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Huge harness racing fan Stevie Blacker has shown an expert eye when it comes to buying former Kiwi pacers and now he's successfully branched off - as a driver. The likeable Blacker, who hails from Mortlake in Victoria's western district, had his first-ever official race drive at Mildura yesterday afternoon and came up trumps. He handled four-year-old gelding Kolovos (Bettors Delight-Queen Camille (Christian Cullen), a horse he owns, for his good mate, Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn. "The COVID-19 has played a bit of role because normally I'm right into football during the winter months and I'm usually umpiring," Blacker said. "But it was probably Aaron's father Barry who got me into it, because he was saying that there were very few trials drivers at Horsham, so why didn't I give it a go?" he said. So Blacker took his advice and got his licence to drive in trials. "After three drives I wasn't fussed either way, then I drove one of the horses I own, which I think was Cool and Calculated and he went super! That was the turning point. I thought: 'Wow! How long's this been going on?! "I started thinking about maybe driving in races, so I went to a lot of trials and there were heaps of people like Geoff Senior and others who were terrific in putting me on." Blacker said he had only recently been licenced to drive. "I sort of picked out the Mildura meeting for my first race drive. It did work out well when Aaron put Kolovos in with my five-point concession claim," he said. And Blacker did the rest...with all the poise of a veteran. Pushing Kolovos out of the gate, Blacker was unable to cross Tracer Bullet to get to the lead, but he didn't get flustered by having to race in the death-seat. When Tracer Bullet kicked to a narrow advantage on the home corner and appeared the winner, Blacker got to work urging Kolovos, who found plenty over the final stages to post a memorable and popular win. Watch the race replay here. Kolovos and Stevie Blacker after their memorable win Blacker grew up around horses. Some of his family was involved in thoroughbreds, but others were caught up by the legendary deeds of the mighty trotter of the 1970s, Maoris Idol (40 wins from 46 starts), trained by Ric Healy at Marnoo. "My brother and I spent hours when we were young playing around with an old cart, built like a sulky, that was made specially for us," Blacker said. "I suppose I did have in the back of my mind that one day I would like to have go at driving - but I really did think I'd missed my chance!" the 47 year old said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After well over a decade of being mentored and working with some of the best, Kelly Stuart-Mitchell is about to launch her own harness racing career. The 31-year-old former Kiwi was granted a Victorian trainer's licence about five weeks ago. And she is wasting no time jumping in the deep end with her first starter going around at Cranbourne this Sunday night. Three-year-old bay gelding Hey Listen (Crazed-Catchya Maya (Yankee Spider) will make his debut in the $7000 Aldebaran Park Trot at 7.30 pm. The enthusiastic horsewoman has the pedigree for success, with her father Robert a former outstanding trainer, and her brother Todd a highly respected trainer-driver. "I grew up in a 'horsey' town, Cambridge, on the North Island," Kelly said. "There were always horses around when I was growing up because Dad had big teams in work and mum did the yearling preparations. I can clearly recall the first horse I ever got-it was given to me for my fifth birthday!" she said. "Dad enjoyed the square-gaiters and that may be rubbing off onto me a little because three of mine are trotters." Kelly has worked for some of the best along her journey, having had stints with legendary NZ Hall of Famer Barry Purdon for seven years and the formidable Victorian team, Andy and Kate Gath for five years. She also spent nine months with the highly-successful WA combination of Greg and Skye Bond. "They have all been a massive influence on me, not only as mentors, but as friends. As well I'm so grateful for all the help that Joe Pace is giving me. I'm working my horses out of his place at Melton and I just love it there," Kelly said. "I'm pretty excited to have my own starter after all this time. A win of course would be a fairytale, but I'm really just hoping that he does everything right," she said. "He didn't put a foot wrong in a recent trial and we were happy with the way he handled himself. There's quite a few owners in the horse, including my partner Darren Aitken, who along with my parents and family, is my greatest supporter." And while she's starting quietly, Kelly expects soon to build the stable to four, and eventually to get a good team together. "We have one in New Zealand that Todd is keeping ticking along while we're waiting for transportation to get it over here," she said. "I thoroughly love training them. I did drive in trials many years ago, but I'll leave that side of things to the experts!" Hoofnote: Robert Mitchell enjoyed success with Just An Excuse (Live Or Die-My Excuse (Smooth Fella) winner of two NZ Cups, the 2004 $75k Ballarat Pacing Cup and several other feature events. The gelding retired with 16 wins and eight placings from 27 starts for $877,000. Todd drove the superstar for his dad. Robert is now retired on a huge farm at Raglan, a small beachside town on the North Island of NZ, where he prepares yearlings for sale.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Stawell harness racing hobby trainer Ray Harvey makes no secret that he was ready to give up on many occasions with a young square-gaiter that had only one gear-and that was reverse! "It didn't matter what I tried, all he wanted to do was go backwards. He would barely take one step forward," Harvey said. "I've broken in quite a few over the years and never have I come across one like it before. But bless his little soul, that's all in the past and he's now the best horse I've ever had in my stables!" he said. And the aptly-named The Penny Drops (Danny Bouchea-Chilly Pepperell (Classic Adam) is certainly a bright prospect among Victorian trotting ranks, posting his eighth career win at Terang on Tuesday night. The four-year-old was bred and now raced by Harvey, his partner Moira Hateley, and friends Jim and Val Pickering. Harvey said one of the first times "Ronny" (The Penny Drops' stable name) got the idea of moving forward, was when their dog walked past. "The horse just set off following the dog. Another time Moira walked by and he followed her. So Moira then walked around our track, with the horse coming along behind her," he said. "So with this in mind, we got old Baltimore Boy (7 wins & 23 placings) who we retired five years ago, and tied him to the jog cart next to Ronny. That worked perfectly, and providing Ronny could hear the other horse, he was happily trotting-and in a forward direction! "After that day there hasn't been a problem and we could leave Baltimore Boy at home. But the two horses are now the best of mates. "We leased the dam Chilly Pepperell and bred from her. The Penny Drops has so far provided us with a great deal of enjoyment." Harvey, who is from a thoroughbred background, was a late arrival to the trotting game and came to train standardbreds by chance. "I was a jockey as a kid and later in Adelaide I rode over the jumps. I've worked for some top trainers, including the Cummings stable," he said. "I got a job at the Stawell racecourse, but because of the hours I was required to work, it was impossible to train gallopers. So I went into doing standardbreds about 10 to 15 years ago-and here I am still going and loving it." Now a truckdriver, Harvey said training standardbreds worked better around the couple's lifestyle. "You can train them at home whenever it suits and when I'm doing an early shift with truck driving, Moira takes care of the feeding duties before she heads off," he said. "Moira has also been involved in the thoroughbred side of things in the past. She has some show hacks at home and is right into it." The Penny Drops showed exceptional ability last season as a three-year-old with five wins and two placings from 14 starts. This season he has also been consistent with three wins and four placings from 11 outings. "We finished second, beaten a half neck in the 2020 TAB South Australian G1 $30,000 Trotters Cup, in February. I usually only give them two or three weeks off, but we went away, and he ended up having six weeks in the paddock," Harvey said. "He came back in with a bigger girth than me! It's has taken so long to get the weight off him. His first two starts back on May 30 and then June 18 sharpened him up and he looks okay now. "He's a nice, honest horse, but I'm sure there's improvement in him because he's so laid back and doesn't always go his hardest. "I put blinkers on him quite a while ago and that got his head in the game. I really believe he likes just being a type of social horse." Harvey is hoping for a start at Melton on Saturday week in a Winter Championship. "The mobile barrier start isn't really his go because he's not real quick, but hopefully we will be thereabouts," he said. Harvey has just finished breaking in two babies that are now out for a spell-both trotters. "I prefer them to pacers, but they can be more heart-breaking!" he admitted.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Over the years, Melbourne harness racing trainer-driver Mario Attard has tried his hand successfully at a number of business pursuits, but horses have always been in the background. Attard, based at Rockbank, just minutes away from Tabcorp Park, Melton, now admits that he's fully focused on his small team of pacers-and the results are certainly coming. Two of his three horses in Don't Hold Back (Courage Under Fire-Braeview Express (Badlands Hanover) and Power Of Faith (Art Major-Golden Showgirl (Armbro Operative) recently scored longshot wins at his home track. Three-year-old filly Power Of Faith started the ball rolling with a narrow victory on June 22 at bolter's odds of 40/1 and stablemate, seven-year-old stallion Dont Hold Back, joined the party with a win last Saturday night at 15/1. "I've been licensed for nearly 40 years, but during most of that time I was trying to run businesses and do the horses at the same time. To be honest, the horses probably weren't getting the care they needed," Attard said. "So I decided not all that long ago to give it my best shot. I'm a happy sort of guy, but I'm really enjoying it at the moment," he said. "I've nursed Dont Hold Back along for a number of years and now I'm going for broke with him. He ran a good fourth first up at Melton after a little break and then his last start win in 1.55-5 was solid." Dont Hold Back has been a marvellous performer for Attard with 14 wins and 11 placings from 52 starts for nearly $250,000. After starting out as an electronics technician, which involved making specialized gauges for refineries, Attard was lured to the automotive industry in the late 1980s. "I was one of the first in Melbourne to be qualified to convert motor vehicles to run on gas. I put in a huge amount of hours for probably 12 or 13 years," he said. "Then I went into curtains and drapes for a bit before running a big building business called New Look Homes Pty Ltd. I was in that with one of my sons, Ian, and we had four supervisors and a team of office staff. "It was successful, but one day I just thought to myself that I'd had enough. So I went and told Ian of my decision-he was okay with it because he'd had the same feelings. "There were a few other ventures. It was all fun and it certainly taught me how to deal with a lot in life, particularly learning how to read people. "We dabble in a bit of development now. But the boys take care of me. 'Leave it to us', they tell me! Our other son Darren has Dream Design Build in Melbourne, while the oldest, Karen, runs Que One Homes with her husband. "My wife Anna is my biggest supporter in harness racing, while our children and 10 grandchildren are in it for the fun." Attard was always going to be involved in the sport with his father Charlie being a successful trainer-driver for many years, while his late grandfather Tony was also a keen participant. Charlie, who still attends meetings with Mario, was associated with many great horses when training at nearby Sydenham. He was involved with such smart pacers as Lombo Limmo (23 wins including the 2008 Devonport Cup), Bells and Whistles (Moonee Valley 2yo recordholder, 12 wins, $99k), Oh Lord (21 wins, $40k, before continuing a successful career in the US), and Gold Glen (4 wins from just a handful of starts). "Dad had a great eye for a nice horse. He could pick them out and he never paid a lot. He was also very good with young ones and got them going, just by understanding them," Mario said. And the Attard father-and-son team will be back at Melton tonight with Power Of Faith, one of the top fancies in the IRT Australia 3yo Pace.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A Queensland harness racing trainer is being rewarded for his kindness after stepping in and saving a horse more than 1500 kilometres away. Respected horseman Alistair Barnes said a six-year-old pacer "caught his eye" as he was browsing over an Echuca saleyards catalogue obtained by his partner Cassie Saunders. "There was a well-bred thoroughbred mare being offered for sale and Cassie was interested in it," Barnes said. "But I just liked everything I saw about a pacer that was listed, a horse which was named Somebeachsomegift (Somebeachsomewhere - Ulanart (Perfect Art) -he'd only been to the races on 11 occasions and won the Southern Cross 3YO final in Adelaide and also won at Mildura, although admittedly, it was back in 2017!" Barnes said. "After making a few phone calls I was told the horse had broken down and had been virtually retired, but a girl I spoke to, who had a fair bit to do with him, was quite upset that he was at the saleyards," he said. "She was in the middle of moving house though and had nowhere to put him, and I promised her I'd rescue the horse and get him up to our place. It was in my mind I might be able to get him back to the races because over the years we've done pretty well at patching up horses with bad legs." Alistair and Cassie are based at Tallegalla, near Marburg, 60 kms from Brisbane, where they prepare a small team of pacers, including brilliant last start Redcliffe Gold Cup runner-up Northview Hustler. Barnes said after navigating the logistics of purchasing Somebeachsomegift and having him transported north to Queensland, he found him to have a bad tendon as well as stifle issues. "But I was confident with time and patience I could patch him up and told the girl that when I was finished racing him, she could have him back," he said. "It turned out that he was one of the easiest horses to fix up that I've ever had!" But when the pacer was ready to go to the races, Barnes encountered another hurdle with Somebeachsomegift having been deregistered. "That took ages to sort out. I had Harness Racing Victoria helping me and the stewards were terrific, along with the Harness Racing Authority. My parents Geoff and Lorraine, along with a close family friend, played a big role in sorting it all out. Their work behind the scenes was awesome," he said. Somebeachsomegift finally made it back to the races in May, nearly three years after he last raced. But, after scoring an emphatic sprint-lane victory at Albion Park (1:57.9) last week, the pacer is now repaying Alistair and Cassie's persistence. To watch the video replay click here "We got there in the end and he's rewarded us, with the win and three placings from eight starts in a pretty short time. He's sound as a bell, now, and should keep racing consistently. I'm just elated because later the horse will end up having a nice home." And Cassie and her thoroughbred from the saleyards? Well she was also a successful purchaser and is now the owner of a well-bred broodmare by High Chaparral, a former Irish champion racehorse who won 10 of his 13 race starts. "We've booked her into Tassort, a first-season sire who had just two starts for a five-length debut win in the Golden Gift followed by a second in the G2 Silver Slipper Stakes," Cassie said. "Al got lucky-so hopefully I do as well," she laughed. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Good luck and good fortune go hand in hand with harness racing - and horseshoes have been a symbol of good luck for centuries. And perhaps there was more than a slice of good fortune at Albion Park on Friday night when a horseshoe became a flying missile - and fortunately caused no harm. Several harness racing drivers could be excused for counting their lucky stars after the shoe dislodged from one of the starters in the first 60 metres of race six in Brisbane. It's invisible to the naked eye and on replay, but ace racetrack photographer Dan Costello was right on the spot to capture several brilliant shots that show how close the "lucky horseshoe" came to a number of runners. Experienced reinsman Darren Weeks, who was driving 40/1 chance Newmerella Ladykay, said he saw "something flash past" out the corner of his eye. "I gathered it was a shoe. There was probably a few of us a bit lucky-you certainly wouldn't have wanted it to hit you that's for sure," he said. For the race replay click here  The video of the race replay shows Grant Dixon in black and white checks, on Good As It Gets (no 3) and Shane Graham, wearing blue and white colors, on Vienna Boy (4), both running the gate and seemingly oblivious to the flying shoe as they concentrate on getting forward positions. Weeks (number two: Gold with purple diamond yokes) eased out of the speed battle at the start, but glances quickly across to his right side, and then looks back toward the racetrack as the shoe hits the surface. Stewards reported the shoe was cast from Notorious, driven by Dannielle McMullen (8), wearing bright red and purple colors. They started on the inside of the back row, directly behind Couldntbetold, Chloe Butler (1). Happily no harm done. This photo shows how lucky the drivers were not to be hit in the face just after the horseshoe starts its trajectory But what's the story behind the "luck" associated with horseshoes? Over the ages, people have hung them over their doorways to bring good fortune, rubbed them to ward off spirits, and used them on their racing colors in an attempt to bring good karma. Iron has long been believed to ward off evil spirits, and the shoes were traditionally held in place by seven nails - seven being considered the luckiest number. Myth has it that the tradition of hanging a horseshoe at the front door dates back to the tenth century, and a blacksmith named Dunstan. It is said that a man Dunstan recognised as the devil asked him to put horseshoes his hooves. The devil was in agony, and Dunstan chained him up, releasing him only after he promised never to enter a place that had a horseshoe hung over the door. Therefore, any house with a horseshoe was guaranteed to be lucky. But be careful with how you display your horseshoe-it's only good luck if the ends point upward so that the horseshoe can fill with luck. Well, it's a nice thought anyway!   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of Dr Albert Schweitzer's most notable quotes was: "If you love what you are doing, you will be successful". And the German-born philosopher, if he was still alive, would certainly have a compelling example in passionate Ballarat region harness racing trainer Katrina Fitzpatrick. Perhaps Katrina's nickname in the industry, "Smiley", is also a bit of a giveaway! "I just love the horses. I could honestly spend all day mucking around with them," the livewire Ross Creek horsewoman said. "I've been in the sport for a long time. There's always been at least one horse around probably every day of my life," she laughed. Katrina's patience with four-year-old Dream Over paid dividends on Wednesday afternoon when he scored a well-deserved win in the Hillcroft Stables Trotters Handicap at Stawell. To watch the video replay click here. Driven perfectly in front by leading Ararat freelance reinsman Michael Bellman, Dream Over (Andover Hall-My Dreamweaver (Lindy Lane) won well from Show Me The Moola and Allawart Bob. "He had been placed in seven of his past nine runs and I'm pretty certain his previous win was at Stawell, so it's becoming a favorite track of mine!" Katrina said. "There's some big improvement in him yet because he's still learning. What we love about him is the way he knuckles down when the others come at him," she said. Katrina and Darren Fitzpatrick with reinsman Michael Bellman after Dream Over’s win at Stawell Katrina most definitely has a soft spot for the square gaiters, and obtained Dream Over through helping out Pat Driscoll, of Yabby Dam Farms. "When we got him, Pat did tell us that he was very immature and would take a while. In the early days, he was naughty as well, but we've really looked after him," she said. "Time is so important and sometimes you just have to be so patient with them. Pat actually gave us the horse because I'd been looking after some that needed care like changing bandages and that sort of thing." Katrina said she was happy with training only a small team of two these days, which is a far cry from the dozen she would prepare years ago, along with jogging up horses for trainers including the late Graeme Lang. "When we started a family, I think that was the right time to cut back. We have two lovely children in Jason and Kylie, and my husband Darren, is really supportive," she said. "We've just finished building a brand-new walk-in, walk-out shed for the horses!" Katrina admits she has had her share of luck with trotters over the years, having been involved with such smart performers as Irish Rhapsody, Hurricane Truscott, Reasons To Rule and Beau Bradie, But she's also enjoyed being associated with some handy pacers in Reasons, Chasing Chelsea and Docile Joe. And while she known mostly as a trainer, Katrina's driving career had some highlights as well, including getting off "to a flyer" when she tasted success at her very first drive. "It was at Kilmore on August 13, 1979, on a pacer named Michaels Joy trained by my late brother-that was such a special win and now means just so much," she said. Katrina went on to drive another five winners, but still rates a fifth placing at a night meeting at Moonee Valley as a big highlight. "I represented Victoria in the first-ever male and female invitational challenge. This included Deb Quinlan and Roma Pocock. That was a big privilege," she said. A race fall at Ballarat, which hospitalized her for a fortnight with a broken pelvis and other injuries, put a halt to her driving career. "I also got both my hands smashed up badly six years ago when a horse suddenly pulled back out of the float. That meant having plates and a lot of therapy. I'm now just sticking to the training part which I really love," she said. "Apart from Dream Over, who is our little champ at the moment, we have a well-bred yearling trotter that we're very happy with. "My love is for the trotter-but I do have hopples hanging up in the gear shed!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

The Team Tritton harness racing juggernaut rolled into Yonkers Raceway just before midday yesterday (AEST) - and a sentimental favorite brought home the chocolates at the Aussie stable's first look at the famed New York Raceway. Shane and Lauren Tritton have now won six of their eight starts since hitting the American tracks for the first time a little over a fortnight ago. Yesterday it was a stable favorite, the consistent Yayas Hot Spot (Jeremes Jet-Star Of Heaven (In The Pocket) posting a first-up US win and taking his career victories to 27. "He went super because he was up a bit in grade. Our driver Jordan (Stratton) thought the horse was day-dreaming and could have gone a little faster," Shane said. "We were very pleased with it. He went into the race a bit fat, so hopefully there's some improvement to come with more racing," he said. Yayas Hot Spot has been a great old horse for the Trittons, winning more than $620,000 so far in his career. "He won his first 10 starts with Lauren driving in seven of them, then he's been in two Miracle Miles and won the ($100,000 G1) Newcastle Mile early last year, so he's a pretty special horse for us," Shane said. "The half mile tracks just suit him down to the ground. When we were back home, we were always wanting to send him across to see how he'd go, but it just never worked in, so it's terrific to now be over here with him ourselves." The former Sydneysiders headed off in March this year with a team of a dozen horses to try their luck in the US. And while all the preparation work had been done, the couple is no doubt pinching themselves at how well their relocation is playing out so far. Yayas Hot Spot was their sixth winner, adding his name to a list of Meadowlands successes in Gods Spirit (1.50-1); My Ruebe Star (two wins - 1.50-1 & 1.50.3); Flaming Flutter (1.49-1); and Letspendanitetogtha (1.51). They have had another two starters. Ohoka Johnny ran third in 1.49-3, while Im A Director lost any chance when checked with 800 metres to go and suffering a flat tyre. "We've had an unbelievable start but we realize that it's going to get tougher from here," Shane said. "There's a few bad barrier draws coming up in our next couple of meetings and one of our starters in Foo Fighter is nearly in the open class," he said. "But we have to just aim on being consistent. All we can do is build on what we've learnt so far, putting in the work and doing our best." Tritton said they had received some enquiries from potential owners in recent weeks. "There's been a few reaching out to us and we'll have to sit down and weigh things up at some stage but our first priority is always to our loyal owners," he said. "We arrived here with a stable of 12 and then we've picked up another six since. We've got a few staff with us now and after knowing nothing about horses, they've come a long way!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

He was a favorite of Victorian harness racing circles for years, and now he's the idol of some possible future stars of the sport. Eight-year-old gelding Tee Cee Bee Macray (Ponder-Wya Wya Macray (Pacific Fella) is enjoying retirement at Larajay Farms, at Myrniong, the home of Greg Sugars and his wife Jess. A winner of 17 races and with earnings totaling $250,000 in an awesome career, Tee Cee Bee Macray, nick-named "Mason" around the stables, now has the role of nanny. "We had him next door to his baby sister and a few weanlings, then one day when we were shifting the weanlings, he carried on as if to say he wanted to be out with them," Jess said. "So we thought okay, we'll give it a try. And it's worked out absolutely perfectly because they know he's the boss. It's just terrific the way he keeps them in line. "Mason's always got a home here because he was a family favorite, particularly with my dad (the late Alan Tubbs), but this is really special. To be a babysitter, a horse has to have a unique personality and I probably don't know of too many others it would really suit." Jess said they had tossed around the idea of converting the family favorite into a riding horse. "But he suffered from a sore back towards the end and we really thought that might prevent him from going on and being suitable to ride," she said. Tee Cee Bee Macray was trained by Alan Tubbs and came to notice in his first run at Maryborough in December 2014, when after racing outside the leader, he ran a gallant fourth. He was driven in those early days by Jess's sister Amy Tubbs, who has since turned her talents to equestrian contests and is a regular competitor in the Level One events. Over the next 20 months, the pacer won 12 races (including a Vicbred Platinum final) and had five placings from 18 starts. Alan Tubbs battled kidney-related ill-health for many years, and when he passed away in October 2017, Jess took over the training of Tee Cee Bee Macray. "I don't think Greg and I have ever put so much into a horse to get it back into the winner's circle than what we did with Mason," Jess said. "It took us two years and 20 days to do it - that was the period since his previous win-but what a memorable and emotional night it was." And Tee Cee Bee Macray couldn't have picked a better night to return to peak form! It was at Melton's hugely popular Breeders Crown night and even the usually relaxed Sugars couldn't contain his emotions, saluting his whip in jubilation as they went over the line. To watch the video replay of this race click here "That was such a special victory. It was one for dad," Jess said. A trip down memory lane…Amy and the late Alan Tubbs after one of Tee Cee Bee Macray’s early wins The pacer thrilled harness racing fans over many years with fine wins. Even several of his performances behind the "best of the best" were outstanding. He finished third at Melton in late 2017 in the Smoken Up Sprint behind two stars in Lennytheshark and My Field Marshall in 1.51-9. Prior to that, he chased super mare Ameretto home in the $60,000 Alabar Breeders Crown Graduate Pacers FFA, beating San Carlo, My Kiwi Mate and Flaming Flutter, who are still going around today - certainly more than enough credentials to demand some respect from his young charges in the "nanny paddock"! "He's a special boy to us and to see him out in the paddock standing over six or seven weanlings while they are all lying down in the sun is lovely. It just warms my heart," Jess said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

With a wealth of experience behind her working for top harness racing stables in Australia and New Zealand, Amanda Grieve was always going to step up to the plate with the right opportunity. And that came eight months ago when her former boss, astute Lara horseman Dean Braun decided to move away from full-time training and concentrate on a few business ventures-exporting horses to the US and assisting his partner Pauline at her Melton Saddlery business. Needless-to-say, in her role as head trainer, Grieve has taken a similar approach to Braun. Put simply, concentrating on quality of horse flesh, rather than quantity. "I'm actually only training a small team of four at the moment. There are a few others out spelling such as Holy Basil, but I seem to be spending all day at the farm doing them. I don't know if I could do too many more," Grieve said. "We've been getting a fair bit of rain being near the coast. That tends to slow things down because I try to bring them inside if it starts getting too heavy." Grieve's latest success was at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night when talented youngster Pur Dan (Art Major-Collectable NZ (Mach Three) took out the TAB Long May We Play Pace. He was handled by star lightweight driver Kima Frenning. To watch the video replay of Pur Dan winning click here The win took Grieve to a tally so far this season of 11 wins, 15 second placings and 7 thirds for $122,000 in stakes. Her win/place percentage to race starters sits at an impressive 56 percent. Pur Dan, raced by well-known and successful owners in Danny Zavitsanos, of Geelong, and Warren Viney, of Tasmania, started his career in New Zealand under the care of Mark Purdon (hence the play on his surname in naming the horse: Pur Dan). "He won first up as a 2yo at Addington, and then had a second and a fourth. He's got a few issues and had a wind operation after those first three starts. Despite being quite lazy in getting him to do anything, he's a nice type and is an honest horse," Grieve said. "Kima was actually rapt with the win and told me later that he's still green and should keep showing a lot of improvement with more race experience." Grieve said that under the national ratings system, Pur Dan kept missing out on racing in his age group. "He always had a few too many points and was racing in the next grade. He was sent out a red hot favorite a few times, but he was far from disgraced being runner-up four times and had a third and a fourth," she said. Kima Frenning after her Melton success with Pur Dan Others in the Grieve stable are StaggerLee, War Dan and rising nine-year-old superstar Cruz Bromac. Grieve couldn't hide her excitement at again having Cruz Bromac back in her care. "Yes, he's my favorite. Horses like him don't come along all that often. We've had him back for a couple of weeks now," Grieve said. "He ran fifth in the Auckland Cup on New Year's Eve. He later had a problem in his leg or hoof. I don't think they could pin-point it, although most thought it was in his fetlock. "But there's no problems at all now. It's quite exciting because he's a brilliant horse. He will just be brought up nice and easy. It would be great to go back over later this year and defend his NZ Cup." Cruz Bromac ran third for Braun/Grieve in the Victoria Cup and then headed across to NZ for the Addington FFA (third) and the Inter Dominion series (a win, two placings prior to fourth in the final to All Stars' barn stablemate Ultimate Sniper). Over the years, Christchurch-born Grieve has had stints in NSW with greats in Paul Fitzpatrick and (uncle) Dennis Wilson, while in New Zealand, she worked for two of the best in Tony Herlihy and Cran Dalgety. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Young Terang harness racing driver Matthew Horsnell is thoroughly enjoying life in Victoria's Western District - so much so that he reckons he's there to stay. Horsnell, 24, has been part of the powerful Marg Lee stable on a full-time basis for the past two years. "It does get pretty hectic at times when we're doing big numbers, but we get there in the end," he said. And while Horsnell doesn't mind one bit that he's down the pecking order when it comes to stable driving engagements, he's been making the most of his opportunities. "Jason (Lee) and Glen (Craven) are both excellent drivers and they are our main boys, but I'm more than happy to poke along and pick up a drive now and again," he said. Horsnell showed at the lastest Terang meeting that he's more than competent with a blowout victory on 25/1 chance Keayang Kreuzer (Somebeachsomewhere-Inasafeplace (Safely Kept). After briefly being wide early, Horsnell sent the three-year-old to the head of affairs and with steady splits of 31.1, 29.6, 28.9 and 28.8, they packed too many guns for warm favorite Gee Smith (Greg Sugars). "He deserved to win because he's just been so consistent with five placings from eight runs in a bit over two months of racing," Horsnell said. "I think the plan is to geld him and put him out for a while. He's going to do a nice job when he comes back in," he said. "In the past he's never shown a lot of gate speed because he's a very laid-back type. But we got across the field okay the other night. And I loved how he kept kicking when they got to his girth over the final stages." Horsnell, who is a grandson of Norm Armsden, a winner of the SA trainers' premiership when he was based over there, has had a great grounding since leaving school after Year 10 when he decided harness racing was his career path. "Pop was helping Danny and Jill Norris, of Little River, and training a few of his own there when I was growing up. I was always with him at weekends and later I spent time with the late Alan Tubbs. I now reckon I was a bit young when I was with Alan and didn't listen like I should have-looking back, he was such a smart trainer," Horsnell said. He then worked for Maree and John Caldow for two or three years and gained further experience. "The biggest reason for shifting to Terang was to learn from Marg. I'd been part-time for a bit and getting a full-time job at the stable was one of the best things I've ever done," he said. "We all get our work done, but the atmosphere is unreal. There's plenty of joking and a fair bit of ribbing goes on, but I just really enjoy it. They also let me train a few of my own at the place too, which is great. I'm in for the long haul and I'll still be here for years to come." Horsnell said his parents David and Kim were keen supporters. "Dad owned a few horses with his father Harry and some of them were pretty good, including one in Hail Claudia." The pacer, by Jefs Emperor out of Star Courier (Royal Derby), won 12 races and 18 placings for $55,000 in the late 1990s. Horsnell is enjoying a steady season with nine wins and 24 placings. "I haven't been doing that much driving as I had a knee reconstruction, courtesy of football. I've still got some metal screws inserted. I should retire, but I love the game. I probably should just stick with the horses."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Tasmania's leading harness racing trainer Ben Yole is going to be extra busy over the next three days-but he couldn't be happier! Yole, based at Sidmouth, near Launceston, will compete with a massive 70 horses at two meetings. He kicks off with a team of 13 at Hobart tonight, and then his representatives swell to a mind-boggling 57 at Launceston on Sunday. But keeping it in perspective, big numbers are nothing new for the Yole stable. On average they could have anywhere between 75 and 85 horses on their books, and take around 40 to the races. "We have plenty of staff on hand at the race meetings-everyone knows their role so it's pretty good. All of our horses have their own set of harness and we get to the meetings with probably three hours to spare," Yole said. "I guess preparations for the night meetings always start around lunch-time. We have plenty of transport options in four trucks and a heap of floats to get them to the track." Tasmania conducted its first meeting last Sunday at Hobart since harness racing ground to a halt on the Apple Isle at the end of March due to COVID-19 restrictions. Yole took 34 to the Hobart twilight fixture last weekend and returned home with a winning double. Eight-year-old brown mare Pink Ponder (Ponder-Raiderofthelostark (Courage Under Fire) was successful for Mark Yole, while evergreen gelding Altana Blue (Stonebridge Regal-Amarillo Blue (Million To One) was an easy winner for Troy McDonald. Yole told TasRacing leading up to the comeback meeting, it had been tough to plan anything too far ahead with the horses. "There was a bit of stop-start stuff. They were all set to go at one stage, then we were told the return to racing had been delayed by another five weeks. So we probably all backed off and then had to rev them up again to get them somewhere near their peak," he said. "They've been having trials for the past four weeks. I have managed to get at least one run under the belt of most of our team at either Hobart, Launceston or Devonport so we're happy with that." Yole has been the leading trainer in Tasmania for the past four seasons and currently has 105 winners this season (and undoubtedly many more to come yet, with the season being extended from the usual end of August, to the end of December). Yole, who grew up in the Victorian country town of Hamilton, has been a powerhouse particularly over the past five or six years. In the 2015-16 season, he became the first Tasmanian trainer in 20 years to record 100 winners. The following season he broke the record with 124 victories--and equalled that in the 2017-18 season. Yole raised the bar last season with 182 winners, which set a State record for both equine codes of racing. "The 2015-16 season was our first big one. We'd finally got our own property by then and had a nice team including lots of bread and butter horses," Yole said. "Our place was an old dairy farm. There's 50 acres and we've got our own track, swimming facilities and plenty of big paddocks because we don't have stables," he said. "We rent a bush property next door and we use this when we want to give the horses an easy day. Over the years we've worked out that keeping their workload down a little is better. "There's now a lot of steadier and slower work, although there's times when we gallop them up a bit." The Yole stable is made up of a strong backbone of family support. There's Ben and Catherine; Ben's brothers Tim and Mark; as well has Mark's wife Dani; and their parents Wayne and Louise. Mark is the stable's number one driver and Tim is stable foreman and "Mr Fix-it". "In my opinion, there's not too many better drivers than Mark. He does a good job and rarely puts a foot wrong. Tim keeps the stable ticking along and without him, we wouldn't be operating. He works the horses, puts shoes on and anything else that needs doing," Ben said. "Last season we sent him across to Victoria with some horses for a while and he ended up with 20 winners. I was just so rapt for him. "I think we showed that we don't do a bad job and got some respect from trainers over there. We had pencilled in another campaign at the end of July, but we'll have to wait and see on that one." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Jocular Bathurst harness racing trainer John Boserio has his team loaded and on the road for the annual pilgrimage to his second home -Queensland's Gold Coast. Boserio, one of the true characters of the industry, packed up for his first extended northern campaign way back in 1983, when the Gold Coast was the country's tourism mecca and harness racing was at its zenith. "I suppose it's become a bit of a ritual ever since. A couple of times I was keen to shift up there and settle permanently, but my family wasn't on the same page," he said. "But we have heaps of fun and we get away from the freezing winter days that we can cop in Bathurst." And he should feel quite "at home". He'll be part of an exodus of Bathurst trainers including Chris Frisby, and at least three others, who are planning northern campaigns for the winter. Last season the group took up about 40 horses between them-and it will be close to that again if they all make it up there. Boserio recently trained the 150th winner of his career and has been in great form landing half a dozen winners in the past month. Also a shrewd reinsman for many years, Boserio gave driving away after an accident about eight years ago. "I smashed up one of my legs pretty badly and I still have screws and plates keeping an ankle intact," he said. "I haven't driven since, although every now and again I think to myself that I could get out there again!" The milestone training win came courtesy of talented youngster Holy Camp Dillon (For A Reason-Holy Camp Girl (Trump Casino) at Bathurst earlier this month. It was the pacer's third consecutive win-and handled nicely each time by Anthony Frisby. Boserio is aiming his rising star at the Queensland Derby during the campaign. "I raced the dam Holy Camp Girl (Trump Casino-Paxton Joy (Panorama) for a while - in fact she was the last winner I drove before giving it away. We led all the way at Dubbo in January of 2012," Boserio said. "One of the breeders, Clive Anderson lives in Holy Camp Road at Grenfell, so all his horses are named using the Holy Camp part. After my crash, I told Clive that if I ever got back to training, I wouldn't mind one of her foals. "I was lucky enough to be offered Holy Camp Dillon. He's improving all the time and should make a very nice horse." Accompanying Holy Camp Dillon will be four two-year-olds, spearheaded by recent winners He's Sweet and The Grogfather. The other pair in Happy Publican and Rock N Roll Times have a few problems, but Boserio hinted they also have ability. "I've been training for 40 years, but I've taken some time off now and again," Boserio said. "I went off bus driving for a bit and when I was having a spell in the early 2000s I went to the Bathurst sales. A horse by Trump Casino, bred by Wayne Lamb, caught my eye and I ended up with it for $4000," he said. "He really looked an outstanding type. The horse later raced as Four Trumps and won 25 races (13 at Harold Park) for $270,000. We sold him to the US and he ended up winning $700,000 over there." For many years, Boserio, and several of his NSW Central West contemporaries made their winter base at the Border Park Paceway, the picturesque home of harness and greyhound racing at Tweed Heads. But when that closed, they were forced to find alternative stabling for the visiting teams. (Border Park was acquired in mid-2016 for $16.5M and cleared 15 months later to make way for a northern NSW economic hub, planned for development over the next eight years) "We wanted to stay down that end of the Gold Coast. After talks with the Tweed Heads Pony Club about two or three years ago, we were able to use their complex, which is great. There's a small track, a few stables, but we all mostly put the horses out in paddocks," Boserio said. It wouldn't be a Northern crusade for Boserio without his longtime friend and harness racing fanatic, Ronnie Jones, who's been there since the beginning. "I was drinking at a pub one night with Ronnie's brother Pat and just happened to say I was taking a team to Queensland," he said. "Pat suggested I should take Ronnie-that was back in 1983! Ronnie's been coming up with me ever since and we're now the best of mates. "Ronnie is a hard worker and pretty much just leaves me to take care of the fast work. He does the feeds, cleans up the manure, trains them on jog days-so I really get it very easy," he laughed. They intend to stay for at least two-and-a-half months in Queensland. "Our accommodation is paid up until the first week of September and then the plan is to get home for the Breeders Crown series," Boserio said. So any harness racing fans living or passing through the Coolangatta area and needing "a dose" of trots talk, the Kirra Hotel could be just the place over coming weeks! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Veteran horseman Ray White can't wait to be part of the harness racing action again, but admits that as he's getting that bit older, things are taking that bit longer to mend. The 78-year-old was seriously injured in a race fall at the Riverina Paceway, Wagga Wagga, late last month and spent several days in hospital. "I don't remember much about it-but I can say that I got knocked about a fair bit," a surprisingly chirpy White said. The popular trainer-driver, probably the oldest going around in the area, suffered a punctured lung, broken collarbone, serious shoulder blade injuries, five broken ribs on the same side and bruising. To watch the video race replay click here  "I've been involved in a few little prangs, but nothing like this one. But I suppose a fall I had at Gosford was pretty bad, and then at Harold Park years ago I went over one of Vic Frost's horses," White said. "My theory is that after the drought, the ground got a bit harder. Otherwise I may have not got smashed up so bad," he joked. "You really have to expect these things though. I know I'll be out for at least another couple of months, but I'm already getting itchy to get back and a bit irritable and frustrated. "I'm being well looked-after by family, my daughters came down to see me and the harness racing and local community has been terrific. "I know the industry sticks together and looks out for one another-but I didn't realize it stuck this good." White said local horsemen Shane Hallcroft and Rod Woodhouse had each taken one of his team to keep in training. "They wanted to take them all. The support has been overwhelming," he said. White was driving Run Viv Run when the accident happened, but said remarkably the pacer got out of it pretty well. "He had a bit of skin off here and there, with some minor abrasions to his head and shoulder." The gelding, sired by Caribbean Blaster, is cleverly named with reference to Sir Viv Richards, former West Indies cricketer, regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. White grew up with horses, riding them around his parents' dairy farm at Wagga Wagga when just a youngster. "We were always mucking around with them. I was maybe 11 years old when I was putting hopples on them and trying to get them to pace. Our dad Eddie loved his horses and won a few metro races," White said. After leaving school aged 15, White got his licence to drive in races the following year. "I stayed in Wagga Wagga until I was 27 then took three or four horses down to Sydney to give it a try. It all worked out and I stayed there for over 40 years, moving back home about 10 or 12 years ago," he said. White was based at Bankstown and established himself as one of the leading trainer-drivers of the era, regularly preparing big teams of 30 to 40 horses. He finished in the top 10 for a number of seasons and won premierships at nearby local tracks. "I was very fortunate to have some nice pacers over the years. We did well, but we also worked pretty hard at it," White said. The talented Vision Hanover, sired by Menges Hanover USA, swept all before him in the late 1970s, winning a number of features including the renowned Simpson Sprint. The brown stallion established himself as a top three-year-old and at one stage held a race record for his age group. Other successful horses for White included Risky Red, who claimed Derby and Tatlow victories, while Mister Langus and Irish Mint were also prolific winners. "Vision Hanover was the best horse we've ever had. We still have fond memories of him-he was just all class," White said. "These days it's just on a hobby basis. A few of us in the family own a couple of broodmares and we breed a foal now and again. I train out of the showgrounds which is ideal. "I've been reading all the harness racing stories and then spend the rest of the time on the computer checking results and looking up fields. "But harness racing is a bug. Once you catch it, that's the end of you! As soon as I'm feeling right to go, I'll be onto the doctors - I can't wait to get back!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

To quote one of my favorite Australian Football League commentators Brian 'Bristle' Taylor: "Boy Oh Boy...Wow-eee!" And even former harness racing Sydneysiders Shane and Lauren Tritton, now domiciled in North America, admit that they are pinching themselves. The couple is living in Pine Bush, an hour from New York City, and have had two starters for the 100 percent strike rate of two victories. My Ruebe Star got the job done mid Saturday morning Australian time and then stablemate Gods Spirit did likewise the following day. Both won at the famed Meadowlands circuit and were handled by Jordan Stratton. They naturally came in for support on our TAB agencies so there was sure to be plenty of cheering around the country. "We're riding a wave we never want to get off," the Trittons posted. "And a big thank-you goes out to everyone who has helped us along the way. The support we've received has been unbelievable." Shane and Lauren took a team of 12 over with them and have picked up another six horses since arriving in the US in late March. Some of their others yet to be unveiled by Team Tritton include Yayas Hot Spot, Flaming Flutter, Ohoka Johnny, My Rona Gold and Katy Perry, who should all be going around soon. Jordan Stratton has helped Shane and Lauren Tritton to two first up wins ------------ THE superstar of Victorian regionalization racing in the far north west corner of the State, Bernie Winkle is unfortunately taking an enforced break from the action. Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Hanover-Dolly McD (Mach Three) recorded six consecutive victories on the Mildura circuit-but it was the authoritative manner he went about business that earnt him a cult following during lockdown racing. The brown gelding, raced by Eric and Heather Anderson, was sent up the Calder Highway by Glenn Douglas, to his long-time mate Geoff Lucas. From April 24 to June 5, Bernie Winkle thoroughly enjoyed his working holiday in the sunshine. Shane Smith guided him to five wins and then stand-in reinsman Andrew Stenhouse (coincidentally both former Broken Hill horsemen), took the horse to a 1.56-4 last start win. Stenhouse, who recently drove his first winner for 10 years, was cool as a cucumber and handled Bernie Winkle with aplomb for an impressive win. Stewards noted after the race the gelding was lame in his off-side foreleg and stood him down until he gets a veterinary clearance, with the problem believed to be a hoof abscess. A relieved Andrew Stenhouse got the job done like a pro on Bernie Winkle at Mildura ------------ THE marvel from Shepparton, nine-year-old pin-up boy San Carlo, is warming up for another campaign. San Carlo (Mach Three-Bridge Player (Classic Garry) performed with plenty of zest in a recent trial and then wasn't all that far away in his first race start for nearly five months. The tough warrior, trained by Stephen O'Donoghue and Bec Bartley, stepped out at a Shepparton meeting last Saturday night. The gelding finished fourth to Courageous Saint, owned by enthusiastic Swan Hill participant Noel Watson, in a handy 1.56-9 for 2190 metres. San Carlo boasts a super-impressive 50 percent win to start strike-rate at the races. He's had 30 victories and 11 minor placings from 60 outings for over $571,000 in stakes. Raced by John Eichhorn, the pacer performed in a tough NZ Inter Dominion campaign last November-December. He later won a fast class event at Mildura on January 24 prior to having a let-up. San Carlo is sure to make his presence felt in feature races on the country circuit. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Stawell Harness Racing Club President Geoff Sanderson received an early birthday present when four-year-old mare Beekaecee broke through for a long overdue win at his home track. Trained by Michelle Wight, Beekaecee (Four Starzzz Shark - Carly Michelle (Albert Albert) squeaked home by a short-half-head in the Sign Online Pace last week to reward Sanderson and co-owner Brett Crouch a VicBred bonus for their patience. The winner was driven by young gun, Jason Lee. To watch the video replay click on this link The consistent mare has had 22 starts and failed to weigh in only five times, but Wight said it had been frustrating to finish so close, so many times. "She's run a heap of seconds and thirds, and I wouldn't know how many fourths, to it's great to finally get there," Wight said. "It's taken a while, but sometimes when they get that first win, that can be a turning point for them. A pacer we raced a few years ago called Pacquiao took nearly 40 starts to win his first one - then went on to win four from six starts! So things can turn around once they get the hang of it!" she laughed. Wight said a large group of interested supporters had a small interest in Beekaecee. "It was a pretty popular win. There are some of Brett's mates, some poker mates and some other friends. And I didn't realise at the time, but being Geoff's birthday the next day, it certainly made it that much sweeter for him." "And it was actually a Great Western First Four in that race! We won the race, dad (Peter Manning) ran second, with Sport Dreamer, Jason Ainsworth, who works for dad ran third, and (Michelle's sister) Kerryn and Grant finished fourth." Beekaecee (inside) scored a narrow breakthrough win at Stawell Geoff Sanderson has enjoyed a long association with the sport, most notably as the owner of superstar square-gaiter Knight Pistol during his early racing in the 1990s. "Geoff's been in the sport a long time, and Brett and Geoff raced Babalaas Jack with me," Wight said. "But he won a few and got on his mark, then he got claimed, so they were looking for something to replace him and ended up buying Beekaecee," Wight said. "She's been a nice little horse who's kept earning, without getting that VicBred bonus, so it's now great to have won that for them." Wight has reduced her usual team of three or four horses in work, to just two racehorses for the time being, over the winter months. "I'm just racing Beekaecee and Outback Feather at the moment, but I've been inspired by the lovely wintery weather to bring another young one in to break in and another to jog up!" she said "Things have been full on at work (Hotondo Homes), so that will keep me busy enough." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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