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Plans are in place for the 2021 Pacing for Pink day at Shepparton, where the industry throws its support behind the McGrath Foundation and its fabulous breast cancer nurses. This year the major fundraiser will be held on Sunday May 23, the highlight of a month-long drive that will build on the thousands of dollars the trots initiative has raised over the past decade. Event organiser and reinswoman Donna Castles said they were “really looking forward to making our 2021 campaign the biggest yet”. “It was really unfortunate that we had to cancel the 2020 fundraiser due to COVID, but we wanted to make sure all our wonderful sponsors that have come on board received the recognition they deserve and pushing the campaign back 12 months allowed us to do that,” Castles said. “The pants with the original sponsors names are currently being made and will be distributed to drivers in the new year.” This coming May, 78 drivers who sought individual sponsorships will wear pink driving pants to raise awareness for the McGrath Foundation, with the May 23 centrepiece to see special rugs awarded to race winners and many giveaways and fundraising activities. More details will be announced as the initiative nears.   Harness Racing Victoria

“He could be winning very soon,” says Nikkita Ross as the Trots Life Blackbook swells to 12, five of whom will step out at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Part of the Metrospective segment on SENTrack on Mondays, the Blackbook is the result of Ross and host Jason Bonnington scouring Saturday night’s metropolitan racing to shortlist those on the cusp of success. The new thetrots.com.au column launched last week, with all seven entrants having since raced, returning four second placings and a third, with Itz Longtall Sally, Bullys Delight, Somebeachshadow, Sammy Showdown and Spring In His Step all rewarding each-way plays. Return Soldier finished seventh and Repeat After Me fifth, with the latter the only runner to face the axe. “He didn’t do any early work and didn’t finish the race off like you would have hoped, so he comes out of the Blackbook after just sneaking in the week prior,” the panel found. But there were six new additions. Here’s this week’s who and why: Bullion Lady (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12) NIKKITA ROSS: She was well back in the field in a strong mares’ race and worked to the line really nicely, making good ground and running past some nice horses late. Gobsmacked: (Blackbooked: 6th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R8 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: This bloke was flying during lockdown number one and his run in a heat of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs indicated he’s not far from breaking through again back in a regional assignment from a decent draw. Little Yankee (Blackbooked: 1st at Melton on December 12). Every rise in grade has the potential to be catastrophic for a horse like this little fellow but he seems to lift for every challenge presented. He’s heading into the Vicbred Super Series deep end now but looks to have serious scope. Mr Bohannon (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N2 at Melton on Saturday). JASON BONNINGTON: I still don’t know exactly how to assess this fellow, but he went up in my estimation when sitting parked and fighting like a caged lion in heat two of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Champs. He is the one to beat in next week’s final based on that performance for mine. Steel Screens (Blackbooked: 2nd at Melton on December 12. Next race: R5 N9 at Melton on Saturday) NIKKITA ROSS: Was last at the 400m and had to make a wide run around the field in a quick last half, finishing strongly into second. A really good effort to make the ground that he did. He is a consistent horse who can break through for another win in his right race soon. Sundons Courage (Blackbooked: 4th at Melton on December 12. Next race: R10 N7 at Melton on Saturday). NIKKITA ROSS: Made a mistake at the start and lost plenty of ground before chasing and doing his best work late in a really quick last quarter, to be beaten by less than 14 metres by arguably the best trotter in the country at this point in time. His run prior was also very good and if he can do everything right, he could be winning a race very soon. Of the existing Blackbookers, only Bullys Delight has an engagement. He will contest the APG Melbourne Sales Pace at Melton on Saturday night.   Harness Racing Victoria

Talent fittingly came to the fore as Aldebaran Ursula and Utopia were impressive victors on a special night’s racing at Bendigo, where the industry celebrated the Lang family. Winning drivers Kate Gath and Greg Sugars said they were honoured to steer the first victors of The Graeme Lang and The Gavin Lang respectively, the showcase Aldebaran Park two-year-old trotting miles that headlined the night. Gavin was lost to the sport in April and his father Graeme in May, and it was fitting the celebration was also the first night patrons were able to return to the track since COVID restrictions were first put in place. For Gath, Aldebaran Ursula’s commanding 10-metre win in the fillies’ class, The Graeme Lang, was confirmation of her and trainer Andy Gath’s high opinion of the Yield Boko two-year-old, who was luckless in the recent Breeders Crown. “She obviously had ability when we got her (from New South Wales), we had absolutely no luck in the Breeders Crown,” Kate said. “It was really good tonight to get some redemption and to win a race that’s quite an honour to win. “The Lang family are so synonymous with harness racing, not just in Victoria but throughout Australia, and it’s such an honour to win this race tonight.” Previously raced by KerryAnn Morris for owners Andrew Pratt, Margaret Morris and Adam Giri, Aldebaran Ursula stopped the clock in a personal best 1:55.7 mile rate, getting home in 56.7 seconds. It was a similar all-the-way performance for Utopia in the colts and gelding’s trotting mile, The Gavin Lang, albeit Sugars was able to cruise in front and let down with a 27.9-second final quarter that kept at bay any challengers. “I got away with murder really, that’s one thing Gavin would have taught me in the past – it doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you get the job done,” Sugars said after winning for trainer Emma Stewart and Utopia's big group of owners. “I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with each and every one (of the Langs) over the years. Gavin in particular was an idol of mine growing up. “From the moment I decided that I wanted to be a trotting driver, he’s the one I wanted to be and … if I could replicate anything he’d done and get anywhere near his achievements I’d be pretty happy. “He taught me a lot over the years, to win this race in his honour is another feather in my cap and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Lively Shepparton horsewoman Donna Castles was taken to hospital after a heavy racefall on Monday, but says she'll be "all good to go again soon". Castles, who prepares a big team at Ardmona with partner Doc Wilson, was thrown into the air when another runner got its hoof wedged in her sulky during a scrimmage in race six at the Cobram meeting. "I did have a little sleepover in hospital for a night. They just wanted to keep me under observation because I landed on my back and hit my head," she said. "I felt like I was being flung about like a rag doll. I remember being really worried when my leg got stuck-but thankfully it was only for a split second and I got it free before I got tossed out." Castles was driving chestnut mare Dances in the Peter Enals Cobram Caravans Trot. They were positioned three back the pegs with about 450 metres to go and gave ground slightly before the trailing horse Itsarapt, who was racing fiercely for pint-sized Bec Bartley, put his front foot into the off-side wheel of Castles' sulky. Watch the race replay click here "I knew he was pulling hard and over-racing for Bec, but she was doing her best. His hoof jammed near the stay and I got thrown onto a shaft, then back to the seat, but then hit the shaft again and that was it for me," Castles said. "I really felt at one point that I was being dragged out to the front of Bec's horse, which could have been really bad." The popular reinswoman who is a regular at meetings in the Goulburn Valley region said it was only the second time she had ever been involved in a racefall in her career. "I've been pretty lucky. But I'm okay and hopefully I'll be back at it again soon. We've got two starters in the one race at Maryborough on Friday so fingers crossed I'll be there," she said. The Cobram event was won by father-and-son Steven and Ryan Duffy with four-year-old brown mare Majic Fair (Majestic Son-Clefairy (Extrovert), who has turned it all around this season with five wins and seven placings for over $27,000.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Rita Burnett has more than a healthy competitive streak as a harness racing trainer and driver, but she reckons there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a young horse she’s broken in step up to the top level for someone else. The Kilmore horsewoman always has a handy horse or two in her stable but says these days her greatest enjoyment is in bringing out the best in the youngsters entrusted to her by a long list of regulars. “You get all sorts: good temperaments, cheeky ones, rogues, but that’s the skill, getting to know all that, working them out and working with them, and bringing out their best to give them their opportunity,” Burnett said. “They’re a lot like kids.  The ones who want to stick their head in the books and you know where they’re going and they know where they’re going – the ones that don’t, well they’ve probably got to look elsewhere!” she laughed. “But good ones do tend to show themselves early, 99 percent of the ones that will make it as a racehorse have got a nice feel to them – the thing you don’t really know is how far they’ll go.  “Some will take the next step and some will take two or three big steps.  They’re the ones that want to do it, they’re usually good pacers and sometimes they’ll show you that little bit of exciting speed when they dash up if they get a fright or something. “Occasionally you’ll get a rogue that, three years down the track they’ll step up and you’ll think: ‘Gee, that’s a surprise’ – but most of the nice ones do show you something pretty early.” Rita has spent more than 40 years in harness racing and the business is a uniquely family-run operation.  Rita and her partner Jim Maragos work out of the family complex, Grand Lodge, established by Rita’s parents, the late Leli and Mary Mifsud. Rita’s siblings Aussie, Annetto and Josie are all on adjoining properties, along with Rita’s daughter Monique and her partner Josh Duggan. Each is running their own harness-racing related businesses, but also helping each other out with whatever is needed. Rita has also recently become a grandmother for the first time, with Mon and Josh welcoming the arrival of their son, Hudson, and Rita says it’s made her even more appreciative of her circumstances. “The older you get, the more you want to just stay home and enjoy what’s around you, and I’ve always loved handling the babies, so breaking them in just suits me even more these days,” she said. “I do some for the likes of the Chris and Alison Alford, Andy and Kate Gath and Maree and John Caldow – those top drivers can’t afford to be getting hurt with the babies, so they’re happy to let me take care of that part of it. “Breaking in is also a pretty positive thing.  The owners are usually happy, because they’re all good until they get to the races, aren’t they?” she laughed. Rita recently made an exception to her “happiest at home” rule, with a 500-kilometre road trip to Mildura with four of her team and three-year-old Alistair Lavros (Bettors Delight – Neffeli Lavra (Falcon Seelster) didn’t let her down last Friday night. “I like to place them as best I can and the whole reason I went up was because Alistair Lavros still had his VicBred bonus,” Rita said. “He had a ranking of 51, so the race suited him and even though he didn’t draw too well (barrier six) we were able to get to the front and he held on,” she said. Rita’s had an extended break between trips to North West Victoria, but she is following up with another long road trip on Thursday, after Feisty Phoebe was defeated by only a short half-head, but qualified for a $10,000 final. “The last time we came up was about seven years ago and I got two wins, two seconds and two thirds – we didn’t quite get to that level this time, but it was a very good trip, so I’m looking forward to going back,” she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Pryde’s EasiFeed three-year-old fillies’ class was tonight turned on its head with Emma Stewart’s series favourite failing to qualify, a stablemate making her claim and then Sweet Louise monstering the second TAB Breeders Crown semi-final. The latter was a great sign for trainer Phil Chircop and owner-breeder John Dorrington, with their lightly-raced Sweet Lou filly knuckling down in the closing stages and leaving her rivals in her wake. Having her first start for reinsman Chris Alford, Sweet Louise crossed to the lead from gate two and controlled proceedings from there. “She got out pretty good at Bendigo last week and I thought the one horse (Beautiful Woman) wouldn’t be in for too much of a battle, it was just whether we could come out quick enough to hold the wide ones and she did that pretty well,” Alford told Trots Vision. “They all seemed to grab hold so it worked out pretty well.” Sweet Louise had it largely her own way until the final bend when seasoned Amelia Rose emerged to throw down the gauntlet. “Around the last turn she was half loafing,” Alford said. “Phil said she might hang a bit on the last turn and she was running a bit sideways, and (Amelia Rose) got to her real quick and I thought it might zip straight past her. “I pulled the ear (plugs) off and she just really knuckled down and ran up the straight pretty strong.” Off a 27.8-second third quarter Sweet Louise hit the line in a 27.5-second final quarter to put 14 metres on the rest of the field, with Its Beaujolais running into second. And it would seem there is a lot of improvement left in her. “For a big girl and a three-year-old she’s like driving a little baby, she just runs in and out,” Alford said. “When she has her mind on the job she’s all right, but just while she’s in front she was just floating all over the place. “John (Dorrington)’s been in horses for a long long time, as has (trainer) Phil (Chircop), so it would be great if they could get a big win next week.” Sweet Louise advances to next Saturday’s finals along with Its Beaujolais, Dr Susan, Amelia Rose, Soundsofcash and Burnfouru. There they will have to contend with Techys Angel, who earlier won the grade’s first semi-final with an eye-catching performance. The race was notable for series favourite and reigning champion Maajida tiring into eighth and therefore failing to qualify, but that didn’t detract from the performance of the winner, Techys Angel, for reinswoman Kate Gath and trainer Emma Stewart. "Clayton (Tonkin) said all along that she's not just fast, she's tough as well,” Gath told Trots Vision. “Her revving up had made that tricky a couple of starts ago, but she's much better now. As a result she showed what she's able to do and she's definitely got a terrific hope next week.” Impressively, Techys Angel seemed to take no harm from being used early, with Gath guiding the Alto Christiano filly from gate seven to the breeze in a 44.6-second lead time. “She's got pretty good gate speed, but so do a few of the others,” Gath said post-race. “We got around not too hard and she relaxed good.” There was plenty of activity throughout with leader Keayang Jackie holding the front while the running lane cycled through a series of horses in the breeze, which would ultimately see Techys Angel shuffled four back in the running line. Gath showed a patient hand before emerging with 200 metres to go, drawing off The Pantheist’s back to win by 4.8 metres, with the latter claiming second while Louisiana Jo, Final Peace, Keayang Jackie and Belladonna Girl also booked finals places. "She was great,” Gath said of the winner. “Tonight she showed what she's able to do and what Clayton's said that she can do the whole time. Those second and third quarters she was just jogging in behind them, she just did that really easily.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Damian Wilson is daring to dream of delivering loyal supporters, owner-breeders Len and Irene Parker, with a TAB Breeders Crown after winning impressively with Major Moth in tonight’s first VHRC Caduceus two-year-old colts and geldings’ semi-final. Wilson had to roll through plans A, B and C in the run but ultimately pulled the right rein to see his Art Major colt emerge victorious for trainer Clayton Tonkin. “It was a very tricky draw tonight,” he told Trots Vision, having started in gate eight behind Sayitaintso Joe. “It was hard to work out what was going to happen in the run and what everyone thought would happen was totally opposite to what did happen. “I was (originally) happy just to drive him quiet, hit the line and qualify for the final tonight, but after being four back the fence everything changed. Just one of those things.” As he described, Major Moth was buried deep on the pegs in the first 100 metres, prompting Wilson to move into the running line and then follow up the three-wide train for the last lap. The race changed complexion when leader and favourite Beyond Delight suddenly dropped out, but Major Moth plowed on, tracking up One Two Many and then running past leader Bar Room Banta to salute by 8.5 metres. “He proved (he’s a contender) tonight and last week,” Wilson said. “(Last week) he probably went as quick a lead time as anything and got home in 26.8. Not many horses can do that. He’s definitely a chance." And it paints the prospect of rewarding a long-time backer. “I’ve known Lenny (Parker) for probably 10 or 12 years. He always sticks behind me. I might put a bad one in, but he’s always got my back. He’s a good bloke," Wilson said. “(Breeders Crowns) don’t come around very often and I’ve got the chance this year, so let’s hope I can make the most of it.” His main threat may well come from Emma Stewart’s Act Now, who found the front from gate three in the second semi-final and led all-the-way to win by three metres. On an eventful night it was a rather uncomplicated race for reinswoman Jodi Quinlan and owner-breeders Bruce and Vicki Edward. “He’s really in his element when he can lead and just bowl along,” Quinlan told Trots Vision. “He likes to bowl along at a nice rate. He foxes a little bit, when they come up outside of him he feels enormous, and then when they drop off a bit he drops off a bit with them. He does wait for them a little bit, but when he goes, he goes all right.” Their real test came at the top of the straight when Kerryn Manning emerged off the leader’s back to make a play for the win on Watts Up Sunshine, but Act Now had all the answers and was able to hold the Rickie Alchin runner’s challenge at bay. “When Kerryn came to the outside of him I had to shake him up a little bit, but he’s one of those – when they get to his wheel he just plods along at his own tempo.” Joining Act Now and Watts Up Sunshine in advancing to the final from the second semi-final were Jacks Hawk, Go Dancing, Tuppence and Electric Eye. They will be joined by first semi-final qualifiers Major Moth, Kimble, Swayzee, Bar Room Banta, One Two Many and Drain The Swamp.   HRV - Michael Howard

A central Victorian family with a harness racing passion that's second-to-none hit paydirt when a "real cheapie" stole the limelight in a $10,000 country feature event. The Goddens, of Nanneella, a small rural township in the Campaspe region near Rochester, won the Laser Electrical "Battlers in the Bush Pace" at Swan Hill on Tuesday night-a race restricted to horses four year old and older without a win to their name. "Our son James spotted Viking Cruz being advertised for sale a while ago and thought he would be worth a try. I probably wasn't too sure, but the owner wasn't looking for much money so we decided we'd give him a try," Colin said. And after five starts, which included a handy third and fourth at Shepparton, Viking Cruz (Shadow Play-Scentiment (Artiscape) broke his 40-start maiden status in style with an easy win in the Battlers event. Colin, who trains and part-owns the pacer with James, said they were delighted with the win, particularly with the extra stakemoney on offer for the feature. "Viking Cruz is best when he's smothered up and saved for one last dash at them. If he gets out into the clear too early he can switch off-but save him up for the last 100 metres and he's pretty brave," he said. The victory was the first leg of a training double for Godden and driving double for Josh Duggan with the pair teaming up again to win the final race on the program with Have No Choice (Four Starzzz Shark-Rock Melody (Pacific Rocket). The meeting marked a return to racing at Swan Hill after a six-month COVID-19 induced hiatus. "Swan Hill has actually been a good hunting ground for us over the years. It's a lovely track and the club goes out of its way to look after you. We were treated like kings the other night," Colin said. "Both my wife Michelle and I, along with everyone else, got sandwiches, drinks and a racebook which was appreciated." Godden has been training Have No Choice for Duggan and his partner Monique (Burnett) who recently had a baby boy. "I told them I'd take him for a while because I thought they would enjoy having an extra little bit of baby time," Colin said. The Godden family combine training a team of six or seven horses as well as milking about 300 cows, while James, an engineer, also operates a growing metal fabrication business from the family property, building a line of popular horse stables, shelters and other infrastructure. "We all seem to have our jobs that we need to do. Michelle is up early each morning putting water onto our track and dragging the harrows around, while we're doing the cows and then the horses," Colin said. "One of the best things I've done is putting in a water walker for the horses. James designed and constructed it nearly two years ago and it's been terrific for us. "The horses normally do four days in the water and then three on the training track. The walker takes out any little niggles of pain they might get from pounding around the track-it just relieves their joints and it's great for their fitness. "We have them in there for about 40 minutes and the water level is a bit over a metre. They go at more than power walking speed and we spin them around the opposite direction about eight times. "They have to work hard against the whirlpool effect and that first 10 or 20 metres after they turn and go the other way really spikes their heart rates." Colin said Viking Cruz was now on the market because he had a few bright prospects still to come back into work, including a two and a three-year-old currently in the paddock spelling. "The only problem there is that every time I get a spare space, James goes and buys another one that's in full work and racing!" he laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Boom AUCKLAND REACTOR three-year-old Willie Go West drew first blood in the Breeders Crown heats at Bendigo on Friday night (November 6), winning the opening harness racing heat in impressive style. Starting from the pole, the brown gelding pinged straight to the front, survived some early and midrace pressure and won by 3.2 metres. The mile rate for 2150 metres was a smart 1:54.6. He carved out the last two sectionals in 28.2 and 27.2. Watch the race replay click here. Willie Go West has now won four of his seven starts and $40,770 in stakes. Bred in New Zealand, he is out of Bettor Go, an unraced Bettor’s Delight mare.   Peter Wharton

Most Aussies thought it was a daring raid, but Kiwi trainer Josh Dickie knew his filly. This looks one of the best crops of juvenile trotters Australia has seen, but Dickie trumped them all with Mexicana in yesterday’s $50,000 Group 1 Redwood Classic at Maryborough. While many of her key rivals galloped early from the stand or struck trouble, Mexicana trotted away superbly from inside the back row from driver Greg Sugars and worked around to take the lead after 600m. Talented local Illawong Barmah, who led then took a sit, came at Mexicana late, but the Kiwi was just being nursed by Sugars as she finished off in a 57.7sec last half to win by 1.4m. “I never pulled the ear plugs and got too serious on her,” Sugars told Trotvision. “She was actually pretty casual out in front. She felt really strong on the line, so I think there’s plenty more there. ‘I’m extremely thankful to Josh (Dickie) and his team and to Trevor (Casey) and the owners to trust me with this filly. She is a beautiful girl.” Mexicana gave Dickie by far his biggest win since taking over training the family team from his father John. And there’s a strong Aussie connection through Dickie’s partner, Sammy Kilgour, who has many friends back in Victoria. Mexicana now heads to the Breeders Crown where heats will be at Maryborough on November 12. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ There is just no stopping pin-up girl Pink Galahs. Matty Craven’s pint-sized darling dominantly won her third Group 1 race in less than a month when she stormed to victory in yesterday’s Victoria Trotters’ Derby. Things looked tricky with a lap to run when the gifted and speedy Elite Stride made a lightning move around the field to take the lead, which buried Pink Galahs three pegs. But some welcome luck came heading to the last bend when Gimondi galloped behind the leader and helped Pink Galahs get to the sprint lane quicker and that was the end of the race. Pink Galahs blasted through the opening to win running away by four metres over Elite Stride with a gallant Powderkeg third after sitting parked throughout in a solid 2min1.2sec mile rate for the long 2690m trip. A jubilant Craven celebrated with a big victory salute over the last 50m when it was clear he had the classic won. In the space of a month, Pink Galahs has upstaged the best trotters in Australia to win the Bill Collins Sprint then added the Victoria Oaks and Victoria Derby. “This is just unbelievable,” Craven said. “I thought it was amazing enough when she won the Bill Collins and now she’s gone on and done it again and again … she’s just the most amazing filly.” _________________________________________________________________________________________________ It was fitting Majestuoso returned to Maryborough to land the win that showed he was ready for the big league. Just over 12 months ago the Andy Gath-trained gelding showcased his abundant potential by unleashing a huge sprint to win the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough. Yesterday it was the speed he showed at the start and his all-round display which showed why driver Kate Gath has been buzzing about his future prospects. Majestuoso, best known for balancing-up early and sprinting late, blasted off the gate from barrier six to lead and win the free-for-all. It completed changed a race where glamour mare Red Hot Tooth was backed into $1.60 favourite because most expected her to rip across the field early from gate seven and lead. But she had to sit parked and never looked likely to get past Majestuoso, who beat the talented Wobelee by 3.5m with Brandlo Prince third and Red Hot Tooth in fourth spot. “We weren’t surprised he showed that sort of gate speed, but with him it’s always been in the back of your mind to make sure he trots at the start,” Kate Gath told Trotsvision. “He was keen in the score-up so I gave it a shot and once he found the front he relaxed really well. “There’s no standout in the open-class trotting ranks now and he’s got the ability to match them, so that’s where we are headed.”   HRNZ

The prospect of an eight-hour interstate road trip's not everyone's cup of tea, but for champion South Australian harness racing driver Wayne Hill it's part of his weekly routine - and he's stoked to be back doing it. Until April, Hill routinely made the 400-kilometre Sturt Highway road trip from Adelaide to Mildura, but the hard-line COVID-19 State border lockdown left him confined to local meetings only. He searched for any possible exemption to cross the border without luck - until last week. And he will finally be back for Mildura's epic 12-race program tomorrow on Melbourne Cup night. "I've been in contact with the South Australian police on a pretty regular basis," Hill said. "I really thought there was some positivity last Wednesday week when I was talking to them and I got the green light a few days later. So first thing on the following Monday I applied and the next day I was issued with a permit," he said. "I have to do a COVID test every week, but I'm more than happy to do that. Then when I get to Mildura, I'll be temperature-checked at the entry gate like everyone else." For South Australian drivers, competing at Mildura is an incentive money wise, with Victorian driver fees around $70 a drive, as well as percentages for a top-five finish. Hill admits part of the appeal is financial - but it's also become a habit he enjoys. "It can be really good if you have a reasonable night. The four-hour road trip over and back is the downside, but it just becomes part and parcel of your week if you're doing it all the time," he said. "There wouldn't be many Mildura meetings that I've missed in the past five years. I love going there because the people are friendly, the club committee and all the other trainers have always got time for a chat, and I do enjoy the track. "I've kept in close contact with a few of the trainers over there and I'm excited they are again staying loyal to me. That's really nice and I can't wait." Hill is engaged to drive in nine races but he's only one of a throng of trainers and drivers heading to the Mildura fixture. A 12-race card brings a logistical nightmare at the country harness racing hub, but Mildura Harness Racing Club secretary manager Michelle McGinty says it's a challenge she loves to have. "Harness racing is in great shape in our region - it's definitely one of the healthiest places in the state and we could regularly program 13 or 14 races," McGinty said. "We often program 10 or 11 to try to get as many people as possible a run, but I think it's the first time in about three years that we've been granted 12 races - it's great for the trainers, great for the drivers and great for the club," she said. "I think a lot of trainers watched our racing during COVID and thought they'd give it a try once restrictions eased, and we're seeing the benefit of that now. "The only downside is trying to manage the logistics - nearly 120 horses in 103 stables on track is a bit of a challenge! We need to get trainers and horses in and out, and stables and facilities cleaned down in between under our COVID procedures. But we have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers who make sure it all gets done." Mildura continues to be one of the State's most popular venues. McGinty said the $12,000 and $20,000 fast class events were prompting new interest, and the growing local horse population is bolstered this week by 16 visiting trainers. Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn is another hitting the road. "The trip up and back takes a while, but there's usually three of us, so it's pretty easy and there's a great atmosphere," he said. "It's a friendly place and a lot of characters up there, so there's always someone to talk to and have a bit of fun, but also the Mildura racing is almost every week, too, so it's easy to program horses to race there."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Trotting’s most exciting superstar has shone again on trotting’s biggest day with filly Pink Galahs upstaging the boys to win the Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby Final at Maryborough. The daughter of Skyvalley extended her winning streak to five – three of those races Group 1s – as she sprinted home from three back on the pegs to claim the lion’s share of the $75,000 race prizemoney. “The excitement, the pride, I’m just so proud of this little girl,” trainer-driver Matthew Craven told Trots Vision. “You just can’t describe her. She makes you so proud. Yesterday we brought her in for a swim and a brush and took her for a walk, and she absolutely toed me around. You’d think four runs in four weeks was going to be a bit too much for a little filly, but she just gave me so much confidence that she was still up and about and ready to go.” Pink Galahs pinged from mobile and crossed to the pegs in front before handing up to the other Trotters Derby heat winner in Gimondi when Greg Sugars took that colt forward. “Initially we were very keen to hold the front depending on how it all panned out but Gimondi has super in the heat and when he was coming and Lisa’s horse (Powderkeg) was trailing I just thought it the right thing to hand up,” Craven said. “I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to cop too much pressure and make sure we got the trip (2600m).” The race changed complexion at the bell when Anthony Butt exploded around the field on Elite Stride to run to the front, snookering Pink Galahs three-pegs. “I wasn’t going to panic,” Craven said. “When Greg went off stride (approaching the home turn) we still had a little way to make up, but just ask her (Pink Galahs) and she just puts her head down. It’s a privilege to have a horse like this in your care.” Matthew Craven and Pink Galahs                 --Stuart McCormick photo Pink Galahs’ major goal this campaign had been to win the TAB Victoria Trotters Oaks, which she did. But additionally, the filly has now beaten the older horses in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint and the Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby. “This is what it’s all about. This is why we do it,” Craven said. “I’m so rapt to be able to pull it off.” Pink Galahs rated 2:01.2 today to defeat Elite Stride by 4m, with Lisa Miles’ Powderkeg producing another tough effort to finish 4.5m behind the winner in third place.   HRV - Cody Winnell

Kiwi filly Mexicana delivered trainer Josh Dickie and reinsman Greg Sugars the prestigious Volstead Redwood Classic trophy today at Maryborough. Having her first run in Australia, the daughter of Muscle Mass began safely from the standing start before working around early leader Illawong Barmah to take up the running. Once in front, Mexicana and Sugars set a controlled tempo and repelled the late challenge of Illawong Barmah along the sprint lane and Aldebaran Zeus out wider to register a 1.4-metre win. “I’m stoked,” an elated Sugars told Trots Vision. “It’s a very prestigious race and this trophy is one that all trainers and drivers aim to get their hands on at some stage in their career. “I’m extremely thankful to Josh and his team and to Trevor (Casey) and the owners to trust me with this filly. She’s a beautiful girl.” Mexicana was lining up for career start No.7 and in winning today extended her unbeaten record at standing starts to three. “All credit to Josh and his team,” Sugars said. “They have obviously educated this filly very well. She was a pleasure to deal with from the parade ring to warming up, to that crucial 10 to 15 seconds facing the tapes. She began safe and solid. “I never pulled the earplugs and got too serious with her. She was actually pretty casual out in front. She felt really strong on the line, so I think there’s plenty more there.” The sentiments augur well for Mexicana’s upcoming Breeders Crown series, the heats of which will be run at Maryborough on Thursday November 12. Sugars also spoke of the Victorian trotting industry more broadly when commenting on the class of today’s Redwood field. “There are so many really top-quality trotters going around at big prices, which is testament to where our industry is at, particularly in the squaregaiting ranks,” he said. “Just how far the trotters have come in the last decade, it’s great to see. It’s a staple now for all stables to look for young trotters.” Runner-up Illawong Barmah trotted flawlessly and set the speed early before rallying late for trainer-driver Craig Demmler. Third-placed Aldebaran Zeus was held up momentarily before pushing into the clear late from three-back on the fence. He attacked the line like a high-class trotter. The fourth and fifth placegetters, Aldebaran Ursula and Tipsy Turvy, also produced big runs for Andy and Kate Gath and Maree and John Caldow respectively. Earlier, Majestuoso showed dashing gate speed to hold out the early challenge of noted quick beginner Red Hot Tooth to score an all-the-way win in the Peter Egan Bi-Rite Electrical Trotters Free for All. The four-year-old son of Majestic Son trained by Andy Gath rated 1:59.0 to defeat Wobelee and Brandlo Prince. “It’s not entirely surprising (the Majestuoso gate speed) but until you do it you just don’t know,” winning driver Kate Gath told Trots Vision. “With him it’s always in the back of your mind to trot, but he’s matured a fair bit now. He was keen in the warm-up today … once he found the front he relaxed well and got to the line nicely.” Gath said the top-level trotting ranks were incredibly even and in coming months the feature races would come down to barrier draws and achieving the best run in races. “There’s probably no standout at the minute, so whoever gets the easiest run out of all of them probably wins the race,” she said. Kate and Andy Gath’s flagship Group 1 trotter Tornado Valley is currently spelling but will be back in training within a month for a tilt at the TAB Summer of Glory jewels.   HRV - Cody Winnell

When the promising Elandee Youandme won effortlessly at Shepparton on Monday (October 26) he became the 19th individual three-year-old winner from the first Australian crop of former world champion He's Watching. A $1.1 million winner, He's Watching produced 57 foals in his first crop and of these 33 have raced and 19 have emerged successful - a 33 percent winners-to-foals strike rate. Private Eye, winner of a semi-final of the NSW Breeders Challenge in 1:50.3, Silent Rapture NZ, who won by 44 metres at his Aussie debut at Albury, and Belladonna Girl (1:57.1, Stawell) have been other recent three-year-old winners sired by He's Watching. He's Watching by also represented by two 'new' winners in the two-year-old filly Covered Kylie (1:56.6, Charlton) and the four-year-old Hezacrocwatcher, who won on debut in 1:58.5 at Cambridge Raceway, New Zealand. Hezacrocwatcher winning at Cambridge In North America, He's Watching has left a string of winners in the past week including the two-year-old Dabarndawgswatching, who won a leg of the Harvest Series in 1:56.6 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, and the three-year-olds Watchful Eye (1:52.6 and 1:54), Baywatching (1:56.2) and Dagger Watch (1:59.6). He’s Watching is now standing at Luke Primmer’s Tipperary Equine stud, Young (NSW), for a fee of $2,500 including GST.   By Peter Wharton

Two harness racing drivers are recuperating in hospital after being involved in separate race falls at Charlton on Monday afternoon. Veteran Kilmore reinsman Austin "Aussie" Mifsud was taken by ambulance to Bendigo Base Hospital, while promising teenage driver Ryan Sanderson, of Avenel, was flown by helicopter to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital. As shocking as the incidents appeared, reports yesterday revealed Mifsud to be in intensive care with three broken ribs and suffering slight breathing problems. Sanderson is suffering a bruised lung while doctors are continuing to monitor whether he has any further internal injuries. The race falls happened in consecutive events, races six and seven, with Chair of Stewards at the meeting Kylie Harrison electing to abandon race seven as well as the final event on the program. Both drivers were tipped out in scrimmages soon after the start of their respective events. In race six, Mifsud was driving Wonderforce out of barrier three when the pacer broke just after the starter released the field, careering into the path of back-row horses Fancy Peach and Jilliby Roy. Mifsud's sulky locked wheels and overturned, and he fell heavily. Stewards subsequently called off the race, later restarting it with all bar Wonderforce cleared to compete. Aussie Mifsud In the following race, in almost the identical position on the track, junior reinsman Ryan Sanderson was driving the pole horse Frankie. It appeared to be contacted when the barrier 3 horse Lookin Fresh veered inwards soon after the despatch. Sanderson was catapulted into the air, crashing to the track and a trailing horse was unable to avoid the fallen driver. Club president Joey Thompson said with the incidents in consecutive races, the situation became quite hectic for a while. "Aussie (Mifsud) was being stabilized in one ambulance on course, then the paramedics that had been on standby were there to attend young Ryan (Sanderson)," he said. "It was good to see Aussie being able to walk assisted to the ambulance, but Ryan was still on the track for over an hour as they assessed his injuries. "The paramedics were worried Ryan might have had a broken pelvis, because of the pain he was complaining of in that area-but fortunately it sounds like he may have escaped without any broken bones." Thompson said Ryan's parents Shane and Naomi arrived from Sydney at the first opportunity to be by Ryan's side in hospital. "They came down as soon as they could, which will give him a kick along. But the way Ryan conducted himself while he was in so much pain and being attended to on the track was incredible. He's just 17 years of age and I told his parents they should be so proud of him. "He's a great young fellow. "He was asking someone where his helmet was because he was worried it had been scratched. And he's also bought a new one-piece driving suit recently, and he wasn't going to give that up without a fight! Everyone was wanting to cut the suit off him, but he was desperate for it to be saved." Ryan Sanderson Thompson said after talking to Ryan's father Shane yesterday, the suit didn't get saved. "It's now in a thousand pieces. But it was a big effort by Ryan up until that." Thompson said the club had also been in contact with the Mifsud family, of Kilmore. "They actually rang us and passed on their thanks for all that we did for Aussie, which was so nice. "Now we just hope that both the drivers make a speedy and complete recovery."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Success was written in the stars for Victorian horsewomen Jennifer Lewis and Michelle Phillips at the Cranbourne harness racing meeting on Sunday. Their quinella with half-brothers Celestial Trekker and Celestial Gossip was a mirror-image of a race result almost 12-months ago to the day - another top two finish with the same two horses, at the same track, involving the same two drivers! Lewis, of Warragul, combines training a small team with being manager of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre, and said the outcome was exciting and satisfying. "I've had the two horses all along. There's very little between them when we do fastwork and I suppose it's a great joy them being so even," Lewis said "Steven and Michael Byrne, from Adelaide bred both them and I've had horses with them for about 10 years - I race Trekker on lease while they have Gossip in their names. "And we're also so proud of our driver Michelle, who is one of our training centre graduates." Celestial Trekker (Safari-Celestial Diamond (Getting It Right) led all the way in the TAB Long May We Play Pace for talented junior Michelle Phillips. The pair, starting at bolter odds of 35/1, packed just enough to hold off stablemate Celestial Gossip (Greg Sugars), who was sent out the $1.80 favorite. Rewind to one year ago and Phillips again had the wood over champion reinsman Sugars-but on that occasion the lightweight Romsey-based horsewoman drove Celestial Gossip (Tell All-Celestial Diamond (Getting It Right) to victory over his stablemate after a mid-race move to the breeze. "It's nice to get a couple up on Greg. I don't beat him very often, but just lately I'm doing okay at it," Phillips laughed. "I had to rev Trekker up at the start last Sunday to make sure I got to the front. Then it can be a worry that he'll come back to you. But I did managed to do it - the secret is not to rush him back," she said. "Over the final stages I was urging and yelling at him to keep going. I ended up copping a caution for the whip and noise." Celestial Trekker finishes just ahead of stablemate Celestial Gossip Phillips said she had been great friends with Jen (Lewis) through attending the training school, graduating in 2016. "Prior to that I'd been working at the stables of Deb and Gary Quinlan. They actually pushed me to do the school. Jen has been a great influence in my driving career and puts me on her horses at every chance." Phillips obtained an internship to attend the harness training centre-the first person to receive the honor. The centre, which opened in 1997, has seen over 350 graduates through the doors. The inaugural manager was Des Hughes, a passionate and well-known identity in harness racing and Lewis took over the role six years ago. Lewis first became interested in the sport when living in South Australia, prior to her move to Victoria, and is herself, one of the early graduates of the centre. "I would help Trevor Lucas back in Gawler as much as I could. My mum Merilyn has passed away now but jogged horses for Bob and Daphne Sweet who lived down the road, opposite the old Gawler track," she said. "After I moved to Victoria, I graduated from the training centre in 2001-02. So, it's not just trainers, drivers and stablehands who come through. There have been clerks of the course, track managers and attendants and administrators. "The HRV's Acting Chairman of Stewards Nick Murray was also a student and showed enormous ability because he could see things in a race after one viewing that some of us hadn't realized had happened. He could drive well too, but none of us were surprised that he took on a role as a cadet steward after he graduated." The Stablehand Certificate Two course involves a full-time six-month course, and results in a nationally-accredited qualification. "We have 14 full-time attendees and another 10 school students who do study one day a week. There's also three at the moment going for their C Grade licence," Lewis explained. "Most of them fall in love with the horses and when they're finished, take on a standardbred. They retrain them and of course the standardbreds are renowned for the way they transition to do anything. "Not all of them go on and get involved in the industry, but they all have fond memories and that means the word of mouth works well for us." Lewis said the COVID-19 pandemic had presented some significant challenges. "How do you run a hands-on course when you can't be hands on? The course does have practical and theoretical components though, so we decided the best way was to concentrate on the theory and as things have opened up with more relaxed restrictions we've been able to have very small groups at a time." Hoofnote: And another Celestial horse - Celestial Topaz - is expected to make his debut soon. "He's a younger half-brother to the others and is a pacing-bred trotter! We have high hopes because he's trialled nicely a few times," Lewis said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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