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The “perfect horse” Bling It On put in a clinical, explosive performance to win a record-smashing Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, capping a stunning comeback story. The 2017 A. G. Hunter Cup winner has barely been seen since that career-best performance owing to a bad fall and subsequent injury, but though fresh off a 10-month "retirement" and only second up he showed he had lost none of his brilliance in rounding up the Group 1 field. “He’s such a special horse,” said reinsman Luke McCarthy. “Everyone knows his story by now and for him to come back second up after having that long off and win a Victoria Cup is just a credit to the horse. “He’s so sound and wants to do it, he’s a beautiful horse, open bridle, no head check, no boots, no tongue tie – he’s just a professional. The trip worked out beautifully tonight and lucky enough he was good enough to finish it off.” The speed map’s proved true as Cash N Flow crossed Colt Thirty One to lead and placed Bling It On three back on the pegs, while San Carlo worked to the breeze ahead of Buster Brady and Tam Major. The brisk 42.7-second lead time preceded little respite through the 29 and 28.5-second first and second quarters, and when Buster Brady faded from the running line mid-race the door opened for Bling It On to explode into contention. Off the 27.6-second third quarter Bling It On ate into the leader’s gap to the final turn, easing three-wide outside San Carlo and by the 100-metre mark he was a length clear and had the race in hand. Colt Thirty One and Cruz Bromac filled out the placings and San Carlo bravely got over Cash N Flow in his final strides to fill out the first four, but it was Bling It On’s title for McCarthy and trainer Craig Cross. A 27.4-second final quarter sealed a 1:51.5 mile rate record, breaking Lennytheshark’s 2018 mark. “He’s just an utter professional, just a brilliant racehorse, we got a beautiful run tonight and it just worked out perfect,” McCarthy said. “It’s hard to explain, he’s just such a perfect horse, he’s that smart. He’s getting collected, serving mares as we speak – he got collected yesterday and then jumped on the float and come down for Vic Cup. “He feels as good as ever. Being an older stallion he should only race into better form through the preparation.” Bling It On will likely carry plenty of favour as he turns his attention to a New Zealand campaign that will likely include the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Inter Dominion to follow. Making the win all the more special, the participating drivers wore helmet covers in tribute to reinsman Gavin Lang, who is battling ill health.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

THE first open-class Group 1 of the season, the $250,000 Victoria Cup, headlines a stellar card at Melton’s Tabcorp Park tomorrow (Saturday) night. Our Aussie correspondent ADAM HAMILTON shares his thoughts on the major races: RACE 8 – VICTORIA CUP The barrier draw says this will be a fence (marker peg) dominated race. Most likely scenario is CASH N FLOW (2) finds the front with COLT THIRTY ONE (1) trailing and BLING IT ON (8) three pegs. Expecting a genuine tempo with SAN CARLO (6) sure to pressure the leader and make it a staying contest. Can’t go past COLT THIRTY ONE (1) as top pick, but BLING IT ON (8) will be storming late if he sees daylight. SUGGESTED BET: Win bet on COLT THIRTY ONE (1) at $3.50 or better and save on BLING IT ON (8) at $4.50 or better. RACE 6 – BILL COLLINS TROTTERS’ MILE Very different race, lacking the depth, with Tornado Valley scratched. Now it’s tactical … will RED HOT TOOTH (1) hold the front or be happy to trail favourite TOUGH MONARCH (3)? It’s so vital. If TOUGH MONARCH (3) leads and runs up to past two, he’ll win for fun. MCLOVIN (5) is the other key runner, but first-up, drawn out and sprint trip not ideal for him. Respect. BIG JACK HAMMER (2) charged home late last week and draws better. Rough hope. SUGGESTED BET: TOUGH MONARCH to win at $2.30 or better RACE 7 – PREUX CHEVALIER FFA Effectively a Victoria Cup consolation with plenty of chances. Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy barn flying so huge watch on CRUZ (12), but SICARIO (5) has been the heavily-backed one in prepost markets. He’s first-up from a break for Brent Lilley and has Chris Alford from gate five. CANT REFUSE (9) was stiff to miss a Vic Cup berth, but is he back to best form yet? Huge watch on Qld raider TENNYSON BROMAC (8), a stablemate of Colt Thirty One. Rising hugely in grade, but drawn for soft trip and looks exciting. SUGGESTED BET: TENNYSON BROMAC each-way at $12 or better SUMMARY BEST BET: R3 n2 Ymbro Wasted $5 or better BEST VALUE: R5 n10 Higherthananeagle $6 or better THE ROUGHIE: R7 n8 Tennyson Bromac $12 or better each-way   By Adam Hamilton for Harness Racing New Zealand

Champion reinsman Chris Alford believes he needs to hold a forward position with Tam Major if he is to be a chance of success in Saturday night’s Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup. Alford will join forces with the Emma Stewart-trained up-and-comer, who tackles clearly the biggest assignment of his career so far. Tam Major, a winner of 14 races including the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series final for four-year-old entires and geldings in July, has drawn barrier three for the $250,000 feature at Tabcorp Park Melton. Rated a $16 chance with TAB.com.au, the son of Art Major will start outside fancied runners Colt Thirty One (barrier one) and Cash N Flow (barrier two). “It’s probably not too bad,” Alford said of barrier three. “He can get out good without being brilliant so a lot will depend on whether the two gets across the one and I can just slide straight across with him or not. Otherwise I’m going to be doing a fair bit of work early. “We are probably just going to have to try and get forward and hopefully not too many keep going forward outside us and we don’t get shuffled too far back.” Tam Major heads into the Victoria Cup on the back of an eye-catching third in the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup on September 26 when he charged home from back in the field. Alford is tipping a strong speed in Saturday night's race, but knows things don't always go to plan. “I’m pretty sure it will be a pretty fast lead time and a solidly run race, but sometimes when you think that it doesn’t happen,” Alford said. “He came from sort of last in the Kilmore Cup and ran third and that was his first sort of test at that grade and he did a good job. “I’m sure he’s good enough, if things go his way that he can win, but I don’t think he will be able to do all the work and win like he did in the sires stakes or the Breeders Crown.” Alford doesn't believe he can lead the Victoria Cup field with Tam Major. “I don’t think that either of those two (Colt Thirty One and Cash N Flow) would want to hand up to him anyway, because it’s probably his first real try in the big league,” Alford said. Alford felt Colt Thirty One would potentially be driven to take a sit behind Cash N Flow in a bid to put Bling It On three back on the fence from his barrier eight draw. “If Colt Thirty One led, I doubt he could cop a lot of pressure and still win because he’s not the toughest horse in the race,” he said. “We saw that when he got beaten a couple of times in Queensland… he’s more of a speed horse. “So I doubt he could cop sustained pressure and have Bling It On sitting on his back.” Alford said the Craig Cross-trained Bling It On, who won first-up from a long break at Tabcorp Park Menangle on September 28, was the horse he’d be siding with if not involved in the race himself. “There’s probably not a horse that can’t win with the right run, but there’s probably not a horse that can do all the work and win either,” he said. “Someone is going to have to chance their arm at some stage.”   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media 

THE stakes are much higher than $250,000 stakemoney in this Victoria Cup for emerging star Colt Thirty One. Trainer-driver Grant Dixon has declared the first open-class Group 1 feature of the season will shape whether Colt Thirty One heads to the Auckland Inter Dominion. “We’ve changed our minds on Auckland and have it pencilled in. It’s fair to say what he does this weekend will go a long way to deciding if we keep heading towards the Inter Dominion,” Dixon said. “Kevin (Seymour, owner) was originally keen on targeting the Miracle Mile, but we’ve talked and he’s certainly open to the Inter Dominion if I feel that’s a good option.” Colt Thirty One, who burst into the open-class big league winning the Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park in late July, is a $3.50 favourite to add Saturday night’s Victoria Cup after drawing the pole. “The draw is a big help, for sure,” Dixon said. “Now we’ve got that balancing act of wanting to make sure we take advantage of it, but without ruining our chances by going too hard. “The only time we’ve really burned him off the gate was that Sunshine Sprint and gee he got out quick, so he’s got the speed if we want to really use it.” Dixon is not fazed by going into such a strong race just second-up from a break. “No, he’s very fit. He looks great and his heart rate is where we want it after his work,” he said. “He didn’t have a spell as such, just three weeks out after the Blacks A Fake. He’s done plenty of work. “We think he’s good enough in a really group of open-class horses to be in these races. It’s a bit like whoever gets the best run, will probably get the chocolates with this group of horses.” Asked for one main danger, Dixon said: “Most of them are good enough to win, but Bling It On is proven in these types of races and is drawn to get a cold sit, which we know really suits him.”   Adam Hamilton

Colt Thirty One is rightly favourite, Cash N Flow the likely leader and Bling It On and Alto Orlando will be hitting the line as well as any. They are some of the assessments of gun reinsman Luke McCarthy, who will be perfectly placed to watch the action unfold in Saturday night’s Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup before striking late with Bling It On. “Colt Thirty One (gate one) deserves to be favourite from the draw, he’s going to get a dream run,” McCarthy said. “I wouldn’t imagine he’d hold the front because he’s going to know that I’m sitting on his back. If he does sit on Cash N Flow he’s probably the one to beat. “I’m happy with (drawing gate eight with Bling It On), he’s going to be right there following two good horses and not have done any work to be there. “If he can get any sort of luck late we know he is going to hit the line super. He will just need a bit of luck in that last 400 to 500 metres. If he gets clear you know how well he will hit the line.” McCarthy said “regardless of the draw” he was always going to drive Bling It On, who he labelled “a professional horse” who has “been here since he was a yearling”. That decision gifts the drive on TAB Smoken Up Sprint winner Cash N Flow to brother Todd McCarthy, who’s perfectly poised for a second successive Melton victory. “Cash N Flow’s work has gone to another level. We were really confident he would go good in the Smoken Up. He’s come through the run really good,” McCarthy said. “He’s jumping out of his skin this week, he seems even better than he was last week. With it being the 2200 metres rather than the 2700, it’s still a short trip and he’s got good speed. He will be in front, Todd’s got some good form and they will have to catch him. “I didn’t even pull the ear plugs on Saturday night in the Smoken Up, really only just shook him up a little bit in the straight. If I had have got going a bit earlier at the corner he would have broken the track record easily. He’s in career best form and he’s come up with a good draw.” And should the Victorians pour on the pace through the likes of Tam Major, Buster Brady and San Carlo, Bling It On and another Craig Cross-trained runner – Alto Orlando – will be lying in wait. “(The back row draw) will suit him,” McCarthy said. “He came from last in the Blacks A Fake when he ran second to Colt Thirty One, so he’s got great speed; if there is heaps of burning early and mid-race pressure he’s obviously the one run-on horse that will be flying home. “We’ve got a really good team at the moment, nice group of horses and hopefully we can have a bit of luck on the weekend.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

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)

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