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Who could forget the night Caribbean Blaster came from widest on the second row to cause a harness racing boilover in the Victoria Cup? It was 15 December, 2012, at Tabcorp Park Melton, and driver Kate Gath delivered Caribbean Blaster connections and husband trainer Andy Gath an early Christmas present with an absolute jewel of a steer. And her salute at the post was priceless. “… Kate put him in exactly the right spot and his finishing burst was special,” Andy Gath beamed post-race. “Obviously I was initially disappointed with the barrier draw (13) but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, his speed is sensational and he follows pace so well. “I thought he would win at the home turn, when he made his run with Im Themightyquinn I was confident he could get over the top of him, it was a very gratifying victory.” West Australian star Im Themightyquinn shot away from the mobile to lead for Gary Hall Jr, confirming the natter pre-race. Pressure came in the form of The Gold Ace and Tony Herlihy into the first bend but ‘Quinny’ held the front. Initially Terrorway for Andy McCarthy had landed one-by-one, but as soon as ‘Quinny’ signalled his intention to hold out the Ace, McCarthy went whoosh three-wide and shimmied to the lead unchallenged. When the lead time was semaphored at 41.9, Andy Gath must have been smiling. That’s smoking! Speaking of, the superstar from Lance Justice’s camp, Smoken Up, then made his run three-wide with over a lap and a quarter to go. Justice urged tough ‘Trigger’ up outside of Terrorway and Washakie, the latter booting up in the chair at the thousand for driver John McCarthy. It was fair dinkum on. An interesting sidenote, John McCarthy had three runners in this race, the leader Terrorway, the breeze horse Washakie and Franco Jamar back in the field. Meanwhile, Caribbean Blaster was three horses back in the three-wide train, and, you’d have to say, well placed given the hot fractions. A 30secs first split and a 28.7secs second meant Caribbean’s pre-race $30.40 odds had surely been blasted into single digits. Off the back in 29.2secs and Smoken Up was under pressure to chase down the leader. Washakie was basically in reverse. Gonzo. ‘Quinny’ angled away from the inside and pushed three-wide into the clear, while Caribbean Blaster loomed like a thunderstorm for punters who’d taken the shorts about the favourite (‘Quinny’ was $1.6). The WA pacer did hit the front, but only fleetingly. Kate said go and her son of Bettor's Delight put ‘Quinny’ to the sword, resulting in the Gaths adding a Victoria Cup to their trophy cabinet alongside the A.G. Hunter Cup won by About To Rock six years prior. Mah Sish poked through along the inside late to snare second place ahead of Im Themightyquinn; the final quarter covered in 28.5secs. Caribbean Blaster recorded a mile rate of 1:53.7. “He was just a lovely horse to work with. You get to spend so much time with them one-on-one. Every time they step on to the track they go to war for you. They’re the sorts of horses that actually make me look good,” Andy Gath said years later of Caribbean Blaster. Caribbean Blaster is nowadays establishing himself in the breeding barn. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Prior to 1997, only four horses had won multiple harness racing Victoria Cups. They were Koala King (1978, 79 and 80), Popular Alm (1982 and 83), Bag Limit (1987 and 88) and Sinbad Bay (1989 and 91). Despite his horse being an 11-1 shot, Kiwi trainer Cran Dalgety would have had every confidence in '97 that his 1996 Victoria Cup winner Desperate Comment could go back-to-back, because ‘Spike’, as he was affectionately known, was a warrior. “He had an amazing will to win,” Dalgety said of Desperate Comment looking back at the million-dollar stakes earner’s career ($1,033,065 in prize money to be exact). Eight years old and lining up from the pole draw on February 1 1997, at Moonee Valley Desperate Comment was a distant third-favourite with punters in the Vic Cup behind Iraklis (1-4fav) and Our Sir Vancelot (5-1). A year prior, Peter Jones had steered Desperate Comment to success in the Victoria Cup over Burlington Bertie and Norms Daughter. Now Graeme Lang was in the gig behind the Kiwi superstar. Early doors in the 2380m feature everything went to script for favourite backers with Iraklis cruising to the front for Ricky May from gate two. Trainer Robert Cameron had two representatives in the race, Iraklis and 20-1 shot Anvils Star. After a couple of hundred metres they were one-two on the rails, with Anthony Butt pushing Anvils Star on to the leader’s back position ahead of Desperate Comment, who drifted back in the early section to land the often-awkward three-fence position. When The Suleiman pushed to the chair – eventually and under driving – with a lap and a half to go there was some extra heat up front, but nothing too major and the favourite always appeared to travel well. Into the back straight the final time and Desperate Comment remained three back on the rails, but 100m later he began to emerge as Lang started plotting a path between runners. They went 28.1 for the third split, so Iraklis by this stage was fair humming, and both Our Sir Vancelot and Desperate Comment were in the clear around the famous Moonee Valley home turn the final time. Iraklis had a strong kick and halfway up the straight looked as though he may have put the result to bed. But, alas for May and Iraklis, the winning post just never seemed to come, and Desperate Comment swooped down the outside to score a neck win over another fast-finisher in Anvils Star, who finally saw daylight, with Iraklis battling into third place beaten one metre. The winning rate was 1:58.2 and the last split 28.3. For Dalgety, looking back to earlier in Desperate Comment's career, success didn’t take long to arrive. At just this third start with the Kentuckiana Lodge stable, ‘Spike’ beat Grand Circuit superstars Master Musician and Blossom Lady to land the Group 1 Easter Cup at Addington for reinsman Jimmy Curtin. “Admired, respected and loved for his courage, determination and attitude,” reads the headstone above where the champion pacer’s ashes now rest in the garden adjacent to the stable complex at Kentuckiana Lodge. “Champion racehorse, world record holder, millionaire pacer, winner of 28 races. Born Auckland 22-11-1988, died Melbourne 26-9-1997.  His memory will live on in the hearts of Allan Campbell, Joe Mullins and Graham Pilkington (owners), Cran Dalgety (trainer), Peter Jones (driver) and all who were privileged to know him.” Desperate Comment fractured a near pastern when racing at the peak of his powers in August 1997. “The fractured leg just disintegrated at a later date and he had to be put down,” Dalgety said. “When you look back, it was a good effort for him to just crack the million in stakes when he did all his racing as an older horse.” Desperate Comment won 28 races from 76 starts.  Book your place at this year's Allied Express Victoria Cup Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Loyalty means everything to champion trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. That’s why she won’t be at Melton when she has two runners in the rescheduled $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup (2240m) at Melton on October 14. Many months back – long before Harness Racing Victoria shifted the Victoria Cup to its new timeslot – Manning gleefully accepted the Maid of Honour role at the wedding of harness identities Vic Frost and Gail Geeson.  And nothing will change that.  Manning expects to have her two stable stars, Mr Mojito and Ameretto, in the Victoria Cup.  “Obviously the timing isn’t great where they moved the Victoria Cup to, but I’m comitted to the wedding and Vic and Gail are great people. That’s where I’ll be,” Manning said. Manning spoke with Ameretto’s former trainer-driver and part-owner Ashlee Grives about partnering the mare in the Victoria Cup.  “Ash didn’t say no, but didn’t confirm it either. I’d love her to drive her mare, she knows her better than anyone does,” she said.  Grives confirmed via social media last Saturday night that she would take the drive.  Ameretto looked fantastic winning her sixth race on end in a scorching 1.51.5 mile rate for 1720m in the Group Three Tailamade Lombo at Melton last Friday night.  “She did it pretty comfortably,” Manning said. “She did so much work early, I didn’t want to go for home too early. She’s going so well she deserves a go at a race like the Victoria Cup.”  The key was Ameretto’s win against “the boys” in the Group Two Breeders Crown Graduate free-for-all in late August.  Manning is uncertain whether she will run the mare again before the Victoria Cup.  “The only option is the Smoken Up Sprint in two weeks, but that means running against the likes of Lennytheshark, My Field Marshal and others,” she said. “She’s really fit and might not need another run. I’ll wait and see.”  It’s a similar situation with Mr Mojito, who also ran blistering time winning his third race on end in the free-for-all last Friday night. His mile rate was 1.52.0 for 1720m.  “He’s improving with every run, but he is still green. He’s an M5 now and has only raced 20 times. I’m not sure he’ll ever grow out of some of quirks,” Manning said.  “He’s such a bad steering horse at times. And one day he works really well in training, but the next he feels like an average maiden.  “But he’s putting it together consistently at the races and should get a start in the Victoria Cup on what he’s done in his past few runs.  “I might take him straight into the Cup now. But the option of the Smoken Up Sprint is there for him as well.”  Manning’s husband and co-trainer Grant Campbell has first dibs on the Mr Mojito drive in the Victoria Cup, but no final decision has been made.  Beyond the Victoria Cup, both Mr Mojito and Ameretto could head to Perth.  “Ameretto will go for the mares’ races over there. I’m also taking Motu Meteor for the four-year-old races,” Manning said.  “Mr Mojito is not certain because he’s still raw and the (tight) track must be some query, but if we take Ameretto and Meteor, then we will probably take Mr Mojito across as well.  “Let’s see how he goes against the really good ones in the Victoria Cup and then make a decision.” Adam Hamilton

Shane Tritton’s been trying to get his speedstar Yayas Hot Spot to the Perth Inter Dominion for three years. And now he’s sure he will finally get there. “I feel like it’s unfinished business,” Tritton said. “He’s finally ranked high enough and we’re going across. “First it’s down to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup.” Yayas Hot Spot confirmed a two-race Melbourne raid after Yayas Hot Spot smashed the clock in a solo workout at Penrith. He ran a 1.53.6 mile, which was 1.4sec inside the official track record. “He won’t run before Melbourne. He’ll go first-up into the Smoken Up on October 6 at Melton,” Tritton said. Then comes the $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup at Melton eight days later. In other stable news, Shane and Lauren Tritton combined with their classy six-year-old mare Miss Riviera Belle to win the $30,600 Group Three Piccadilly Princess in a 1.53 mile at Menangle last Saturday night. _______________________________________________________________________________________ When Hunter Cup winner Bling It On crashed to the track a few months back and was ruled-out of the Victoria Cup and Perth Inter Dominion, Luke McCarthy’s hopes of competing in those races looked slim. Maybe Mach Doro or Allblack Stride could step-up, but instead it has been new stable addition Galactic Star who emerged. The former WA-trained five-year-old has looked terrific winning both starts for Craig Cross with McCarthy in the bike. Galactic Star won narrowly but impressively after sitting parked for much of the race in a 1.55.9 mile rate for 2300m at Menangle last Saturday night. It was enough for connections to label the Victoria Cup (Melton, October 14) a target. Galactic Star was bought from NZ by Greg and Skye Bond and won 13 of his 19 WA starts for them before being sent to NSW. Adam Hamilton

Next stop Victoria for My Field Marshal. Trainer Tim Butt declared his stable star right on target for the Victoria Cup after a narrow, but impressive Menangle win last Saturday night. My Field Marshal’s next and only other lead-up run will be in the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Melton on October 6. The rescheduled $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup is eight days later at the same track. “He’s right where I want him,” Butt said. “We’ve had to drive him outside of his comfort zone in these two recent Menangle races because he’s been the best horse in the race and drawn the outside. “The problem with sitting parked with him is that he’s a bugger for wanting to loaf when he hits the front. “He did that when Little Rascal nabbed him two starts back and wanted to do it again the other night, but lifted enough to hold them off. He’s got more left that it looks, but he’s a better chaser than leader.” Despite doing all the work, My Field Marshal hit the lead early in the straight and held-off Allblack Stride to win by a neck in a slick 1min51.9sec mile. Butt, who announced last week he was setting-up a Menangle stable and spending much of his time in NSW, will first head to Melbourne on Tuesday week. “I’ll be down in Melbourne for five weeks. Let It Ride, who is a serious horse, is coming across to join My Field Marshal down there,” Butt said. “The 4&5YO Championship (November 11, at Melton) is the main goal with him down there.” Butt said it was a busy, but exciting time for the stable. “It’s great to be going into partnership with Jonny Cox back home and to be getting serious about a team at Menangle,” he said. “I’m really excited about the Menangle team and committed to making a splash with a nice bunch of horses.” Adam Hamilton

Trainer Steve Telfer is daring to dream of Cups glory with the surprise package of the pacing season -- but not the Cup everybody else is thinking about. Telfer has had a red-hot start to the season but he admits even he is stunned by the form of Better B Amazed, with the enormously improved mare scoring two crushing open class wins at Alexandra Park. The second came last Friday where she sat parked and rated 1:53.9 for 1700m, just 0.4 of a second off his national record on a cold, wet night. Better B Amazed has now beaten New Zealand Cup contenders No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind twice, coming from outside them both times and would not be out of place in the Cup at Addington on November 14. But while Telfer realises the new season version of his mare has jumped up a few notches, he is thinking of a different Cup. “There is a little chance she could target the Victoria Cup at Melton next month,” says Telfer. “We all realise how much better she is going even than last season when she was going pretty well. “I can’t really put it down to one thing, probably just maturity. “But she is working better and every time this season we have taken her to the workouts or race she has gone up a level. “We had a meeting on Saturday night to discuss what to do next and the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup isn’t her best distance so we aren’t considering a late nom for that. “But the new Victoria Cup interests us a bit.” The Victoria Cup has been transferred from the January date when Lazarus won it last season to October 14, the same day as the Everest in Sydney and the Caulfield Guineas. Because of the move leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have declare they aren’t likely to send one of their team to the 2240m mobile and with the Australian elite ranks lacking depth after injuries to Hectorjayjay and Bling It On, the Victoria Cup is dominated by Lennytheshark and My Field Marshal. “They are still great horses but we think she is at her best over sprint trips so we are considering taking her to Victoria for the Smoken Up over 1720m in early October and if she raced well then the Victoria Cup,” says Telfer. “She we will nominate her for the Spring Cup next week and make the final decision after that, but a start next week might also depend on her handicap.” Telfer would eventually like to campaign Better B Amazed at Menangle, outside Sydney,where in her current form something close to a 1:50 mile looks within her capabilities. She wasn’t the only big-name pacing mare to impress over the weekend as Dream About Me was a brave third to stablemate Have Faith In Me in their comeback race at Addington on Saturday. Dream About Me was expected to need the outing and paraded looking burly but after sitting parked her run was every bit as good as Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner, who beat her home. She will now become a rarity, a Purdon-Rasmussen starter in this Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru as she needs more concentrated racing while Have Faith In Me will be allowed to miss that next stop on the road to the New Zealand Cup. But much of the Cup focus will be on the Rangiora trials tomorrow where the two dominant favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks have their first public outings for the  season. They are likely to follow identical paths to the great race so punters will get plenty off dress rehearsals to help them make up their minds before November.   Michael Guerin

October’s premier trots event will be named the Allied Express Victoria Cup after Australia’s leading independently-owned courier, freight and logistics company partnered the famed race. Allied Express CEO Colin McDowell said the company’s sponsorship of the October 14 Victoria Cup reflected its commitment to the sport and to greater Melbourne. “Melbourne is an important market for Allied Express and the trots is a vehicle for us to spread the business’s message,” Mr McDowell said. “The Allied Express Victoria Cup is a big race and it’s the night of the Everest and the Caulfield Guineas, so a lot of people will be thinking about the thoroughbreds and the trots on that day.” The prestigious race, which has been won by immortals Christen Me, Lennytheshark and Lazarus in the past three years, further strengthens the long involvement both Allied Express and Mr McDowell have had with the sport. The company, which employs more than 1500 Australians in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, has financially supported the sport for almost 50 years. Mr McDowell has been a trots driver for almost as long as well as a prolific owner and breeder. “It’s in my blood,” he said. “My son (Ben) and daughter-in-law (Kerry) do the training now and we have about 70 horses on the go and are always working to find that next nice horse.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO David Martin said: “Harness Racing Victoria is pleased to have signed Allied Express as naming rights sponsor for the 2017 Victoria Cup. The 2017 Allied Express Victoria Cup promises to be an exciting race.” The cup will be held on October 14 at Tabcorp Park Melton and remains one of only eight Australasian races that form the Grand Circuit. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has tonight announced the Group 1 Victoria Cup will be run on Saturday night, October 14, next season. The Victoria Cup will carry prizemoney of $200,000 – reduced from $400,000 in 2016-17, with the $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint run on the same night.  The $50,000 Smoken Up Sprint will be held on October 6 as the lead-in race to the Victoria Cup, which in turn complements timing for horses wishing to participate in the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Inter Dominion. HRV CEO David Martin acknowledged the scale of the change, explaining that the reduced prizemoney would enable the provision of more races to the industry, and thereby contribute to a continuation of an increased participation rate evident in recent months.  “Importantly, the Victoria Cup will retain its Grand Circuit status and remain a key feature of our racing calendar,” Mr Martin said. Mr Martin also said the alteration would allow the Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star to become the headline act on night one of the Summer of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, January 27. “There will be multiple Group 1 events on the first night of the Summer of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton, so it will remain an elite program with the Great Southern Star the main race, but also featuring the Victoria Derby and the Ladyship Cup,” Mr Martin said. “Night two of the Summer of Glory will feature the Group 1 A. G. Hunter Cup and the Group 1 V. L. Dullard Trotters Cup.  The Ballarat Cup is the week before Great Southern Star night and it made sense not to have three straight Group 1 pacing events of similar distances in three weeks. We wanted to ensure the Hunter Cup attracted the best field possible as part of our Summer of Glory.” Today’s announcement means the Group 1 PETstock Ballarat Cup will be the lead-in race to the A.G. Hunter Cup, with Grand Circuit horses likely to take a week off between the two events. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Lazarus might be the best pacer in the world but he won’t be asked to prove it. Because trainer-driver Mark Purdon says his piece of pacing perfection will never campaign in North America, even though he could potentially dominate there, like he did in Saturday’s A$400,000 Victoria Cup. Lazarus turned the 2240m mobile into an advert for his future stud career, blazing to a 12m win without being asked for his maximum. His task was made easier by a second favourite Hectorjayjay being checked into a gallop early but it wouldn’t have mattered as Lazarus was in front of him by that stage and tore around the Melton track in a 1:52.5 mile rate. He becomes a rare four-year-old winner of the Victoria Cup and is now red hot for the A$1,050,000 treble of the Bonanza, Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile in the next month. Purdon believes Lazarus is still working his way back to his jaw-dropping level of New Zealand Cup week and if he gets there by Miracle Mile night on February 25 he could go close to 1:47 for a mile. It is a very realistic estimate considering Have Faith In Me set the Australasian record at 1:47.5 last season and Lazarus is racing to a higher level than his stablemate was then. A 1:47 mile in the Southern Hemisphere would put Lazarus in the all-time greats of the sport anywhere in the world and it would be hugely tempting to give him his shot at North America next year, where feature race success could set him up as a dual hemisphere stallion. But while that could be worth millions, Purdon says there is enough money to be won in this part of the world without the risk. “I don’t think he needs to go up there and risk the complications,” he explains. “He has some huge races to chase down here and his owners are loving racing him so we haven’t even talked about the stud stuff yet.” If he can stay sound and he doesn’t start thinking more about his love life than his track like, Lazarus could the horse harness racing has prayed for. He was the captain of a near perfect Kiwi team at Melton on Saturday, with Vincent, Motu Meteor and Jack’s Legend winning the three Victoria Derby heats. Jack’s Legend was patiently handled by Zac Butcher but still sat three wide for the last 800m and rated 1:55 for the 2240m, handing trainer Barry Purdon and Butcher as driver a perfect two from two for the night. Earlier in the evening Butcher snuck Rocker Band up the passing lane to win her first Australian start and now takes on Piccadilly Princess in the Ladyship Cup this Saturday, the winner guaranteed a start in the Ladyship Mile on February 25. Motu Meteor made the most of a trail to win his heat but it was Vincent who stole the show, sitting parked before smashing his rivals by 12m and earning $1.30 pre-draw favouritism. Among the older horses Have Faith In Me scored his first win since the Miracle Mile in a support race and while it had to be brave after sitting parked he still looks two or three lengths off the horse of last season, with the Hunter Cup on Saturday his chance to turn that around. For all the greatness of Lazarus perhaps them most heart-warming Kiwi win of the night was Sunny Ruby sneaking home in the Dullard Cup for Sam Smolenski in what was the first Australian start for horse and trainer. “That was a great buzz because obviously the Great Southern Star is the main race we are here for,” said Smolenski. “But I am loving this trip and learning so its a great experience.” Sunny Ruby will now head to this Saturday’s A$300,000 Great Southern Star against Speeding Spur, with Kiwi horses set to be favourites in all five group ones at Melton this Saturday. Michael Guerin

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

Lazarus’ dominant victory in the Eynesbury Victoria Cup reinforced his star-studded status and capped a remarkable night for harness racing trainer-driver Mark Purdon, who registered a fifth win on the trot. The 12m win in the $400,000 Group 1 feature prompted Purdon, not one for grand statements, to share that Lazarus just might be the greatest horse he had ever trained. Purdon had reason to be chuffed after Lazarus’ win topped an incredible winning streak and has him seemingly set for further glory on Saturday’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night. “I feel good. It’s been a great night,” Purdon said. “Unbelievable, you don’t expect to come here and win them all and to do it is a great feeling.” Purdon claimed two VHRSC Victoria Derby heats, including with Vincent who put in a Lazarus like performance, won the The SEW Eurodrive Pure Steel with Have Faith In Me and then drove Sunny Ruby to victory in the Haras Des Trotteurs V L Dullard Trotters Cup. But all the success would have been soured had Lazarus not sealed the deal in the night’s showcase race, and it was a win that never seemed in doubt. Lazarus showed gate speed to match the fast starters inside him, Major Crocker and Tact Tate, and so was able to glide across and then claim the front at the time of his choosing. Lazarus’ biggest threat, Hectorjayjay, had plenty of room to advance from the back row after Major Crocker’s blistering start, but a check with Cruz Bromac saw Hectorjayjay break and plummet to the rear of the field. It as good as put paid to Josh and David Aiken’s challenger and enabled Purdon to run free up front. “You can’t afford to get checked in this sort of race, it’s tough to overcome that against a good horse like this,” Purdon said. “Luckily (Lazarus) got out of the gate good and into a good spot before I decided to take the front.” After a 44.2 lead time Lazarus set 30-second and 28.6-second first and second quarters, the latter after Bling It On loomed into the breeze and then gifted that place to trailing Hectorjayjay. Aiken's was a brave attempt to put the second favourite back into the race, but Lazarus’ 27.4 third quarter and 26.4 final quarter put him into a class of his own, winning by 12m from Major Crocker, who ran an outstanding second and finished some 7.7m clear of third-placed Bling It On. But, in the end there was only one, Lazarus, the four-year-old Bettor's Delight entire out of Bethany for owners Glenys and Phil Kennard, Trevor Casey and Kevin Riseley. “He’s a special horse,” Purdon said. “I said that to the owners as a three-year-old. Smolda got beaten in a free-and-all and I told the owners that Lazarus would have won that, and he was only three at the time.” Smolda will get his turn next week in the $500,000 Group 1 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, when he will take on old foe David Aiken. Purdon’s enormous Summer Of Glory could continue to blaze on February 4 with Lazarus to be an almost unbackable favourite in the Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza and Vincent likewise in the VHRSC Victoria Derby. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Victoria Cup night is one of the biggest meetings in Australasia. Our Aussie correspondent ADAM HAMILTON takes a look at the key races on the fantastic card at Melton on Saturday night. RACE 2 – VICTORIA DERBY HEAT 1 Kiwi raider BE JACKS LEGEND (7) faces a challenge from the outside draw (7). He will need to be good to win. Think the $2 is no value. Plenty of handy Aussies in the race, including: SOMEWHERE SECRET (1) first-up; EMAIN MACHA (5), SA Derby winner OUR JIMMIE (6), WA raider IM ROCKARIA (8) and the improving WRAPPERS DELIGHT (10). Suggested bet: Something each-way WRAPPERS DELIGHT (10) at big odds. RACE 4 – VICTORIA DERBY HEAT 2 If Mark Purdon’s VINCENT (7) is odds-on to win the final, then he should be too good even from the wide draw. No stars amongst his rivals. BLUE MOON RISING (2) isn’t at his top, but begins well and has gate two. ROCKNROLL ICON (3) is talented, but first-up and lacking experience. YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH (8) was OK winning first run for Nicole Molander in much weaker race. Suggested bet: Trifecta Vincent to win with 2 and 3 for second then 1,2,3,4,8 for third. RACE 5 – VICTORIA DERBY HEAT 3 The most of depth of the Derby heats, but lacking star power. Plenty of chances so cannot take skinny odds Breeders Crown 2YO winner OUR LITTLE GENERAL (5) with lack of recent racing. Can win, but too short. Going with JILLIBY KUNG FUN (2). Loved his two wins back and drawn well. MOTU METEOR (1) is big threat from the pole. ASTRIDE (4) and BEACH SURGE (6) next best. Suggested bet: Have something on JILLIBY KUNG FU (2) and saver on MOTU METEOR (1) to upset the favourite. RACE 6 – DULLARD CUP TROT Love ON THUNDER ROAD (2), but worried about the draw is emergency comes out and he moves to the pole. Not super quick out and can get rocky if put under early pressure. No value as favourite. Like WA raider CARDIGAN BOKO (9) each-way value. His times say he’s flying albeit against rubbish opposition. SUNNY RUBY (4) is drawn to run big race. KEYSTONE DEL (10) is the champ but under huge form and fitness cloud. QUITE A MOMENT (11) and GREAT THINGS HAPPEN (13) have claims. Suggested bet: CARDIGAN BOKO (9) each-way for value. RACE 7 – PURE STEEL Pretty obvious HAVE FAITH IN ME (11) only needs to do everything right to thrash this bunch. Monster run after losing 80m with gallop at the start last week. Longer trip suits. Way, way too good. BERISARI (10) is a lovely mare. MAXIMAN (3) is capable at best. Drawn well and good trial with Guaranteed at Melton on Monday. MILLY PEREZ (9) next pick. Suggested bet: If you don’t mind skinny odds, the $1.50 or better HAVE FAITH IN ME (11) is actually value, RACE 8 – VICTORIA CUP At first glance the barrier draw looked to present the race to LAZARUS (6). But, dig a bit deeper, and the first 150m will be crucial to his chances. HECTORJAYJAY (9) will be desperate to follow through behind quick beginner MAJOR CROCKER (2) to try and settle in front of LAZARUS. That could well decide the race. To me, whichever settled in front of the other will find the front and win. BLING IT ON (8) clear third best horse, but inside back row no help (unless stablemate Mach Doro leads from the one and holds-up). Suggested bet: I’d rather than $4.50 or so HECTORJAYJAY and hope than take $1.45 or so LAZARUS. SUMMARY BEST BET: All-up – R4 n7 Vincent into R7 n11 Have Faith In Me ($1.90 all-up) BEST VALUE: Jilliby Kung Fu (R5, n2) at $4.50 or better BEST ROUGHIE: Cardigan Boko (R6, n9) currently $12 available HRNZ NEWS

Josh Aiken has heard all the theories on how Hedctorjayjay can down Kiwi pacing hero Lazarus in the A$400,000 Victoria Cup. He just isn’t sure they are right. The Victorian reinsman isn’t conceding Saturday night’s spectacular at Melton to the hot favourite but he says he is relying on his fellow Aussie drivers going nuts early to help him. Aiken and Hectorjayjay have become the most dominant pair in Australian grand circuit pacing but have yet to snare their really big win, being outstayed by Smolda in the Inter Dominion final. Their chances of revenge on the All Stars stable this week took a blow when Hectorjayjay drew two on the second line and Lazarus drew the front line, logic suggesting the Kiwi has a great shot at the lead. Then the Australian media started to suggest Hectorjayjay may actually be able to push through from the second line early and get in front of Lazarus, with the believers backing Hectorjayjay in from $5 to $4. But even the aggressive young Aiken doesn’t hold much hope of that actually happening. “It would be nice if it did but to be honest I can’t see us getting in front of him early,” said Aiken. “With horses and drivers this good the gaps don’t come easily early and I think we more likely to end up three back on the outer. “But we can still win from there. There is a lot of gate speed right across the front line and if they all come off hard then the first 400m could be really fast. “That gives us a chance of getting them late.” Backing Hectorjayjay to beat Lazarus won’t feel quite as comfortable in that scenario, especially as no horse has ever run past Lazarus in a race. So expect the favourite to keep working forward out wide and if he is able to get the lead, which looks likely with those inside him hardly proven grand circuit performers, then he should win. Lazarus’s stablemates Vincent and Have Faith In Me only have to perform anywhere near their best to win too and Jack’s Legend is good enough to overcome his wide draw in the first Victoria Derby heat but his $2 fixed quote is too short. Making money off the Kiwis won’t be easy but the best value option for loyal punters is Sunny Ruby in the Dullard Cup. The Australian trotters are not super sharp and favourite On Thunder Road is not ideally suited by the ace draw so if Sunny Ruby can work forward to the marker pegs she will be hard top catch, especially after pleasing in a trial at Melton on Tuesday. Michael Guerin

Trots owners will have the best seat in the house at the Eynesbury Victoria Cup this Saturday night. The Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Own the Moment VIP Enclosure will once again be in operation in prime position along the home straight at Tabcorp Park Melton. Owners and a guest are invited to enjoy the night trackside with complimentary finger food and other delicious treats available and live acoustic music between races. "It's going to be a fantastic atmosphere," HRV Owners Manager Tori Glenister said. "The Own the Moment VIP Enclosure was a hit at Breeders Crown and we received really positive feedback from the owners who attended. Enhancing the ownership experience at the track is a key strategy for HRV." Owners will also receive drink vouchers redeemable in the marquee and an exclusive Own the Moment glass of Chandon. The Own the Moment VIP Enclosure will also be in operation at Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup night next Saturday at Tabcorp Park Melton. Visit   CODY WINNELL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER  

The $400,000 Group 1 Eynesbury Victoria Cup is the next scheduled stop for exciting harness racing five-year-old Cruz Bromac after his all-the-way Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup win yesterday. Moments after his 4.7-metre victory over gun mare Berisari in the south-west Victoria club’s annual pacing feature, Braun said  Cruz Bromac (Falcon Seelster-Crown Defender) would be set for the Summer of Glory’s night one jewel on Saturday, January 28, at Tabcorp Park Melton. Driven by Chris Alford, Cruz Bromac toyed with his rivals yesterday to lead from barrier three, delivering Braun back-to-back Hamilton Cups, the Lara horseman having won the race last year with Im Corzin Terror. Cruz Bromac rated 1:57.3 for the 2660-metre trip, reeling off sectionals of 30.4secs, 30.3secs, 27.5secs and 27.3secs. Braun said Cruz Bromac, a winner of 12 of his 21 starts for stakemoney in excess of $152,000, was still learning the caper at the top level but was an exciting prospect moving forward. “I’ve always said I’ve got a big opinion of him,” Braun said. “He’s still got plenty to learn. He’s a big baby out there. He’s very immature and plays around.” Alford said Cruz Bromac travelled sweetly in the run yesterday and added he was confident Cruz Bromac would continue to improve as he matures. “If you have a look through the other runners in the field today they’ve all had plenty of starts, but he’s only had 21. He’s still learning. He’s untapped really at this level and he’ll keep getting better.” Yesterday’s win moved Cruz Bromac into outright third place on the $25,000 Own the Moment Trots Country Cups Championship ladder, two points behind Hectorjayjay and one behind Major Secret. The winner of the Trots Country Cups Championship at the end of the Country Cups season picks up $25,000, with $15,000 going to the winning connections and $10,000 to the winning trainer. Six-year-old mare Berisari from the Emma Stewart stable was game in second place yesterday and will likely head towards the $100,000 Alabar Ladyship Cup on Hunter Cup Night (which doubles as a qualifier for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle). Idea Success was beaten 7.9m by the winner in third place for reinsman Grant Campbell, that six-year-old from the Kerryn Manning camp at Great Western now in equal fourth place for the Trots Country Cups Championship on six points. Meanwhile, Matthew Craven prepared El Paco (Yankee Paco-Kellybrooke) scored a tough win in the Mountain View Stud Hamilton Trotters Cup over 2660m. Driven by Glen Craven, El Paco moved to the breeze in the early stages of the race outside favourite and stablemate Uncas. El Paco softened up the leader during the third quarter, applying the pressure for a 28.1secs split, and kicked to a clear lead at the top of the straight before fending off fast-finishing Zedalite (Rod Petroff) in second, with Ainthatrightmacca third beaten 4.1 for Denbeigh Wade. “This is a terrific result for the stable and I’m really thankful for the whole team and the work they put in,” Matt Craven said post-race. “(El Paco) had run a nice race off 30m in Adelaide last week but wasn’t able to get the job done there, so to win today and for mum to own this one is pretty special.” El Paco is likely to head to Sydney to contest the NSW carnival features, with Craven saying “he is probably just a rung below the really top ones in Victoria”. The Hamilton Club slashed admission costs and had local market traders on track in a bid to attract new people to their big day. It worked, a strong crowd enjoying the action throughout the eight-race card, with plenty of positive feedback coming from happy patrons. The Trots Country Cups spotlight turns to Ballarat now for the running of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup meeting on Saturday night. Check out for the videos. By Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

TOP Aussie harness racing trainer David Aiken has given long range punters a huge “leg-up” by outlining his plans for stable stars Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay. The glamour pair – Australia’s two best pacers – are back in Victoria and enjoying some rejuvenation at Peter Clarke’s water-walker in in Murchison before returning to Aiken’s nearby Shepparton stables next week. “It’s a brutal program and the good horses can’t run in all the good races, so you have to make a plan,” he said. “It’s a rough plan at this stage because I haven’t worked through it with all the connections, but I think we will target the Victoria Cup (January 28) with Hectorjayjay and the Hunter Cup (February 4) with Lennytheshark.” On the way to their respective targets, Hectorjayjay looks set to tackle the Shepparton Cup on January 14 with Lennytheshark to head to the Ballarat Cup on January 21. Lennytheshark’s program puts him on the same course as his arch-rival Smolda. While Hectorjayjay will lock horns with Lazarus and others in the Victoria Cup. Aiken said his stars would then both head to NSW for the Miracle Mile. In an extraordinarily open and honest assessment, Aiken conceded Lazarus was the best horse in Australasia right now, not one of his pair. “I said to Mark after the NZ Cup that I thought Lazarus could be the best horse in the world right now. I think he could North America’s best,” Aiken said. “What he did that day (NZ Cup) was simply amazing. He’s freakish that horse. “He’s the one we all have to beat in the Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile.” Asked which of his pair would have the best chance of testing Lazarus in the Miracle Mile, Aiken quickly said Hectorjayjay. “He’s got incredible speed Hectorjayjay and he runs that speed to easily,” he said. “He’s better suited to a Miracle Mile than Lenny and with the right run I think he can make a race of it with Lazarus. “I was really proud of him in defeat in Perth. If the leader hadn’t choked-down, I think he’d have won and 2900m certainly isn’t Hector’s most suitable distance.” Adam Hamilton

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