If you wanted to bank on a big-race player coming into ID14, then there would only be one choice. Caribbean Blaster. His big race record in the past two years is almost unparalleled. A winner of the Chariots of Fire, Breeders Crown, Victoria Cup and SA Cup, he has also placed in two Hunter Cups, a Cranbourne Cup, a Ballarat Cup and another SA Cup. And there’s nothing that seems to stop him, winning from almost any barrier, Andy Gath has simply had to prepare his pacer to peak on Sunday. That came with a Tabcorp Park trial Tuesday when the son of Bettors Delight ripped home in 55.8secs. “We were just there to keep him ticking along and keep some sharpness in him. He hit the line quite well and seemed to enjoy himself and he got through it good,” Gath said. “From there draw there is a good chance he is going to have 13 horses in front of him at some stage which is never easy when they are top quality. In saying that I’m not losing any sleep over it, I’m not sure what draw I would have been happy with to tell you the truth. “It gives you a bit of confidence going into a race knowing you are going to get 100% every time. As yet he really hasn’t let us down in a big race and hopefully this is no exception.” But what Gath did have to rely on was a coveted wildcard position, because with only three spots available from the Victorian heat, a fourth wasn’t enough to see the six-year-old through to the final. That came swiftly after the last heat however and deservedly so according to Gath who rated his run as good as any he has shown this time in. “It was up there with any of his runs this season I think. There’s no worse place to be than sitting in the death when they are running a track record so unfortunately he was there, but he battled on strongly,” he said. Owner Rob Nalder drew barrier nine on Monday and while on face value it looks to have made his job even harder, there are some upsides. One of those being the speed drawn on the front row and the likelihood that Lauren Panella and Mach Beauty will be doing everything they can to force Keayang Cullen and Glen Craven into relenting the lead early. And with a raft of mid-race moves expected, it could turn into a survival of the fittest. “Last year we all went in to the race a little bit blind. It was the first time over 3000 metres at Menangle and no one really knew what to expect and maybe drove a little bit cautiously,” Gath said. “I think it will be a little bit different this year now that we’ve got a template to look at. Given the field is so even and there are a lot more winning chances this year there will probably be more mid-race moves.” Gath also explained that squaregaiting stable star Elegant Image had been dealing with issues but after a pleasing return on Friday night, will head to the Glenferrie Challenge on Inter Dominion day. Purdon Has Gelding Smouldering For Inter Heading into an Inter Dominion final third-up from a 9 month spell would be unheard of a decade ago. In fact, it would have been unheard of a year ago. But such is the confidence Mark Purdon holds in his talented young pacer, Smolda will emerge from the Shaky Isle on Sunday to try for an unconventional win in the $750,000 Group 1 race. A win over 2600 metres first-up, followed by a strong second in a record-breaking last quarter has set the five-year-old up for what could be a famous victory. “He’s a great horse and it isn’t a typical build up but I’ve got a lot of confidence in the horse and he’s good enough to be there,” Purdon said on RSN’s dedicated trots show Gait Speed this past Tuesday. “All up it was probably close to five months preparation before he stepped out so he had a lot of foundation miles under him.” Given most of the groundwork has been covered off and the barriers have now been decided, tactics will play an integral role in the early stages. And with an expected speed war between Keayang Cullen and Mach Beauty, many would have had Smolda pegged to continue rolling forward and look to take the top off whichever horse eventually wins that battle. That’s not necessarily going to be the case however with Purdon considering his options and suggesting a mid-race move isn’t out of the question. “We’ll probably just see what happens but I wouldn’t be fussy getting into any speed duels early. He’s one horse that can make his own luck so if he settles back I’m not hesitant to make a move on his own at some stage,” he said. TAB fixed odds have Smolda the current third favourite at $5 behind Beautide ($3.60) and Im Victorious ($4.60). Purdon’s hopes won’t just be pinned on one horse though, he brings an army of star Kiwi’s to Menangle on Sunday. Adore Me, rated as New Zealand’s best mare, she is a winner of 16 of her 18 starts but has drawn the carpark in the Ladyship Mile. And her trainer wasn’t mincing his words when suggesting she could have been competitive in the Inter Dominion final had she been set for it. “I think she would have been (competitive),” Purdon said. “I don’t rate her as being as tough as Smolda but she would certainly be as quick and given the right run she wouldn’t be far away in a race like the Inter Dominion final. It is wonderful to train and drive her and to bring her across to take on some of the best horses in Australasia.” Adore Me is the $1.30 favourite for the Ladyship Mile with TAB fixed odds. Purdon also has Border Control in the Chariots of Fire, Isaiah in the NSW Derby and My Willow in the NSW Oaks. By Blake Redden (Harness Racing Australia)
Terror To Love disappointed last start but loves Addington and has regularly paced sub 55-second last 800m there so Smolda will need to be equine-sonic to beat him. Photo / NZ Herald The demise of the Saturday gallops Pick6 will provide harness racing punters with a rare bonus for tonight's frenetic programme of Inter Dominion heats. The TAB is guaranteeing a $50,000 terminating Pick6 on the six heats to be run around Australasia in the space of just 80 minutes tonight, starting at Addington at 10.15pm. "It is a unique night and with no gallops Pick6 any more on Saturday because of the Triple Trio it gives us the perfect chance to showcase the Interdom heats," said TAB spokesman Michael Dore. The heats are largely dominated by a hot favourite with only one or two threats, with the exception being the strong Melton heat, which is why the first three home there are guaranteed spots in the A$750,000 Inter Final in Sydney on March 2. With punter fatigue always a factor after a long Saturday, tonight's pool is certain to contain plenty of dead money, with each heat also boosted by a $5000 bonus in the First4, courtesy of the Victorian TAB but available to New Zealand punters through co-mingling. So what is going to happen in the heats? Maybe something like this: Heat one, Addington, 10.15pm: Two-horse race between Terror To Love (1) and Smolda (2) who are set to lead and trail in that order. Terror To Love disappointed last start but loves Addington and has regularly paced sub 55-second last 800m there so Smolda will need to be equine-sonic to beat him. Pick six: Take them both, 1-2. Heat two, Menangle, 10.30pm: Miracle Mile hero Beautide (8) has been crushing this season and his trainer-driver wants to make a statement so should win. Genuine speed outside him from Suave Stuey Lombo (11) and The Gold Ace (12) sets up an early burn which suggests over 2400m a late closer can qualify, which suits Gaius Caesar (2). Pick6: Beautide an anchor. Heat three, Melton, 10.45pm: If the Restrepo (1) who won the Ballarat Cup two starts ago turns up he should lead throughout. That gives Keayang Cullen (8) a great tow into a place and therefore the final while Caribbean Blaster (11) is flying but may be driven to qualify first, win as a bonus. Abettorpunt (9) and Bitobliss (3) and I'm Corzin Terror (4) could upset if the speed map gets screwed up, but it probably won't. Pick6: Split your spend, one ticket anchor Restrepo, saver ticket with 3, 4, 8, 9, 11. Heat four, Menangle, 11pm: Time for Victoria Cup winner For A Reason (6) to stand up and stake his Inter claim. He has the draw to do it. Does face the tricky proposition of having to come from behind Mach Beauty (8) to do so after the latter's 1:51 mile win last week, but the 2400m suits the favourite more. Kiwi pacer Franco Nelson will love the distance but Menangle is a tough track to master fresh up and tempo is against him. Pick6: For A Reason all but an anchor, maybe small second ticket Mach Beauty. Heat five, Albion Park, 11.15pm: Weakest heat with tempo crucial. If Avonnova (2) can lead very hard to run down, with Forever Gold (1) a danger from trail. If they go hard, then Field Officer (9) should blow over the top. Pick6: Don't like the race so take 1, 2 and 9. Heat six, Gloucester Park, 11.30pm: I'm Victorious (5) the top gun but doesn't like it too tough and could have to sit parked outside Livingontheinterest (2), for whom this might be a Grand Final. David Hercules (8) the only winning threat and might be worth the risk. Pick6: 2-5-8. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald)
An Introduction From The CEO A very successful Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup Carnival has concluded with a big crowd attending and strong growth in wagering turnover. Click here for a highlights package of Hunter Cup night. Some exciting news is imminent with our next major event, the Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star on March 22. Follow HRV on Twitter @HRVnews Stakes Rises I am pleased to confirm that the second phase of stakes rises for the year will come into effect on March 1. A summary of the main changes: The minimum career penalty stake will rise to $6,000 (a 20% rise this year); A payment of $115 (which includes the driver's fee of $65 will be added to the stake for horses which finish between sixth and last); Metropolitan class minimum stake will rise to $17,000 for M1 or better and $16,000 for M0; With effect from July 1, the Vicbred first win bonus will rise to $7,000 for two and three-year-olds. Other stakes rises previously announced on September 1, 2013 remain in force. Fires The past week has been a tough one for many participants, with serious fires burning through several regions of country Victoria. Several of those regions housed industry people. In particular the areas of Riddells Creek, Kilmore and the Goulburn Valley were severely threatened by raging fires. HRV was monitoring the course of the fires and the likely impacts. I am pleased to say that quick action by the authorities and many in the industry meant no loss of life and minimal loss of livestock. However there has been significant damage reported to properties. Some of the areas which were closely monitored: In the Riddells Creek fires several trainers/owners in the area were forced to relocate horses as the fires headed in their direction. HRV's own Craig Rail was evacuated as the fires were close by.Apart from damage to his property his house remains intact. In the Goulburn Valley, Warwick Stud was the worst affected with the loss of barns, fencing, stallion boxes and other buildings. HRV has been assisting in replacing infrastructure to get much needed water to the property. A number of trainers in the region suffered losses to sheds and fencing and HRV is currently assisting with replacement. The local industry has responded in typical fashion and I know those affected have appreciated the extent of the industry's support. The Kilmore area was under threat for several days. A special thanks to the Kilmore Club for acting as a temporary refuge for concerned members of the racing community. The Club provided stabling, food and water for a variety of animals, which I'm sure was appreciated. A huge thank you goes out to the many fire fighters (including the helicopters) who fought so bravely to protect so many properties. Teal for Ovarian Cancer Research While on the subject of community action, the month of March will be a special one for the awareness of Ovarian Cancer. Agreement has been reached for all Victorian female drivers to wear Teal coloured driving trousers, in support of the Ovarian Cancer Institute, for the entire month of March. The initiative is being generously funded by Duncan McPherson OAM and Michael Taranto as part of the promotion of the Pryde's Easifeed Great Southern Star which is run in conjunction with the Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute Girls Night Out. Once again, it presents an opportunity for the industry to display its leadership in supporting community causes and messages that are so close to many people's hearts. Well done to all the girls who are supporting this great initiative. And while on the subject of the Great Southern Star stand by for an announcement of two highly recognised international identities who will play an ambassadorial role for the series. Major release scheduled for next week. International Expansion Over recent months there been some debate regarding the strategic importance of building international relationships and promoting the export of HRV product into overseas jurisdictions and vice versa. In 2012/13 HRV generated more than $600,000 in International Rights Product Fees from the export of our product for wagering in overseas jurisdictions. For the first half of 2013/14 those International Rights Product Fees have increased by 68%, therefore HRV forecast generating in excess of $1 million in revenue from the export of our product this year. When we consider that the French market wagered around AUD$300,000 into the win/place pools alone for the three Trotting races exported on Hunter Cup night, it's likely this forecast could grow even further. In addition to exporting our product overseas, under these reciprocal arrangements, we've seen a recent expansion of product imported from Sweden and France into our own wagering market. Over the past few months this has resulted in $500,000 in harness wagering turnover on the Victorian tote, from which HRV derives direct revenue and market share benefit. With further expansion planned, it's important the industry understands we operate in a global racing and wagering environment and strategically it is of significant value to our bottom line. Josh Duggan - Victorian Representative Josh Duggan has been selected to represent Victoria in this year's Australasian Young Drivers Championship to be run in conjunction with the 2014 Inter Dominion in Sydney. Representatives from each State and the two New Zealand Islands will participate in a 10 race series in NSW from February 25, culminating in a final heat on Inter Dominion Grand Final Day. It is always a great experience for the young drivers. HRV last won the Championship in 2012 when Ellen Tormey was successful in Perth. We wish Josh well - seen here photographed receiving his Big V colours from Chairman, Ken Latta and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Craig Ondarchie. Milestones Congratulations to Nathan Cahir who drove his 100th winner at Hamilton on January 29. Young guns Matt Craven and Michael Stanley are within reach of 500 winners, both currently in the 480's. Get Well Paul Sad to hear of the severe injuries suffered by Paul Morrissey at his Bendigo property as a result of a training accident. Paul is currently in intensive care in Bendigo Base Hospital with broken bones and head and spinal injuries. We wish Paul a full recovery. Vale HRV passes on its condolences to members of the Jack family, many of whom are involved in the industry, on the passing of patriarch Robbie Jack. Robbie was a stalwart in the Riverina as a trainer, driver and administrator. He was 81. Did You Know? HRV will be honouring the retirement of champion Melpark Major this Saturday night, February 15 at Tabcorp Park Melton. He will lead out the field for the Inter Dominion Heat with Amy Tubbs in the sulky. Melpark Major won $980,000 in stakes, having won a Victoria Cup and a host of other feature races. He will enjoy retirement on owner Don Smith's Melton property.
STAR Tasmanian pacer Beautide remains the early favourite to win the 2014 Inter-Dominion despite not contesting the $400,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup last Saturday night. Corporate bookmaker Tattsbet has him installed as the $4 favourite and there has been strong support for him at those odds. Beautide emerged as one of the top contenders for the Inter-Dominion after he won the Group 1 Miracle Mile at Menangle where he has won 10 times since relocating to NSW where he is prepared by James Rattray at Cobbity near Menangle. He has won his past eight races on the track with only a fourth in the Victoria Cup three starts back at Melton interrupting a long winning sequence. He was given a short let-up after he ran fourth in the Victoria Cup in which he was very brave Beautide could not have been more impressive in winning at his past two starts at Menangle as he prepares for the Inter-Dominion heats of which there will be six contested around the country from which the final field will be determined. Beautide will contest his heat at Menangle which is where this year’s Inter-Dominion final will be held on March 2. Beautide has won 37 of his 60 starts and since he has been racing interstate he has taken his career stake earnings to $833,437. By Peter Staples
Miracle Mile entrant Im Victorious had a week's break in the paddock after finishing sixth in the WA Pacing Cup but will be ready to perform at his best in the Western Australian heat of the Inter Dominion on February 15th. Trainer Michael Brennan confirmed he is set to have his first serious workout this week and will have two more before he races again. "Im Victorious raced so well in the Fremantle Cup after coming home from the Victoria Cup off a similar preparation that I have decided to do exactly the same thing," Brennan said. "He was a little bit flat the day after the WA Pacing Cup but I guess that was a little bit expected after he carried the flat tyre for nearly the entire race but it didn't take him long to brighten up in the paddock and when I brought him back in after a week he was raring to go." Brennan is unsure of the travel arrangements should Im Victorious qualify for the Inter Dominion Grand Final. "I'm pretty sure Im Themightyquinn and Mysta Magical Mach got a Direct Flight into Sydney for the final from memory but it isn't really a concern for me until he actually qualifies, I am not getting too far ahead of myself." "I know the connections of Leda McNally are wanting to head across as well and then two horses might qualify from the Perth heat so it is all up in the air at the moment." Gary Hall Jnr will drive the horse for Brennan after partnering him in his last two starts. "Yeah that's the plan, nothing has changed after the WA Cup, Junior has got a Fabulous record and has won plenty of big races including the Inter Dominion." "It was a big thrill to be part of Inter Dominion day last year when Im Victorious competed in the Chariots Of Fire and it would be even more special to have a horse compete in the Inter Dominion itself, I'm looking forward to the series." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |
It’s not often you see a nine-year-old turn from consistent big-race performer to genuine star. But that’s exactly what Barry Purdon has done with Pembrook Benny in the last two months and even one of New Zealand’s best trainers can’t put his finger on where the improvement has come from. “We haven’t really done anything different with him I’m just putting it down to a little bit of luck. He could have won quite a few races but he seems to have just been one of those horses that has just missed quite a few times,” Purdon said. “Having said that he hasn’t really drawn well this season but things have just gone right for him in the running but he’s really happy and on top of his game.” Even following his shock New Zealand Free For All win, Pembrook Benny’s trainer declared his travelling days were over and there wouldn’t be a trip to Australia. However with his form turning around, so too did Purdon’s attitude. After going on to again knock of the Kiwi’s most promising commodity in Christen Me, Purdon started dreaming of a Hunter Cup. “I wasn’t going to bring him to Australia again but he’s just been going so well and there is nothing really for him anywhere so we thought why not? We’ll give it a go,” he said. “Everything is falling into place. He ran a terrific race in the New Zealand Cup so the ultimate distance of the Hunter Cup won’t worry him.” The change to Free For All conditions this season has helped draw together one of the best fields in recent times but that hasn’t scared off connections. 14 runners and the promise of genuine speed on is something that will be right up Pembrook Benny’s alley but the one stumbling block might well be the race favourite. “If it’s a hard run race you’d think it would suit us so we just hope we have a bit of luck in running but I must say it’s a very good field.” Purdon said. “One on one I’d have to say Christen Me is a bit better than us but a horse race is a horse race.” Christen Me is currently the $5 TAB fixed odds favourite but ‘Benny’ is hot on his heels as the $6 equal-second favourite. The Ballarat Cup winner Restrepo ($7-$6) and last year’s Victoria Cup winner Caribbean Blaster ($8-$7) are the only two horses to find support in the early betting. By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
Miracle Mile winning trainer/driver James Rattray has timed everything to the minute with his star pacer Beautide and with the Inter Dominion heats just over a fortnight away his campaign looks on track. Beautide returned to the track on Saturday night for the first time since finishing fourth in the Victoria Cup and blew out the 'cobwebs' with an impressive 1:53.1 victory. "The race on Saturday night was perfect for Beautide, it was exactly what I was looking for and his final half would have been pretty slick so everything is on track for the Inter Dominion heats on February 15," Rattray said. "Ideally I will get another nice hit-out this weekend and then he will have the two weeks before the heat and then another fortnight into the final should everything go to plan." Beautide has been the well supported favourite for the Inter Dominion with TAB and is now the clear favourite at $4.80 with kiwi five year old Christen Me the second pick at $7.50. "I'm not feeling any pressure going into the Inter Dominion even though he is the favourite, everything since the Miracle Mile has been targeted towards it and I am happy with Beautide's progression. "After the Victoria Cup I was able to bring him home and give him a week off and it freshened him up nicely which I think is important because he has come a long way in such a short period of time." Twelve months ago Rattray knew he had a nice horse but was unsure just how far he could go. "This time last year I was thinking that I was going to have some fun with him and had a high opinion of the horse but I had no idea that he was going to continue to get better and better like he has. "Pachacuti (stablemate) is being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire, he's definitely got the ability and he will keep on improving so it could be a very exciting Inter Dominion Grand Final Day for everyone involved with my stable if everything goes right." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |
Reigning champion Mah Sish has timed his form renewal perfectly ahead of an attempt to defend his Group 1 Del-Re National Food Group AG Hunter Cup crown on Saturday night, leading all the way to win The Pure Steel at Ballarat at the weekend. The seven-year-old gave nothing else a chance from the stand-start, defeating highly-rated runner-up Im Corzin Terror and third placegetter Jadahson in the $20,000, 2710m race. Trained and driven by Hunter Cup kings Tim and Anthony Butt, who have previously won the prestigious race seven times (Blossom Lady in 1994 and 95, Mr D G in 2004, Mr Feelgood in 2009, Stunin Cullen in 2011, Choise Achiever in 2012 and Mah Sish last year), the Kiwi pacer has been thrust back into the spotlight with punters and bookmakers and is sure to be a key player in the annual classic at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. This time in Mah Sish had shown only glimpses of his best before the weekend, with a second placing behind Smoken Up at Ballarat on Boxing Day and a third in the SEW-Eurodrive Popular Alm at Melton in November. On the whole, he had been fairly disappointing with below-par efforts in the Victoria Cup and the Cranbourne Cup. In April last year he finished well down the track in the Miracle Mile and the Cordina Sprint in Sydney, leaving punters scratching their heads about the son of Mach Three’s future. But, like a Bart Cummings galloper heading into a Melbourne Cup in the world of gallops, the Butts have Mah Sish firing on all cylinders once again. Why would we ever doubt them? MAH SISH Age: 7 Best wins: AG Hunter Cup, Inter Dominion Heat, Ballarat Cup, The Pure Steel. Best traits: Ultra-tough, proven from the stand. Can he win the Hunter Cup? He’s from the Butt stable, so yes. Also, his Pure Steel win was gutsy. He’s back. By Cody Winnell (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
The Victorian Cup champion of 2012, who last start won the SA Cup and captured the Chariots Of Fire as a four-year-old, very rarely runs a bad race. He is also incredibly tough, trainer Andy Gath declaring the horse’s constitution was about as good as it comes. “He always tends to race that bit better a week after a run,” Gath said recently. Caribbean Blaster doesn’t mind working in his races. His Victoria Cup win was enormous as he had to overcome an extreme back-row draw. He also worked over-time out three-wide with no cover in the Cranbourne Cup recently and finished a gutsy fourth. Heading into Saturday night’s Group 1 Petstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, the Gath team – Andy’s wife Kate drives the horse – has reason to be chipper about its charge’s chances from the plum barrier two draw. While Caribbean Blaster is blessed with early speed, he is also super versatile. If Gath allows Smoken Up to push forward and attack pole-marker and likely leader The Gold Ace, she could snare the coveted one-out-one-back spot and blouse rivals in the straight. Caribbean Blaster finished third to Mah Sish in the 2013 AG Hunter Cup off a 10m handicap, so the stand start should prove no problem. CARIBBEAN BLASTER Age: 6 Trainer: Andy Gath Driver: Kate Gath Biggest wins: Victoria Cup, SA Cup, Chariots Of Fire. Best traits: Versatile, can lead and win or come from behind with a big finish. Also very tough; if there’s work to be done, he’ll get it done. Can he win the AG Hunter Cup? Sure can. He’s got the form and the class to give it one heck of a shake. By Cody Witherell (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)
Never, ever write off Smoken Up. At 11 years of age, the marvellous son of Tinted Cloud boasts 70 wins from a 139-start harness racing career with stake money in excess of $3.5 million. Trained at Melton by Lance Justice, whose now retired superstar Sokyola put him on the map after moving to Melbourne several years ago, Smoken Up has showed no signs of slowing down in recent months. At Ballarat on Boxing Day, Smoken Up led all the way to defeat Mah Sish and Keayang Cullen in 1:53.1 before brave and narrow second-placed finishes in the Horsham Cup (behind Keayang Steamer), SA Cup (behind Caribbean Blaster) and Shepparton Gold Cup (behind The Gold Ace). At Shepparton he was the lone 30m back marker from the stand start but was in front of half the field after just a few hundred metres. While best known for his feats from behind the mobile, if he can bring his Shepparton form to the Hunter Cup Smoken Up will be up on the pace throughout after stepping away flawlessly. Come Hunter Cup night, Smoken Up will be one of the favourites with punters, which is amazing in itself given the horse way back in 2008 ran second in the race behind champion Blacks A Fake. All of his rivals from that era have long left the race track, but not Smoken Up. And who knows? His form this time in has to have the old boy a serious contender on February 1. SMOKEN UP Age: 11 Trainer: Lance Justice Driver: Lance Justice Biggest wins: SA Cup (four times), Len Smith Mile (four times), Victoria Cup, Miracle Mile (twice), Cordina Sprint. Best traits: Lightning quick and ability to fight back once headed. Can he win the Hunter Cup: Yes. Was beaten a head The Gold Ace off a 30m back mark at Shepparton from the stand-start. He’s racing in super form and with the right run in transit will take a lot of running down. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria
Young trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper declared that he couldn't be happier with rising star Bettors Fire drawing the coveted No. 1 barrier in the $250,000 Yes Loans Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night and said he was confident of leading and holding his 11 rivals at bay. He said that the brilliant five-year-old was "bigger, rounder and stronger" than he was when an unlucky fifth behind Hokonui Ben in the Village Kid Sprint last Friday week. "Since that race I have freshened him up a bit," the 23-year-old Harper said. "He got a little bit lighter than I would have liked and now he's put on between ten to 20kg. I find he races better when he's a bit bigger. He has put on the weight in his neck, over his barrel and over his rump. He's rounded right up and is nice and fit. "I upped his intake of grain and have given him slow work. Now I'm producing him as the sharper horse he was before (when he won the Navy Cup, Mount Eden Sprint and Bunbury Cup) and I think he's got good enough gate speed to hold up pretty comfortably." Harper said that Bettors Fire was one of four stand-out horses in the group 1 Cup over 2536m. "I couldn't be happier, drawing No. 1, especially with two of the main three dangers (Im Victorious and David Hercules) drawing the two outside positions on the back line. The other danger is Washakie, who has drawn the inside of the back line. "Really I think that Bettors Fire, Im Victorious, David Hercules and Washakie stand out above the rest of the field. I think that Im Victorious and David Hercules will come very fast, very late. So then I won't have the chance of holding back to the field and keeping Washakie hemmed in, if he is trailing me. I will just have to get going and hope that we're good enough to hold off Washakie and the others." Kevin Jeavons, who races Washakie in partnership with Gino Monaco and Lindsay Severn, said that the ten-year-old trained in New South Wales by John McCarthy, was still racing with youthful enthusiasm and had arrived in Perth on Tuesday morning in "good nick" after a float trip from Sydney to Melbourne and a flight from Melbourne. He is stabled at Noel Keiley's Byford property. Washakie, who has raced in the Fremantle Cup three times for an eighth behind Power of Tara in 2009, a second to Im Themightyquinn in 2011 and fourth behind Im Themightyquinn in 2012, notched his 53rd victory from 140 starts and boosted his earnings to $1,837,473 when he won the group 3 $45,000 Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on December 26. Two starts before that he won the group 1 $100,000 Treuer Memorial at Bankstown for the fifth year in succession. Jeavons said that he would leave the driving tactics to McCarthy, who is due to arrive in Perth on Wednesday to fine tune the evergreen gelding for his assignment on Friday night. David Hercules worked in dashing style in a trial at Byford on Sunday morning for trainer David Thompson, but his prospects diminished when he drew the outside of the back line in the Cup. However, reinsman Morgan Woodley warned that it would be unwise to disregard David Hercules as a realistic prospect, saying: "He has proved himself time and time again that he is a top-notch performer and if the early pace is solid and he gets a suitable run he can certainly come home and make his presence felt. "Perhaps if we can get a cart up behind Im Victorious and get taken into the race he could be a good each-way chance. It looks as though Bettors Fire will lead and prove to be tremendously hard to beat. The rest of us will be relying on that little bit of luck. Thommo couldn't have David Hercules any better than he is at the moment and if the horse had drawn one or two we would have been very confident." At his most recent outing, David Hercules started from the outside of the front line and was restrained to the rear before he finished powerfully to be second to Hokonui Ben in the Village Kid Sprint last Friday week. Woodley then handled David Hercules in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning when he sat behind the pacemaker Mysta Magical Mach before surging home to win the trial by 7m from Mysta Magical Mach at a 1.57.4 rate after speeding over the final two 400m sections in 28.7sec. and 27.2sec. "He ran the final sectionals in very slippery times and still had something left in reserve," Woodley said. Dasher VC, who started from the No. 1 barrier and set the pace before holding on to win the 2013 Fremantle Cup over 2936m, will start from barrier two on the back line for Capel trainer Andrew De Campo and reinsman Chris Lewis. "It's not a bad draw," said de Campo. "I expect Bettors Fire to lead and Dasher VC should get a good run through. We might go to the fence and be three back. I reckon there will be a fair bit of pressure in the race and Dasher VC can really sprint. His form is good; it's better than it reads on paper and he goes into the race with a chance." By Ken Casellas
As the New Year rolls around, we enter the second half of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. Four legs down, four remain. And no pacer has successfully claimed multiple legs of the series, meaning the title is very much up for grabs. The focus will now switch west, the Gr.1 $400,000 SEW Eurodrive WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 17 is the next leg of the rich series. And again, maximum points are up for a grabs. Currently, both Kiwi star Christen Me and comeback pacer For A Reason are tied in first position with 160 points but neither is amongst nominations for the Perth feature. Christen Me is yet to win a Grand Circuit event this season but a string of consistent efforts in the New Zealand Cup, Miracle Mile and the Victoria Cup has him sharing the lead with For A Reason who triumphed in the Victoria Cup which followed his Miracle Mile placing. Given the new format and points scoring system, the 2013/14 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion could be winless, yet, still be crowned the champion pacer for the series. With the valued sponsorship from Australian Pacing Gold, a $20,000 bonus will be awarded to winning connections. Lurking just behind the co-leaders are Miracle Mile champion Beautide (120 points) with New Zealand hero Terror To Love (104 points) while Queensland Pacing Championship winner Ideal Scott (100 points) is out for the remainder of the series owing to an injury. Star Perth pacer Im Victorious (41 points) finds himself in an ideal position to earn maximum points with a victory in his home state feature and therefore, rocket up the leader board and become a potential threat to win the title. After the WA Pacing Cup, the Grand Circuit returns to Victoria with the running of the Gr.1 $400,000 Del-Re National Food Group A.G Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton on February 1 before heading to Sydney for the Gr.1 $750,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final on March 2 at TABCORP Park, Menangle while the series closes the following week in Auckland with the Gr.1 $NZ250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park. As it stands at the halfway mark, there is still so much on offer with the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit Series and the burning question remains. Who will wear the crown? Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia
Metropolitan harness racing is at Melton on Friday night this week and The Sew-Eurodrive Free For All is the final leg of the Quaddie. Yarra Valley Cup winner Mustang Mach is a scratching but the field boasts some serious horseflesh nevertheless. Congupna hero Bitobliss will take his place in the field as will Sew-Eurodrive Victoria Cup victor and winner of over $930,000 in prizemoney, Caribbean Blaster. An interesting runner is Keayang Cullen, trained by Marg Lee at Terang. The Christian Cullen gelding boasts an impressive strike rate of 17 wins from 33 starts and his trainer is ‘very happy’ with how he has performed in his two starts back from a spell. “He just had a few little problems, a few niggles after the Inter Dominion so I decided to give him a good rest,” Lee says. “There’s a lot of speed off the front row tonight but Keayang Cullen has good gate speed himself. “He’ll just have to follow something through. Drawing off the front would have been better but you take the draws you are given.” Keayang Cullen is likely to contest the Bendigo and Hamilton Cups, and connections will make a decision on which races he contests after that. The Lee family has a little more to worry about right now than fast horses – about an hour before Keayang Cullen’s recent third at Ballarat Lee received the news that son Jack Lee had sustained burns to his legs in a sprint car fire at Avalon raceway. Lee made a late night dash to his side but Jack is progressing well, and according to Lee will make a full recovery. Perhaps Keayang Cullen can speed that recovery with another good performance this Friday night. by Lucy McCormick
With the 2014 APG Yearling Sales fast approaching, a number of recent sales graduates have been giving buyers a timely reminder of the quality on offer at the APG Sales. At Grand Circuit level, For A Reason and Caribbean Blaster put APG’s name in lights, securing a dominant one-two finish in the Victoria Cup, with fellow APG Sales Graduate, Restrepo, finishing a strong fifth. APG’s one-two finish in the Victoria Cup came only a fortnight after the running of the Miracle Mile, where APG provided three runners in the eight horse field. Restrepo gained automatic qualification for the Miracle Mile courtesy of a brilliant victory in the Group One Coca Cola Amatil Sprint, while For A Reason’s invitation came courtesy of a pair of sub-1:50 victories in the weeks preceding the event. Mach Beauty was APG’s third representative in the Miracle Mile, securing an invitation following his game second to Smoken Up in the Group One Cordina Chicken Farms Sprint, which was run and won in 1:49.9. Moving away from the Grand Circuit, and shifting attention to the west coast of Australia, it was another APG Sales Graduate, Nowitzki, who secured a pair of Group victories, winning Gloucester Park’s Group Two Four-Year-Old Championship, before scoring a well-deserved win in the Group One Golden Nugget, defeating horses of the class of Chilli Palmer and Bit Of A Legend. Nowitzki is now one of thirteen sales graduates from the 2010 APG Sales to have won at least one Group One race. Turning to the three year olds, and fresh off some outstanding runs at Menangle, it was another APG Sales Graduate, Yankee Rockstar, who started a $1.20 favourite in the Group Three Victoria Sires Classic on Victoria Cup night. However, the odds-on favourite was forced to settle for third place after he was upstaged by yet another APG Sales Graduate in Young Modern, who stormed to a well-earned victory in the $40,000 feature, rating 1:56.3 for the 2240 metres. And while there may not be any Group races on offer yet for the two-year-olds, APG Sales Graduates still showed their class, dominating juvenile racing on both sides of the Tasman. In New Zealand, Follow The Stars began favourite and duly saluted in 1:57.7, winning the first heat of New Zealand’s Young Guns Series (which leads into a Group One Final), while back on home shore, APG Sales Graduates scored one-two finishes in the first NSW two-year-old race of the season as well as in the first pair of Victorian two-year-old races. APG’s General Manager, David Boydell, commented “APG is enormously proud of our reputation for producing outstanding racehorses, and there is no doubt that the 2014 APG Sales catalogue will continue that tradition”. The entire 2014 APG Sales Catalogue can be downloaded directly from the APG website at www.apgold.com.au. Alternatively, hardcopies can also be ordered from the website or by phoning +61 3 5275 1999. Submitted by APG Sales
Yirribee Stud boss Rod Woodhouse was cheering loudly when the Belinda McCarthy trained For A Reason took on Saturday night's Victoria Cup. The son of Art Major stood a season at Yirribee before returning to the racetrack earlier this year and Woodhouse admits to having a soft spot for the 1:49.4 winner. "He is just a lovely animal, I have a special attachment to For A Reason because he is such a kind horse and was great to have here on the property," Woodhouse said. "He got 45 mares but I must admit I was pretty disappointed with that, I thought he deserved a lot more but being "a colonial" stallion went against him, I'm sure now that he has run those fast times at Menangle and won a Victoria Cup that the interest will be much bigger when he does eventually retire." Woodhouse admitted the number of broodmares For A Reason attracted in his first season at stud was one of the main reasons he was put back into work. "I was having a chat with Luke McCarthy at the sales in Sydney over a few beers and we got talking about putting him back into work and Luke told me to jog him up for six weeks and see how he was coping." "He handled it very comfortably and when I spoke with Luke again he said jog him up for another five and at the end of those eleven weeks he was ready to head back to the McCarthy stable." There has been plenty of interest in For A Reason since Saturday night's Victoria Cup victory. "You would be surprised, the phone hasn't stopped ringing, I reckon in the first two days after the win I would have had twenty calls asking if there was any frozen semen available." "I put ten mares to him and will be taking eight yearlings to the sales next year, I'm sure there will be plenty of interest in them." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |
The Choice Hotels Country Cup Season is in full swing. Over the weekend we saw Savesomtimetodream win the Yarra Valley Cup and Macho Comacho win the Wedderburn Cup. The next Cup is at Cobram on December 27 followed by Horsham on January 5. SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup Night Once again the SEW-Eurodrive Victoria Cup lived up to expectations as one of Australasia's greatest races. Congratulations to Luke McCarthy and the connections of For A Reason on becoming the latest addition to the heavyweight championship honour roll. For the punters, courtesy of a TAB jackpot, the First 4 on the Victoria Cup paid over $6,000. That is an enormous dividend given that the First 4 comprised the three placegetters from the Miracle Mile (Beautide, Christen Me and For A Reason) plus the reigning champ Caribbean Blaster. All four were excellent runs and it looks like a new breed of Grand Circuit competitors has arrived. In the Dullard Cup the striking looking Habibti blew everyone away which adds more excitement for the trotting gait. We now have the prospect of two 4yos going head to head, the mare Habibti and the outstanding colt Blitzthemcalder. Both will be major drawcards for the Great Southern Star in March. One of the most impressive wins on Victoria Cup night was 3yo Young Modern for Michael Stanley in the 3yo Sires Classic, franking his trial form at Ballarat a week earlier. Finally, a special thanks to Rob Merola and the team at SEW Eurodrive for their support of the Carnival. Vicbred 1st win bonus - $7,000 The first 2yo race for the season in Victoria was run at Geelong on December 5. While it may have gone relatively unnoticed, it was a significant event for Darren Cole - owner of winner Spot Ona Shadow. Darren was the first owner to benefit from the increased first win bonus under the Vicbred scheme from $5,000 to $7,000 this season. Added to the winner's stake for the race of $3713, meant a total earn of nearly $11,000 for the win. The second 2yo race at Kilmore on December 11 was also won by a Vicbred eligible filly (Viva Safari) therefore she also provided the Azzopardis with a $7,000 first win bonus. Ian Kitchin I was surprised to hear that Ian Kitchin has stepped down as Secretary of Harness Breeders Vic (HBV) at its recent Committee Meeting. Ian has been a tower of strength for HBV in that role for the best part of a decade. In that time HBV has become a respected organisation representing its membership of 700. In particular, Ian has been a great supporter of the HBV sponsorship deal with HRV, which promotes fillies and mares racing opportunities. The depth of Victoria mares racing is largely attributable to the support of HBV. I hope that Ian remains involved with HBV and continue his breeding interests. He has been a terrific servant to the industry. Australasian Premier Trotting Sale The second Australasian Premier Trotting Sale will be conducted the day after the Great Southern Star on March 23, 2014, following the very successful inaugural sale this year. Click here for the 2014 Sale Catalogue including the pedigrees for some outstanding trotting yearlings. A reminder also that the APG Yearling Sale is set down for Sunday February 2, the day after the Hunter Cup. HRV Community Grants As part of HRV's commitment to the community, through our venue at Tabcorp Park, HRV makes available $50,000 per annum for: Community support Welfare of the Community; and Local infrastructure On Thursday December 5 HRV Chairman Ken Latta, presented the $50,000 cheque to the City of Melton, to be distributed to this year's successful applicants: Kurunjang Primary School Coburn Primary School Brookside College Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of Victoria The Gap on Graham Lynda's Hampers Derek Foden Rover Crew Rotary Club of Melton Valley Little Diggers Playgroup Western Regional Health Centre Melton Combined Youth and Special Needs Club Association Multiple Sclerosis Melton Community Safety Register Melton Chinese Friendship Association Charity support HRV once again has been a major supporter of charities during 2013. Quite apart from the $50,000 Community Fund above, HRV has supported the following charities in 2013: Children's Tumour Foundation Women's Cancer Foundation - Ovarian Cancer Institute Leigh Plunkett Foundation - Leukaemia Melton Rotary (State Emergency Services - Local Community Groups) HRV Staff Neal Conder Neal has been appointed to the position of Chairman of Stewards, having been acting in the role for some months. Neal is a highly regarded member of the HRV integrity team and together with General Manager Integrity Andy Rogers they form a formidable team to deal with the both the industry challenges and the demands of the statutory governance requirements. I wish Neal well for a long and successful career. Milestones Gary Bennetts is the latest staff member to achieve a milestone having completed 20 years continuous service. In reviewing the list of milestones, I am amazed to see that HRV has no fewer than 25 full time employees who have served 10 years or more at HRV. Of those 25, 3 have achieved 30 years and a further 4 are in the 20 years plus category. Vale Con Rigby HRV was saddened to hear of the passing of Con - a respected trainer driver - at the age of 83. Based in the Macedon Ranges area for a long period of his life, Con was involved with a number of well performed horses such as Champagne Soky, Romile, Bullengar Tealsby, Polish and the smart trotter Carol Rose. Con's last winning drive was on Funnyfaceiloveyou at Kilmore in June 2004. Arthur Bell Victorian trotting's longest serving bookmaker Arthur Bell passed away suddenly in late November. Arthur had worked at every Victorian track at one stage and quite often in the early days would work a double header travelling hundreds of miles between venues. One of his great loves was the Mildura Cup meeting each year, rarely missing one. Armbro Operative HRV also recognises the contribution made to the Australian breeding industry by Armbro Operative, which passed away recently at the ripe old age of 27. Having sired 2,238 Australian bred foals, his progeny here went on to earn $37.3m in stakes. His highest earner was Fleur De Lil. She earned in excess of $1m. Did You Know? The first 2yo winner for the season Spot Ona Shadow was by Alabar's Shadow Play - that stallion's first Australian starter. The Manning family trained the entire card at the Ararat meeting on December 10 - Peter (4), Kerryn and Michelle each training winners. Christmas/New Year Office Hours HRV's office will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. It's business as usual on all other days except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe, prosperous 2014!