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Tonight's $400,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton looked a two horse war between two outstanding harness racing champions in Lennytheshark and Smolda and thats exactly as it panned out. Smolda and Mark Purdon had drawn better at barrier four but have never been renowned for their gate speed whereas Lennytheshark and Chris Alford have always had gate speed to burn which lead most pundits to predict an early war between the two champions. The concenus was that whichever of the two champions made the front would be incredibly hard to beat overall. Smolda, Mister Mundaka and Lennytheshark all came out together as they rushed into the first corner but Lennytheshark had the momentum and made the front in front of Smolda and as predicted that was the winning of the race. Allowed to run the first 1200 metres of the last mile in a sedate 1:29.8,Lennytheshark sprinted quickly from the 400 metres and a last quarter in a smart 26.9 was enough to see him just hold out a late charging Smolda by an ever diminishing head to reverse the result when they last met in the Ballarat Cup. A minor highlight of the Victoria Cup was the performance of the Greg Hope trained Mossdale Conner who after settling near last early, worked forward in the three wide line and then finished brilliantly out wide late on a 26.9 quarter to run third. Driver Ricky May had been bullish about the Bettor's Delight geldings chances going into this week but was looking forward to the Hunter Cup even more as Mossdale Conner is a renowned standing start exponent. Lennytheshark paced the 2240 metres in 2:40.1, a mile rate of 1;55 with closing sectionals of 55.8 and 26.9. The last two meetings between Lennytheshark and Smolda have proven one thing beyond dispute. Whichever of the two champions finds the pegs first invariably proves the horse to beat. There seems to be a tissue paper between them on performance at the moment which has made for some great racing in their last two clashes. Lennytheshark A race earlier, Ohoka Punter sent another warning shot over the bows of his Hunter Cup rivals with another effortless standing start victory at Tabcorp Park Melton in the hands of Anthony Butt. Ohoka Punter seems to be thriving on his Australian campaign and looms as a major player in this years Hunter Cup where the standing start and 3000 metres + trip will suit him down to the ground. Ohoka Punter Harnesslink Media

Harness racing owner Martin Riseley is living the dream and enjoying every minute of it. When his champion pacer Lennytheshark won last month’s Inter Dominion Grand Final in Perth Riseley realised a lifelong dream, but the euphoria will continue tomorrow night at Tabcorp Park Melton as the 2016 Sumer of Glory gets under way. It is Good Form Victoria Cup night and Lennytheshark highly fancied by punters and bookies alike in the $400,000 Group 1 feature race. “We’re enjoying every bit of it … he’s the greatest horse I’ve ever been involved with without a doubt,” Riseley told RSN Breakfast this morning. Riseley, who races Lennytheshark in partnership with his father Kevin, said the horse was purchased as a weanling. “They’re all champions before they get to the track,” he said of his babies. “We always hold high hopes and Lenny was no different to that.” But how did the gun pacer with the catchy name come to be called Lennytheshark? “My eldest boy Sam, dad and me would go around and feed the mares and the foals and at that stage Lenny was always just ‘Sharky’, being by Four Starzzz Shark (Lennytheshark’s sire). “After a few months of that, Sam would have only been three or four, he piped up in the ute and said: ‘It isn’t Sharky, it’s Lenny the Shark’, and he went on to explain to us about the Fish Tales movie he watches and how Lenny the Shark was on that.” Now Riseley’s kids have their hair done up like a shark’s fin at the races and carry shark mascots in support of their champion, who has netted almost $1.5million in prizemoney with 24 wins from 46 starts to date. “It’s all still a bit surreal,” he said of the whole experience. Want to find out more about ownership? Visit the owners booth near the raceday office on Good Form Victoria Cup night at Tabcorp Park Melton or email HRV Ownership Manager Tori Glenister.  Cody Winnell

If you are wondering whether Smolda can make the most of his barrier draw advantage over Lennytheshark in tomorrow night’s $400,000 Victoria Cup you are not alone. Harness racing trainer-driver Mark Purdon would love to know, too. Smolda has barrier four in the 2240m mobile and if he can beat Lennytheshark to the marker pegs and control the race it will be a huge advantage. But if Lenny, drawn barrier six, crosses him then he becomes the horse to beat. Kiwi trainer Purdon realises the equation could be that simple so says he will be doing everything he can to reach the front. “But whether we can do that, I honestly don’t know,” says Purdon. “I can’t remember the last time we asked him to go hard off the gate but I realise we have to this week. “So I will give him a brisk warm-up and get his mind on the job and I am sure he will leave pretty quickly. “But whether that will be quick enough to hold Lenny, I don’t know. “And if he gets in front of us then he will be very hard to catch.” The pair quinellaed the Ballarat Cup last Saturday, with Smolda leading and just holding out the Victorian pacer, who was fresh up since winning the Inter Dominion sitting parked in Perth on December 13 and ran him close after sitting parked. Lennytheshark is likely to take more improvement out of that race and has an exceptional Melton record so the first 10 strides of the race could decide it, with all other drivers on the front line likely to hand up to one of the favoured pair. Purdon won’t have any such early worries with Lazarus in the $200,000 Victoria Derby, with the superstar three-year-old having to settle early from a second line draw before attacking. “It is quite a good Derby with plenty of depth but I am not too worried about the draw because he is a very good horse.” If Lazarus has to sit parked he will still probably win so getting caught up in traffic three wide looks his biggest concern. With Ohoka Punter is hotly favoured in the standing start feature tomorrow night, The Pure Steel so it could be an epic night for the Kiwis, rounded out by Monbet in the $50,000 Australasian Trotting Champs. He has a 20m handicap but the final is missing series second favourite Arboe and most of the other fancies have drawn the second line, meaning Monbet should get a nice tow into the race. by Michael Guerin Harness Racing Victoria

The horses that ran 1-2 in the PETstock Ballarat Cup last Saturday night, Smolda and Lennytheshark, have both picked up frontline draws for Saturday night’s harness racing rematch in the $400,000 Good Form Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. David Aiken-trained Lennytheshark drew barrier seven, meaning he will start outside the front line in the 2240m race, while Smolda, from the Mark Purdon stable, has barrier four. Inter Dominion placegetter Flaming Flutter pulled the pole, gate one, while Messini will come out of gate two and Franco Nelson gate three. Tough speedster Mister Mundaka has barrier five for trainer Andy Gath, while first emergency – should he gain a run – Hectorjayjay will come out the six-gate. Hotasel is drawn for a soft trail along the pegs, barrier eight, with Major Crocker to come out of nine, Bling It On barrier 10, Mossdale Conner 11, It Is Billy 12 and My Hard Copy 13. The draw for the VHRSC Victoria Derby was also held at this morning’s function at Eynesbury Golf Course with New Zealand star Lazarus drawing barrier 11. Other heat winners Dont Hold Back and Sprinter picked up front-line draws (gates five and seven respectively). The Good Form Victoria Cup will be Race 7 at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night (9.30pm), while the VHRSC Victoria Derby will be run at 8.32pm. The APCO Australasian Trotting Championship Final is the third Group 1 race on a packed program, Race 8 at 10pm, and features New Zealand star Monbet as a short-priced favourite despite a 20-metre handicap. Click here to see the full fields for Good Form Victoria Cup Night Harness Racing Victoria

The 2016 Summer of Glory carnival is under way after a colourful media launch at Tabcorp Park Melton today. The $1.65 million harness racing carnival, Australasia’s premier trots event, will feature the $400,000 Good Form Victoria Cup and the $500,000 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup across two colossal Saturday nights at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 30 and February 6 next year. Today’s launch saw media, sporting personalities and the Victorian Racing Minister and AttorneyGeneral, the Hon. Martin Pakula, battling it out on the trots track in double-seater sulky charity races. Driving the horses were trots stars Kerryn Manning, Kate Gath, Greg Sugars and Nathan Jack. Sitting alongside the stars were Mr Pakula, AFL greats Billy Brownless and Cameron Mooney, Channel 9’s Clint Stanaway, Herald Sun’s Danny Russell,’s Adam Hamilton and Nick Quinn and Harness Breeders Victoria’s Desiree Pettit. Mr Pakula and Brownless won the two races, netting $2000 from Harness Racing Victoria to their charities of choice – Ballarat Hospice on behalf of Mr Pakula and the Geelong Hospital in Brownless’ name. The charities nominated by all other participants in the race received a $1000 donation. Mr Pakula described the ride in the sulky as “absolutely unbelievable … one of the best experiences I’ve had”. “It was not just a privilege but also very exciting to be in the sulky today (alongside Kerryn Manning),” he said. Today’s launch also saw the unveiling of HRV’s new TrotsCam, which will revolutionise the way the trots is presented. TrotsCam, a project supported by the Victorian State Government under the Raceday Attraction Program, will bring trots fans closer to the action than ever before. Mr Pakula wished all participants well in their Summer of Glory pursuits. “I want to wish all the owners, trainers and drivers the very best of luck for the Summer of Glory. I know it will showcase harness racing at its very best and will be a great attraction for all those who love the sport,” he said. “We’re very committed as a Government to supporting harness racing and we’ve provided $1.7 million this year from the Victorian Racing Industry Fund to support harness racing.” HRV CEO John Anderson said the 2016 Summer of Glory would present great opportunities for horses of all age groups to race for almost $2million in stake money. "The Summer of Glory will showcase the best horses in Australasia across two huge nights," he said. "The carnival will present the harness racing community and the local community in general to experience our sport at its very best at an accessible location. "Participants have added incentive with extra prizemoney on offer for horses of all ages." >> Billy Brownless and Kerryn Manning win! >> Summer of Glory website >> Facebook photo gallery from #SOG16 launch  Cody Winnell

Harness racing went through a lot of changes in the 1980s just like the rest of the country and one aspect of that at the time was the emergence of companies such as National Bloodstock who were media darlings until the share market crash of 1987. National Bloodstock changed the way the whole industry operated and many of the things they brought to the table at the time have had an enduring effect on harness racing in New Zealand. One thing they did was to import several young broodmares from North America and those mares have left some wonderful pacers and trotters over the last twenty five years.  One of those pacing mares that National Bloodstock imported was the daughter of Temujin called  Tabella Bindy. Covered by National Bloodstock's elite sire Soky's Atom, the first foal from Tabella Bindy was the outstanding colt Desperate Comment 1:55.7 ($1,033,065) who won 28 races on both sides of the Tasman including the Victoria Cup. Tabella Bindy went on to leave eight winners in total and her daughters and grand daughters have continued to produce quality racehorses. One grand daughter in the Christian Cullen mare in Maid In Splendour 1:56.1 ($61,825) has her first foal cataloged in this years Australasian Classic Sale at Auckland. Named Never Say Never he is a colt by champion sire Bettor's Delight. Maid In Splendour is one of seven winners left by the smart half sister to Desperate Comment in Diamonds N Gold 1:56.5 ($37,883). Diamonds N Gold's  best performer was undoubtedly Diamonds N Furs 1:54.5 ($231,399) who won 22 races in Australia. Another half sister to Diamonds N Gold in Diamond Belle 1:56.7 left the very smart Chance 1:52.5 ($152,838) While National Bloodstock mat not have survived very long, their influence on harness racing in New Zealand continues to be felt 25 years later. Harnesslink Media   

The 2015 TAB Victoria Cup came down to ‘gate speed’. The 2240m feature harness racing sprint at TABCORP Park, Melton was taken out by New Zealand star Christen Me who blasted the gate to lead before running away with the $400,000 feature defeating Lennytheshark and Adore Me. The victory also sends Christen Me to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit race, a title he claimed last season. All pre-race talk centred on Beautide, running from gate three and expected to lead from his favourable alley but the mighty pacer was tackling the event on the fresh side, having not raced since the Miracle Mile on November 29 in Sydney. But champion reinsman Dexter Dunn rolled the dice and charged hard off the gate with Christen Me and led comfortably while Beautide got away in third place. The decisive tactics from Dunn proved to be a masterstroke. The lead time was covered in 45.3 seconds. In-form pacer Philadelphia Man quickly rushed around the outside to race without cover before his stablemate Guaranteed made his move to park outside the leader. With early moves being made, Beautide was soon shuffled back in the pack, racing midfield. The first half was covered in 30.4 and 30.3 as Dunn continued to deal with Christen Me in front. Beautide was flushed out three-wide when champion mare Adore Me commenced her run but the pressure soon hit fever pitch as they entered the back straight for the final time. Christen Me traveled strongly with Guaranteed matching while Beautide was hustled along deeper on the track. The third quarter was covered in 27 seconds. At the top of the straight, Christen Me had sailed away from his rivals while Lennytheshark went back to the passing lane and Adore Me started to charge wider on the track. At the end, Christen Me scored easily by 2 metres with a further 3.5 metres back to Adore Me in third. The last section was also recorded in 27 seconds. The overall time was 2;40.0 and the winning milerate was 1;55.0. “I was actually surprised how easy I got over at the start; he travelled so easily and rounding the home turn he felt like he was jogging. He’s going better than ever and it’s a credit to everyone involved with the horse.” Winning driver Dexter Dunn declared. The victory also continues the love affair Christen Me has with Australian racing, the Christian Cullen – Splendid Dreams gelding is yet to miss a place in 10 starts on Aussie soil. Already this season, Christen Me has claimed the Miracle Mile, NZ Free-For-All, Bendigo Cup and now the Victoria Cup. Next week, Christen Me will attempt to defend his title in the Gr.1 $400,000 Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup. For Dunn and trainer Cran Dalgety, it is their second Victoria triumph together following their success in 2009 with Bettors Strike. Dalgety also prepared Desperate Comment who scored back to back victories in 1996/97. Christen Me now has 210 points in the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion with three legs remaining; his nearest rival is For A Reason with 150 points. by Chris Barsby

The West Australian harness racing community will be attached to the radio and television this Saturday night as David Hercules competes in the Group 1, Victorian Pacing Cup worth a massive $400,000. Trainer Dave Thompson spoke to the TABradio team about his assault on the Victoria Cup at Melton this Saturday night. “The horse went over on Wednesday night, he seems as bright as a button, went for a jog and everything’s great” Thompson said.   Having drawn nine, Thompson stated that it was one of his more preferred avenues leading into the race, whilst relishing the challenge of the opposition. “We just have to hope for the best because class wise it’s a step up, it’s probably the best group I’ve seen assembled together for a long long time” he added. After a brilliant performance in the WA Pacing Cup, seeing a narrow defeat to the swooping My Hard Copy, Thompson seemingly is not one to look in the rear-view mirror, but basking in the moment. “Some people are saying this is going to be one of the best races ever, so to have one of the runners in it, just makes me so proud of the horse” said Thompson. “I’m just so lucky to be involved with him” he added. “I’m even going to try and enjoy this one! Normally I just end up getting too wound up… we just have to sit back and enjoy it”. David Hercules runs in the Victorian Cup at Melton, race starting at 6:32pm WST, covered extensively on TABradio and seen on Sky Racing.  If you weren't on-course for the $400,000 Western Australian Pacing Cup, or even if you were, do yourself a favour and take a look at one the most dramatic WA Pacing Cup's ever seen at Gloucester Park.   Racing and Wagering Western Australia

If you build it, they will come... Harness Racing Victoria have hit a home run, not too dissimilar to one of the homers hit by the baseballers in the legendary Kevin Costner movie involving cornfields and ghosts, by changing the summer calendar and launching the TAB Summer of Glory carnival. The TAB Victoria Cup field tonight is packed with stars and more than one trots pundit believes it to be the greatest and most competitive Victoria Cup field that's been seen in the modern era.   TAB VICTORIA CUP Saturday night, January 31. Group 1, 2240m, mobile start. 9.32pm   1: LENNYTHESHARK ($9) “He’s drawn perfectly. He’s second-up from a spell and ran a terrific race first-up in the Shepparton Cup. You don’t want them at 100 per cent first-up and he’ll improve significantly with that run under his belt. Chris (Alford) has options from the draw, so we’ll leave that up to him. Philadelphia Man got away from him at the turn at Shepparton and on the line we were on his wheel.” - David Aiken (trainer)   2: FRANCO LEDGER ($21) “He’s great, we’re really happy with him. He’s in the zone at the moment and we’re drawn well. I’d be really happy to be three back the pegs in the run, but one-out and three-back would be fine too. The quicker they go up front the better it’ll be for us.” - Geoff Webster (trainer/driver)   3: BEAUTIDE ($3.2) “Really happy with how he’s going. He’s trained well and we’re pretty confident he’s better than he’s been all season. He’s had some good trials and has got a good draw. He’ll come out quick; he’s got really good gate speed.” - James Rattray (trainer/driver)   4: PHILADELPHIA MAN ($6) “He was a little bit fresh at Shepparton and he’ll strip fitter for the run. He’s worked terrific during the week. I think he brought himself undone a bit by over-racing last week. I’m happy with gate four. We can run our own race.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   5: IM CORZIN TERROR ($81) “We’re really happy with his work. The draw’s a bit unfortunate; we’d like to swap his draw with Chilli’s. Some people are putting him down but I think he’s the forgotten horse. You look at his run at Kilmore in the Cup when he gave Guaranteed a start and was running on strongly for second.” - Amanda Grieve (trainer)   6: CHRISTEN ME ($6) “They will fly the gate and from our barrier we are half in and half out, so Dexter will most likely come out and sit in the middle of the track until the dust settles. From then on we are aiming to position up in the front half of the field rather than the back half.” - Cran Dalgety (trainer)   7: TERROR TO LOVE ($16) “We’re getting used to these barrier draws now! It is what it is … I think he’ll come into it later on. It’s the first of a lot of big races coming up. Thinking he’ll just go back and try to work into it at the right time. Everyone sort of forgets how good a sprint he’s got when he’s saved for one go.” - Paul Court (co-trainer)   8: CHILLI PALMER (1EM) ($51) “Absolutely thrilled with Chilli, we’ve just got to hope he gets a start. We’re very happy with how he’s come back.” - Amanda Grieve (trainer)   9: DAVID HERCULES ($41) “I give him a huge chance. We’re not going to have to do half the work a few of the others will have to do. He’s apparently travelled very well.”  - David Thompson (trainer)   10: GUARANTEED ($4.8) “His form’s been terrific and he’s come through every run better and better. His work has been terrific.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   11: FOR A REASON ($41) “We were disappointed he pulled at Horsham (in the Cup) and then off 30m with those sectionals last week he had no hope. He’s come on good since that run and he’ll benefit from it. This is a tougher Victoria Cup than last year though. This is probably the best cup field in years. We’ll drive him like last year; come with one run. We’d be thrilled if he ran a place.” - Luke McCarthy (driver)   12: ADORE ME ($10) “Adore Me is training very well and we’re pretty excited going into the Victoria Cup. She has travelled really well and it’s a pleasure to be involved with her.” - Duane Marfisi (stable assistant with Mark Purdon)   13: RESTREPO ($41) “We’re hoping he’s getting home well and finishing it off strongly. The draw makes it a bit tricky.” - Emma Stewart (trainer)   ACCESS THE MARKET FOR THE TAB VICTORIA CUP   $200,000 FIRST 4 JACKPOT Tomorrow night's TAB Victoria Cup will carry a $200,000 First 4 pool guarantee. There is also a special bonus offer for TAB customers this weekend. Have a fixed odds win bet on the Group 1 TAB Victoria Cup or the Group 1 Hunter Cup, with your TAB account or TAB rewards card, and if your horse runs second or third, you'll score a Bonus Bet up to $50 or equivalent TAB Rewards points. Bet at the track, your local TAB outlet, via the TAB smart phone app or online at   WIN A $50 TAB VOUCHER Here’s your chance to win a $50 TAB Voucher. To enter, tell us who you think will win the TAB Victoria Cup on Saturday night. All entrants that pick the winner will go into a random draw and whichever lucky entrant is drawn, wins the $50 TAB Voucher! Entries must be in by no later than 8:30pm on Saturday night 31 January. Must be over 18 years of age to enter. Email with the subject WIN.  The winner will be notified via email on Tuesday.

Master reinsman Gavin Lang has answered one of the biggest harness racing questions of the weekend. As the number one driver for the Emma Stewart stable, Lang had a choice between three runners in tomorrow night’s $400,000 Victoria Cup and has made his decision. Lang’s options where Phildadelphia Man from barrier four, Guaranteed from 10 and Restrepo from 13. After waiting until the trio had their final workout ahead of the Grand Circuit gem, Lang has selected Guaranteed, which he has driven to four wins and two placings from six starts this season. Guaranteed has been kept fresh since his brilliant victory in the South Australia Cup three weeks ago. Talented reinsman Nathan Jack will partner Philadelphia Man, which had his winning sequence broken when a fighting second in last Saturday’s Shepparton Cup. Heading into the provincial feature, Philadelphia Man had won his previous 11 starts. Greg Sugars will take the reins behind Restrepo, which was a class above his rivals in the Hamilton Cup a fortnight ago. With Lang in the cart, Restrepo shrugged off a 30-metre handicap to score in track record time. Guaranteed is the second favourite at $4.80 behind Beautide, which is sitting on $3.20 despite being first-up for nine weeks. Philadelphia Man, along with Christen Me, is on $6, with Restrepo one of the outsiders at $41. Such is the depth of the field, defending champion, For A Reason, is also $41 after drawing awkwardly in gate 11. PAUL COURTS

Ricky May could hardly believe what he was hearing the other day when he got the call that Terror To Love had drawn the outside of the front line in this weekend's Victoria Cup. Time and again throughout his appearances in Australia, Terror To Love has drawn the worst possible barrier and Ricky thought they were well overdue for a decent marble. But  that was not to be and while the longest run of bad barriers in major races is set to continue on Saturday night, Ricky is far from conceding defeat with Terror To Love. " Last year Christen Me came from last at the 400 metres and six wide on the corner to run third so I don't think we are out of it at all" I drove Monkey King here from the same draw and we ran fourth with a terrible run so with a little bit of luck we can get some of it." "Seeing Franco Ledger run past them the other night has given the camp some confidence that we can be more than competitive," Ricky said. Post Saturday Ricky is really looking forward to the standing start Hunter Cup where the draw will not be half as influential as it is on Saturday night. Before then Ricky has the New Zealand Premier Mares Championship on Friday night at Addington on his radar and once again his drive Helena Jet has drawn poorly. Twice second to champion mare Adore Me in mares races over Xmas at Alexandra Park, Ricky thought Helena Jet would be very hard to beat with no Adore Me around but the Jeremes Jet mare has had the misfortune to draw outside her main rival, Venus Serena. Ricky though still thinks he can still find the front from barrier six on Friday night. " She has blinding gate speed so I am pretty committed to going forward with her." " She doesn't have many more runs left as she is in foal so we are not going to die wondering." "I think she is good enough to work early and still win the race," Ricky said. The master reinsman has been in great touch this season and the chances of a little bit of Ricky May magic over the weekend at both Addington and Melton cannot be discounted. Harnesslink Media

Despite several setbacks and a lack of racing, Beautide has been installed favourite for what promises to be one of the most exciting harness racing events of the season – Saturday night’s Victoria Cup. After drawing ideally in barrier three, Beautide has been posted at $3 by Fourth behind For A Reason in last year’s edition, Beautide heads the market in front of stablemates Guaranteed and Philadelphia Man, which are on $5. Beautide hasn’t raced since finishing second to Christen Me in the Miracle Mile last November. Others under double figures are Christen Me ($6.50) and Lennytheshark ($9). “The TAB Victoria Cup promises to be a race for the ages,” TAB’s Andrew Georgiou said. “Beautide is the favourite, but hasn’t raced since his brave second in the Miracle Mile back in November. “The draw certainly paves the way for trainer-driver James Rattray to slot him into a position close to the speed.” Within moments of yesterday’s barrier draw, a $3000 wager was placed on Beautide at $3.8. After opening at $51, comeback pacer Lennytheshark has been a major mover and is on the fourth line of betting at $9. Lennytheshark was impressive when third in last Saturday night’s Shepparton Cup in his first run since July. Lennytheshark has drawn perfectly in barrier one for trainer David Aiken. PAUL COURTS TAB Victoria Cup – Fixed Odds market Beautide                         $3.00  Guaranteed                   $5  Philadelphia Man           $5  Christen Me                   $6.50  Lennytheshark               $9  Adore Me                       $12  Terror To Love               $14  Franco Ledger                $21  Chilli Palmer (1em)         $41  David Hercules               $41  For A Reason                  $41  Restrepo                          $41  Im Corzin Terror              $71

If you build it, they will come. Bringing together Victoria’s two biggest summer gems – the TAB Victoria Cup and the Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup – has resulted in what long-time harness racing pundits are describing as the greatest ever Victorian Cup field. Long-time trots form analyst and scribe Bill Hutchison remarked at the TAB Victoria Cup barrier draw this morning at Eynesbury Golf Club that: “Depth wise this is the best Victoria Cup field I’ve ever seen.” Master of Ceremonies, Adam Hamilton, agreed. “It’s definitely the best overall Victoria Cup field I’ve seen in my time,” Hamilton said. The Australasian harness racing world is abuzz ahead of the Group 1, $400,000 feature race to be run over 2240 metres at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. The best from New Zealand, including three-time New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love, reigning NZ Cup champion mare Adore Me and Miracle Mile hero Christen Me, will be hoping to take the cup back across the ditch, but the Australian brigade – spearheaded by Tasmanian superstar Beautide and a three-pronged Emma Stewart attack – Guaranteed, Philadelphia Man and Restrepo – will provide fierce resistance. “This race won’t be for the fainthearted,” said champion reinsman Gavin Lang, who is expected to pilot Guaranteed on Saturday night. Impressive five-year-old Lennytheshark, who took all before him as a four-year-old last season, drew the coveted pole for the Victoria Cup. Drawn alongside the David Aiken trained runner will be Geoff Webster’s last-start Shepparton Cup winner, Franco Ledger, who stunned Philadelphia Man and Lennytheshark to win last weekend. The race favourite, and a heavily backed one at that, is Beautide from gate three for trainer/driver James Rattray. Beautide hasn’t raced since finishing second to Christen Me in November’s Miracle Mile but has trialled impressively in recent times. Trainer Amanda Grieve drew gate five with her Ballarat Pacing Cup winner Im Corzin Terror. Grieve also has Chilli Palmer, the first emergency, in the race, who drew gate eight. Cran Dalgety’s superstar Kiwi Christen Me will come from gate six, while Terror To Love and Ricky May will be hoping to emulate their Cranbourne Cup win from December but will have to overcome a barrier seven draw here. West Australian star David Hercules comes out of nine, drawn to trail through nicely on the back of Franco Ledger for Victoria Cup winning reinswoman Kate Gath. Guaranteed and Gavin Lang have drawn gate 10, reigning Victoria Cup winner For A Reason is coming out of 11, superstar New Zealand mare Adore Me is in gate 12 and last-start Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Restrepo rounds out the field in gate 13. The trots world will pause for the big race at 9.32pm on Saturday.  Race 7 TAB VICTORIA CUP (GROUP 1) 9:32 PM  M0 Or Better. * The winner of the following races in 2014 will be exempt from ballot for this race - New Zealand Free For All, Miracle Mile, Cranbourne Pacing Cup and Ballarat Pacing Cup. * This race is a leg of the Pacers Grand Circuit. * Acceptance Fee - $2, 000. * Stakemoney of $3, 375 per horse to be paid to the 6th to 12th placegetters respectively. TRAINERS NOTE: * Nominations for this race close at Noon on Friday, December 19. * Late nominations for this race close at Noon on Monday, January 19. A late nomination fee of $2, 000 will be applicable. RBD. Prizemoney: $400,000 2240 METRES 2ND LEG DAILY DOUBLE, 3RD LEG QUADDIE, 5TH LEG BIG6 MOBILE START   Form Horse Trainer Other Eng. Driver   Class  Hcp 1 111s3 LENNYTHESHARK  D Aiken   Chris Alford   C10 M4  FR1 2 89151 FRANCO LEDGER NZ  G F Webster   Geoff Webster   C20 M14  FR2 3 4112s BEAUTIDE  J R Rattray   James Rattray   C37 M13  FR3 4 11112 PHILADELPHIA MAN  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C13 M4  FR4 5 61264 IM CORZIN TERROR NZ  A J Grieve       C16 M9  FR5 6 51121 CHRISTEN ME NZ  C T Dalgety   Dexter Dunn   C22 M14  FR6 7 44412 TERROR TO LOVE NZ  G T Court   Ricky May   C27 M21  FR7  ---------- Second Row ----------  8 020s3 CHILLI PALMER NZ (Em 1)  A J Grieve Balarat 30/01/2015     C9 M5  SR- 9 s1112 DAVID HERCULES  D A Thompson   Kate Gath   C33 M23  SR1 10 11231 GUARANTEED  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C16 M6  SR2 11 35177 FOR A REASON  B J McCarthy   Luke McCarthy   C20 M9  SR3 12 12111 ADORE ME NZ  M Purdon   Mark Purdon   C22 M12  SR4 13 s4421 RESTREPO  E J Stewart   Gavin Lang   C12 M5  SR5 BY CODY WINNELL 

Former kiwi pacer Easy On The Eye will be aimed at the Hunter Cup after his win in Monday's Frank and Edna Day Goulburn Cup. The Shane Tritton trained gelding led throughout to record his second Australian win but his 17th victory overall. "Easy On The Eye's form is faultless since he joined my stable if you ignore the Miracle Mile run and on that occasion we simply overdid it early," Tritton said. "I was extremely happy with his performance at Goulburn, he worked to the lead and controlled the race throughout so now I will take him to Victoria and hope to get a start in the Hunter Cup." Tritton did nominate Easy On The Eye and Suave Stuey Lombo for this Saturday night's Victoria Cup but both failed to make the final field. "We want to wish the connections of horses in the Victoria Cup the best of luck, it should be a great race, it is just a pity Suave Stuey Lombo couldn't gain a start because we would have started from the carpark if they had let us." "Easy On The Eye, Artistic Flite and Yayas Hot Spot will all go to Victoria this week and then after Saturday night's Ranji Bill Stakes at Menangle I will also send one of my four mares down but I just want to wait and see what happens this weekend first." The leading driver in New South Wales, Lauren Panella will drive at Melton on Saturday night and Tritton confirmed drivers that he has used recently will get another opportunity. "A lot of the drivers who have been driving for me will retain their drives this week, outside of Lauren I have been using David Morris, Bruce Birch and Blake Fitzpatrick as well." "We will go down for two weeks and be back for the Inter Dominion heats in Sydney." By Greg Hayes                

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

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

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