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Bad Boy Brad’s ascension continued on Saturday night in front of a large harness racing crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the 2017 Exclusive Homes Maltese Cup. The Diane Giles trained six-year-old produced a withering sprint for driver Lance Justice to capture the silverware in a stirring four-way finish, with first through to fourth separated by not much more than a long head. The Gunbower Cup winner has already won six races from 21 starts this season, Bad Boy Brad’s assessment climbing from C7-M0 to M3-C12. Video: Re-live Bad Boy Brad's Maltese Cup win Bad Boy Brad (Righteous Hanover-Bubbas Babe) rated 1:54.1 to overhaul south-west Victorian pair Jivin Cullen (trained by Brad Hunt and driven by Glen Craven) in a photo finish officially by a half-head, with a head further back to Roy George (Matthew Craven) and another head to Upanatom (David Aiken/Mark Pitt) in fourth. Bad Boy Brad launched late down the outside against a 27.7 last quarter and a 28 secs third split and looks destined for bigger assignments again. Long Forest husband and wife team Andy and Kate Gath secured a winning double and three second placings for the night, successful with trotters Clover Mac (Dream Vacation-Clover Lass) in the SEW Eurodrive Trotters Handicap in 2:00.3 from the 2240-metre standing start and Posseidon (Fling It-Maori Acacia) in the Rayner Real Estate 3YO Trot over 1720m in 1:59.8. Click here to view all results from Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night Click here to listen to the winning drivers on HRV YouTube  Cody Winnell

The East Grampians Health Service Cranks and Defibrillators will take their bikes to the trots this month. The two teams are in training for the annual Murray to Moyne Cycle Relay, a 525-kilometre relay from Swan Hill to Port Fairy in April. The teams are aiming to raise $25,000 to assist with the purchase of a new bus for the Patricia Hinchey Centre at EGHS and one of their major fundraisers will be a trots meeting at the Ararat Harness Racing Club on Thursday, February 16. Team members will attend the twilight Murray to Moyne Race Meeting and they will be out and about the track selling raffle tickets and shaking donation tins. Racegoers can also make a gold coin donation at the gate. The team has also sold race names to local businesses for the seven-race event as part of their fundraising. “East Grampians Health Service has been participating in the Murray to Moyne Relay for many years and has raised thousands of dollars to purchase equipment for the health service in that time,” EGHS community liaison officer Jodie Holwell said. “This year the teams are helping to raise funds for a new bus for the Patricia Hinchey Centre, which will enable clients to attend community events and go on outings as part of their activities’ program. “The teams are training twice a week for the gruelling relay, which will start at Swan Hill on April 1 and finish at Port Fairy on April 2. “The teams develop great camaraderie and work hard together not only in training and riding, but in running a number of fundraising events in the lead up to the relay. They are great ambassadors for the health service.” Ararat club president Tony Bond said all were welcome to come along for a great night of trots racing action and help to raise funds for the Patricia Hinchey Centre’s new bus. “The Ararat Harness Racing Club is very pleased to be able to support the East Grampians Health Service again this year by hosting a race meeting for the Murray to Moyne Cycle Relay fundraising team,” Mr Bond said. “We hope to see the Ararat community at the track on Thursday night and encourage them to dig deep for a great cause.” Meanwhile, the #TeamTeal campaign will continue at Ararat, the national trots initiative raising important funds for the Women’s Cancer Foundation through donations for every winner driven by a female driver until March 12. Women drivers in the trots are wearing teal driving pants for the length of the campaign and Harness Racing Victoria and are each donating $200 per win, meaning $400 goes to the Foundation for every Victorian #TeamTeal winner. Last month Harness Racing Victoria donated $12,500 to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia via a similar campaign. HRV and are also raising funds for the Good Friday Appeal via the Good Friday Appeal Charity Tipoff on its weekly Trots Talk show, aired across Victoria. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager) Fields for Ararat, Thursday 16 February 2017 Form guide for Ararat, Thursday 16 February 2017

Long-serving Ballarat administrator Dennis Foley has announced his retirement. Ballarat and District Trotting Club CEO Paul Rowse paid tribute to the harness racing club’s long-time treasurer – Mr Foley has been in the role continuously since 1982 – and wished him well for the future. “Dennis wants to spend more time with his family, being a first-time grandfather, and pursue other areas of his life he has enjoyed more in in recent times including world travel and building his racing empire,” Mr Rowse said. “Dennis has been an integral part of the success of the Ballarat club for a long period of time. His business acumen and huge network of contacts accrued over 35 years with the club will be a big void to fill in the future. He should be immensely proud of the condition he’s leaving the club in. “On a personal note, Dennis has been a great role model in my professional and personal life. His attention to detail is second to none. “For those who were lucky enough to have been on tour with him to the feature race carnivals in Australia and New Zealand, we will all remember those trips fondly as the reason we love this sport so much. The community feeling that is harness racing.” Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) CEO David Martin also paid tribute to Mr Foley and acknowledged his long service to the industry.  “Harness Racing Victoria takes this opportunity to thank Dennis for his long and dedicated period of service to the Ballarat and District Trotting Club and the industry more broadly," Mr Martin said. “It takes passionate and devoted people to drive the country clubs and Dennis ticks both of those boxes. HRV wishes him all the best for the future.” Ballarat club president David Young said Mr Foley had played a huge role in Ballarat’s many achievements over the years. “On behalf of the BDTC committee we would like to congratulate Dennis on what is an amazing stint in serving the BDTC as treasurer. He has for 35 years taken ownership and shown such passion for our club and business,” Mr Young said. “He has been a great assistance to our management team on a daily basis. There have been many achievements at the club in which Dennis has played a major role. He is a life member and received club legend status last year. Our club is indebted to Dennis for his contribution.” Country Clubs Association CEO David Brick also took the opportunity to wish Mr Foley well. “Dennis has been a strong supporter of the club network and a leading advocate for maintaining on-course patronage and atmosphere,” Mr Brick said. “The Association of Country Clubs congratulates Dennis on his significant contribution to the Ballarat club and broader club community for close to four decades. We wish Dennis all the best for the future.” At a special committee meeting Ballarat appointed Leon Underwood, previous assistant treasurer, to the position of treasurer.  Mr Underwood works for the City Of Ballarat as a Socio Economic Development Officer and has been mentored by Mr Foley over the last 12 months in line with the club's succession plan. Rob Kerr was appointed to the position of assistant treasurer. Mr Kerr, who is the Ballarat Branch Manager for the Bank Of Melbourne, has been on the club committee for over 15 years including time as the vice-president. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

There are eight races set for the harness racing Warragul meeting this Wednesday, February 15. Entries are strong across the program, with good numbers in most events. A strong contingent of local horses will compete, with about half of the total starters engaged from the region. Last start winner Run Myles Run, for Gippsland Harness Training Centre graduate Alan Ratnasingham, could start the day on a successful note for punters. Despite drawing wide on the mobile barrier, Run Myles Run is a strong chance of making it two victories on end - he is the only horse in the seven runner field to have won a race in their last four starts. Smart local four-year-old Professor Tom returns to the races in the fourth event. Raced by Warragul HRC committeeman Grant Rathjen and trained by Gary Quinlan, Professor Tom will have to overcome a back row draw on the mobile barrier over the short 1790 metre journey. Premier reinsman Chris Alford will have to choose which drive he takes between stablemates Courageous Call and Toscas Delight in the last race. The last is one of the better quality races on the program, boasting several horses in good form. Former Kiwi Our Mcardle Star returns to racing in the seventh event. A winner of two out of three runs in Australia last year, the five-year-old last raced at Shepparton in December for trainer Ahmed Taiba, who usually does well when he brings horses across to Warragul. Earlier, the second event looks a real lottery with no real standout in the eight horse field. Local hopes rest with La Patata, British General and Monterey Jack, all drawn off the front row. With fine and warm weather forecast, racing commences on Wednesday at 1:17pm. Female drivers competing on Wednesday will wear teal coloured driving pants, as part of a nationwide promotion raising awareness, and funds from race winning drives, for ovarian cancer research. Kyle Galley

Persistence and patience blended with talent to see Glenferrie Typhoon win the Pryde’s Easifeed $300,000 Great Southern Star, a super harness racing training and driving performance by Andy and Kate Gath. After a season plagued by disappointing runs, Glenferrie Typhoon’s undoubted talent spilled on to Tabcorp Park Melton with a blistering run, stopping the clock at a 1:58.0 mile rate, 1.5 seconds under the old track record. The all-the-way win gifted the $300,000 feature, the richest trotting race in Australasia, to a proud group of owners and a triumphant local stable. “It’s a huge thrill,” Andy Gath said. “I know he had the draw and everything, but he still had to do it. “I’ve always had a great affinity with the trotters and they have really emerged in Victoria, there are so many good trotters around and it’s such a great race to win and great to have it on like this with the Hunter Cup. Such a big night and it’s a huge thrill.” Sharing that delight was his wife, Kate Gath, who had been put through the ringer as Glenferrie Typhoon battled to re-find form. The Majestic Son gelding ran second in this feature last year amid an outstanding run, made all the meritorious by the fact he was suffering from a bladder stone. He resumed late in 2016 but two poor performances saw him tipped out for another spell. A sixth placing in The George Gath at Shepparton preceded a win against far more modest competition at Melton on January 30, when Glenferrie Typhoon appeared to switch off and have his considerable lead gobbled up.  “He’s done my head in over the last couple of months, I did everything I could to get him trotting,” Kate Gath said. “I haven’t conceded. I tried a few different things again on Monday and he couldn’t trot it out up the straight. I didn’t know what else to do, I know he’s got the ability and thank goodness we got it right on the night that we needed to get it right on.” From gate one Glenferrie Typhoon held off Maori Time’s advance to find the front, but the pressure was persistent with one challenger after the next coming to the breeze to press forward. Josh Dickie then guided favourite and reigning champion Speeding Spur on to Glenferrie Typhoon’s back and when they hit the straight it became a race in two. “If I got a lot of pressure I was going to play it by ear and see how I felt, but he just travelled so good the whole way I couldn’t hand handed up if I wanted too,” Kate Gath said. “When Speeding Spur got on my back I thought “oh no, this isn’t good, this wasn’t part of the plan”. “(Glenferrie Typhoon) was just travelling so well the whole way. When I got to the corner he was still travelling and I know he can get a bit hot in the straight and I thought, all right, we’re going to run now, they are going to have their chance but they are going to have to catch me.” And in the match-race between Glenferrie Typhoon and Speeding Spur it was the Victorian who held on by a half-neck. “His ability’s always been there, we know how good he is, so it’s just fantastic that he was able to get the job done tonight,” Kate Gath said. “All the owners are here, absolutely over the moon.” Sunny Ruby ran a brave third for Sam Smolenski, having been the best runner from deep to finish 9m shy of the leader. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Our Little General (Mach Three-Kabbalah Karen) caused a minor harness racing upset by taking out this year’s $200,000 Victoria Derby on Hunter Cup night at Tabcorp Park Melton. Last season’s Breeders Crown winning two-year-old rated 1:56.8 to beat a Mark Purdon trained pacer, not the $1.40 All Stars favourite Vincent, but the $25.60 shot Motu Meteor driven by Grant Campbell. Vincent copped a bad flat tyre and had to be pulled out of the race at the mile mark, much to the chagrin of punters. All the while Our Little General was in front, out of trouble, making his own luck for champion reinsman Chris Alford. The General pumped out quarters of 30.3, 30.7, 28.1 and 26.6, Alford looking around at the bell, no doubt wondering where his much vaunted opponent was. Trained by Victoria’s leading trainer, champion horsewoman Emma Stewart, Our Little General has now earnt over $360,000 in stakemoney. “He’s a great little horse,” Alford said. “Emma and (partner) Clayton (Tonkin) do a great job. I went in with confidence, not that I could beat the favourite, but that he would run a great race. “When he kicked on the turn he was really strong.” Motu Meteor ran second, beaten 4.1m, while Luke McCarthy guided Astride into third.  Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The scene has been set for a magnificent Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton after an outstanding fortnight of harness racing. The PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup set the foundation for a magnificent TAB Summer of Glory, which began with last weekend's Eynesbury Victoria Cup. Grand circuit superstars Lazarus, Smolda and Lennytheshark performed superbly to finish 1-2-3 in the Group 1 Ballarat cup. The 2015 (Lennytheshark) and 2016 (Smolda) Inter Dominion winners then sat out Victoria Cup night but the third of the equine jets set Tabcorp Park alight. Lazarus - with his group of loyal and prominent owners in attendance - destroyed a talented Victoria Cup field, obliterating the cup record and becoming just the fourth four-year-old to win the $400,000 race. I was on track to see Mark Purdon's protégé crush his rivals in the Victorian Derby 12 months earlier and the strong on-track crowd once again stood and applauded as Lazarus strolled past the post for a dominant win. I couldn't help but wish I owned him, which is where Sunday's APG yearling sales may come into consideration! The entire Victoria Cup night was sensational. The racing immense as Purdon put on a driving and training clinic to collect five victories in the cart, four of which were trained under his and partner Natalie Rasmussen's guidance. In a race that may have escaped the attention of some, I was eagerly watching the action in race three as my mare, Highview Christina, regained some form and at any old odds ($28 the place) rumbled home for a gallant third. Despite being known to put in the odd average run, I look forward to seeing how 'Apples' goes in Saturday's final of the Rising Stars Pace. Vic Cup night was something special, on and off the track, but Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night promises to be even better! Five Group 1 races, with question marks everywhere thanks to some challenging draws to the favourites and a grand old warrior on the quest to repeat his 2016 Hunter Cup victory. In the last edition of the stand start, Smolda fought off fellow Kiwi Ohoka Punter for the bulk of the $500,000 kitty. But, arguably Smolda's greatest rival is back. After overcoming some issues in the Inter Dominion, Lennytheshark looks ripe for the Cup, despite drawing worse than Smolda's gate nine (Lenny will nearly drag driver Chris Alford across my feet as he begins from gate 13). New Zealanders Vincent, Speeding Spur, A Piccadilly Princess and Lazarus are all favourites to collect the other four Group 1s but there are more than enough locals to keep some of the big trophies on our soil. Away from the races, Collingwood AFL Women's superstar Moana Hope will be fresh off her AFLW debut and will be signing footballs and taking photos. So, five Group 1 races, my own horse in a Group 3, the sport's megastar rolling around at $1.04 plus entertainment, great food and a great crowd - the finale to the 2017 Summer of Glory is guaranteed to be amazing! I'll see you all there (and IF Highview Christina wins, it's my shout in the owners’ tent)! by Josh Jenkins Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 04 February 2017

Star New Zealand trotter Speeding Spur is chasing a piece of harness racing history this weekend. The Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton is the next leg of the 2016/17 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series and the Auckland based star looms as the horse to beat. A relatively new race for the elite trotters, the race was first staged back in 2013 and run under a fairly radical format, the event is the richest in the southern hemisphere. Initially modelled on Sweden’s universally revered Elitlopp, the Great Southern Star originally featured two Group 1 heats with a final all run on the same programme. Both heats will be drawn randomly staged over Melton’s 1720m trip with 10 horses progressing to the decider later in the night. And the Kiwi trotters have dominated with outstanding performer Vulcan winning the inaugural series before Keystone Del, Stent and last year’s winner Speeding Spur all swept to glory. But the 2017 version has been drastically altered with the event now becoming a straight out race being staged over the staying journey of 2760m. A full field of 12 with an emergency runner drawn will chase the major prize on offer. And it’s a high quality line-up with trotters representing all parts of the globe. So, can Speeding Spur become the first trotter to claim back to back titles? Prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, the Pegasus Spur entire has recently returned from injury and many thought the Great Southern Star would come too soon but following his excellent return last week at Alexandra Park when second, he now has a shot at further glory. Speeding Spur will start from gate five. Glenferrie Typhoon represents husband and wife partnership of Andy and Kate Gath, a runner-up last year behind Speeding Spur has drawn the inside gate and the last start winner will be looking to go one better this year. Quality New South Wales trotter On Thunder Road was luckless last week in the Dullard Cup but his winning effort two starts ago at Ballarat in the Cochran Cup gives him an excellent chance at redemption. The Darren Hancock trained and driven gelding starts from gate two. Cardigan Boko possesses a cosmopolitan flavour, bred in Sweden and trained in Perth, the flashy looking stallion starts from gate four and rates highly amongst the chances. The son of former world champion Varenne is prepared by Clive Dalton and will be handled by champion reinsman Chris Lewis. Another import is Daryl Boko; the former Finnish trotter is now trained in New Zealand by Tim Butt, a previous winner of this race through Vulcan. The Majestic Son gelding has drawn gate nine and will be handled by master reinsman Anthony Butt. Giant New Zealander Great Things Happen who is on loan to ace local horseman Greg Sugars also boasts strong recent form. The Love You gelding starts from gate ten. Local star The Boss Man must overcome a tricky draw of the inside of the second-line (gate 8) but the Scott Dyer trained and Ellen Tormey driven son of Bacardi Lindy boasts excellent recent form. Like Kate Gath, Tormey is hoping to become the first female driver to win the race. Classy mares Maori Time, Heavenly Sister, Quite A Moment, KD Muscles and Sunny Ruby are all chasing a slice history with a victory this weekend because no mare has ever won the Great Southern Star. All mares boast very strong credentials and loom as legitimate threats. The speedy beginner Maori Time has drawn nicely in gate three while Heavenly Sister (gate 6), Quite A Moment (gate 11), KD Muscles (gate 12) and Sunny Ruby (gate 13) may require some lady luck.   The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 8.30pm local time. Chris Barsby

Australia’s premier summer harness racing carnival at Tabcorp Park Melton is being supported by a $180,000 joint funding package announced by the Andrews Labor Government. The Government is contributing more than $90,000 to the Summer of Glory Carnival through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund Raceday Attraction Program. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) is matching the Government’s contribution. The first day of the carnival took place on Saturday, 28 January, and attracted a crowd of more than 3000 people. The carnival will conclude this Saturday, 4 February, with the prestigious $500,000 Hunter Cup, the $200,000 Victoria Derby Final and the $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star for trotters. Stakemoney for the carnival will exceed $1.8 million and entertainment will include live music, a DJ, roving performers and Chenda drumming. A range of children’s activities will include an animal farm, face-painting, jumping castle and atomic drop-slide. Return shuttle buses will transport patrons from the regional harness racing centres of Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Maryborough, Warragul, Cranbourne, Kilmore, Echuca, Terang, Geelong, Horsham, Stawell and Hamilton. Harness racing in Victoria generates more than $421 million in economic benefit each year and employs almost 4000 in full-time equivalent jobs across the state. Quotes attributable to Minister for Racing Martin Pakula “The Andrews Labor Government is proud to support the Summer of Glory Carnival which provides top quality harness racing for the community.” “I commend Harness Racing Victoria for its hard work in bringing together this year’s carnival which includes entertainment off and on the track.” Quote attributable to Harness Racing Victoria CEO David Martin “Harness Racing Victoria is grateful for the Government’s support and with some of the best pacers and trotters in Australasia competing at the Summer of Glory we can guarantee exciting racing and top-notch entertainment.”

Saturday night’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton is wide open after a harness racing barrier draw that saw the two “all-in market big guns” draw the back row. Reigning Inter Dominion champion Smolda drew gate nine for Mark Purdon, while 2015 Inter Dominion hero Lennytheshark came up with barrier 13 for David Aiken. reacted by opening both Lennytheshark and Smolda equal $3.20 favourites post-barrier draw but quickly snapped Smolda back into $2.80 with Lennytheshark out to $3.50, while Bling It On firmed right into $4.60 after being double figure odds most of the way through. Yayas Hot Spot was a significant firmer, into $17 after drawing the pole – should emergency Adam Cartwright not gain a start – for Sydney power couple Shane and Lauren Tritton. Meanwhile, last weekend’s Victoria Cup placegetter Bling It On also firmed considerably after drawing barrier five, the John McCarthy-trained 41-time winner into $4.60. Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup Barrier Draw 1: Adam Cartwright (Em) 2: Yayas Hot Spot 3: Allblack Stride 4: Ideal Success 5: Bling It On 6: Cruz Bromac 7: Messini 8: Guaranteed 9: Smolda 10: Im Corzin Terror 11: Hug The Wind 12: Young Modern 13: Lennytheshark TAB.COM.AU FIXED ODDS FOR THE HUNTER CUP THE FIELDS FOR TABCORP PARK MELTON ON SATURDAY NIGHT GREAT SOUTHERN STAR, DERBY BARRIER WRAP Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

It’s a knockout. The triumphant performance of New Zealand pacer Lazarus in tonight’s (Saturday) Gr.1 $400,000 Eynesbury Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton had to be seen to be believed after he embarrassed his rivals in the 2240m harness racing feature. It was eerily similar to his New Zealand Cup thrashing back in November when successful by an ever expanding margin. The brilliant pacer joins only Sinbad Bay and Holmes DG as winners of the Victoria Cup as a four-year-old. Starting as a clear favourite after landing gate six, Lazarus ($1.50 fav) pushed hard from the gate and found a forward position early before Purdon allowed the Bettor's Delight entire to stride freely down the back straight on the first occasion to take the lead from Major Crocker with a mile left to travel. The lead time was covered in 44.2 seconds. With Mach Doro galloping wildly at release point and then Hectorjayjay also making a rare error, the race took on a completely different look in comparison to most speed maps. Many thought the race was over once Lazarus found the front. Lazarus travelled strongly in front and covered the first half of the final mile in splits of 30 and 28.6 seconds. Bling It On worked clear from the inside and moved around the outside while Allblack Stride also made a mid-race move before Hectorjayjay charged around to sit parked over the final lap. At this point, rivals were chasing in vain. Entering the back straight, Lazarus powered along in front leaving rivals starting to feel the pinch while others jostled for better positions. The third quarter was covered in 27.4 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Purdon lifted the reins and his star pupil left his rivals tapping out as he inflicted more pain with a scintillating final sectional. He finished off his rivals with a 26.4 final split. Lazarus defeated Major Crocker ($81.80) by 12m while Bling It On ($14.20) grabbed third a further 7.7m away. The final mile was clocked in 1:52.4. The race time was 2:36.6 – a mile rate of 1:52.5 which easily eclipsed the previous race record of Smoken Up who set a mark of 1:53.4 when successful in 2011. It also smashed the track record which previously belonged to All Eyes On Us at 1:53.2. “He’s a very special horse, perhaps the greatest I’ve ever trained.” Purdon stated immediately after the race. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017 The victory was his third in the event following previous victories with Young Rufus (2003) and Brabham (1998 – trainer). The winning effort also elevates Lazarus to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit with 200 points following his victories in both the New Zealand and Victoria Cups; his stablemates Smolda (120) and Our Dream About Me (100) are next. Perth pacer Chicago Bull has also amassed 100 points. Only two legs of the APG Grand Circuit remain this season. Next week, the Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National Hunter Cup takes place; the 2700m mobile event will be staged at Melton. Chris Barsby

Vincent had to be vulnerable after covering so much ground on the first lap in his heat of the harness racing VHRSC Victoria Derby tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton.  But when he put paid to Sydney star Blue Moon Rising approaching the home bend – with daylight to the rest of the field – he looked anything but susceptible. The Mark Purdon trained and driven three-year-old son of Art Major-Kept For Pleasure gapped them, 12.3m his winning margin. He glided through the last half in 55 seconds flat, 26.9secs the final quarter-mile. “He’s got everything going for him. He’s a lovely horse. He’s got a great heart,” Purdon said after the 2240-metre race. “He was unlucky he got injured as a two-year-old otherwise he would have been here for the APG but that’s the way it went and it may have turned out a blessing for it.” While Vincent looks clearly the one to beat come next Saturday’s $200,000 three-year-old classic, Purdon-trained stablemate Motu Meteor (Bettors Delight-Silksngems) might be the opportunist should he draw well. The Merv and Meg Butterworth owned gelding won the third heat of the Derby at Melton in 1:57.3, sprinting sharply up the sprint lane after getting smother throughout behind race leader Jilliby Kung Fu. “He got the perfect run and capitalised. He’s a nice little horse. He has probably flown under the radar a little bit,” Purdon said. “He’s not without a chance (in the big one) and if he draws like he did tonight it’ll play right into his hands.” Jilliby Kung Fu stuck on for second beaten 2.6m after crawling through his first half in 62.7. They ripped home in 28.4 and 26.4. Meanwhile, making it three out of three for “Purdon-trained Derby heat winners” was Be Jacks Legend (Bettors Delight-Larissas Rose), trained by Barry Purdon – Mark’s older brother and NZ’s most successful trots trainer ever. Be Jacks Legend went 1:55.0 from barrier seven to topple Emain Macha by 2.2m with Wrappers Delight third. The winner was driven by Zac Butcher and is owned by leviathan all-codes owner Terry Henderson, who has won a Melbourne Cup with Doriemus and also owned two-time Kiwi harness horse of the year Chokin.  “I love being back here,” Henderson said post-race. “Especially on nights like tonight when you see the best of the best … it’s just fantastic to be involved.” Butcher said Be Jacks Legend would only continue to improve. “He was a January foal so he is still growing and developing and learning the way of the game,” Butcher said. “This guy did it pretty tough over the last lap and he really stuck to his guns.” Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Driving against the likes of some of Australasia's most accomplished harness racing reinsmen in a Grand Circuit race is something Chris Geary did not expect to achieve so soon in his career. Up against names such as Purdon, Lang, McCarthy and Alford, Geary will be going head-to-head with the best of them after landing a dream drive in Saturday's Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. Geary was offered the drive on the Craig Cross-trained Mach Doro. It will be the first time Geary drives that pacer in race conditions and also the first time driving in Victoria. "They probably look at the formguide and say, who is this kid?" the 19-year-old said. "I've always watched races like the Victoria Cup and thought one day I'd like to be a part of it but I didn't expect it to happen so soon. "Hopefully these opportunities keep rolling around and I have to thank Craig and the connections for the opportunity and to be asked to be part of such a prestigious race. "It would be awesome to win it but just being part of the race is very special to me. "My horse has drawn well in barrier one and the plan is to punch out as hard as he can until one of the top horses comes around. "Ever since this horse arrived in Sydney I've had a big opinion of him." Geary has also picked up two drives in heats of the Victoria Derby on the night. This includes on the Shane and Lauren Tritton-trained Blue Moon Rising and also the Cross-conditioned Zahven Banner. "Blue Moon Rising is a nice horse," Geary said. "Some were disappointed with his run in the Canberra Derby but he made a lot of ground and went better off the track. "Zahven Banner is a really nice horse too that has come a long way in a short amount of time." But before all of this Geary will take part in Junee's TAB.COM.AU Carnival of Cups meeting on Thursday. He has been invited to contest the Club's annual City VS Country Drivers Challenge along with other Sydney-based drivers David Morris and Brendan Barnes. Geary will also drive Major Steppe for his father John Geary in the Phoenix Accounting and Business Services Junee Pacers Cup (2170m). Major Steppe has drawn inside the second row for the feature race and is currently an $8 chance with TAB Fixed Odds. A winner two starts ago, Major Steppe is having his first start at the Junee track like the $3.50 favourite Mammals Flash that is also first up from a spell. Geary's big weekend will continue into Goulburn's TAB.COM.AU Carnival Of Cups meeting on Sunday. He has a drive in four of the eight races at that meeting including in the main feature, the Goulburn Soldiers Club Frank and Edna Day Goulburn Cup (2240m). Originally booked with four drives in the Group 3, Geary has elected to stick with the grey pacer Clancys Fobwatch over the likes of the $3.50 TAB Fixed Odds favourite Yayas Hot Spot. "I'm sticking with Clancys Fobwatch, he is racing in super form at the moment," Geary said. "He is always thereabouts and if the race is run to suit then I'm sure he will be in the finish. "He is driven the same every week and hopefully he gets the right run as he deserves to win a race like this." Starting wide in barrier seven, Clancys Fobwatch is the $4 third favourite behind Yayas Hot Spot and Spare Me Days, the second elect at $3.60. Geary is currently the leading driver in New South Wales. AMANDA RANDO

Two Victorian country harness racing clubs are teaming up for an exciting prizemoney bonus on their feature races. Wangaratta and Warragul Harness Racing Clubs have initiated the $5000 Big W Bonus - A $5K bonus is being offered to the trainer of any horse that can win both the Wangaratta Pacing Cup and Warragul Pacing Bowl Cup in 2017. The same horse must win both races, and be in the name of the same trainer for both events, to receive the $5000 prize. First of the two races will be the Wangaratta Pacing Cup on Sunday, March 12, boasting a stake of $14,000. The Warragul Pacing Bowl Cup will be run on Sunday, April 16 with a total prize of $30,000. Warragul HRC CEO Mark Johnson explained that both clubs are contributing to the bonus prize pool. "we are delighted to have struck up this partnership with the Wangaratta Harness Racing Club and our Committee are looking forward to attending what is recognised as one of the best Country Cup meetings," Johnson said. Wangaratta HRC Secretary Bernadette Costantino said her committee are excited to be linking up with the Warragul club, and is confident the Big W Bonus will provide added interest to both meetings. Both the Wangaratta and Warragul Cup meetings produced excellent on-course attendances last season, and the addition of the Big W Bonus will only enhance the racing side of both of these popular events. Kyle Galley  

It’s been billed as The Cockroaches vs the Mexicans and those harness racing drivers south of the border are brimming with confidence. “I think we’ll smash them,” said Brendan Baker, the Bendigo Harness Racing Club’s marketing chief who is Victoria’s team manager for a new series that will see Victoria and New South Wales’ best drivers go toe-to-toe. The state of origin rivalry has been born from the burgeoning bind between two sister clubs, an alignment in its infancy that plays on Bendigo and Bathurst’s gold rush and trotting histories. Victoria’s team for tomorrow’s inaugural Bendigo/Bathurst Drivers Invitational features Chris Alford as captain of Team Victoria aided by Greg Sugars, Kate Gath, Josh Duggan and Ellen Tormey. They will have to win on foreign soil, with the first invitational to take place at Bathurst tomorrow. “We think we can beat them on their own turf,” Baker said. “I’m confident in my team. I think we have the best drivers in Australia in Victoria and I expect they will go to Bathurst and handle the New South Wales drivers with ease.” The friendly rivalry should pave the way for a big night’s racing. “This is the first time we have brought everyone together. Bathurst has a new track and with it being the night before Australia Day they should get a good crowd,” Baker said. “It is not every day you get to see Chris Alford, Greg Sugars and a handful of the best drivers in Australia facing off.” It’s hoped the sister-city relationship will in the long-term benefit both clubs. Next year Bendigo will host the drivers invitational, while the two clubs will cross-promote their respective major meetings, Bathurst’s Gold Crown and Bendigo’s Gold Cup. “If anyone from Bathurst visits Bendigo we want them to know we are a sister club and that the trots is a natural affinity between the two cities,” Baker said. “That works both ways and also benefits Bathurst, especially at their gold crown, and also us at our gold cup.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

It looks as though the Victorian Summer of Glory Carnival is going to be lots of fun for harness racing trainer/driver Darren Hancock. The astute horseman has seven-year-old gelding On Thunder Road absolutely flying and tonight they combined to give nothing else a chance in the E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup at Ballarat. The son of Bettor's Delight – a sire better known for his pacing production prowess – worked to the front early in the 2200-metre Group 2 feature and always travelled well, producing a superb performance to break the track record – a 1:58.2 mile rate – to defeat gun mares High Gait (Chris Alford) and Glenferrie Burn (Todd Matthews) in second and third placings. Next up it’s a Group 1 double for On Thunder Road, Hancock hoping his stable star will prove the boss in the Group 1 Haras Des Trotteurs Dullard Cup next Saturday at Tabcorp Park Melton on night one of the Summer of Glory, and then the big dance – the $300,000 Group 1 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star on A.G. Hunter Cup night a week later. “He went to the line good. I’m happy with him and he’s got plenty still in the tank,” Hancock said post-race. “It was a good run. He’s only had a couple of runs in the last month and they’ve been spaced out, so he hadn’t run for a little while. This will be a nice blowout for the other races ahead.” Hancock looked confident in the run and for good reason. “Yeah, he’s a pretty hard horse to get past. He’s pretty tough,” Hancock said. As for his Great Southern Star chances, Hancock is feeling good. “We left him at home last year because he was still learning a bit; he’s starting to step up now,” he said. Meanwhile, star New Zealand trotter and reigning Great Southern Star champion Speeding Spur has been nominated for this year’s GSS but a final decision on him coming will be dependent on how he pulls up after his next assignment in NZ on Thursday. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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