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For A Reason’s prospects of joining an elite harness racing fraternity have been hampered by a shocking draw in Saturday night’s Victoria Cup. A stylish winner of last season’s edition, For A Reason is aiming to become just the third champion to defend his title since the race became a Grand Circuit event in 1987. Bag Limit was the first to claim consecutive wins, having emerged triumphant for the late Bob and Vin Knight. Known as the Winfield Gold Cup at the time, Bag Limit’s second victory in 1988 was the foundation for Vin’s famous “yous who are booing” speech. New Zealand star Desperate Comment became the second back-to-back winner when he was successful in 1996 and ’97. The only other pacer to win the Grand Circuit event twice is Sinbad Bay, which scored in 1989 and 1991. Also a member of the Knight stable, Sinbad Bay missed the 1990 version through injury. Before the Cup’s acceptance on the Grand Circuit, Popular Alm – another Knight runner – won the 1982 and ’83 versions. Koala King is the true star of the feature, with his victories in 1978, ’79 and ’80. That brings us back to For A Reason, which will begin from barrier 11 for New South Wales trainer Belinda McCarthy. “The draw certainly makes life tough,” McCarthy said. “From there is he going to need a bit of luck. “His work has been great and we are very happy with him heading into this. “He just never got into the Shepparton Cup on the weekend from his 30-metre handicap, so you can forget he even went around. “He is going as good as he was when he won last year, he just hasn’t had much luck during his last couple of starts.” PAUL COURTS

Gammalite, Our Sir Vancelot, Thorate, Village Kid, Westburn Grant and Im Themightyquinn have so many things in common. Each has earned more than $1million, captured numerous Group Ones, been Australian Horse of the Year and can lay claim to the status of a champion. The sextet has also enjoyed success in the race regarded as the industry’s ‘holy grail’ – the Inter Dominion. It is fair to assume most people will make the reasonable declaration the Inter Dominion is the hardest event on the harness calendar to win. No doubt a survey among participants will back up the theory, but here is something which may change that way of thinking – or in the very least, provide food for thought. The Victoria Cup is harder to capture than the Inter Dominion. Sure, the first reaction will be ‘No way’, but consider a few facts first. The above mentioned stars, which have won an amazing 55 Grand Circuit races between them, couldn’t win Victoria’s premier mobile feature from several attempts. In fact, since its inception in 1974, the Cup – which was known as the Winfield Gold Cup until 1989 – has only been won by six Inter Dominion stars. Three of those have been during the past 15 years and three of the six won the Inter Dominion after their Cup triumph. With the exception of the Victoria Cup, the elite fraternity has won every state’s flagship race. So does that make the Cup the most difficult race to win? Record-breaking horseman Vic Frost, who prepared Westburn Grant, believes it is. “I didn’t realize so many champions couldn’t win that race,” Frost said. “It just goes to show how difficult the Victoria Cup is to win and that’s saying something. “We took him everywhere and enjoyed success all over the place, but he just couldn’t crack the Cup. “That Cup was the thorn in his side – Westburn Grant’s kryptonite.” Westburn Grant had three starts in the Group One, with two fourths his best results. The son of Land Grant competed in 1990, ’92 and ’93, finishing fourth behind Sovereign Cloud and Master Musician and fifth behind Franco Ice. For the record, Westburn Grant, which retired as the nation’s richest stallion with earnings of $2,074,916, was triumphant in two West Australia Cups, two Miracle Miles, the Queensland Pacing Championship, M H Treuer Memorial, two South Australia Cups and the Australian Pacing Championship. Village Kid crossed the Nullarbor twice for the race and found Bag Limit his nemesis on both occasions. Retiring as the nation’s richest pacer, Village Kid secured two Miracle Miles, the M H Treuer Memorial, two Fremantle Cups, Australian Pacing Championship, four West Australia Cups and the A G Hunter Cup on his way to earning $2,117,870. Just like Village Kid’s strong affiliation with the WA Cup, Gammalite had a bond with South Australia’s pinnacle event. The Leo O’Connor-trained iron horse captured the SA Cup on four consecutive occasions between 1982 and 1985. Gammalite, which retired as the richest pacer in the Southern Hemisphere, was a star from the time he made his debut and grabbed his first Group One when he secured the SA Derby. Gammalite’s Winfield Gold Cup outings resulted in a second behind Frosty Imp in 1981, fourth behind Popular Alm in 1982 and second to the same pacer in 1983. Gammalite’s Grand Circuit wins include the Queensland Pacing Championship and West Australia and A G Hunter Cups. During the ‘Winfield’ era, Brian Hancock won the race on three consecutive occasions with Koala King, but has failed to enjoy the glory from 12 attempts in the feature since the switch to mobile. Hancock was represented during the latter starts by Thorate and Our Sir Vancelot, which were both beaten in the last stride in one of their attempts. Thorate had four starts in the Cup for a second, third, fourth and last. A son of King Kellanie, Thorate managed to emerge triumphant in the Queensland Pacing Championship, M H Treuer Memorial, South Australia Cup and Tasmanian Championship. Like Thorate, which was beaten by a half-head by Sovereign Cloud, Our Sir Vancelot was denied his glory by the narrowest of margins when Brabham scored in 1998. Our Sir Vancelot’s other starts resulted in a third behind Holmes D G in 1999 and a fourth behind Desperate Comment in 1997. The first pacer to capture three Inter Dominion titles, Our Sir Vancelot retired with earnings of $2,197,990 to take the crown as the nation’s richest pacer from Village Kid. Our Sir Vancelot boasts the Miracle Mile, two M H Treuer Memorials, the South Australia Cup, Australian Pacing Championship and two West Australia Cups among his victories. Then there is the ‘Western Wonder’ – Im Themightyquinn. One of only three pacers to capture three or more Inter Dominions, Im Themightyquinn was void of luck each time he has competed in the Cup. The Gary Hall-trained champion has two thirds and a last from his three starts in the time-honoured event. Im Themightyquinn was retired last year with an outstanding record of 58 wins and 34 placings from 111 starts for earnings of $4,567,456 to be Australasia’s second richest behind Blacks A Fake ($4,575,438). Im Themightyquinn’s victories include three WA Cups and three Fremantle Cups. PAUL COURTS

The anticipation ahead of Saturday night’s Victoria Cup is palpable. Tabcorp Park Melton will be the grand stage as 12 genuine harness racing top liners compete for summer Group One glory, with $400,000 on the line over 2240 metres. Barring any eleventh-hour misfortunes, the general consensus is nine of the 12 Victoria Cup spots have been locked away and the remaining three holes will be filled with runners from a group of five contenders. You can’t fit five horses into three spots, so there will be at least two hard-luck stories when the field is revealed ahead of the barrier draw tomorrow morning. And there will almost certainly be a host of other horses who in previous years would be lining up in the Victoria Cup, but will this year miss out. The ‘locks’ are said to be Guaranteed ($4.50), Philadelphia Man ($5.5), Beautide ($5.5), Adore Me ($7), Christen Me ($6), Terror To Love ($8), Im Corzin Terror ($51), For A Reason ($26) and David Hercules ($26). The other five – also known as “lineball runners” - are believed to be Franco Ledger ($18), Suave Stuey Lombo ($51), Avonova ($41), Lennytheshark ($10) and Restrepo ($26). And then there are the likely ‘hard luckers’, consisting of Chilli Palmer ($51), Arden Rooney ($101), Bit Of A Legend ($101), Flaming Flutter ($101), Blazin N Cullen ($201), Chancellor Cullen ($201), Cold Major ($201), Easy On The Eye ($201), Mach Alert ($201) and Monifieth ($201). There will be much debate all week about just where this field stacks up in the list of “all-time great Victoria Cup fields”. However, when you consider the quality and form of the runners who will miss a start in the race, it’s not hard to mount an argument that this race has the makings of an absolute classic. Let the debate about who should get into the field and why begin – and let the countdown to the field of dreams continue. This is going to be fun. JOIN THE DISCUSSION ON TWITTER: TWEET YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHO SHOULD BE IN THE VICTORIA CUP AND WHY TO @HRVNEWS WITH THE #SOG HASHTAG. HRV Media

Former New Zealander Franco Ledger sealed his position in two of harness racing’s biggest events with his success at Shepparton tonight. Thanks to his victory in the club’s flagship feature, Franco Ledger is certain to gain a berth in next Saturday night’s Victoria Cup and the A G Hunter Cup the following week. Should the seven-year-old race up to expectations, he will also compete in an Inter Dominion heat of February 14. Australasia’s pinnacle event, the Inter Dominion Final is scheduled to be held at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 1. Since being transferred to local trainer Geoff Webster, Franco Ledger has won two of his three starts, while finishing fifth in the South Australia Cup after over racing a fortnight ago. During his two victories, Franco Ledger has been driven with a sit, which Webster stated is obviously the best way to drive the son of Falcon Seelster. “In his first-up win at Melton and again tonight he has finished brilliantly when given the chance to come with one big run in the straight,” Webster said. “Both times he has hit the line hard and felt terrific. “In South Australia when he led, he got on the steel pretty hard, which ultimately cost him. “With that said, he is obviously suited to being driven for a bit of luck.” With Webster in the cart during his latest triumph, Franco Ledger began slowly from the pole to settle two-back along the pegs as Lennytheshark and then hot favourite, Philadelphia Man led. Finishing swiftly along the passing lane, Franco Ledger sprinted to a two-and-a-half metre win from Philadelphia Man, with Lennytheshark three metres away third in his first run since last July. “He got a nice trip along and when the opening came, he was good enough to take advantage of it,” Webster said. “Down the back and around the home turn I knew he was travelling well and I was positive he’d run in the top three. “Once he straightened he just sprinted so well and rounded them up pretty easily. “That should be enough to see him make his way into the Victoria and Hunter Cups.” Covering the last half in a slick 55.1 seconds, the stallion rated 1:58.9 for the 2690-metre journey, with his time just five-tenths of a second outside Mr Feelgood’s track record set in the 2009 Cup. PAUL COURTS

Boom local Guaranteed is now a clear favourite for Victorian harness racing’s two biggest events. Following a weekend of impressive wins and questions raised, Guaranteed is topping TAB’s Fixed Odds markets for the Victoria and A G Hunter Cup. The Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin-trained stallion is $5 for the Victoria Cup, which is scheduled to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 31. Guaranteed was $6 when markets opened last month, with Beautide favourite at $4. Beautide is now on the fourth line of betting at $7 after being scratched from last Saturday night’s Bendigo Cup. The James Rattray-trained gelding hasn’t races since his second behind Christen Me in the Miracle Mile last November. Beautide was also nominated for the Ballarat Cup on December 13, but Rattray elected not to accept due to a setback. An ultra-impressive winner of Saturday night’s Bendigo Cup, Christen Me is at $5.50 along with Philadelphia Man – a stablemate of Guranteed – which has come in from $10. Although he hasn’t raced since beating Guaranteed in the Vicbred Final last July, Lennytheshark has been a surprise market mover on the strength of his strong tial. A member of the David Aiken stable, Lennytheshark’s quote has come in from $31 to $21. Beautide was also the early favourite for the Hunter Cup on February 7, but Rattray decided to bypass the event when it became obvious the son of Bettors Delight wouldn’t meet the conditions. To qualify for the time-honoured event, candidates must have completed a satisfactory standing start under race conditions. Beautide hasn’t raced from behind the tapes since April 2013. Originally posted at $6, along with New Zealand mare, Adore Me, Guranteed is a clear favourite at $4.50, with Adore Me next at $5.50 for trainer Mark Purdon. Christen Me and Terror To Love are at $6, with Philadelphia Man on $9. Following his demolition of yesterday’s Hamilton Cup field, proven campaigner, Restrepo, has been the biggest market mover. Also hailing from the Stewart/Tonkin camp, Restrepo had his price slashed from $21 to $12, giving the power couple three of the top six Hunter Cup prospects. There have been several adjustments over the past few days the most notable being Restrepo which firmed from $21 to $12 for the stand-start Hunter Cup following his impressive win in the Hamilton Pacing Cup today. He remains at $21 for the Victoria Cup (unchanged). PAUL COURTS

Leading Summer of Glory player Christen Me scored an all-the-way win in tonight's harness racing $50,505 Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup. The Cran Dalgety trained Kiwi superstar cleared out late for reinsman Dexter Dunn in the 2650m race, clocking a 54.1-second last half after being unchallenged in front mid-race, scoring a 14.1-metre win over runner-up Smudge Bromac. First-up since finishing second to Terror To Love in a stirring Cranbourne Pacing Cup on December 6, Christen Me – the winner of last year's Miracle Mile in Sydney and the reigning Hunter Cup champion – will be hard to beat in the Victoria Cup on January 31. Dunn was typically cool throughout tonight’s contest despite concession reinsman Zac Phillips pulling the first surprise off the arm and dashing to the lead from gate seven aboard outsider Hall Of Famer. The son of Christian Cullen quickly assumed the front with Hall Of Famer snaring the leader’s back. Im Corzin Terror and driver Alex Ashwood got mobile early and worked around to find the breeze before more moves came as the pace slowed. Chilli Palmer (Chris Alford), first-up from a spell, eased back to last early and the slow speed didn’t suit his cause. However, the son of Elsu was the eye-catcher of the race, launching home out wide in the home straight to just miss second in a photo-finish. His late splits will be super and many punters will pencil him into their black book. Smudge Bromac (Nathan Jack) produced a big run in second, the nine-year-old David Aiken trained entire the first of Aiken’s four cup runners over the line (Cold Major fifth, Wartime Sweetheart sixth and Jaccka Clive ninth). Bendigo Cup Finishing Order 1: Christen Me 2: Smudge Bromac 3: Chilli Palmer 4: Im Corzin Terror 5: Cold Major 6: Wartime Sweetheart 7: Uncle Wingnut 8: Jaccka Clive 9: Hall Of Famer Group 2 Petstock Bendigo Pacing Cup by Cody Winnell Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

Harness Racing's millionaire pacer Terror To Love is on the slow burn while his rivals are on fire. But co-trainer Paul Court isn’t letting a weekend of remarkable performances from those rivals intimidate their camp heading into the richest five weeks in harness racing.  Almost all of pacing’s open class superstars will converge on Victoria in two weeks for the race of the year, the A$400,000 Victoria Cup, to be followed by the Hunter Cup a week later, the A$750,000 Inter Dominion and then for some the Auckland Cup.  That means in the space of 34 days the elite pacers can race for $1.9million in stakes and the big guns are already firing.  Adore Me fired the first shot when she sat parked and effortlessly paced 1:51.6 in the Flying Mile at Cambridge on Friday night before two Emma Stewart-trained pacers threw down the gauntlet to the Kiwis in Australia over the weekend.  Miracle Mile placegetter Guaranteed also sat parked before obliterating the track record in an admittedly weak South Australia Cup on Saturday night, but regardless of the standard of the opposition it was a serious win.  Then on Sunday his stablemate Philadelphia Man lived up to his huge hype by sitting parked and crushing For A Reason in another track record Horsham Cup.  So that trio are going into the Victoria Cup on January 31 in faultless form while pacing’s two greatest arch rivals Beautide and Christen Me renew their rivalry in the Bendigo Cup this Saturday.  But while all of this is happening, three-time New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love is cooling his heels in Canterbury, ready for a short, sharp Australian assault.  He hasn’t raced since a bizarre defeat in the Ballarat Cup on December 14 and won’t even start the public side of his campaign until next week.  “We will take him to the trials at Ashburton next Tuesday,” says Court.  “And then he will go straight to Melbourne and he will go into the Victoria Cup fresh.”  Court and his father Graham know that will likely leave Terror To Love a touch underdone for the first battle of the giants but they are thinking longer term.  “He is well in himself and didn’t really put any weight on when he had his two weeks off after the Ballarat Cup,” says Paul.  “And he does go well fresh so he can still be a factor in the Victoria Cup.  “But the way some of these other horses are racing it will be a awfully hard race to win and you will need a lot of luck.  “Whereas I think he will improve through that entire campaign and the week after, the Hunter Cup, is probably more his go being a standing start staying race. “Then we have the Inters so by then maybe some of these other horses who have raced over the summer might be getting a little tired and we should still be going.”  Court says while two years ago Terror To Love may have struggled with the busy racing schedule he is about to embark on, he showed he can handle it now by winning the Cranbourne Cup last month after a huge month of racing on both sides of the Tasman.  “We are happy with where we are at but we have also been watching all those other horses running fast times over the weekend and we know none of these races are going to be easy to win.  “So I think it is going to be a pretty incredible month.”   Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand  

Reigning champion For A Reason will have two more ‘sparring sessions’ before heading to Melton for his harness racing title defence. Outclassing his rivals in last season’s Victoria Cup, For A Reason is being primed by trainer Belinda McCarthy for his return bout on January 31. Success will see For A Reason become just fifth winner to retain his belt since the Cup’s inception in 1974 when known as the Winfield Gold Cup. Koala King was the ground breaker, scoring in 1978, ’79 and ’80 to remain the only triple winner of the Grand Circuit gem. Popular Alm became the second consecutive winner thanks to his victories in 1982 and ’83, followed by Bag Limit in ’87 and ’88 and Desperate Comment in 1996 and ’97. Sinbad Bay is the only other dual winner, having emerged triumphant in 1989 and 1991. McCarthy revealed her plans following For A Reason’s win in last Friday night’s Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst. First-up for a month, the son of Art Major easily accounted for Monifieth and Shannonsablast in 1:58.1 for the 2260 metres. “That was a pretty handy run,” McCarthy said. “He had a few days off after the Miracle Mile, which has really brightened him up. “He will benefit from that run and will have two more up here before we head down for the Victoria Cup.” Following his trip south of the Murray River, For A Reason will return to McCarthy’s New South Wales base to prepare for the TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion. Heats of the time honoured series are scheduled to be run throughout Australasia on February 14, with the Final at Menangle on March 1. PAUL COURTS

Adore Me might be forcing harness racing trainer Mark Purdon into a corner ... a corner in Victoria. The great mare recorded another group one at Alexandra Park last Friday but was made to work for the $100,000 Rosslands Queen Of Hearts, after Purdon made the brave decision to take luck out of play. He could have easily punched through from one on the second line to trail Helena Jet and see what happened next, aware than after winning a New Zealand Cup, Adore Me doesn’t really have that much left to prove. But instead Purdon chose to take luck out of play and snagged Adore Me straight off the markers, a move that saw him settle second last but gave him the option to progress when he wanted. That was at the bell and while Adore Me got to the parked position without great effort, Helena Jet and trailer Lancewood Lizzie had had easy runs and were going to make her work to get past them. So it proved as Adore Me took most of the straight to grab the front, courtesy of a 26.5 second last 400m, during which she even looked vulnerable at the 200m mark. It wasn’t her best or biggest win but like a female pacing All Black, she found a way to win at the highest level with what wasn’t her absolute best performance. Purdon was pleased after her defence of the title she won last season and confirmed the Flying Mile at Cambridge on January 9 is almost certainly her next target. But then he suggested a surprise deviation in her plans, with the possibility she could contest either the Victoria or Hunter Cup. Nominations for those races closed last Friday and Adore Me was among them, Purdon initially putting her in “just in case.” A far more likely target, then and now, was a mares race at Addington at the end of the month but while they would be at her mercy, the two Melton races are A$400,000 each, enormous money. But with the change of date for the Breeder Stakes from late January to March 20, all of a sudden Australia looks a far juicier option. And complicating the matter is the $50,000 Inter Dominion heat slated for Addington on February 14 is looking under threat, especially as Christen Me, Terror To Love and Franco Nelson are heading to Victoria. So Purdon needs to weight up whether to stick to mares racing for a total of about $300,000 from mid January to March, or head to Victoria and then have the possibility of the Inter Dominion on March 1, which means racing for A$1.6million. That is a huge difference and after what she did in the New Zealand Cup, who would argue she couldn’t win a Hunter Cup, especially as Beautide and For A Reason will miss that race. “Victoria is definitely becoming more of an option” admitted Purdon. “But really I want to take it one race at a time. So we will head to Cambridge and then make a decision after that. “If she went there she might only start in one of them, the Victoria or the Hunter Cup. But we are entered for them now so it is a possibility.”
 That would be news to the ears of the trainers of the other top mares in the country as a good race at Addington could await one of them. But if Adore Me stays that doesn’t look achievable because she showed again last week she can sit parked and beat them. Its not always easy, but she can still do it. Another horse who could have a Victorian change of plans is Christen Me. Trainer Cran Dalgety says the Miracle Mile winner is now a chance to head to the Shepparton Cup on January as his lead-up to the Victoria and Hunter Cups the following Saturdays. “He will need a lead up race to the Victoria Cup and the mile at Cambridge is too soon,” said Dalgety. “So I am looking at Shepparton, even though he would be off a 30m handicap.” By Michael Guerin Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

Despite his last start defeat, harness racing star Beautide is the early favourite for Victoria’s two Grand Circuit events with TAB Fixed Odds. Nominations for the Victoria and A G Hunter Cups were released, with the reigning Inter Dominion champion heading the market. Second behind Christen Me in last month’s Miracle Mile, Beautide is favoured to beat the Kiwi beginning with the Victoria Cup on January 31 and again the following week. The James Rattray-trained gelding is $4 for the state’s premier mobile event and $5 in Australia’s most prestigious handicap. Rattray has yet to commit to a Hunter Cup start. Christen Me is on the third line of betting at $7 in both Cups despite being the defending Hunter Cup champion. Last season’s Victoria Cup hero, For A Reason, is $14 in his title defence, with boom local, Guaranteed, the best of the locals at $6. Guaranteed is also the second elect for the Hunter Cup at $6, equal with New Zealand Cup winner, Adore Me. PAUL COURTS VICTORIA CUP $4 Beautide $6 Guaranteed $7 Christen Me, Terror To Love $9 Adore Me $10 Philadelphia Man $14 For A Reason, Keayang Cullen $18 Im Corzin Terror $21 Restrepo $26 David Hercules $31 or better others   HUNTER CUP $5 Beautide $6 Adore Me, Guaranteed $7 Christen Me, Terror To Love $11 Philadelphia Man $14 For A Reason, Im Corzin Terror $21 Arden Rooney, Keayang Cullen, Restrepo, The Gold Ace $26 David Hercules $31 or better others

Defending champions For A Reason and Christen Me are among the record nominations for Victorian harness racing’s two Grand Circuit events. Scheduled to be run at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 31, the Victoria Cup has attracted 58 nominations, headed by New South Wales competitor For A Reason. A member of the powerful Belinda McCarthy stable, For A Reason captured last season’s edition when driven by the trainer’s reinsman-husband, Luke. Miracle Mile placegetter, Guaranteed, heads the locals prospects, with the list including reigning Inter Dominion title holder Beautide, last week’s Ballarat Cup winner, Im Corzin Terror, and recent Cranbourne Cup winner, Terror To Love. Christen Me will also contest the mobile event before backing-up for his A G Hunter Cup defence a week later. A member of the Cran Dalgerty stable, Christen Me fifth pacer to successfully defend his crown in Australia’s premier handicap. Springfield Globe was the ground breaker in 1961 and ’62, followed by Monara in ’73 and ’74, Pure Steel in ’77 and ’78 and Blossom Lady in ’94 and ’95. Pure Steel was also triumphant in 1980 to be the only triple champion. Minuteman is the only other dual winner, having captured the time-honoured event in 1964 and ’66. Thanks to his Kilmore Cup victory last October, Guaranteed is exempt from ballot, with the remainder of the 70 nominations via for a place in the elite field. PAUL COURTS TAB.COM.AU VICTORIA CUP NOMINATIONS Falco Peregrinus Macha Artoc Bit Of A Legend Lets Elope Our Jimmy Johnstone Comply Or Die Flaming Flutter Hilltop Hustler It Is Billy Our Major Mark Philadelphia Man Steam Washed Bellas Delight Blazin N Cullen Fearless Leader Franco Nelson Keayang Steamer Lennytheshark Mark Dennis Monifieth Pub Blitz Savesomtimetodream Uncle Wingnut Adore Me Chilli Palmer Cold Major Come On Frank Guaranteed Laterron Magical Telf Restrepo Wartime Sweetheart Chancellor Cullen Maximan Chariot King Gumdrops Mach Alert Mach Beauty Bettors Fire For A Reason Abettorpunt Easy On The Eye Im Corzin Terror Motu Crusader The Gold Ace Avonnova Seel N Print Keayang Cullen Beautide Bitobliss Christen Me Suave Stuey Lombo Forever Gold David Hercules Terror To Love Arden Rooney Franco Ledger DEL-RE NATIONAL FOOD GROUP HUNTER CUP NOMINATIONS Bushrod Falco Peregrinus Macha Macho Comacho Rule Like A King Star Chamber Yayas Hot Spot Artoc Bio Marinus Bit Of A Legend Classy Western Lets Elope Our Jimmy Johnstone Washmepockets Comply Or Die Dynamite Dude Flaming Flutter Hilltop Hustler It Is Billy Marty Monkhouser Our Major Mark Philadelphia Man Steam Washed Bellas Delight Blazin N Cullen Fearless Leader Franco Nelson Keayang Steamer Lennytheshark Mark Dennis Monifieth Pub Blitz Savesomtimetodream Uncle Wingnut Adore Me Chilli Palmer Guaranteed Kotare Roland Laterron Magical Telf Restrepo Wartime Sweetheart Chancellor Cullen Maximan Blucolla Tigerpie Chariot King Gumdrops Mach Alert Mach Beauty Smudge Bromac Bettors Fire For A Reason Abettorpunt Easy On The Eye Im Corzin Terror Motu Crusader The Gold Ace Avonnova Jaccka Clive Saucy Legend Seel N Print Keayang Cullen Beautide Bitobliss Christen Me Suave Stuey Lombo Forever Gold David Hercules Terror To Love Arden Rooney Franco Ledger Tiger Tara

No decisions on the immediate racing programme of New Zealand Cup winner Adore Me have been made yet as she heads into the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. At this stage once the  Auckland Xmas carnival is safely over, champion mare Adore Me is likely to head to the Waikato Flying Mile on January 9. As former stable star Auckland Reactor has done in the past, Adore Me will take on the best on the 1000 metres Cambridge track but this year it will be a race with a difference. It will probably be the main guide that Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will use when they decide the racing programme for Adore Me for the remainder of the season. Just what races Adore Me will be set for is up in the air and the programme set for her may yet include some Australian features. Mark was non committal when asked where Adore Me may race next. "She is nominated for both the Victoria Cup (January 31 2240m) and the A G Hunter Cup ($400,000-February 7-3280m) but we will reassess her programme after the Flying Mile" Mark said Wednesday. "She is not at this stage any certainty to compete in the Inter Dominions Series (the final is on March 1) although the Ladyship Mile on grand final day is on the radar" Mark said. Mark's has more immediate concerns in light of  Adore Me's tricky draw in the Queen of Hearts on Friday night at Alexandra Park. "It is going to be an interesting race." "It is a bad draw for us although we are behind Helena Jet whom I rate the hardest to beat from the draw." "If I stay behind her Ricky will put us three pegs at some stage but he will be wanting to only give the lead to the right horse so it might not work out too badly." "So that is probably what we will do." "The only other way to drop out and wait for a run into the race is an option but following Helena Jet is probably the way to go." "I can't decide too much in advance," Mark said Harnesslink Media  

 Miracle Mile hero Christen Me is set to sidestep the Auckland harness racing summer for a shot at one of the richest seasons ever by a Kiwi pacer in Australia. The Canterbury flyer was tired but in perfect condition yesterday after his 1:49.1 victory in the A$750,000 mile at Menangle on Saturday night, in which he claimed revenge over his conqueror of last season Beautide. Now trainer Cran Dalgety has a smorgasbord of huge-money racing opportunities across the Tasman which will see him divert from his original plan to target Auckland and Cambridge over the New Year. “First up I think we will head to Cranbourne this Saturday,” says Dalgety. “It is A$100,000 but the big boys like Beautide and Guaranteed aren’t going there so we will try and snaffle that one. “But whatever happens there he will miss the Ballarat Cup a week later and head back home (Christchurch) because he has some really serious stuff coming up. “All of which means he will miss the good races at Alexandra Park and Cambridge." "As much as we would like to be there, the money in Aussie is too big to pass up.” Christen Me’s first aim in the New Year will be the A$400,000 Victoria Cup on January 31, followed by the A$400,000 Hunter Cup a week later. He then has a $50,000 Inter Dominion heat before the A$750,000 final at Menangle, where he has won three of his four starts, on March 1. That would leave him with the option of returning for the $250,000 Auckland Cup five days later, a turnaround successfully achieved by both I’m Themightyquinn and Terror To Love in the last two years. That is over NZ$2million worth of races in just six weeks, a pretty compelling case for Christen Me to be taking things easy over Christmas rather than racing at The Park. Not that the six-year-old is going to be gifted any of those group ones as the Australian circuit has some real depth, with Beautide brave in defeat on Saturday and Guaranteed’s star on the rise. Open class also beckons for the exceptional Philadelphia Man while Terror To Love will return to Australia for the Victoria-Hunter Cup double. He was greatly improved on past Menangle performances when coming from last for fourth on Saturday night and may yet get his Australian group one to cap his career. If Christen Me makes it safely through all that his close relation Adore Me will be at Alexandra Park waiting for him Auckland Cup night. “It is incredibly hard racing when you think of all the great horses going around,” said Dalgety. “But he has shown he is up to them now and he is handling the rough and tumble a lot better than he did last season." “The sort of money we are racing for is quite mind-boggling.” Christen Me’s 1:49.1 time on Saturday was a staggering 5.3 seconds faster than the mile rate his champion sire Christian Cullen paced winning one of the most memorable Miracle Miles in 1998. That was back at the old saucer-like Harold Park, with the development of Menangle, better track conditioning, sturdier sulkies and more aggressive tactics seeing pacing times plummet in the last five years. Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand 

He was named, by majority owner Rob Nalder, after one of the greatest cricketers of the twentieth century – the explosive West Indian batsmen Viv Richards. The Aussie Caribbean Blaster certainly didn’t let anyone down and especially not the great man Viv Richards. Two people who he did leave an indelible impression on are the husband and wife team Andy and Kate Gath. “He’s the most perfect horse I’ve ever trained” said Andy recently. “He’s everything you want in a horse – great gaited, a great constitution and amazing recovery rate after a tough run, perfect conformation and always gave 120% in all his races.” Sadly Caribbean Blaster suffered a suspensory injury in late July and he will now commence a new chapter in his best selling life story – a stud career at Yirribee Stud in Southern NSW, under the management of his part owner Alabar Bloodstock. The “Blaster” displayed the attributes of a top horse right from the start, albeit he raced rather greenly in his three starts as a two year old. As a three year old, there were signs that he could develop into a “Big Time” horse – second in the Group One South Australian Derby, a fast closing second to Sushi Sushi in the Breeders Crown Semi Final and then a close up fourth place finish from the 12 hole in the Breeders Crown Final – his own mile rate being 1:54.9 for the 2240 metres. Just five days later Caribbean Blaster won The Graduate, a 2240 metre standing start race, in a 1:57.5 mile rate – an Australasian record which remains to this day. “The turning point in Caribbean Blaster’s career came when he triumphed in the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle” said Andy Gath. That night he defeated Sushi Sushi, Excel Stride and the hotshot Kiwi Hands Christian in 1:52.6, last quarter in 26.6 seconds. The defining victory in his career was the 2012 Victoria Cup when he was handed the number 13 saddlecloth to start with. Aided by a brilliant Kate Gath steer, the Blaster defeated Australia’s best including Im Themightyquinn, Smoken Up, Mah Sish, Washakie and The Gold Ace to name a few. Caribbean Blaster raced on 79 occasions in a predominately four season career for 24 victories and prizemoney of $1,113,678 – he passed the million dollar mark when defeating the mighty warrior Smoken Up in the 2014 South Australian Cup. He was driven in every one of those starts by the effervescent Kate Gath. As impressive as Caribbean Blaster was on the racetrack, he has a pedigree that could be described as glittering as diamonds. His sire Bettor’s Delight as a champion stallion and has dominated the Leading Sires lists in the Southern Hemisphere for the past three years. Caribbean Blaster is from the Safely Kept mare Kalypso and was bred and sold at the 2009 APG sales for $70,000 by the Bathurst based Brooklyn Lodge. He is thus a half brother to four winners including Protikori ($212,109), placed in four Group One events, and the $125,000 winning Kalypson Kid 1:56.4. Caribbean Blaster will stand at Yirribee Pacing Stud for a debut Service Fee of $2,750 (incl GST). All booking enquiries can be directed to Alabar Bloodstock – (03) 5859 2201. Harnesslink Media        

Harnesslink has learned that the outstanding racehorse, Caribbean Blaster has suffered a career ending injury which has brought a premature end to his harness racing career. The super consistent and talented entire faced the starter on 79 occasions for 24 wins, 21 seconds and 14 thirds for $1,113,677 in stakes. Trained throughout his career by Andy Gath and driven in every start by his wife Kate, Caribbean Blaster finished in the first three in 59 of the 79 races he contested in Australia while he also contested two New Zealand Cups at Addington. He has a string of great performances to his name but two of the better ones would be his win in the $200,000 Chariots Of Fire in 1:52.6 over Excel Stride 1:50.3 ($769,464) and Sushi Sushi 1:54.1 ($1,103,327) and his win in the Victoria Cup in a 1:53.7mr (2240 meters) over Im Themightyquinn 1:50.4 ($4,567,456) and Mah Sish 1:55.4 ($800,911). Part owned by Alabar Bloodstock, the rising seven year old son of champion sire Bettors Delight has all the ingredients to make a successful sire now his racing career has ended. Not only does he have a great racetrack record, but Caribbean Blaster is by a great sire from a very strong maternal family. His dam is the Safely Kept mare in Kalypso 2:00.8 ($30,110) who apart from Caribbean Blaster has also produced such smart types as Protikora 1:59 ($212,109) and Kalypson Kid 1:56.4 ($125,351). Kalypso is a half sister to six winners including the classy Grand Stride 1:52.4 ($324,658) while his third dam has left nine winners including smart types such as Heezgotattitude 1:56.8 ($157,987) and Zaneden 1:56.6 ($123,500). With his sire Bettors Delight in such hot demand, it may well be an opportune time for one of his best performed sons to start his stud career. Harnesslink media

Sydney’s iconic pacing race, the Miracle Mile, is set for a historic date change as New South Wales harness racing bosses turn their back on the Inter Dominion. And that will ensure the Interdom reverts to its famous three rounds of heats and a Grand Final from 2016, being staged in Western Australia. The Miracle Mile has traditionally been held in November since it was first run in 1967 but will move to March in 2016 to replace the Inter Dominion, which NSW did not bid for the rights to stage. Bidding for the rights to the Inter Dominion for 2016-18 closed yesterday and WA was the only state to chase the series so will host it for three years and looks almost certain to retain the series as clubs in the eastern states concentrate on their home grown features. Menangle will still host the Inter Dominion next season but when it moves to Perth the Miracle Mile will take its place on the seven-group one day in March which has become Australian harness racing’s biggest meeting. The meeting, which also plays host to the NSW Derby, Oaks, Chariots Of Fire, Ladyship Mile and Sydney’s richest trot, the Glenferrie Farm Challenge, was created to compliment the Inter Dominion two years ago. But NSWHRC club boss John Dumesny says the Miracle Mile will now move to that March meeting and could become a truly international race. “We have loved hosting the Inter Dominion and are looking forward to a great series next February-March,” Dumesny told the Telegraph. “But we are happy to see it go to Perth, which will be good for the industry there and frees us up to hold the Miracle Mile on our biggest day. “And we think the March slot is perfect for us to try and lure leading North American pacers down to Australia and make the Miracle Mile carnival one of the world’s best.” The move comes as the harness racing calendar undergoes a massive shift, with almost all its major races now being staged after Christmas. The Victoria Cup has already moved from mid-December to late January and sets up a two-month window in which the best US free-for-all pacers could be attracted to come Down Under in their off-season. So it would not surprise to see Victorian, Queensland and NSW harness bosses work together to create a circuit of world class races during that time slot, with potential benefits for the Inter Dominion as well. The only point of argument heading forward is likely to be the exact timing of the Inter Dominion, with Perth understood to be keen on early March, which is when the new Miracle Mile meeting will be scheduled for. But it provides harness racing authorities across Australia with the opportunity to finally work together to create a better, sustainable calendar for their best races. by Michael Guerin, for Harness Racing Australia

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