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Three days ago Colt Thirty One wasn’t in most Victoria Cup markets, now he’s a clear favourite. Trainer-driver Grant Dixon surprised many by opting to make the trip to Victoria with Queensland’s pin-up pacer and it’s been an inspired move after drawing the pole. Colt Thirty One was an $11 shot Monday morning, into $8 later that day when Dixon confirmed the trip and is now $3.50 outright favourite with the Aussie TAB. The five-year-old will go into the race just second-up since winning the Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park in July. He was beaten as a $1.15 favourite first-up at Albion Park last Saturday night, albeit in an unsuitably run 1660m scamper. Colt Thirty One, who won the Victoria Derby at Melton at three, has the gate speed to try and hold the front from the pole or sit on the most likely leader, Cash N Flow (gate two). Cash N Flow, who led throughout in the shorter 1720m Smoken Sprint and went within a whisker of Melton track record last week, looms as a major player again from barrier two. He’s sure to burn out in search of the lead again and is $3.80. Gun NSW freelance driver Todd McCarthy is expected to partner Cash N Flow ahead of stablemate Alta Orlando, who is out of the draw and will start from gate 12. Their other stablemate, Bling It On, who won a Hunter Cup at Melton before injury, retirement and now a comeback, will have a cosy trip from inside the back row (gate eight), but may need luck to see daylight when it matters. He’s third pick at $4.60. “It’s a good draw for him. He loves being coiled-up and he picks up speed so quickly when he gets a crack at them. I’m happy,” driver Luke McCarthy said. Victoria’s best pacer San Carlo’s luckless run of big race barriers continued with gate six, which saw him ease from $5 to $8.50 with TAB. Another Victorian star, Cruz Bromac, faces a huge task from the back row (gate 11) and is out from $5 to $11.   VICTORIA CUP DRAW 2240m, Melton, Saturday night Front row Colt Thirty One $3.50 Cash N Flow $3.80 Tam Major $13 Buster Brady $17 Code Black $21 San Carlo $8.50 Wrappers Delight $71 Back row Bling It On $4.60 Shadow Sax $21 Cant Refuse (emerg, $151) Cruz Bromac $11 My Kiwi Mate $51 Alta Orlando $12   by Adam Hamilton

Luke McCarthy will stick with driving comeback star Bling It On in the Victoria Cup despite the mesmerizing win of Cash N Flow at Melton last night (Saturday). Trainer Craig Cross will have three, maybe even four runners in the Group 2 Victoria Cup. Cash N Flow booked his spot in the feature with a career-best and totally dominant win in last night’s $50,000 Group 2 The former All Stars’ pacer, who has been with Cross for just over 14 months, was first-up from a break, but blasted out of gate two to work to the lead in a quick 6.7sec lead time and 27.8sec opening quarter. Despite running his first half in 55.2sec, Casn N Flow just kept rolling and booted away with a big lead rounding the final bend to win seemingly with something in reserve by nine metres. He ran the 1720m in a scorching 1min50.8sec, just 0.1sec outside Cruz Bromac’s track record. “I wish I’d shaken him up, he’s have a broken the record for sure,” McCarthy said. “I had a look over at the board and realised too late we were going to go 1min50sec.” McCarthy explained Cash N Flow “has his niggles” and isn’t the easiest horse to train. “But he’s come back better than we’ve ever had him. We’ve been so happy with him at home. I was really confident tonight. I felt if he could lead and he’d win if he did,” he said. “He’s a great sprinter so the distance suits. He needed to go out and do something like for me us to run him in the Victoria Cup. He’s earned a crack now for sure. Cash N Flow will join Bling It On, recent Kiwi import Alta Orlando and possibly the improving Cruz as Cross’ Victoria Cup runners. “Those first three will get a run. We hope Cruz makes the cut as well after his good Kilmore Cup, but it’ll be touch and go I guess,” McCarthy said. Cruz’s latest run was a solid fifth in the Group 2 Kilmore Cup won by San Carlo last Thursday week. McCarthy said Bling It On deserved to be the stable top seed because of his history on big races, but quickly added Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow would be very competitive. “I just think getting out to the 2240m and rising in class, Bling It On is the best of ours. And of course I’ll be driving him. Todd (McCarthy) will get pick of the rest and will sort out whatever other drivers we need after the barrier draw,” he said. “Bling It On has come through that first-up win so well. We just couldn’t be any happier with him and it’ll make him fitter again for this race. “But Alta Orlando looks like he’s going to be a really nice horse for us. He’s coming along so well. I think he’s a great chance this week if he gets a good draw.” Cash N Flow’s win capped a big night at Melton for Cross and McCarthy, who took the emerging Wrangler and Cullenburn down from Sydney to win. “They were both well suited dropping back from free-for-all grade at Menangle to their own class at Melton and won well,” he said. “We’ll be doing more of that. You’ll see us popping down to Melton quite often given the sorts of horses we’ve got in the stable to avoid having to race against ourselves at Menangle.”   Adam Hamilton

Tiger Tara is tough. He’s fought in most big fights….he’s won some and he’s lost some. But he’s always in for the fight. And he never takes a backward step. With the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series officially underway, the New South Wales trained eight-year-old showed great tenacity when defying his rivals to score a major victory, leading throughout in the Gr.1 $200,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton tonight (Saturday). The Kevin Pizzuto trained star easily defeated Chicago Bull and Carlas Pixel in a time of 1:53.4 to register his maiden Grand Circuit success. Starting from gate two, driver Todd McCarthy urged the Bettors Delight entire off the gate and defied Mach Doro the early lead which forced a major reshape of tactics of rival drivers. Settling into a comfortable looking stride, Tiger Tara led the way in the 2240m contest while Mach Doro and Franco Nelson were forced to cover extra early ground before eventually gaining a trail on race favourite Chicago Bull who quickly made his move when the pace steadied. The lead time was covered in a moderate 44.2 seconds. Placed in the same event twelve months earlier, Tiger Tara was looking for redemption and rivals allowed McCarthy to dictate terms easily in front with little or no moves being made in the first part of the event. The first half was covered in 30.7 and 28.9 seconds. It spelt disaster for his rivals. Entering the back straight for the final time, McCarthy let Tiger Tara off the chain and rapidly increased the pressure which gave rivals in the second half of the field little or no chance of improving. Tiger Tara was in full-flight while Chicago Bull and Shadow Sax were left working overtime deeper off the track. The back straight quarter was covered in a punishing 26.3 seconds. Approaching the top of the straight, Tiger Tara found separation and raced clear with a widening margin while the race for the place was on in earnest. At the line, Tiger Tara ($7.90) scored by 12.2 metres from Chicago Bull ($1.80) while Carlas Pixel ($77.90) rattled home via inside runs to grab third spot. The final split was covered in 27.7 seconds. The winning mile rate of 1:53.4 is well outside of the track record held by Lennytheshark at 1:52.4 set earlier this year. “He was awesome tonight, he felt the best he’s ever felt for some time and that was an unbelievable feeling. He’s such a courageous animal and thoroughly deserved to win a race of this magnitude.” Winning driver Todd McCarthy said. The gifted young reinsman joins his father John (Be Good Johnny – 2005) and big brother Luke (Mr Feelgood – 2010 & For A Reason – 2013) as a winner of the Victoria Cup. Since joining the stables of Pizzuto, Tiger Tara has won 16 of his 37 starts while his earnings are now in excess of $1.5 million. Tiger Tara is now headed back to New Zealand for another shot at the $800,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington on November 13 before returning to Melbourne in December for the $500,000 Inter Dominion series. Last season, he finished third in both the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominion. Following his Victoria Cup triumph, Tiger Tara amassed maximum points and is looking to claim the title of Grand Circuit champion this season. He finished third behind Lazarus and Soho Tribeca last term. And it’s another fight he’s ready for, you wouldn’t expect anything less. Chris Barsby

Tiger Tara tore shreds off his rivals to score a remarkable 12.2-metre win in the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. The New South Wales-trained eight-year-old clawed his way to the lead early for reinsman Todd McCarthy, defying the challenge of fellow Sydneysider Mach Doro, and powering past polemarker Gotta Go Ya Hu, before ripping home with a 54-second last half. That made it virtually impossible for anything to make ground from out the back following a 44.2secs lead time and 59.6 first half. “Being able to lead on him worked out perfectly,” McCarthy said. “We got that breather early and were ready to roll after that. Full credit tonight to (trainer) Kevin Pizzuto; he had him absolutely at the top of his game.” Chicago Bull lost no admirers, boxing on gamely to run second, covering ground in the breeze and holding off third-placed Carlas Pixel – the mare running a bottler to finish third – and Franco Nelson, who did his share of work early, finishing fourth, just ahead of stablemate My Alpha Rock. Chicago Bull remains the favourite for the TAB ID18. Ameretto, who finished last, was scoped post-race and showed signs of mucous, according to trainer-driver Kerryn Manning, which may explain the performance. Tiger Tara will now head to New Zealand for a tilt at the $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup, one of the international jewels of the sport, before returning to Victoria for the TAB Inter Dominion from December 1. Ranked No.3 in the Inters earlier this month, there would be every chance Tiger Tara could launch to the top of the charts when rankings are updated this week. “We’ll definitely be back for the Inter Dominion,” an elated Pizzuto said. “He’s such a great horse with a big heart.”   CODY WINNELL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER HARNESS RACING VICTORIA 

Trainer Gary Hall Sr couldn’t have scripted Chicago Bull’s build-up to tomorrow night’s $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup (2240m) any better. Well, maybe he’d have drawn the pole and not barrier three, but everything else has been world perfect. “I won’t have any excuse in the world if he’s beaten,” Hall Sr said. “He’s had a perfect build-up, handled the trip across really well on Wednesday, settled in superbly and the draw is certainly good enough. “This has been his first major target for six months now and everything has fallen into place. “It’s now just a matter of whether he’s good enough and we certainly think he is.” Chicago Bull has eased slightly from $2.20 to $2.25 with the Aussie TAB since Tuesday’s barrier draw, mainly because of strong support for rivals Shadow Sax ($6.50 to $5.50) and Mach Doro ($26 to $10) along with talk barrier three could prove tricky. “Of course we’ve looked long and hard at the draw and thought of all the possibilities, but it’s over to Junior (driver Gary Hall Jr). That’s his job and there’s nobody better at it in these big races,” Hall Sr said. “He’s got more speed than a lot people realise, but the danger in going too hard early is how much petrol we have to spend and the risk of not finding the lead.” Hall Sr did, however, hint at his preferred driving tactics. “My horses traditionally go better when they’re not used too hard at the start. It’s always been the case. It must be the way I train them,” he said. “Ultimately it’s Junior’s call what he does at the start, but this little bloke is versatile enough to win a few different ways. I even think he could win sitting parked as long as the leader had to do some early work to hold the front.” Hall Sr conceded tomorrow night was an obvious class rise from Chicago Bull’s recent WA dominance which has seen him win past nine starts and 12 of his past 13. “You could say he’s been beaten glorified claimers at home, but it’s the way he’s been doing it and the sectional times he’s been running,” he said. “And let’s not forget he competed so well against the best of the best in the Inter Dominion last year. “I’ve got no doubt, none at all, that’s he’s a better horse now than when he ran second to Lazarus in last year’s Inter final. “And I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation. I’ve left something in tank along the way, but I’ve wound him up for this and then it’s onto NZ.” Chicago Bull is booked on a flight from Melbourne to Auckland next Thursday and plans remain for him to tackle a 2200m standing-start race at Alexandra Park on October 26 ahead of going south for the NZ Cup. “He’ll thrive on this hard racing. Look how well he handled the Inter Dominion series last year,” Hall Sr said.   Adam Hamilton

The time for talk is over. Following the departure of superstar pacer and reigning Grand Circuit champion Lazarus to the northern hemisphere earlier this year, the debate has raged. Who holds the mantle as the best pacer in this part of the world? And everybody has an opinion. Many believe pint-sized Perth based pacer Chicago Bull is the heir apparent, his form is without doubt sensational in his home state but he’s yet to prove himself on the eastern seaboard. Until now. The ‘Wonder from The West’ has arrived in Melbourne in preparation for Saturday night’s Gr.1 $200,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup, the opening leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series. Prepared by the masterful father/son combination of Gary Hall Snr and Jnr, the Bettors Delight six-year-old has won his past 9 starts - all at his home track of Gloucester Park. But history is against the millionaire pacer. Since first being staged back in 1974 when Kings Mead scored, only once has a sandgroper proven triumphant and that was the mighty Preux Chevalier back in 1984. And since the turn of the millennium, Perth trained pacers haven’t fired in the Garden State feature. That list also includes champion pacer Im Themightyquinn (58 wins - $ 4,567,456). Six runners have attempted to grab glory but the best result is a 6th placing (twice). 2015 - David Hercules - 6th behind Christen Me 2013 - Im Victorious - 12th behind For A Reason 2011 - Im Themightyquinn - 12th behind Smoken Up 2005 - Ohoka Ace - 8th behind Be Good Johnny 2003 - Baltic Eagle - 9th behind Young Rufus 2000 - Saab - 6th behind Breenys Fella So, can the ‘Bull’ etch his name into the record books? Can Snr and Jnr claim more Grand Circuit glory? As it stands, Snr has trained 26 Grand Circuit winners while Jnr has driven 22 Grand Circuit winners. Standing in their way is 11 rivals boasting outstanding credentials headlined by local ace Shadow Sax, prepared by record breaking Emma Stewart, fresh from her 309 win season last term. Triple Victoria Cup winning reinsman Chris Alford will partner Shadow Sax and aims for his 19th Grand Circuit victory. The late Vin Knight remains the most winningest driver of the Victoria Cup with 5 victories. Fellow Victorian based trainer David Aiken, a dual Cup winner with recently retired Lennytheshark, prepares both Im The Boss and Wrappers Delight. Im The Boss, a winner of the Cobram, Mildura, Shepparton and Kilmore Cups will be handled by Greg Sugars while Kima Frenning sticks with in-form pacer and last start Smoken Up Sprint winner Wrappers Delight. The last female driver to land success in the Victoria Cup was Kate Gath (Caribbean Blaster) back in 2012. Three female drivers have won the Victoria Cup – Kate Gath, Amy Tubbs and Natalie Rasmussen. Speaking of the fairer sex, both Carlas Pixel and Ameretto are both looking to become the first mare to win the Victoria Cup. The Dean Braun trained Carlas Pixel, the recently crowned Australian Mare of the Year; finished an eye-catching 5th last week while the Kerryn Manning prepared Ameretto finished a close-up second behind Wrappers Delight after sitting in the trail. But both mares have drawn awkwardly off the second-line. The state of New South Wales has a proud and strong history in the Victoria Cup and head south with strength in numbers this year. Winners that have come from north of the Murray River include Don’t Retreat (1976), Paleface Adios (1977), Koala King (1978, 79 & 80), Frosty Imp (1981), Jofess (2002), Double Identity (2003), Mr Feelgood (2010) and For a Reason (2013). Koala King remains the only pacer to have claimed three Victoria Cups. The team from the Harbour City this year has five representatives including a trio from the Shane and Lauren Tritton stable with Gotta Go Ya Hu, Franco Nelson and My Alpha Rock as they chase their biggest victory. Lauren Tritton will partner Franco Nelson and like Kima Frenning, is aiming to become the latest female to drive a winner of the Victoria Cup. Kevin Pizzuto is duly represented with millionaire Tiger Tara and last start Paul Fitzpatrick FFA winner Majordan stepping out while Craig Cross will start last start Les Chant Cup winner Mach Doro. Dual Victorian Cup winning driver Luke McCarthy will take the drive behind the speedy beginner. Surprisingly, there is no representation from New Zealand this year. The 2018 Victorian Cup field has won 263 races collectively while amassing more than $6.7 million in stakes. The Australian Pacers Grand Circuit began in 1977 and was designed to be the showpiece of the Australian Harness Racing Industry with horses competing from every State within Australia.  In 1992 New Zealand was admitted and the Circuit was renamed the Australasian Grand Circuit.   The best horses available are brought together to race for very attractive prizemoney.  With the associated opportunities for promotion and marketing, this benefits owners and harness racing clubs as well as the industry overall.  In its first season in 1977, total stakemoney for the eight races forming the Circuit was $554,020.  Now, the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit series is racing for total stakemoney of $3.65 million. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The horse with the greatest number of points is crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Champion. So, who will strike the first blow in the new season of Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit racing? Time will tell.   Chris Barsby

A tragedy avoided could bring triumph to Shane Tritton's team with Franco Nelson, only months from a near-death illness, well-placed for a mighty tilt at Saturday night's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup. The New South Wales' trainer joined Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden on RSN 927's Gait Speed ahead of yesterday's barrier draw, when Franco Nelson drew barrier six, outside Tiger Tara and Chicago Bull but still rated by some to make a forward running. This will be the Christian Cullen nine-year-old's 13th start for Tritton, all in 2018, a year of a significant up - his first Group 1 win in the Bohemia Crystal - and a significant down, which Tritton outlined on Gait Speed. "He's had an interesting year since he won his Group 1 at Miracle Mile time, we gave him a little let up and brought him up for the Len Smith," Tritton said. "We didn't know that he was racing and training with pneumonia. We didn't find this until he got crook and he actually had his intestines turned toxic and almost died." Having been first up from a two-month spell before the July 1 Len Smith Mile, Franco Nelson wouldn't return again until the September 29 Les Chant Cup, when he was fourth, 3.8m behind Victoria Cup contender Mach Doro. "We've taken our time, he's probably feeling the best I've ever had him - he's screaming at all the mares and is certainly on the top of his game," Tritton said. "I'm confident that, he's obviously going to improve with racing, but if he gets the right trip I wouldn't be swapping him for any in the race. "Someone asked me the other day what's the best horse you've ever trained. I think Nelson is a horse that can race under any conditions and if you have got to do the bullocking work he's still there at the end." While Franco Nelson's gate 6 draw and My Alpha Rock's gate 11 draw are tricky, stablemate Gotta Go Ya Hu claimed the polemarker and is well placed. "I'm very happy with all three of them, I think Nelson's a proven horse. I think Lauren will stick with him to drive, which says a lot. If you are going to take one into a battle you want one that's done it plenty of times before." Trots Media

She has been dubbed the best harness racing mare in Australian harness racing and after the run Ameretto produced in Saturday night’s Group 1 Victoria Cup, it is easy to see why. Owned by Bathurst’s Ryan and Tracey Grives, Ameretto ($22.90) placed second to star horse Lennytheshark ($1.20) as she motored home down the straight at Melton in the 2,240 metres feature. With former trainer Ashlee Grives in the gig behind the daughter of Million Dollar Cam, she actually made up ground on Lennytheshark as the post loomed. In the end 3.6m separated the pair. “She was amazing and it was a big thrill. It was certainly good to reunite with her and get the job done,” Bathurst driver Grives, who last steered Ameretto in May, said. “Lenny, he’s an absolute flyer. We knew with the right run she could be in contention, but when Lenny drew one, we knew he’d be very hard to beat. To finish second to him is a big thing, she was the only mare in the race as well.” Now part of Kerryn Manning’s team, Ameretto had won six consecutive races prior to the $200,000 Victoria Cup. It was a step up in class, but she showed her quality. Going from barrier two, Ameretto found a spot three back on the pegs as Lennytheshark led the way. Into the home straight, Grives guided her into the sprint lane. “The lane couldn’t come quick enough. In the last 50 metres she was absolutely motoring, she just got fully wound up and they hit the post,” Grives said.  “I couldn’t be happier with that result. She just follows the speed and peels off those sectionals.” By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of the Western Advocate

Lennytheshark became a two-time harness racing Allied Express Victoria Cup champion tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton and will now turn his fin toward Perth in a bid to achieve a second Inter Dominion success. The most popular pacer in the southern hemisphere drew a rapturous reception from the big crowd at Tabcorp Park Melton following his domination in the Grand Circuit Classic, and his trainer, David Aiken, sounded a warning to his Inter Dominion rivals. “We’ve got unfinished business there.” “We’re really looking forward to Perth now. He’s my once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Aiken said. “I’m just so proud of him.” Driven by Chris Alford, Lennytheshark (by Four Starzzz Shark out of Albert Albert mare Botswana) led from the pole draw and defeated flying mare Ameretto by 3.6 metres in a slick mile rate of 1:53.2 for the 2240m trip. “He came up to the gate really good and they went full tilt for the first 100m, but once he held the front he always had it under control,” Alford said. The win was Lennytheshark’s 36th from 69 career starts, his stakemoney now at over $2.8 million. Following his gate one draw punters put their faith in Lennytheshark, the Inter Dominion, Miracle Mile and previous Victoria Cup hero sent out the shortest Victoria Cup favourite in years at $1.20. Allied Express Victoria Cup - Lennytheshark Due to the calendar change for the Victoria Cup that saw the race moved from January to October, owner Kevin Riseley, who also races reigning Vic Cup winner Lazarus, has amazingly now won the race twice in the same calendar year. Earlier on the program super mare Maori Time won the Bill Collins Trotters Sprint for trainer Brent Lilley and driver Gavin Lang in a thrilling finish, with a neck separating the winner from runner-up Sparkling Success and third placegetter Glenferrie Typhoon. OTHER COVERAGE Trots Media Pryde's Easifeed Pony Trots Videos https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481495280611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481210860611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481157135611/ Trots Media Facebook Live Coverage https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481176635611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481250120611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481346935611/ https://www.facebook.com/harnessracingvictoria/videos/10159481010860611/ Trots Media Photo Gallery of Winners https://www.facebook.com/10150118782730611/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10159481227135611 Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Shepparton’s rising superstar pacer San Carlo has never failed to rise to the occasion throughout his harness racing career and he faces another giant step-up tomorrow night when he tackles the $200000 Victoria Cup at Melton. The seven-year-old son of Mach Three has come up with barrier seven — the extreme outside of the front row — in the 2240m Group One event. San Carlo’s trainer Steve O’Donoghue admits the horror draw is going to make San Carlo’s chances of landing his biggest win that much tougher. O’Donoghue said he was happy to be in the race, but conceded the barrier had made winning an unlikely prospect. ‘‘It’s like an under-18 footballer going up into the senior side for the first time; it’s going to be really tough. I’ll be happy to beat one home for a start,’’ O’Donoghue said. ‘‘You would like any of the horses in that field, wouldn’t you?’’ While Lennytheshark is favourite to win the feature, fireworks are expected at the start with the trainers of Major Crocker and NSW visitors Code Black (barrier three) and Tiger Tara (barrier five) declaring they won’t be taking any prisoners early. Lennytheshark’s reinsman Chris Alford has declared he “couldn’t be happier” with Lenny’s barrier one draw. Rivals are Shark bait He might be eight years of age now but you wouldn’t have thought it as Lennytheshark made a stunning return to racing at Melton last Friday night. The David Aiken-trained warrior humbled some smart pacers in winning the $50000 Smoken Up Sprint over the 1720m trip in his first race since finishing fourth to his illustrious stablemate Hectorjayjay in the Blacks A Fake feature at Albion Park in July. Driven by Chris Alford, Lenny did it at both ends, spearing from barrier seven across the face of the field at the start to take up the pacemaking role and then audaciously pulling away from his rivals in the dash home in a blistering 1:51.9 mile rate. He had more than 8m to spare over runner-up My Field Marshall at the finish, with Tee Cee Bee Macray a whisker away third. Lenny is Inter Dominion-bound to defend his crown in December, but he has another huge challenge tomorrow night when he tackles the $200000 Victoria Cup at Melton. He has drawn barrier one and it would take a brave person to say he couldn’t win it given what he did last Friday night. It’s McCool for Junior Wahring horseman Kevin Weidenbach Jr is certainly getting results with Lucy McCool. In only six starts for Weidenbach Lucy McCool has won two races and been placed second once. The six-year-old Miles McCool mare notched her latest win in a C1 Only event last week at Yarra Valley after a perfect Weidenbach drive. Lucy McCool is from the former smart Caprock racemare Play The Dice and her latest win, the third of her 29 starts, produced a PB mile rate of 1:58.6. From pillar to post Byrneside horseman Damian Wilson made full use of pacer Cobie Hall’s draw to win on debut last week at Echuca. Trained and driven by Wilson, the four-year-old son of Blissfull Hall came from barrier three to take over the early front running and led throughout over the 2160m trip for a comfortable win over NSW visitor Kamwood Izzy, with the locally-trained Our Dandy filling the minor placing. Cobie Hall is the first foal of the unraced Safely Kept mare Annie Angel to race and peeled off some slick final sectionals and a respectable mile rate of 1:59.2 to suggest there could me more wins in store. The Nod of approval Echuca trots stalwarts Norm and Joan Visca enjoyed a win on their home track last week with consistent performer Winkn Nod. Trained and driven by legendary Bendigo horseman Brian Gath for the Viscas, Winkn Nod was another pacer to utilise his barrier two draw and was another pillar-to-post winner at the meeting in a C1 Only class race. Pulling out a 28.7 final split, Winkn Nod proved too good for Oldseadog and the Brent Thomson-trained Arty Guy with a winning margin of 4m and a short half-head separating the minor placegetters. Winkn Nod, a six-year-old gelding by Grinfromeartoear, deserved the win as he ran second at his previous two starts at Shepparton and Echuca. It was his third win with seven placings from 23 starts. Winning scent to Rose A mid-race move by reinsman Daniel Rose proved a winner for smart Kyabram-trained pacer Scout Hall Road at Echuca. Rose took the six-year-old Village Jasper gelding around the field from last to the front at the 1100m and staved off challengers from top two chances Sir Briggen and A Special Dream in the run to the finishing line in the 2160m event. Despite an encouraging third to the smart Scotlyn Jack at his previous start at Shepparton on September 29, Scout Hall Road was a 16-1 shot on the tote. Trained by Rose’s father Bruce, Scout Hall Road has been a consistent performer for connections with 10 wins and 19 placings from his 70 starts. A Special Dream’s third placing in the race continued a string of top-three finishes for the Steve Duffy-trained and Ryan Duffy-driven seven-year-old son of Live Or Die. The pacer has not missed a top-three placing in his past 11 starts, which include three wins with four seconds and four thirds. Ellen’s skills on show The Shepparton-based Bartley sisters — Bec and Lisa — have been enjoying their share of success of late in the sulky and it was another sister’s turn to show her wares in Victoria last week. Coleambally (Riverina)-based trainer Ellen Bartley produced Begoodorbegoodatit for a win in restricted class at Echuca. Driven by leading Riverina reinsman Blake Jones and an odds-on chance, Begoodorbegoodatit went straight to the front from barrier two over the 1750m trip and had no worries holding off main challengers Megiddo and the Kyabram-trained Beyond A Shadow. Begoodorbegoodatit was coming off a second at her previous start at Shepparton on September 21 in fast time in a race won by Our Lady Madonna, so punters took note of that formline in supporting her into an odds-on chance. Begoodorbegoodatit is only the third foal of the Art Major mare Lose The Blues to race and the only winner so far with her 19 starts producing three wins and five placings. Sweet for Candyman Top reinsman Greg Sugars was the star at Echuca with a driving treble. Two of the winners, Fong Nien and Mar Nien, were for his trainer-father Ross, while the Allan McDonough-trained Bright Shadow was middle pin of the trifecta. Fong Nien is a half-sister of four winners from the winning Miles McCool mare Jane McCool, including the multiple winner Smooth Grin. Mar Nien is a five-year-old gelded son of Rock N Roll Heaven out of the Armbro Operative mare Champagnesheffield, who was a winner of five races and has left two other winners. As swift as a Hare The Josh Aiken-trained and driven Audi Hare kept his perfect Australian record intact with another dominant win last Friday night at Melton. Joining the Aiken stable after 20 starts for two wins in New Zealand, the five-year-old gelded son of Mach Three had scored at Bendigo on his Australian debut on September 16 and followed up that win with another success at Shepparton on September 29. He completed the hat-trick with his Melton win in which he accounted for the Laura Crossland-trained and driven Charming Major and Time Keepa Lombo in 1:56.2 mile rate time for the 1720m. Aiken summed up the race perfectly when the pace slackened a lap out, working Audi Hare around the field to the front and from then on was never going to be beaten. Duke rules at Hill Four-year-old gelding Manbar Duke made a winning return to the racetrack in a family finish in a C0 Only class race at Swan Hill on Tuesday night. Trained by Kyabram horseman Brent Thomson and driven by Nathan Jack, Manbar Duke led throughout to beat Letsrockletsroll, trained by Thomson’s father Russell and driven by Craig Turnbull. Manbar Duke was a $2.10 favourite while Letsrockletsroll was a $5.30 chance. Taken straight to the front by Jack from barrier three, Manbar Duke ran his rivals ragged, particularly over the concluding stages with splits 28.7 and 27.4 for a last half in 56.1. Letsrockletsroll’s effort to come from last at the bell and get within 4m of the winner was also noteworthy given the third horse home and second favourite Tillys Desire was more than 20m astern. Manbar Duke was having his first start since March and was coming off successive wins at Yarra Vallley and Cobram. A son of Santa Blue Chip, Manbar Duke has had just the seven starts for three wins and three seconds. His dam Korobeit Princess, who is by little known sire Armbro Kojak, was a four-times winner and was out of the good racemare Korobeit Angel, a daughter of Denver Gift, who was bred by veteran Kyabram horseman Darky Meloury. Colbinabbin horseman Graham McDermott was also a winner at Swan Hill, scoring in a T0 or better trotters race with Justtentrumps who notched his fourth win from 19 starts. Building future The new trots track at Wagga is under way with the first sod turned at the new site last week. NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole was alongside Harness Racing NSW chairman Chris Edwards and his fellow board members for the significant milestone. “The journey has been a lengthy one from when we first called for expressions of interest in a Riverina Super Centre back in 2006,” Edwards said. “But now that we are finally at this stage, it is pleasing to know that in a year’s time we will have completed a strategy to install 1000m tracks in all the region’s Hunter, Western and Southern districts. “What is really positive for Wagga is that what we have learned from the other projects has been enhanced, corrected or improved with this last instalment.” The long-awaited project will have a 1070m track constructed with a width of 20m to accommodate 10 horses starting off the front row, if required. There will be a camber of 10° on the 110m radius turns to assist with equine welfare, driver safety and to enhance the speed performance of the horses, as well as a sprint lane to provide all horses a competitive opportunity. Alongside the track, public facilities similar to those at Bathurst will be constructed as well as race stalls that can accommodate 140 horses, including a designated area for mini trot participants. Harness Racing NSW’s long-term vision for the property is to also include a training centre. Coming up Today: Kilmore (n). Tomorrow: Melton (n). Sunday: Stawell (d). Monday: Warragul (d). Tuesday: Shepparton (n). Wednesday: Geelong (n). Thursday: Bendigo (n). The Shepparton News Reprinted with permission of The Shepparton News

Harness racing driver Chris Alford’s first Group 1 success came in the sulky behind Golden Reign (pictured) in the 1993 Victoria Derby. That superstar would go on to provide “the Puppet” with Treuer Memorial and Tasmanian Pacing Championship success in 1994 and a South Australian Cup win in 1995. Also in ’95, Golden Reign and Alford would combine for what to this day Alford says is his greatest thrill in the sport – his first Inter Dominion Pacing Championship success in 1995 at Christchurch in New Zealand. Today though, we’re rewinding to Moonee Valley on Saturday the 4th of February in the summer of ’95, when Golden Reign as favourite held out another Grand Circuit superstar in Master Musician to win the Healthy Diet Try It Victoria Cup over 2380m. VIDEO: RE-LIVE GOLDEN REIGN'S VIC CUP GLORY It was a night which opened with Kenkara successful for Don Dove and finished with Damian Wilson combining with trainer Tom Kett to win the last, the Pacers Handicap, at 33-1! Other winners on the night were the talented Lucky Camilla for Grant Campbell and Mick Carroll as a 1/5 shot, Rookies Boy at any old odds in the trot for Graham Lee, Late Bid (another gun) in the Caduceus Club 3YO Cup for Peter Walsh, Dark Paul for Andrew Peace in the Vic Cup Consolation over odds-on pop Liberty Jay Jay, New York Jet for Joe and Peter Cavallaro and the mighty Pride Of Petite for Barry and Mark Purdon in the Trotters Sprint over a mile. But it was the night’s feature show that goes down as one of the great Victoria Cups, Alford, Alexander and Golden Reign delivering a stellar performance to hold off a brave Master Musician, and an even braver Sinbad Bay in third for Stephen Dove – when you consider Sinbad Bay was 11 years old and had the won the Vic Cup in both 1989 and 1999. He had returned from injury and rattled home. From a back-row draw, Golden Reign (10/9 favourite) balanced up midfield in the early stages. Alford commenced his move at about the 1800m, when Golden Reign loomed to the chair outside stablemate Knight Rainbow (John Caldow) before heading him off. Once Golden Reign found the front, Robert Dunn launched aboard Master Musician, and at the bell Dunn and the Musician audaciously tackled for the lead. While it wasn’t there, this last lap wasn’t simply going to be on Golden Reign’s terms, and it was game-on. The two lead combatants staged a battle royal, neither relenting an inch. But there had to be a winner. Golden Reign booted a length clear at the top of the home straight, but like any Musician worth his salt, the Master still had an encore. With Dunn driving hard, Master Musician found another gear and started eating into Golden Reign’s margin once again. At the line, they’d closed the gap to just a neck. Brave, but not brave enough. Alford’s excitement was clear as he crossed the finish post – a Golden moment for connections as their champion Reigned supreme. Twenty-one years later Alford would add a second Victoria Cup to his trophy cabinet thanks to modern-day superstar Lennytheshark. This Saturday night he and Lenny will again team up as a commanding favourite, Alford out to become a three-time Vic Cup winner, which would draw him closer to clubhouse leaders Vin Knight (five-time winner of the great race) and Brian Gath (four Vic Cup triumphs). Book your dining package at this year's Allied Express Victoria Cup Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Lennytheshark is the deserved short-priced harness racing favourite for Saturday night’s Allied Express Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton after drawing the coveted gate one today, but a couple of trainers with speedsters drawn wider out are tipping sparks early. Vince Vallelonga, who has seven-year-old Major Crocker out of gate six in the Victoria Cup, said his stable star would be using whatever weaponry he had on Saturday night. And he has gate speed in spades. “Lennytheshark might still lead and be too good but … we’ll definitely be shanghaiing off the arm,” Vallelonga said. “If we can lead then Lenny wants to come off the fence and have a crack for the front then that’s what he’ll do. There’s no point going back.” It’s a view shared by New South Wales horseman Kevin Pizzuto, who trains Cup contenders Code Black (barrier four) and Tiger Tara (barrier five). “We’re coming there to race,” he declared. “No point driving eight hours for nothing.” Pizzuto said he would be applying hopple shorteners to Tiger Tara, which is mainly a longer-term strategy for Perth’s Inter Dominion, but he’s still declaring game-on for Saturday night. “He’s got to get out harder with the Inter Dominion in mind, but in saying that we have Code Black too and actually I think Major Crocker if he wants to can probably get across the lot of us.” Reinsman Chris Alford, who has won 27 races aboard Lennytheshark including last year’s Miracle Mile, the Victoria Cup in 2016 and the Inter Dominion in 2015, said he “couldn’t be happier” with Lennytheshark’s barrier one draw. “It’s going to take something crazy to happen for someone to get across him from there and bring him undone,” Alford said. “He’s come through last week’s run (a win in the Olympus Feeds Smoken Up Sprint) really well.” Kerryn Manning has two runners engaged and both take extensive winning form into Saturday night, with Ameretto chasing her seventh straight win from gate two and Mr Mojito (barrier 11) pursuing a fourth successive victory. “I’m really happy with barrier two for Ameretto,” Manning said. “It’s a bit tricky obviously that Lenny has drawn one, but really happy to be in gate two. She’s well-placed where she’s drawn and being in the running line already from there is a bonus.” Ashlee Grives takes the steer on Ameretto on Saturday night with Manning attending a friend’s wedding in Queensland. Manning’s husband Grant Campbell will have the reins aboard Mr Mojito. “If the emergency comes out he’ll come into three on the back row which is not too bad for him but he’ll end up near the back. If the speed’s on that’ll suit him and if not we’re in trouble,” Manning said. Cobbitty trainer Craig Cross is hoping there is pace aplenty to bring his five-year-old gelding Galactic Star into the equation. “He’s going really good. He was parked the other night and they went 50 and a bit. He’ll be looking to come with a run I’d say, but we’re drawn well and we’ve got the best in Luke McCarthy driving,” Cross said. Tim Butt-trained My Field Marshal is clear second-favourite for the race despite drawing gate 10. Driver Anthony Butt gives the six-year-old Art Major entire a good chance of causing an upset, but admits he’ll need “some luck”. “It was a super run the other night. He had a flat tyre for the last 600m and I was really happy with him. We’re definitely a winning chance, but as I said he’ll just need a little bit of luck and for things to happen.” While Alford was thrilled to have drawn gate one with Lennytheshark, trainer Shane Tritton said Yayas Hot Spot “couldn’t have got a better draw” in barrier nine (eight if the emergency doesn’t gain a start). “We’re not going to have to burn off the arm. This is his chance. Not sure if we can beat Lennytheshark but he’s fast enough to definitely run a place,” Tritton said. “Lauren said he just got left a bit flat-footed at the bend (on Saturday night in the Smoken Up Sprint when fourth). If they make a race of it early we can hopefully do a bit of damage up the straight.” Yayas Hot Spot finished second in the Hunter Cup earlier this year from three-back on the pegs at the bell, beating Lennytheshark home by 5.4m. He has also placed in a 4YO Bonanza and Derby Final at Melton. Meanwhile, trainers Andy Gath, Alan Tubbs and Stephen O’Donoghue were upfront about their winning chances after their charges drew poorly. Gath has Burnaholeinmypocket from gate 12 and said “it makes it impossible, really”, adding “if he can run top-five that would be a great result.” On San Carlo, who drew gate seven, O’Donoghue said: “We’re happy to be in it but barrier seven makes it extremely hard and unlikely.” And Tubbs said things were “now out of his hands” after Tee Cee Bee Macray drew barrier 13. “I’m really disappointed but that’s just the luck of it. We can’t plan anything from there. If they don’t run 43 to the peg then basically you’re out of it. We’ll just be able to enjoy the night now I’d say.” Get the TAB.com.au fixed odds now for the Allied Express Victoria Cup Barrier draw for Allied Express Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton Saturday night 1  LENNYTHESHARK 2  AMERETTO 3  GALACTIC STAR 4  CODE BLACK 5  TIGER TARA 6  MAJOR CROCKER 7  SAN CARLO ------------------------------------------------- 8  FLAMING FLUTTER 9  YAYAS HOT SPOT 10 MY FIELD MARSHAL 11 MR MOJITO 12 BURNAHOLEINMYPOCKET 13 TEE CEE BEE MACRAY BOOK YOUR DINING PACKAGE FOR VICTORIA CUP NIGHT TODAY Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The Victoria Cup of 2008 will always be remembered as the night Amy Tubbs and Melpark Major ran their harness racing rivals off their legs. Bowling along at the head of proceedings, Melpark Major was over a length clear off the back and running time. Into the straight the rivals got out and had their chance, but it mattered not, because Melpark Major was “the new king” as caller Dan Mielicki declared. “What about the time? It has obliterated the track record by half a second, 1:55.8 mile rate. That is staggering!” Bred and raced by long-time trots man Don Smith, Melpark Major was a son of the mighty Iraklis. He was trained by Alan Tubbs and Alan’s daughter Amy, 24, was entrusted with the driving duties. “I was roaring up the straight cheering him on and he just kept giving,” Amy said. VIDEO: Re-live Melpark Major's magical Moonee Valley win Given metro trots moved to Melton not long after Major’s Vic Cup win, the 1:55.8 mile rate record for the 2575m trip at Moonee Valley looks everlasting. Melpark Major was a modern-day champion, netting 36 wins and 36 minor placings from 113 starts for $979,056 in stakemoney. The fact he’ll never be credited with a Miracle Mile win seems almost cruel given how brave his run was in the Harold Park feature of 2008. He finished second to Divisive, who didn’t spent a drop of petrol in the run while Melpark Major was three-wide the trip. It was arguably the best runner-up effort seen on the Grand Circuit stage. Despite later-career issues following a mishap in Brisbane as a five-year-old, when he was the favourite for the Inter Dominion series, Melpark Major still won the 2010 Popular Alm Sprit, the 2013 Horsham Pacing Cup and a host of other strong races. “He was never the same (after Brisbane),” Alan Tubbs said. “He went from being a clean-legged horse to having joint trouble. I had to learn acupuncture, which I guess is a good thing because I can use it in future, but we had to look after him a lot more after that.” Melpark Major retired in 2014 to the property of Don Smith to live alongside other ‘Melpark’ horses. Today he continues to enjoy his retirement. Book your 2017 Allied Express Victoria Cup package now Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Star pacer Chicago Bull will travel to Melbourne to contest the harness racing $200,000 Victoria Cup at Melton on Saturday week if he wins the $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. That’s the tentative plan formulated by the five-year-old’s master trainer Gary Hall Snr. “We’re thinking about tackling the Victoria Cup, and if he wins on Friday night we will seriously consider it,” Hall said. “I’ve tentatively booked the flight to Melbourne. “I had also planned to run Beaudiene Boaz in the Victoria Cup, but he has a quarter crack in his off fore hoof and he won’t be ready to resume racing for a month.” The Victoria Cup is a 2240m mobile event, with a random barrier draw. It is a race that Hall would dearly love to win. He took Im Themightyquinn to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2010, Im Themightyquinn finished third to Mr Feelgood in the Victoria Cup a week after winning the Cranbourne Cup. In 2011, Im Themightyquinn finished last behind Smoken Up in the Victoria Cup after finishing third to Smoken Up in the Miracle Mile, a nose second to Melpark Major in the Group 3 Popular Alm Free-For-All and second to Mr Feelgood in the Cranbourne Cup. Then, in December 2012, Hall made a hit-run trip to Melbourne when Im Themightyquinn finished third to Caribbean Blaster in the Victoria Cup after winning a Free-For-All at Gloucester Park the previous week. Chicago Bull, who has earned $963,434 from 23 wins and eight placings from just 36 starts, has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the back line in the 2130m Stratton Cup and reinsman Gary Hall Jnr’s initial thoughts are to stay on the pegs, trail the likely pacemaker Shandale and rely on a slice of luck to obtain a clear run in the final circuit. “I reckon it’s too hard to go back (from the inside of the back line) and then go around the rest of the field,” Hall Jnr said. Hall Snr agreed that the inside of the back line was far from an ideal draw. “I was hoping for a front-line draw so we could push him out of the gate, just to test his gate speed a bit. “He’s just a great little horse and his latest run was outstanding. That was his second run after a short spell and I wouldn’t have thought he was 100 per cent for that race, so I was a bit surprised at how well he did it. He’s going to keep getting better and better, I hope, leading up to the Inters.” The wonderful combination of Hall Snr and Jnr has won the Stratton Cup three times --- with Bengeeman (2002), Alzona (2011) and Waylade (2015). Hall Snr will also be represented in this year’s Cup by Norvic Nightowl (Stuart McDonald), Run Oneover (Nathan Turvey) and American Boy (Lauren Jones). Norvic Nightowl ran a splendid Cup trial last Friday night when he was ninth at the bell before sustaining a powerful three-wide burst which took him to a narrow lead 70m from the post before finishing an extremely close third behind Simply Susational and Tricky Styx. He is handily drawn at barrier two on Friday night and is sure to be prominent. Chicago Bull’s chief rivals are likely to be Soho Tribeca (barrier two on the back line), Shandale and Norvic Nightowl. Soho Tribeca made a wonderful return to racing after a short spell when he started out wide at barrier nine, raced three wide for much of the first lap and then in the breeze before getting to the front on the home turn and winning from Bronze Seeker and Ideal Tyson over 2130m last Friday night. That was his fourth win in a row and his 16th victory from 40 starts. Shannon Suvaljko, who has been successful in the Stratton Cup with The Hunter (2010) and Libertybelle Midfrew (2016) is delighted at Shandale’s barrier draw at No. 1 on the front line and said he expected the five-year-old to prove hard to beat. “Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca have difficult draws and I’ve got a good draw over 2130m,” he said. “I’ll definitely be holding the lead and I’ll be letting Shandale roll along. His latest run, when seventh behind Chicago Bull in the Navy Cup last Friday week was good. He was off the track when they ran the third quarter of the last mile in 27.4sec. and he still fought on. “I honestly think he’s a winning chance; he’ll definitely finish in the top three. If they get over him, they get over him. But they’ll have to run some time to get past him.” Shandale is prepared by Mike Reed, who has won the group 3 Stratton Cup with Just Packapunch (1995), Capitol V (2008) and Libertybelle Midfrew (who set the pace from the No. 1 barrier and won easily from The Bucket List and Bettors Fire last year). Hall of Fame reinsman Chris Lewis is seeking his eighth win in a Stratton Cup after being successful with Black Irish (1983), Village Kid (1985, 19888, 1991), Ohoka Ace (2005), Sneakyn Down Under (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2014). He will drive Americanbootscoota, who was outstanding in defeat when second to Chicago Bull in the Navy Cup after setting the pace and being under extreme pressure from Run Oneover, who overraced badly in the breeze. Americanbootscoota is awkwardly drawn at the No. 6 barrier on the front line. Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri, who won the Stratton Cup with Just Packapunch (1993) and Sensational Gabby (2014), will be represented by Jambiani (Chris Voak) and Sheer Rocknroll (Morgan Woodley), who face tough tasks from wide barriers. Ken Casellas

2004 – Sokyola delivers Justice his first Victoria Cup. “It’s the Aussie champ, Sokyola’s done it again!” Racecaller Dan Mielicki produced a trademark pearl for Race 7 at the Valley on 18 December 2004. Same can be said for Lance Justice, the straight-shooting harness racing horseman who put the hobbles on his superstar Sokyola that night and delighted favourite punters who took a ticket at the $2.10 on offer with the bagmen. The win came during a season of astronomical success for Sokyola, an eight-year-old son of Sokys Atom out of a one-start maiden Chiola Hanover mare named Maudola (12th at Winton in 1995 on debut). In fact, both 03-04 and 04-05 saw Sokyola unrivalled in the pacing game – named back-to-back Australian Harness Horse of the Year. Soky won both Miracle Miles in those seasons at the then dream factory of New South Wales trots, Harold Park. At the completion of his racetrack career, Sokyola had amassed $1,890,990 in stakemoney with 78 wins and 42 minor placings from 161 appearances. For trivia buffs, the first of those successes came for a Kiwi trainer, Mervyn Todd, who drove Sokyola home in a three-year-old handicap at Invercargill in March 2000. “Don McRae and Curly Thomas jacked up the sale for us,” Todd told the Southland Times in 2007. “(Australian trainer) Lance Justice flew over and trialled him on my wee track. He only ran him over a furlong and commented he was a natural.” That was enough for Justice to be won over. In Australia, Sokyola was raced by Colin Croft, who, like his trainer originated in South Australia. And Sokyola was not Croft’s first Horse of the Year, either. He famously raced Inter Dominion champion Markovina (1977’s premier trots performer). In terms of Soky’s achievements, the 2004 Vic Cup win is remembered as one of his most memorable. Working to the front early for Justice, who incidentally earlier that evening piloted outsider Cam Strike home in the opener – the Claimers Cup, Sokyola dictated the pace early (74.7secs lead time, 31.7 first split and 32.5 second). “It is going to be a big sprint home here,” said Mielicki. “Have they played into Lance’s hands?” They had. At the 500m Justice began to up the stakes, Just An Excuse was extended by reinsman Todd Mitchell in the breeze, and Flashing Red, the Queenslander for Ian McMahon, was three-wide. Hexus, for Nathan Giles, was following Justice’s every move behind Sokyola, waiting to strike. At full throttle Hexus worked home solidly along the inside but his late bid was always doomed to fail, with Sokyola having plenty in reserve up the stretch. Just An Excuse finished third and stuck to his guns but, in reality, Soky always had them licked in the run, winning by a metre and a half in 2:02.5 with a last quarter of 27-flat. The triumph was Justice’s first in a Vic Cup but wouldn’t be his last. In the 2011 renewal he combined with his next champion, the indomitable Smoken Up at Tabcorp Park Melton. And who’s to say there won’t be another?  Book your Allied Express Victoria Cup dining package today Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Three phone calls a few minutes apart today all but confirmed New Zealand with a starter in next week’s Victoria Cup -- possibly two. Because while trainer Steve Telfer can’t be certain his greatly-improved mare  Better B Amazed will get into the A$200,000 race, he is planning like she will. And has now decided to add stablemate No Doctor Needed to the list of possible Cup contenders. Better B Amazed has been the revelation of the fast-class pacing season in the north with two wins this campaign before a brave second off a 20m handicap to No Doctor Needed in the Spring Cup at Alexandra Park last Friday. That was enough to convince Telfer and the pair’s owners they deserve a crack at the big time in the Victoria Cup, which has been moved from its traditional summer date to October 14. Telfer is hoping to get both straight into the 2240m Cup so has decided to bypass the major lead-up, the Smoken Up, at Melton this Friday and phoned Harness Racing Victoria today to ascertain whether a Cup start is likely for the pair. “They couldn’t confirm anything and I respect that so we won’t know definitively until the field comes out next Tuesday,” says Telfer. “But she would be a M5 or M6 over there and he would probably be an M5 and I am thinking that will be enough to get one or both of them in. “ And they (HRV) now know we are keen to start. “So the next call we made was to the transporters to see when the flights are. “The plane doesn’t leave till next Wednesday so we can see if they make the field and put them, or one of them, on the plane after that. “But at this stage are are planning to go and make it a one-race raid. “Then Better B Amazed can come back here and be set for the mares races while No Doctor Needed will go to the New Zealand Cup. “For the mare a big run, especially a placing in a Victoria Cup, would be a great result for her broodmare career later.”  Telfer is also toying with the idea of starting his exciting three-year-old American Brave in the second northern Sires’ Stakes heat at Alexandra Park next week.  “He was very unlucky last Friday night and we think a lot of him.  “So we will give him a shot at a Sires’ Stakes heat and see how he measures up.”  The first northern Sires’ Stakes heat of the season is at Cambridge this Thursday, with a small but select field including last-start Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing.   Michael Guerin

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