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Ten of Australia's finest drivers will assemble at the Horsham Racing Centre this afternoon to contest the 30th annual Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship but with one notable absence. Legendary reinsman Gavin Lang has been a regular part of  Horsham's Invitation Drivers Championship since its inception in 1990.  Gavin was there under the lights at the old showgrounds track when Gaita Pullicino took out the first Golden Pacers Horsham Invitation title. He also drove in the first edition staged on the new 1000m circuit at the Racing Centre in 1993.   Gavin saw the "Noel Smith Memorial" banner assigned to the event in 1995 and has been a constant through changes of sponsors to the current era of Decron Horse Care's support.  Apart from being a regular competitor, Gavin was often called on by the Horsham Club to act as "taxi driver" for interstate competitors and "courier" for trophies, equine products and merchandise prizes. Success in the event came Gavin's way in 1991 (dead-heat with Jim O'Sullivan) 1992, 1996 and 2014.  Incredibly, he's missed only four of the 29 championships to be staged - 1993, 1999, 2013 & 2019 - due to injury, the wrath of stewards or family commitments. However, 2020 is a far different kettle of fish. With Lang currently battling a rare type of lymphoma, the trots industry has rallied in recent months to raise nearly $100,000 towards the incredibly expensive treatment which is  being sourced from USA. A Sportsman's Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Tuesday March 17th will further boost the fundraising tally to support Gavin and his family. Fellow reinsman and organiser Stephen Cleave says the event “promises to be memorable” and “full of great yarns”. Hosted by AFL great and harness aficionado Mick McGuane, GoodForm’s Jason Bonnington and RSN’s Gareth Hall, the evening will feature multiple ‘all-star’ panels telling stories about one of harness racing’s genuine all-time greats. Tickets @ $25 are available on 03 8746 0600. A mega raffle and on-line auction is running in conjunction with the gala event, with tickets and bidding available now at While Victorian drivers Chris Alford, Kerryn Manning, Greg Sugars, Kate Gath and Jason Lee together with WA's Chris Voak and Ryan Hryhorec (SA) have participated in past editions of the "Noel Smith" the 2020 lineup also sees three "first-timers" in the mix. Swedish national Kima Frenning (Vic) has enjoyed great success as both driver and trainer since coming out to Oz to ride in a few Monte (saddle trot) races.  Young Queensland driver Nathan Dawson currently leads the 19/20 state and metro tally boards with 99 victories (23 metro) and former Victorian, Mark Yole (TAS) took out the 18/19 state premiership with 88 wins and is enjoying another successful season.   Tony Logan  

Horsham Harness Racing Club has today announced the list of 10 invitees to contest the time honoured Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship to be conducted at on Monday March 9. Victorians Chris Alford, Kate Gath, Jason Lee, Kima Frenning, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning are set to do battle with Chris Voak (WA), Nathan Dawson (QLD), Mark Yole (TAS) and Ryan Hyrhorec (SA).  The series consists of four $7000 ratings-exempt races with the invited drivers being randomly allocated a drive in each heat. Trainers are advised that nominations for all events on the program close at noon on Wednesday  March 4. Horsham's feature was staged for the first time in 1990. Later it was re-named in honour of Noel Smith, past president and delegate of the Horsham Club, who made an enormous contribution to the industry at grass roots level through his tireless work for the M&CTA and South West Zone Clubs.   Tony Logan

Change is a constant, in racing as in life, and the time-honoured Tontine Championships have undergone plenty since the lightly raced five-year-old gelding Kiwi Conference and his trainer/driver Peter Rothacker took out the inaugural title at Ararat back in March 1981. Kiwi Conference raced four times in 12 days to earn the Tontine crown in a last-man-standing series of heats, semis and final - the brainchild of John Fladgate, then President of the Hamilton HRC, and staged jointly by the original members of the south-west zone (Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell and Ararat). Changes since include a switch for the pacers from standing starts to the mobile, introduction of a handicap series for squaregaiters, a $10,000 clean sweep bonus, brief inclusion of Geelong and Ballarat clubs into the mix, stakemoney parity for both gaits, separate venues for pacers and trotters series, a flirtation final at Melton (Charlie Machsheen, 2013, pictured) and more recently the Tontine as a one-off feature event. Some things haven't changed during the nearly 40-year history of the Tontine - the winning connections collect a decent stakemoney cheque and the race is often a springboard to bigger and better things, for example past winners Kentucky George (33 wins), Noopy Kiosk (34), Lombo Rapida (27), Acacia Ridge (22), Flaming Flutter (24,) Supersonic Miss (17) and Deltasun (17). The 2020 editions of the Tontine pacing and trotting championships will be hosted by the Stawell Harness Racing Club at Laidlaw Park on Monday, January 27. The $25,000 Trackside Bar & Bistro Tontine Championship for Pacers (ms) and Trotters (ss) carry a trophy and inscribed rug for the winning owner(s) and trophies for the winning trainer and driver. Nominations for all events on the holiday Monday program close at noon, Wednesday January 22. Hoofnote: A noted absentee from the 2020 Tontine action will be legendary reinsman Gavin Lang, who with 10 mentions on the championship honour roll is unquestionably its ruling monarch. As Gavin continues his battle with a rare form of lymphoma, the thoughts of harness followers throughout the nation remain firmly with him and his family. Lang first took out the pacing series in 1985 when he saluted with Our Noble Rex NZ at Terang - strangely it's only win from 13 starts in Australia. Further Tontine success came in 1992 with Nunkie at Horsham, at Stawell in 1997 with Black Duke, and his amazing hat-trick in 2009, '10 and '11 aboard Jaccka Sandy at Geelong, Atlas Alliance at Terang and Seeful Pocket at Ararat. Lang's latest victory in the pacing section was in 2018 with Rishi at Geelong. Lang's trio of trotting Tontine titles were in 2004 Master Maori (Ararat), 2016 Tryncatchme (Horsham) and 2018 Deltasun (Geelong). CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE TONTINE CHAMPIONS IN THETROTS.COM.AU'S HONOUR ROLLS   Tony Logan

The committee of the Horsham and District Harness Racing Club are saddened by the recent and sudden passing of their friend and colleague Bernie Poulton. Bernie as hobby trainer, breeder, owner and driver "always had one or two going around" with the mares Miss Rainmaker (six wins) and Jollie Jeparit (two wins) his best performers. He gave away race driving in 2007 because of the demands of work but returned to the sulky a little over six months ago with the six-year-old gelding The Butcher. Bernie had bred the son of Denver Gift and Miss Rainmaker in partnership with his friend, the late Eric Hahne who "loved his horses and was always in them with me". Bernie was determined to get The Butcher to the races for Eric and it was a proud moment for all concerned when the "bloody cranky early on" and "silly as a wheel" pacer finally qualified at the Ararat trials and six weeks later made it's racing debut.  A long serving Horsham committee member, track attendant and voluntary worker Bernie will be much missed by the harness racing community.  We extend our sincere and deepest sympathy to his family.   Tony Logan

Ultra-honest 3YO gelding Crime Writer out-toughed the opposition to capture the Alabar Horsham Classic on Thursday afternoon for Ecklin South horseman Matty Craven and Carrum Downs owners Tony and Pam Coniglio. Craven drove the son of Sportswriter and Our Crime Of Passion like he was the best horse in the race and so it proved as the $1.30 favourite bought up his fifth career victory. "He's the sort of horse you wish you had a stable full of," said Craven as he accepted the trophies from Alabar General Manager Brett Coffey. "While a step below the really good ones, he's made both Vicbred Finals for two and three-year-olds and hopefully we can get through to the Breeders Crown Final in a few weeks." Drawn the extreme outside of the second line in the field of 11, Craven was content to drop to the back of the bunch until the leaders sorted themselves out and backed off the tempo. With a mile to go Craven made his move and worked Crime Writer forward to race outside the leader, Luverboy (Kerryn Manning), for the last 1200 metres of the contest. Craven put the pressure on at the 400-metre mark and Crime Writer, with his head down in trademark fashion, dashed home in 27.5 seconds to score by four metres from the gallant Luverboy with Hugo Rocks (Alex Ashwood) finishing the race off nicely to claim third money. Crime Writer's record of five wins, five minor placings and a bank of $76,310 from 22 starts represents a whole lot of joy for his connections - with his biggest paydays being $17,400 when fourth in the 2YO Breeders Crown Final and $10,000 for fourth place in the Group 1 Victoria Derby Final back in January. Coffey also presented Craven with a service certificate to Auckland Reactor to pass on to the winning owners of the inaugural Alabar Horsham Classic. "Pam and Tony have a few nice mares and I'm sure they'll pick one out and make use of this," Craven said. "So it's a big thankyou to Alabar, they put a lot back into all levels of our industry."   Tony Logan

Everyone involved in the ownership of a horse dares to dream: to make the track, win a race or two in the bush and, who knows, maybe even rise through the ranks to open company, the classic events, the Cups? Barry, Yvonne and Aaron Dunn have been in the racing game for more than 40 years and have been lucky enough to experience one such ride of a lifetime with their stable star, Dee Dees Dream. It kicked off in January 2002 when Dee Dees Dream debuted in a $1000 restricted event for 2YO pacers at Warrnambool. The youngster made short work of three rivals, leading from barrier to post to score by 13 metres in the leisurely mile rate of 2.09.3 over the sprint trip. A moderate assignment by any measure but it was the start of a racing career that spanned more than six years until 'Deedees' retirement in August 2008. His record of 117 starts, 38 wins, 21 minor placings and stakes of $412,971 included success in a Vicbred Super Series Final (2YO colts and geldings), Victoria Sires Classic, Tasmanian Pacers Derby, 11 victories at Moonee Valley and many wins in Tasmania and South Australia. Dee Dees Dream contested the 2005 and 2008 editions of the Horsham Pacing Cup but finished out of the money on both occasions. "It's hard to win a race anytime anywhere," said Barry. "But even more so with the country cups in Victoria." More than consolation for finishing close in feature events at Hamilton, Nyah, Maryborough, Bendigo and Globe Derby are Dee Dees Dream's trio of City Of Launceston Pacing Cups, earned after starting from the extreme outside of the second row on each occasion. So the Dunn family continue to live the dream and every year bring a number of new youngsters into the stable. "We'll enter Shady Azz and Sporty Azz in the 2YO race here on Sunday," said Barry. "They probably won't be good enough to beat the better bred ones going around but they need the experience and it will stand them in good stead for when we find something more suitable." So, like the Dunns, the Horsham club encourages family and friends to pack the picnic rug, hamper and Esky and enjoy a great community event on the spacious lawns of the Horsham Racing Centre. "For the first time on Cup Day the gates will be open with free entry and you'll be greeted by tin rattlers for the Naked Farmer's nominated charity, Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Unit," club president Justin Lane said. "Apart from all the action out on the track you'll enjoy a vibrant atmosphere with live music, sweeps, giveaways and prizes, including a chance to win $4000 in the Dunn Ezy Seed Cleaning Owner-For-A-Day competition. "There's plenty of free activities to keep the kids entertained. The jumping castle, gladiator ring, giant slide and basketball throw cater for all ages and one lucky youngster will win an iPad mini." So getyabackside trackside and seeya Sunday!   Tony Logan

The sight of wide open gates and the sound of rattling collection tins will welcome patrons to The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup meeting on Sunday March 31. "We decided to make our biggest day of the year a free event in support of our very special guest, The Naked Farmer - Ben Brooksby," explained Club President Justin Lane.  "It will be a great opportunity for our community to come together, enjoy the racing and off-track entertainment and toss in their gold coins for Ben's nominated charity, the RFDS mental health unit." What started as a bit of fun with a tasteful nude photo of Ben in "the buff" laying back in a truck load of lentils in order to educate consumers about the work that goes into putting food on their plate, has grown into a cheeky but powerful platform for raising awareness of mental health issues in the bush and providing support for the many sufferers.  Ben directs The Naked Farmer's fundraising efforts towards the RFDS mental health unit.  “I chose them because their professionals visit our remote towns and properties, providing treatment, support and mental health education for our rural communities,” he explained. Factors such as social isolation, lack of community connection and limited mental health services along with severe economic hardship caused by drought, fire and flood all contribute to the agricultural sector's over representation in Australia's (shocking) suicide rate. "Having dealt with mental health first hand, seeing others struggle with it and having family and friends take their own lives has encouraged me to stand up and help in any way I can," said Ben.  All the profits from sales of The Naked Farmer 2019 Calendar went to the RFDS together with $1 from each pair of TNF undies and hats sold. "We raised a staggering $17,228 last year and looking to build on that in 2019," Ben said. Ben will be out and about on the spacious lawns at the Horsham Racing Centre, enjoying his day out at the Cup. No doubt he'll be in for a chat and a photo or two, so make sure you get your backside trackside with your family and friends on Sunday, March 31, and chip in a couple of bucks for the RFDS and be a part of this great community event.  You never know just what might happen and what the outcome may be!   Tony Logan and Helen Friend

Legendary WA reinsman Gary Hall Jnr took out the 2019 edition of the Decron Horse Care - Noel Smith Memorial - Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship on Monday afternoon. It was Hall's second time as competitor but the third occasion he had accepted the Horsham club's invitation to make the long, west to east haul.  "Back in 2009 I was having a few issues with being on aeroplanes and was a late-late scratching," he said. "But it turned out a good result for my replacement Lance Justice, who went on to win the title." Hall made it to Horsham for the 2010 series and finished in the middle of the tally board behind Jim Douglass (NSW) with a first, fifth and eighth from his three drives. "I really enjoyed the visit over here and hoped to be back again sooner, but this is the first time I've been able to slot it in since."  The first heat of the day saw Hall gain valuable points when partnering 50/1 chance Cripparno into fourth spot behind Ardens Winstar for the Chris Alford/David Drury combo. Heat two saw Hall lead all the way with the Michael Stanley debutant Off The Bench to gain maximum points after looking likely to be run down by the 70/1 outsider Crowded Reactor (Rob Morris/Bec East), who galloped in the shadows of the post. It was a popular win on social media, with Off The Bench part-owned by Craig Hutchison and AFL footballer and trots ambassador Josh Jenkins. The horse had been much discussed in the lead-up on the Off The Bench radio program, which airs throughout Victoria on Saturday mornings. Hall then drove a trademark heady race aboard Emma Stewart's very smart four-year-old entire Concealment in the third round of the contest to score by five metres over the $1.50 favourite Crime Writer (Chris Alford/Matt Craven). Heading into the fourth and final heat, Hall needed to beat a few others home with the 70/1 roughie Rocking Tess to secure the championship while Alford, Jason Lee and Michael Bellman had some chance of stealing the title if the cards fell their way.  Courtesy of a soft trip on the pegs, Rocking Tess managed to cross the line in sixth place, some 40 metres behind Major Times (Kerryn Manning/Emma Stewart) and Jean Luc (Chris Alford/Lance Justice) who fought out a very close finish. When accepting the Noel Smith Memorial shield from club president Justin Lane, Hall admitted that the luck had certainly fallen his way, but that it was still a great thrill to come out on top. Hall went on to thank series sponsor Merv Butterworth together with the many other sponsors who made the day so enjoyable, not just for the 10 invitees but all the trainers, drivers and owners  who have supported the meeting. He also thanked the Horsham club for staging what is "such a fun event for us."  While Hall took home the Noel Smith Memorial Shield, a host of trainers, drivers and owners also went home as winners with product and voucher giveaways courtesy of Decron Horse Care, Carbine Chemicals, Finn Tack, Mustad Australia, Oringi Protection Wear, Tabcorp Park Melton, Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association, Claire Weston Photography, Roma Pocock, Grafx Inc, Norton Estate Wines, Virbac Animal Health, Harness Breeders Victoria and Riverspa Apartments Moama.   Tony Logan

History will be made at The Weeky Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup on Sunday April 22nd with all adult patrons in the running to become an 'owner for a day' in a new competition being conducted by the Horsham & District Harness Racing Club. Club President Justin Lane said the Dunn-Ezy Seed Cleaning 'Owner for a Day' concept had been incorporated into the Club's flagship event to promote the sport of harness racing and encourage patrons to consider future involvement in the industry.   All members of the public attending the Cup meeting will be eligible to enter the competition, with up to 8 names drawn from the Dunn-Ezy barrel in the mounting yard at 3pm.   Each person drawn will become an official 'owner for the day', with their randomly assigned horse set to compete in an actual race later in the afternoon.   The 'owners for a day' will enjoy all the benefits experienced by actual owners attending the meeting to watch their horse compete.   They'll have access to Horsham's dedicated owners enclosure with complimentary drinks and finger food and the opportunity to meet their new trainer, driver and horse prior to the race.   When their horse scores up behind the barrier they will experience the nervous anticipation felt by owners and through the race ride the usual wave of ups and downs right to the finish line.   After the all clear is given by the chief steward the 'owner' of the winning horse pockets a cheque for $3,990 - the same amount the 'real' owner of the horse will receive.   "There are many ways people can be involved in the harness racing industry apart from being hands-on as a trainer or driver," Mr Lane said.   "Opportunities include becoming the owner of a standardbred as an individual, partner or member of a syndicate, through to simply getting involved with the club, becoming a member and volunteering on race days.   "Every sport needs grass root participants to survive and thrive and we think this new competition ticks all the boxes as far as getting the public involved," he said.   The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup meeting promises to be a great community event - in addition to the action out on the racetrack the afternoon will feature a community sulky sprint race, live music with local musician Darryn Wardle, a TAB punters club, Cup sweeps, giveaways and the giant video screen.   For the kids there's a host of free fun activities including the Pat Your Harness Hero, giveaways,competitions and the opportunity for one lucky child to win an ipad mini. Gates will open at 12.30pm.   "We strongly encourage everyone to get their backside track side on Sunday week and enjoy a great day out at the Cup said Mr Lane. " At the same time they'll have a chance to become an 'owner for a day' and maybe take home that cheque for $3,990." Tony Logan

It's Hot To Trot @ Horsham on Monday afternoon for the 27th annual Decron Horse Care - Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship & the harness racing Industry Participants Recognition Raceday. Ten of Australasia's best are set to weave their magic with the reins in a four race contest, with the leading points scorer joining the Club's elite honour roll. Reining champion Ricky Duggan returns to defend his 2016 Crown. Duggan also enjoyed a great 2015/16 season home in the Apple Isle, finishing second to Mark Yole on the State tally board and with a fine winning strike rate of 21%. Honorary "BigV" Anthony Butt will compete at Horsham for the first time after finishing in 4th place on the 2015/16 Metropolitan Drivers Premiership table. The highly decorated Kiwi horseman started driving in 1983 and quickly made his mark as the NZ Junior Champion in both 1985 & 1988. Butt is just one of nine drivers inducted into the Inter Dominion Hall of Fame and is a four time, Inter Dominion Championship winning driver with Lyell Creek (2000), Take A Moment (2001 & 2003) and Mr Feelgood in 2009. His mighty tally of 49 Grand Circuit driving victories is miles ahead of the rest with Mark Purdon second on 27 and he is currently edging towards his 2000th career winner (1609 NZ, 381 AU). Leading Kiwi reinsman Blair Orange and last season's NSW premier driver Todd McCarthy are also headed to Horsham for the first time. Orange started driving in 1996 and by 1999 was NZ Champion Junior Driver. He's driven a century plus tally in 2014, 15 & 16 to be three times runner up behind Dexter Dunn and has already passed the century mark this season. While the Invitees may hold the spotlight, the meeting also recognises the contribution made by all our Industry Participants with $$$$ galore in products, goods, services & merchandise distributed to trainers, drivers and owners during the afternoon. Decron Horse Care, Carbine Chemicals, Finn Tack, Pryde's Easifeed, Bertocchi Smallgoods, Cordina Farms, Flair Equine Nasal Strips, Oringi Protection Wear, Hyland Racing Colours, Fly Veils By Design, Harness Breeders Victoria, Grafx Inc, Western District Horse Transport, Mustad Australia & Roma Pocock have thrown their support behind the meeting to ensure that everyone's a winner. Trainers, drivers, stablehands, owners & breeders will enjoy a designated hospitality area sponsored by the Victorian Trainers & Drivers Association. The Club will throw the gates open at 1.00pm with FREE entry for all to encourage families to pack their picnic basket, esky, blanket & chair and lounge on the lawns to enjoy a great day's racing. Racegoers & participants also have the chance to win a short break courtesy of View Hotels St Kilda Rd, Raglan Motor Inn Warrnambool, Tabcorp Park - Choice Hotels Melton & Deluxe Riverspa Moama. Tony Logan    

Breeders are reminded that bids for the Horsham Harness Racing Club’s trotting tender close with the Club on Friday September 30th. The tender is for a service to the Woodlands Stud NZ stallion Pegasus Spur CA and represents a great opportunity for the lovers of the trotting gait to breed yet another Group 1 winner from this outstanding strike-rate entire. Interested breeders are invited to tender for a service (imported, fresh, chilled semen) to Pegasus Spur (value $AU3300). Tender forms and further information may be obtained by email from  or by phone on 0427 857411.  Tony Logan

Lemnos trained four-year-old gelding Shared Interest is set to make a welcome return to the harness racing track at Ararat tonight in the first heat of the Pegasus Spur @ Woodlands Tontine Trotters Series.   Shared Interest showed ability in his five outings as a two-year-old, including a gallant second to Eljaykay Phoenix in the rich Breeders Crown Final of 2014. Five days later he notched up an 18-metre victory at Melton and looked set for a bright future.   “Then he did a suspensory and didn’t race at all as a three-year-old,” explained trainer Russell Jack. “It’s been a long and slow road back to full recovery but hopefully it will be worth the time and effort.”   Two solid trials at Shepparton in early February showed Jack his charge was finally ready for a return to the pressure of racing.   “The Tontine happened to come up at the right time for the horse,” he said. “It’s always been a nice race but he certainly hasn’t been rushed into it.   “We were taking him to the trials again last weekend but they were called off because of the heat.   “It wasn’t a worry ‘though, with Nathan and Amanda here there’s always plenty of horses to work with so his fitness won’t be an issue tonight.”   Owners of the heat winners at Ararat and Terang on March 9 will receive an inscribed rug donated by Woodlands Stud, New Zealand.   Top points earners from the heats will then assemble at Horsham to contest the $20.5k Group 3 Pegasus Spur @ Woodlands Tontine Trotters Series Final on Labour Day holiday Monday March 14th.   The Tontine Trotters Series is jointly conducted by the South West Zone Clubs (Ararat, Ballarat, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell & Terang) with the inaugural Final taken out by Vivanover (Keith Allen) at Stawell in 1985.   Tony Logan

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