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Ultra-honest 3YO gelding Crime Writer out-toughed the opposition to capture the Alabar Horsham Classic on Thursday afternoon for Ecklin South horseman Matty Craven and Carrum Downs owners Tony and Pam Coniglio. Craven drove the son of Sportswriter and Our Crime Of Passion like he was the best horse in the race and so it proved as the $1.30 favourite bought up his fifth career victory. "He's the sort of horse you wish you had a stable full of," said Craven as he accepted the trophies from Alabar General Manager Brett Coffey. "While a step below the really good ones, he's made both Vicbred Finals for two and three-year-olds and hopefully we can get through to the Breeders Crown Final in a few weeks." Drawn the extreme outside of the second line in the field of 11, Craven was content to drop to the back of the bunch until the leaders sorted themselves out and backed off the tempo. With a mile to go Craven made his move and worked Crime Writer forward to race outside the leader, Luverboy (Kerryn Manning), for the last 1200 metres of the contest. Craven put the pressure on at the 400-metre mark and Crime Writer, with his head down in trademark fashion, dashed home in 27.5 seconds to score by four metres from the gallant Luverboy with Hugo Rocks (Alex Ashwood) finishing the race off nicely to claim third money. Crime Writer's record of five wins, five minor placings and a bank of $76,310 from 22 starts represents a whole lot of joy for his connections - with his biggest paydays being $17,400 when fourth in the 2YO Breeders Crown Final and $10,000 for fourth place in the Group 1 Victoria Derby Final back in January. Coffey also presented Craven with a service certificate to Auckland Reactor to pass on to the winning owners of the inaugural Alabar Horsham Classic. "Pam and Tony have a few nice mares and I'm sure they'll pick one out and make use of this," Craven said. "So it's a big thankyou to Alabar, they put a lot back into all levels of our industry."   Tony Logan

If John Caldow can steer Georgias Pride to victory in tomorrow's Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby, expect her trainer Mario Magri to promptly take a look to the heavens. It's been a tough few years for the Melton-based horseman, who has had to farewell four close members of his family. So while success in the $75,000 feature will be a handy little pay day, it will certainly mean a whole lot more than that for a man yet to taste Group 1 glory. "If we do win it, I'll be looking at the skies - at my wife, my mum and dad and my brother - and I'll say 'we've done it at last'," he said. Georgias Pride is named after Magri's late mother, who urged him to end his hiatus from the sport and get back into the game before she passed away in 2016. After training 27 starters in season 2014-15, Magri wouldn’t take another to the track until March 28 of 2018 when Georgias Pride won on debut. From there, the daughter of Bacardi Lindy has won six more races and run placings in five group-level events. Magri has come close, but just can't crack it for that big-race winner. "I've run seconds and thirds but I can't win the Group 1 and I've been in the game since I was around 17 years old," he said. "I turned 60 last week so it's been a long time. We keep trying but you know how hard it is out there. "When my wife (Rosemary) was at the hospital, she said to me: 'whatever you do, be strong with the horses. I'm going to be there helping you train the horses'." Magri said Caldow had high opinions of the horse, which is owned by his son Leigh Magri and nephew Jacob Camilleri. "He's amazed himself she has not won a Group 1 race," Magri said. "If it's not Sunday, there's another time." Magri said Georgias Pride, a last-start runner-up to I Am Pegasus in the Vicbred Super Series Final (3YO Trotting Fillies), had a "good chance" in the Derby (2690m). "The distance is going to suit her because the longer the race is, the better she goes," he said. "If she gets behind the leader or a cosy run, I think she'll be there at the finish." From barrier one, Georgias Pride is rated as one of the key chances in Sunday's race at Maryborough, but will have stiff opposition from a host of rivals, many drawn alongside her off the front row. New Zealander Liberty Stride is likely to start favourite after an impressive last-start win at Shepparton, New South Wales and Victoria Trotters Oaks winner Royal Charlotte is another big danger, as is Vicbred Super Series Final (3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings) champion Kyvalley Clichy, Anton Golino-trained All Cashed Up and Andy Gath's winning machine Majestuoso. The Victoria Trotters Derby is race eight on Sunday's 10-event program and is scheduled for 4.04pm.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

Husband and wife harness racing team Ian and Tania Ward took a big chance by sending a horse to have surgery - but they are now reaping the rewards. "We did to-and-fro for about three weeks tossing up whether we'd stick our necks out. It was a very hard decision as there are no guarantees with that sort of thing," Ian said. Now the couple, based at Invergordon, about 25 minutes from Shepparton, are thoroughly comfortable with their decision with brown gelding Passion Play (Shadow Play-Seymour Lady (Peace Of Art) sweeping all before him. The pacer is in line for a hat-trick of wins following recent impressive victories at Shepparton and Echuca. "As a young horse Passion Play showed enough just through raw ability, that he certainly had a future," Ian said. "He wasn't far off the mark at his first three runs and then come out and won at Cobram in two minutes, with a last half of a tick over 57 seconds. Tania drove him that day and he led all the way. "At his next couple he was right on the hooves of the place-getters." Ian said the horse seemed to be tender now and again up the front and it had been in the back of his mind to take him to a veterinary surgeon to get it checked out. "I thought it could have been a joint problem in one front fetlock that was causing some concern. Anyway, the owner, who lived in Queensland, wasn't all that interested in paying for exploratory surgery and whatever that could lead to," he said. "So he told us that if we were prepared to put up the money he'd sign the horse over to us. And he did that without any fuss." Ian said well-known district vet Dr Jim Vasey performed the surgery, which involved scraping some bone and cleaning up a few bits around the cartilage. "Jim suggested a six-month spell, which turned into more like 12 to 16 months. We took our time with Passion Play and all the credit goes to Tania because she does all the work - he's her pride and joy," Ian said. "Hopefully he can win a few more because he's a nice horse. I like that he is so versatile and has a good turn of speed." The Wards were full of praise for up-and-coming junior driver Brad Chisholm who hasn't put a foot wrong at his only two drives on the horse, for a perfect result of two wins! "I don't give Brad a lot of instructions. Although last time at Echuca I did suggest that he try and stay out of trouble from the number 11 alley. And there was some early interference, but he drove a treat," Ian said. The Ward family is well known in the Goulburn Valley district with Ian's parents Graham and Lyn conducting Lynrose Stud at Katunga for more than 30 years. The couple now live in retirement at Numurkah. "I've been with horses for as long as I can remember. Dad did a lot of breaking-in and I took that on when I was just 12 years old," Ian said. "Later I went and got some great experience working for some highly-regarded people in the industry like John Ryan and his late father Frank, and for Ken Day and Pat Carrafa," he said. "We have never raced a big team. We prefer to educate the 'babies' and we're lucky to work for some of Victoria's leading stables. "We take the young ones to whatever stage the owners request. That can be just breaking them in or giving them two or three preparations as a yearling, or getting them ready to trial. "It's nearly impossible to race a big team and to be involved with a heap of youngsters, it just doesn't work." While Ian and Tania have a careful training regime for Passion Play, there only other racehorse is another needing special care in Sharkport. "He won a couple as a 2yo and promised to be anything," Ian said. "He tore a tendon in two in a front leg, in a race incident that wasn't his fault, and he is really a long chance. "I think he might be a 7yo now, but we'll keep going along with the swimming and slow work and the patience. You just never know."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Win, lose or draw, St Arnaud harness racing legend Frank Evans will still be beaming during the two-day Redwood Carnival at Maryborough, one of the premier events for the season. Eighty-nine-year-old Evans, a gentleman of the sport, will again be part of the electric atmosphere with a runner at today's opening meeting at Carisbrook Raceway and then again on Sunday. The carnival, bookmarked on the calendars of harness racing participants and fans across Australia, promises to be the best ever staged. There will be two days of first-class racing with 21 exciting square-gaiter events, involving 96 horses today and 94 trotters two days later. The eagerly-anticipated carnival is as much about the color and heritage of square-gaiting as it is about the more than quarter of a million dollars in prizemoney on offer. But Frank Evans' daughter Kaye Boyd said for her dad, it's about both! "It's a bit of an annual tradition for dad, and he's been talking about this year's Redwood Carnival for weeks now," she said. "He's always been into trotters and he'd be greatly disappointed if he didn't have a runner in one of the races. "He wouldn't miss it and thinks it's a fantastic concept. But I can honestly say that at first, he didn't think it would take off." It was back in the 1980s when the Victorian Square Trotters Association put the carnival concept to Maryborough Harness Racing Club, a strong supporter of trotters. Needless-to-say the club jumped at the chance and the ever-popular celebration of the trotter was born. The Redwood name is well-known and highly respected throughout the industry, going way back to the early days of harness racing in Victoria. The historic $50,000 race on Sunday is named after Hugh Redwood, a former VSTA president and founding member. Evans, who still trains from his base on the edge of the St Arnaud township where he's been for the past 40 years, will be hoping Our Ivy (Muscles Yankee US-Nandy Noot NZ (Malabar Maple USA) puts her best foot forward. The brown filly will today contest the Garry Angus Memorial 2YO Maiden Trot, with Ararat horseman Michael Bellman taking the reins. Evans purchased the trotter at the sales and named it after his late wife, Margaret Ivy, who passed away two years ago this November. "Dad reckons the Redwood attracts the older fraternity of the industry and I know there is lots of reminiscing and catching up with friends," Kaye said. "We have a laugh because he talks about this 'old guy', and that 'old fella'-but most of the time they're younger than him!" Kaye said. "But they are just great days. Dad is still enjoying good health, not that he's one to complain. He doesn't like that sort of stuff. "He could certainly tell some stories because he's lived a colorful life and been a jack of all trades. Among many jobs he was a drover, then tried his hand as a butcher and trained horses for other people." Evans has trained 140 wins and 194 placings for more than $615,000 over the years. He would be best recognized for his achievements with trotters and one that comes to mind is grey filly Lunar Lass who took out the Victorian Derby and Oaks years ago. She finished with 10 wins and 8 places from 33 starts. The likeable horseman had his last drive at Horsham on February 17, 2014, on a horse he bred named Upandgone (Yankee Paco USA-Misty Gift (Straphanger USA). The chestnut mare was unplaced on that occasion but did finish with 8 wins and 23 places. And although his focus is on the carnival at the moment, Evans is looking eagerly towards future Redwood Carnivals, having a yearling in his stable sired by boom French stallion Love You (Coktail Jet-Guilty Of Love (And Arifant), whose progeny are winning top trotting races all over the world. Kaye, who's been secretary at St Arnaud Harness Racing Club for 15 years, is currently on a family holiday interstate and won't be trackside with her dad. "I'm kicking myself, but I'll be watching it on television."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After the initial sighs of Australian relief comes the reality. And that reality is even without a full regiment of the All Stars army to converge on the Victorian carnival which rolls into gear over the next week,  we still have some serious firepower aimed at the August riches which start at Maryborough on Sunday. There would have been plenty of connections of leading Australian age group horses thrilled to here that originally the All Stars weren’t targeting the Breeders Crown with anything like the numbers of the past, although the two they are bringing in Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke are favoured in their divisions. But the Kiwi team has grown to eight and remarkably all of them are trained by people who have had success in Australia before. Joining the Purdon-Rasmussen horses will be fellow Kiwi trainers Ray Green (won BC juvenile with King Of Swing two years ago); John and Josh Dickie (numerous BC, Vic Derby wins and a Great Southern Star), Zac Butcher (who has won Victorian group ones and now make his training debut there) and Phil Williamson, who has an excellent strike rate when he ventures to Victoria. Even Jeremy Young, who makes his Australian debut as the trainer of Breeders Crown three-year-old filly contender Best Western, is widely travelled and successful in Australia when stable travelling foreman for Purdon back in the Auckland Reactor days. So with all eight of the Kiwis set to race in Victoria soon, here is a look at how they stack up.—-   Maryborough Sunday: Ultimate Stride (Redwood): Former sales topping trotter who overcame 30m handicap to win at Maryborough last Thursday, so good to go from a stand for the Redwood. “He is a good horse and better now than when he ran at the Jewels,” says trainer Williamson. “He can definitely win any race he is in and the stand doesn’t bother me.” Anthony Butt will retain the drive on the leggy son of Love You, who is a class horse and has an experience edge at the highest level on the locals. Liberty Stride (Vic Derby): It was impossible not to be impressed by her quite stunning recovery to win at Shepparton last Tuesday and Williamson says she is the real deal. “She would have raced in the best races over home but we were behind the 8-ball with her prep but she has real class. “She can give the boys plenty to think about in the Derby and the crucial factor will be whether she gets it right and is trotting after 400m. If she is, she can win.” Butt will also takes the reins on her. Kratos (Vic Derby): Won his lead-up race at Alexandra Park last Friday against older horses with a 1:59.4 mile coming off second line, his fourth win this season, all against older horses. Second in NZ Sales Series and fourth in the Jewels he is rated a good stayer and late season improver by co-trainer John Dickie. “He is getting better all the time and he will love the three races in as many weeks heading into the Breeders Crown.”Not as good as some of the Dickie superstars of the past, Kratos will still be an each way chance in the Derby and the Crown, with Josh Dickie to drive.  Shepparton, August 7: Perfect Stride: Trained by Ray Green and owned by the Rosatis, Chicago Bull’s little brother is a real speedster. Good enough to compete in the elite early season company in NZ he was put aside with the Breeders Crown in mind and jogged a 1:56.1 mile beating older horses at Alex Park last Friday. That was his second win on end and he is slick and getting tougher with time. Whether he is up to the Emma Stewart horses is a big ask but looks certain to make the final and Zac Butcher will drive in the heat at least. Zeuss Bromac: A dramatic late season improver for Butcher, this is the first horse he has trained. Third in the Jewels at only his second start he beat Perfect Stride last time they met but then missed a race two weeks ago because of a bad blood report. Looks stronger than Perfect Stride but maybe not with as much raw speed. “I don’t think missing that race will hurt him too much and he is a horse on the up,” said Butcher. “So I think he will make the final and hopefully he will keep improving on the way there. He is pretty untapped.” Kilmore, August 8 Our Princess Tiffany: Needs no introduction, she is sheer class. Already the winner of three Oaks races it will take something very special to beat her in the series if she brings her best form. Best Western: Stunned Belle Of Montana to win the Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park in March to give trainer Jeremy Young, known as Zinny, his first group one win. Not as good as Princess Tiffany but she is tough and follows a hot speed so Australian racing should suit her. “Maybe she can’t beat Princess Tiffany but she definitely can’t beat her if we don’t go so she will be on the plane with the others on Wednesday,” said Young. A strong second in a 1:55.1 mile at Alexandra Park last Friday, Best Western is yet another Breeders Crown drive for Anthony Butt.  Ballarat, August 9: Jesse Duke: Has a good horse’s record and would be a lot better but for racing some really classy stablemates in Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured. Still won a Jewels and is a good stayer but meets a solid crop of horses. Won’t just turn up and win as so many Purdon-Rasmussen horses have in the past but his $3 futures quote with the TAB could be a lot shorter because you know he will be in the final and once there the All Stars horses are there they are usually well backed. Probably no better than 3-4 others in the series. Michael Guerin

There was class personified when some of the biggest names in Australasian harness racing flew into Melbourne from Queensland winter campaigns this week. Heading the list was the next superstar for the powerful New Zealand All Stars stables, three-year-old gelding Self Assured (Bettors Delight-Star of Venus (Christian Cullen), who is unbeaten in six race starts. Two of his Kiwi stablemates in Princess Tiffany (Art Major-Dancing Diamonds (Bettors Delight) and Jesse Duke (Bettors Delight-Daisy Dundee (In The Pocket) also made the trip. Boom Victorian colt Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder In Paris (Ponder), possibly the best Australian juvenile going around at the moment, was also on the plane south. The quartet were all air freighted from Brisbane. Check out the composure of Lochinvar Art and Jesse Duke arriving at Melbourne airport here: David Moran, partner of trainer Laura Crossland, said Lochinvar Art had enjoyed a few days off in a grass paddock before making the trip home. "We left him with some friends of ours in Kylie Rasmussen and Darren Weeks and he looks a picture. The short lay-off has done him wonders," Moran said. Lochinvar Art was sensational in two runs at Albion Park, finishing runner-up both times to Self Assured in the $31,600 South East Derby G3 (July 13) and then the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. "He needed the run on the first night, but he showed he was cherry ripe with an amazing performance to hang in there in the Derby which was run in race record time," Moran said. "Both Laura and I believe that effort wasn't far off being his best-ever run in his 25 career starts," he said. "And after all that, he pulled up unbelievably. He reminds me a bit of the old-school horses - he's so tough, he's got a big heart and just gives it his all." Lochinvar Art at the beach with Alex Alchin Self Assured recorded a mile rate of 1.54-2 for the 2680m Derby with closing quarters of 26.7 and 27.1. To put it into perspective, the time was only 0.5sec slower than that of Colt Thirty One who took out the Group 1 Blacks A Fake - a Grand Circuit event - at the same meeting. Lochinvar Art, Our Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke will now campaign in the coming Breeders Crown Series, kicking off at Ballarat on August 9. Semis will be run at Bendigo eight days later with the $200,000 final at Melton on August 24. Self Assured, owned by Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so is heading home to New Zealand, to prepare for his next campaign - the All Stars website confirming a nomination for the Alexandra Park Inter Dominion is likely. "He will fly out to Auckland soon and spend time on agistment. We aim to have him back up and going in November," Purdon said Purdon and his partner Rasmussen are currently taking a short holiday on the famous Gold Coast, before also heading "back to work". "We always try and pencil in a break after a major carnival, otherwise it's so difficult to get away. We cut our numbers back to 40 after the Jewels and our next focus is on the new season." The recent victory was Purdon's 182nd Group One as a winning driver and his 100th as a trainer. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Some of the most famous colours in Australian trotting will come out of the closet when Pink Galahs contests tomorrow's The Maori Legend at Stawell. Trainer-driver Matt Craven will don the green and gold worn by champion Maori's Idol - the horse the race is named after - when he chases glory in the $14,000 feature. Pink Galahs' co-owner Caleb Lewis is married to Laura (nee Healy), who is the daughter of Bryan and granddaughter of Ric. The Healy family bred Maori Miss, the mare who instigated arguably Australia's most famous trotting breeding line which includes the famed Maori's Idol but also Maori Mia, the great-great granddam of Pink Galahs. Lewis said Craven will wear the actual jacket carried by Sumthingaboutmaori throughout her triple Group 1-winning career. Sumthingaboutmaori, another descendant of Maori Miss, won 31 of 75 starts including races at the elite level in 2003 and 2004. "I was with the father-in-law (Bryan) the other day and he asked me if the two-year-old was running in the race. And then he said 'it would be good if you wore the colours'," Lewis recalled. "He gave me the Maori's Idol colours to wear. I have got the original ones but they might blow apart in the wind. These are actually Sumthingaboutmaori's colours." Lewis said it would be a "massive thrill" to win the race that meant so much to the family. "Just for the breeding and trotting industry - the Maori breed has done so much for it," he said. Pink Galahs looks one of the main players in Thursday's feature, having won a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old fillies) before running third in the Group 1 final behind Jaxnme. Lewis said the daughter of Skyvalley was in good order ahead of Thursday's assignment. "She made a mistake in the (Vicbred) final just after the start, happened to get herself back down and made up a massive amount of ground to run third," he said. "She just needs to get a bit of luck. She's drawn inside the second row. If she gets a bit of luck early, well hopefully she can get through a bit of traffic and be thereabouts. "It is two-year-old trotting so you've got to bite your tongue and hope everything goes right." If successful on Thursday, expect one of John Williamson's classics Galleries of pink galahs - the inspiration behind the horse's name - to be playing at Lewis' hotel in Portland. "I'd be happy to play it - no worries," he said. "My grandfather, who got me into trotting, when I was a really young kid we used to go around in his ute and he'd always have John Williamson going on the radio. "Most of my horses are named after songs - that year of two-year-olds I named after John Williamson songs." Pink Galahs is likely to run second favourite behind Peter Manning-trained Dublin Chubb, which has drawn outside her on the second row. Dublin Chubb was second favourite in a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old colts and geldings), but galloped on numerous occasions and finished last. The Maori Legend is race six on a 10-event card at Stawell and will start at 2.15pm.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

Len Maher has enjoyed his fair share of success through his nearly 60 years involvement in harness racing. And while has enjoyed plenty of bigger wins than that of Declan Henry's maiden victory at Maryborough on Monday, few have been as special for the now 85-year-old. A nine-year-old trotter with 20 previous starts for just two minor placings, Declan Henry was initially Len's son Graeme's horse. Graeme - a former Bendigo Harness Racing Club track manager and trainer-driver - sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2017, with Declan Henry being leased out the previous year. Len said it was Graeme's wish that his father continued training and hoped that Declan Henry would some day win a race. That break through arrived on Monday. To watch the replay of this race click here. "The horse was special to Graeme, he got him up and going," Maher said. "We had him out on lease, but he didn't win a race. "I got him back and got him going and I thought 'I'll do this for Graeme' and we've won a race with him. "That was our aim, which is what we set out to do .... it was beautiful. "Graeme was desperate for him to win a race and we did." Monday's win ended a run of four-straight fourth place finishes since Maher resumed the training duties with Declan Henry. The veteran trainer praised Chris Svanosio's steer aboard the bay gelding. "Those fourths, he was always a bit slow away and was at the tail of the field trying to get around them, whereas on Monday, he had a good run, got a nice spot in the race and was able to finish it off nicely," Maher said. "He's a nice driver Chris - he looks after the horses and does a great job with them. "I am not going to say if there are more wins in (Declan Henry), our aim was one and we've done it. There are no grand plans with him. If he can win another win it's a bonus." The win culminated a big few days for the Maher family. It followed a posthumous award win for Graeme for meritorious service from the Australian Harness Racing Council. That followed an emotional win earlier this year for reinsman Haydon Gray in the Grame Maher Memorial trot at Lord's Raceway in February. Gray and young trainer Maddie Ray use the Maher's property at Junortoun, next door to Lord's Raceway, as their training base. Another sentimental moment for the Maher family is expected to arrive some time this year, when the affectionately named trotter Graemes Wish, who is currently trialling, makes his race debut. "You can imagine what that (name) means," he said. "It was Graeme's wish that I go on with the horses and that's why we called him that. "He's got a bit of a way to go yet, but he will get there." By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Journeyman harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga isn't afraid to head five or six hours down the highway if he thinks he has a winner. Vallelonga, based at Bolinda, 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, has been a frequent-and successful-competitor in the far north west of the State, particularly over the past month. "I grew up in the Mildura area and have some great memories from there - besides, my parents Joe and Anne still live up there so it's nice to catch up with them," he said. Vallelonga and his foreman and reinsman Ross Payne have been in sensational form landing seven winners and a few placegetters at the last four Mildura meetings. The most recent fixture last Friday was by far their best with three wins apiece. Vallelonga was successful with Melinka (Shadow Play-Luva Rum Ball (Presidential Ball); Fire Safe (Courage Under Fire-Talk Safely (Safely Kept) and Staley (Bettors Delight-Left In Paris (Life Sign). Payne partnered the first two for his boss but opted for race favorite Gobsmacked in the 3yo event. He's sure to cop some ribbing this week as while Gobsmacked was not on his best behavior and broke in the score-up, Staley was always well positioned by catch driver Boris Devcic and "got the chocolates" in fine style for Vallelonga at 20/1. But Payne picked up an outside drive earlier and was victorious with Coolncalm (Changeover-Mini Bonus (Armbro Operative) in the Park Douglas Printing Pace for Ouyen trainer Malcolm Retallick. Much of the Vallelonga stable success at Mildura has been due to the efforts of Melinka and Fire Safe with six wins and two minor placings between them. "I just can't heap enough praise on Fire Safe who has been a life saver for us. She has kept the ship afloat since I had my accident when I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip," Vallelonga said. "My partner Elizabeth Ferrinda and I paid $12,000 for the horse at the Sydney sales, which has proved to be a bargain buy. But Fire Safe does owe me as she was the one that knocked me over causing my injuries on July 17 last year! "Without the support of Elizabeth, Ross and a few others, I doubt that the stable would be operating." Vallelonga grew up with two sisters and a brother at his parents' vineyard on the outskirts of Mildura. When he was a teenager, every school holidays would be spent mainly at Rochester, where his two uncles, astute trainers Neil and Frank Cavallaro were then based. "I learnt so much during those early days and I still remember the first horse they put me on to jog. It was named Egyptian Byrd," he said. "I got a trainer's licence when I was 16 or 17 and a neighbor of my parents' property let me put a track on his land. It just went from there." Apart from a brief stint in his early 20s when Vince ran a pizza shop with his brother Mario, he's always been involved with the horses. "When I was cooking pizzas, the late Vin Knight had one of my horses in Don't Bug Me. He told me to take the next day off and get to Maryborough trots. The horse won and I didn't get home for two days! There were some good times back then. "But looking back it has been fun. I had time at Mildura and Euston with Eric Anderson, then I was out on my own at Hattah and Yaapeet, the latter pottering around with just a few horses while I was growing pigs. I later spent 18 months with Peter Tonkin at Ballarat and over three years with Lance Justice, so I have some outstanding mentors." Vallelonga enjoyed success with a good bunch of owners at Sam Godino's property at Riddells Creek, before taking his biggest step up six year ago. He joined forces with Archie Anastasiou and the pair transformed a 130-acre sheep property at Bolinda into a picturesque training complex featuring an 1100m sand track and a 1200m track for fast work. "There's 18 in work at present, but we can always find room for more." Vallelonga said he was fortunate to have the expertise of ex-Kiwi horseman Ross Payne. "He's a true professional and he's got a wealth of experience having worked for the Purdon stables in New Zealand," he said. "I saw Ross's work ethic first-hand because he was at our place when he was the Purdons' travelling foreman at one stage. "He stayed for a month and drove a few winners for me too, so when I heard he was keen to call Australia home, I wanted to have him here. "But it wasn't that easy - I reckon he ignored my calls for more than six months! But I finally got him on board and we're lucky to have a tremendous working relationship."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

EMMA Stewart’s dominance of the rich Vicbred finals night reached new levels last night (Saturday). Stewart and co-trainer Clayton Tonkin took a thumping 23 pacers to Melton to contest the six Group 1 finals. Not only did they win five of the six finals (and ran second and third in the other), but they also snared the trifecta in four of the finals and the quinella in five of them. Their greatest dominance came in the 3YO colts and geldings final where they trained the first four home: Out To Play beating Demon Delight, Fourbigmen and Hurricane Harley. Although Chris Alford does the bulk of the stable driving, he only landed two of their Group 1 winners last night with drive of the night aboard Tam Major in the 4YO entires and geldings and Kualoa in the 3YO fillies. Greg Sugars drove Maajida to a powerhouse 2YO fillies win over stablemates Amelia Rose and Jemstone. David Moran teamed with pint-sized 4YO mare Pistol Abbey to add to her wonderful season. And Gavin Lang, long-time No.1 driver for the stable, was back in the fold to win on Out To Play. It took a lovely drive and monster upset for Yejele Hammer to deny Stewart and Tonkin and cleansweep of the final in the 2YO colts and geldings. Trained and driven by Mick Stanley, Yejele Hammer had the gun run behind Stewart’s leader Pandering with favourite and another Stewart runner, Mirragon, on the outside. Just when it seemed Mirragon was set to win, Yejele Hammer found daylight and powered home to win at $55 with Mirragon second and Pandering third. Most of the stars of Vicbred finals night now plot a course towards the Breeders Crown. _______________________________________________________________________________________ A TRIP to Queensland is still a goer for Majordan despite his surprise defeat at Menangle last night (Saturday). Kevin Pizzuto’s star speedster found the task of backing-up just six days after his blazing Group 1 Len Smith Mile win beyond him. It wasn’t helped when he had to run a sizzling 25.9sec lead quarter from the extreme outside draw. Majordan was under pressure at the top of the home straight and weakened for third to Courtsinsession and Loorim Creek in a 1min50.0sec mile. _______________________________________________________________________________________ AUSTRALIA is getting a new $1million harness racing and it will be in NSW, but that’s about all we know at the moment. The exciting news broke last week when the Aussie TAB released a new bet type and it was confirmed revenue from it would fund a string of stakemoney hikes and/or new races in NSW thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. It is understood the new $1mil race will be a final of a series where horses qualify through heats run across NSW. More details are expected later this month, but it’s clear the race won’t be for open-class horses. _______________________________________________________________________________________ INSIDERS will tell you Gary Hall Sr thinks Ideal Liner is his next Chicago Bull. The champion trainer has loved Ideal Liner since he first joined his stable last year, but he’s really starting to show everyone how good he is this campaign. The son of American Ideal made it seven wins on end, and eight from nine runs this campaign, when he scored at Gloucester Park last Friday night. “He has all the makings of a really, really nice horse and he’ll get his chance to show that next season. He’s doing everything we ask of him now and doing it well,” Hall Sr said. _______________________________________________________________________________________ THE more you see of trotter McLovin, the more you think he can win a really big races. At first the Andy Gath-trained gelding looked fast, but now he’s developed the strength to compliment it. McLovin had to dig deep, but was to the challenge when he sustained a long three-wide run in a sprint race to beat the classy Save Our Pennys in the Group 3 Noopy Kiosk free-for-all (1720m) at Melton last Friday night. Since coming to Australia at the start of the year, McLovin has won nine of his 14 starts with another two seconds and two thirds. ___________________________________________________________________________________ POPULAR husband-and-wife team Gary and Debbie Quinlan were left wondering what might have been after their exciting pacer Professor Tom won the free-for-all at Melton last night. The Quinlan’s had pushed and hoped for the gelding to get a run in last week’s Len Smith Mile, but were told he didn’t make the cut. “It was disappointing because he’d gone to another level and this is his window, but we’re thrilled to pick up another win this week,” Debbie Quinlan said.   Adam Hamilton

Millionaire pacer Arden Rooney will make his life after racing debut this weekend. Re-trainer Steve Cox has earmarked the nine-year-old gelding to step into the spotlight as part of a liberty demonstration at the Elmore Equestrian Centre. The demonstration coincides with a three-day qualifying competition for the Equestrian Australia 2020 Inter School Championships. A former New Zealand Cup and Hunter Cup winner who retired prematurely from racing due to injury, ‘Rooney’ commenced his liberty education in February this year. The son of leading sire Bettors Delight has excelled in the new vocation under Cox’s guidance, showing a high level of intelligence and train-ability. He is building an impressive resume of new skills, including bowing, standing on a pedestal, gesturing yes and no and smiling on command. “We have taken Rooney along to a number of dressage competitions since he joined our stable, just to show him that he can go on a float without having to race,” Cox explained. “But this weekend will be the first time we have asked him to reproduce his liberty training away from home. “It’s a good opportunity to introduce him to a different venue and a live audience on a small scale. It will be a huge learning curve for him but we’re looking forward to flying the HERO flag." Saturday night’s show is open to members of the public as well as inter-school competitors, their parents and friends. Arden Rooney’s retraining has been supported by the Harness Racing Victoria HERO Program and his racing owners Merv and Meg Butterworth of Decron Horse Care. Saturday night’s show will commence at 6.30pm. Dinner is available prior at a cost of $25 but bookings are essential. Contact Elmore Equestrian Club via email for more details.   Tanya McDermott

South Australian harness racing horseman Greg Norman, who is on a sojourn in Victoria for the next few months, has taken no time to hit his straps.  Norman, based at the Charlton harness training centre, got the spoils at Horsham last weekend with four-year-old bay gelding Edwin Bromac. “It was the first meeting I’d raced at since moving a few weeks ago, so I guess it was the perfect way to kick off,” a jubilant Norman said. Nothing much went right for the $1.40 favorite Edwin Bromac (Mister Big USA-Elly Bromac (Badlands Hanover USA) in taking out the $7000 Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association Pace but he couldn’t have been more impressive. After starting from the wide seven alley, reinswoman Kerryn Manning decided to push forward, getting an early three wide trail behind ToTheMoonAndBack (Jayson Finnis). However, when Finnis decided to restrain and head back to the tail of the field, Edwin Bromac was forced to drag back as well, having favorite punters with their hearts in their mouths. With a lap to go, Manning was second last and decided the back straight was the time to hit the “go” button. On the home corner, Edwin Bromac loomed up three wide and packed too many guns for his rivals in the run home. Edwin Bromac, raced by Cormack Racing Pty Ltd, comprising father Terry and sons Adam and Paul, scored by seven metres from Girls In Charge (Michael Bellman). “I certainly was happy with the effort because things didn’t really pan out all that ideally,” Norman said. “But Kerryn summed it up nicely and got the job done.” Norman said he had settled in well at Charlton and was looking forward to the rest of his stay. “The plan is for a three-month trial period, but if things work out the right way and we’re all happy, you never know how long I might stay,” he said. “The Charlton people have been tremendous and the club, headed by President Joey Thompson, have been tremendous in assisting us in every possible way. “We really love the town and the training centre facilities are brilliant – and it’s great to see the centre’s on fire at the moment, because Joey landed a Maryborough winner (on Wednesday) with Gollahgold, driven by Peter Sanderson.” Norman has his team competing at Kilmore and Ballarat over the next two nights. He said Edwina Express and Cee Cee In America would compete in 3yo Vicbred heats at Kilmore, while The Deal, Edwin Bromac and Gozo would go around the next night in the 4yo Vicbred heats at Ballarat. “I’m probably making up numbers a bit because the Emma Stewart-Clayton Tonkin team has runners at both fixtures, and they’re just setting the bar at present,” he said. “Full marks to them. They do a great job and present their horses in magnificent condition – but we’ll be there doing our best.”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When enthusiastic Cranbourne harness racing trainer Matthew Martin needs some expert advice, it's never far away. "I've got a nice network of family and friends to lean on when I need a bit of help or guidance regarding horses, so I'm very lucky," he said. And Martin, 32, was thrilled to see his one-and-only stable representative in Final Chapter (Art Major USA-Nyanjee (Classic Garry) get the money at Sunday's Mooroopna at Shepparton twilight meeting. "The race did look ideal for her and I thought if she could lead over the short trip, we'd be hard to beat," Martin said. "I've since read that a punter had $30,000 on at $1.65 - and I can guarantee that it wasn't anyone that I know!" he laughed. Driven perfectly by Kima Frenning (who also showed awesome touch with three winners for the Emma Stewart stable the previous night in Adelaide) Final Chapter was always going to be the one to beat. A first quarter of 29.9 was followed by a casual 33, then 29.1 and 27.9. "When Kima got that easy second quarter, I did think she had pinched the race," Martin said. Matt Martin and Kima Frenning are all smiles after the Shepparton win (Courtesy Shepparton HRC) Final Chapter, raced by Martin, his wife Kym, and successful gallops trainer Luke Oliver, had been placed at Melton, Warragul and Shepparton before her maiden victory. Martin, who's based at the Cranbourne Harness Training Centre, said he learnt a lot as a teenager when working horses with his father Alan. "I realise now that probably I should have listened a bit more, because if I can't get one to pace properly or it needs sorting out, I send it straight up to dad at Marong," he said. "But the other trainers based at the centre are awesome too - if it wasn't for them I would have been in the deep end and struggling along. I've definitely learnt so much and we all help each other out." But Martin also has some impressive cross-code expertise he can call on - in the form of Black Caviar trainer, Peter Moody. "I got to know Peter through my horse farrier business and, even though he was doing gallopers, I did pick up a lot about training and conditioning horses in general," Martin said. "Peter's ethic was to work them hard with lots of swimming, and his horses would go to the races so fit first-up, and that's rubbed off onto me, which I've tried to replicate." Martin said the Cranbourne centre was a "fantastic venue", boasting A1 facilities. "We have the use of a racetrack, 1200m jog track and a 600m heavy track and all of those are prepared daily. There's also a swimming pool, eight horse walking machine and a treadmill - we are spoilt rotten that's for sure," he said. Martin completed a four-year farrier apprenticeship in 2008 and has since built up a big clientele, including three days a week at Caulfield racecourse and the other two at the Romsey stables of Luke Oliver. His work days start when the alarm clock goes off between 4 and 4.30am and in a juggling act, he then gets back to Cranbourne in the early afternoon to train his pacer Final Chapter. "I recently decided to retire Mulgrave, a horse I got out of the claimers which actually gave me my first winner - Kima also drove him, but he was struggling towards the end," Martin said. "I've trained two others which didn't make it. So, all in all, I've only ever had just the four horses. I've held a trainer's licence for four years and now have six wins from probably not many more than 50 starters. "But it's an enjoyable sport and my only other hobby is supporting the mighty Collingwood AFL team." And it's not hard to miss the Martin stable--a race sulky in the Pies black and white colors, drivers colors likewise, while Matthew and Kym's two-year-old son George has his own set, which he wears with pride at the meetings.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Young Armstrong harness racing trainer Leroy O’Brien is the first to admit that a small amount of luck has gone a long way. But whether it’s been good fortune, hard work or perhaps an eye for detail, 27 year old O’Brien and his father and co-trainer Danny have been certainly reaping the rewards. Their latest success was courtesy of super-impressive Im Sir Blake (Alta Christiano NZ-Jupiters Darling (Dream Away) in the $25,000 Mitavite Northern Region Championship at Mildura last Thursday. The pacer, driven by Kerryn Manning (her second success in the feature event) was awesome in winning by 20 metres in 1.58-3. Click here for the race replay of the Northern Region Championship  “It’s a five-hour road trip to Mildura, but we’re not complaining because we’ve gone up there three times and come home with three winners,” O’Brien said. Im Sir Blake was a touch unlucky not to go through the Championship series undefeated. He was awesome in winning his first heat at Swan Hill late last month, and then galloped across the line at the next round of heats at Ouyen, only to be relegated from first to second. O’Brien paid the bargain price of $4000 for Im Sir Blake as a yearling at a Shepparton All-aged mixed sale – the same sale where two years earlier he snapped up a then-unraced Imprincessgemma for a rock-bottom “$900 plus GST”. “The filly caught my eye just in the way she carried herself and Im Sir Blake looked like a well-gaited type,” Leroy said. “We are very lucky to have some horses with so much ability.” Imprincessgemma (Village Jolt-Melody Strike (In The Pocket), raced by Leroy and his mum Sharryn, has won 11 from 25 starts for $107,000. Im Sir Blake, owned by Leroy and his dad Danny, has won seven for $58,000. Their other stable racehorse is Michelle Wonson-owned 2yo trotter Molly’s Purse, a recent winner of the $30,000 Group Two NSW trot final at Menangle. “I have to be honest and say we’ve had some nice offers to buy Im Sir Blake, but it’s sort of a lifetime thing with him,” O’Brien said. “My dad deserves the horse and does most of the work with him. Im Sir Blake waits at the gate for him – they’re really the best of mates,” he said. “I’d probably rate the horse as the best I’ve ever had although a trotter we had, Suave Jay, equalled the Mildura track record a couple of years ago and he went okay. “But Im Sir Blake is super quick and can do a bit of work. He’s a lovely little fella and I think we’ll now aim him at the upcoming Sires.” O’Brien said the horse was named after his sister Kirsty’s oldest child, Blake, while her daughter Gemma comes into play in Imprincessgemma. The father and son training partnership has been “on fire” this season with 15 wins and nine placings from 29 starts, for $106,000 in stakes. It’s a real family affair as Danny, a mental health nurse, and Leroy, a plumber, do as much as possible at the stables before heading off to work. Mum Sharryn, a disability support worker, is, according to Leroy, the backbone. “Mum feeds up and helps out wherever she can, and my fiancée Kristy also does a great job. You just need that massive support to keep ticking along,” he said. Leroy and Kristy recently became engaged and nine weeks ago welcomed son Tommy into their lives. “You could say that it’s all happening,” Leroy said laughing. “I suppose we’ve fallen on our feet with a lot of good luck, but you still have to put in the work for the success to keep coming,” he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Experienced South Australian harness racing trainer-driver Greg Norman has decided the time is right to border hop and try his luck in Victoria. Norman, 54, will soon set up base at Charlton, about an hour north of Bendigo, with a team of at least six pacers. The successful horseman, who is private trainer at the Two Wells property of prominent owners Terry Cormack and his sons Adam and Paul, said the plan was to “test the waters” during a three-month trial period. “We all talked it over and come to the decision to give it a go,” Norman said. “The game is not travelling all that well in South Australia, so that was probably the main reason for the shift,” he said. “Over the years we’ve had a few short campaigns in Victoria to chase Vicbred and Breeders Crown bonuses – and we’ve done quite well.” Norman will be based at the Charlton harness racing training complex, located on 12 hectares at the edge of town. There are 11 tracks within 120 kilometres of the centre, and Norman said he was excited at the prospect of having nearly 150 meetings each season within easy reach. “It’s just a perfect spot. I’ve spent virtually my whole life living in country towns and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen here,” he said. “At the training complex we’ll have unrestricted use of a 820 metre training track and there’s also a 2000 metre straight track and a swimming dam.” Tenants at Charlton have their own 60 x 30 shed with electricity, access to town water, lock-up harness and feed areas, a wash bay, harness-up area and two boxes. “But one of the aspects I really love is the eight adjoining huge day yards because I train all of our horses out of the paddock at home.” Norman has been around horses all his life, coming from a strong harness racing pedigree. His late grandfather Reg Norman and late father Rex prepared a string of quality pacers during the halcyon days of the 1950s through to the end of racing at Adelaide’s tight, 502 metre (two-and-a-half-furlong track) Wayville track in 1973. The Norman stable-stars list reads like a who’s who in South Australian golden era of harness racing: Machine Again; Bylaw; Chief Spring; Blue Proof; Pewter; Aladdin’s Lamp; Merchant; Peter Adios; The Judge; and, of course, Aachen, the 1960 SA Cup winner (famous for creating what was, at the time, a record winning sequence of 20) and later going on to become a champion sire. Greg Norman has been successful in his own right, winning at least 13 country cups and a group three Victorian Cup at Melton for the Cormack family. “There will be mares and foals, and a host of yearlings back at the Two Wells property, and these will be under the care of two great workers in Jamie Williams and Paul Butterworth,” Norman said. “What has stood out for me here is the passion shown by the harness racing people at Charlton.  They are trying to attract more horsemen to the area and people bring people. They are a very pro-active and progressive club.” Norman is hoping a foray into Victoria to race at Ouyen last weekend will be the beginning of good things to come. Bay gelding Cee Cee In America (American Ideal-Ultimate CC (Christian Cullen) was impressive in taking out the first heat of the Ray and Grace Hepworth Memorial 3yo Pace. The pacer, a warm $2 favorite, was driven a treat by Kerryn Manning. “I’m not really officially counting that win as the start of the Victorian venture, but I do hope it’s a good sign,” Norman said. Although he’s had two previous stints in Victoria, at harness racing stables in Healesville and Avenel, Norman is keeping his powder dry about any shift in his footy allegiances. With the move east, he’s instead planning a few Melbourne trips on his days off. “I’m an enthusiastic Port Adelaide follower so I’d love to get down to the city and cheer on the boys,” he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) issues the following statement regarding today’s media release from Victoria Police, which states that “in relation to alleged harness race fixing in Shepparton … a 49- year-old Kilmore man was charged with engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, and use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes” (read Victoria Police media release here). Quotes attributable to HRV General Manager – Integrity Brent Fisher: “HRV welcomes ongoing cooperation with Victoria Police. “Today’s charges came about following a HRV investigation, which saw the HRV Integrity Unit identify suspicious activity at Shepparton on 17 July, 2018, secure evidence and alert Victoria Police for further investigation. “As charges have been laid HRV will not be commenting any further on this matter.”   Harness Racing Victoria

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