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Tasmanian horseman Wayne Yole knew deep down he had a natural trotter on his hands in pacing-bred youngster Bullapark Beno, but the family team tried everything possible to convince him to be a pacer. "We left no stone unturned-he wasn't any value to us as a square gaiter over here because we don't cater for two-year-old trotters in Tassie," Wayne said. "Of course, his breeding said he should pace, but he didn't know that, and he wouldn't have paced too many steps, if any, in his life!" he said. But Bullapark Beno knew what he was born to do, and with a last-start win and an encouraging third from just four outings, appears to have a bright future in Victorian square gaiting ranks. Prepared at Romsey by astute horseman Chris Svanosio, he didn't put a foot wrong with an all-the-way win at Bendigo recently when handled by in-form driver Michelle Phillips. Watch the race replay click here Bullapark Beno (Changeover-Jomeka (Village Jasper) was purchased by Yole at last year's Adelaide yearling sales for $5000 from breeder Danielle Helbers. Wayne said he picked the horse out of the catalogue, due in no small measure to the sensational racing credentials of his pacing sire Changeover. Changeover, by In The Pocket, won 29 races including such G1s as the NZ Derby, Noel Taylor Mile, NZ Cup and Len Smith Mile. He finished with over $2M in stakes and now stands at Burwood Stud, Qld. Wayne said he sent Bullapark Beno to Hamilton to be handled and broken-in by father-and-son team, Jim and Rod Barker. "I lived at Hamilton for years before shifting over to Tasmania nearly five years ago. They are not only personal friends of ours, but excellent breakers and I regard them as the best in the business," Wayne said. "I can clearly remember the day that Rod rang me to say I had a trotter. I sort of argued with him, saying that's not right, I'd definitely bought a pacer!" he laughed. "I'm not a big fan of trotters and have never had one before. When I was with the Barker team, I did drive a couple-but it wasn't very often. So in the end I told Rod to send him over to us." Wayne is the father of the leading Tasmanian family team Ben, Mark and Tim, and despite their combined expertise and "trying everything", Bullapark Beno only wanted to trot. "Unfortunately, that was really obvious from day one. But I don't know how many times we threw hopples on him trying to convince him!" Wayne said. "It just wasn't happening, though and because he was eligible for a VicBred bonus I decided to give him his chance with trotting. I rang Chris because I've always liked him as a trainer," he said. Chris Svanosio                                          (Courtesy Cobram HRC) "I actually had Bullapark Beno advertised for sale before his win. I got a few nibbles, but they were a bit short of what I wanted. I've decided to leave him on the market though, because his future really isn't over here in Tassie." Wayne said the name Bullapark Beno came from his grandmother's name Ellen Bulla combined with one of his son's names, Ben. "My property is named Bullapark. My grandmother was a fantastic lady and was from the Stolen Generation era. Obviously Beno is the nickname that Ben has picked up around the stables," he said. Wayne is getting back to good health after a stable accident two years ago put him in hospital for nine months. "It's been slow, and I've still got a bit of a limp, but I was lucky. A horse tipped me out and I landed on my back, squashing all the nerves onto my spinal cord. I was told I'd never walk again," he said. "I was so determined when I was confined to a wheelchair-and three months after the accident I walked back into the hospital. "I've had three back operations, and when I was in hospital for one of them, I got Golden Staph and was given about half an hour to live. I was flown from Launceston to Hobart hospital and pulled through." Wayne said despite the setbacks, life in Tasmania was "just great." "I do as much as I can to help the boys with the horses. The stable continues to tick over nicely." For the record, Bullapark Beno is not Changeover's first square-gaiting winner - five year old mare Heart of Change (Changeover - Bravest of Hearts (Big Band Sound) claimed that honor in August of last year. Heart of Change was a multiple race winning pacer before being converted to trotting after almost 12 months on the sidelines.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After Melanie Maxwell put her harness racing ambitions on hold for more than a decade, a rogue horse that she just wouldn't give up on has finally fulfilled her dreams. The optimistically-named One Mans Trash (Falcons Icon-Psycho Molley (Dare You To) finally broke through to win a modest maiden at Cranbourne on Saturday - but his path to the winner's circle is one of the unlikeliest of harness racing success stories. That One Man's Trash was an eight-year-old having his third lifetime start (and his first in two years) gives some inkling of the back story. But the impressive barnstorming victory repaid in a moment Melanie's countless hours of patience and care. "I've watched the replay of the race probably 100 trillion times! He went awesome! I always knew he was a good horse and my friends Chris Hunter (trainer) and Des Hughes kept telling me he was capable of running some smart times," Melanie said. "There were plenty of times I threatened to send him back. I may not have been 100 percent serious, but that's how I felt at the time - but oh what a fantastic feeling to finally get that win," she laughed. One Mans Trash strides to his maiden victory at age 8 The happy-go-lucky horsewoman's harness racing ambitions began in the 1990s when she completed the harness course at Victoria's Gippsland Training Centre at Warragul. "After I did the training, I worked with the late Arthur Fullwood for 12 months and then with Chris Hunter for a few years," Melanie, of Neerim, in West Gippsland, said. "I never really stopped being interested in harness racing, but I got occupied with raising a family of three lovely daughters, as happens," she said. "Then 10 years down the track I just happened to spot a two-and-a-half-year-old standardbred 'cast off' in an Echuca sales catalogue, and it was funny, because I just kept coming back to check out this one particular horse." Curiosity got the better of her, and Melanie made some calls to track down the youngster's background. "I'm pretty sure he was headed for the knackery - everyone I spoke to warned me about him, that he was crazy, but I just couldn't let him go, for some reason." Melanie couldn't afford the horse's $350 price tag, but a conversation with Rehoming Horses Victoria was the key. "It was unreal. Rehoming Horses Victoria raised the money in 24 hours from people wanting to save these horses. I was just blown away by all the lovely people gathering up the money," she said. When the horse arrived at Melanie's property, he was more than a little worse for wear, and clearly a "project horse" - not an ideal prospect for a relatively inexperienced trainer. "He was scared of everything, even his own shadow and he was always ready for a fight! He was my first horse, so it was like the blind leading the blind!" she laughed. "It took two months to get a rug on him and over 12 months to re-break him. At home I would jog him along an 800m stretch of a dirt road and just keep doing loops. "I felt I was always taking two steps forward with him, and then 10 back, but after 18 months I finally got him onto a float so we could go into Warragul and do trackwork-and we both survived! Then we started going there two or three times a week." Melanie junior with the family favorite One Man's trash began showing solid progress and Melanie believed, some promise and in October of 2018, he was ready for the next step. "I was going to trial him and when they got called off, I just put him straight into the races at Cranbourne," she said. "It was the first time he'd seen a mobile barrier and our driver Rodney Petroff did a terrific job. The horse went super by running second. We went back three weeks later and ran 5th, but the next day he couldn't walk." Melanie found the pacer's hoof had been attacked by an aggressive condition similar to seedy toe. "Half of his hoof rotted out and we had to make sure it stayed dry and was kept cleaned out, so he had two years in the paddock as we cut out the infection." In the extended recovery period, Melanie began studying to be a paramedic, and being time-poor, let her trainer's licence lapse, accepting her dream may have ended. "I thought: 'Well that's that.' I'd run out of time, but deep down I believed he could do it after he'd overcome all of his setbacks, so I asked Chris Hunter if he would have a try with 'Monkey'," she said. "I just wanted to see the horse out on the track and the only way that was going to happen was to hand him on to someone else. Chris has always been happy to help and is always there for you and thankfully he agreed. "He's done a brilliant job, and our driver, Rodney (Petroff) also deserves a lot of credit." Hunter, a highly respected horseman at Trafalgar, was full of praise for One Mans Trash, one of three horses he has in work. "He has a will to win and it was a good job to come back and get the victory after two years in a paddock. We'll have a bit of fun with him because he's definitely got some high speed," Hunter said. "Mel has been marvellous with the horse. He was an absolute idiot when she first got him, but she kept hanging in there. She was rapt with the win - she was on the phone about five seconds after the race!" Watch the emotional win of One Man's Trash here. One Mans Trash will face the starter again on Sunday at Warragul and his four biggest fans in Melanie and her three girls Shae, 17, Chelsea, 15, and Melanie Jnr, 11, are sure to be cheering their hearts out. "The amazing thing is that he is such a lovely horse now - all he girls have ridden him at some stage, they brush him and he loves all the fuss," Melanie said. "I'd love to have 100 horses. Even when we started a family, I always thought I'd be back and was trying to keep a toe in. I just love it."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Principal of the state-of-the-art harness racing operation Yabby Dam Farms Pat Driscoll has added another string to his bow. The Ballarat-based standardbred operation, headed by joint trainers Anton Golino and Jack MacKinnon, was on fire last week with four square-gaiter winners from three meetings. But a gallops victory at the weekend put the cream on the cake. Four-year-old mare Etoile Brillante scored an impressive victory at the Donald meeting on Sunday-the first in the thoroughbred code for Yabby Dam Farms. Prepared by Archie Alexander, the mare took out the $35,000 3YO and Upwards Maiden. The successful jockey was Declan Bates. A powerhouse in the harness racing industry, Driscoll has had phenomenal success with pacing and trotting winners and would have been delighted to cheer home his gallops winner. Driscoll grew up around horses as his dad had a few thoroughbreds and he actually rode track work as a teenager before studying accountancy. Since establishing the Yabby Dam training headquarters at Cardigan, near Ballarat, Driscoll has won a total of 69 Group races-19 of these being Group Ones. Gallops trainer Archie Alexander is one of a handful preparing horses for Yabby Dams at the Ballarat racecourse. Trotting stallions Dreamcatcher and Always Ready, earmarked for long term futures at stud, are putting it all together on the racetrack with Kilmore victories on Friday. Swedish-bred son of Love You, Dreamcatcher made it two wins after returning from a four year break. Stablemate Always Ready (by Ready Cash) has now won eight of 11 starts this season. Dance Craze (Muscle Hill-La Coocaracha) zoomed up the sprint lane to win the Lenin FFA group 3 at Melton on Saturday--her 23rd win in 44 starts for $520,000. Three-year-old filly Hopeful Beauty (Brilliantissime (Fra)-Beauty Life (Fra) was impressive at Charlton on Monday with an easy win for Jack MacKinnon. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ There's no secret that South Australian harness racing brothers Darren and Mark Billinger are fierce competitors. Whether it's on the track or out on the golf course for the weekly grudge match, the traditional sibling rivalry is never too far from the surface-in a gentlemanly way of course! "Darren's too good for us out on the fairways. He's got the experience over me because he's the older brother," Mark said. "I have to give him his dues, though, he is playing some great golf at the moment." But Mark said it was a nice feeling to turn the tables on Darren at a Globe Derby meeting earlier this week. "I really did get a kick out of it. It was close, real close but I got up there's no doubt about that. Darren is still wanting to look at the official photo-finish!" he said. Mark landed Steinman (Rock N Roll Heaven-Northern Courage (Courage Under Fire) at 5/1-defeating Darren by a short half head on race favorite Whatabro. BOTH pacers are trained by Darren, who obviously had the choice of drives. A long-priced winner later on the program gave Mark a winning double for the day. He got the money by a head with Michael Harding trained Princess Lil (Smiling Shard-New Age Babe (Armbro Operative) in the 2yo Pace. Princess Lil started at 35/1 and was impressive in winning in 2.00-7. Driving honors for the meeting went to champion SA reinsman Wayne Hill who scored a treble with My Used To Be, Ceejay Success and Booker Bay. **Harness Racing SA Ltd announced late yesterday that as a consequence of the current Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, race meetings and trials for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday have been abandoned. Mark Billinger returns to scale after winning with Steinman at Globe Derby--beating his trainer-driver brother Darren (Whatabro) by a lip. Both horses are trained by Darren. (Walter Bulyga Photography) __________________________________________________________________________________________ Expatriate Aussies Shane and Lauren Tritton continue to methodically build success in their adopted new home in New York. The stable celebrated a "small milestone", with a win in both the open class for entires and geldings, and the open class for mares events at Yonkers in the past week. Former Aussie free-for-aller San Domino (Somebeachsomewhere - Reggae Miss (Maple Lanes Strike) has been racing in the US since May last year. He was transferred to the Tritton barn last month and brought up the first leg of the milestone double at Yonkers on November 7. San Domino had won 14 races in Australia before being sent to the USA and has now managed three victories in just six starts for Team Tritton. Another ex Aussie, former Perth mare Lady Dela Renta (Well Said - Flylike Bird Lombo (Jet Laag) has been a model of consistency for Team Tritton, winning six of her eight starts for the stable since August. She again got the job done, taking out the Mares Open Class on Saturday and bringing up the second leg of the double. The wins took the team's season record to 49 wins 29 seconds and 22 thirds (from the 178 starts since they started racing in May) and pushed the stakemoney tally over the $500,000 mark for the season - now at $515,628. Shane Tritton said his behind-the-scenes staff at the Pine Bush stables played no small part in the consistency of the team. "All of the staff and connections are a part of this little landmark week for us - we couldn't do it without them. And Jordan Stratton as well for his inch-perfect drives!" Tritton said. The wins were part of an extra special week for the couple, who announced they are expecting a daughter in April next year - a sister for their young son Levi. Lady Dela Renta and driver Jordan Stratton teamed up to take out an open mares $25,000 event at Yonkers for Team Tritton.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Apparently, the number four is unlucky in Chinese culture, and it’s got a bad rap in Feng Shui – but it’s proving a good omen in a New South Wales harness racing fundraiser for Men’s Health Month during November. The tills are ticking over nicely with $3195 in the kitty so far for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, thanks to the fortunes of barrier 4 at Club Menangle meetings throughout the month. For horse number four in each race, Club Menangle, TAB, HRNSW and a group of sponsors have pledged to kick in $800 for each win, $405 for second and $190 for third.  There was little joy at the first meeting of the campaign on November 8, but competitors carrying Number Four saddlecloth notched a win, a second and a third at the weekend, with Vinny Chase and Robbie Morris the stars. On Tuesday, the tally continued to grow, with Josh Gallagher having a brilliant day out and picking up a double including one wearing saddlecloth 4.  Both winners were for trainer KerryAnn Morris in Superfast Pat (Superfast Stuart – Turbo Pat (Sundon) and Agent Maori (Federal Flex – Windsongs Maori (Windsongs Legacy). The eycatching win of squaregaiter Agent Maori, carrying number 4, with courtesy of a mature drive by Gallagher that was timed to a nicety. “It was a good win and it always means an extra little bit when you’re doing something for a good cause like this,” Gallagher said. Josh Gallagher in the Prostate Cancer Foundation colors (Courtesy Club Menangle) In his third season of driving, Gallagher is a model of consistency, continuing to make the most of opportunities from working with the Rob and KerryAnn Morris stable.  He captured the national Rising Stars series in 2019 and achieved 43 wins during season 2019-20.  He’s only improved his record during the extended 2020 season, with 27 wins since September 1. At only 19, Josh is well short of the Prostate Cancer Campaign’s target demographic, which aims to raise awareness in men over 50 (or 40 with a family history) to consider getting a PSA (blood) test for Prostate Cancer. But he’s only too happy that wins like his will help to spread the word and raise the funds. “As well as promoting the cause, the campaign generates a bit of discussion in the rooms and creates awareness that way, too, so I think it’s a great promotion,” he said. “Getting the check-ups and keeping on top of things health wise isn’t something that most people are that good at, but when this month comes around each year it’s a good chance to remind everyone.” HRNSW and Club Menangle provided eight sets of the Prostate Cancer Awareness colors to comply with COVID-19 requirements and contributing to the funds pool are key sponsors DM Plumbing, Evekare, Hamish Sterling Graphic Design, Hyland Sportswear, McLaren Real Estate, Multiquip Aggregates, Pryde’s EasiFeed and The Strictly Limited Company. Club Menangle spokewoman Kate Butt said raising awareness of PSA testing was a key message. “Harness racing is a male-dominated industry, and Prostate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men, so we’ve got an important role to play in raising awareness about the important health messages that save lives,” she said. “As well as focussing on the funds raised, we want people to know that it takes only a simple blood test to monitor levels that can indicate prostate cancer. “If you’re in the target group, just talk to someone, a doctor or a health professional, because support is everything.” Josh Gallagher will be hoping his luck holds up when Racing for Prostate continues at Club Menangle on Saturday night – and he gets a run with his only number 4 drive, currently listed as first emergency. Racing for Prostate representatives are: (Race 1) Our Megastar (John McCarthy); (Race 2) Vandanta (Luke McCarthy); (Race 3) Mighty Flying Deal (Blake Fitzpatrick); (Race 4) Our Antonio Rose (Jack Trainor); (Race 5) Wrangler (Luke McCarthy); (Race 6) Gold Sovereign (Emergency Josh Gallagher); (Race 7) Hes Perfectly Ideal (Cameron Hart); and (Race 8) Delightful Tara (Leonard Cain).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Rita Burnett has more than a healthy competitive streak as a harness racing trainer and driver, but she reckons there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a young horse she’s broken in step up to the top level for someone else. The Kilmore horsewoman always has a handy horse or two in her stable but says these days her greatest enjoyment is in bringing out the best in the youngsters entrusted to her by a long list of regulars. “You get all sorts: good temperaments, cheeky ones, rogues, but that’s the skill, getting to know all that, working them out and working with them, and bringing out their best to give them their opportunity,” Burnett said. “They’re a lot like kids.  The ones who want to stick their head in the books and you know where they’re going and they know where they’re going – the ones that don’t, well they’ve probably got to look elsewhere!” she laughed. “But good ones do tend to show themselves early, 99 percent of the ones that will make it as a racehorse have got a nice feel to them – the thing you don’t really know is how far they’ll go.  “Some will take the next step and some will take two or three big steps.  They’re the ones that want to do it, they’re usually good pacers and sometimes they’ll show you that little bit of exciting speed when they dash up if they get a fright or something. “Occasionally you’ll get a rogue that, three years down the track they’ll step up and you’ll think: ‘Gee, that’s a surprise’ – but most of the nice ones do show you something pretty early.” Rita has spent more than 40 years in harness racing and the business is a uniquely family-run operation.  Rita and her partner Jim Maragos work out of the family complex, Grand Lodge, established by Rita’s parents, the late Leli and Mary Mifsud. Rita’s siblings Aussie, Annetto and Josie are all on adjoining properties, along with Rita’s daughter Monique and her partner Josh Duggan. Each is running their own harness-racing related businesses, but also helping each other out with whatever is needed. Rita has also recently become a grandmother for the first time, with Mon and Josh welcoming the arrival of their son, Hudson, and Rita says it’s made her even more appreciative of her circumstances. “The older you get, the more you want to just stay home and enjoy what’s around you, and I’ve always loved handling the babies, so breaking them in just suits me even more these days,” she said. “I do some for the likes of the Chris and Alison Alford, Andy and Kate Gath and Maree and John Caldow – those top drivers can’t afford to be getting hurt with the babies, so they’re happy to let me take care of that part of it. “Breaking in is also a pretty positive thing.  The owners are usually happy, because they’re all good until they get to the races, aren’t they?” she laughed. Rita recently made an exception to her “happiest at home” rule, with a 500-kilometre road trip to Mildura with four of her team and three-year-old Alistair Lavros (Bettors Delight – Neffeli Lavra (Falcon Seelster) didn’t let her down last Friday night. “I like to place them as best I can and the whole reason I went up was because Alistair Lavros still had his VicBred bonus,” Rita said. “He had a ranking of 51, so the race suited him and even though he didn’t draw too well (barrier six) we were able to get to the front and he held on,” she said. Rita’s had an extended break between trips to North West Victoria, but she is following up with another long road trip on Thursday, after Feisty Phoebe was defeated by only a short half-head, but qualified for a $10,000 final. “The last time we came up was about seven years ago and I got two wins, two seconds and two thirds – we didn’t quite get to that level this time, but it was a very good trip, so I’m looking forward to going back,” she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Talented West Australian reinswoman Emily Suvaljko doesn't hesitate when she's asked what she loves about her job - it's "getting across that line first". Suvaljko last week notched up her 100th winner for the extended harness racing season (the count was a very creditable 78 for the 2019-20 season proper) but she's now setting her sights on an even more important mission - her first group one drive at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The youngster is nominated on Vultan Tin for Phil Costello in the Fremantle Cup, but Suvaljko admits a lot will come down to the barrier draw tomorrow. "The two favorites will be Chicago Bull and Shockwave of course, but Vultan Tin's been able to beat both of them in the past if he can get to the front. So we need a good barrier draw, but I'm so excited to have the opportunity - if we get a start, it will be something special," she said. It's been a whirlwind few years since Emily gained her junior's licence midway through the 2018 season. She managed 11 winners from 156 starters that year, then followed up with 60 wins (from 715 starts) in 2019. She has built a well-deserved reputation as a composed and competent driver with maturity beyond her years and continues to notch up personal milestones including a State concession driver's premiership, a number of regional premierships, and last year becoming the second-youngest woman in WA to drive a treble. Big wins have included the Albany Cup on Culpeka (Mach Three - Tuapeka Maddy (Christian Cullen) for Busselton trainer Barry Howlett, but Emily says getting wins for smaller trainers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport. And she lists a modest country front race at Collie earlier this year as her career highlight so far. "My favorite win was on a horse called Caruba (Caribbean Blaster - Spirit Away (Safely Kept) for Peter Tilbrook because it was in my Nan and Grandad's memorial race," she said. The favorite of Emily Suvaljko’s 172 wins – her grandparents’ memorial race at Collie in March this year on Caruba "My grandad (Joe Suvaljko) was well known around Collie and there's been a memorial race for him for a long time. Grandad died when my dad was only in his 20s so I didn't really know him, but we lost my Nan Margaret last year and this was the first time the race had been in her name as well. "The horse I won on is also owned by Larry Nelligan, who is a longtime family friend - so that win really meant a lot to me." Suvaljko is the daughter of talented trainer-driver Shannon Suvaljko, and with a raft of family connections in the sport she admits her first career choice was probably never going to be anything but harness racing. "I went through a bit of a spell when I wasn't really involved as a kid, but then I started with the pony trots and helped my uncle break in my pony. I'd be with my dad at Gloucester Park on Friday nights with his horses and my pony," she said. Suvaljko built her knowledge with on-the-job learning at top stables including Greg and Skye Bond, Nathan Turvey and Colin Brown and since gaining her junior driver's licence in 2018 has clocked up the miles travelling the arduous distances to race at regional WA tracks. "I guess it's something I was always destined to do - dad has always had horses, as well as my uncles Cal and Joe, and their dad before them. I did think about other options, and did year 11 and 12 for my ATAR, but I started driving also that year," she said. "After I left school, I started a bridging course to Curtin Uni, but it was just too difficult with all that I was doing. I'm only 28 wins from losing my junior claim (at 200 wins) now, though, so I'm looking at some study again. "I have a fair few loyal trainers, and I don't use my concession claim all that much now, so hopefully I will be able to keep getting the drives even when my claim runs out. I don't think it hurts to have a Plan B!" she said. But it doesn't appear likely the young reinswoman will need a backup plan, particularly if she can notch up another personal milestone on Friday night with Vultan Tin. "It's pretty exciting. Before this my goal has been to just beat my personal record each season, one season to the next," she said. "I've driven a couple of Phil's (Costello) horses and he's always happy to put me on...but it's pretty exciting to get a drive for him in the Cup."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Prominent Sydney harness racing team Robert and KerryAnn Morris aren’t afraid to try the unorthodox to get a horse to click – but it’s a rare success story to “throw away the hopples” on a two-year-old. The husband-and-wife team took a chance back in 2013 when they switched gelding Avonnova to be a free-legged pacer and he immediately gained a new lease of life. Now their lightly-raced youngster Im Bills Last (Sweet Lou-Collecting (Bettors Delight) hasn’t put a foot wrong without hopples with wins at Goulburn and more recently Bathurst on Wednesday night. “There’s also been a few others that we’ve done it with over the years. Some of them are just more comfortable and Im Bills Last has certainly turned his attitude around,” KerryAnn said. “He was a bit of a handful, and always trying to get out of doing things, such as going out onto the track and so we were being quite patient with him,” she said. “He did his first prep with hopples, but this time in Rob just decided one day when he was training him to leave them off and gallop him—so of course all he did was pace! “We weren’t too fazed, so he did a few trials and has raced free-legged this prep for two wins and a couple of Menangle placings. “He was the last one bred by Bill Green, a big owner, who died a few years ago. His son John has now taken over all the horses.” KerryAnn said she still fondly remembers when the couple had Avonnova in their stable and decided to try him as a free-legged pacer. “He was getting stale and at the time his races were very strong with the likes of Beautide running around in them. Before we took the hopples off, we thought he was ready to be retired,” she said. “He certainly stepped up. I think we won eight races with him and he would have been unhoppled in six of these,” KerryAnn said. “I drove him to win at Goulburn where he got claimed. He then went north to Queensland and did a super job,” she said. Under the care of Ian Gurney, bay gelding Avonnova (Art Major-Mini Slick (Maple Lanes Strike) won a mighty 35 races, most of these being at Brisbane’s Albion Park. “I claimed him so I could have a horse that could race at Albion Park every Saturday night. But I got lucky and ended up with a horse of a lifetime—I probably enjoyed the best time of my life, thanks to that horse,” Gurney said when the horse retired. Avonnova finished with 55 wins and 57 placings from 178 starts for stakemoney just $33,000 short of the magical $1 million mark. The Turners plan to compete at Bathurst on a regular basis now that the regions have been reopened. “It’s a three-hour road trip each way. We do have to go over the Blue Mountains, but the roads have been improved and it’s now not too bad,” KerryAnn said. After winning the $6630 Happy Birthday Greg Murray Pace with Im Bills Last, they made it back-to-back wins when Fear Cruisin (Christian Cullen-Fear Flying (Bettors Delight) was successful in the Love You Pop from Hudson and Austin Pace. “We also had Pembrooks Passion in at the meeting. He did okay to finish sixth after doing a bit too much work in a race run in record time,” she said. The couple, with a son Archie, who turns five next Wednesday, are expecting another child early next year. “I’m due in April—and it can’t come fast enough,” KerryAnn laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A central Victorian family with a harness racing passion that's second-to-none hit paydirt when a "real cheapie" stole the limelight in a $10,000 country feature event. The Goddens, of Nanneella, a small rural township in the Campaspe region near Rochester, won the Laser Electrical "Battlers in the Bush Pace" at Swan Hill on Tuesday night-a race restricted to horses four year old and older without a win to their name. "Our son James spotted Viking Cruz being advertised for sale a while ago and thought he would be worth a try. I probably wasn't too sure, but the owner wasn't looking for much money so we decided we'd give him a try," Colin said. And after five starts, which included a handy third and fourth at Shepparton, Viking Cruz (Shadow Play-Scentiment (Artiscape) broke his 40-start maiden status in style with an easy win in the Battlers event. Colin, who trains and part-owns the pacer with James, said they were delighted with the win, particularly with the extra stakemoney on offer for the feature. "Viking Cruz is best when he's smothered up and saved for one last dash at them. If he gets out into the clear too early he can switch off-but save him up for the last 100 metres and he's pretty brave," he said. The victory was the first leg of a training double for Godden and driving double for Josh Duggan with the pair teaming up again to win the final race on the program with Have No Choice (Four Starzzz Shark-Rock Melody (Pacific Rocket). The meeting marked a return to racing at Swan Hill after a six-month COVID-19 induced hiatus. "Swan Hill has actually been a good hunting ground for us over the years. It's a lovely track and the club goes out of its way to look after you. We were treated like kings the other night," Colin said. "Both my wife Michelle and I, along with everyone else, got sandwiches, drinks and a racebook which was appreciated." Godden has been training Have No Choice for Duggan and his partner Monique (Burnett) who recently had a baby boy. "I told them I'd take him for a while because I thought they would enjoy having an extra little bit of baby time," Colin said. The Godden family combine training a team of six or seven horses as well as milking about 300 cows, while James, an engineer, also operates a growing metal fabrication business from the family property, building a line of popular horse stables, shelters and other infrastructure. "We all seem to have our jobs that we need to do. Michelle is up early each morning putting water onto our track and dragging the harrows around, while we're doing the cows and then the horses," Colin said. "One of the best things I've done is putting in a water walker for the horses. James designed and constructed it nearly two years ago and it's been terrific for us. "The horses normally do four days in the water and then three on the training track. The walker takes out any little niggles of pain they might get from pounding around the track-it just relieves their joints and it's great for their fitness. "We have them in there for about 40 minutes and the water level is a bit over a metre. They go at more than power walking speed and we spin them around the opposite direction about eight times. "They have to work hard against the whirlpool effect and that first 10 or 20 metres after they turn and go the other way really spikes their heart rates." Colin said Viking Cruz was now on the market because he had a few bright prospects still to come back into work, including a two and a three-year-old currently in the paddock spelling. "The only problem there is that every time I get a spare space, James goes and buys another one that's in full work and racing!" he laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There’s no better way to generate enthusiasm than to be doing something that you enjoy—and that’s certainly the case with a young Melbourne harness racing devotee. Katherine Atkins, of Carrum Downs, 30 kms south-east of the State capital, admits she’s had a long obsession with horses but no family background in harness racing. That hasn’t stopped the determined 23-year-old, though, who has just completed another milestone in the sport she hopes will be part of her life for many years. “I was probably about three or four years old when my love for horses first started. Then when one of mum’s friends got a standardbred for a riding horse, the curiosity really got the better of me,” she said. Last weekend a proud Kat, which she prefers, passed her C Grade harness racing driver’s licence assessment at the Cranbourne trials. “I first started attending the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul four years ago. I decided if I wanted to learn properly in a hands-on environment, it was best to go there. It’s been fantastic and I now have so much experience under my belt,” she said. “In my first year, my mum would drive me down to the Centre. It’s over an hour each way and usually I was there three or four days a week. “Eventually mum suggested that I should get my own car licence—and that worked in well because it did mean I got my required hours up quickly while driving on L plates!” Kat said although her parents Marita and Charles had no background in the sport, they were totally supportive of her decision to become involved in harness racing through the training Centre. “They weren’t in the slightest bit interested in horses, but they have backed me all the way.  And I do have an uncle Les Jones who is a great fan of the sport and my sister has come and watched me,” she said. “Now when I’m watching harness meetings at home, mum and dad sit with me and quite enjoy it.” Kat said she was both excited and nervous at driving in her first trial at Cranbourne. “At the training Centre I’d driven on the Warragul track with one and two others, and even up to half a dozen of us, as part of the experience,” she said. “I got some good advice from the Centre manager Jenni Lewis before the trial—which was just stay at the back and learn from the experience. “There was a little learning curve because the horse I drove, Mystic Castle got her tongue over the bit, which made it difficult to steer her at times.  But we got around safely.” The Racing Training Centre operates as closely as possible to a professional racing stable, allowing students to experience the workplace in preparation for entering employment in the industry. Kat will now aim to complete 30 satisfactory trial drives over the next six months to upgrade to a B Grade driver’s licence. “I also hope to get a trainer’s licence one day. My Uncle Les is keen to become an owner and let me train it. He’s been super supportive and has followed my progress from day one,” she said. “I’ve also helped Robert Evans, a trainer at Cardinia, for a while and at the moment I’m breaking in a retired standardbred to be ridden in a saddle. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It didn’t matter if I ended up being a stablehand, I just wanted some involvement in the industry.” And as for role models, Kat is quick to nominate brilliant reinsman Greg Sugars as her favorite. “I’m also a big fan of Michelle Phillips, who is a graduate of the training Centre,” Kat said. The Centre offers Certificate 2 to Certificate 4 training qualifications, as well as Vocational Education Training in Schools studies for secondary school students.  More info click here:   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Successful Leeton harness racing team Blake Jones and Ellen Bartley are the first to agree that an ounce of luck goes a long way. The dam of three-year-old gelding Forever Yin died during his foaling, but the star of the Jones-Bartley stable is more than making up for the rough start to life. "The day after he was born, he went down to Euroa where Suzanne Royal has a farm dedicated to raising orphans," Ellen said. "Suzanne is phenomenal in what she does, so we were very lucky. She had the foal for eight months and then he came back up to us. "Blake's auntie Janet Painting bred Forever Yin and he was the only foal produced by the dam Aqua Luvvy which won seven races before she was retired." Forever Yin (Western Terror-Aqua Luvvy (Live Or Die) posted his seventh victory from just 21 starts when he won impressively in the $12,240 Collier and Miller Coc Griffith Pacers Cup last Saturday night. To watch this race click here. Forever Yin is now Menangle bound after his impressive win "We thought he went super. We were also very happy with his Cup heat win four days earlier because that was his first-up run from a spell," Ellen said. "His next start will probably be in about a fortnight's time at Menangle in a three-year-old event. It's a six-hour road trip to get up there, but he's going well. "After that will depend on what happens with the reopening of the borders with COVID-19." Forever Yin has certainly provided the young couple with some moments to remember with eye-catching wins at Cobram, Echuca, Melton, Leeton, Junee and his last couple at Griffith. "His Melton win was in a 2yo VicBred semi and he beat some nice horses so that was a huge thrill. We ran in the final a week later and he began badly and lost any chance," Ellen said. A former outstanding pony trot driver, Ellen prefers to leave the majority of race driving commitments to Blake, although she did take out the Griffith Pacers Cup herself a few years ago. "I was in my first season of driving and had only been licensed for about a month. I landed Rusty's Reject for Janet's brother-in-law Matthew Painting," she said. "These days I tend to drive horses only that I own, or occasionally I'll pick up a drive for another trainer." And while Blake was in the spotlight at the Cup meeting, Ellen got the night off to a flyer by taking out the opening event with Tygerphinn (Dawn Of A New Day-Luvu Jeorja Lombo (Jet Laag) in the $6630 TAB Odds & Evens Pace. To watch this race click here. "He's one of my favorites, probably because I own him," she said. Ellen, who has trained over 145 winners, combines preparing a team of 14 horses with running an equine massage therapist practice. "Life does get busy, but I enjoy what I'm doing," she said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Heathcote reinswoman Tayla French is managing an increasingly busy schedule as she comes under notice from a growing number of harness racing trainers across the State - and she's loving the challenge. French has gone from picking up less than a handful of drives a week last season (a good proportion of which were for her dad Terry) to an average of one a day in 2019-20. She admits the regional racing model had a good deal to do with trainers "giving her a try", but with the borders freeing up French is retaining most of her drives, and picking up more each week as she shows she is prepared to pack and up head across the State. "Dad and I did our first Mildura trip a couple of weeks back and I was pretty excited that we got a double and a couple of placings for the trip," French said. And the pair went tantalising close to an even more memorable night, with the other stable runners finishing second and third. "The tight track was quite different, but after I got back with the first winner, I thought, 'yep, I like this track!'," she laughed "I like to study the form pretty closely because it's a big part of driving in a race. I think it helps a lot, certainly at tracks like Mildura." It's hard to see how French managed to squeeze a Mildura trip into her schedule. She works three days a week at a local doctor's surgery and a couple of days a week for Romsey trainer Chris Svanosio, as well as helping her dad work their team of seven. On Melbourne Cup Day French notched up a double in the morning meeting at Charlton, before heading north for engagements at Mildura - a 900 km day, but French wasn't fazed. Pinnacle Hope winning at Charlton—giving Tayla a driving double "It's up before the sun and finishing up in the moonlight a lot of the time, but I love it," she said. "Dad's actually been in Darwin for the past couple of weeks which meant it's been even busier than usual, but I did get a winner, so that gives me bragging rights for a while!" It's possibly no coincidence that the French team has enjoyed some of their most successful seasons since Tayla took out her driver's licence two years ago, when she was 21. "I tried to get my licence when I was 16 but failed a medical and got a bit downhearted about that and gave it up for a few years. But once I was mature enough, and I started to grow and form a connection with the horses, dad suggested that I should drive them," she said. "We mess around with a lot of cheapies, but dad's a real believer in getting to know the horses and understand them, and I've kind of taken that on board," she said. "For me, forming a connection with the horse is a big part of it." It seems to be a formula that's working. Terry French is enjoying his best season in the sport, with 21 winners for the extended season, and it's also been a break-out season for Tayla, with 52 wins for the extended season (46 for the 1919-20 season). "I've learnt a lot from Dad. I'm one to tell him he is wrong about something, then I'll sit down and have a think about it later and think, yeah, he's probably right," she said. "Dad spends almost his entire day with the horses. He doesn't have to but does because he's a believer in putting the time into them. Every one gets half an hour equissage every day, and because we get a lot of older horses that have a bit of maturity about them, I think they enjoy the one-on-one. "He loves a challenge and I think because I know the horses too, it's really coming together for us. One we won with recently, Tangaroa (Badlands Hanover-Priddy Good (Armbro Operative) was a 46-start maiden. Everyone told dad he was mad to take it on, but he told me he'd get a win out of it - and we did!" While the COVID-19 regional racing model presented new opportunities for French, her patience and persistence are ensuring she's making the most of it. "I started getting a few winners, not on superstars, and if you drive patiently trainers start to recognise you and give you a shot," she said. "COVID gave me a chance to get some new drives, but also to get to know a lot of trainers and form a connection with the horses I'm driving. Fortunately, a lot of them have left me on, even when they don't need my five-point claim, which is great." French said her career highlight so far was on Form Analyst (Bettors Delight-Shezacullen (Christian Cullen), an ex-Emma Stewart horse her dad took on in November last year. "We won his first metro race at Bendigo in August, and that was an absolute highlight and he's been a lovely horse for us," she said. French said there was no doubt she would be in the sport for the long haul. "I've just bought a property at Heathcote, not too far from dad's, where I am hoping to set it up. That's a little way down the track, but that's my goal. In the meantime, I'm just poking around and learning as I go."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Northern Victorian harness racing couple Graham and Tanya McDermott are facing a second long stint of care and rehabilitation to get their promising young trotter Heres to You Jimmy back to full health. Heres To You Jimmy (Bacardi Lindy-Singing Creek (Wind Cries Maori) was super impressive in making up huge ground to win at his first start back in August, then backed up for a second win two weeks later. But the three-year-old broke unexpectedly in running during a heat of the Victoria Derby at Maryborough two Sundays ago, and was later found to have suffered a fractured pastern. Heres To You Jimmy made an awesome debut in winning at Shepparton August "It was pretty much a case of the fairytale turning into a little bit of a nightmare," McDermott said. "He put in a couple of rough strides earlier in the race, but I didn't spend too long wondering what it was about because he just started trotting again nicely. Then he galloped suddenly and that was obviously when the injury happened," he said. "So that night we had him at the Victorian Equine Group's Bendigo Hospital and they operated on him the next morning." McDermott's wife Tanya, who coordinates Harness Racing Victoria's Hero Rehoming Program, said they were relieved to now have Heres To You Jimmy back home in his box - two fractures, five screws, 10 days in hospital and a whole lot lighter. Five screws have stabilised Heres To You Jimmy’s two fractures "The team at the Victorian Equine Group showed amazing care and devotion and we're grateful to them beyond words," she said. "The mountain is yet to be conquered, but he has a fighting chance. First and foremost, we'll just look after his wellbeing and just wait to see if that is good enough for him to make a comeback. It's the second time that Heres To You Jimmy has faced a long recovery from a serious leg injury. "He had a fracture to his offside front fetlock 18 months ago, but that time there was no surgery needed, just compression bandaging to support the joint, and rest and recovery," McDermott said. "This time it's a bit more complicated than that, but fortunately he's a lovely horse to deal with - he's a little bit revvy on the racetrack, but off the track he is a little gem with a lovely nature. "He needs to have rest for the next four to six weeks, so hopefully his good temperament will work in our favor and he will settle in the box to give himself the best chance of a good recovery. That's the main thing at the moment, just doing our best for him." McDermott said Heres To You Jimmy's operation had gone well, but his post-surgery recovery was not trouble free. "The vets thought it would be reasonably straightforward and initially gave him a 75 percent chance of getting back to the races. But there are always little hurdles along the way and after a couple of days he became quite lame," McDermott said. "Initially they believed he had only one fracture, but then found fractures in two places and were concerned one had spiralled, meaning the pastern could be a bit more unstable, so they thought he might have been in real trouble at one stage." McDermott said the veterinary team was reluctant to do any more surgery unless it was absolutely necessary. "With the risks of getting him on and off the table and the possibility of him doing more damage, they just decided to hold off and see how he went - and fortunately he started to turn the corner about a week later," he said. "The next four weeks will be critical, and we just have to keep him quiet to give everything the best chance of holding together. Hopefully he will look after himself too, because one of the risks is that if he lies down, he could hurt himself getting up."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Every superstar needs some time out, and for sensational trotting filly Pink Galahs, leisure time at the beach is her new favorite pastime away from harness racing rigors. The three-year-old recently made her first trip to the beach, and trainer Matt Craven said she took to the surf like a pro. Watch the beach trip click here. "I jumped on her bareback at home to make sure everything was going to be okay before we set out because the beach is an hour away from our stables," Craven, of Ecklin South, in western Victoria, said. "She wasn't a problem, so we loaded her up with a few others and off we went. She needed a little bit of coaxing when she saw a few small waves rolling in, but that was all - she was fine with it," he said. "I must be honest and say that we don't go to the beach as often as I'd like but the horses enjoy it and so do our stable workers." Pink Galahs took to the surf like a natural this week after her Derby win on Sunday Pink Galahs showed she was all class to win the $75,000 Bold Eagle @ Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby Final at Maryborough on Sunday. Craven said one the main targets for Pink Galahs, known around the stables as "brown dog", was now the rich VicBred races in December. The likeable horseman said Pink Galahs had pulled up a treat after her latest win - her ninth in her past 10 starts. "I don't plan to give her a break-she will stay in work and we'll keep ticking her along," Craven said. "She is very tiny but has an incredible will to win. In her second start, she made an early mistake in a group one event (Vicbred Super Series 2YO Final), and then got going to make up a huge amount of ground. She ran third, but arguably probably should have won," he said. "Obviously one of her main attributes is she has nice speed for a trotter. When you ask her to go, she doesn't hesitate and is very strong as well." Matthew Craven and Pink Galahs                           --Stuart McCormick photo Pink Galahs is raced by Caleb Lewis and his wife Laura, along with well-known former Marnoo trainer-driver Bryan Healy, who now resides on the Gold Coast. Laura is the daughter of Bryan and granddaughter of the late Ric Healy. "Caleb and his brother own the Gordon Hotel at Portland. Laura is a vet nurse and just loves harness racing. She's been over to France to get a first-hand look at the industry," Craven said. The Healy family bred Maori Miss, the foundation mare which led to Australia's best-known trotting breeding line. It included the 1970s superstar Maori's Idol, a magnificent individual who finished with 40 wins and four placings from 46 starts, and Maori Mia, the great-great grand dam of Pink Galahs. Maori's Idol was the first Australian trotter to break two minutes with 1.59-3 on November 19, 1977 at Moonee Valley. Pink Galahs, by Skyvalley out of Sweetasay (Tennotrump), has 13 wins, two seconds and two thirds from 19 starts for $188,000. Sweetasay landed two race wins from 39 starts before being sent to the breeding barn. Craven said the name Pink Galahs was derived from Caleb's love of John Williamson's classics "Galleries of Pink Galahs". "When Caleb was a young fellow, he would be driving around with his grandfather in his ute. His grandfather, who got him into trotting, would always have John Williamson on the radio," he said. "I think Caleb has continued to name other horses after songs."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A grey gelding that is building a cult following in the Riverina harness racing region, is providing his trainer and owners with plenty of joy. In what's a rare spectacle on a racetrack, two greys fought out the finish at Wagga Wagga last Friday. But it was Brobenah Boy (Modern Art-Lombo Copywatch (Lombo Pocket Watch) narrowly getting the judge's decision from Time Keepa Lombo. Brobenah Boy is back from a spell and clearly means business - following up the Wagga victory with a handy third at Griffith last night, giving him a start in the $12,000 Griffith Cup final next Saturday. The six-year-old is trained at Leeton by Guy Retallick, who is the local Shire Council Waste and Recycling co-ordinator and owned by his father and mother-in-law Phillip and Jeanette Dempsey. "It's a team effort and it's working well because Brobenah Boy has won 12 races for us. He's probably never going to be a star, but he's a terrific horse in that he tries so hard every start and keeps earning," Retallick said. "He's been building a bit of a cult following because everyone wants to look at him and give him a pat. It's unbelievable that he's sired by Modern Art and is a grey. But it obviously goes back to the dam who was by Lombo Pocket Watch." A former star pacer with 12 Group One wins and $1.4 million in stakes, the Mick Lombardo-owned Lombo Pocket Watch was dubbed the 'Grey Bullet'. Retallick said they purchased the mare Lombo Copywatch (dam of Brobenah Boy) at a Shepparton sale held by Lombardo. "We gave her a few preps, but Phil thought it was best to breed from her. I think she was more than a handful for him, so it was a good decision," he said. "Phil has held a licence for a long time and the success of Brobenah Boy is due to his patience and hard work. He does all the slow jog work and his old training methods of putting time into their legs has been spot on. The horse has now won first-up on two occasions. Happy part-owner Phil Dempsey is with Brobenah Boy. Phil helps son-in-law Guy Retallick prepare the popular grey pacer. (Photo Wagga HRC) "We have a great partnership in that we both have other jobs and share the workload. We're out at Phil's farm at 5 am each day because Phil has a day job as well, at State Water NSW. We both have tasks to do. Phil also does the shoeing, while I take care of the fastwork and planning the training and racing programs. "It's been fantastic. Phil says he's never had a horse to win so many races over the years. I think as well as the wins, the pacer has run 18 placings from 69 starts which works out that he's earnt on average $1000 per start." But Retallick said while Brobenah Boy was capable of pinging off a quick last half, he could also be cunning at times. "We have to change his gear a bit at home and we also have to put up with his quirks - like he's always got to be fed first, and he also has to be the first one out on the training track," he said. "All that aside, he's a beautiful old fella. We've used him as a cart horse and had yearlings tied on the side. "We sent him down to Bernie Hewitt in the early days and he won a race with him and got him qualified for a G1 event. Bernie always believed he would make a nice horse later on." While Retallick and his co-trainer Phil aim to target all the cup races in their region, it hasn't all been plain sailing with their popular pacer. Brobenah Boy was born three and a half weeks premature and they took it in turns to milk the mare and bottle feed the newborn foal. "We did it all night and we were very lucky that things turned out the way they did," Retallick said. "The harness racing community in the region is tight knit. Apart from Bernie, we can always ring Norm Diebert or David Eurell anytime of the day and they'll help you. Norm is brilliant with youngsters and has taught me a lot." Brobenah Boy is being handled by young Wagga reinsman Jordan Seary, 20, who got involved in the sport about six years ago when he lived nearby to well-known trainer-driver Bruce Harpley. The youngster, with 16 wins and 51 placings this season, drove Ned Pepper to win the Griffith and Leeton Cup two years ago for trainer Katie Jenner and will be aiming to repeat the effort with Brobenah Boy.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A teenage Tasmanian schoolgirl who just four weeks ago landed her first harness racing winner in the sulky, has gone within a whisker of landing a double. Bronte Miller scored her second career win when Arctic (Artesian-Atlantique (Walton Hanover) won the $5500 Carlton Draught Stakes on Sunday night, then in the very next race went down narowly, finishing runner-up with Jakes A Joy. "I really thought I might have got there right on the line-and the guys in the judges tower said later there was only a very, very small margin in it," Bronte said. "But to drive another winner and then finish second was still so exciting," she said. Arctic put up a huge performance to the delight of some excited Miller stable owners and family members who were on track. Ecstatic owners John Stevenson and his partner June Walker, with trainer Clayton Miller and his wife Claire    --Stacy Lear photo After being snagged back at the start to settle near last at least six lengths off the lead, Bronte waited for a trail and that came at the bell when Hannah Von dongen made a three wide move with The Cobblers Piece. "Arctic's trained by my dad (Clayton) and it was a huge surprise to get the money because no-one gave us much hope. We drew barrier 13 and he started as a bit of an outsider at $17," Bronte said. "He felt great in the run and I didn't worry when I had to pull him out four and five wide on the home corner. He just got up by a short half head and when I was still on the track I could hear mum and dad and the owners all cheering. "Some of them hadn't been to the track before to see the horse run so they were over the moon-and still are! It's the first share they've ever had in a racehorse. "My brother Blake was away camping, but he watched the race on his phone and he was the first one to call and congratulate me." Only a pixel in it – (top) Bronte Miller gets the photo decision on Arctic, ahead of Emjays Black Chip. But (bottom) in the very next race, when she drove Jakes A Joy the decision went the other way in favor of Resolute Ruler.  Bronte is on the outside in both photographs But unfortunately, sometimes, what comes around, goes around! And Jakes A Joy (Mister Big-Joy To Behold (Fake Left) was runner-up for Bronte by the narrowest of margins. The gelding still has a special place in Bronte's heart, though, having provided her with her maiden victory at Hobart back on September 27 at her tenth drive. "He's a lovely horse and since that win, I've had three more drives on him for two second placings," Bronte said. The 16-year-old said she was "horse mad" from an early age and had been involved in the pony club since she was three or four. "I've always loved horses and after pony club I went on to equestrian and then did the pony trots. I enjoyed the pony trots and driving at Carrick and Launceston," she said. "Dad's a hobby trainer and I first started doing trackwork for him. We get a bit competitive and I've found that I can get a bit aggressive when I'm driving!" Proud dad Clayton, PetBarn manager at Launceston, said he worked out pretty quickly that the horses would run for his daughter. "I think she was 14 and had a stable hand licence when we started working horses together. Bronte beat me one morning, so the next week I swapped horses-but that didn't quite work because she beat me again!" Clayton said. Bronte, a Year 10 student at Star Of The Sea Catholic College in George Town, says she's "at the pointy end of school with exams about to start soon". "I hope to be a teacher and definitely want to still do harness racing if I can work it. I sometimes get anxious before a race, but later it just feels so comfortable. I'm really enjoying it," she said. "I've been lucky to learn firstly from dad and I've now probably been part-time with the Ben Yole team for 12 months. He's 25 minutes away, but I'm out there on school holidays, weekends and even public holidays. "Ben's drivers have been fantastic in giving me advice. I'm really lucky getting support from guys like Mark Yole, Gareth and Todd Rattray, Rohan Hadley and others."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The prospect of an eight-hour interstate road trip's not everyone's cup of tea, but for champion South Australian harness racing driver Wayne Hill it's part of his weekly routine - and he's stoked to be back doing it. Until April, Hill routinely made the 400-kilometre Sturt Highway road trip from Adelaide to Mildura, but the hard-line COVID-19 State border lockdown left him confined to local meetings only. He searched for any possible exemption to cross the border without luck - until last week. And he will finally be back for Mildura's epic 12-race program tomorrow on Melbourne Cup night. "I've been in contact with the South Australian police on a pretty regular basis," Hill said. "I really thought there was some positivity last Wednesday week when I was talking to them and I got the green light a few days later. So first thing on the following Monday I applied and the next day I was issued with a permit," he said. "I have to do a COVID test every week, but I'm more than happy to do that. Then when I get to Mildura, I'll be temperature-checked at the entry gate like everyone else." For South Australian drivers, competing at Mildura is an incentive money wise, with Victorian driver fees around $70 a drive, as well as percentages for a top-five finish. Hill admits part of the appeal is financial - but it's also become a habit he enjoys. "It can be really good if you have a reasonable night. The four-hour road trip over and back is the downside, but it just becomes part and parcel of your week if you're doing it all the time," he said. "There wouldn't be many Mildura meetings that I've missed in the past five years. I love going there because the people are friendly, the club committee and all the other trainers have always got time for a chat, and I do enjoy the track. "I've kept in close contact with a few of the trainers over there and I'm excited they are again staying loyal to me. That's really nice and I can't wait." Hill is engaged to drive in nine races but he's only one of a throng of trainers and drivers heading to the Mildura fixture. A 12-race card brings a logistical nightmare at the country harness racing hub, but Mildura Harness Racing Club secretary manager Michelle McGinty says it's a challenge she loves to have. "Harness racing is in great shape in our region - it's definitely one of the healthiest places in the state and we could regularly program 13 or 14 races," McGinty said. "We often program 10 or 11 to try to get as many people as possible a run, but I think it's the first time in about three years that we've been granted 12 races - it's great for the trainers, great for the drivers and great for the club," she said. "I think a lot of trainers watched our racing during COVID and thought they'd give it a try once restrictions eased, and we're seeing the benefit of that now. "The only downside is trying to manage the logistics - nearly 120 horses in 103 stables on track is a bit of a challenge! We need to get trainers and horses in and out, and stables and facilities cleaned down in between under our COVID procedures. But we have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers who make sure it all gets done." Mildura continues to be one of the State's most popular venues. McGinty said the $12,000 and $20,000 fast class events were prompting new interest, and the growing local horse population is bolstered this week by 16 visiting trainers. Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn is another hitting the road. "The trip up and back takes a while, but there's usually three of us, so it's pretty easy and there's a great atmosphere," he said. "It's a friendly place and a lot of characters up there, so there's always someone to talk to and have a bit of fun, but also the Mildura racing is almost every week, too, so it's easy to program horses to race there."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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