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IT was the Kate Gath show at Melton last night. Gath drove three of the feature winners, two for Emma Stewart and the other for husband, Andy Gath. Gath’s splurge started when she partnered Stewart’s exciting three-year-old Pacifico Dream led throughout and blew his rivals away in the Group 3 VHRC Sires Classic. The son of Mach Three scored by 18.2m in a 1min55.1sec and that’s after being pressured through a blazing 27.6sec second quarter. Pacifico Dream was underdone when fifth in the Victoria Derby, ran a terrific race when fourth in the NSW Derby and looks be better as the season rolls on. Gath then teamed with the classy Demon Delight to lead home an Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin trifecta in the Group 2 Melton Plate with Out To Play second and Major Times third. Demon Delight, back from a Sydney campaign, pulled very hard in the run, moved to sit parked in the middle stages and still found plenty to hold-off Out To Play and win by a half-neck in a 1min56.2sec mile rate for 2240m. “He’s all class. I wondered what he’d have left when I asked him, but he just kept finding. It was a big win,” Gath said. Gath’s third big win came on champion trotter Tornado Valley in the Group 3 Scotch Notch Memorial. Tornado Valley sat parked from the middle stages and simply proved too classy and strong for a gallant leader, Maori Law, in a 1min59.4sec mile rate for 2240m. It was Tornado Valley’s 35th win from 95 starts and took him past $760,000 in earnings. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ TOP driver Kima Frenning faces a lengthy stint on the sidelines, but things could have been much worse after a crash in the opening race at Melton last night. Rival drivers listened as watched as horror as Frenning’s head smashed into the track and she was rushed to hospital. Reports and photos emerged later showing Frenning’s badly smashed helmet, but she has a suspected broken hand or wrist, sore back and suspected concussion. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ CHAMPION driver Chris Alford’s 1600km return road trip to Bathurst for Friday night was worth it after he snared two key wins. Alford partnered Clayton Tonkin’s raw but exciting two-year-old colt to an impressive win the fourth heat of the Gold Crown and Anthony Butt’s buzz young trotter Elite Stride in the Gold Coronet. “By the time you go to airport from home, get a plane to Sydney and then drive to Bathurst … I’ve actually just found it easier to drive the whole way from home,” Alford said. Idyllic, a strongly-built son of Somebeachsomewhere, caught the eye when second to stablemate Ideal Dan on debut and went one better despite sitting parked at Bathurst in a 1min56.5sec mile rate for 1730m and closing splits of 56.5 and 27.8sec. “The stable have always had a big opinion of him, but he’s still learning. That was a good win because the leader just kept coming back at us,” Alford said. Ideal Man also won his way through to next Saturday night’s Gold Crown final after overcome some traffic issues to score easily for trainer Emma Stewart and driver Amanda Turnbull. David Moran, of Lochinvar Art fame, will be a major player in the Crown final with his impressive Captaintreacherous gelding Lochinvar Chief, who went the quickest of the heats in a 1min55.2sec mile rate. Tasty Delight beat Lochinvar Chief when they last met at Menangle and he too won through the Crown final with an sharp 1min56.2sec heat win. Elite Stride was never out of second gear posting his fourth win from just five starts. “They told he was something special before I drove him at Melton and they weren’t wrong,” Alford said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ IT will be fun to see WA’s latest pacing star Shockwave chase some eastern states riches later this year. But for now, the Ryan Bell-trained four-year-old should just keep picking off races at home. The son of Mach Three was untroubled making it two wins from as many runs back from a minor injury setback when he cruised to a free-for-all win at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Driver Aiden De Campo pushed through to take the lead after 150m, cruised through a 61.3sec middle half, then dashed home in 54.9 and 26.8sec to win as he liked. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was a new stable, but the same result for classy Kiwi mare Havtime at Menangle last night. Now in the care of KerryAnn Turner, Havtime was beaten to the lead by No Win No Feed, but then worked around to take the front off her and was never in danger. The former Barry Purdon-trained mare zoomed away to win by 10.9m in a 1min51.5sec and looks sure to have loads of fun at Menangle in coming months. On the same card, former star juvenile filly Molly Kelly continued her unbeaten streak for the Craig Cross stable with an all-the-way win in the Group 3 Autumn Gift final. The five-year-old made it four wins for Cross when she paced a 1min52.4sec mile. Cross snared another significant win when former star filly Speak No Evil, having her third run on the comeback trail, scored in a 1min50.9sec mile. It was his 13th win from just 18 starts and she spent almost 18 months on the sidelines with injury after a fantastic juvenile career with Emma Stewart. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal edged tantalisingly close to $1.5 million in career earnings with another Menangle win last night. Tim Butt’s eight-year-old blazed off the gate in 25.9sec with Replaced Eye, but couldn’t cross, so driver Jack Trainor dropped in for the trail. My Field Marshal looked set for an easy win at the top of the straight, but the early burn took its toll and he had to dig deep to fight off Alpine Stride, who ran a monstrous race after galloping early, in a 1min51.1sec mile. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to see Lance Justice back in the winner’s circle at Melton last night even if most punters weren’t so happy. Justice trained and drove Love Ina Chevy to win the 1200m Stampede as a $27.10 outsider. Love In A Chevy is a special horse to Justice and his stable, having been nursed for many days through the effects of a snake bite which left him fighting for his life.   Adam Hamilton

On behalf of the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association I urge all participants to put their health and the health of other drivers, trainers and stablehands first as the community deals with COVID-19. Harness racing participants have a reputation of being hard-edged and brave, but this is not a time for bravery. It’s a time for diligence, awareness and caution. I strongly agree with the leadership shown by HRV in today’s announcement to limit track attendance to licensed participants and essential staff. It’s OK to be overly protective, and I’d rather over react and still be around than brush it off and no longer be around. Participants must adapt and do things they aren’t used to doing. It’s not only your livelihood and your health, but the livelihoods and health of those around you or who depend upon you, including the many older harness racing participants who are most vulnerable to this virus. The VTDA urges its members to follow World Health Organisation advice to practice good hygiene at all times, including small things like bringing your own pen to sign in or using hand sanitiser after any contact, and if you have symptoms do not attend the track but isolate yourself to prevent the virus spreading. If you attend a track, wash your hands regularly, cover your face when coughing or sneezing and keep a safe distance from others. HRV has informed us they will be taking this into account and organising stalls setup accordingly. If you have symptoms or need information contact Harness Racing Victoria OHS Senior Adviser Nicole McCarthy (NMcCarthy@hrv.org.au) and follow the HRV website, thetrots.com.au, and social media channels (Facebook and @TheTrotsComAU on Twitter). Participants are reminded that the free Industry Assistance Program is available to all participants. Click here for details on how to access the program or phone 1300 360 364. This is no time for a blasé attitude. Sometimes you have to put yourself out for the benefit of everybody and that’s what we need to do. Take care of yourself and those around you. - Lance Justice, Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association president

There's no questioning the work ethic of Great Western harness racing couple Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell. The husband and wife team made the four-and half-hour trek to Mildura, in Victoria's far north west on Friday night, picking up three stable winners (and Manning four as a driver), including the coveted Italian Cup with the consistent Stroke of Luck (Major in Art-Bonton Lady (Armbro Operative). Less than 24 hours later they put an awesome win on the board at the other end of the State at "headquarters", Tabcorp Park Melton, with their rising star Pat Stanley (Western Ideal-Jaz Tanner (Artiscape), who, at just his fifth run for the stable, took out the Markovina Free For All. Then on Monday, Manning was her usual chipper self, picking up two winners just down the road at Horsham and taking her place in the Horsham Norm Smith Memorial Invitation Driver's Championship - won by Kate Gath. Close to 1500 kilometres for the weekend, but Manning and Campbell are expert at placing their select 11-horse team to advantage and rarely miss when they make the long trip to Mildura. "You've really just got to be able to place your horses and that's what we try to do," Manning said. "Sometimes that means a trip to Mildura or Shepparton, but if the race suits then you've got to be prepared to do it," she said. "It was really Stroke of Luck we were taking up this time, for the Italian Cup, because it was a race we thought was conditioned to suit him and he's been finding it a bit hard to win. But it was nice to pick up the other two wins as well." Stroke of Luck is raced by the stable's loyal clients, Merv and Meg Butterworth and just held on to take the feature, ahead of local star Murranji Track, who's returning to his best ahead of the home town Mildura Pacing Cup carnival, starting March 31. "Stroke of Luck's been racing well against strong opposition and we just thought the Italian Cup suited," Manning said. "But that said, it's definitely not as easy to win at Mildura as it used to be, either." Someone forgot to tell that to the super impressive Major Assassin (Art Major-Princess Cassi (Armbro Operative), though. The pacer, trained by Campbell, scored with ease for Manning by 34 metres in the Varapodio Estate Italian Pace, in a tidy 1:58.1. "It just shows you what he can do when things work out for him," Manning laughed. "He is quite smart, but he tends to get a bit fired up. He'd definitely be much more popular at home if he was a little bit easier to get on with!" The stable's other winner at Mildura was promising filly, Bettor Romance (Bettors Delight-Chemical Romance (Northern Luck), by virtue of a successful protest in the Three-Year-Old Pace against Sassys a Terror, trained by Jess Tubbs and driven by Alex Ashwood. Manning also scored for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway with Bettor B Nice (Bettors Delight-Alohomora (Badlands Hanover). The Manning and Campbell team will continue clocking up the miles in coming weeks, with Boort Cup winner Pay Rise and Stroke of Luck likely to be aimed at coming Pacing Cup features at Charlton and Ouyen, while Stroke of Luck and possibly even Pat Stanley are under consideration for the Mildura carnival. "I don't think two runs in the five days at Mildura would really be a problem for either of them," Manning said. "All of our horses do heat work every three days, and those two handle it very well, so I think they'd be suited to the carnival format. We'll just see how things pan out in the next few weeks."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The flying Pat Stanley continued his rise to top-line star under the care of Kerryn Manning with a blistering victory at Tabcorp Park Melton. At just his fifth run for the Great Western-based horsewoman, the son of Western Ideal added the IRT Australia Markovina Free For All (2240m) to his recent South Australian Pacing Cup success with a dominant 14-metre triumph in Saturday night’s feature. The win, in a mile rate of 1:55.2, continued a great run of form since joining Manning’s yard and plans are now in place for a likely tilt at the Group 2 City of Melton Plate in a fortnight’s time. “He should measure up, hopefully, in some of the better races,” Manning said. “He’s headed to America eventually. He’s owned by Ron (Buker) over there but he’s won back his $50,000 that he paid for him and he’s earning more now. He said we’d leave him here while we are going well.” Pat Stanley was bred and raced in the early part of his career in New Zealand and then spent a couple of years with Blake Fitzpatrick in New South Wales before being sent to Victoria. “When they bought him I hadn’t really heard of him,” Manning said. “I watched a few of his replays and he looked to go really good without having a lot of luck up there, but (was) always running on really good.” Manning said Pat Stanley’s win in the South Australian Pacing Cup in early February, when severely pressured in the lead, proved he had the strength as well as the speed he had shown previously. This performance was followed by an eye-catching second behind Code Bailey in the Terang Pacing Cup prior to Saturday night’s success. Pat Stanley has now had 45 career starts for 14 wins and more than $140,000 in prizemoney. Champion reinsman Chris Alford produced a winning treble at Melton, scoring in the Allied Express Pace (1200m, 4YO+) with David Aiken-trained Pirate Bay, winning the Benstud Standardbreds Trot (2240m, 4YO+ NR 75-100) with Andy Gath’s Miss Blissful and then the Empire Stallions Claiming Pace (1720m) with Emma Stewart’s Freddy Funk. Freddy Funk’s triumph capped a perfect night for Stewart, who prepared three runners at Melton for three wins. Also successful was debutant Ideal Dan, who took out the Breckon Farms Sapling Stakes (1720m, 2YO colts and geldings) and Ideal Conquest, who won the TAB Multiplier Pace (2240m, mares NR 70-89).   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Ten of Australia's finest drivers will assemble at the Horsham Racing Centre this afternoon to contest the 30th annual Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship but with one notable absence. Legendary reinsman Gavin Lang has been a regular part of  Horsham's Invitation Drivers Championship since its inception in 1990.  Gavin was there under the lights at the old showgrounds track when Gaita Pullicino took out the first Golden Pacers Horsham Invitation title. He also drove in the first edition staged on the new 1000m circuit at the Racing Centre in 1993.   Gavin saw the "Noel Smith Memorial" banner assigned to the event in 1995 and has been a constant through changes of sponsors to the current era of Decron Horse Care's support.  Apart from being a regular competitor, Gavin was often called on by the Horsham Club to act as "taxi driver" for interstate competitors and "courier" for trophies, equine products and merchandise prizes. Success in the event came Gavin's way in 1991 (dead-heat with Jim O'Sullivan) 1992, 1996 and 2014.  Incredibly, he's missed only four of the 29 championships to be staged - 1993, 1999, 2013 & 2019 - due to injury, the wrath of stewards or family commitments. However, 2020 is a far different kettle of fish. With Lang currently battling a rare type of lymphoma, the trots industry has rallied in recent months to raise nearly $100,000 towards the incredibly expensive treatment which is  being sourced from USA. A Sportsman's Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Tuesday March 17th will further boost the fundraising tally to support Gavin and his family. Fellow reinsman and organiser Stephen Cleave says the event “promises to be memorable” and “full of great yarns”. Hosted by AFL great and harness aficionado Mick McGuane, GoodForm’s Jason Bonnington and RSN’s Gareth Hall, the evening will feature multiple ‘all-star’ panels telling stories about one of harness racing’s genuine all-time greats. Tickets @ $25 are available on 03 8746 0600. A mega raffle and on-line auction is running in conjunction with the gala event, with tickets and bidding available now at https://app.galabid.com/gav/items While Victorian drivers Chris Alford, Kerryn Manning, Greg Sugars, Kate Gath and Jason Lee together with WA's Chris Voak and Ryan Hryhorec (SA) have participated in past editions of the "Noel Smith" the 2020 lineup also sees three "first-timers" in the mix. Swedish national Kima Frenning (Vic) has enjoyed great success as both driver and trainer since coming out to Oz to ride in a few Monte (saddle trot) races.  Young Queensland driver Nathan Dawson currently leads the 19/20 state and metro tally boards with 99 victories (23 metro) and former Victorian, Mark Yole (TAS) took out the 18/19 state premiership with 88 wins and is enjoying another successful season.   Tony Logan  

Overnight rain that battered the state won’t interrupt racing at Bendigo and Mildura tomorrow or Wangaratta on Sunday, according to club administrators. While Birchip’s Sunday cup day has been postponed and tonight’s Kilmore racing transferred to Melton, other scheduled meetings are expected to proceed as planned. Bendigo received 43 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am this morning, and club general manager Erik Hendrix said the rainfall had damaged the track but he was optimistic “we should be fine”. “Our crew will be under the pump today,” Mr Hendrix said. “We’ve had a fair bit of damage, but with the day in hand I would expect to be racing tomorrow. “The sand looks to have run down to the bottom of the track and created ripples and they will be working on it this afternoon to get it back up to racing standard. It costs a day and a half of work, but it’s not disastrous.” Bendigo’s 11-race program on Friday precedes a further 11 races at Mildura on Friday night, and Mildura secretary Michelle McGinty-Williams said the club’s most pressing need wasn’t track conditions but horse stalls. A fantastic night’s racing is in the offing with 118 horses entered at Mildura, which received a more modest 20 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am. “Tracks are faring very well,” Ms McGinty-Williams said. “We’ve had it on and off, most of it yesterday, and the trainers said it was beautiful. “We didn’t have any downpours. We haven’t touched the track because it’s such a small amount.” Moods are also chipper at Wangaratta Harness Racing Club ahead of its cups day on Sunday. Despite the town receiving 40 millimetres, club secretary Bernadette Costantino said the track was “pretty good”, adding if it stopped raining we could run this afternoon”. “They will be doing some work on it tomorrow, but we would have been anyway.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Sunday’s Birchip meeting has been postponed after the town received half its annual rainfall in recent weeks, with a further 50mm of rain falling overnight. And Kilmore's track (pictured) was washed away overnight after 80mm of rain fell on the town forcing the relocation of tonight's meeting to Tabcorp Park Melton. “We’ve copped six inches of rain in less than a month – the annual rainfall is 9-11 inches,” club secretary Brad Sharp said. “We got 50mm overnight, which was a lot more than predicted. “The track’s fine but the float car park and surrounds are all under water and it is just going to be too hard to manage. “It’s devastating but there’s not much we can do about it.” Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) General Manager of Racing Stephen Bell said HRV would work with Birchip to find a new date for its annual meeting. “This is disappointing for the club because they’ve put so much work and promotion into what is always a great day, but we’ll explore all options with the club to help them find a new date on the calendar,” Bell said. Kilmore CEO Ben Murphy was disappointed to lose tonight's meeting but said it was important an early decision was made for the benefit of industry participants.  “There’s a need for remedial work on the track because the base has been washed away,” Murphy said. “It’s disappointing but we’ve had over 80mm overnight and we've made the call early.” HRV has advised participants of schedule changes via text message alert. More information will be provided throughout the day as it comes to hand. Follow this website, @TheTrotsComAU on Twitter and HRV’s Facebook page for the latest information.     HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Horsham Harness Racing Club has today announced the list of 10 invitees to contest the time honoured Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship to be conducted at on Monday March 9. Victorians Chris Alford, Kate Gath, Jason Lee, Kima Frenning, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning are set to do battle with Chris Voak (WA), Nathan Dawson (QLD), Mark Yole (TAS) and Ryan Hyrhorec (SA).  The series consists of four $7000 ratings-exempt races with the invited drivers being randomly allocated a drive in each heat. Trainers are advised that nominations for all events on the program close at noon on Wednesday  March 4. Horsham's feature was staged for the first time in 1990. Later it was re-named in honour of Noel Smith, past president and delegate of the Horsham Club, who made an enormous contribution to the industry at grass roots level through his tireless work for the M&CTA and South West Zone Clubs.   Tony Logan

Boort Trotting Club is gearing up for its showcase Sunday, headlined by the pacers and trotters cups, with free admission and a cavalcade of activities to thrill the local community and trots lovers. A deep field of entrants have presented for the $14,500 Councillor Neil Beattie and Family Boort Pacing Cup, part of the $35,000 Trots Country Cups Championship, which is drawing to a gripping conclusion. The field will also be released tomorrow for The Honourable Peter Walsh Boort Trotters Cup, part of a big race card that will be streamed live on TrotsVision this Sunday. Among the races will be the Robert Coutts Memorial Trotters Handicap, now a $12,000 standing start. The day will celebrate the industry, with pony trots and HRV HERO re-trained standardbreds on course, as well as provide plenty of off-track entertainment, including yabby racing, music by Susan Foley and her band Bahn Tre and a Kids Korner, with a monster crocodile jumping castle, games and giant surfboard ride. And there are plenty of prizes to be won, including a Gold Coast holiday, Fashions on the Field and members' racebook prizes, as well as a Darren Carroll led Punters' Club. For more details email the club via boorttrots@gmail.com.   Boort Trotting Club

Harness racing is full of stories and characters - but Ray Lunghusen from northern Victoria's Gunbower Harness Racing Club is the real deal. The club stalwart became the first recipient of Harness Racing Victoria's Alice Laidlaw Award at the weekend - and was also recognised by his club for an incredible 60 years of volunteerism. The Gunbower club hosted one of its two major annual race meetings, the George Croxford Tribute day on Sunday, and used the occasion to present their hard-working life member with an appreciation award. But on hearing Ray's story, Harness Racing Victoria added to the accolades, by presenting him with the inaugural Alice Laidlaw Award**. Ray has performed almost every role in an incredible six decades of involvement at Gunbower - and was one of the key players in ensuring the club could return from the "wilderness" after being shut down in a State-wide rationalisation in the early 2000s. President of the Gunbower Harness Racing Club, Roger Brereton said Ray, who's about to turn 82, became involved in "the trots" by mistake. "He went to a mate's place to buy a dog - and ended up buying a brood mare, fortunately for us!" Brereton said. "That broodmare then went on to produce a number of foals and she got Ray hooked on the sport and he's been with us ever since," he said. Ray became passionate about his harness racing and a highlight was a Gunbower Pacing Cup winner in 1989. "It was with Metro Fella (23 wins from 158 starts in the late 1980s, early 1990s) who I bought as a yearling at the sales," Ray said. "But my best horse was Keystone Fella - I bought him as a yearling from a bloke who was selling up all of his horses. He won 13 races from about 60 starts, including winning four at Moonee Valley. We ended up selling him to America, which wasn't that common back then (mid 1980s)." These days Ray is content to watch the fortunes of horses raced by his son Grant. HRV Chairman Dale Monteith made the journey to Gunbower to present the Alice Laidlaw Award and also paid tribute to Ray's commitment as track curator. "It was Ray's dedication that kept the track in a condition that Gunbower's Pacing Cup could be returned to the club in 2012," Mr Monteith said. "One of our great strengths is commitment of so many volunteers and passionate people like Ray, who just love the sport. He personifies all that is good about the family of harness racing and it's great to be able to recognise him," he said. "We've established the Alice Laidlaw Award with the aim of recognising some of those great contributors." Brereton said Ray's efforts had been pivotal in keeping the club functioning over a six-year period when it was not racing, and in being in a position to regain two major race meetings a year for Gunbower. "He's performed almost every role in the club that there is, including being our club steward for a number of years, but his passion has always been and still is, the maintenance of the track." And, true to form, Ray was back at the Gunbower track on Monday morning, cleaning up, servicing the tractor and dragging the track. "I just love it - the atmosphere, the comradeships with all the committee and of course the race days. I hope I can keep doing it for a while yet," he said. **Alice Laidlaw (1894-1947), is a Harness Racing Hall of Famer. She was one of Australia's most respected and accomplished female riders and she also trained, rode and drove trotters, competing against the men. In 1929 she won several races with Bazil Bells at country tracks, but authorities refused to grant women licences at the metropolitan track at Richmond, so she engaged male drivers.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Two of the north’s bravest trotters are set to cash in on the frailties of trotting big boys over the next month.  Temporale and Massive Metro have already paid for their Australian campaigns for trainer Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett with big performances at Melton over the last two weeks. Temporale won the A$50,000 Dullard Cup in a rare group one win for Hackett’s green and white racing colours 11 days ago, while Massive Metro was a strong third in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star at Melton last Saturday. While plenty of the Kiwis who contested that carnival are already home, both the South Auckland trotters are staying on in Australia for three more races and the final one in particular looks perfect for them. The pair next contest the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on February 14 followed by the A$100,000 Grand Prix at the same track on February 29. They will then head north to Menangle for the A$50,000 Trotters Mile on March 7, which is Miracle Mile night. Already one of the hotshots of the open class trotting scene in Oscar Bonavena has returned to New Zealand, where his connections hope a break will help him strengthen up. And while Great Southern Star winner Tornado Valley will meet the Kiwis in their two Victorian races, he can’t make the trip to Menangle. “He is the worst traveller we have ever had,” explains driver Kate Gath. “It is not nerves because when he gets to the track he is fine but he never stops moving in the float. He is like he is tap dancing the entire trip. “We took him to Ballarat two weeks ago and he was in a lather by the time we got him there so he definitely couldn’t do nine hours in a float to Sydney.” So while the Wallis-Hackett pair will be competitive in both their upcoming Victorian races, the Menangle Mile should be well down on the class of the Great Southern Star. “There is nothing for them here and they are handling the racing so well over there it makes sense to stay,” says Wallis. “Temporale is a old pro and he won well the first night but never got a chance getting back and wide last week while Massive Metro took a while to settle in but was far better on night two. “So it is great to have A$200,000 worth of races for them at this time of the year.”   Michael Guerin

Connections of history-making Victorian speed machine Lochinvar Art now have an enjoyable decision to make for their harness racing superstar-where to next? Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder in Paris (Ponder) stopped the clock in 1.48-6 in winning the $100,000 G1 Alabar 4yo Bonanza at Melton on Saturday night. It was the first time the magical 1.50 mile rate had been smashed in the State. Watch the race replay here!  "We'll sit down with David (trainer-driver David Moran) and talk it over in the next few days. We have a few options, but there's certainly exciting times ahead," jubilant owner Kevin Gordon, said yesterday. "In winning the Bonanza, we now have a gold ticket straight into the $200,000 Chariots of Fire in Sydney in just under four weeks' time. David is very keen to give him a start between now and then," he said. "There's the AG Hunter Cup as well as the $35,000 Echuca Pacing Cup coming up, so there's plenty to think about." Gordon and his wife Leonie are best-known for their association with greyhound racing, having claimed many of the major features, including the Paws of Thunder, the Sydney Cup and Christmas Cup. But they rate the recent victory by pacer Lochinvar Art as the biggest thrill in racing. "Apart from the Bonanza being such a prestigious event, being the first Victorian to break a 1.50 mile rate just takes it to another level," Gordon said. "He went absolutely super. A lot of horses don't progress from their 3yo days, but we are thrilled Lochinvar Art has taken that next step. He has developed physically and is bigger across the back and he's shown this time in he's a lot stronger too. "The win was a credit to David and he's surely now cemented himself as a top trainer. He works hard and deserves all the success he gets." Moran worked forward in the Bonanza, waiting until the leading brigade found their positions before taking up the role as pilot. The talented horseman had a pre-race plan to cover as little ground as possible, but he was hoping his main rival (Mark Purdon's $1.10 fav Self Assured) would be called upon to do "that little extra" at some stages. "I needed him to do a bit more work because it was the only way I was ever going to beat Mark - his horse is so talented," Moran said. "It did fall into place for us. While we were one-off and then in front, he was working out three wide to get to being one-off, then I was happy to keep the speed on and have them running." Self Assured tried his heart out and got to within 4.7m of the winner, but final splits of 27.3 and 26.4 in a race run in record time, made the task most difficult. "When I opened up just before the final turn and pinched a break, I thought and hoped it just might be mathematically impossible for Mark to get to me." Moran said he had "a few troubles" with Lochinvar Art in the leadup to the Bonanza. "He's just been so full of himself this preparation. He's been a handful and actually tried to kick me out of the cart in the Shepparton Cup. While it's good he's feeling so well, he can be a bit of a ratbag," he said. "I've altered a few things with him, and we should now be fine. I suppose it's just being a colt coming out in him every now and again." Lochinvar Art's connections are naturally aiming at the season's big races, but Moran said they were mapping out a careful campaign. "We won't be over racing him like last season, when I think we ran in the first Classic 3yo event and then continued until the last as well. In between he had a trip to Qld. That was a huge year for him," he said. "We've made a conscious decision not to give him an over taxing campaign, but in saying that, he has pulled up terrific. He was pig rooting and charging about this morning while I was trying to change his rugs, so he's feeling pretty good."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Trotting fans should get ready for the era of Oscar, who makes his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight in the Group 1 V L Dullard Trotters Cup, the lead-up to next week’s $250,000 Great Southern Star. His full name is Oscar Bonavena, the New Zealand trotter many are predicting will soon be the best in Australasia, if he’s not already. The great horses, even those in waiting, often end up with one name, like Brazilian soccer players. We get to know them, love them, speak of them so often they become like old familiar friends. Blackie (Blacks A Fake), Quinny (I’m Themightyquinn), Trigger (Smoken Up) and even a one-word champion in Lazarus quickly became Laz. The difference is they all earned their nicknames the hard way. Oscar hasn’t yet. He is like the young gun footballer playing with the men, who just looks faster than them. Several times this season Oscar has jogged past very good horses, including Inter Dominion champion Winterfell at Cambridge last start. But he is yet to win a race worth more than $50,000 and in his greatest test to date he had to settle for third after sitting parked in the National Trot at Alexandra Park two starts ago. He was made to race tough outside the leader, blunting his weapon of sheer speed. And when young upstarts have to play tough with hardened old warriors they can be exposed. Champion trainer Mark Purdon says that defeat may help Oscar overcome his second line draw tonight. “He learned from that,” Purdon said. “He is very fast and sometimes wants to go flat out and he didn’t do himself any favours when he got beaten. “But it taught him to look after himself and the next start at Cambridge he was far more relaxed. “That could be really crucial over the next week because, as we saw at Ballarat last week, you can’t sit back in races over here, so I might have to move with him mid-race. So racing kinder will be important and I think he will.” Purdon thinks so highly of Oscar he will stake him for every major race in North America next year, so if the small but athletic trotter turns out as good as the boss thinks he is the Australasian era of Oscar may be cut short. Purdon is, as so often, at the centre of the New Zealand attack on Melton tonight and realises Self Assured will probably have to sit parked outside Lochinvar Art in the 4YO Bonanza tonight while Stylish Memphis faces a huge task in the Victoria Oaks. “But I actually don’t mind her (gate 13) draw,” he said. “She has so much speed I think she is better coming from behind them and as long as she gets a cart into the race she can still win.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Guerin

Those who want to see much-hyped speed freak Oscar Bonavena in the flesh will want to get track side for Nights 2 and 3 of the TAB Summer of Glory, with Mark Purdon’s trotter earmarked as the centrepiece of a US campaign. The four-year-old Kiwi makes his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday in the DNR Logistics V L Dullard Trotters Cup before a tilt at the $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star on February 1. Purdon sat with Paul Campbell this week for the latest edition of Tooth Be Told and said the Majestic Son entire could be All Stars Racing’s ticket to the land of Stars and Stripes. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s probably having a horse like Oscar Bonavena, who looks pretty exciting and he’s got the speed of a pacer, which you do need to take on the best over there,” Purdon said. “He’s part owned in America by Chris Ryder. I think it’s something I don’t want to put off, I’d like to do it and see how we go. It’s just something I would like to do for six or eight months and see how it works out.” Purdon said plans were for a partial relocation in 2021, while continuing his Australasian operation with co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen, but there were many moving parts including the rise and rise of Oscar Bonavena. “I think this season will make (Oscar). He needs to be better than probably what he is to take on the best over there, but I think he will be capable,” he said. Should all go well, Purdon said, Sweden’s Elitloppet could follow. “He would have to perform when he got (to the US) and hopefully get an invitation from there, but that would be part of my thinking.” CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW:   HRV Trots Media

Bigger crowds, improved fan engagement, increased brand exposure and wagering returns are the major driving forces behind Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) decision to re-position the Breeders Crown to November. The new timeslot – three months after the previous winter-based August Breeders Crown – sees the $2million series positioned on the heels of Melbourne’s famous Spring Racing Carnival. Across three enormous Saturday nights from November 7-21 Tabcorp Park Melton will roar to life with Breeders Crown heats, semi-finals and grand finals. “Fan engagement is everything and you can’t engage with fans if they’re not there,” HRV General Manager of Racing Stephen Bell said. “This event’s position in winter made it a tough sell. The Breeders Crown is a magnificent series and is deserving of a showcase position on the calendar. Now the party continues after the spring carnival at the trots.” The Breeders Crown will draw the best pacers and trotters aged three and four from Australia and New Zealand with the Graduate races for older horses to also be retained. Full details on the schedule can be found here   HRV Trots Media Media enquiries: cwinnell@hrv.org.au or 03 8378 0288. Photo by Ashlea Brennan

FORMER champion Kiwi driver Anthony Butt is genuinely buzzing heading towards Melton’s huge meeting on Saturday night. Despite his stellar record in some of Australia’s biggest races, headlined by seven Hunter Cup wins, Butt’s record in the Victoria Derby and Oaks has been bleak. Remarkably, he hasn’t won a Derby and has only jagged the one Oaks title, aboard Geoff Small’s brilliant Pullover Brown way back in 2003. “My one chance of winning the Derby was Lavros Star (1997). I won the heat on him, but got suspended and Ricky May won the final on him,” Butt recalled. The now NSW-based Butt is confident of turning it all around at Melton this week. And the punters have thrown their support behind him. Butt trains and drives heavily-backed Derby favourite, Line Up, who ran blistering time leading throughout in his heat at Ballarat last week and is drawn to lead again from gate three. He’s been $2.40 into $2.25 on the Aussie TAB since drawing gate three. “It’s a fantastic draw, especially being inside Governor Jujon, who looks the main danger,” Butt said. “Line Up really impressed me last week. He only came to us a couple of weeks before the heat, but obviously I’d driven him in those big races over in NZ. “He’d been working well and I was keen to hold the front. He did a terrific job in quick time after having to sprint three times. “He’s a great chance of leading again and has come through the heat win really well.” Butt’s hopes of winning a second Oaks sit with Cran Dalgety’s speedy and improving filly, Dr Susan, who led, then took a trail on Stylish Memphis and got clear too late when second in her heat at Ballarat. “She was only starting to wind-up on the line last week. I was keen to hold the front, but Mark (Purdon, driving Stylish Memphis) had one crack at me and then his filly started to pulling hard, so when he came again I took the trail knowing it was a heat,” Butt said. “There will be no handing-up this week, that’s for sure. We’ve drawn really again (gate five) and can hopefully find the front, while Stylish Memphis is outside the back and will have to work hard to get around the field and outside of us. “Maybe she will just be too good Stylish Memphis, but Dr Susan is one of those fillies who has just absolutely thrived on the trip away. She’s getting better and better.” Dr Susan has been backed from $3 into $2.50 and is now equal favourite with Stylish Memphis on the Aussie TAB.   Adam Hamilton

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