Day At The Track
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Majestuoso let down with a freakish burst to not only capture the much coveted Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby but declare himself a star on the rise. A thrilled trainer Andy Gath spoke glowingly after his three-year-old swept home in blistering style to claim the richest race on the all-trotting card as plenty piled in to Maryborough to soak up Redwood Day. “It’s been a bit of a hoodoo race for me this race. It’s a great thrill to win it. I’m a little bit emotional actually, I don’t generally get emotional winning big races, but winning this race is a great thrill,” Gath told Trots Vision post-race. “I just love this little horse. He’s got freakish ability and this is the race we’ve been waiting for. We’ve looked after him all season, just kept him against his own age group. To win this race is quite special, he’ll race in the Breeders Crown and then go for a good spell. The future looks good for him and in 12 months’ time, 18 months’ time he might be challenging Tornado Valley for the best horse in Australia.” The lofty assessment was shared by reinswoman Kate Gath, who had a brilliant day in the sulky, winning four including a patient drive in the Derby when she and Majestuso overcame losing stride down the back straight to leave all in their wake in the run to the line. “Up the back straight he galloped for a stride because the one I was tracking up, Sidney (Van Den Brande on Xebec), he got pushed out and they come back in my face and I was like ‘oh no’, but he got down really quick,” Kate said. “Once that happened we got through the middle and got between them I was confident that he had a pretty quick finishing burst and that they would want to be pretty quick for him not to get them. He just picks them up in a stride. Just rapt.” The success is reward for the stable’s patience with the talented but troublesome two-year-old, who Kate said had overcome his early cheek. “He’s just got better with age. He came back as a three-year-old and just put it together,” she said. “He’s matured a little bit, learned how to race a little bit and relax a little bit, I’m just not surprised that he did that today. He is that good and I can’t wait for the future with him as well because, I don’t get excited about too many horses, I’ve been pretty spoilt and got to drive some pretty good ones, but this horse, he’s got everything. He’s just got the biggest motor. He doesn’t get tired and I’m just over the moon.” The win capped a golden day for Kate, who earlier steered Inter Dominion trotting champion Tornado Valley to victory in the Peter Egan Bi-Rite Electrical Trotters Free For All, Moonlight Dream to victory in the Majestic Son Matchmaker Mile and Magic Owens to a win in the Carisbrook Reserve Trot Final for trainer Norm McVitty.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media 

The stress factor hit fever pitch in the final strides but Brent Lilley’s recent addition held off fast-finishing Kyvalley Finn to claim the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby. Stress Factor delivered Lilley his fourth victory of the day, following earlier Redwood Day success with El Paco, On Fast Forward and Kyvalley Blur, with the Derby winner holding on by a half-head for driver Chris Alford and new owners John Wilkinson, Fred Crews, Bruce Morrison, Denise Morrison, Gary Dowling and Robert Owen. The syndicate purchased the Majestic Son gelding in June and he went three-from-three with today’s Group 1 triumph at Maryborough. “Victorian Derbys are always something you aspire to win and to pull it off was great,” Lilley told Trots Vision post-race. “He looked like he was holding them off fairly comfortably but (Kyvalley Finn) come late. We were all pleased the line come up when it did.” Alford worked to the lead from gate three, with Andy Gath’s polemarker Reils taking leader’s back and his stablemate Scallywag Sam sitting in the breeze, punching a back-straight head wind that had challenged front runners throughout the day. Despite little pressure on the leader throughout the 2690m long-distance Derby the pace remained honest. “Probably could have gone a bit slower, but he just wanted to keep rolling along pretty strong,” Alford said. “They don’t get a chance to race much over 2600m if ever – just today – it’s hard to know if they’re going to finish it off and all of the ones back in the field are in the same boat. “I thought we were holding on pretty good until about the last 50. (Kyvalley Finn) did rush through really quick but I did think we hung on on the line.” For Alford the result will ease some of the pain of having his usual drive for this class, Wobelee, sidelined by injury, and Stress Factor appears well poised to deliver more success for connections. “He was really brave,” Alford said. “He really fought it out well. He did a good job and hopefully he can keep going for the Breeders Crown.” Michael Howard for Trots Media

A largely stress-free victory on Saturday night has set Brent Lilley’s latest purchase on a smooth path towards Sunday’s Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby. Stress Factor found the front in Saturday night’s SBG Accountants 3YO Trot for reinsman Chris Alford and held off fast-finishing Majestic Player to salute ahead of a number of likely Derby opponents, including third-placed Anywhere Hugo and fourth-placed Kyvalley Finn. “He was really good,” Alford told Trots Vision post-race. “He raced in all the good races in New Zealand and then has been purchased by Brent and his clients. He’s done a good job and was really strong tonight.” The hit-out at Tabcorp Park was Stress Factor’s Australian debut, having previously raced in New Zealand for co-trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, for whom he produced three wins in eight starts and ran fourth in the 3YO Ruby on Harness Jewels day, finishing 1.4m behind Alford’s third-placed Wobelee. “He seemed to wait for them a little bit, I’m pretty sure that’s just because he hasn’t had a run for a little bit,” Alford said. “Brent said his work at home, he feels like a nice horse. He’s got the Derby next weekend and then hopefully on to the Breeders Crown, he should just keep getting better.” Michael Howard

A stress fracture has sidelined brilliant trotter Wobelee from the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown but trainer Alison Alford is confident he will make a full recovery. Having won 14 of his 19 starts, including five Group 1s, Alford’s three-year-old will be gifted a much-deserved rest until after Christmas to mend, with connections grateful the injury was discovered before it developed further. “It’s a stress fracture from wear and tear. Good horses naturally push themselves harder,” Alford said. The injury was discovered after the gelding was sent for a scintigraphy, which highlights hotspots and inflammation. "(Driver) Chris (Alford) had a niggling feeling something wasn't right with him, but we had no idea what," Alford said. "(Wobelee) just wasn't happy and was probably a bit more cantankerous than usual. “The test came up with inflammation in his knees and a couple of other spots. We brought him home and x-rayed him and found there was small movement in his knee. He had a MRI and it showed his knee’s change and we were told that if he didn’t rest it could become more significant.” The stress fracture is a considerable disappointment given Wobelee’s impending tilt at the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby on August 5 and his favouritism in future markets for the three-year-old boys trotting Breeders Crown. But connections are taking considerable comfort that the fan favourite’s injury had been discovered before it worsened. “We’re just so lucky that Chris picked up on it,” Alford said. “He wasn’t lame or racing terribly, but you wonder how much it has annoyed him. “He will have six months off and it should then be onwards and upwards. He will likely come back in just after Christmas and probably have a drawn out prep, but there should be no reason why he can’t be in next year’s big races.” Michael Howard

A fine filly tipped out the boys and extended a stellar harness racing season for the tight-knit trio trainer Anton Golino, owner Pat Driscoll and driver Zac Phillips, who landed the Seelite Windows & Doors Victoria Trotters Derby. Victorian and New South Wales Oaks winner Une Belle Allure added a crown typically set aside for the boys to her monster three-year-old haul, with Phillips finding the lead from stablemate Dance Craze and controlling the pace to ensure none would run past his Angus Hall filly. A 28.2 final quarter shut the door and delivered another Group 1 to the 21-year-old, who celebrated with a jubilant salute in front of a hearty Redwood All-Trotting Carnival crowd at Maryborough today. “She’s unbelievable. She stepped up to the plate every time she’s been asked too,” Phillips said. “She just keeps taking the next step and the next step and continues to surprise me.” The victory was a sixth career Group 1 win for Phillips, all coming with trotters and all since March 11. “It’s been an unbelievable year and sort of what you dream about when you step out in this sort of career. You dream about having years like I’ve had,” Phillips said. “I’ve been very fortunate, my three main stables – Adam Kelly, Anton (Golino) and Paul and Kari Males – sort of stuck with me through thick and thin and it makes such a big difference when you get behind horses like this. They can just take your career to the sky. Just over the moon.” In today’s Derby, Dance Craze cruised to the front via her great gate speed and then Nathan Jack handed up to Phillips and Une Belle Allure, while fellow stablemate Nieta cruised to the breeze to give Golino the first three runners. There was little need for haste and the pace was barely quickened when Deltasun slipped past Nieta and into the breeze, with first two quarters of 32.1 and 32.0 preceding a 29.7 third quarter. Three-wide, Kerryn Manning and her newest addition President Roydon poured on the pressure in the dying stages, but the last 100m belonged to Une Belle Allure, who hit the line 2.7m clear of Dance Craze and 3.6m clear of President Roydon. “There didn’t look to be a hell of a lot of pressure in the race if I did happen to find the front, which I did, and once I found the front it played out as I thought,” Phillips said. “Nathan (Jack on Dance Craze) was always going to be on my back, but with the run I had he was probably never going to be able to outdo me. “(Une Belle Allure’s) just got such a great will to win and she’s an unbelievable horse to sit behind, she just has an amazing turn of foot. She’s so versatile, she can sit, she can sprint, she can do it tough, and I think that’s what makes her such a great horse.” Her 12 starts have now produced seven wins and more than $150,000 in stakes, which have almost all been amassed in her nine-run three-year-old season. “It’s a dream come true,” Golino said. “(Yabby Dam Farms owner) Pat (Driscoll’s) an amazing person and deserves this more than anyone. “We were lucky we drew well, in these big races all these horses can go, so to get a good draw was a big advantage at the start. Having said that they got the job done, so we are really happy.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

They've come from all over for a swing at Sunday’s Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby, determined to salute in front of a boisterous crowd. New Zealand trainer Cran Dalgety’s trotter Chevron Express and fellow Kiwi President Roydon, who is now in Kerryn Manning’s stable, will bring some international flair when they have an almighty crack at the $75,000 feature. Chevron Express is among a fearsome group of fillies who have amassed for the three-year-old feature, who equate for seven of the 13 Derby entrants and include Anton Golino’s Cardigan-based trio Dance Craze, Une Belle Allure and Nieta. For Manning, Sunday presents a chance to capture one of the few pieces of silverware that has thus far escaped her grasp. President Roydon has spent six weeks with team Manning, having previously raced with Mark Purdon’s all conquering All Stars team over the Tasman, where only highly-rated Enghien prevented him breaking through at Group 1 level. The Great Western trainer-driver held the reins as the gelding made his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, when President Roydon led and did the bulk of the work only to be picked off by Garshaway in the dying stages. “He’s a funny horse,” Manning said of President Roydon, who has drawn gate two for Sunday’s Group 1. “He’s not the most wonderful to drive, he’s a bit green and awkward at times, but he tries really hard.” Manning said he should improve from his Australian debut, when he “over raced a little bit in front and was found wanting a little in the last 50”. “He hasn’t had a start for a month and the run would have done him good and he seems to have pulled up well. The distance (2690m) will suit, he’s a strong horse.” The “good little sit-sprint horse” that whooshed past her was improving Garshaway, Myola-based trainer Graeme McDermott’s gelding who has drawn gate 13. He will be driven by New South Wales’ Leigh Sutton, who took the steer after Manning was unavailable due to her commitment with President Roydon and saluted at Melton at $19.60 on the TAB. “I come down with my trotter (last Friday) so they offered me the drive and said if he goes all right I can drive him in the Derby,” Sutton said. “It will be nice to have a drive in a Group 1 race.” The Victoria Trotters Derby takes place at 3.54pm. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Wilmas Mate survived an action packed Group 1 to reward harness racing favourite followers and smash a track record at Maryborough in winning the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby Locking of wheels twice savaged the hopes of well-rated Victorian hopes Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around and while Wilmas Mate took full advantage to win by 2.5m from High Gait, a protest led to a wait before any champagne could be popped. Wilmas Mate’s connections - trainer Paul Nairn, driver David Butt and owner Richard Cornelius – were forced to dwell after High Gait’s driver Chris Alford protested the result because Wilmas Mate veered into the sprint lane from the lead. HRV Chairman of Stewards Nick Murray said Butt hadn’t explicitly complied with his obligations to prevent the horse shifting further into the sprint lane. Mr Murray said Wilmas Mate then trotted roughly under pressure and Butt restrained him, and it was only then High Gait made late ground, and owing to that and the 2.5m margin the protest was dismissed. Wilmas Mate, by Pegasus Spur out of Mybrotherwasastar, won in a 2:00.3 mile rate, taking 0.4 off Speeding Spur’s Maryborough and District Harness Racing Club track record set in the 2015 Derby. “It’s great to win a race in Australia,” Cornelius said. “I’ve been over here before with horses and gone home with my tail between my legs and for a minute or two I thought the same might happen again, but thankfully we got through it and won the race. “Obviously Paul again showed the master that he is. He had the horse in excellent condition to do what she has done today and David Butt again proved that he is a great driver.” Wilmas Mate found the front at the bell after advancing from the rear of the field, looping Sundons Courage (leader) and Cruisin Around (breeze), who then appeared to briefly lock wheels that led to Pizza Queen galloping. High Gait jumped out from the death to challenge Wilmas Mate who had made a break, with a recovering Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around locking again at the final bend to put paid to their hopes. It became a race in two and Wilmas Mate cleared away, looking all the world the winner only to veer into the sprint lane and lose gait in the dying moments, but being first past the post and surviving the protest. “She was getting pretty tired at the end,” Butt said. “She deserved to be, she put in a big run. They made her work but she came around and went really well.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

The big harness racing day at Maryborough today with its sole focus on the straight out trotter is akin to the holy grail for followers of the squaregaiter. The jewel in the crown today was the $75,000 Victoria Trotting Derby which drew together the best Australian three year old trotters with the undisputed New Zealand champion three year old Speeding Spur. Speeding Spur's main problem was that he drew barrier 13 which was the outside of the second line in the ten horse field. Due to scratchings there was only four runners on the front line and Josh Dickie, the driver of Speeding Spur took advantage of the small front line and sent the son of Pegasus Spur forward from the start and grabbed the lead within the first 200 metres. Blue Sky Commander settled into the trail behind Speeding Spur with My Arya facing the breeze. Second favourite Illawong Armstrong circled the field mid-race to sit outside Speeding Spur but he really latched on and as a result there was no let up in the hot speed as he pulled himself into the ground. Turning for home Speeding Spur still held the front but was being attacked on all sides. Blue Sky Commander and Kerryn Manning were issuing a challenge up the passing lane after their soft trip while Amarula and John Caldow were finishing on stoutly centre track. However as he has done all season in New Zealand, Speeding Spur kicked bigtime when he was challenged and was drawing away again at the line with Josh Dickie giving a little victory salute as he hit the line. Blue Sky Commander ran into second with Amarula battling the last bit to run third. Amarula's run was full of merit as she did have a short gallop in the score up but was with the field at dispatch. Speeding Spur trotted the 2690 metres in 3:21.8, a mile rate of 2:00.7 which was a new track record. Trained by Josh and John Dickie at Clevedon in South Auckland, todays win by Speeding Spur was his 11th from 14th starts as a three year old and took his seasonal earnings over the $250,000 mark. His win today from barrier 13 after being attacked savagely mid race in track record time is further proof if any was needed that he is a superstar in the making. New Zealand breeders would have had a big smile on their faces post race as the first three home were all bred in New Zealand and that carried on the great record that New Zealand bred trotters have in Australian age group classics. Harnesslink Media    

Redwood Day at Maryborough this Sunday is one of most keenly anticipated dates on the Australian harness racing calendar. Two trotting only meetings are being held on Friday and Sunday this week with the two Group 1 races on the Sunday being the highlights This year there is another strong contingent of Kiwi trotters involved but to say they have received the visitors draw is an understatement. There are three Kiwi trotters involved in the $50,500 Redwood Classic for two year olds but all of them have drawn in the carpark. The outstanding Muscles Yankee filly High Gait has drawn the best of the Kiwis at barrier 6 and she will probably move into barrier five if the emergency doesn't get a start. After her recent trial at Menangle where she broke 1:56 for the mile with ease, High Gait looks the one to beat post draw. The Paul Nairn trained Conon Bridge has copped the worst possible marble for a horse who can be a touch unruly, drawing one on the second line. Up till now the son of Raffaello Ambrosia has started from the unruly position in all his mobile starts and his draw on Sunday means the Nairn camp will be crossing their fingers through the first 100 metres. The third of the Kiwi runners in the two year old Redwood Classic is Missandei and the daughter of Angus Hall is right out in the carpark at five on the second line. Missandei won her only start since crossing the Tasman but the draw makes her task to beat High Gait again very difficult. The other Group 1 on Sunday is the $75,000 Victorian Derby and the outstanding New Zealand three year old Speeding Spur is another Kiwi to be handed a horror draw. Speeding Spur will start from six on the second line and will need all favours from out there to be a winning chance. Arya will start from barrier four so she instantly becomes a great each way chance while the top local Illawong Armstrong has also drawn the second line but his last win over Arya was outstanding and with any luck early he will be a big threat.. Harnesslink Media

At yesterday’s Redwood Classic Day it was officially announced that Ross Payne has been appointed stable foreman at Mark Purdon’s All Stars Stable and will re-locate to his home country following the Breeders’ Crown.

What should have been a $4100 walkover for all-conquering harness racing trotter Paramount Geegee turned into a mini-disaster, when he came out of the one-horse race with a badly cut fetlock, costing him a tilt at next month's $A75,000 Victoria Trotters' Derby.

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