I’ve absolutely loved it.” Doug makes no secret they’re his favorite events of the year, and he can judge, because he keeps a busy schedule for a nonagenarian bookie! Apart from 10 Broken Hill Harness Racing meetings each season, he fields at many iconic inland NSW bush meetings, including the Cobar Cup, Wentworth on Melbourne Cup Day, Balranald Cup on Derby Day, the Pooncarie Cup and Nyngan on Anzac Day. He’s also a regular bookie at the Mildura Pacing Cup in April. “I really believe the once or twice-a-year meetings kill all the others,” Doug said. “But I do thoroughly enjoy the battle with the punters on St Pat’s weekend. They’ve beaten me a few times over the years, and they could easily do the same again but that’s all part of it,” he said. “St Pat’s and the Carnival of Cups are terrific.  I love them because they attract people from all over the place who make their annual trip to Broken Hill for the weekend. But the meetings themselves are different too. There’s that friendly, relaxed bush feel about them.” Doug has fielded at every St Pats meeting since the first in 1966 but took up the bookie’s bag about a decade prior, when he was 26. “My dad always loved a bet and I wagged school from the time I was 13 until I was 16 to hang around outside the pub with the ‘cockatoo’ and run dad’s bets,” he said. “There was always betting in the pubs, the authorities just turned a bit of a blind eye, I think.  Once I left school, I worked at the North Broken Hill Mine, then at the Barrier Daily Truth newspaper. But a mate of mine, Joe Fargher asked me if I wanted to get a bookie’s licence and of course I was keen. “But the Bookmakers Association was a closed shop at the time, so Joe and I went to the President of the Barrier Industrial Council, which was strong at the time. We told him we were local boys, we’d lived here all our lives and we couldn’t get a licence.  A week later it had been ‘fixed up’, so we were on our way.” Broken Hill was booming in the 1950s and 1960s, with a population reaching 36,000 (now approximately 15,000). When Doug started there were 45 bookmakers in the betting ring at the fortnightly greyhound races in Broken Hill. “If it wasn’t the greyhounds, it would be the gallops then later the trots or greyhounds and we’d run books for all the city and interstate meetings as well. We’d be run off our feet. It was just go, go, go. “Probably the biggest bet I ever had was about 5000 to 1000. It was a good bet, but I had to put a bit of it back with other bookies. “But it goes both ways.  I had a bit of a lucky escape when the bloke who was working my board made a mistake with prices at the gallops.  A horse that should have been three to one, he put it up as 33s and a local shearer had 100 on.  The horse led and it led and it led, but thankfully it hit the last hurdle and fell over.  I don’t think I would have been in business if it’d got home!” But he’s remained steadfastly in business, an achievement honoured in mid-January alongside five other iconic NSW bookies at Rose Hill Gardens’ inaugural Bookmaker Recognition Day.  Doug was unable to attend because of “work commitments” at the Broken Hill trots! In more than 65 years in the game, though, Doug’s seen his share of change. “I found it tough at first when I had to go to decimal on the boards.  There was a fair bit of having to stop and think. I’d been calling out odds of 6/4, 9/2 and stuff like that for years,” he said. “The electronic system is a Godsend though.  If you’ve seen a bookie working the ledgers, you never really know where you are at during the meeting because you start adding it up and someone comes and has a bet and you lose your place. You mightn’t remember all the bad bets and sometimes the bag gets pretty low because it’s hard to keep track! “But with the computers I can just look over see straight away how much we are holding and what’s going to be the worst result. “Most of the time I do give the local trainers and owners a point over the odds because I don’t mind seeing them win.  That’s what keeps them going in the game and if I lose a bit to do that, then that’s OK.  They’ll keep coming back.” Doug said he had more than a few close calls, most memorably on one occasion at Broken Hill. “There was only three or four horses in the race and all the bookies had the favorite at 1/2. There was support for one of the others, so we turned the favorite out to evens. “Well, they came at us from everywhere, even guys who wouldn’t normally bet, and I found myself a bit light in the tank – in other words, I didn’t have enough in the bag to cover the bets. “We were looking down the barrel of some big payouts and of course, the damn thing bolted in.” But Doug said he noticed many of the stable supporters were somewhat subdued. “I thought there may be some worry because surely they’d be off celebrating at the bar, but instead they were all standing on their tippy-toes watching the jockeys weigh in. And we soon found out why. The winning jockey weighed in seven pounds light, so the horse was disqualified. “I ended up winning three hundred pounds, but it could have been disastrous.” Doug might be one of the survivors in a rapidly-changing industry where tradition is being lost to the corporate betting agencies.  But he’s still learning new tricks. “One of my bookie mates Peter Murray and I always worked in together, but he always did the form,” Doug said. “Unfortunately he died last year and I’d never done form in my life because he’d always taken care of it. So I had to start doing the form.  I was like a fish out of water at first, but I’m starting to enjoy doing it now.  “I don’t think I’ll ever give it up – not until I don’t know what I’m doing, anyway. So if I give you 10/1 about an odds-on pop you better say Dougie, time to go!” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Victorian Mallee township of Birchip again came alive with the annual Sharp’s Bakery Mallee Bull Harness Racing Cup on Sunday afternoon - the one and only meeting conducted by the club for the season. And according to official gate-taking figures, the small township’s population doubled for the day with nearly 1200 people in attendance. “It was an absolutely magnificent day, both on and off the track,” club President Max Dillon said. “We race on an 805-metre track, but the crowd is so close to the action, so the atmosphere for the whole eight event meeting was unreal,” Dillon said. It was a day of highlights, with the track record was equalled and on-course tote holdings up by several thousand dollars. According to Dillon, much of the credit for the cup meeting’s success goes to the enthusiastic 24-member committee, more than half of whom are aged under 35 years.  They’re also backed up by a committed band of voluntary helpers, sponsors and supporters. “The whole town actually gets behind the meeting and it’s probably our biggest social event of the calendar,” he said. “We had six marquees with one involving 100 family and friends celebrating the 50th birthday of Darren Cozens, while another was a school reunion group. “The children had plenty to choose from with a giant slide, jumping castle, animal farm, pony rides and face painting.” Sponsors tipped in more than $18,000 and that certainly created a pathway for a wonderful meeting which saw the 32nd running of the Cup. (L-R) Birchip Harness Racing Club secretary Brad Sharp and president Max Dillon present the Mallee Bull trophy to Leon Mulquinney, who accepted on behalf of connections.  This was the third consecutive year the Mallee Bull Cup had been staged at the Birchip paceway after being hosted at neighboring tracks such as Charlton and Swan Hill for the previous decade. Lancefield-based reinsman Rodney Petroff won the cup for the second time since racing resumed at Birchip, with a masterful driving exhibition on Dunrobbin (We Will See USA-Rayanne’s Phoenix (Live Or Die USA). The gelding, prepared by Mark Thompson, was sent out a $6.40 chance. Petroff previously won the feature event in 2017 with Regal Ambition, trained at Bendigo by former Birchip resident, Gary Donaldson. After some quick early splits in Sunday’s Cup, Petroff found himself third-last, but didn’t flinch a muscle until coming to get the bell. He worked out three wide but was quick to slot into the one-one for a breather down the back straight. With 400 metres to go, Petroff released the handbrake and Dunrobbin swept to the front to record a nice win over Top The Ace and John Richard. The mile rate of 2.00-6 was a whisker outside the track record. Driving honors for the day went to Ballarat junior concession driver James Herbertson with a winning treble. Herbertson is enjoying a purple patch at present and horses certainly appear to run for him. Racegoers were asked to contribute a gold-coin donation to the Team Teal fundraiser – the result was a $1600 donation to the Team Teal coffers Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There’s rarely a day goes by when Bendigo harness racing trainer Danny Curran doesn’t remember the good times spent with a lifelong buddy. Growing up in Victoria’s north west grain farming district near Chinkapook, west of Swan Hill, Danny became friends with Robert Dacey, both sharing a love of horses. “As teenagers we did our bakery apprenticeships together at the Nyahwest Bakery and it just continued on from there,” Curran, who now trains from a property on the outskirts of Bendigo at Marong, said. And despite the fact that Dacey is no longer with us, losing a battle with cancer last July, his legacy continues in the form of handy country pacer Sunrose Master, trained by Curran. Sunrose Master (Vintage Master-Sunrose Mary (Village Jasper) was sent out a warm $1.60 favorite in the $10,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series final at Swan Hill last Thursday. He led from the start and was perfectly rated by junior driver James Herbertson, who made it two-from-two, having won on the pacer in a Gunbower qualifying heat 12 days earlier. Curran said he had advertised the gelding for sale a few times, but surprisingly got little interest. “I decided last year that my stable numbers were getting up a bit and you can’t keep them all. Before Robert died, he told me to move the horse on if I ever wanted too, providing he had some form on the board,” Curran said. “He sure had that because he’d won at Ballarat and then finished second at Melton and I thought my phone would go crazy, but I couldn’t believe it when there wasn’t a lot of interest.” Sunrose Master has now posted six wins from 38 starts for over $35,000 in stakes. Curran said after completing his bakery apprenticeship in the early ‘70’s, he later bought the Sea Lake and Charlton bakeries. “Rob took off traveling, like most people seemed to do then after finishing apprenticeships, but when he came back home, I gave him a job,” Curran said. In the years to come, both took different career paths, but remained the best of mates – Dacey gaining employment with Telstra, while Curran purchased a supermarket at Charlton. “I still bake up bread, pies, pizzas and the works at home when I get the chance because I loved the bakery work, but in the end the 2am starts got the better of me,” Curran said. And the fun-loving horseman later showed his versatility by running a hotel for six years, then decided to try his hand as motelier in both Swan Hill and later Bendigo, before raising chickens at a farm at Lockwood South.  He and his wife Jenny also spent a two-year stint in Darwin, where Curran played football for St Mary’s. “Yes, we’ve had a few changes of scenery along the way, but when I had the White Swan Hotel and Burke and Wills Motel in Swan Hill, Rob was pretty much the main man with our horses,” Curran said. “They were stabled at his place at Nyahwest and I virtually only did the fast work. Rob did all the jogging, mixed up the feeds and cleaned the stables – we couldn’t have done it without him. “When we moved to Bendigo, that left Rob virtually without a horse so he went and brought two well-bred broodmares from Alabar Farms, that were in foal.” The result was a line of horses named “Sunrose”, with which Dacey had great success - including Sunrose Don (17 wins), Sunrose Mary (11 wins) and Sunrose Village, which won two races in Victoria before being sold to WA and winning a further six. Curran said when Sunrose Master first arrived at his place early last year, he wasn’t “overly excited”. “Then one day I was just poking along with him and he got a fright and took off. He showed me he had some ability that I didn’t really know he possessed,” Curran said. “And fortunately, the horse hasn’t looked back. He should continue on his winning way for quite a while yet, I hope.” Curran has had some impressive performers over the years including Eleven Grand, a winner of five consecutive races before breaking a leg; Packard who won 15 with 11 placings for $52,000 from 64 starts; and Fenech, a winner of 11, with nine placings from 30 outings for over $47,000. “I’ve been around horses all from life. Dad had draft horses when I was young, and he also use to buy ponies and get me to ride those around. Then when they were nice and quiet, he’d sell them! “I went to the very first Nyah meeting in 1967, and still have the racebook. I’ve always loved the trots and actually grew up with a former well known reinsman in Terry Pearse as a neighbor. Terry was a popular and talented driver around the Swan Hill area.” Despite clear memories of December 25 and 26, 1974, when Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin and in which 71 lives were lost, Danny and Jenny still venture north during the winter months. “It was scary. We were in a small flat, but we came out of it very lucky with just a few cuts and abrasions. It did take us a few years to get over it,” Curran said. And with the annual pilgrimage just around the corner, will Sunrose Master be again on the market? “We haven’t decided yet.  We’ve only got two other horses going around at the moment,” he said. But with Curran track record as a “a born trader” of bakeries, supermarkets, hotels, motels – as well as horses – there’s every possibility his stable star could be destined for a new home! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Star Victorian harness racing reinswoman and trainer Jodi Quinlan is learning to be patient, as she continues on the road to recovery from a freak accident at Tabcorp Park Melton on Christmas Eve. Quinlan, based at Parwan with partner Craig Demmler, was kicked in the side by a horse that took fright in the float parking area. She suffered a lacerated kidney and three fractures to her spine, as well as other minor injuries. “I thought I was doing just fine a while ago, so I got out there and helped with the feeds, then spent the next two days recovering in bed as a result,” Quinlan said. “It just gets so frustrating at times, but I’m fully aware now that you can’t rush rehabilitation! “Probably the most important thing is the doctors are happy with my progress.” Quinlan said there was a great deal of scarring on her kidney which was “split” by the impact. “That was the part that really scared the hell out of me and also caused substantial bleeding,” she said. “The concern now is that if I happened to get a knock to the back or kidney, I’d be in big trouble. So that means nothing to do with horses at all at the moment.” On a positive note, Quinlan said her doctors were surprised with how quickly her injuries were healing. “I spent time in hospital recently where I had numerous tests and x-rays and they were thrilled with my recovery, especially the bad breaks in my back,” she said. “The pain has improved heaps and I can slowly walk again – I love it that I can get up and just potter around.” Quinlan said during the first few weeks of being home and under strict orders to rest she had an electric wheel chair to get about the property. “I’ve been a bit of a handful for Craig and my mum (Cheryl), but without their care I probably wouldn’t be progressing much at all,” she said. “Mum has had to be stern a few times and put the handbrake on with me.” Quinlan said she had received overwhelming support from family, friends, industry participants and others. “I was only speaking with (Ballarat trainer) Anton Golino recently and he stressed the importance of listening to the medical experts. Anton hurt his back very badly and knows first-hand all about rehab,” she said. Although Quinlan is going through a tough patch, she’s certainly experienced some of the sport’s highs, with more than 2300 winners in a sparkling career over 28 years, including the 2004 Miracle Mile on Sokyola. Jodi Quinlan driving Sokyola to victory She’s obviously anxious to get back to helping around the stables and, ultimately, back to training, but said it was up to the doctors to make that call. “I feel for Craig because I had over 20 in work when I got hurt, and he got lobbed with all of those on top of his own team,” she said. “To be honest I haven’t thought much about when I might be okay to get back race driving.  I haven’t ventured that far ahead, but I do know that it’s a fair way off. “I’m not that stressed.  I was finding it harder to get in the car and hit the road to drive to meetings anyway. “I really believe that traveling for drives is behind me now. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but I think I’ll be sticking to meetings close to home. “It’s thankfully only the first time I’ve been badly hurt off the racetrack, although I’ve been smashed up plenty of times in races.” Quinlan said her talented trotter Illawong Armstrong, who went to the spelling paddock virtually “the same time I did when I got hurt”, was back in training. “I’m looking forward to seeing him back after a well-earned rest. He’s such a talented horse, who could be anything if he wasn’t so rattle-headed!” Illawong Armstrong has won 18 races from 67 starts for over $214,000 in stakes. “It could well be much more if he just behaved,” Jodi said. “His owners Dr Martin Hartnett and wife Kaye are lovely people and they enjoy seeing him go around. “They are such fantastic stable clients and Martin has been terrific if ever I want to know something about my health problems.” And while Quinlan, like most in the industry, is hoping there’s another good one just around the corner, she joked her next big decision was when to go on holidays to New Zealand. “Natalie Rasmussen is a good friend and she’s been at me to take a break over there.  I reckon it sounds just about ideal for the next step in my rehab!” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Legendary Bendigo harness racing figure Brian Gath recently lost a great “mate” in a superstar of the 1990s, aged gelding Harley Hanover (Torado Hanover-Jordan Alley). The grand campaigner, who would have been 30 years of age at the end of the season, attracted a “rock star” following with exhilarating performances when Melbourne trots was conducted at Moonee Valley. “He was a genuine free-for-aller and country cups horse with such an outstanding will to win,” Gath said. “I remember at the time we got him, we were struggling along with a heavy mortgage and all the other expenses, and that horse got us out of so much trouble, you just wouldn’t believe it. “We had him on lease, and he paid for so many things. When we look back on it, we were very, very fortunate.” Gath said he firmly believes that the family would have lost their farm, but for the deeds of Harley Hanover. The pacer finished his racing career with 34 wins and 16 placings from 92 starts for nearly $250,000 in stakes. Harley Hanover started his career ingloriously with a distanced 10th at Hobart on April 15, 1994, after locking wheels and breaking.  But he turned the tables eight days later with a strong win at Launceston. He then recorded another three wins before crossing the Bass Strait and registering two wins at Moonee Valley and one at Geelong before it was time to head for home again. Gath said he can recall his excitement when Harley Hanover arrived at his stables in September 1996. “We ran 3rd at Bendigo and then had three city wins in Melbourne – he really didn’t look back from that point,” Gath said. During a 20-month period from March 1997, Harley Hanover posted a further 12 metropolitan wins. Gath said apart from all the wins, the pacer was also responsible for some very tough performances when having to settle for the minor prizemoney. “I remember a race at Sydney’s Harold Park called the 2KY Racing Radio Ben Hur in 1998 when we were very unlucky to go down,” he said. “Some NSW officials rang me and invited us up there because they were short of nominations and it was a $150,000 event. “I was in two minds because I was thinking what a big trip it was; and how the hell were we going to get there? Because I didn’t really think our little old truck would probably make it. Anyway, they gave us nearly an hour to think it over. “I rang a close friend of ours, Colleen Bamford and not only did she encourage us to go but offered their four-wheel-drive vehicle and float to us. “So, we make the big trip and arrived at Harold Park and it’s a typical Sydney night with rain and a sloppy track. “We were in front on the home corner going along nicely when he sort of knuckled over up the back end and couldn’t pace properly. We skipped and hopped down the straight. He was very lame but the good judges on the finish line thought we’d managed to hang on. “But it wasn’t to be, and Anthony Butt beat us by a nose with their horse called Happy Asset.  We ended up with $30,000 and the winner got $90,000!” Gath said two race wins that stick in his mind were the $30,000 1998 Ballarat Cup and the $15,000 Italian Cup, run early the following year. “Our son Matthew drove Harley Hanover at Ballarat and it was an absolute gem of a drive,” Gath said. “If it had been me driving, we would have gone down. I was yelling on the sidelines for Matthew to go wide, but he waited patiently for inside runs which eventually did come and he landed the money. “The Italian Cup win was great and even though he was sent out 9/4 favorite, he still had to run a tick over two minutes for 2380metres.” Gath said when Harley Hanover was retired in early 2001, his elderly owner was thrilled that he had a home for life at the Gath property at Longlea, Bendigo. “We kept an eye on him all the time, he was rugged in winter and got his teeth and hooves attended to.  He was always fed lucerne, pollard, chaff and everything else and he’d eat all day and spend four or five hours out in the paddock with his stable buddy in Oscar Le Vant,” Gath said. (“Oscar” was another more than handy pacer for the Gaths with 16 wins and 14 placings for over $212,000 in earnings.) “We all love our horses – we wouldn’t be doing what we do if that wasn’t the case.  But horses like Harley are always special in our hearts,” he said. While he was a family favorite for the Gath family, he will certainly be remembered by harness racing fans far and wide for his consistent powerhouse performances. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Have you heard the one about the horse at the bar?   The drinkers at the Torrumbarry Hotel, near Echuca, couldn’t believe their eyes last Sunday afternoon when a harness racing horse strolled up to the bar.   “They weren’t too sure whether it was a dare or a bet – they were totally blown away!” said Mark Lee, a trainer-driver based at Tallygaroopna.   “After they all settled down and realized what was going on, there were mobile phones taking photographs everywhere.”   Mark and his wife Stacey took out the Torrumbarry Hotel Motel Trot at the Gunbower meeting with seven-year-old gelding Col Du Galibier (  USA-Styx (R C’s Dee Jay) so they thought it was only fitting to call into the hotel on the trip home.   “The idea of actually taking the horse into the bar was probably hatched at the trots meeting when we were having a few drinks and a chat with a group of people,” Mark said.   “I’m not sure who suggested it, but we all got on board because race sponsors like the Torrumbarry Hotel people are so important these days,” he said.   “There was probably about 20 people in the bar when we walked in with ‘Cadel’ as he’s known at home around the stables.   “He didn’t get bothered one bit – not that we thought he would, because we wouldn’t have done it otherwise.”   Col Du Galibier raced by Jeff, Annette and Andrew Towers, along with Kerrie Lee, was the first leg of a training double for Mark Lee. And it was the first of two winners for owner Kerrie, who is Mark’s mum.   Mark Lee    - Photo Barry Bennett and Cobram Harness Racing Club.   To add to the celebrations, Stacey’s parents and brother are also part-owners in Col Du Galibier, so it was a day to remember.   “The horse has been going nicely and it was fitting that Stacey got the win. She does most of the work with him and he’s actually her stable favorite,” Mark said.   Stacey Towers    - Photo Barry Bennett and Cobram Harness Racing Club.   “I thought when Stacey got cover and landed in the one-one they would be hard to beat.”   Just on half an hour later in the following race, the Egmont Park Stud Pace, Mark was not only in the winner’s circle as trainer again, but this time as driver as well.   A forward move to race in the death- seat proved to be a winning one as Rebellin Ruby (Art Official- Hope To Fly (Jet Laag) dug deep to score well as rank outsider at nearly 60/1.   “I really couldn’t believe she was at those odds as her form wasn’t that bad,” Mark said.   “But the races do have to be run to suit her, I guess. If she can be up the front somewhere, she keeps grinding away and that was why I didn’t hesitate to get to the chair when they slowed up.   “After the first quarter of 33 secs, the race tempo stepped up with even splits of a bit over 29 secs from then on, so I was reasonably happy.”   Mark said he’d previously trained a couple of other winning doubles, but that was his first at Gunbower.   “We hardly ever miss a meeting at that venue – it’s a good club and not all that far for us to travel.   ”Rebellin Ruby is owned by Kerrie along with keen stable supporter Dennis Rebbeck, of Euroa, who enjoys having shares in horses from the stable.   Both Mark and Stacey have been training for 15 years and were originally from Sydney but decided to make the Shepparton area their home.   They have a huge 92-acre property that boasts a 1000 metre track.   “We are doing a team of 12 at present, with seven of those being babies. Apart from the two winners, a few others including Nica MacDonon are being jogged up,” he said.   “Nica missed getting in foal so it’s back to the races for her, but that’s ok.”    Nica MacDonon, a last start Shepparton winner in early December of last year, when driven by Stacey, has been a handy racehorse for breeder-owner Peter Hornsby.   The mare, by Eileen Donon USA, out of Styx (winner of 5 from 17, and a prolific broodmare) has won 13 races with 29 placings for over $122,000 in stakes.   The Gunbower meeting was also successful for Danny Curran, who prepares a small team at Marong.   Curran trained a winning double with Sunrose Master (Vintage Master-Sunrose Mary (Village Jasper), handled by James Herbertson; and Mia From Memphis (Rocknroll Hanover-Armbroosky (Armbro Operative), driven by Ryan Duffy.     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

In an era of sizzling mile rates, speed sulkies and one-mile tracks, a night at the Broken Hill trots is a truly nostalgic experience for any harness racing fan.   It’s trots “like they used to be” – and, as Broken Hill, counts down to the biggest event of its ten-meeting summer season, it’s worth thinking about putting a road-trip (or flight) to this outback city in your diary!   Simply arriving at the trotting track in this outback mining town, 1200 kilometres from Sydney, is an eye-opener. With a circumference of just 602 metres (less than half the size of Menangle), the track is likely the smallest in the country. Set on the side of a hill and flanked by mine heaps, its crucible-like layout is unique in Australia, probably the world.   But it’s the Broken Hill “experience” that’s the most memorable aspect. The people are friendly, and the trotting folk are proud of their facility and their sport…and it shows.   Despite drought and oppressive heat this summer, there’s optimism, hope and energy around the club. The rival trainers and drivers are keen to lower your colors on the track, but if that’s not the result, they’ll be the first to congratulate you over a beer in the bar later. It’s the Broken Hill way.   And while clubs such as Wentworth, just a stone’s throw from MIldura; and Tweed Heads, on the NSW-Qld border (on the famous Gold Coast), are two of many small clubs who’ve fallen by the wayside, the ‘Hill races on.   Club President, Tracey Robinson said the enthusiasm and vibe around the club was something special.   “We’ve really been up against it this season, because the extreme heat has made it tough to get people to the meetings and Victorian trainers have been understandably reluctant to make the trip up here,” Tracey said.   “But the racing’s still incredibly competitive and we haven’t had to cancel any meetings due to a shortage of horses.   “We’re hoping that now the cooler weather is here, our final two meetings (on Saturday March 9 and Friday March 15) will attract big crowds.”   The highlight on March 9 will be the $3000 Maltese Cup as well as a special mare’s event, supported by Kevin and Kay Seymour who have provided a free service worth $2000 to one of their well credentialed stallions.   But Broken Hill’s biggest annual fixture, the Carnival of Cups on March 15, draws the club’s biggest crowds. It’s run on the eve of Broken Hill’s notable St Patricks Day gallops fixture (on March 16) and is the only Broken Hill trots meeting broadcast on Sky Channel. The card has a host of features including the $14,000 Rocky Baker Memorial Pacing Cup and support events for C1-C3 horses and CO class horses, both of $8750.   Tracey said the club was thrilled to have a new major sponsor this season – Sydney law firm Redenbach Lee, which has a regional office in Broken Hill.   But she paid tribute to all of the club’s loyal sponsors.   “Many of the local businesses are doing it hard because the drought is having a domino effect, but they have all given us amazing support,” she said.   The Broken Hill Committee, led by the Robinson family, is central to the club’s ongoing success.   Tracey is enthusiastically at the fore, but husband David is never far away, including tending to track duties. Daughters Cassie (junior Vice President and a leading driver), Stevie and Nikki also have busy roles at the club and on race nights, and Tracey’s sister Nat runs the bar.   “It does get busy, and a bit crazy at times, but the bottom line is that we all absolutely love it,” Tracey said.   “The club has some amazing supporters, like Des Leo, who travels a round trip of 600kms from Mildura to drive the mobile barrier. Des is a former Broken Hill resident and just wants to see the club prosper – people like him are like gold.”   The late Rocky Baker, of Carbine Chemicals fame, was a Broken Hill much so that the harness racing centre is now the Rocky Baker Memorial Oval Paceway.   His son Jensen, despite living in Melbourne, continues the family’s commitment to Broken Hill trots, providing products for every runner competing through the season, and, as an added incentive, if the track record is broken, connections will get a $1000 Carbine Chemicals voucher. He’s also donating 24 bicycles to give away on Cup night, in an effort to attract more families to the meeting.   Broken Hill is a town that’s always done things its own way. Aside from its famed mining base, it came to note in the 1970s as the Outback retreat of the Brushmen of the Bush – Jack Absalom, Pro Hart, Hugh Schulz, John Pickup and Eric Minchin. Broken Hill also shot to popular note in the 1990s, courtesy of the film “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and its Broken Heel Festival each September is now a flamboyant three-day celebration of the “drag” scene.   This is a resourceful, self-reliant and generous community – and the history of harness racing in the town captures those best elements of Aussie spirit.   Through some difficult times, locals have been tireless in volunteering their time, recruiting supporters, calling in favors and securing sponsorship. Along with the support of Broken Hill Council, and against the odds, they’ve kept this remarkable little paceway going.   The club is now celebrating its 62nd year of “official” racing, but history shows that the sport began in the mining town back in the 1890s.   Regular “unregistered” race meetings were held, featuring ridden trotters. Businessmen would compete to buy the rights to run “the booth” and collect front gate sales from the meetings, held in the early days at the racecourse, with “settling up” payments made later in one of the many Silver City pubs.   Bob Napier and Charlie Weston.  Note the whip in mouth. - Photo Kate Attard and Broken Hill Harness Racing Club   The informal early trotting meetings were sometime conducted under the watchful eye of stewards, but the inevitable disagreements and shenanigans occurred between trainer, rider and, often, the general public.   After the First World War, Broken Hill Trotting Association took the lead in coming up with fresh ideas to re-ignite the interest of the public in competitive racing. They did it by running milk or bread cart races between rival companies with the horses permitted to gallop.   Held on Sunday afternoons, the “Milko Derbies” as they were known, were conducted on dirt tracks in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Huge crowds would turn up to watch the carts race around tracks bordered by 44-gallon drums.   The carts, featuring brightly-colored signs from the many dairies and bakeries in the area, boasted rubber wheels and, obviously, drivers with nerves of steel!   Broken Hill trotting action - Helmets optional   - Photo Kate Attard and Broken Hill Harness Racing Club   When the city’s galloping meetings moved to the current Broken Hill Racecourse, the trotters went as well – but it was short-lived. The racetrack was too sandy, so, in about 1945, the trotters moved to what was then known as Western Oval, later named Memorial Oval and now known as Rocky Baker Memorial Oval Paceway.   Barry Hodge remembers his father Les racing the first pacer seen in the region.   Les Hodge and his milk cart      - Photo Kate Attard and Broken Hill Harness Racing Club   “Adelaide blacksmith Stan Robinson, my mother’s uncle, arranged to buy a pacer for my dad. He, along with everyone else in Broken Hill, had never seen a pacing horse,” Barry said.   “The horse was named Starlight, as he was trained in the night by dad, and won his first race at the South Racecourse. He then won many more over the next few years.   Starlight       - Photo Kate Attard and Broken Hill Harness Racing Club   “I believe that Stan Robinson, my father Les and Starlight were at the forefront of harness racing in Broken Hill.”   Barry said the original track was very small.   “It had a banked cycle track around the football oval – the horses raced outside the goal posts and inside the bike track.”   He said the running rail was either 44-gallon drums or trestles on the corners with a steward on each bend to ensure they had a good view of proceedings.   The Broken Hill Memorial Trotting Club was formed in 1956 and raced for several years before the shape of the track was rearranged, new stalls constructed, and lighting added.   The first night meeting to be conducted under lights was held in October, 1959 Then followed a photo-finish post and a new grandstand.   The club became the first NSW country club to use a mobile barrier, constructed by locals George Williams and Bill Gobell from original plans obtained from SA.   Broken Hill has produced some marvellous horses over the years such as Ultra Gold, Mighty Penny, Noble Clan, Night Reveller, Golden Jug, Field Commotion, Mighty Hall, Young Cazz, Apache Court and Surstromming.   Pat Attard and Sheffield Court     - Photo Kate Attard and Broken Hill Harness Racing Club   Trainer and club stalwart Don Pimm, 77, this year chalks up over 60 years involvement in the sport.   “I got interested in racing because I had a milk cart and then it was all too easy to just go over to trotting,” Pimm said.   “I was just 16 years old when I drove my first winner. It was a horse named Deputy Lad, trained by my brother Bill. I wouldn’t be sure how many winners I’ve had, but one night I took six to the races and won with four of them.”   Don Pimm - Courtesy Shutterbug photography and print.   But it’s probably mobile barrier driver Des Leo who should have the last say.   In the club’s commemorative book, written by Kate Attard (now a trainer-driver in Mildura) he summed up the role of small, regional clubs in the sport: “I feel that every owner, trainer and driver who started their career at Broken Hill Trotting is a legend in their own right...most times it’s the little Aussie battler who keeps the big players going.”     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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