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AUSTRALIA’S most exciting pacer Ride High looks set to miss all the big summer races with a suspensory ligament injury. Trainer Clayton Tonkin confirmed the injury and scratched him from Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton. Fears emerged Ride High’s shock defeat – just his second loss in 18 starts - in last Saturday night’s Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint was caused by a lot more than his hard run or a lack of fitness. “It’s a suspensory (ligament). We’ve just found out. It’s his nearside front leg,” he said. “We knew something wasn’t right the other night.” If there is any upside, Tonkin said the diagnosis was minor. “The vet says it isn’t bad, but these things are never good, either,” Tonkin said. “He’s got to have six weeks of light jogging and rehab, then be scanned again. We’ve got to hope it scans well after that and go from there.” Ride High roared to the front at the 400m in the Smoken Up and looked set for an easy win before weakening uncharacteristically from the top of the home straight to finish fifth as a $1.10 favourite, beaten almost 13m, by $126 outsider Rishi last Saturday night. Although immediate post-race checks didn’t reveal anything, Tonkin suspected there was an issue. Ride High’s injury robs the Victoria Cup of its headline act, but, thankfully, Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup winner King Of Swing is confirmed to travel down from Sydney for Saturday night’s feature  He looks set to be one of a staggering five Cup runners for trainer Craig Cross. The others being: Balraj, Cash N Flow, Alta Orlando and Bling It On. Champion driver Chris Alford is set to snare the King Of Swing drive unless Luke McCarthy is granted a permit to travel which excludes him from quarantining for two weeks when he returns to NSW.   Adam Hamilton

REIGNING NZ Cup champion Cruz Bromac launches a campaign aimed at defending his crown when he tackles a strong Minuteman free-for-all (2240m) at Melton tomorrow (Saturday) night. It’s his first run since being sidelined with a fetlock injury after the Auckland Cup last New Year’s Eve. Managing owner Danny Zavitsanos is thrilled to have him back at the track and expects a bold showing despite a back row draw (gate 10) and quality opposition, headed by Lochinvar Art (gate 11) and Zennart (seven). “Amanda (Grieve) and Dean (Braun) think he’s at least as well, if not better, than the same time last year, which is great to hear,” he said. “We’re sure he’ll run well this week and then it’s into the Victoria Cup two weeks later. “All going well in these two runs and I told Mark (Purdon) he’ll be back to over to him to get ready for the (NZ Cup) again.” Zavitsanos, who “lit-up” Addington with his post-race celebrations last year, said Cruz Bromac was booked to return. “He’s booked with IRT for the 12th or 14th (of October), so we just need to be happy with his next two runs and he’ll head back over. It’s just a shame we won’t be able to go with him because it’s such a special day,” he said. Champion driver Chris Alford is aboard Cruz Bromac for his return, which is a vote of confidence given he’d been approached to drive Craig Cross’ Zennart and one of their many runners in the Victoria Cup. Kerryn Manning has picked-up the Zennart drive. Lochinvar Art, who smashed the clock when a monstrous second to Hurricane Harley, has been backed from $1.80 into $1.60 to atone tomorrow night. Zennart has firmed from $4.80 into $4.60 second elect, while Cruz Bromac is next ($4.60 out to $5).   by Adam Hamilton

ONLY a late change of plans will thwart the first clash of superstar Aussie pacers Ride High and Lochinvar Art at Melton next Saturday night. Ride High’s trainer Clayton Tonkin confirmed his pacing sensation would chase his 17th win from just 18 starts in the $30,000 Minuteman Free-For-All (2240m), while Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said it was “very likely” his charge would be there as well. Lochinvar Art lost no admirers when a monstrous second in scorching times at Bendigo on Saturday night. The Chariots Of Fire winner smashed the clock from a horror draw and after doing all the work when a mighty second to Hurricane Harley in track record time. He was timed to run his last mile of the 2150m race in a mind-blowing 1min50.9sec, some of it three and even four-wide. “His run was massive under the circumstances,” Moran said. “And, as I said going into it, he needed the run. He’ll take a lot out of it. “I’ll give him the day to make sure he’s come through it well, which he seems to have, and make a final decision tomorrow (Monday), but I will most likely back-up next week. “He thrives on racing every week and he needs the hard racing to be right at his top for the (Victoria) Cup.” Confirmation Ride High will run this week means he will almost certainly bypass the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Melton on October 3 and continue his routine of racing every second-week by going straight to the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup (2240m) on October 10. In other Victoria Cup news, it’s growing increasingly likely Sydney sensation Cash N Flow will stretch-out from his beloved sprint racing to the 2240m of the Cup. Cash N Flow won a staggering 12th successive Menangle mile race last night (Saturday) and broke the magical 1min50sec mark for a record eighth time. “We’ll chat with the owners and make the final call, but we’re not worried about him going out to 2240m, especially the form he’s in at the moment,” driver Luke McCarthy said. McCarthy and Craig Cross are sending Australasian 2300m record-holder Zennart down to race against Ride High and Lochinvar Art. And McCarthy said three of their stars – Balraj, Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow – were definite to go straight into the Victoria Cup without racing again. Bling It On is also a Victoria Cup definite, but he will race against King Of Swing at Menangle next Saturday night. And what about King Of Swing for the Victoria Cup? “No update from last week. It really depends on the restrictions. He’ll be ready to go if I can get in/out (of Melbourne) easily. We probably won’t decide until the last-minute,” McCarthy said.   By Adam Hamilton

Former Swedish harness racing driver Marika Eriksson often has to pinch herself when she reflects on her past few years working in Australia - and she's certainly been on something of a lucky run lately! With a strong harness racing background at home, Eriksson calmly notched up a significant career milestone at Kilmore recently, driving her very first Australian square-gaiter winner in Orlando Jolt (Orlando Vici (Fra)-Galleons Surprise NZ (King Conch US). "I also received some exciting news in the past couple of days that my work visa out here had been sorted for another four years," Eriksson said. "I've been very, very lucky. I'm so happy and most humble in regard to the opportunities I've had." Her milestone win on the four-year-old Orlando Jolt was for her employer, trainer Anton Golino and raced by Ballarat-based Yabby Dam Farms Pty Ltd along with a group of other enthusiasts. Eriksson works at the state-of-the-art Yabby Dam Farms complex, established by principle Pat Driscoll. "When I first came out to Australia I got a job with Mattie Craven. I was there for two years and later spent about 18 months with David Aiken, before joining Anton and Pat," she said. "I've found that since I lost my concession claim, I haven't been getting that many driving offers. In the past six months, I may have had just three drives. "But I probably enjoy the training side a bit more really - it's a nice feeling to train them up and get them to the races. I really don't mind being on the sidelines." Eriksson said when Anton asked her if she could take Orlando Jolt to the Kilmore meeting, she wasn't expecting what happened next! "He sort of quizzed me that I was okay with doing that. I assured him that I was, and then he added that I may as well drive the horse as well!" she said. "So I went to the meeting by myself, and happily come home with a winner. "I had driven Orlando Jolt at home plenty of times, but it was the first time I'd taken the reins on him at a race meeting-it was a big thrill, although it did feel more like a fastwork session." Kilmore has provided Eriksson with other nice memories, including driving her first Australian winner for the Aiken team. She was successful on Heavenly Shades (Shadow Play-Shalom) on October 9, 2018, and the pair repeated the dose four months later at Maryborough. "That first win stands out as my favorite. It was so special after I'd made a big move from the other side of the world. But all of them have been pleasant," she said. While Eriksson has posted seven wins and 19 placings from limited opportunities out here, she was in the winner's circle far more often in Sweden. After attending a trotting school for three years when she turned 16, she later drove in races as well as competing in Monte events. "I definitely preferred to drive-I use to get so nervous in the Montes. Dad was a small-time trainer with five or six, but because I lived 10 hours away I didn't do a lot of driving for him," she said. "My younger sister Isabell drives for dad and she's landed some winners. She works as a groom/stablehand looking after some top horses. "I haven't been home for two-and-a-half years and was planning a trip this year, but the coronavirus put a stop to that." Eriksson said harness racing had taken her to a number of places since living in Australia. "I've been very lucky in doing some trips. I spent a fortnight in New Zealand during the InterDominion looking after the trotter Big Jack Hammer. That was unreal," she said. Eriksson, who comes from Vemdalen, located in the central part of Sweden, 500 kms from the capital Stockholm, says she still hasn't fully adapted to the chilly weather in Ballarat. "I probably should have by now because Vemdalen is one of the best ski resorts back home. It always has plenty of snow in winter. While I miss the skiing, Yabby Dam Farms is a lovely place with its peace and quiet. I'm very happy here."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A longshot idea pitched by a small country Victorian harness racing club has hit paydirt. When speculation was rife about a much-anticipated clash of Victorian superstar pacers Ride High (Clayton Tonkin) and Lochinvar Art (David Moran), the go-ahead Terang Harness Racing Club in the Western District chanced its arm on a bid to bring the clash to fruition. The typically, close-knit and friendly rural township of about 2000 people, set the stage for the harness heavyweight contest, upping the ante at their first-ever Metropolitan class meeting by adding some home-grown sweeteners to the kitty. Local support and donations pushed up the stakes on offer from $20,000 to $30,000, but while both superstars were nominated for the Christians Bus Gammalite Pace at Terang on Saturday night, when fields were released yesterday, only Ride High was among the eight runners. But far from being disappointed, Terang Vice President Clare Payne is ecstatic at having the superstar at Terang. "We are very happy and quite content with the outcome. It's awesome that the feature event is going on--so it's full steam ahead," Payne said. "It would have been ideal if both the horses had contested, but the appearance of Ride High is a huge attraction on its own," she said. Speculation is already mounting. Will Ride High be set loose to eclipse the 1680m track record of 1.53-6 (held jointly by Tam Major and Im Sir Blake) or will connections just look conservatively toward posting an 11th consecutive win with the speed machine? He's drawn awkwardly as the only horse on the back row - but that only adds to the intrigue surrounding the race tactics Team Tonkin will adopt on the champ. And who will dash the superstar pacer around, with no driver yet confirmed. If the track record is broken, the winning owners will receive a free service to Jilliby Kung Fu, thanks to Marg Lee and Goodtime Lodge. "The same applies in the fast class square gaiters with Yabby Dam Farms in Cardigan, putting up a free service to European G1 winning stallion Volstead. This is worth $5000 and has been donated by Pat Driscoll," Payne said. Victree Hill holds the Trotters track record at Terang for the 2180m race journey of 2.01-4 - but I don't think he will for much longer, with a superb field assembled for the Haras de Trotteurs. The naming of the feature race The Gammalite, recognises the region's most famed harness racing horse. Gammalite Leo O'Connor, who owned and trained the striking chestnut stallion Gammalite often told the story of how the champion horse was the real provider for his wife Maureen and their eight children. Leo O’Connor – owner-trainer of Gammalite "The horse paid for the education of our children and enabled the whole family to tour Australia, New Zealand and further afield. I paid $450 for his dam High Valley, which was a lot of money for a bloke who didn't have any," he would say. "But in the end, that decision turned an old battler into a comfortable old farmer." Gammalite (by Thor Hanover) had 179 starts for 94 wins and 53 placings for $1,386,480. His regular driver Bruce Clarke partnered the champ to 65 of those wins . High Valley (Intangible-High Pilade) had 13 foals-12 were winners with nine on them winning at three years of age. She was voted the Australian Broodmare of the Year in 1982 and 1983. And while the crowds will be missing from the big Terang meeting, the progressive club has found a way to keep fans close to the action, with a "Virtual Ticket" initiative. The free Virtual Tickets provide a "trackside" experience - so bust out the drinks and nibbles, download your free ticket and enjoy the show!   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Ride High will have to circle the field over the short trip at Terang on Saturday to extend his winning streak to 11, with a competitive field of eight stepping forward for the $30,000 Christians Bus Gammalite Pace. Clayton Tonkin's speed machine will start from gate eight in the second race on Saturday, which will stream on Trots Vision at 6.02pm, with on-track Trots Vision hosts Paul Campbell and Toby McKinnon to join race caller Dan Mielicki to track all runners from the Parade Ring to the Winners' Circle. Ride High's Group 1 winning stablemate Out To Play will present for his most stern test to date in the field along with Gary Lawlor's local hope Bad Billy, Leroy and Danny O'Brien's pair Im Sir Blake and Perspective, AJ and Beau Tindale's Idealsomemagic, Andy Gath's Beach Surge and Basil Dooley's Bettor Be The Bomb. We'll have to wait a little longer for the eagerly awaited Ride High-Lochinvar Art showdown, with David Moran nominating but later scratching his Shepparton superstar for Saturday night’s headline pace. An 11th straight victory would draw Ride High level with Craig Cross-trained Cash N Flow, with the latter saluting at Menangle last Saturday night to join an elite list of 49 horses who have won 11 successive races or more in Australia since the turn of the millennium. The Terang card will also feature the Volstead @ Haras Des Trotteurs Trot, with Gath’s speed freak Majestuoso to take on Kylie Sugars’ talented Sammy Showdown, local hope Gus An Maori for Matt Craven, Chris Svanosio’s pair Anywhere Hugo and Brandlo Prince, Julian Jobe’s top line My Skypocket and Brent Lilley trio Mass Destruction, Storm Cloud and Kyvalley Clichy. There will also be plenty of eyes on the $20,000 Terang Co-Op Pace, with Mick Stanley’s A Fair Ol Dance amid a talented field. The four-year-old's co-owners include AFL trio Josh Jenkins, Craig Hutchison and Liam Pickering, with A Fair Ol Dance getting regular airplay on SEN 1116’s Off The Bench on Saturday mornings, when Stanley joins Hutchison and Pickering about 11.30am for a Trots Life segment. Second up after a bold showing at Ballarat when second to Diamonds N Cash, A Fair Ol Dance will step out against Pacifico Dream, Rocknroll Eyes, Our Millionaire, Majestic Cruiser, Our Jimmie, Terryrama and stablemate Boncel Benjamin. The AFL flavor continues in the night's final race, the Jilliby Kung Fu @ Goodtime Lodge 3YO Pace. Local hope Highway To Heaven, for trainer Marg Lee, is co-owned by Brisbane Lion Darcy Gardiner and Sydney Swan Lewis Taylor and will go upagainst Damien Burns’ very smart Youaremy Sunshine, Yianni, who’s won five of seven since joining Emma Stewart’s camp, first-up Kiwi Willie Go West (Amanda Grieve), Sea Lover (Rebecca East) and Major Jodi (Peter Cole). CLICK HERE FOR FULL FIELDS   HRV - Michael Howard

A progressive country Victorian harness racing club is going all out to score a massive coup by landing a much-anticipated face-off between two of the current heavyweights on the Australasia circuit. Terang, in the Western District, is desperate to attract superstar pacers Ride High and Lochinvar Art to their first ever Metropolitan meeting on Saturday week - and has called in some club stalwarts to sweeten the deal for connections. "We're a very close-knit club here and we're so pleased that some terrific supporters have come in behind us to let us do our very best-we are so excited and hopefully it will get off the ground," club vice-President Clare Payne said. "The connections of each of the horses have indicated they are interested, so the next hurdle is attracting at least another four runners, so we get to the minimum number allowed to have a race." The Victorian industry has been abuzz for weeks about a clash between the two stars. But with Lochinvar Art based in Shepparton and Ride High in the Ballarat region, COVID-19 created some early obstacles. But Victoria's strict regionalisation model is now being wound back, and the showdown is very much back on the agenda. And while the hype around the anticipated clash of the two champions is not doing the harness racing industry any harm, HRV came in for criticism over a "missed chance" last Saturday night at Ballarat. After openly speculating about the possibility of a match race between the pair, critics say a golden opportunity to showcase the sport went begging when the Ballarat clash was "scrubbed" due to insufficient nominations of horses prepared to go up against the two Titans. But this disappointment could work to the advantage of Terang. Emma Stewart, partner of Clayton Tonkin who prepares Ride High, said for their stable, the Terang event was "definitely on the radar". "The horse takes a bit of work and needs constant racing to be kept up to the mark-so we are really keen to support Terang with their forward thinking," Stewart said. "Our aim is obviously the Victoria Cup in a little over a month, but the more races we have between now and then the better." Stewart was full of praise of the club doing its utmost to make the event attractive with additional stakemoney. The programmed fast class event was originally worth $20,000 but vice-president Payne said the club put the hat around to some of its most loyal supporters, and the stakes have been amped up to $30,000. "We've listed it as the Christian's Bus-Gammalite Pace to recognise our generous sponsor, but to also create a point of note in honoring a past champion horse of the district," Payne said. Gammalite was a superstar of the 1980s, and was bred, owned and trained by Leo and Maureen O'Connor, of Terang. Gammalite was the first standardbred in Australia to win $1 million and was handled in most of his wins by Bruce Clarke. The son of Thor Hanover had 179 starts for 94 wins, which included two InterDominions and 16 Group ones in total. The O'Connors trained Gammalite on Terang's Dalvui Raceway and the pacer is buried at the entrance to the club. The O'Connor family is another contributor to sponsorship of Saturday week's big race, along with the Terang owners, trainers and supporters group, and the club. "We've spoken to both connections of Ride High and Lochinvar Art and if we are successful in enticing them, it will be great and there'll be a lot of excited people! If it doesn't work out, we had a crack and it's not the end of the world." The race will be over the sprint distance of 1680metres on the 1000 metre track, and if the clash goes on, they'll almost certainly give the track record a shake, of 1.53-6 held jointly by Tam Major and I'm Sir Blake. David Moran, trainer-driver of Lochinvar Art, said he couldn't afford to go easy on his champ. "I plan to give him a sharp hit-out during the Shepparton meeting next Saturday. Then I'll make a final decision about racing at Terang," he said. Lochinvar Art with trainer David Moran and his partner Kasey Kent "The hardest part with these types of horses is that you need to keep them near the top of their game-but the way things are at the moment, you can only race fortnightly. I can say that 'Artie' will certainly be underdone if we go to Terang, but Clayton's horse will be in the same boat. "But the club deserves a bit of credit and obviously they want the right nominations to make it a success. It would be good if it does work out for them. "I would love a bit more grounding leading into the Victoria Cup (October 10). I guess for me it keeps coming back to the concerns I have with the four-and-a-half float trip from home to Terang."   Head-to-head   Lochinvar Art Lifetime: 39 starts, 19 wins, 17 placings Stakes: $694,276 Best winning MR: 1:48.562 (1720m - Melton January 2020)   Ride High Lifetime: 16 starts, 15 wins, 1 placing Stakes: $270,827 Best winning MR: 1:49.044 (1650m - Bendigo August 2020)     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Fans will have to wait longer for the first clash between Aussie pacing megastars Ride High and Lochinvar Art. While connections of both were committed to racing against each other at Ballarat on Saturday night, they scared-off other rivals. Harness Racing Victoria had said it would not run the race unless it attracted at least five but preferably six runners. Nominations were extended from late yesterday until today (Tuesday), but HRV said it still didn’t get sufficient acceptors. It’s a huge blow given the broad anticipation and massive PR opportunity it promised the sport. And, going ahead, it creates a huge dilemma because it is unlikely many other rivals would to tackle both Ride High and Lochinvar Art when they next nominate for the same race. Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran now has a major problem.  “Looks like it’ll be a month between runs for him now,” he said. “He’s not eligible for a race at Shepparton next weekend and the week after it’s Terang, which is on the other side of the state from my stables and I’m not taking him all that way for a $20,000 race. “It’s surprising they wouldn’t run the race this week with just three or four horses because they talked so much about wanting a match race with just the two of us. “And I’ve been in small fields with others horses of mine in Victoria in the past.” Ride High will also have to go a month between runs with Terang on September 12 his next racing option. His last run was his 15th win from just 16 starts at Shepparton on August 15, Adding to the frustrations for connections of Ride High and Lochinvar Art is the ongoing, COVID-19 driven uncertainty around whether the $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup will go ahead as planned at Melton on October 10. Victoria’s Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions aren’t due to end until, at the earliest, September 13. HRV has said it wants to stick with October 10 for the Victoria Cup, but wouldn’t be in a position to give a genuine update until mid-September. And HRV’s GM of Racing, Stephen Bell, has said they would not go ahead on October 10 unless key interstate horses, trainers and drivers were able to get to Victoria for the race.   by Adam Hamilton

Ian Chambers is hopeful his debutant at Shepparton today will have a bit of a sting in his tail as the trainer prepares what he anticipates will be his last first starter. The long-time Kyabram Harness Racing Club administrator unveils Faragalioni in the Barastoc 3YO Maiden Pace, which streams at 6.30pm on Trots Vision. Regally bred, with his dam a full-sister to Hunter Cup winner Sting Lika Bee (pictured by Gary Wild), Chambers said the gelding would be “my last hurrah”. “As I stand this will be my last horse,” said Chambers, who’s had a hand in the sport for 55 years. “I have lived in Kyabram for over 50 years but am moving to Geelong in October to make it easier for myself and my daughter.” It will be an end of an era for Chambers and the Kyabram club, where he has served throughout his time in the township, including nine years as president. Aged 73, his trots connection began as a 17-year-old driver and though he “changed direction” after marrying Lyn five years later, they enjoyed "a lifetime association with the Kyabram club".  “I have generally trained one or two myself, but only potted around as a hobbyist,” Chambers said. “It has always been a passion. I was in the era of horses. My dad had a working team of draught horses, I started going to the races and it just grew and grew. Horses have always been in our DNA.” But he hasn’t had a starter since May 5 2016, an absence in large part to the sad passing of wife Lyn. It explains why Faragalioni hasn’t debuted before tomorrow night, deep into his three-year-old. The Grinfromeartoear progeny's been with Chambers since he snapped him up from Lemon Tree Stud breeder Ross Gange in May 2018. And you don’t have to delve too far into the breeding lines to see the attraction. Faragalioni's name's taken from the three rock formations that sit off the coast of Italy’s Capri island, with the three-year-old’s dam named Foxy Capri, who's “a full-sister to some very, very, very good horses”. In particular the aforementioned Sting Lika Bee, the 2007 Hunter Cup winner who accumulated $1,042,381 in career stakes. “He was just a very, very tough horse,” said Chambers, who recalls being there the day Sting Lika Bee was sold at Shepparton sales by Lemon Tree Stud in 1999 for $30,000. “He was a week old,” Chambers recalled. “That was a good price then.” The price was fuelled in large part to Stinga Lika Bee (and Foxy Capri’s) full-brother Hi Ho Silverwheels, who won $1,197,987 in the US and would go on to be a stallion of note. They are good bloodlines from which Chambers’ Faragalioni will launch his career from gate seven tonight, entering off three trials that produced two fifth placings and a last start third. “His trials have been encouraging (but) he has got a way to go,” Chambers said. “The barrier draw tomorrow night is no help whatsoever. Over the mile, you nearly have to go back and be better than the rest to go around them. As handy as he is, if he gets a place I would be really happy.” And Chambers is confident that his “last hurrah” will bring some memorable moments. “We’ve only got a couple of little things to iron out, but the horse has ability – no doubt about that. “He certainly has gait speed, except for the trial against Lochinvar Chief he has led in them all and handed up. He has speed and I think he will get stronger, but he’s just got a lot to learn at this stage.”   HRV - Michael Howard

IT’S on! The clash harness fans have been waiting for between two of Australia’s brightest pacing stars, Ride High and Lochinvar Art, will happen when they meet for the first time at Ballarat on Saturday night. Ride High’s trainer Clayton Tonkin confirmed his stable gun would chase his 16th win from just 17 starts in a 2200m free-for-all at Ballarat. And, in a surprise twist, Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran confirmed this morning, somewhat reluctantly, he would also back-up his Chariots Of Fire winner because of a lack of other suitable options. Lochinvar Art bounced-back from a shock defeat two weeks earlier when he trounced a handy field at Bendigo on Saturday night, cruising away to win by more than 10m in slick times. “He felt a different horse this time, he did it so easily and felt really sharp,” Moran said. “He’s still building, but that was a relief and shows he’s back on track.” But Moran conceded meeting Ride High this week was not ideal. “He’ll have a fitness edge on us this week,” he said. “But we have to meet at some stage and I haven’t got many option because my horse isn’t eligible for the Shepparton race (in two weeks) and then the week after that it’s Terang and I’m not taking him all the way from home (Shepparton) to Terang for a $20,000 race. “I’ve thought it over for a day or so and I have to bite the bullet and go this week even though Ride High will have that edge on us. “I have to look at his overall preparation, not just one race. Hopefully this will just be the first of many times we meet Ride High over the next year or so.” Tonkin seemed unfazed at the prospect of clashing with Lochinvar Art. “We’re going to Ballarat this week so if Lochinvar Art does as well, then we’ll see him there,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

He may be by some way the second highest stakes earner contesting tonight’s headline pace but few fly under the radar like this five-time Group 1 placegetter. Sicario, whose season includes a country cup win and seventh placing in the Inter Dominion final at Auckland, returns tonight amid a stellar Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace field. While the spotlight will draw to the two horses on his outside, Major Times and Lochinvar Art, Brent Lilley’s five-year-old is well-placed to add to his $427,125 in career stakes win. Reinsman Chris Alford said Sicario had only known top-flight competition and he was optimistic there was more success in store for the gelding, who's first up from consecutive Kilmore victories in April. “He did really well in the Inters and every race that he’s contested has been free-for-all or above,” Alford said. “He’s had three or four trials. Although trials aren’t races, he’s going to be pretty close to the mark and he felt super in his last couple.” Sicario comfortably won his three trials from August 2 to August 16, including getting home in a 56.9-second last half at Maryborough last start when he impressed his reinsman. “He does feel a lot stronger this time that what he did last time in,” Alford said. And he has no doubt he has the speed to match that improved strength. “I think you’ll find that he ran the fastest last half ever at Auckland when four or five wide on the track in one of the Inter heats, so he’s always had the ability,” he said. “He probably can’t do the work against the best ones, but if he gets the right run he’s always dangerous.” And that includes tomorrow night, when he’ll start from gate nine, behind Rupert Of Lincoln, from where Alford will plot a path forward. “We’ve got a good trailing draw so he should be able to push through,” he said. “Whether we get a chance to get around in front of the other ones (Lochinvar Art and Major Times) could be problematic, but we will just have to play it by ear.” Tonight’s race is a fortnight since Major Times upset $1.10 favourite Lochinvar Art, with the latter found to be suffering a minor viral infection post-race, while third-placed My Kiwi Mate has drawn gate eight and again lies in wait. The race streams at 7.35pm on Trots Vision, with the following race – the Yabby Dam Racing Trot – another must-see match-up with Dance Craze and Tornado Valley making their return to clash with Red Hot Tooth, Big Jack Hammer and Wobelee among a glut of Group 1 winners. Click here for more on the high-class trot.   HRV - Michael Howard

Three-time Group 1-winning trotting mare Dance Craze returns to harness racing at Bendigo on Saturday night. While neighbouring pacer Ride High has been taking the harness racing scene by storm, Dance Craze gets her opportunity to put her name up in lights again. Dance Craze is trained by Anton Golino - who trains at Cardigan next to the stable complex of Clayton Tonkin, who prepares superstar Ride High. Dance Craze has not raced since March, but there will be no easy return for the six-year-old. She runs straight into arch-rival Tornado Valley and emerging star Wobelee in the Yabby Dam Racing Trot, 2150m, as well as the highly credentialled Big Jack Hammer. Two starts ago Dance Craze took out the Group 1 Australian Grand Prix - adding to her group 1 2019 Great Southern Star - to reinforce her status as one of the great trotting mares of the modern era. She goes into this assignment after two trials against pacers in Ballarat. Tornado Valley, trained near Bacchus Marsh by Andy Gath, has been off the scene since March. The eight-year-old has been the benchmark for trotting in Australia for the past two years since arriving from New Zealand, winning an Inter Dominion. Tornado Valley has won seven of 12 starts this season, with two of his defeats being seconds to Dance Craze in the Grand Prix at Melton and Cochran Cup in Ballarat. Each of the two big guns also have highly regarded stablemates in the same race.Golino has the improved Imsettogo, while Gath also lines up NZ import CK Spur. While Ride High takes a week off after a fifth win on end for the season at Shepparton on Saturday night, his arch-rival Lochinvar Art races at Bendigo on Saturday. The Shepparton pacer was a disaappointing third in Ballarat on August 8. Lochinvar Art was found to have low-grade viral infection, but trainer-driver David Moran says his stable gun is ready to race again. He will again clash with the Emma Stewart-trained Major Times and My Kiwi Mate, which finished ahead of him in Ballarat. Sirletic is also engaged after finishing second to Ride Highj (twice) and Lochinvar Art at his past three starts. Ballarat district duo James Herbertson and Kima Frenning are going to the wire in their battle for the Victorian concession drivers' premiership. Herbertson from Lexton has a two-win lead over Frenning, who is now based in Ballarat. Frenning is the defending titleholder after edging out Darby McGuigan from Gordon last season.   By David Brehaut   Reprinted with permission of The Courier        

TWO of the brightest stars in Australia headline a ripper Bendigo meeting on Saturday night. Australasia’s champion trotter Tornado Valley returns from a spell, while Chariots Of Fire winner Lochinvar Art is back from a minor health scare and shock defeat at the Ballarat two weeks ago. Tornado Valley, a winner of 35 races and $767,617, steps out for the first since winning a Melton free-for-all on March 21. “He’s been ready to go for a couple of weeks, but with the regional racing we can’t race at Melton so we waited for something closer to home because he doesn’t like travel to the races,” trainer Andy Gath said.  “It’s worked well because he’s back and ready and McLovin can enjoy a bit of a break now.” Tornado Valley is drawn gate nine, while the emerging Wobelee in gate 10 after his early mistake last time saw he placed out of the draw. It’s a cracking race with former Great Southern Star winning mare Dance Craze also resuming from gate six. Multiple Group 1 winner Big Jack Hammer is there as well from inside the back row (gate eight), as is high-class and speedy mare Red Hot Tooth (seven). Lochinvar Art will need to be back on song after his viral infection to overcome an outside back row draw (gate 12) and some handy rivals. Sure he’s a league above them when right, but horses like Sirletic (gate three), Auckland Inter Dominion finalists Sicario (nine) and My Kiwi Mate (eight) as well as Major Times (11), who upset Lochinvar Art last time. “He had a couple of easy days after Ballarat and picked-up again really well,” Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said. “I’ll get a blood done again Friday just to make sure, but if it’s good we are all go and he’ll raring to go.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ GLAMOUR Kiwi filly Amazing Dream’s Albion Park debut has only been delayed one week. New trainers Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen felt the darling from the All Stars’ barn “wasn’t quite ready” to have her first run for them last week and scratched her. Amazing Dream will start from outside the back row (gate 10) over 1660m, but needless to say she’s got a monstrous class edge over her older rivals, remembering she’s still a three-year-old in Aussie. Another of her All Stars stablemates, Ashley Locaz, looked very sharp winning an Albion Park trial yesterday (Tuesday). Ashley Locaz, now with Vicki Rasmussen, was allowed to stride in the last lap by driver Shane Graham and roared away to win by 33.3m in a 1min52.4sec mile rate for 1660m. He closed in 54.8 and 27.5sec. Everything looks set for the five-year-old to open his Queensland stint on Saturday week at Albion Park. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ BUZZ former Kiwi pacer Patronus Star faces his first serious test this campaign at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The Team Bond three-year-old, who won the WA Derby at just his second run across from NZ, has stretched his unbeaten WA record to six wins after winning all four outings this campaign. He takes on older rivals from a wide draw (gate seven) in a very strong $50,000 Group 2 The Binshaw (2130m). Key rivals include classy four-year-old Sangue Reale (gate five), Forgotten Highway (two) and Mandy Joan (three). The race will tell us a lot more about how well Patronus Star, who can look lazy at times, has come back this campaign.   by Adam Hamilton

Young Gippsland trainer Brad Walters has had very few starters in recent years, but he's a more than familiar face around harness racing circles in the region. The 28-year-old Warragul track curator and raceday staffer is the sort of guy that most country clubs rely on. Put simply: if there's something that needs doing or a role to fill, he's the go-to man. But last Sunday at Cranbourne, he also showed his training prowess when he landed his first winner in Petite Love (Repeat Love (Fra)-Micro Chip NZ (Pine Chip US). The brown mare, bred and owned by Yabby Dam Farms, near Ballarat, and raced on lease by Walters, took out the Aldebaran Park Trot. "We thought she would be a good chance going on her previous run at Melton. She was inconvenienced, but did well to run sixth at huge odds," he said. "I'd had Lance (Justice) on for the first time there and I was happy to have him again at Cranbourne-and it all turned out nicely." Lance Justice crosses the line with Petite Love – the first win for trainer Brad Walters Walters said it was just his fourth start with the square gaiter, who was previously prepared by his close friend Mick Hughes. "I train at Mick's place, which is out Garfield way and he's been a great help. I'm so lucky, because he's an outstanding horseman and always has a handy one in his team," he said. Walters has had just two other horses prior to Petite Love. "I mucked around a bit with them. I think they probably only had 10 starts between them, but I couldn't find the secret, so they got moved on," he said. Walters said while attending school, he always had it in his mind that he wanted to be a motor mechanic. "I did work experience, but the boss of the place sort of hinted that perhaps I may have been better suited to another trade. So I didn't pursue that career," he said. "Then I heard about the Gippsland Harness Training Centre. I liked horses so I decided to give that a go. I completed that probably 10 years ago and then got my trainer's licence about five years ago. "Jenny Lewis is in charge and I'm sometimes back at the centre whenever they need a helping hand. I'd fully recommend the training course to anyone interested in getting involved in harness racing-it's just perfect to get a good grounding." Walters later worked in north east Victoria's Strathbogie Ranges for Bill and Anne Anderson at Lauriston Bloodstock, one of Victoria's leading yearling sale vendors. "That was a great experience. I worked with their horses and also did a lot of ground maintenance and that sort of thing. In other words, whatever needed doing!" he said. Since returning to his home region, Walters has been a huge part of the local harness racing scene at the Warragul club, as well as helping out at nearby Cranbourne. Walters said he had a crack at race driving and enjoyed it. "I drive now and again at the trials, but I learnt pretty quickly that on race day it's just for the professionals," he laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

HARNESS racing was the biggest loser from Lochinvar Art’s shock defeat at Ballarat. The scene was set for massive mainstream media coverage around the an epic first clash between the still untapped Ride High and Lochinvar Art at Shepparton next Saturday night. But there will be no clash, at least not next week. Lochinvar Art did a power of work out from early from the back row surging forward and was beaten into third spot – 6.7m from Ride High’s stablemate Major Times – as a $1.10 favourite in the 2200m fast-class race at Ballarat last night. The Chariots Of Fire winner pulled-up with mild lameness in his off-front leg and an elevated heart rate. “I’ll get him fully vetted, check everything out, and we’ll go from there,” Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said on the way home from Ballarat. “That was an interesting night wasn’t it … not what we all expected. He really had to work hard early, harder than I expected, but he wasn’t himself. He wanted to run about on the final bend.” It was Lochinvar Art’s first defeat in four runs since his mighty second, after sitting parked, to King Of Swing in the Miracle Mile. Now Ride High will surely stretch his record to 15 wins from 16 starts when he tackles the Shepparton free-for-all next Saturday night. “We are definitely going to Shepparton,” trainer Clayton Tonkin said just hours before Lochinvar Art’s defeat. “Our boy is great, he’s come on again since that latest win.”   by Adam Hamilton

Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran has no reservations entering enemy territory tonight ahead of a looming showdown with the Ballarat beast, Ride High. While the latter is resting after a breathtaking win at Bendigo on Saturday, Shepparton’s pacing superstar Lochinvar Art will contest the Flying Horse Takeaway Pace at 8.32pm at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway. This marks the second hit-out of Lochinvar Art’s campaign and an important lead-in to the much-hyped clash with Ride High. “We’ll try and get the job done the best we can and move on from there,” Moran told RSN 927 ahead of tonight’s free-for-all pace. The race presents as a crucial lead-in to a likely showdown between Ride High and Lochinvar Art at Shepparton on August 15, which racing fans have been craving since Clayton Tonkin’s pacer returned from a spell in June. Ride High, who’s trained at Tonkin and Emma Stewart’s Cardigan stables, has gone on a tear, winning all four of his starts, breaking records and improving to 14 career wins from 15 starts, but with the caveat of modest competition. Enter Lochinvar Art, the quickest horse in Victorian history and reigning 4YO Bonanza and Chariots Of Fire champion, who returned to racing with a Shepparton win on July 25 and has the second start of his campaign tonight. “He’s pulled up brilliantly, he’s jumping out of his skin,” Moran said. “It was probably a perfect first-up run really, he got around there pretty cheap, he’ll take a lot of the run. He will probably take a bit more out of (tonight) and I’d imagine after that he’d be pretty close to 100 per cent.” Tonkin had already circled August 15 at Shepparton as Ride High’s next hit-out and this week Moran said “he’d be silly not to” take the chance to face-off against Ride High “right in our backyard”. “As long as he pulls up good (from tonight), we’ll obviously know a bit more Monday how he is, then I’ll nominate him and go from there.” While confident of the talent he has in his hands Moran was also effusive in his praise for Ride High. “He’s a beautiful horse,” he said. “To do what he did and just the way he savages the line, to me I guess that’s the scariest part of taking him on – how he attacks the line.”   HRV - Michael Howard

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