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Surprise packet Savannah Jay Jay will be hoping to carve another fairytale chapter tomorrow night when the low-flying eight-year-old trotter zeroes in on Ballarat's trotting cup. The John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, at 8.40pm at Bray Raceway, is the penultimate race of the Maori's Idol Trotting Championship, in which Shaun McNaulty's Fratellino has an unassailable lead. Savannah Jay Jay can jump to equal third with victory tomorrow night, which would add to his earlier success in November's St Arnaud Cup and, of course, last Saturday's Schweppes Australasian Trotting Championship win, which delivered trainer Stan Cameron and reinsman James Herbertson their maiden Group 1. "I had no idea that he could run the whole journey out," Cameron told RSN 927's program One Out One Back. "I thought, if he got a bit of cover he would have been right, but right up to the end I was right up on my toes I tell you. The horse just kept on fighting and fighting and fighting to the end." Savannah Jay Jay was priced a $2.25 chance at the TAB.com.au for the John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, a win that would mean the world to Cameron. "I had a fair bit to do with John years ago," he said. "John used to always get a ride down to the start on the side of the cart, he used to always say 'you need to do this, you need to do that'. I picked up a fair few pointers off him over the years. He was a great bloke."   HRV Trots Media

It's full steam ahead for Michael Stanley's Grand Circuit star Soho Tribeca after a successful return to the trials at Tabcorp Park Melton yesterday. Stanley partnered the six-year-old in a modest hit-out alongside stablemate Rackemup Tigerpie, who was driven by Gavin Lang. Soho Tribeca won the trial by a narrow margin, zipping home in a 57.48-second last half. The Burrumbeet-based Stanley said he was pleased with how both horses got through the run. "They both stepped away really clean and went the first lap pretty steady. We just let them find their feet and then just upped the pace gradually," he said. "They both hit the line under a hold and had a really good hit-out without going over the top first-up." Soho Tribeca hasn’t been seen at the races since July 2018 after fracturing a leg in the Sunshine Sprint in Queensland. Successful surgery and a long rehabilitation program has followed to get the star pacer back at the track, which is likely to occur in the Del-Re National Italian Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, June 15. "Soho Tribeca will have a couple more trials and we will gradually increase the speed we go - just step him up each time," Stanley said. Stanley said it had been a long road to recovery for the one-time Inter Dominion favourite. "He spent three months in Queensland (post surgery) and then spent another three months here (at Burrumbeet) pretty well locked up in a small stable and taken out for a walk," he said. "It's been a long, slow process and now we are back to somewhere where we can start thinking about getting to the races again. "When it first happened you are always fearful they might not race again, so at least we have got to a stage where it looks a real possibility we are going to get back there." Rackemup Tigerpie, who last raced in the Group 1 Chariots of Fire in February, is being aimed at the Alabar Vicbred Super Series, which has heats in Ballarat on June 21. Stanley said he was likely to give the son of Rock N Roll Heaven one lead-up run prior to the start of the series. Arguably the horse's career-best effort came in last year's Group 1 Ballarat Pacing Cup when he finished a narrow second to Thefixer. Stanley sent around four other horses at Tuesday's trial program, including Macey Jayde, Vicstar Sharazzz, Iolanta and Keilah. Macey Jayde is also being sent towards the Vicbred Super Series, while Stanley was full of praise for Iolanta, an unraced two-year-old Bettors Delight filly who looks "above average".     Tim O'Connor for Trots Media

American author Earl Nightingale once wrote: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. It's a well-used quote, but it still rings true - especially for harness racing's Ken Browne who was last week rewarded for his persistence in never giving up on a goal. Browne, of Gruyere, 50 km north east of Melbourne, could well be the oldest driver to land his maiden victory after driving his first-ever winner just a few days short of his 67th birthday. And after 173 attempts, the win carried a touch of polish that's for sure. After being locked away three back the pegs for most of the trip in the $7000 Trotters Handicap at Cranbourne, Browne moved out quick as a flash when a runner on his outside went off-stride. In a winning move, he slid up to the death seat with 600 metres to go with Chrisken Kiosk (Noopy Kiosk-Baby Button (Safely Kept USA) to join leader Just Anything (Gavin Lang) and got the upper hand, albeit narrowly, right on the wire. To watch race replay Click here! "Now that I've got the monkey off my back, I reckon the next winner will come a lot sooner. I've finally done it, so it will be way easier," Browne joked. Browne has harbored an ambition for over 20 years to get what he calls that "elusive quadrella" of breeding, owning, training and driving a winner. "If I could do that, I always thought it would be a rather big achievement. Just something quite special," he said. "I told my son Chris (his name combined with that of his father forms Chrisken) that when I finally got that long-awaited winner, I would give a salute with the whip going across the finish line. "But I didn't do it because, to be honest, I wasn't certain that I'd won and I didn't want to make myself look silly. "The race camera operator followed me around after the finish line which is usually a good indication that he thought I'd won, but it took ages for the numbers to go up. "I honestly can't remember how I felt. I recall thinking wow I just beat the ice man (Gavin Lang)!" Browne said he had a few drinks that night to celebrate after the reality sank in. "I think I may have overdone the Bundaberg Red Rum because I didn't pull up all that well the next day," he laughed. "I'd come close a few times with some second placings, and there's been quite a lot more thirds. My first-ever second was with Gordonsville, a pacer I purchased off Gordon Turner. "We also had a good run with a pacer named High Tech Fury, but reinsman Michael Bellman did the majority of driving with him." While Browne's needed persistence to notch up his first winner as a driver, he bobs up with a winner or two each season as a trainer, with Chrisken Kiosk his 16th career success. Browne's entry into the sport goes back to 1994 when he attended a clearing sale held by respected industry breeder/owner Kevin Riseley, of Sheron Park. "I paid $2000 for a weanling out of the first crop sired by Safely Kept," he said. "That horse was later to become Baby Button, who was dual-gaited. I raced her as a pacer because of her breeding, but I'm now wishing I'd given her a go as a trotter." Baby Button has had four foals, two of which have got to the races, with the obvious star being Chrisken Kiosk with six wins and 27 placings for over $60,000. Browne said he was virtually forced into obtaining a B Grade driver's licence 10 years ago when he was finding it difficult to get drivers at the trials. "The situation was that we'd have one trial of five horses and five drivers would turn up. There were no spares so a few times I ended up fast-working mine by themselves after the trials to get their fastwork done," he said. Browne is hoping that his seven-year-old stable star Chrisken Kiosk has at least another two seasons left in him. "He doesn't win out of turn, but he's so consistent. There's a bit of a trick to him and that's in his feet-he has to be shod a certain way or otherwise he's hopeless," Browne said. "We try and pick out the most suitable races for him and if that means travelling to Terang, Ballarat or even further, then that's what we do. "We are having a heap of fun and I have to thank Peter Goudie for allowing us to be stabled at his place. In addition to the trotter, we have a 2yo pacer by Metropolitan named Bundy Red, which I'm hoping is real good. He has to be with that name!" Browne said while he had nearly worn out the video replay of his winning drive, he was now eagerly awaiting the race photograph which would take pride of place on the lounge room wall.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Several in-form stables are targeting one of country Victoria's richest harness racing series for lowly-assessed pacers. The 2019 Mitavite Northern Region Championship, hosted by far north-west sister clubs Swan Hill, Ouyen and Mildura, gets underway tonight (Wednesday May 22) for C1 to C2 horses. The first round of qualifying heats at Swan Hill boasts representatives from the Shepparton-based stables of Laura Crossland-David Moran and Amanda Turnbull, as well as Glenn Douglas and Chris Svanosio of Bendigo; Leroy and Danny O'Brien of Armstrong; and Melton-based Rob O'Connell. Link: Swan Hill Fields https://www.harness.org.au/racing/fields/race-fields/?mc=FD220519 The spotlight then moves to Ouyen on June 2 with a second round of heats, going into a $25,000 final at Mildura on June 6. Douglas, who has won the championship several times in the past, said he always hopes to have an ideal runner up and going for the series each year. "You really don't get these sorts of races for this class of horse - they just don't come along very often," he said. "There's terrific stakemoney up for offer right through the three meetings and the big bonus is the final is worth $25,000 but the winner takes only a country penalty," he said. "The first three heats have attracted some nice horses, who are sure to go onto bigger things. The Swan Hill track is big and spacious so I think there could be some quick times recorded there." Douglas always enjoys heading north from his central Victorian base because he spent four years in the Northern Region in the late 1990s. His career was kick-started training horses for Eric and Heather Anderson, the parents of his wife Julie, who were at the time based in the Robinvale-Euston district. "We had some good times up there before we all up and moved to our present training complex at Bendigo. It just made sense to come down here because there's less travel and we're much closer to many more tracks," he said. Douglas has former Kiwi pacer Dublin Street in the first heat. He said while the mare was honest, she was going to have to produce her very best as The Brooklyn Brawler (David Moran) and Think About Me (Brad Chisholm) were full of class. "This will be a measuring stick for our horse, that's for sure," Douglas said. His next runner is Artistic Saint in the second qualifying heat, owned by enthusiastic Swan Hill horseman and club vice-President Noel Watson. "I'd love to get the money for Noel because he'd be over the moon with a hometown victory. I'll be wearing Noel's race colors, the colors of his beloved St Kilda Football Club, so that would be another reason for him to get excited," Douglas said. "I've actually got a bit of an opinion about this horse. His first start back after five or six months off when he finished third was enormous. "It was a super run because they went quick. He had a few things go wrong in his previous preparation, but they appear to be behind him now, thankfully." The third heat should see smart youngster Im Sir Blake continue on his winning way. World champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning has big wraps on the O'Brien-trained horse, who was sensational in winning during the recent Mildura Pacing Cup carnival. "He's just below the very best going around in Victoria - he's a lovely little fella and I thoroughly enjoy driving him," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

When the surrounds of the Cobram harness racing track are a sea of pink this Sunday, no one will be happier than one of the dynamos driving the success of this now-iconic day. She doesn't look for accolades or pats on the back - as with all things she tackles, Donna Castles just jumps in and gets things done! But the annual Cobram Pink Day has now raised more than $130,000 for the Jane McGrath Foundation and you have to wonder where Donna gets her passion and energy. "I originally jumped on board as a driver in 2016 and I also gave the Cobram guys a bit of a hand with things - but it was actually while we were working on that race day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself," Donna said. "I was lucky to be diagnosed when I was, but like everyone when it happens, I really didn't have time for it. I had a 13-year-old daughter, I had 20 horses in work. It wasn't that convenient!" she remembers. "I didn't tell too many people and I just got on with getting the chemotherapy and radiation treatment and doing my best. "I got pretty sick at times, but I couldn't let myself just sit around, so as much as I could, I kept things together, going to the trots - wearing hats!" Donna Castles     - HRV photo Now in its ninth year, Donna's experience was one of the catalysts that's pushed the Cobram Pink Day to the next level. It raised $12,000 in 2016, $18,000 in 2017 and, last year, $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation Breast Care Nurses. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, and McGrath Foundation nurses help individuals and their families with free physical, psychological and emotional support. The energetic Cobram Harness Racing Club administrators Marg and Bob Watson are the backbone of the Pink Day success, along with the enthusiasm of the invited drivers and Nikita Ross at HRV. Donna said as difficult as the diagnosis and treatment were, it gave her a new perspective on life - and on the Pink Day. "The thing is, it happens, you can't do anything about it, you just have to soldier on. But when it happens, it does change you and I don't think a lot of people realise how precious life is until that moment," she said. "I think it's really just one of those things that, in some way, breast cancer seems to touch everyone. If you're lucky enough not to have had to deal with it yourself, you know someone close to you who has. It's just amazing how much support people are prepared to give for that reason." Coming up to three years cancer-free, Donna is more energised than ever about Cobram Pink Day. Invited reinswomen (Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward) will contest the $10,000 Paul Roberts Jewellers Jane McGrath Foundation Invitational on Sunday. Monique Burnett and Ellen Tormey have been two of the invited drivers wearing the pink pants throughout May --photo courtesy Cobram HRC   With the support of HRV, they've been wearing the eye-catching pink pants throughout the month of May to promote the fundraiser. "It creates a bit of interest, a bit of discussion about why they're wearing pink, and the girls have been amazing in selling raffle tickets and promoting the cause," Donna said. This year the raffle prize is a $3000 holiday voucher plus luggage for first (2nd a $1000 Visa voucher, 3rd $500 Visa voucher, 4th-7th $100 Visa vouchers), but the club has previously raffled a car, a sulky and a "roomful" of donated items. Each year the energetic team draws new supporters into the fold and this year has assembled a massive list of more than 20 major sponsors. "We decided to go with something this year that everyone could use - a travel voucher is fantastic because it doesn't matter whether you want to go to Queensland or overseas, it's a great prize," Donna said. The festival atmosphere of the Cobram Pink Day (this year with a mechanical bull, kids entertainment and a lucky gate prize of a five-day holiday at Ashmore Village in Queensland) has established the event as a favorite with trainers, owners and the community. "The thing with harness racing is that when something goes wrong for someone in the sport, and we've seen it time and time again, people embrace it and offer support them and give a hand when they need it," Donna said. "It's the same with this - we've barely had anyone turn us down for support because everyone feels that connection. "In harness racing, we're all in the same house but we live in different rooms. We're competitors, but harness racing people pull together and that's the fabulous thing about Pink Day and being involved with it. I love it." Six trainers in every race at Cobram on Sunday will receive Carbine Chemicals Products or Hygain products and in the ladies' invitational every trainer will receive Carbine Chemical product and a Hygain showbag. A lucky trainer's draw with a set of Hyland colors is also on offer, along with a trainers' encouragement award for 14 days at Harkaway horse water walker.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The winners will be many at Cobram this Sunday when the spoils of the fundraising day will benefit a great cause but also reward those putting on the show. Cobram Harness Racing Club's annual Pink Day, which raises money for and awareness of the McGrath Foundation, will have plenty of prizes to help race goers, the charity minded and participants to get into the Pink Day spirit. This year’s major fundraiser is once again a raffle, with tickets sold to win the major prize of a $3000 travel toucher thanks to Flightcentre Marketplace Shepparton as well as luggage valued at $1000. Minor prizes of $1000, $500 and $100 Visa Gift Cards will also be drawn. There will be a lucky entry draw with all on-course patrons having the chance to win a Gold Coast accommodation package valued at $1600 donated by Ashmore Palms Holiday Village, as well as $200 holiday package vouchers. Trainers will have plenty of reasons to nominate their horses for the meeting with six trainers in each race being drawn throughout the day to take home products thanks to Carbine Chemicals and Hygain, as well as a lucky trainers draw for the chance to win a set of Hyland Colours. The feature race on the card is the Paul Roberts Jewellers Invitation Lady Drivers Pace. The $10,000 C1 class event will see horses randomly allocated to the following drivers: Ellen Bartley, Rebecca Bartley, Juanita Breen, Monique Burnett, Rita Burnett, Donna Castles, Laura Crossland, Kima Frenning, Lisa Miles, Ellen Tormey, Abbey Turnbull and Tania Ward. All trainers with a starter in this race will receive a Carbine Chemicals product and a Hygain-Mitavite showbag, with the winning trainer also taking home a new set of hopples donated by Trot Pace, as well as further prizes for the runners up.   Last year’s fundraising efforts raised more than $27,000 for the McGrath Foundation, which assists in placing breast care nurses in country areas, with organisers hoping to raise a similar amount for the charity once again. Raffle tickets can be purchased from any of the female drivers competing in the race or by contacting the club on 0409 401 189. Nominations for the race day close at noon tomorrow. For race day details click here.   Trots Media

PUNTERS think champion driver Chris Alford’s 51st birthday will be extra special at Melton on Saturday night. Alford is perched on 99 Group 1 career wins after missing out reaching the ton with minor placings in the two Australian Gold finals at Albion Park last Saturday night. But his drive in Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queen of the Pacific at Melton – Tell Me Tales – has been smashed in from $2.60 to $1.85 favourite despite a back row draw (gate 11). And it just happens to coincide with the day Alford turns 51. “It all looks good, doesn’t it … home track, a mare I love, my birthday … I think she’s going to be very hard to beat,” Alford said. “The longer distance (2760m) will really suit her. She won so well a couple of weeks back and I watched her run last week and it was huge given the run she had. “I’m sure she’s the best mare in the race and she can make her own luck, which gives you so much confidence.” Tell Me Tales sat parked to brilliantly win the first leg of Victoria’s mares’ “triple crown” the 1720m Make Mine Cullen on May 4, then did a power of work when a fantastic third to stablemate Berisari in last week’s 2240m Angelique Club Pace at Melton. “The draw gives us a great chance of staying in front of Berisari and working forward from there. She drew well and controlled the race in front last week, the draws makes it a lot harder for her this time,” Alford said. In an astonishing example of trainer Emma Stewart’s dominance, she has five of the 12 runners, including three of the first four in betting. Her runners are: Tell Me Tales (gate 11, $1.85), Berisari (13, $5), Delight Me (three, $8.50), Pistol Abbey (four, $34) and Frankincense (two, $41). Alford actually has an outside chance of bringing up his 100th Group 1 win earlier in the night with veteran trotter Kyvalley Blur, who is a $10 shot of a 10m handicap in the $50,000 Australian Trotting Championship. Andy Gath’s former Kiwi trotter McLovin (barrier one, $2.80) is favourite from the rejuvenated Savannah Jay Jay (two, $3.20).   Adam Hamilton

Bendigo harness racing hobby trainer Dylan Marshall is far from convinced he's found the secret to his mare Barbie Mattgregor - despite her winning two of her past four starts. "You would probably confidently think 'yes' I have got her to turn the corner; but the honest answer is more like a 'no'!" Marshall said. "The horse can be a lovely little thing, but she has attitude and is very moody. She also has a few other issues, mainly involving muscles. But don't get me wrong, she can be fast when her head is in the game." Marshall said Barbie Mattgregor (Rob Roy Mattgregor-My Barbie Doll (In The Pocket) had been tried by a handful of other trainers in Queensland and New South Wales, before coming to Victoria. "She's had about 30 starts and been sent out favorite in probably 10 of those, so I'm perhaps at the end of the queue," he said. But the mare was on song last week that's for sure, with an impressive win at Maryborough (her second there in a little over a month). And just maybe Marshall is under-selling the work he's doing! "It was just another perfect drive by Greg Sugars because if the horse lands in a good spot and does little work, she can sprint hard for about 400 metres," Marshall said. When the well-supported Whata Challenge ($6.50 into $2.10 favorite on fixed odds) zipped to the lead, Sugars was quick to jump on its back. With a steady pace, Barbie Mattgregor was in second gear awaiting her chance. That came on the home corner when Sugars pulled out and worked home best to the wire. The win made it a quartet for the crack young reinsman from Larajay Farm, Myrniong. Barbie Mattgregor, who was ignored in betting, starting at 25/1, is one of five horses trained by Marshall and his partner Tayla Fellows. The pair are based at a property opposite Lord's Raceway, Bendigo. Marshall was born into harness racing, growing up in Tasmania. "My (late) dad Peter was a trainer-driver, so I was always going to follow in his footsteps. I trained horses and drove back home and that's continued on since I crossed to the mainland," he said. "We just keep ticking along and I suppose we've had a fair bit of success, mainly through 'second-handers', which we don't mind. "Steve Clements (of Brisbane Pastoral Company) has been great in sending us a few over the years. We've now got some young ones along with a half-sister to Carl Mattgregor, who has won six races for us." Marshall, who works as a diesel mechanic, said he was unable to take time off from his job to attend meetings held during the day. "That's the way it goes. But everything is working out great with Tayla being in charge at the past two Maryborough meetings where Barbie Mattgregor has been successful," he said. "Tayla does fast work with me and other stables chores, so it's working out nice for us."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

A delighted Matt Craven’s enjoying the drive as he attempts to guide Tell Me Tales towards a feat achieved only three times, a clean sweep of the Mares Triple Crown. The Terang reinsman’s making the most of a rare pairing with the Emma Stewart stable, steering their Tell All mare to victory in last Saturday’s VHRSC Make Mine Cullen and he's hoping to repeat the dose in this Saturday’s second leg of the three-leg series. Tell Me Tales will have to be very good to scoop up the Angelique Club Pace and register a 19th victory from 26 starts when Craven guides her from outside the back row at Tabcorp Park Melton amid a full and talented field. “It’s going to be a tough ask,” Craven said. “If you work off last week’s race, if anything Berisari put in the run of the race.” Berisari, another Stewart runner, finished fourth last Saturday after leading the three-wide train and will be advantaged by her gate four draw for this weekend's middle-distance Group 3 pace. “(Berisari’s) drawn the front line and will possibly be able to dictate the race, which will make it tough,” Craven said. “We will have to come with one run. “Emma’s team are all good quality mares. We know how good Delight Me is at her best, Berisari and Pistol Abbey had a good run last week. The draw definitely makes it interesting. “You don’t expect to win every week when you are racing high quality mares, but I definitely want to give her the best chance.” Tell Me Tales means more to Craven than just picking up a quality catch drive, in particular his respect for owner/breeder Helen Head and, indeed, the mare’s breed. Craven oversaw the purchase of Tell Me Tales half-sister - an Art Major filly named Shes Offlimits bred by Helen Head - for $8000 at Australia Pacing Gold’s 2017 Autumn Sale. “It was before Tell Me Tales had done anything, which is probably why we got the filly so cheap,” Craven said. “We thought a bit of Shes Offlimits. She had very, very good speed. She was very, very fast, but unfortunately just wasn’t very sound. She had bad luck along the way, having fractured her leg in a trial and then this time in did a tendon.” It would put paid to her racing career, but in a considerable silver lining it was the filly’s breeder, Helen Head, who stepped forth when Shes Offlimits was returned to sale for a broodmare career. Craven said it was a “terrific result for us and her”, and it was also understandably significant when Helen Head called last week ahead of Tell Me Tales victory in the VHRSC Make Mine Cullen. “Helen’s been a stalwart of harness racing and it was nice to get a call from her,” Craven said. And even nicer to reward that faith with a win, when Tell Me Tales overcome her back row draw, sat in the breeze throughout and saluted. “When you are drawn out the back over the shorter distance it is never easy,” he said. “She was wide to the death in a solid quarter off the back, she had no breather and in the straight was still strong. It was a terrific effort. “Just to sit behind such a wonderful mare, she’s just beautiful to drive. It’s a credit to Clayton and Emma the way they turn them out and it was a nice surprise to get that drive. She’s the standout mare. They will have to be good to beat her.”   Michael Howard Trots media

Ever-reliable Mildura Harness Racing Club committeeman Andrew Stenhouse ensured he was free of voluntary commitments early last Friday afternoon. And he had every reason to take a break and cheer home his gelding Classic Reactor (Auckland Reactor-Bella Caballo (Safely Kept), who scored an impressive win in the opening event, the DNR Logistics 3YO Pace. "We were hoping he would do well, but there were probably two others that looked hard to beat on paper," Stenhouse, who is based on the city outskirts at Merbein South, said. Driven a well-judged race drive by Dwayne Locke, the flashy gelding made it two wins from his previous four runs and certainly looks destined for a bright future. Auckland Reactor now has 52 winners in Australia for $1,142,365 in stakes and the momentum continues to build. In NZ he has 38 winners for $1,078,610. The intimidation factor of the former champion racehorse in elite company gave him the nickname The Reactor Factor, finishing his career with 26 wins and two placings from 35 starts. Stenhouse said that Classic Reactor was gaining in confidence with each run. "We decided to make a few gear changes about five weeks ago and he's just kept improving from then," he said. "Dwayne told me after the race that he wasn't concerned about having to make a move with around 900 metres to go because the horse felt a million dollars!" The field was content to run in single file with second-favorite Major Mucha (Wayne Hill) leading the way. Classic Reactor was three back the pegs with the race favorite Razs Vision (Kerryn Manning) hard up on his back. Classic Reactor, who popped out into the death seat approaching the bell, joined Major Mucha on the home corner and asserted his dominance. Razs Vision ran on late to grab the runner-up prize from Major Mucha. "It's a bit of a change in luck for us and we are enjoying it," Stenhouse said. "We haven't been in the winner's circle as much as we would have liked in recent times, but hopefully Classic Reactor can keep up the good work for a while yet." Dwayne Locke The Stenhouse-Locke team will continue to race their in-form pacer at Mildura, while trips to Swan Hill and Ouyen may also be on the cards. And in the meantime, the pair are hoping another Auckland Reactor-sired pacer in Power House Rock will find form this preparation. The four-year-old (Auckland Reactor-Diva La Diva (Holmes Hanover USA) had two starts last season but didn't enjoy much luck.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Few victories could be sweeter for Donna Castles than slashing to the line behind her pride and joy in colours that carry a cause close to her heart. That is the scenario about which the trainer-driver barely dares to dream at Tabcorp Park Melton this Saturday night, when she will steer Sofala in the $30,000 Country Clubs Championship final while wearing pink silk pants to take the fight to breast cancer. Castles – the driving force behind the Community Pink Ladies Day, an annual fundraiser for the McGrath Foundation at Cobram Harness Racing Club on May 26 – said she was thrilled with Sofala’s sprint lane victory in the third heat of the championship at Maryborough on Monday. “He probably wasn’t entitled to actually catch (odds-on favourite Jilliby Chevy) when they walked and did a nice last half,” Castles said. “But he went super.” Castles said the final would be “tricky” after Sofala drew the widest front row gate, directly outside Jilliby Chevy. “We are going to just see where we land and put it all together and see how it all plays out – a bit like (the heat) really, we didn’t think we would be leader’s back,” she said. “That’s the closest I think he has ever been in the running in his career, apart from the front or the death.” She said Sofala, who has won nine of his 24 starts, was still learning the racing caper. “He’s green (and) has gone through his grades really quickly without actually learning how to race,” she said. “Up in (this) grade it is pretty hard to teach him how to race or be tractable or push him between runners or get on the fence because he never really got to do that.” Castles said the Safari five-year-old gelding was “like a big kid learning how to run”. “Every time he goes out he takes another step,” she said. “(In the heat) he was a bit of a handful but he’s got to learn. He has never been in that position before.” She said Sofala’s learning curve made it hard to predict where he’d end up. “The owner (Greg Corbett) has eyes on him going probably to the country cups and things like that, but (the horse will) tell us – he will keep progressing and, as he does, we will just work around him and take him to races that suit where he is at the time,” she said. It presents as the start of a big month for Castles ahead of the May 26 Community Pink Ladies Day at Cobram, with Castles saying the pink silk pants – which some female drivers will wear throughout May – are a great way to raise to raise awareness of breast cancer and the McGrath Foundation. Castles, who will don the pants in the opening two races at Echuca tomorrow night, said all reinswomen who do the same would have McGrath Foundation raffle tickets available for people to buy. “It is quite funny because people in the pubs come up with the comment ‘why are those girls in pink’ and it becomes a talking point,” she said. “It is a great way to get it out there.”   Shaun Campbell HRV Trots Media

A much needed sprinkle of Stardust could be just what the doctor ordered for trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan, whose long road back from injury could be met with a timely pick-me-up. Illawong Stardust, the half-sister to Quinlan’s prodigiously talented but trying trotter Illawong Armstrong, produced an eye-catching 17-metre victory in today’s Tabcorp Park Melton trials, reaffirming the filly’s talent that it’s hoped will soon translate to the race track. “She seems to be pretty faultless, but she has to prove it on race day,” Quinlan said of Illawong Stardust, who has broken at both her starts, belying the good temperament she has shown at home to Quinlan and partner Craig Demmler. “Craig did all the work early days because I was hurt and liked her from day dot,” Quinlan said. “Being from that family, they all seem to do things wrong. At home she seems fairly faultless but at the track she has galloped both times.” She hasn’t raced since her April 3 sixth placing after a paddock fall led to a cut knee “and so we had to back off her”. Today’s Tabcorp Park trial of seven two-year-old trotters marked her track return and she couldn’t have been more impressive in cruising to the lead and dictating throughout, crossing the line 17 metres ahead of Brent Lilley’s Magical. The latter has had two starts, breaking on debut and then running second in her second start on April 3, the same race Illawong Stardust started favourite and broke. “For her trial she was only about 75 per cent but she went quite well,” Quinlan said. “She’s probably not trotting 100 per cent, but she is pretty good. Ability wise her performance (in the trial) didn’t surprise. If she has half the ability of her brother and more brains it will take her a long way.” If she pulls up well Quinlan will direct her to the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic for two-year-old trotting fillies at Maryborough next Thursday (May 9), which feeds into a $50,000 final at Melton on May 18. Strong performances would be a timely fillip for Quinlan, who’s still on the comeback trail from a horrific injury suffered when she was kicked in the side by a horse on Christmas Eve. Quinlan was left with a lacerated kidney, spine fractures and a long road to recovery. “I’ve been back to the doctor’s yesterday and am into hospital for a day on the 9th of May with a few pain-related issues,” she said. “I’m at the four months mark, I was hoping to be back, but because my internal organs have had so much trauma they are relating to me as a car crash victim. They’ve just said I’ve got to be patient. “I’m quite stiff and scratchy from the spinal challenges, but am getting around a hell of a lot better than what I was.” She has purposefully scaled back her operation from 23 horses to 10 and praised her owners, “who have all been so supportive. I’ve been very lucky”. And she has left the door open to returning to the sulky, driven mostly by the want to again guide her trotters to glory. “I like to think someday I will (drive again), especially to drive my trotters. At some stage I’d like to, but I’ve got to look at the big picture.” In the meantime she will continue to ride the bumps from the sidelines with owner Dr Martin Hartnett as both Illawong Stardust and her big troublesome brother Illawong Armstrong try to transform their potential into prize winnings. Quinlan said Illawong Armstrong, who hasn’t raced since December 29, would trial next week ahead of what looms as the seven-year-old’s final campaign. “It will be his last hurrah,” she said. “He’s getting to the end of his tether, but he is up and going and his next month will tell me what he has left. He has had fantastic ability, but not the brain span unfortunately.”   Michael Howard  for Trots Media

Ballarat horseman Tim McGuigan won’t be forgetting his first trip to race at Swan Hill, in Victoria’s north west region, for quite a while. Harness racing trainer Tim and his reinsman son Darby landed a memorable double — the first winner blowing punters out of the water at 16/1. “I’ve been up there a few times with Darby, but solely as a spectator,” Tim said. “When I was glancing over the program, I thought the fast class event for C5 or better horses suited our bloke Solarsonic, who is hard to place because of his tight mark (C13-M3),” he said. “So two others made the trip up in the float as well – and it turned out they landed the money! Team McGuigan’s first Swan Hill winner was in the Gallipoli 3YO Pace, and fittingly Darby wore special Anzac Day Appeal commemorative silks on He’s An Artist (Art Major USA-Espeshlimade Lombo (Troublemaker USA). The Anzac Day program silks were worn by all the drivers starting from gate one at Swan Hill, highlighting the appeal which raises funds for the RSL to provide support for servicemen, women and their families. After being headed at the start by Gottahaveahobbie, Darby was content to sit on the leader’s back and wait for his opportunity. “They rolled along at a consistent speed and that certainly suited our horse,” Tim said. On the home corner, He’s An Artist was angled for a wide run, rather than wait for the sprint lane, and when Darby got him into daylight, the gelding stormed home with a wet sail. The quarters of 29.4, 28.8, 28.2 and 29.6 equated to a smart mile rate of 1.54-9. Darby McGuigan with He’s An Artist The starting odds of 16/1 certainly seemed generous, with He’s An Artist a winner at Melton two starts prior and his most recent outing a runner-up performance at the Mildura Pacing Cup carnival. “He’s a beautifully-bred horse.  His dam Espeshlimade Lombo was an outstanding racehorse with 16 victories and 14 placings, including a Group Two race, for nearly $300,000,” Tim said. “And she’s been a prolific broodmare and has thrown some very nice horses.” To watch a video replay of He’s An Artist winning click here on this link. The second leg of the McGuigan double didn’t get under the guard of punters, with Sunrainbow (Safari-Sunrain (Perfect Art USA, being sent out a short-priced $1.20 hot pot in the Battle of Tobruk Pace. Sunrainbow gave his supporters no anxious moments and led all the way after pinging out quickly from the mobile barrier. The double brought up 70 wins for the season for concession driver Darby and puts him on track to eclipse his previous best of 73 in season 2017-18. To watch a video replay of Sunrainbow winning click on this link The other McGuigan runner in Solarsonic didn’t weigh in, but he was only 14 metres off the winner Emain Macha, in a fast-run race that equalled the track record of 1.53-5. Tim has been involved in the sport for about 30 years as a hobby trainer. Tim McGuigan “I’m a qualified electrician, but now do a bit of part-time truck driving to work in around the horse stable duties,” he said. “I was winding down and thinking of getting out at one stage, but then Darby started showing a bit of interest, and now I’ve got more horses than I’ve ever had! “I have to be honest and say that Darby does most of the work, but I’m never far away to help him on fast work days.” The stable has 16 in work, including a lot of youngsters. Tim said the three hour plus drive to compete at Swan Hill didn’t faze him. “It’s okay when the horses are on an easy mark, but it becomes difficult after that and these days the key is to try and place them in suitable races,” he said. “I set a goal of somewhere around 20 winners for the season and we’ve now passed that with 23, so the travel’s all good, because it looks like being our best-ever season.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Veteran Ararat harness racing trainer Terry Young has been enjoying the highs of the sport in recent years with an enviable streak of success – but he’s also recently experienced the lows first hand.   Young, 77, who puts the polish on classy square-gaiter Deltasun (Tennotrump-Deltasu (Elsu NZ), had a fall at his hometown track and dislocated his collarbone.   “I was working a two-year-old named Premonition and he shied and spun back in the opposite direction,” Young explained.   “I just wasn’t ready for it because it’s just not part of his make-up,” he said.   “So while the horse trotted back to the stabling area to my wife Carol, I was sprawled on the track with my arm twisted up around behind my back.   “I popped the collarbone right out. The doctors put it back okay but told me I’m out of action for at least the next six weeks.   Young said he had already been toying with the idea of giving Deltasun, a winner of 17 races and 15 placings for $225,000, a short let-up.   “When I had the track mishap, that made the decision for me to spell him, and I’ve tossed the other three out for a break as well,” he said.   In just three seasons of racing, Deltasun has stamped himself as one of Victoria’s most consistent square-gaiters, winning seven races at TABcorp Park Melton, including the 3YO Vicbred final.   “He’s never far away, because he’s got outstanding manners and he’s very well gaited,” Young said.   “We have had a fantastic time with him because he’s won two Group One races and a few GroupThrees.”   Terry and Carol were especially thrilled to win the Central Victorian Trotters Championship and then the rich Tontine series early last year.   “Even more so because we aimed him specifically for those two events. It doesn’t happen all that often, when everything just goes right, but it’s great when it does!” Young said.   Deltasun with PT Young, Gavin Lang and Terry and Carol Young (Courtesy Tabcorp Park Racing)   He paid tribute to the stable’s main driver Gavin Lang.   “He’s been a major part in making the horse into a true racehorse. He’s outstanding with young ones and he’s taught me how to look after a good horse,” Young said.   “Just little things, like we never work Deltasun against another horse in trackwork because he just fires up and you can’t hold him.”   Deltasun, driven by Gavin Lang (Courtesy Wimmera Mail Times)   Young was a jockey as a youngster, and a respected one at that, landing country winners as well as a city win at Caulfield in 1956 for Jerry Tye, a Chinese trainer.   “The gallops were always hotly contested, and you know I was never thrown off or injured during the years I was involved. But my weight increased, and I was forced to give away race riding,” he said.   Young moved to Ararat in 1960 to be closer to his parents who lived near Port Fairy.   “Dad was a shearer and neither of them had an interest in horses. I worked as a roustabout in the shearing sheds and rode trackwork as well,” he said.   “And that was how I met Carol at an early morning trackwork session. She had ponies and her father Mick King was one of the first harness racing trainers in Ararat.   “Carol was virtually riding ponies before she could walk, and she could have easily carved out a career as a jockey if females were allowed back then.   “She was an excellent rider and had an uncanny way with horses, and she still does to this day. Along with being a hard worker and great support to me.”   Young was introduced to harness racing by Carol’s father Mick and didn’t take long to adjust. He won at the old Horsham showgrounds at his very first drive on Chalambar.   “The horse was probably classes above them, I think, but the gaps just opened up everywhere I went, and I thought how easy is this?!   “I was soon brought back to earth by the head steward, Mr Rowse who gave me a huge lecture, saying I didn’t display much control. I did admit that I was loose reining, but I’ve never forgotten that spray.”   When his interest in harness racing began to wane, Young opted for a break, turning his interest in the 1980s to running.   “I enjoyed that and was lucky enough to win the veterans event (restricted to runners over 40) at the Stawell Gift,” he said.   But his interest in harness racing became rekindled and Young found himself driving to Peter Manning’s place at Great Western to help out.   “I’ve now probably been doing that for the past 20 years or so and I’ve learnt so much from Peter and the team out there. Peter is always ready to give you a hand or some advice,” he said.   “I used to help work Tennotrumps and he was just a lovely horse. I decided to take our mare Deltasu to him when he stood as a stallion and I’m pretty glad I did because the result was Deltasun!”   Young uses the Manning track most days, trucking his small team out there.   And to add to the family flavor, son Peter (PT as he’s known) attends most meetings with his dad.   A talented jockey, PT was lured to Melbourne by astute trainer Jim Moloney.   “He couldn’t hack it in the city, like a lot of country fellas find out, but he had a successful career around the bush,” Young said.   “I asked him to come to the trots with me one day, and he was a bit undecided. Now he’s nearly the first in the car! He drives to the meetings which suits me perfectly,” he said.   “His wife Alison is right into the breeding and ownership side of it, so between the family we’ve got most parts of the industry covered. An old friend in Terry Cahill is also a breeder.”   Young intends to enjoy his enforced short break, despite counting down the days until he’s back doing what he loves.   “I’m still a bit dirty on myself for getting tipped out and hurt,” he laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Premier reinsman Gavin Lang came out in support of standing-start races after winning the Easter Cup at Mowbray on Saturday night. Lang said he would like to see them reintroduced in Victoria where there have been no standing starts for pacers since the start of the 2017-18 season. "I believe there is still a place for them, especially at this level where you are dealing with readymade racehorses," the trainer-driver said. Harness Racing Victoria made its contentious decision to scrap stands after an extensive review of the format from both a wagering and an image perspective. "On both counts, the board has viewed standing start races as harmful to the viability of the industry," chief executive John Anderson said at the time. Prominent media commentator Adam Hamilton supported the decision, saying "standing starts have served the sport well through history but have passed their use-by date." There's been no suggestion, not in public anyway, that Tasracing has ever considered following suit. Opinions will always be divided but standing starts still have a strong body of support among diehard harness racing followers. Punters know the risks involved when they bet on stands. So the only real problem is their potential to seriously delay the start of races which can lead to them being 'flicked' by Sky Channel. But plenty of mobile races run late as well, as was the case on Saturday night for some reason. Although Franco Tristan was Lang's fifth Easter Cup winner, it was the first time he's won it from a standing start. Franco Tiger, Northern Brewer, Here Comes David and Jonells Son all won when it was a mobile free-for-all.   By Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Examiner

Star Victorian pacer San Carlo deserves to win a Group 1 race and is set to be given another three chances to do over the next few months. Trainer Steve O’Donoghue said it was “very likely” his classy veteran would chase the Len Smith Mile at the end of June and then the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake during Albion Park’s Winter Carnival. San Carlo followed a dominant Mildura Cup win with a comfortable Warragul Cup victory last Sunday. It was a one-act affair with driver Bec Bartley working to the front, rolling along and ripping home in 55.6 and 27.4sec to win by 3.2m in a 1min58.3sec mile rate for the long 2627m trip. The slow-maturing eight-year-old boasts 28 wins from just 48 starts along with nine placings and almost $500,000 in earnings. Buzz former Kiwi four-year-old Ana Malak looked San Carlo’s only real danger on paper at Warragul, but found the task of sitting outside him for the last 1400m simply too much. He tired late for fourth. It was the Golden Nugget winner’s  second run for caretaker trainer Dean Braun after he dropped back staggeringly in grade to win first-up from a spell at Stawell six days earlier. Ana Malak is sure to keep improving, having just raced twice for Braun since the Group 1 Golden Nugget for part-owners and trainers Greg and Skye Bond last December. “We’ll see how he goes in Victoria with Dean (Braun, trainer) for a while then bring him back home,” part-owner Rob Gartrell said. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ For the umpteenth time in his stellar career, Gavin Lang’s drive made all the different in a feature. Lang, recently sidelined with a bout of shingles, was at his aggressive and tactical best in a desperate first 100m of the $75,000 Group 2 Tasmanian Easter Cup (2698m). Ultimately, somehow staying in front of major rival Ryley Major won Lang and his former Kiwi pacer Franco Tristan the race. Lang went on to find the lead, dictate the terms and win by 1.1m over a gallant Scooterwillrev, who sat parked. But Ryley Major should’ve won. He was buried four pegs, got clear too late and stormed home for a close third. If not for Lang’s genius early, Ryley Major’s trainer-driver Rohan Hillier would almost certainly have found the lead and won as he liked. Franco Tristan has been ultra-consistent since coming to Lang’s barn from NZ with 16 starts netting si wins, seven seconds, two thirds and now almost $90,000 in stakemoney. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Trainer Andy Gath said some the practice at home the Alexandra Park direction of racing ended a planned Anzac and Rowe Cup raid. “He just wasn’t comfortable going that way, certainly not enough for take him overseas,” Gath said. “We’d love to have gone, you know I love chasing the big races when we’ve got the right horse.” McLovin was beaten but far from disgraced after striking early trouble in the Uncle Petrika Sprint (1720m) at Melton on Saturday night. He gave the leaders almost 50m start once they’d settled and ran on well for third behind rejuvenated and very much in-form Savannah Jay Jay, who ran down classy mare Red Hot Tooth in a slick 1min55sec mile rate. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Emerging NSW stayer Ellmers Image had to be content with winning the consolation of last year’s Melbourne Inter Dominion. But he’s gone to another level since and will surely tackle the Auckland series late this year. Amanda Turnbull’s gelding sat parked and beat Majordan in a 1min49.6sec mile at Menangle then out-stayed a hot field in last Thursday night’s $50,000 Group 2 Renshaw Cup at Penrith. The mile rate was a blazing 1min56.7sec for 2565m around the tight, old-school circuit. Buzz pacer Ignatius ran a close and excellent second at his first run back from a let-up, while classy recent Kiwi import Sicario was third. The trio look set to meet again in this week’s Group 2 Treuer Memorial – a former Grand Circuit race – at Bankstown. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Trevor Casey’s former Kiwi filly Dracarys looks a standout for the Group 1 WA Oaks. Champion driver Gary Hall Jr has been talking her up for many weeks and she again showed why be thrashing a good field in a prelude of the Oaks at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Hall Jr worked around the field from a back row draw to find the lead midrace and kept rolling. Dracarys won as she liked in a brisk 1min55.5sec mile rate for 2138m, capped by closing splits of 56.6 and 28.5sec. The daughter of Bettors Delight won one of her three NZ starts before Casey sent her to Justin Prentice in WA and she’s posted another 10 wins and two placings in her 13 starts in WA. On the same card last Friday, American Ideal gelding Mighty Conqueror underlined his potential with a narrow but big win in the $50,000 Group 2 Easter Cup. Greg and Skye Bond’s four-year-old came from a 20m handicap, worked around to lead and just staved-off a big late surge from As Happy As Larry to win by a nose. “We think he’s got so much potential,” part-owner Rob Gartrell said. “If you talk to Ryan (Warwick, driver), he just loves the horse and thinks he’s still developing with every run. “He’s had a big campaign so he’s out a spell now with the hope he’ll come back and take the next step.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________ One of Australia’s most exciting mares Share The Road died suddenly in trackwork last Tuesday. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Tintin In America, who boasted nine wins and 11 placings from just 28 starts, was due to resume for new trainer Matty Craven at Melton last night (Saturday). “We assume it was a heart attack. She went onto the track, went 100m, collapsed and died,” owner Zac Cornell said. “It’s devastating because she had so much potential and we just switched her to Matty for a change-up to try and get a bit more speed back into her.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Could Majestuoso be the trotter to test the freakish Alpha Male in the major Aussie three-year-old trotting features? There’s no doubt the speedy son of Majestic Son has the talent, as evidenced by his five wins from just six starts this season. The latest came after a massive scare when Majestuoso was cruising to an easy Ballarat win last Tuesday night before galloping at the 400m, but getting going again in time to win easily. Majestuoso showed talent but galloped so often last season, but, generally his manners have been much better this campaign. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Queensland veteran Glenferrie Hood deserves a mention for topping $100,000 in earnings in free-for-all ranks so far this season. The much-travelled nine-year-old made it nine wins from just 19 starts for the term – his best strike rate of any season in his career – when he overcame a wide draw and stormed around the field to win at Albion Park on Saturday night. The Wayne Graham-trained gelding has won 42 races and is closing in on $500,000 in career earnings.   Adam Hamilton

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