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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

A first superstar showdown between Ride High and Lochinvar Art appears set for August 15, with both camps bookmarking the Shepparton race night. Ride High’s fortnightly forays on to the racing scene are becoming the stuff of legend as Clayton Tonkin’s Ballarat beast continues to leave rivals in his wake and the clock quivering, most recently with a breathtaking 1:49.0 mile rate at Bendigo last Saturday. The asterix next to claims of him being Australia’s best pacer has been the absence of Grand Circuit rivals, but Lochinvar Art looks set to change that with trainer-driver David Moran orchestrating a heavyweight bout in 10 days. His Shepparton star returned by cruising to a win on his home deck on July 25 and will be second-up at Ballarat this Saturday night. Moran told Sky Racing’s In The Gig he tuned into Ride High’s record-breaking Bendigo run and said he “was awesome”. “It’s a pretty big build up for when they do meet,” Moran said. “We are trying not to plan too far ahead. We will get Ballarat out of the way Saturday night and then possibly go to Shepparton the following week – I think Clayton was pretty keen to do the same (night).” While Moran said there was plenty of water to go under the bridge before fields were finalised next Tuesday, he said “a great clash” between “two great horses” was on the cards. “It’s going to be pretty awesome to watch,” he said. “Shepparton is down for a mile race, it’s going to make it very interesting. “We have got to draw outside of him, we will just see what happens when the time comes, and have a look at the nominations and go from there. And also see how he pulls up from Ballarat, but he seems really good at the moment, so it’s a little bit exciting.” Tonkin has flagged August 15 as Ride High’s next hit-out, with both top-line pacers building towards the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup on October 10. Confidence is certainly high in the camp, only further fuelled by the extraordinary Bendigo performance. “(Ride High’s) great for the industry because he is an excitement machine,” Tonkin told In The Gig. “I still think he’s got a little bit more left to season him up a little bit. The times he’s running, it’s crazy to think that he can run them times and do it so easy.” Tonkin said Ride High had “missed a fair bit of racing” and the stable “will definitely make up for it now and get after some good races”. “He’s a beautiful race horse, great speed, he’s everything you want in a great horse. He’s next level.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Isn’t it nice when a plan just works. That’s certainly been the case for Shayne Eeles, who with family invested in a broodmare and two generations on continues to reap rewards. The Rochester trainer’s colt Allshookup continues an eye-catching three-year-old season tonight, when he steps out for the Saddleworld Shepparton 3YO Pace, which streams at 6.04pm on TrotsVision. A winner at consecutive starts before a last-start eighth when he overraced, Allshookup has impressed his trainer in his second campaign. “He seems to have a bit of bottom too him,” Eeles said. “I have a high opinion of what he can do.” It’s an educated opinion that was fostered under the tutelage of Barry Purdon, whose camp Eeles joined as an 18-year-old. He remained there for almost seven years, spending nearly half the year on the road helping Purdon rack up winners with the likes of Holmes D G and Surprise Package, before returning to Victoria and training in his own right from February 2001. A tick over six years later, with wife Roslyn and her parents Robert and Jenny Viney, Eeles purchased broodmare Teen Talk and her one-year-old foal, who would become Ballandella Baby, off breeder Peter Gleeson. “It’s a super family – that Hot Foot-Larrakeyah Lady family,” Eeles said. “The family keeps landing winners.” Teen Talk’s great grand-dam is Hot Foot, dam of Larrakeyah Lady, who has in turn produced rivers of pacing gold. Among her foals are Safe And Sound ($995,606), Massarua ($282,692), Gold Rocket ($393,387) and The Good Times ($201,024) to name a few, while descendants include Rocknroll Magic ($466,183), Major Secret ($464,872), Beauty Secret ($425,921), Lovelist ($222,889) and a five-year-old up and comer they call Ride High ($259,427).    In the case of Eeles’ purchase, Teen Talk’s produced eight winners, with Ballandella Baby the second most prolific for wins (11) and stakes ($84,000) before being retired for a broodmare career. “She did a good job, was a good mare for us,” Eeles said. “Getting her up and going, winning a few nice races and breeding a good one out of her, I enjoy that sort of thing – educating horses, giving them time, watching them develop. I get a kick out of it.” Ballandella Baby was pared with A Rocknroll Dance for her second foal, Allshookup, who has his 12th start today. His second campaign has delivered much of the $15,010 stakes his banked, having chased Vicbred Super Series success as a two-year-old but with a win on Humbletonian Day at Maryborough the only time he finished better than eighth in his initial six starts. “I probably made a blue and threw him in the deep end as a two-year-old,” Eeles said. “It probably didn’t help him, but he had qualified well and trialled well. “I only do a handful of horses and he hadn’t worked with other horses much. It was a little too much too early and he was chasing his tail a little. I battled with him last year, I always thought a lot of him, but he was never 100 per cent.” Allshookup had a tick over eight months on the sidelines before returning at Shepparton on June 19 with a fourth placing, which was followed by a second (June 29), two victories (July 6 and 19) and a last start eighth. “He had a really good break, I brought him up slow this time and got a proper preparation into him. He is not a big horse, but he is a strong little bloke, a good pacing horse and does his work well. “Doing a fair bit of work doesn’t bother him too much.” He led all-the-way to comfortably produce his two victories this time in, before overracing last start which he paid for late. “The occasion got to him a little too much the other night and he fired up and that cost him in the finish,” Eeles said. “I have changed gear a little bit, taken the block blinds off to get him to relax, switch off and do what (driver) Chris (Alford) wants him too.” Tonight Allshookup is drawn outside lead rivals Monterei Heaven and Hesty but still likely to advance to a forward post. “There is a little bit of depth there, a couple who go good enough. I think this little bloke, if he is on his game and relaxes, he will be right in it. “He will probably go forward. I don’t give Chris too many instructions, I wouldn’t worry if he relaxed him off the gate, but he will probably go forward.” And a good performance and continual maturation could have Eeles against chasing Vicbred Super Series success come year’s end. “He probably won’t have a lot of time off between now and the end of the year,” he said. “The sires stakes are the plan. He probably needs to get a bit more seasoned. I won’t overrace him and he might need a freshen up, but I would like to give him three to four more runs, get him more seasoned and build his confidence. “If he measures up to the better ones I will press on. I think he is pretty capable of doing a job. I like him, hopefully he keeps stepping up.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Western Victorian harness racing trainer Aaron Dunn has to go back a long way to remember a horse in his stable with better prospects than his precocious youngster Bondi Lockdown . The two-year-old made very comfortable work of a 28.5 final quarter (MR 1:57.1) in a super-impressive debut win around the tight Stawell circuit and Dunn couldn't be happier with the colt he bought on a whim at the Fosters Gold yearling sale. "He just went a bit rough on the home turn but otherwise he was perfect. I did have to wake him up in the straight, but once he got down to work, he went really well," Dunn said. "He's pretty exciting. Dad and I think that he's potentially the best-looking horse and the best moving horse we've had on the farm since Dee Dees Dream." Watch the replay click here: And that's no small wrap! Dee Dees Dream (Camtastic-Westburn Tess (Windshield Wiper) won 19 of his first 30 starts, including the Gr 1 VicBred (2yo) Super Series Final, the Vic Golden Nursery Stakes, the Victorian Sires Classic and the Tasmanian Derby, before injury ended his career in 2008 with 38 wins and more than $400,000 in stakes. In the past Dunn and his father Barry have been regular buyers at the yearling sales. Other than Dee Dees Dream, other handy acquisitions have been Speedo George (17 wins) and Nikki Badwagon (11 wins). But Aaron's focus recently has been mostly on breeding at his Horsham property and the Bondi Lockdown buy was the result of his first venture to the yearling sales in 13 years. "When I bought him I really didn't go to the sale looking to buy anything other than a filly, mostly to breed from in future," Dunn said. "I did get a filly and I think she'll be handy, but I also was bidding on a few just because I thought they were good value. "I saw this bloke and he looked great and when you look at the cost of a service fee to Somebeachsomewhere, I just thought he was going too cheap not to have a go at. His half-brother Rocknroll Eyes had won two or three at the time and was looking like a nice horse, and I ended up getting Bondi Lockdown for $20,000." It's not hard to see why he took a second glance at the good-looking colt, though. Bondi Lockdown is out of handy broodmare Without Guile (Art Major-Innocent Eyes (Safely Kept). The mare has previously produced three foals for three winners: Rocknroll Eyes (15 wins); Joeys Hangover (eight wins); and Without Hesitation (four wins). Bondi Lockdown's grand-dam Innocent Eyes won more than $400,000 in her 18 victories. Dunn is keeping his feet on the ground but is hoping that Bondi Lockdown might make 2020 entirely memorable for all the right reasons. "It's pretty obvious why we named him Bondi Lockdown - being by Somebeachsomewhere and this year being what it's been," Dunn said. "We've been very excited with how he's come on since he came back from the breaker Rod Barker but you don't really want to get ahead of yourself, and we really had been hoping to go first up to either Ballarat or Terang, being bigger tracks, but the races didn't stand up," he said. "His win at the Ballarat trials a couple of weeks back put a bit of hype around him, so I was just rapt that he did go so well at Stawell. When you have a high expectation you just hope it all pans out!" The win was the high point of a very good day at the office for Dunn. He brought up a double with Vanity Bay (Western Ideal-Forest Bliss (Blissful Hall) and went within a nose of owning (or part-owning), training and driving three winners when narrowly defeated on Keayang Shady (Shadyshark Hanover-Alimar Star (Safely Kept). Dunn said he would wait to see how the youngster developed and how the unpredictable season 2020 season unfolded before making too many plans for Bondi Lockdown - but the sires, VicBred and 2yo features are definitely on the radar. "I've tried to wrap him in cotton wool to a degree up until now, because I've thought he was quite a bit above average for six months or so," Dunn said. "I'm really the only one to drive him. He's good in nature, but I was worried that, being a colt, he might get a bit over the top. "At this stage we know he's got speed, but he will need to get tougher and will still have to take another step to match it with the good ones." Bondi Lockdown's next assignment is on Wednesday night at Terang, where he meets an interesting field on paper - including a Michael Stanley-trained first starter in Hammers Hellpatrol, a full brother to Breeders Crown champion Menin Gate ($574,000).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

EX-PAT Aussie Shane Tritton said Ride High reminds him of the great Christian Cullen and he’s sure he would hold his own anything in the world. Tritton, who is making a real splash in the US after making it home earlier this year, said Ride High’s track record-smashing 1min49sec flat for 1650m at Bendigo last night would equate to at least 1min47sec in the US. “That’s as close to Christian Cullen’s Miracle Mile run I’ve ever seen,” Tritton said. “I have no doubt in my mind the tracks and carts are two seconds quicker over here. One of the best (US) pacers went 1min47.2sec over the mile on a 1000m track the other day (here) and broke the track record. “Ride High would’ve matched that on what I saw tonight and he looks like he isn’t flat out. And he sat outside them. “From what I’ve seen, they need to put a plan in place to get him to The Meadowlands (New Jersey) in the next 12 months. “We might see something the world has never seen before.” Ride High’s 14th win from just 15 starts was his most mind-blowing yet. He drew the back row, came three wide around to sit parked at the 1200m, crushed the leader Sirletic and was nursed to the line for the 100m or so to win by 21.4sec. Watch the race here click here. His 1min49sec mile rate for 1650m (not a mile) was a staggering 2.7sec inside the precious track record. And he appeared to have plenty of petrol left in the tank. Trainer Clayton Tonkin and driver Kima Frenning have been telling us after each win this campaign that Ride High is just warming-up and the best is yet to come. They were right. “There’s been a bit of talk about ‘he hasn’t beaten a lot’ and ‘he still has a lot to prove’ … I think he just did that,” Frenning told Trots Vision after the win. Tonkin added: “We knew he had that in him. For all the great horses we’ve had, this guy is out of the box. Something very special. “If I didn’t have Ride High and know what he was capable of, I didn’t think I’d ever see a horse run that time at Bendigo and be eased down the last bit.” Ride High’s cruised to four wins from as many runs on the comeback trail from a throat operation and now boasts nine wins on end. Tonkin plans to stick his model of racing Ride High every fortnight, meaning his next run will be at Shepparton on August 15. That’s Lochinvar Art’s home track. Lochinvar Art is likely to chase second wins from as many runs back from a spell at Ballarat next Saturday night. Would his trainer-driver David Moran back him up a week later against Ride High at Shepparton? With talk of a match-race subsiding, let’s hope they meet in a race very soon, maybe even Shepparton on August 15. “Peter (Gleeson, Ride High’s owner-breeder) isn’t keen on a match-race, certainly not unless they put up some really serious money, so we’ll just stick to racing him every second week,” Tonkin said. “The problem is I don’t think they’ll run the Victoria Cup on October 10 with the way things are in Victoria, so there’s nothing big to set him for in the next couple of months at least.”   By Adam Hamilton

Ride High's record-breaking rout of Victorian circuits reached ridiculous new heights at Bendigo tonight with Clayton Tonkin's pacer ripping 2.7 seconds off the track record, winning in an audacious 1:49 mile rate. Built off a 26-second third quarter the five-year-old notched a 14th win in his 15th start and in doing so became only the second horse to win in Victoria in a sub-1:50 mile rate, having been only 0.4 of a second outside lead rival Lochinvar Art's spectacular 4YO Bonanza time. The performance only further whets the appetite of a mooted clash between David Moran's Lochinar Art and Tonkin's Ride High, with the star pacers so far landing blows in successive Saturday nights. For now the spotlight returned to reinswoman Kima Frenning and her pacer affectionately known as 'Chainsaw'. "There's been a bit of talk about how he hasn't beaten a lot and he's got to prove that he's really good and I think he just did that," Frenning told Trots Vision post-race. "Plugs still in and he does it so easy, it's just crazy." An aggressive Josh Aiken drive on Sirletic brought the best out of Ride High, with the former leading from gate four and running 27.6 and 27.8 first and second quarters as the trailing $1.04 favourite advanced from the back row to the running line and then the breeze. The pair then exploded through a 26.1-second third quarter that dropped the remainder of the eight-horse field, with Ride High surging ahead from the running line with an extraordinary burst of pace into the final term and becoming a conclusive 21.4-metre winner come the finishing line. Unchallenged and with plugs still in down the final straight he got home in 27.5 seconds to complete the record mile rate, almost three seconds quicker than the time Aiken set with Leonidas at Bendigo on June 6. "We fired him off the gate all his starts prior to this one and then to be able to come off the back row and relax, be off their backs and then take off and do what he did ..." Frenning said. "I mean, he doesn't spend any more energy than what he has to. I think that makes him a really, really good racehorse. "He never carries on, he never pulls. I drove him in a trial a couple of years ago now and I sat him up, he dropped the bit and as soon as I pulled out he just went. He's got the whole package. I have still never pulled the plugs on him." It's a fourth successive victory for Frenning and Ride High this campaign and another stunning 53.6-second last half, completing an extraordinary sequence of last 800-metre records having previously gone 52.7 seconds (Melton), 53.6 seconds (Melton) and 53.4 seconds (Ballarat). Tonight at Bendigo his 26.1-second third quarter was the quickest ever recorded at the track, toppling Sir Briggen's 26.7-second quarter set in a concession drivers pace, as well as being the quickest ever last half, having been some 1.9 seconds superior to Leonidas' mark. "I"m just so grateful that I get to be the littlest part of this horse's journey and it's super special," Frenning said. And the exciting part is there is no doubt more to come, with King Of Swing and Cash N Flow outstanding in Sydney, Chicago Bull back to his best in Perth, several front line Kiwis returning and a battle with Lochinvar Art looming. "There are more of the better ones coming through - Self Assured raced (Friday) - it's going to be really exciting when they all come together," Frenning said. "I wouldn't swap mine for anyone." CLICK BELOW TO RELIVE RIDE HIGH'S RECORD-BREAKING WIN: HRV - Michael Howard

While all eyes have been on the harness racing return of crack reinsman Daryl "Dasher" Douglas, his younger brother Glenn has bobbed up with a career highlight to steal the march on Dasher's comeback victory. Glenn, based at the Bendigo suburb of Strathfieldsaye, landed his 2000th training victory at his home track on Sunday night. "I really had no idea that I was getting near that number. I guess I'd never really thought seriously about it," the laid-back trainer said. "I suppose in years to come I might look back on it and think it was a bit of an achievement - it's a bit like footballers who kick a winning goal. You don't think much about it at the time, but it's brought up by fans years and years later." The multiple Victorian premiership trainer said while he wasn't aware of the significance of the win, members of his family were. "I think (longtime family friend) Steve Warren might have tipped off our eldest daughter Laura that I wasn't far away from reaching 2000. And of course, I'm happy to have achieved it. "Steve got to know us after he was left to baby-sit us at Bathurst years ago. We were quite young, but he's watched us grow up and taken a personal interest. He's a great mate, who is just passionate about harness racing." Glenn reached the magical 2000-win milestone with stable newcomer You Ninety Two (Auckland Reactor-Numismatic (Elsu). He later made it a double when successful with Van Niekerk (Net Ten Eom-Rosie Lindenny) which took him to 54 wins and 127 placings for the season. But not to be outdone, two nights later again at Bendigo, brother Daryl posted his first comeback victory after stepping away from the sport more than five years ago. Daryl has over 4000 wins to his credit and is one of our country's most successful reinsmen - and got the money with six-year-old trotting mare Bacardi Jess prepared by Glenn. It was only a matter of time before Daryl got back into the winner's circle. He drove at Shepparton last Saturday night and then had one engagement at Bendigo the following night, prior to competing at that venue again on Tuesday. He had posted a third, two fourths and a fifth from 10 attempts, but in fairness they ranged in double figure starting price from 12/1 to 50/1. "We were giving Daryl heaps of ribbing about not being able to get a winner," Glenn laughed. "Someone even suggested he should try and apply for a five-point concessional claim! He took it all on the chin, and he got there in the end. He's never someone who's full-on with emotion, but he was entitled to feel that it was some sort of achievement," Glenn said. Glenn said former training great Peter Tonkin, father of Clayton, would have been one pleased to see Dasher's success. "He's always been a great support to Daryl and was another one who did a lot behind the scenes to get him back driving." Bacardi Jess (Bacardi Lindy USA-Strapon (Straphanger) led all the way to win the $7000 TLC Carpentry Trot for owners Margaret Cameron and Roma Pocock, who helps out at the Douglas stables. Glenn said he was elated to see Bacardi Jess, not only win for his brother, but also for the connections. "They both love the sport and Roma in particular has been involved in a number of roles over many years. She is an absolute gem to have around our stables. We have between 25 and 30 in work and without her help and support, we'd be lost," he said. "Roma comes and gives us a hand for three hours on most days and keeps things rolling along."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The much-anticipated return of champion Victorian reinsman Daryl "Dasher" Douglas to the racetrack is pencilled in. Douglas, 47, has been booked for at least four drives at this Saturday night's Shepparton Harness Racing Club fixture. Club manager Ian McDonald said the former premiership driver's homecoming to the sport after a five-year absence was the icing on the cake for a meeting promising to be one of the biggest nights in his 14-year association with the club. "The comeback of Daryl Douglas is an added bonus. We are all looking forward to that. If Daryl can return to anywhere near the heights he reached previously, he is set to be a tremendous boost for harness racing." The club has a nine-race program framed for Saturday night, including five $20,000 events. "Looking across the board, it would be fair to say it's nearly our best-and that's taking in some of our successful cup meetings," McDonald said. "We've attracted some classy horses like brilliant pacers in Lochinvar Art and San Carlo. Then the Trot sees last-start winner Wobelee up against McLovin and Magicool. Douglas, a six-times leading Australian driver, was relicensed earlier this month and has driven 4219 winners. His younger brother Glenn, who prepares a team for his father-in-law and successful owner Eric Anderson at Strathfieldsaye, near Bendigo, said he was elated to again be joining forces. "Yes, I'm rapt to have him back. I can say that Daryl was a bit undecided if he wanted to return, but Eric was probably the main driving force, along with myself," Glenn said. "He had to go back to the trials and do 15 drives. He's looking forward to competing at Shepparton and easing himself back into it. "I reckon he will probably just pick and choose and go from there. He's not going to go 'full on' like previously because he still wants to keep his job working on the roads." The brothers formed a lethal combination for nearly a decade from the mid-2000s, posting wins in nearly every State. They enjoyed considerable success with Bold Cruiser and Make Mine Cullen. Daryl Douglas and Make Mine Cullen winning the 2010 Silver Chalice at Melton  (Stuart McCormick photo) Glenn said he was especially looking forward to his association with brother Daryl off the track. "There are fun times travelling to and from meetings. You do miss the camaraderie so it will be great to have him back at whatever level he's involved," he said. "Some of the best memories like winning the Kilmore, Nyah, Tassie, Renshaw and Mildura Cups with Bold Cruiser. Make Mine Cullen was a brilliant mare, too, and she won two Breeder Crowns, the Ladyship Mile, Kilmore Cup and the Queen of the Pacific."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura www.newsalertpr.com.au

Australia's two most exciting pacers Ride High and Lochinvar Art are on target to clash for the first time at Bendigo on August 1. Ride High made it three wins from as many starts this campaign when he cruised to his 13th win from just 14 lifetime runs at Ballarat over the weekend. “He just does it in second gear. There’s no need for him to open up, it’s scary that we haven’t done that yet,” driver Kima Frenning told Trots Vision. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s very exciting. He’s getting sharper and sharper each run. Ride High cruised around in a 1min53.6sec mile rate for 1710m to win by 13.5m, but he grabbed another record with his 53.4sec last half (26.9/26.5) slicing a significant 0.5sec off the previous best set by Wrappers Delight in a heat of the 2018 Inter Dominion series. Trainer Clayton Tonkin said he wants to “run Ride High every fortnight” in the build-up to the Victoria Cup, which is slated for October 10 pending the impact of Victoria’s second wave of COVID. Lochinvar Art’s return from a short spell also fits the Bendigo meeting. Trainer-driver David Moran gave the four-year-old two Shepparton runs for two easy wins in April/May, which came after a short break following his mighty second in the Miracle Mile on March 7. Two weeks before the Miracle Mile, Lochinvar Art dominantly won the Group 1 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle. “He’s going to trial this week and then he’s off to the races,” Moran said. “I’m really happy with how he’s come back. He didn’t have long out so he’s come to hand quickly. “I know I’ll probably have to race Ride High first-up, but that’s OK by me. “He’s a great horse, they’re two great horses, it’ll be fantastic for the sport when they clash and hopefully it’ll be the first of many clashes.” Moran conceded beating Ride High first-up would be a real challenge. “He’s the sort of horse who thrives on racing, his record shows that. Whatever he does first-up, he’ll just keep getting better which each run after that,” he said. Before Ride High’s stunning racetrack return, Lochinvar Art was the horse on everybody’s lips. As sublime as Ride High has looked, his times winning his first two runs back at Melton were very slick, but well outside Lochinvar Art’s 1min48.6sec track record for 1720m. Lochinvar Art posted the almost unthinkable time when won the Group 1 4YO Bonanza, beating young Kiwi stars Self Assured, on January 25.   By Adam Hamilton

A member of Victoria's legendary Gath family is on the cusp of making a return to harness racing ranks. Accomplished former reinsman Glenn, 47, is a son of champion trainer Neville and grandson of one of the Australian great, the (late) wily George, has had a comeback on his mind for quite a while. "Up until a few months ago, I was working at Lloyd Williams' racehorse-training complex, Macedon Lodge. I was in charge of the feed room, but I'd also get called on to tack on shoes and other day-to-day stuff that came up," Glenn said. "I absolutely loved it. I was there for 10 years and had a ball. If Lloyd and his son Nick didn't decide to 'put the cue in the rack' and put the property on the market, I'd probably still be there," he said. But Glenn wouldn't be a Gath if the lure of harness racing didn't linger. "I honestly did still think about harness racing a fair bit while I was at work," he said. "I think I missed the competitiveness of it. If you're in a big race, or even a little race, it's a pleasure to be there and of course there's the adrenaline rush. I really did enjoy driving." Gath said when the Williams father-and-son team decided to shut down the stable last December, most of the staff were made redundant. "That certainly made the decision for me to return to harness racing. I'd had itchy fingers to make a comeback- now I'm ready to go and looking forward to it," he said. "I'm paid up and just need to pass a medical, which is hard to do at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully in the next month or so l'll get something sorted out." Gath is the youngest in a family line that oozes just so much talent in the harness racing industry. Glenn Gath His brothers Phillip and David were both success stories in training and driving, while Peter showed he had an eye for a nice horse, owning a number of smart ones. And, of course, Andy is one of the current leading Australian trainers, forming a lethal combination with his wife Kate, an extraordinary driver. Both Neville Gath and his brother Brian are Hall of Famers, along with their father George; and Brian's son Matthew, a trainer and driver, completes the remarkable family story. Glenn said while his last winner was back in May of 2012, he'd had only occasional drives since then with two or three "steers" in 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. "I always put Macedon Lodge and Lloyd first. I got along well with him. My job required a 5am start and it was seven days a week with a few afternoons off when it worked out," he said. "I'm sure Lloyd wouldn't mind me telling the story of when I first started there, and I was learning the ropes. I mentioned to him that I was driving a pacer at Melton that night for my brother Andy. He told me he would remind his butler to put the race on and watch it. "Well it didn't turn out all that great and we ran sixth or seventh. The following day I was told that the feed room was my area of work and Lloyd had given me a $20,000 rise. I don't know to this day if he felt sorry for me, but it was a generous gesture! "And from then, each year I got a small rise. But I think Lloyd knew not to get involved with pacers!" Lloyd Williams won four Melbourne Cups with Efficient (2007), Green Moon (2012), Almandin (2016) and Rekindling (2017) and Glenn said being at Macedon Lodge for a number of the wins was a highlight. "Just to see the huge amount of work that went into it and to be associated with a couple of cup winners was something I won't ever forget," he said. The 120-hectare Macedon Lodge ranks as one of the best training establishments in the Southern Hemisphere. It can accommodate up to 100 horses, boasts more than 15 kms of tracks for training as well as a 75 metre horse pool. There's also 75 boxes, 25 grass day yards and 20 spelling paddocks. Gath and his partner Virginia Brosnan, a well-known and respected veterninary surgeon employed by Garrard's Horse and Hound, have been dabbling in the horse breeding side in recent years. "I may try my hand at training one or two, but I'll keep breaking-in the babies which is something I really enjoy," he said. Official statistics show that Gath has driven 297 winners, while as a trainer, he's prepared 79 winners and 159 placegetters for stakes of $395,000. "It will be interesting to see if I've still got it-hopefully I have," he laughed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura Web: www.newsalertpr.com.au Twitter: https://twitter.com/newsalertpr

Liz Birnie will have more than a few nervous moments today as she watches a couple of her brood step out today, especially her Bendigo debutante. While it’s not the thrill of a race that draws Liz in as much as a love for the horse, the trots breeder will be glued to the screen when Wendys Watching steps out in the J L King & Co 2YO Maiden Pace at 7pm tonight. “I keep an eye all on the one’s I breed,” she said. “They all go in my blackbook, so I try to watch them live when I can. I always have nerves when they race.” In addition to Wendys Watching, Liz will also be tuning in when From The West contests the Hillcroft Stables Trotters Handicap at Stawell at 4.13pm today. Both are offspring of her broodmare Miss Saxony, who has given her a more personal link to the sport in which she’s long been employed. Joining Alabar almost 20 years ago, Liz said she “started off working outside, then with the young foals and have now been in the office since 2002”, most recently overseeing off-farm mares and semen transport. An initiative of the stud encouraged staff to have broodmares, with Liz initially breeding Safely Kept mare Cruiser Cougar and producing Dilinger Dreaming ($81,009), before striking an unusual deal with breeders Pam and Russell Hockham. They gifted Liz their mare Miss Saxony, but on the proviso that the Armbro Operative mare mare’s first colt would go to the Hockhams. As fate would have it, that colt would become Shadow Sax, winner of 23 of his 41 starts and $548,680 in stakes. While none of the Shadow Play gelding’s siblings would, to date, earn anything like the family star, Liz got nothing but joy for the rise and rise of the two-time Group 1 winner. “It’s different, but it has worked for them and me,” she said of her arrangement with the Hockhams. “It’s been good watching (Shadow Sax) go around. He was bred here and raised here (at Alabar), it’s always good to know you got something right. They have had a lot of fun with him.” Liz’s name is next to seven other Miss Saxony foals, including today's entrant From The West, the seven-year-old mare now with Jason Ainsworth a winner of one of her 51 starts and seven times a placegetter. Miss Skeeter, by Big Jim, is the only foal not to enjoy success, but has since been retired and bred to Vincent by trainer Clinton McSwain. Then there’s gelding Sax Player, by Shadow Play, who races out west for Debbie Padberg and had a breakthrough moment on June 6 when the three-year-old broke her maiden status. And tonight the next Miss Saxony offspring makes her debut when Wendys Watching steps out on Trots Vision at 7pm. “Wendy has been leased until she is age five and then she will come back to me as a broodmare,” Liz said. She will race for trainer Clinton McSwain, who’s arranged a syndicate to lease her off Liz. “I’m definitely more about breeding, making sure they are looked after and placing them to make sure they have a good life. And also to place them with a trainer who I know will give them the time to develop,” she said. “The trainer’s pretty happy with her. I have had a fair bit to do with Clinton and he is very excited, and he said (leasing) was a chance to get people racing who may not have been involved before. “He saw it as a chance to get a group of people interested in racing without having to deal with the upfront costs. Hopefully they will have a fair bit of fun. She sounds promising.” While the next in line, A Rocknroll Dance filly, was sold to Jason McNaulty at the 2019 Shepparton Mixed Stock Sale, any thoughts of selling now retired Miss Saxony’s 11th and final foal were soon quashed. Instead the Vincent foal will replicate Watching Wendys path, being leased to Clinton McSwain before returning to Liz for a broodmare career. “She is a very nice filly,” she said of the Vincent offspring. “She was originally for sale and I got too many people telling me I had to keep her for as long as possible.” For now though the spotlight's on big half-sis to strut her stuff at Lords Raceway tonight.   HRV - Michael Howard

Huge harness racing fan Stevie Blacker has shown an expert eye when it comes to buying former Kiwi pacers and now he's successfully branched off - as a driver. The likeable Blacker, who hails from Mortlake in Victoria's western district, had his first-ever official race drive at Mildura yesterday afternoon and came up trumps. He handled four-year-old gelding Kolovos (Bettors Delight-Queen Camille (Christian Cullen), a horse he owns, for his good mate, Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn. "The COVID-19 has played a bit of role because normally I'm right into football during the winter months and I'm usually umpiring," Blacker said. "But it was probably Aaron's father Barry who got me into it, because he was saying that there were very few trials drivers at Horsham, so why didn't I give it a go?" he said. So Blacker took his advice and got his licence to drive in trials. "After three drives I wasn't fussed either way, then I drove one of the horses I own, which I think was Cool and Calculated and he went super! That was the turning point. I thought: 'Wow! How long's this been going on?! "I started thinking about maybe driving in races, so I went to a lot of trials and there were heaps of people like Geoff Senior and others who were terrific in putting me on." Blacker said he had only recently been licenced to drive. "I sort of picked out the Mildura meeting for my first race drive. It did work out well when Aaron put Kolovos in with my five-point concession claim," he said. And Blacker did the rest...with all the poise of a veteran. Pushing Kolovos out of the gate, Blacker was unable to cross Tracer Bullet to get to the lead, but he didn't get flustered by having to race in the death-seat. When Tracer Bullet kicked to a narrow advantage on the home corner and appeared the winner, Blacker got to work urging Kolovos, who found plenty over the final stages to post a memorable and popular win. Watch the race replay here. Kolovos and Stevie Blacker after their memorable win Blacker grew up around horses. Some of his family was involved in thoroughbreds, but others were caught up by the legendary deeds of the mighty trotter of the 1970s, Maoris Idol (40 wins from 46 starts), trained by Ric Healy at Marnoo. "My brother and I spent hours when we were young playing around with an old cart, built like a sulky, that was made specially for us," Blacker said. "I suppose I did have in the back of my mind that one day I would like to have go at driving - but I really did think I'd missed my chance!" the 47 year old said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After well over a decade of being mentored and working with some of the best, Kelly Stuart-Mitchell is about to launch her own harness racing career. The 31-year-old former Kiwi was granted a Victorian trainer's licence about five weeks ago. And she is wasting no time jumping in the deep end with her first starter going around at Cranbourne this Sunday night. Three-year-old bay gelding Hey Listen (Crazed-Catchya Maya (Yankee Spider) will make his debut in the $7000 Aldebaran Park Trot at 7.30 pm. The enthusiastic horsewoman has the pedigree for success, with her father Robert a former outstanding trainer, and her brother Todd a highly respected trainer-driver. "I grew up in a 'horsey' town, Cambridge, on the North Island," Kelly said. "There were always horses around when I was growing up because Dad had big teams in work and mum did the yearling preparations. I can clearly recall the first horse I ever got-it was given to me for my fifth birthday!" she said. "Dad enjoyed the square-gaiters and that may be rubbing off onto me a little because three of mine are trotters." Kelly has worked for some of the best along her journey, having had stints with legendary NZ Hall of Famer Barry Purdon for seven years and the formidable Victorian team, Andy and Kate Gath for five years. She also spent nine months with the highly-successful WA combination of Greg and Skye Bond. "They have all been a massive influence on me, not only as mentors, but as friends. As well I'm so grateful for all the help that Joe Pace is giving me. I'm working my horses out of his place at Melton and I just love it there," Kelly said. "I'm pretty excited to have my own starter after all this time. A win of course would be a fairytale, but I'm really just hoping that he does everything right," she said. "He didn't put a foot wrong in a recent trial and we were happy with the way he handled himself. There's quite a few owners in the horse, including my partner Darren Aitken, who along with my parents and family, is my greatest supporter." And while she's starting quietly, Kelly expects soon to build the stable to four, and eventually to get a good team together. "We have one in New Zealand that Todd is keeping ticking along while we're waiting for transportation to get it over here," she said. "I thoroughly love training them. I did drive in trials many years ago, but I'll leave that side of things to the experts!" Hoofnote: Robert Mitchell enjoyed success with Just An Excuse (Live Or Die-My Excuse (Smooth Fella) winner of two NZ Cups, the 2004 $75k Ballarat Pacing Cup and several other feature events. The gelding retired with 16 wins and eight placings from 27 starts for $877,000. Todd drove the superstar for his dad. Robert is now retired on a huge farm at Raglan, a small beachside town on the North Island of NZ, where he prepares yearlings for sale.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Stawell harness racing hobby trainer Ray Harvey makes no secret that he was ready to give up on many occasions with a young square-gaiter that had only one gear-and that was reverse! "It didn't matter what I tried, all he wanted to do was go backwards. He would barely take one step forward," Harvey said. "I've broken in quite a few over the years and never have I come across one like it before. But bless his little soul, that's all in the past and he's now the best horse I've ever had in my stables!" he said. And the aptly-named The Penny Drops (Danny Bouchea-Chilly Pepperell (Classic Adam) is certainly a bright prospect among Victorian trotting ranks, posting his eighth career win at Terang on Tuesday night. The four-year-old was bred and now raced by Harvey, his partner Moira Hateley, and friends Jim and Val Pickering. Harvey said one of the first times "Ronny" (The Penny Drops' stable name) got the idea of moving forward, was when their dog walked past. "The horse just set off following the dog. Another time Moira walked by and he followed her. So Moira then walked around our track, with the horse coming along behind her," he said. "So with this in mind, we got old Baltimore Boy (7 wins & 23 placings) who we retired five years ago, and tied him to the jog cart next to Ronny. That worked perfectly, and providing Ronny could hear the other horse, he was happily trotting-and in a forward direction! "After that day there hasn't been a problem and we could leave Baltimore Boy at home. But the two horses are now the best of mates. "We leased the dam Chilly Pepperell and bred from her. The Penny Drops has so far provided us with a great deal of enjoyment." Harvey, who is from a thoroughbred background, was a late arrival to the trotting game and came to train standardbreds by chance. "I was a jockey as a kid and later in Adelaide I rode over the jumps. I've worked for some top trainers, including the Cummings stable," he said. "I got a job at the Stawell racecourse, but because of the hours I was required to work, it was impossible to train gallopers. So I went into doing standardbreds about 10 to 15 years ago-and here I am still going and loving it." Now a truckdriver, Harvey said training standardbreds worked better around the couple's lifestyle. "You can train them at home whenever it suits and when I'm doing an early shift with truck driving, Moira takes care of the feeding duties before she heads off," he said. "Moira has also been involved in the thoroughbred side of things in the past. She has some show hacks at home and is right into it." The Penny Drops showed exceptional ability last season as a three-year-old with five wins and two placings from 14 starts. This season he has also been consistent with three wins and four placings from 11 outings. "We finished second, beaten a half neck in the 2020 TAB South Australian G1 $30,000 Trotters Cup, in February. I usually only give them two or three weeks off, but we went away, and he ended up having six weeks in the paddock," Harvey said. "He came back in with a bigger girth than me! It's has taken so long to get the weight off him. His first two starts back on May 30 and then June 18 sharpened him up and he looks okay now. "He's a nice, honest horse, but I'm sure there's improvement in him because he's so laid back and doesn't always go his hardest. "I put blinkers on him quite a while ago and that got his head in the game. I really believe he likes just being a type of social horse." Harvey is hoping for a start at Melton on Saturday week in a Winter Championship. "The mobile barrier start isn't really his go because he's not real quick, but hopefully we will be thereabouts," he said. Harvey has just finished breaking in two babies that are now out for a spell-both trotters. "I prefer them to pacers, but they can be more heart-breaking!" he admitted.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

KIMA Frenning can’t wait for Saturday night. That’s when she gets to drive the awesome and as yet untapped Ride High for the first time in his comeback race at Melton. The lightly-raced Ride High, who boasts 10 wins and a third from just 11 starts, is back from a minor throat operation at Melton. It’s a huge boost for trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin as it comes just a week or so after their other stable star, Poster Boy, was retired to stud. Stewart and Tonkin often jokingly argued over which of the star pair was better, Stewart siding with Poster Boy, but Tonkin adamant it was Ride High. Frenning partnered Ride High for the first time when he sharpened-up for his comeback race in a Ballarat trial on June 9. He won the trial by 20m Ballarat trial and mile-rated a slick 1min55.2sec for 2200m, but most impressed with closing splits of 54.2 and 26.9sec. “That was ridiculous. It was actually insane how easily he did that. I didn’t even turn the stick and he ran those times and won by so far,” Frenning said. “I don’t know I’ve ever had a feeling like that on a horse and I’ve been lucky enough to drive some really good ones. “I just can’t wait to drive him a race. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.” Frenning, who now works for Stewart and Tonkin and is doing the bulk of the stable driving, is Ride High’s fourth driver. Chris Alford has driven him four times for as many wins, Mark Pitt five times for four wins and Greg Sugars twice for as many wins. Ride High won the Breeders Crown 3YO final in August 2018, but then spent 14 months sidelined with a leg injury. The rising six-year-old returned for two wins late last year, but didn’t quite look himself and was found to have a breathing issue with required a minor procedure. He’s drawn ideally in gate two Saturday night, should work forward and find the front and looks a class above his six rivals. The other star attraction of the Melton meeting is classy trotter McLovin. He’s two-from-two this campaign and with Victoria’s zoned racing still in place, he meets much the same field as the past two wins again this week for Andy and Kate Gath. The Gaths also have promising Kiwi import Zigzagzoo going for his second win in as many Aussie runs at the Melton meeting. The Majestic Son gelding was bought by Norm Jenkin, who races McLovin and Tornado Valley, after four placings in eight NZ runs. He looked terrific leading throughout against a weak field at Ballarat to win by 16.5m at his debut for the Gaths on June 11.   Adam Hamilton

IT'S been a year like no other for the Bendigo Harness Racing Club and track records. Six records have either been broken or equalled during 2020, with another two marks set during Saturday night's meeting at Lord's Raceway. Trained by David Aiken and driven by son Josh, Leonidas recorded a blistering rate of 1:51:7 for 1650m in winning the NR 75 to 120 pace. The performance broke the previous 1:51:9 mark set by the Maree Campbell-trained Belittled on February 13 and equalled by the Shaun McNaulty-trained Hashatg on April 15. Just three races later, the Brent Lilley-trained trotter Robbie Royale added his name to the record books with an astonishing victory in the 2150m from a standing start. His time of 1:59:8 easily eclipsed the long-standing 2:01:0 mark set by King Kipper in 2009. A second-straight Lord's Raceway win for Leonidas made it three-in-a-row in total for the four-year-old gelding, who has gone from strength-to-strength since his arrival at Avenel. The son of Mach Three, out of Rogers Joy, has won four of six starts for his new stable, with his other two runs producing seconds. Winning reinsman Josh Aiken said the track-record performance was set up by a slick 25.8 first quarter. "He's a really class horse and really thrives on the way the race was run," he said. "He's been a class horse since we got him into the stable from Blake Fitzpatrick. He ran two really good seconds to Lochinvar Art, who is a proven champion. "Every other race has been a win, so Lochinvar Art is the only horse to beat him in Victoria. "He's just a real professional. "We are actually getting some metropolitan races in Shepparton and Bendigo in the coming weeks and then we will be able to race at Melton in July, so he's one horse who will get a chance to race for some better prizemoney. "The horse is going well and the owners deserve to be racing for better prizemoney." Aiken revealed it was Alford, who finished second on the other Aiken-trained runner Ideal Star, who had first alerted him to the possibility of a track record. "The first quarter they broke 26.0, they don't go much quicker than that. It felt like it was pretty genuine from the 800m onwards," he said. "I actually pulled up next to Chris Alford and Josh Duggan and we were all guessing what the mile rate would be - I was guessing around the 1:52 mark. "Chris Alford actually guessed it would be a track record and obviously knew that we'd gone a bit faster than I thought we had. "Shepparton has been a bit the same as Bendigo, the track record got broken twice in a fortnight. Bendigo is nice and fast at the moment." Chris Alford steers Robbie Royale to a record-setting performance at Lord's Raceway on Saturday night. --CLAIRE WESTON PHOTOGRAPHY Meanwhile, a brilliant front-running drive by Alford on Robbie Royale gave the six-year-old gelding his third win in four starts since arriving in Australia from New Zealand. Those wins have been achieved at three different tracks, starting at Cranbourne on March 16, followed by Kilmore (April 28) and Bendigo on Saturday night. Other track records set this year include Code Bailey's brilliant 2650m (mobile start) effort in winning the $70,000 Group 2 Bendigo Pacing Cup and the Brad Angove-trained trotter Sundons Courage's May 7 performance over 2150m (mobile start).   By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

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