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David Moran and Lochinvar Art took the best punches of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy’s extraordinary New South Wales team and answered every challenge to claim the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup. After being swamped early trainer-driver Moran stayed cool and allowed Plan B to play itself out, showing the patience and more than a little magic reminiscent of his driving hero the late Gavin Lang, who he paid tribute too immediately post-race. “Before Gavin passed I went and saw him in hospital and he said, 'do me one favour and drive that horse yourself',” Moran told Trots Vision. And, boy, did he. The reinsman and Lochinvar Art clawed over the top of Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing in the final 100 metres, saluting to the sky as he recorded a first Grand Circuit victory in a track record 1:51.4 mile rate. Lochinvar Art now holds both the 2240-metre and 1720-metre track records at Tabcorp Park Melton, following on from January’s 4YO Bonanza win in 1:48.6. “He’s a horse that amazes me still as a trainer,” Moran said. “His never-say-die attitude.” It was certainly on display tonight, when Moran had to quickly abandon Plan A and any thoughts of a lead all-the-way victory. Few speed maps would have forecast that Cross's horse Alta Orlando, driven by Mick Stanley, would spear away from the gates quickly enough to roll straight past Lochinvar Art and hem the favourite into the running line. Worse was to come for Moran, as lead rivals Cash N Flow and King Of Swing advanced forward to the breeze and lead respectively, with Cross’s other runners Balraj and Bling It On stacked along the valued peg line. It didn’t turn out quite like I would have thought,” Moran said. “They burnt the gate pretty hard. When Alta Orlando got across it got a little bit tight there, which put us into a downward position where Cash N Flow and King Of Swing had the jump on us a little bit.” Through a 42.5-second lead time and 29.5-second first quarter, team Cross had the first five runners until Moran advanced Lochinvar Art to the breeze for a season-defining final lap. And then the script flipped again, this time by an inspired Moran move, with the reinsman realising Balraj was struggling to hold the leader’s back and swooped in when the opportunity presented. “Just as I got to the breeze I heard Balraj touch his knee a couple of times,” Moran said. “I thought he was more than likely to lose a bit of ground on the turn, so the plan was just to try and hang off him and when he dropped away a little bit to try and spear to that position.” And that he did, then tracking King Of Swing through a 28.6-second third quarter and into the final bend, emerging just before the straight and advancing to the outside as the chasing pack lost touch. It became a race in two and by the 100-metre mark the Victorian nosed ahead and advanced to claim the cup by 7.1 metres, with King Of Swing a meritorious second, reigning champion Bling It On running into third and Rishi finishing fourth. “Little bit chuffed actually. Feels a bit surreal,” Moran said post-race. “To everyone that helped out back at home, I can’t thank you enough, friends, family and all the people who have said ‘good luck’ or ‘well done’ in the past, I can’t thank you enough.” Moran saved special mention for David and Colleen Aiken. “They’ve been great mentors to me and, practically, like my second mum and dad really,” he said. “I love them to bits, they’re just great people and they couldn’t be more happy than seeing someone else get a winner.” And he also thanked owners Kevin and Leonie Gordon for the faith they showed in him to select the horse, who has rewarded his connections with $885,376 in stakes and 21 victories from 42 starts. “Kevin has no input whatsoever on what I buy, he just says you go and do whatever you need to do or whatever you think’s best and if it wasn’t for Kevin and Leonie we would never have got him.” The owners parted with $29,000 on December 5, 2017, for the then two-year-old Modern Art colt out of Ponder In Paris, who caught Moran’s eye at a ready to run sale. “He just run up good. He run up in quick time, which I wasn’t too concerned about, but it was how he did it,” Moran said. “I think he ran his last quarter in 26 and a half or something like that as an early two-year-old, but the way he did it it looked like he ran the quarter in 31. That was pretty impressive. Just on type he looked like he had a bit of scope to go.” And so he did, tonight capturing his fourth Group 1 victory.   HRV - Michael Howard

Every runner and every moment gets considered as Jason Bonnington and Jack Heverin deliver a Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup deep dive. Key reinsmen David Moran and Anthony Butt join the show as we get ready for tomorrow night's classic at Tabcorp Park Melton. Tune in below.  Harness Racing Victoria

Harness Racing Victoria’s Victoria Cup is one of the great races on the harness racing calendar, not only in Victoria, but all over Australia. Champions by the score have competed in the race – some have won, some have lost, with owners and trainers involved in the sport aiming at this prestigious race each season. Tomorrow will be the forty sixth running of the race and it’s interesting to reflect on how it began. Harness fanatic Ron Meuleman who for years wrote a trotting column in the Footscray Mail and the Australian Trotting Register and was a regular at every Showgrounds meeting, worked for Rothmans Of Pall Mall, a tobacco company based in Footscray close to his home and on his suggestion approached management with the idea of running a feature pacing race at the Melbourne Showgrounds to promote their product as at the time the only feature of note was the A.G. Hunter Cup. After consultation with both Rothmans Management and the then Trotting Control Board, the Victoria Cup was born to be known as the Winfield Cup as this was a new brand of cigarettes released by the company. For the first time, the Winfield Cup was programmed in 1974, the victor being Kings Mead, a 5Y0 Meadow Lawn-Queens Crown gelding trained by former South Australian junior hockey state player Trevor Spry based at Kilmore who had switched from being a professional punter and pop star to a successful owner in the sport. Kings Mead had been purchased by Spry from an ex-Kiwi trainer Russ Fiddler who lived in Kilmore for Templetowe builders Edo and Ritto Bettiol. Driven by Bill Le Sueur, Kings Mead led throughout over the 2538 metre journey from the pole to defeat Just Too Good and King Frost in a mile rate of 2-08.7. The field included Adios Victor, Nevada Smoke and Royal Gaze. A who’s who of Australasia’s greatest horses were to contest the race in future years with winners such as Paleface Adios, Welcome Advice, Koala King, Popular Alm, Preux Chevalier, Bag Limit, Sinbad Bay, Franco Ice, Master Musician, Golden Reign, Chokin, Holmes DG, Shakamaker, Sokyola, Blacks A Fake, Smoken Up, Lennytheshark and Young Rufus just to name a few. The race was switched to a mobile start in 1976 which saw the Laurie Moulds (NSW) trained Don’t Retreat victorious. One of the biggest plunges landed in the race came in 1990 when Queenslander Sovereign Cloud (Brad Connelly) sensationally backed in from as much as 50/1 to around 12/1 saluted in a rate of 1-58.9, accounting for Thorate and Reba Lord, while Bag Limit did similar in 1988 to win for Bob and Vin Knight, defeating Luxury Liner and Rufus Young Blood in 1-58.5 in a race full of controversy. Bag Limit had won the race the previous year. The Rothmans sponsorship was to end in 1989 and the sponsorship name has changed numerous times since. This Saturday, another pacer will etch his or her name into the record books by winning the time honoured Victoria Cup - bring it on!   Len Baker

The Victoria Cup driver jigsaw puzzle is falling into place. With Luke McCarthy not getting the permit he needed to head to Melbourne and return home without quarantining, the rush was on for drivers. Anthony Butt has landed the drive on King Of Swing, who McCarthy was to drive. King Of Swing is one of Craig Cross’ five runners. The other drivers confirmed so far are: John Caldow (Balraj), Bling It On (Kate Gath) and Josh Aiken (Cash N Flow). That just leaves Cross to confirm a driver for his former Kiwi pacer and Miracle Mile placegetter Alta Orlando. Chris Alford and Greg Sugars, who were expected to drive to Cross runners, have gone elsewhere. Alford will stick with NZ Cup winner Cruz Bromac, who is a $34 outside from outside the back row (gate 13). At least he did trial better at Melton on Tuesday after a first-up flop. Sugars is continuing his partnership with Emma Stewart’s pint-sized sit-sprinter Code Black, who has drawn potentially well inside the back row (gate eight). He follows out Balraj (one), who you’d think would either lead or sit behind the leader. Stewart’s other runners will be driven by: Amanda Turnbull (Hurricane Harley), Tam Major (Daryl Douglas). She also has emergency Major Times, who Jodi Quinlan will drive he gains a start. The early Aussie TAB betting moves on the Cup have been: Lochinvar Art ($2.50 out to $2.70), Balraj ($3.80 into $3.50), King Of Swing ($7.50 to $6.50), Cash N Flow ($8 to $9.50) and Code Black ($7.50 to $9.50). _________________________________________________________________________________________ Kate Gath will stick the “champ” Tornado Valley ahead of stablemate McLovin as her drive in Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint (1720m) at Melton. Tornado Valley has improved at each of his three runs back from a spell, but is a $10 shot from gate 10 against a strong field. Gifted but enigmatic mare Dance Craze, who easily beat Tornado Valley, is $2.15 favourite from the pole. Another star mare, Red Hot Tooth, is a solid $3.40 second favourite and a big chance of crossing to the lead at the start from gate four. _________________________________________________________________________________________ Just getting back to the races is pretty special for former Kiwi star Turn It Up. Less than two years ago he looked on the verge of greatness with an Auckland Cup win at just his ninth race start. He added a Harness Jewels 4YO victory on June 1, 2019, but that’s the last time he’s been to the races. Turn It Up’s career was frozen by injury and, at times, it was feared he may never race again. The son of Courage Under Fire steps out for just his 16th start (he boasts 11 wins and four seconds so far) for new trainer Vicki Rasmussen at Albion Park on Saturday night. Turn It Up has trialled twice at Albion Park in preparation for a return, the latest a sparkling 13.9m win over classy mare Smart As Camm Be in a slick 1min52.3sec mile rate for 1660m. He dashed home in 55.3 and 27.1sec. The fact mighty filly Amazing Dream was beaten at Albion Park shows it’s never easy, especially from bad draws. Turn It Up has a mighty task first-up, drawing outside the back row (gate 11) and meeting the state’s best pacer Colt Thirty One (gate seven). _________________________________________________________________________________________ Victorian trainer Mick Stanley is the big “winner” from his mate Luke McCarthy being stuck in Sydney this weekend. McCarthy hoped to be at Melton driving King Of Swing in the Victoria Cup. Instead, he’ll be watching the Cup from Menangle in-between drives. Just 12 minutes before the Victoria Cup, McCarthy will drive Stanley’s buzz juvenile Bar Room Banta in a semi-final of the rich NSW Breeders Challenge. Bar Room Banta, who boasts three wins and a second from his four runs, is nominal favourite for the final. So too is Stanley’s brilliant filly Soho Almasi, who McCarthy will drive in her semi on Saturday night. Soho Almasi boasts blazing speed and will need it from gate six with her main rival, Arma Renegade, drawn the pole. _________________________________________________________________________________________ Untapped WA Pacing Cup winner Mighty Conqueror finally makes his racetrack return in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park tomorrow (Friday) night. Greg and Skye Bond’s stable star had a longer than expected spell with hoof issues and was scratched from his planned comeback race two weeks ago. It’s not an easy first-up task, with Mighty Conqueror having gate seven and noted on-pace runners Convert Denario (gate one) and Our Jimmy Johnstone (two) drawn so well.   by Adam Hamilton

The unknowns are many on the doorstep of Saturday night's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup, but one thing reinsman Anthony Butt's sure about is it's going to be a "heck of a first 400 metres". The champion reinsman has picked up the catch drive on King Of Swing after Luke McCarthy was unable to get clearance to border hop, with John Caldow securing the steer on pole marker Balraj, Kate Gath assigned to Bling It On and Josh Aiken on Cash N Flow. Butt joined Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden on SENTrack's Talking Trots On Track this morning and said it was certain to be very willing early. "I think Balraj will have to try and hold his spot for one, he gets out pretty quick, but it is harder when you are drawn the inside - the outside ones get a bit of a way on," Butt said. "Lochinvar Art, obviously, will be coming out trying to hold the ones outside him, but there's a lot of speed from five and six, Alta Orlando (and) Cash N Flow. "I'm hoping they get across Lochinvar Art early and I can slide across with them, but it will be very interesting and I think it will be a heck of a first 400 metres anyway." A Victoria Cup is one of the few trophies absent from Butt's cabinet, but getting the steer on the multiple Grand Circuit race winner, who's a $6 chance with TAB.com.au, gives him a chance to change that. "(King Of Swing's) got the points on the board, he's a Hunter Cup winner, Miracle Mile winner. You can arguably say he's the best horse in Australasia at the moment. He's been there and done that in the big races. The rest have got to beat him really. "The draw's not going to make it easy, but he's a great horse and he's been racing really well the last few weeks." Butt also spoke about his Saturday night drivers on Tough Monarch in the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint and the chances of Wolf Stride and Elite Stride. CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE SENTRACK INTERVIEW   HRV - Michael Howard

Five Craig Cross runners have drawn the front row but home state favourite Lochinvar Art sits ominiously in gate four after this morning's Prydes EasiFeed Victoria Cup field was drawn on Sky Racing 1 this morning. The machinations and ramifications only swelled with this morning's draw, in which Balraj drew the prized gate one and stablemates Bling It On (three), Alta Orlando (five), Cash N Flow (six) and King Of Swing (seven) crowded the front row. They are separated by Terang warrior Code Bailey in two and Lochinvar Art in four who will be flying the Victoria flag, while sit-and-sprint speed machine Code Black looms dangerously inside the back row, a draw that saw shortern in the market to $7.50. David Moran, trainer-driver of $2.50 favourite Lochinvar Art, joined Sky Racing 1 as part of this morning's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup Barrier Draw coverage and said it was "always just a great race to be in". "The draw's probably worked in our favour to a degree, but there are some very nice horses drawn inside us," Moran said. "We'll have to give it our best crack." As mentioned, Tabcorp Park Menangle flyers Balraj, Cash N Flow and King Of Swing book-end the front row and are likely to bring the heat early. "Cash N Flow, we know, can burn the gate very very quick, there's a lot of speed there," Moran said. "You've got Alta Orlando drawn right to (my) outside, you think you can probably hold him being drawn right next to him. "Cash N Flow one-out (in six) makes it a bit trickier again and obviously you've got King Of Swing in seven. The biggest thing at the start is just to make sure they don't get across you and get that advantage on you. "If they can't you've got to look to your inside: Code Bailey gets out good, Balraj gets out good. It's definitely not easy." So can Lochinvar Art hold them and make a play for the lead? "We've never really had to use (his gate speed) 100 per cent down here, it's just the way the races have panned out, we haven't had to really burn," Moran said. "He can get out very good if you want him too." Saturday night will be Lochinvar Art's fifth start of the campaign, which have produced three wins and two placings, and Moran said he was "rapt with how he is at the moment". "He came through the last run really good, probably the best he's ever come through. And his work since then has been good," he said. "We've adjusted a few little things and got him to where we think he's 100 per cent, so there will be no excuses come this week. The best horse will be there and we'll give it a go." Here's is your field for Saturday night's 2020 Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Park:  1: Balraj 2: Code Bailey 3: Bling It On 4: Lochinvar Art 5: Alta Orlando 6: Cash N Flow 7: King Of Swing ---- 8: Code Black 9: Rishi 10: Tam Major 11: Hurricane Harley 12: Major Times (emg) 13: Cruz Bromac   HRV - Michael Howard

Ride High has been scratched from Saturday's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup after suffering a suspensory injury in his shock loss in the TAB Smoken Up Sprint. SENTrack's Jason Bonnington reported on Twitter that the star five-year-old would miss the $300,000 feature, for which he had been a $3.50 favourite in TAB.com.au's most recent market despite having his winning streak stopped at 11. At 3.40pm Bonnington, who had been in touch with the camp of trainer Clayton Tonkin, revealed: And then followed up with news that "Ride High's suspensory injury (was) not as bad as (his) previous one", which had sidelined him for more than 12 months. "No swelling involved, only a small lesion," he reported. "He will begin six weeks of rehab now and then be re-scanned." The outcome will be a major shake up of Saturday's Victoria Cup, with the barriers to be drawn live on Sky Racing 2 at 9.30am tomorrow.   Harness Racing Victoria

MIRACLE Mile and Hunter Cup winner King Of Swing looks set to tackle next Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup. After weeks of uncertainty, regular driver Luke McCarthy confirmed the superstar pacer would be nominated and was “very likely” to make the trip down from NSW. With uncertainty surrounding Ride High after his shock defeat, King Of Swing is just the injection of star power the Victoria Cup needs. McCarthy has applied for a permit to travel with King Of Swing and drive him. He’s awaiting the outcome and/or conditions. Even if he can’t travel, the odds are firming King Of Swing will still tackle the Cup with a driver the ilk of Chris Alford, Anthony Butt or Greg Sugars. “This has been his aim all along, he’s been trained specifically for it so we could make the decision as late as possible,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully the permit gives me the chance to go with him and drive him. If not, I’d say there’s still a big chance he’ll go anyway. He’s absolutely flying and there’s nothing else for him.” If King Of Swing comes, trainer Craig Cross will have at a staggering five runners in the Cup. The others will be: Cash N Flow, Balraj, Alta Orlando and Bling It On. The quartet were sharpened-up with private trials at Menangle on Saturday. “They’re all primed,” McCarthy said. “Gee Bling It On worked well. We think we’ve got him back to the form that won him last year’s (Victoria Cup) race. “Cash N Flow worked really well, as well. Balraj and Alta Orlando worked together and pleased us.” Asked about drivers, McCarthy said he and Cross would wait for the outcome of his request for a travel permit and the final field before making any concrete decisions. “We’ve spoken to (Chris) Alford, Ants (Anthony Butt), Greg (Sugars) and others,” McCarthy said.  Kerryn Manning, who is nearing 4000 career wins at 3982, is also understood to be in the mix.   By Adam Hamilton

LOCHINVAR Art is right where he needs to be for the $300,000 Victoria Cup on October 10. So trainer-driver David Moran looks set to skip next Saturday’s $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Melton and go straight into the Victoria Cup a week later. In a race run to suit a lot more than his recent runs, Lochinvar Art relished it and thrashed his rivals in last night’s Minuteman free-for-all (2240m) at Tabcorp Park Melton. He did his share of work at times, but just looked to do it so easily and in quick time. “He’s pretty much right where I want him now. He really just jogged that in tonight,” Moran said. “I’m leaning very heavily towards not running next week. I don’t think he’s needs another run.” So what about Ride High? With the camp bunkering-down since he was pulled out of the nominations and skipped the Minuteman free-for-all, we just hope all is well and he will tackle the Smoken Up this week. If he’s not in this week, it would mean four weeks between runs going into what shapes as an epic Victoria Cup. The spotlight will be on the Smoken Up field when it comes out around 1.30pm NZ time Tuesday. If Ride High is there, it could be his for the taking with no new stars expected in the sprint. Craig Cross’ big guns – Balraj, Cash N Flow, Alta Orlando and Bling It On - will go straight to the Victoria Cup. The only “new” runner he’s likely to have in the Smoken Up Sprint is renowned speedster Cruz, who has been freshened since a successful recent Queensland raid. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ CRUZ Bromac’s NZ Cup title defence looks unlikely after a disappointing comeback run against Lochinvar Art last night. Having his first run since the Auckland Cup last New Year’s Eve, Cruz Bromac made a midrace move around the field to find the lead, but was beaten before the final bend and tired to finish 30.3m behind Lochinvar Art in eighth spot. No doubt he’ll be improved by the run, but he’s a nine-year-old (NZ time) and it’s a big call to send him back across the Tasman unless he jumps out of the ground when/if he runs next, which would likely be in the Victoria Cup on October 10.   by Adam Hamilton

DAVID Moran is looking forward to catching-up on lost opportunities with Australia’s most exciting pacer Lochinvar Art. The Chariots Of Fire winner and Miracle Mile runner-up is back in work after a short spell. And Moran initially has his sights sets on the Group 1 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 10, especially with news of a stakemoney hike to $300,000 for the race once regarded as the Cox Plate of harness. Moran is also “looking very seriously” at a Perth raid in November now RWWA and Gloucester Park are bringing forward WA’s two biggest open-class features, the $300,000 Fremantle Cup to November 20 and the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup to December 4. “This year has been a bit of a shambles with COVID, but it’s good to see some of the big races being confirmed for late in the year,” Moran said. “I really had no option but to turn him out for a while with no good races for him. He’s enjoyed the break and won’t take that long to bring back up again.” HRV announced the Victoria Cup boost along with increased stakemoney and a welcomed format change for Victoria’s top trotting race, the Great Southern Star. “We are pleased to announce prizemoney increases to two of our major events for the Great Southern Star to be returning to its exciting original format,” HRV’s Stephen Bell said. The Great Southern Star will headline an all-trotting card at Melton on the Friday night before the Hunter Cup as part of an enhanced 2021 Summer of Glory. Most importantly, it will go back to a heat and final event with the two $50,000 heats being run the same night as the $300,000 final. The announcements follow HRV moving the Breeders Crown to November and the Vicbred series to December, culminating in a stellar night of finals on New Year’s Eve at Melton.   by Adam Hamilton

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) CEO Dayle Brown today confirmed the Victoria Cup would be held on Saturday night October 10. Brown told Sky Racing’s Adam Hamilton that “harness racing’s iconic events had moved around a lot” in recent years and as a result people had lost track of some of the major events. “It’s important we solidify when these major events are to be run, so the Victoria Cup will stay on the 10th of October,” Brown said. “It’s a very strong wagering day following the Caulfield Guineas and I can also announce the Redwood will be on Sunday 1st of November.” Brown said Victoria’s latter part of the year would be “filled with some great feature and group racing”, highlighting the Breeders Crown in November and the Vicbred Super Series grand finals on New Year’s Eve at Tabcorp Park Melton. Watch the full interview below.   Harness Racing Victoria

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

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