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CHARLTON'S thriving harness racing training complex will soon be home to another new and exciting tenant. Astute Menangle-based trainer Shane Sanderson has confirmed plans to relocate his stable and family to Charlton from either late February or early March. Sanderson becomes the third out-of-town trainer in the last 20 months to establish base in the Buloke Shire town, following on the heels of Greg Norman, who moved to Charlton in mid-2019, and Michael Gadsden and Denbeigh Wade, who arrived midway through 2020. He will bring with him an initial team of about a dozen horses, with the ambition to eventually grow that number to 20 and beyond. Sanderson cited increased opportunities for his children Ryan - a talented young driver - and Abbey as a key factor behind the move to Charlton. Ironically, it was an unfortunate race-injury to Ryan, sustained during a fall at Charlton last October, which opened the channels of communication between Sanderson and Charlton Harness Racing Club president Joey Thompson. "I sort of met Joe when my son had that bad race fall at Charlton and he kept in contact with us and continued to have a bit to do with him," he said. "We discussed that one day we might want to go to Victoria and Joe said, 'well, let me show you Charlton. The rest is history. "Joe really left no stone unturned trying to get us there. We are certainly looking forward to it. "We get our fair share of winners up here (in New South Wales) and have been reasonably successful. We don't have the big numbers like the top stables, but we'll get somewhere around the 40 to 60 winners a year. It's a pretty reasonable strike rate and we hold our own." Sanderson, who started his training career in Queensland about 25 years ago, has been based at Menangle for the past four seasons. He said he was unsure whether the best horse in his stable Whereyabinboppin would make the move south, but other handy types, including the free-for-aller Loorrim Creek - a winner of 20 of 84 starts, including at Group 3 level - and the promising Smokin Shazza would. Two of the team already well-known to central Victorian harness racing enthusiasts are Leigha Miller and Flaming Fives. Both were previously trained at Junortoun by Gary Donaldson and raced by the Bendigo Pacers syndicate, managed by Alan Prentice. Sanderson could not be more impressed by his new location especially in relation to its relative proximity to most other Victorian tracks. "We'd like to get a few more horses and hopefully place them well at some of the country tracks down in Victoria," he said. "We don't have a lot of metro-grade horses, we have a few - maybe two or three - but the majority deserve to be on a country track. "For the metro-grade horses, we can access Melton very easily too; I'd think from Charlton we could easily get to most tracks. "With Greg Norman there (in Charlton) doing well and Mick Gadsden with 15-or-so horses, if we can get up to 20 or 30, it's going to be a busy place." Sanderson will be accompanied to Charlton by his wife Naomi, son Ryan and daughter Abbey, who has only recently gained her trials driving licence. Charlton club president Thompson said the latest influx of horses and personnel as a win-win for the harness racing club and town. "Eighteen to 20 months ago we had no horses down at the training complex, but about 30 in town," he said. "Now, when Shane turns up, he'll start with a minimum of 12 and we'll have about 45, with the potential to go up to about 60. "The great thing is this is not just a win for the club, but it's a win for our community in Charlton with the influx of all these people." He said the club would move quickly to build more facilities at the training complex to accommodate its newest tenants.   By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

After big brother beat the best, Havehorsewilltravel continued his Australian adventure with a third victory from as many attempts and another valued trophy for one of Victoria’s most successful trainer-driver-owner combinations. The five-year-old claimed yesterday’s Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup with an all-the-way win, giving broodmare Winfield Invasion an impressive double after half-brother McLovin won the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile the previous night. The result was a continuation of the extraordinary domination that trainer Andy Gath and reinswoman Kate Gath have had with owner Norm Jenkin, which also includes their star trotting trio Tornado Valley, McLovin and Majestuoso. Havehorsewilltravel arrived with the camp late last year, having won four of 18 starts in New Zealand, and has almost matched that winning record in his new homeland, scoring on debut in a 56-69 rated trot at Ballarat, again in a 70-85 metropolitan-equivalent race at Melton and then in yesterday’s Group 3 long distance standing start. “(McLovin and he) are beautiful horses to work with,” driver Kate Gath told Trots Vision. “They are just a pleasure to handle. We’ve been lucky enough to acquire them thanks to Norm Jenkin … it’s just been a really great ride.” It was smooth sailing at Cobram, which was the first leg of the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship, which encapsulates the country cups season. From gate two, Havehorsewilltravel stepped briskly from the standing start to comfortably lead, with Well Defined tucked on his back and, initially, no pressure on his outside. Second-favourite Sammy Showdown loomed with a tick over a lap to go to sit in the breeze, but the leader had the answers, getting home in a 28.4-sec last quarter to hold off Well Defined’s late challenge and win by 1.7 metres. “Well Defined had really good standing start form, he’s a pretty dangerous horse to have on your back and the fact that he could do what he did then and hold him off is a pretty good guide that he will probably go places. “I’m not sure how far he will go, but he’s got a bit of strength about him and can also rip off a quick quarter. He’s good from the stand, good from the mobile, so fingers crossed he can do a really good job. I’m sure not before long he will have a chance against the better ones.”   HRV - Michael Howard

It won’t be as busy as the halcyon days of its biggest meeting of the year, but Echuca Harness Racing club is geared for its annual New Year’s night meeting on Friday. A crowd cap of 1000 patrons has been placed on the meeting meaning it will be the best attended meeting since the COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in March this year. As in the past there will be off-track entertainment, including live music and a punters' club, plus catering. Feature events will be the Moama Bowling Club’s New Year Cup and the Frank and Carmel Ryan Memorial Pace. Club secretary Hope Gamble has stressed members of the public wanting to attend the meeting have to make a booking by 6pm on New Year’s Eve. Booking can be made by phoning 5482 2036, emailing echuca@hrv.org.au or on Facebook.   Gus Underwood

Veteran trainer-driver Lance Justice still has fond memories of his superstar pacer Sokyola, who won 78 races and close to $2 million in a glittering career that came to a close in 2007. More than a decade on, the former New Zealander's racetrack legacy remains up in lights thanks to a $24,000 free-for-all feature named in his honour. And Justice will turn to another ex-Kiwi in his bid at landing a third win in the race. Rishi is one of the fancied runners in a small but select field of six, which will tackle the Ballarat 1710m journey on Boxing Day night. For the first time, the Sokyola Sprint will be run at a circuit where Justice's champion enjoyed plenty of success. In his 15 trips to Bray Raceway, the son of Sokys Atom won six races but was never able to claim the Pacing Cup from three attempts. Rishi has not won since bursting the bubble of pin-up pacer Ride High in the group 2 TAB Smoken Up Sprint in early October, when he surged home under the urgings of Michael Bellman to win at odds in excess of $100. Justice, who will take the reins this evening, has his fingers crossed for a fast speed. "He's a really hard horse to train and I haven't quite got him right," Justice told Trots Talk. "When I have got him right, as you saw in the Smoken Up Sprint, he can beat anybody. "He's going to need the race to be run at break-neck tempo - around the 1.50 (mile rate) - for him to get over the top of them. If they have to stop-start, he's not quite a stop-start horse yet. "I'm sure with a little break, he can come back and he'll be in the grand circuit next year. It's a pleasure to have him in (the Sokyola Sprint), he's a very good horse, but I would just like him to be a little bit more consistent and just work it out. Eventually he will get there." Rishi, like Sokyola, started his career in New Zealand before being purchased and then trained by Justice here in Victoria. Since arriving on our shores in late 2017, the son of Bettors Delight has won 13 races and taken his career prizemoney well over the $200,000 mark. He faces stiff opposition this evening from the likes of Anthony Butt's Wolf Stride, who looks a Group 1 winner in the making after a run of recent form that includes three victories from his last four outings, and the consistent Code Black, who beat home Rishi and Somebeachshadow when second in the VHRC Caduceus Classic earlier this month. "I do think he'll run a good race and I'm sure he'll be in the placings, but unless they go really, really hard, it's going to make it hard for him. He has to have the speed right on," Justice said. The Sokyola Sprint is race eight on tonight's nine-event card and is scheduled to go at 9.58pm. SOKYOLA SPRINT HONOUR ROLL 2007 Cincinnati Kid NZ Mark Peace 2008 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice 2010 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice 2011 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan 2012 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan 2013 Jaccka Clive NZ Greg Sugars 2014 Five Star Anvil NZ Gavin Lang 2015 Franco Ledger NZ Geoff Webster 2015 Keayang Steamer Glen Craven 2016 Metro Mike Jason Lee 2017 John Of Arc NZ Nathan Jack 2018 Shadow Sax Mark Pitt 2019 Phoenix Prince Greg Sugars   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Central Victorian reinswoman Ellen Tormey had an unforgettable night out at the latest Mildura Harness Racing meeting, but she admits she didn't make the four-hour trek chock-full of confidence. But there's nothing like a run of luck to turn things around - and Tormey did that on Friday night, putting together a "fabulous five" winners for the first time in her career at the far north west Victorian track. "I had an awful night at Echuca the night before and the previous week at Mildura I think I was on four favorites and they all got run down, so I didn't exactly arrive full of confidence," Tormey said. "I've driven four winners a couple of times before at Mildura but you never expect five winners, and I certainly didn't that night. But it was a great feeling!" Tormey got her first winner in race one, Skippers Swan Song (Western Terror - Beejaykay (Tompkins Hanover) for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway.  Watch the race replay click here! And if that didn't revive her confidence, her next drive in race three, certainly would have despatched any doubts, with Smoke My Motor (Mach Three - Celibacy (Safely Kept) being the easiest of winners, by 28 metres, for Bendigo trainer Kate Hargreaves. In race eight, Tormey partnered Mildura headline act Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Heaven - Dolly Mcd (Mach Three) when, in his customary barnstorming last-to-first fashion, he racked up an amazing 15th win this season on the tight Mildura circuit for trainer Julie Douglas. Tormey then went on to score in successive races: again for Douglas with Elegant Jewel (Mach Three - Hilarious Jewel (Artsplace) and Come On Elvis (Rock N Roll Heaven - Modern Girl (Modern Art) for Mildura trainer Frank Cavallaro. "I was fortunate to be driving some very nice horses, and if you can put good quality horses in a good position you hope you can get the job done. But horses like Bernie Winkle just make you look good!" she said. Tormey, who grew up in Charlton and cut her teeth in the pony trots, became passionate about harness racing watching the trots on TV with her dad (trainer John Tormey). "I was only about 10 or 11, but at that time (former world champion) driver Kerryn Manning was winning everything and because she was a girl, I used to take notice of her," Ellen said. "That's really who inspired me to want to be a driver. When I was a teenager, I worked with Kerryn in school holidays and she was a great mentor. Then when I was 16 I got my junior driver's licence. "Dad has been another big influence. He always gives me pretty direct feedback when I drive for him! "He actually did drive a bit himself, but I wouldn't have called him a driver. I watched him one day drive up the back of another runner in a three-horse race, so whenever he gives me a spray I do remind him about that!" After completing school, Tormey moved to Bendigo to begin her "back up plan", business studies at University, while continuing to pursue her harness racing ambitions. She now drives about 500 horses a year, managing over 50 winners a season in most years (her best is 77). And she continues to put in the big miles to race - in the past week for example, Tormey has had engagements on all but two days, and has travelled to every corner of the State to meet her commitments including Mildura, Shepparton, Kilmore, Echuca and Melton. "There are always a lot of miles and a lot of tracks to drive at. It's pretty busy but I am so lucky to have a part time job at Garrards Horse n Hound - they have been fantastic to me in being really flexible around my driving commitments," Tormey said. "Trainers at places like Mildura gave me opportunities and stuck with me and it's still one of my favorite tracks for that reason, and because it's so friendly. But I also love Bendigo, because it's only two minutes away! And Charlton because it's home, of course. "Your priorities do change as you get older too, I think. I have a partner at home who I have hardly seen in the past week, and in the future I'd love to do some travelling as well. But I still love it and nights like Friday night just make it all worthwhile."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

KATE Gath has her first Victorian metropolitan driving premiership in the bag. A winning double on trotters McLovin and Monaro Maro at Melton on Saturday night stretched Gath’s lead to a commanding 11 wins over Chris Alford. Gath will join Kerryn Manning as just the second female to win the title. McLovin’s win, his second in a row, was one of the highlights of the night and showed he was back very close to his best form as Victoria’s major trotting races get closer. Despite sitting outside glamour mare Dance Craze, McLovin looked beaten on the final bend but just keep digging in and snatched a 1.1m win in the Group 3 Freestone Trotters’ Cup. He ripped home in 56.6 and 28.4sec from the death. It followed Gath’s easy win on talented former Kiwi mare Monaro Maro, who, like McLovin, is raced by Norm Jenkin. _________________________________________________________________________________________ HISTORY-MAKING trotting filly Pink Galahs is chasing her 14th win from just 20 starts in a Vicbred qualifying heat at Maryborough today (Monday). It was only a couple of months back when Pink Galahs upstaged Australia’s best trotters to win the Group 1 Bill Collins Sprint on Victoria Cup night. She’s since added the Victoria Derby, Victoria Oaks and looks to have the Group 1 Vicbred final (December 31) at her mercy back against her own age and sex. Cover Of Darkness, one of just three trotters Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin have in work, is chasing his eighth win from as many starts from gate four in his Vicbred heat (race three) today. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A CONFIDENT and aggressive Shane Graham drive helped young Kiwi star One Change score an upset win in “The Creek” Christmas Cup (2680m) at Albion Park on Saturday night. Just a week after he finished fifth to King Of Swing in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake over the same trip, Graham bustled One Change off the gate from barrier four and worked to the front while hot favourite Colt Thirty One was headed-off from the pole. Despite clocking a blistering 75.9sec lead time for the 2680m and 28.1sec first quarter of the last mile, One Change thrived in front and dashed home in 55.8 and 27.4sec to beat a gallant Bright Energy with Colt Thirty One third. One Change, who boasts six wins from 10 starts during his stint with Vicki Rasmussen in Queensland, clocked a brilliant 1min54.6sec mile rate, which was just 0.9sec outside the track record set by Colt Thirty One in the 2019 Blacks A Fake. _________________________________________________________________________________________ CASH N Flow’s stunning 13-race winning streak at Menangle is over. The former Kiwi star was unable to find his favourite spot in front and finished fourth to the emerging Whereyabinboppin in the Group 2 Harold Park Cup (1609m) at Menangle on Saturday night. Whereyabinboppin blasted to the front in a scorching 25.5sec opening quarter, steadied the tempo for a 59.4sec split from the 1200-400m and then dashed home in 26.8sec to win easily for trainer Shane Sanderson and driver Cameron Hart. The son of A Rocknroll Dance boasts 12 wins from just 19 starts. The other eye-catcher at Menangle was Craig Cross’ recent stable addition, Expensive Ego, who made it two wins from as many starts for the barn when he scored by 10.3m in a 1min51.1sec mile on Saturday night. The rising four-year-old, who had 13 months out with injury, has raced just 10 times for eight wins and a second. He looks a genuine Chariots Of Fire contender. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A BRILLIANT Colin Brown drive helped classy pacer Vampiro return to winning form in a strong free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. And Team Bond’s rising seven-year-old smashed the clock with a 1min54.1sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. The hot pace was set by an overly keen leader Bletchley Park, who ran the middle half in 56.5, third quarter in 27.2 and still held-on bravely for second. Vampiro sat three pegs until the gaps appeared at the 350m and Brown set out after Bletchley Park and brushing past him to win by 2.6m. It was mixed result for Team Bond, who also had third placed Galactic Star, but their former WA Cup winner Mighty Conqueror stopped badly after sitting parked and was found to pulled-up lame in his off foreleg. Team Bond’s WA Derby winner Patronus Star suffered his first defeat in eight WA starts, but certainly lost no fans when a first-up second as he builds towards the upcoming 4YO features at Gloucester Park.  The hype around two-year-old Lavra Joe continues to build after he sat parked and dug deep in a blistering 1min54sec mile rate for 2130m for trainer Ray Jones and driver Chris Lewis. The son of Roll With Joe has got better as his busy season has rolled-on with 21 starts netting 10 wins, three seconds and three thirds. _________________________________________________________________________________________ EMILY Suvaljko is young driver going places. Just a couple of weeks after missing the Group 1 WA Pacing Cup winning drive on Vultan Tin because of suspension, Suvaljko got some compensation with a double, including the feature race, at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Fittingly, she replaced her father, Shannon, aboard Vivere Damore and led throughout to win the $50,000 Group 2 Christmas Gift. The Suvaljko’s like keeping it in the family as it was Shannon who substituted for Emily to win aboard Vultan Tin. Emily completed her double just 30 minutes after Vivere Damore’s win when she caused an upset to score on Cyclone Banner for trainer Ray Williams. _________________________________________________________________________________________ EMERGING gelding The Shallows upstaged Tasmania’s two best pacers, Ignatius aand Ryley Major, to win one of the state’s biggest races, the Golden Apple in Hobart on Saturday night. The big guns had 30m handicaps to overcome and had to be content with fourth (Ignatius) and fifth (Ryley Major), while The Shallows won well from a 10m handicap. It capped a great season for The Shallows who has won 12 of his 19 stars this term for a career record of 14 wins from 30 starts.   by Adam Hamilton

Plans are in place for the 2021 Pacing for Pink day at Shepparton, where the industry throws its support behind the McGrath Foundation and its fabulous breast cancer nurses. This year the major fundraiser will be held on Sunday May 23, the highlight of a month-long drive that will build on the thousands of dollars the trots initiative has raised over the past decade. Event organiser and reinswoman Donna Castles said they were “really looking forward to making our 2021 campaign the biggest yet”. “It was really unfortunate that we had to cancel the 2020 fundraiser due to COVID, but we wanted to make sure all our wonderful sponsors that have come on board received the recognition they deserve and pushing the campaign back 12 months allowed us to do that,” Castles said. “The pants with the original sponsors names are currently being made and will be distributed to drivers in the new year.” This coming May, 78 drivers who sought individual sponsorships will wear pink driving pants to raise awareness for the McGrath Foundation, with the May 23 centrepiece to see special rugs awarded to race winners and many giveaways and fundraising activities. More details will be announced as the initiative nears.   Harness Racing Victoria

“He could be winning very soon,” says Nikkita Ross as the Trots Life Blackbook swells to 12, five of whom will step out at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Part of the Metrospective segment on SENTrack on Mondays, the Blackbook is the result of Ross and host Jason Bonnington scouring Saturday night’s metropolitan racing to shortlist those on the cusp of success. The new thetrots.com.au column launched last week, with all seven entrants having since raced, returning four second placings and a third, with Itz Longtall Sally, Bullys Delight, Somebeachshadow, Sammy Showdown and Spring In His Step all rewarding each-way plays. Return Soldier finished seventh and Repeat After Me fifth, with the latter the only runner to face the axe. “He didn’t do any early work and didn’t finish the race off like you would have hoped, so he comes out of the Blackbook after just sneaking in the week prior,” the panel found. But there were six new additions. Here’s this week’s who and why: Bullion Lady (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12) NIKKITA ROSS: She was well back in the field in a strong mares’ race and worked to the line really nicely, making good ground and running past some nice horses late. Gobsmacked: (Blackbooked: 6th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R8 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: This bloke was flying during lockdown number one and his run in a heat of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs indicated he’s not far from breaking through again back in a regional assignment from a decent draw. Little Yankee (Blackbooked: 1st at Melton on December 12). Every rise in grade has the potential to be catastrophic for a horse like this little fellow but he seems to lift for every challenge presented. He’s heading into the Vicbred Super Series deep end now but looks to have serious scope. Mr Bohannon (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: I still don’t know exactly how to assess this fellow, but he went up in my estimation when sitting parked and fighting like a caged lion in heat two of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs. He is the one to beat in next week’s final based on that performance for mine. Steel Screens (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N9 at Melton on Saturday) NIKKITA ROSS: Was last at the 400m and had to make a wide run around the field in a quick last half, finishing strongly into second. A really good effort to make the ground that he did. He is a consistent horse who can break through for another win in his right race soon. Sundons Courage (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R10 N7 at Melton on Saturday). NIKKITA ROSS: Made a mistake at the start and lost plenty of ground before chasing and doing his best work late in a really quick last quarter, to be beaten by less than 14 metres by arguably the best trotter in the country at this point in time. His run prior was also very good and if he can do everything right, he could be winning a race very soon. Of the existing Blackbookers, only Bullys Delight has an engagement. He will contest the APG Melbourne Sales Pace at Melton on Saturday night.   Harness Racing Victoria

Talent fittingly came to the fore as Aldebaran Ursula and Utopia were impressive victors on a special night’s racing at Bendigo, where the industry celebrated the Lang family. Winning drivers Kate Gath and Greg Sugars said they were honoured to steer the first victors of The Graeme Lang and The Gavin Lang respectively, the showcase Aldebaran Park two-year-old trotting miles that headlined the night. Gavin was lost to the sport in April and his father Graeme in May, and it was fitting the celebration was also the first night patrons were able to return to the track since COVID restrictions were first put in place. For Gath, Aldebaran Ursula’s commanding 10-metre win in the fillies’ class, The Graeme Lang, was confirmation of her and trainer Andy Gath’s high opinion of the Yield Boko two-year-old, who was luckless in the recent Breeders Crown. “She obviously had ability when we got her (from New South Wales), we had absolutely no luck in the Breeders Crown,” Kate said. “It was really good tonight to get some redemption and to win a race that’s quite an honour to win. “The Lang family are so synonymous with harness racing, not just in Victoria but throughout Australia, and it’s such an honour to win this race tonight.” Previously raced by KerryAnn Morris for owners Andrew Pratt, Margaret Morris and Adam Giri, Aldebaran Ursula stopped the clock in a personal best 1:55.7 mile rate, getting home in 56.7 seconds. It was a similar all-the-way performance for Utopia in the colts and gelding’s trotting mile, The Gavin Lang, albeit Sugars was able to cruise in front and let down with a 27.9-second final quarter that kept at bay any challengers. “I got away with murder really, that’s one thing Gavin would have taught me in the past – it doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you get the job done,” Sugars said after winning for trainer Emma Stewart and Utopia's big group of owners. “I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with each and every one (of the Langs) over the years. Gavin in particular was an idol of mine growing up. “From the moment I decided that I wanted to be a trotting driver, he’s the one I wanted to be and … if I could replicate anything he’d done and get anywhere near his achievements I’d be pretty happy. “He taught me a lot over the years, to win this race in his honour is another feather in my cap and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Lively Shepparton horsewoman Donna Castles was taken to hospital after a heavy racefall on Monday, but says she'll be "all good to go again soon". Castles, who prepares a big team at Ardmona with partner Doc Wilson, was thrown into the air when another runner got its hoof wedged in her sulky during a scrimmage in race six at the Cobram meeting. "I did have a little sleepover in hospital for a night. They just wanted to keep me under observation because I landed on my back and hit my head," she said. "I felt like I was being flung about like a rag doll. I remember being really worried when my leg got stuck-but thankfully it was only for a split second and I got it free before I got tossed out." Castles was driving chestnut mare Dances in the Peter Enals Cobram Caravans Trot. They were positioned three back the pegs with about 450 metres to go and gave ground slightly before the trailing horse Itsarapt, who was racing fiercely for pint-sized Bec Bartley, put his front foot into the off-side wheel of Castles' sulky. Watch the race replay click here "I knew he was pulling hard and over-racing for Bec, but she was doing her best. His hoof jammed near the stay and I got thrown onto a shaft, then back to the seat, but then hit the shaft again and that was it for me," Castles said. "I really felt at one point that I was being dragged out to the front of Bec's horse, which could have been really bad." The popular reinswoman who is a regular at meetings in the Goulburn Valley region said it was only the second time she had ever been involved in a racefall in her career. "I've been pretty lucky. But I'm okay and hopefully I'll be back at it again soon. We've got two starters in the one race at Maryborough on Friday so fingers crossed I'll be there," she said. The Cobram event was won by father-and-son Steven and Ryan Duffy with four-year-old brown mare Majic Fair (Majestic Son-Clefairy (Extrovert), who has turned it all around this season with five wins and seven placings for over $27,000.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

The Pryde’s EasiFeed three-year-old fillies’ class was tonight turned on its head with Emma Stewart’s series favourite failing to qualify, a stablemate making her claim and then Sweet Louise monstering the second TAB Breeders Crown semi-final. The latter was a great sign for trainer Phil Chircop and owner-breeder John Dorrington, with their lightly-raced Sweet Lou filly knuckling down in the closing stages and leaving her rivals in her wake. Having her first start for reinsman Chris Alford, Sweet Louise crossed to the lead from gate two and controlled proceedings from there. “She got out pretty good at Bendigo last week and I thought the one horse (Beautiful Woman) wouldn’t be in for too much of a battle, it was just whether we could come out quick enough to hold the wide ones and she did that pretty well,” Alford told Trots Vision. “They all seemed to grab hold so it worked out pretty well.” Sweet Louise had it largely her own way until the final bend when seasoned Amelia Rose emerged to throw down the gauntlet. “Around the last turn she was half loafing,” Alford said. “Phil said she might hang a bit on the last turn and she was running a bit sideways, and (Amelia Rose) got to her real quick and I thought it might zip straight past her. “I pulled the ear (plugs) off and she just really knuckled down and ran up the straight pretty strong.” Off a 27.8-second third quarter Sweet Louise hit the line in a 27.5-second final quarter to put 14 metres on the rest of the field, with Its Beaujolais running into second. And it would seem there is a lot of improvement left in her. “For a big girl and a three-year-old she’s like driving a little baby, she just runs in and out,” Alford said. “When she has her mind on the job she’s all right, but just while she’s in front she was just floating all over the place. “John (Dorrington)’s been in horses for a long long time, as has (trainer) Phil (Chircop), so it would be great if they could get a big win next week.” Sweet Louise advances to next Saturday’s finals along with Its Beaujolais, Dr Susan, Amelia Rose, Soundsofcash and Burnfouru. There they will have to contend with Techys Angel, who earlier won the grade’s first semi-final with an eye-catching performance. The race was notable for series favourite and reigning champion Maajida tiring into eighth and therefore failing to qualify, but that didn’t detract from the performance of the winner, Techys Angel, for reinswoman Kate Gath and trainer Emma Stewart. "Clayton (Tonkin) said all along that she's not just fast, she's tough as well,” Gath told Trots Vision. “Her revving up had made that tricky a couple of starts ago, but she's much better now. As a result she showed what she's able to do and she's definitely got a terrific hope next week.” Impressively, Techys Angel seemed to take no harm from being used early, with Gath guiding the Alto Christiano filly from gate seven to the breeze in a 44.6-second lead time. “She's got pretty good gate speed, but so do a few of the others,” Gath said post-race. “We got around not too hard and she relaxed good.” There was plenty of activity throughout with leader Keayang Jackie holding the front while the running lane cycled through a series of horses in the breeze, which would ultimately see Techys Angel shuffled four back in the running line. Gath showed a patient hand before emerging with 200 metres to go, drawing off The Pantheist’s back to win by 4.8 metres, with the latter claiming second while Louisiana Jo, Final Peace, Keayang Jackie and Belladonna Girl also booked finals places. "She was great,” Gath said of the winner. “Tonight she showed what she's able to do and what Clayton's said that she can do the whole time. Those second and third quarters she was just jogging in behind them, she just did that really easily.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Damian Wilson is daring to dream of delivering loyal supporters, owner-breeders Len and Irene Parker, with a TAB Breeders Crown after winning impressively with Major Moth in tonight’s first VHRC Caduceus two-year-old colts and geldings’ semi-final. Wilson had to roll through plans A, B and C in the run but ultimately pulled the right rein to see his Art Major colt emerge victorious for trainer Clayton Tonkin. “It was a very tricky draw tonight,” he told Trots Vision, having started in gate eight behind Sayitaintso Joe. “It was hard to work out what was going to happen in the run and what everyone thought would happen was totally opposite to what did happen. “I was (originally) happy just to drive him quiet, hit the line and qualify for the final tonight, but after being four back the fence everything changed. Just one of those things.” As he described, Major Moth was buried deep on the pegs in the first 100 metres, prompting Wilson to move into the running line and then follow up the three-wide train for the last lap. The race changed complexion when leader and favourite Beyond Delight suddenly dropped out, but Major Moth plowed on, tracking up One Two Many and then running past leader Bar Room Banta to salute by 8.5 metres. “He proved (he’s a contender) tonight and last week,” Wilson said. “(Last week) he probably went as quick a lead time as anything and got home in 26.8. Not many horses can do that. He’s definitely a chance." And it paints the prospect of rewarding a long-time backer. “I’ve known Lenny (Parker) for probably 10 or 12 years. He always sticks behind me. I might put a bad one in, but he’s always got my back. He’s a good bloke," Wilson said. “(Breeders Crowns) don’t come around very often and I’ve got the chance this year, so let’s hope I can make the most of it.” His main threat may well come from Emma Stewart’s Act Now, who found the front from gate three in the second semi-final and led all-the-way to win by three metres. On an eventful night it was a rather uncomplicated race for reinswoman Jodi Quinlan and owner-breeders Bruce and Vicki Edward. “He’s really in his element when he can lead and just bowl along,” Quinlan told Trots Vision. “He likes to bowl along at a nice rate. He foxes a little bit, when they come up outside of him he feels enormous, and then when they drop off a bit he drops off a bit with them. He does wait for them a little bit, but when he goes, he goes all right.” Their real test came at the top of the straight when Kerryn Manning emerged off the leader’s back to make a play for the win on Watts Up Sunshine, but Act Now had all the answers and was able to hold the Rickie Alchin runner’s challenge at bay. “When Kerryn came to the outside of him I had to shake him up a little bit, but he’s one of those – when they get to his wheel he just plods along at his own tempo.” Joining Act Now and Watts Up Sunshine in advancing to the final from the second semi-final were Jacks Hawk, Go Dancing, Tuppence and Electric Eye. They will be joined by first semi-final qualifiers Major Moth, Kimble, Swayzee, Bar Room Banta, One Two Many and Drain The Swamp.   HRV - Michael Howard

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

Boom AUCKLAND REACTOR three-year-old Willie Go West drew first blood in the Breeders Crown heats at Bendigo on Friday night (November 6), winning the opening harness racing heat in impressive style. Starting from the pole, the brown gelding pinged straight to the front, survived some early and midrace pressure and won by 3.2 metres. The mile rate for 2150 metres was a smart 1:54.6. He carved out the last two sectionals in 28.2 and 27.2. Watch the race replay click here. Willie Go West has now won four of his seven starts and $40,770 in stakes. Bred in New Zealand, he is out of Bettor Go, an unraced Bettor’s Delight mare.   Peter Wharton

Most Aussies thought it was a daring raid, but Kiwi trainer Josh Dickie knew his filly. This looks one of the best crops of juvenile trotters Australia has seen, but Dickie trumped them all with Mexicana in yesterday’s $50,000 Group 1 Redwood Classic at Maryborough. While many of her key rivals galloped early from the stand or struck trouble, Mexicana trotted away superbly from inside the back row from driver Greg Sugars and worked around to take the lead after 600m. Talented local Illawong Barmah, who led then took a sit, came at Mexicana late, but the Kiwi was just being nursed by Sugars as she finished off in a 57.7sec last half to win by 1.4m. “I never pulled the ear plugs and got too serious on her,” Sugars told Trotvision. “She was actually pretty casual out in front. She felt really strong on the line, so I think there’s plenty more there. ‘I’m extremely thankful to Josh (Dickie) and his team and to Trevor (Casey) and the owners to trust me with this filly. She is a beautiful girl.” Mexicana gave Dickie by far his biggest win since taking over training the family team from his father John. And there’s a strong Aussie connection through Dickie’s partner, Sammy Kilgour, who has many friends back in Victoria. Mexicana now heads to the Breeders Crown where heats will be at Maryborough on November 12. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ There is just no stopping pin-up girl Pink Galahs. Matty Craven’s pint-sized darling dominantly won her third Group 1 race in less than a month when she stormed to victory in yesterday’s Victoria Trotters’ Derby. Things looked tricky with a lap to run when the gifted and speedy Elite Stride made a lightning move around the field to take the lead, which buried Pink Galahs three pegs. But some welcome luck came heading to the last bend when Gimondi galloped behind the leader and helped Pink Galahs get to the sprint lane quicker and that was the end of the race. Pink Galahs blasted through the opening to win running away by four metres over Elite Stride with a gallant Powderkeg third after sitting parked throughout in a solid 2min1.2sec mile rate for the long 2690m trip. A jubilant Craven celebrated with a big victory salute over the last 50m when it was clear he had the classic won. In the space of a month, Pink Galahs has upstaged the best trotters in Australia to win the Bill Collins Sprint then added the Victoria Oaks and Victoria Derby. “This is just unbelievable,” Craven said. “I thought it was amazing enough when she won the Bill Collins and now she’s gone on and done it again and again … she’s just the most amazing filly.” _________________________________________________________________________________________________ It was fitting Majestuoso returned to Maryborough to land the win that showed he was ready for the big league. Just over 12 months ago the Andy Gath-trained gelding showcased his abundant potential by unleashing a huge sprint to win the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough. Yesterday it was the speed he showed at the start and his all-round display which showed why driver Kate Gath has been buzzing about his future prospects. Majestuoso, best known for balancing-up early and sprinting late, blasted off the gate from barrier six to lead and win the free-for-all. It completed changed a race where glamour mare Red Hot Tooth was backed into $1.60 favourite because most expected her to rip across the field early from gate seven and lead. But she had to sit parked and never looked likely to get past Majestuoso, who beat the talented Wobelee by 3.5m with Brandlo Prince third and Red Hot Tooth in fourth spot. “We weren’t surprised he showed that sort of gate speed, but with him it’s always been in the back of your mind to make sure he trots at the start,” Kate Gath told Trotsvision. “He was keen in the score-up so I gave it a shot and once he found the front he relaxed really well. “There’s no standout in the open-class trotting ranks now and he’s got the ability to match them, so that’s where we are headed.”   HRNZ

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