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One thing Australian harness racing trainers got tired of seeing last year was the sight of Follow The Stars disappearing up the track on his way to winning their 2 year old classics. Those trainers would have hoped that the brilliant son of Art Major would concentrate on age group features in New Zealand before heading back across the Tasman but the New Zealand handicapping system has meant that Australians will get to see plenty of Follow The Stars starting with the Victorian Derby. The New Zealand handicapping system rates every win in a race with a stake of $15,000 or more as a win that attracts a penalty, even as a 2 year old. Hence going into his 3 year old year in New Zealand, Follow The Stars is classed as a C8 for handicapping purposes which means he is graded just behind our best Grand Circuit horses. So not surprisingly the All Star team have decided that  it is too tough for a early 3 year old to race those older race hardened horses and are heading back over the Tasman with their star where under the Australian handicapping system, Follow The Stars is still an M0. Being an "Aussie" by birth, Follow The Stars was always going to spend a lot of time on that side of the Tasman as he is eligible for everything but the New Zealand handicapping system has fast tracked his appearance. The All Stars team have mapped out a programme for last years champion 2 year old and everything is on track at this stage. Follow The Stars is due to head to the North Island on December 13th and trial in the north before having his season debut run in the $20,000 Waikato Guineas at Cambridge on January 9th. From there it is on the plane to Melbourne to contest the Victorian Derby heats on January 31st. Following the Derby, Follow The Stars is expected to spend most if not all of his season in Australia which while not what a lot of Australian trainers would have been hoping for, will be greeted with a sigh of relief by a lot of trainers in New Zealand. With his great 2 year old record and being from the great American maternal family that he is from, Follow The Stars has stallion potential written all over him if he can reproduce at three what he achieved as a two year old. Harnesslink Media 

All the talk before the race was about the lack of depth in this years $100,000 3 year old Ruby with only four horses given  any real chances of taking the winners prize. That was about the only thing that the pundits got right with the dual Derby winner King Denny overcoming a trip in the death seat to cement his standing as this years premier 3 year old. From the time the mobile left the mile, the carnage began. First to break was the smart Mum's Pride and Trouble Rieu went out in sympathy soon after. While all this was going on, All Royal Gal had shot to the lead from barrier eight with rank outsider Monseignur settled in the trail behind the leader. Passing the 900, star filly Majestic Time went off stride meaning there was no mid race pressure. Going pass the 400, Mark Purdon let the brakes off and King Denny straigthened up in front but to everyones surprise rank outsider Monseignur appeared up the passing lane and for a few brief seconds looked likely to cause the boilover of the season before King Denny lifted and got home with a neck to spare at the finish. Monseigneur, a ten start maiden went the race of his life for second while Sir George Grey ran home well for third., Trouble Rieu made a great recovery to run fourth but lost that placing in the inquiry room for his excessive early gallop with Djokovic being promoted to fourth. King Denny's season is not over yet with a campaign centered on the Victorian Derby his one remaining goal as a three year old. By Mark Robertson  

Victorian harness racing trainer Brent Lilley will aim two of his rising trotting stars at the NSW Oaks and Derby in the coming weeks at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The former kiwi horseman had Daenerys Targaryen in this week's Oaks and despite not racing since December 2013 he is confident of a strong showing. "I was undecided on whether to nominate her but I was told they were looking for fillies for the Oaks and after my filly's strong performance at the trials last week I thought she would be up to it," Lilley said. "She trialled at Melton on May 12, she finished second behind Stunning Jasper but the margin between them was only a half head, she hit the line full or running which was good to see because she is coming back from a pulled muscle in her back." Daenerys Targaryen won the Redwood Classic at Maryborough last season when trained by Mark Purdon. "She has plenty of ability and to get her ready for this campaign she has been doing plenty of work on the treadmill and I have also had her doing plenty of swimming as well." "After the NSW Oaks I will concentrate on the Victoria Oaks as well." Stablemate and New Zealand Northern Trotting Derby placegetter Twentyten will be aimed at the NSW Trotting Derby. "He is a very talented trotter, he beat the best in New Zealand before he ran third in the Northern Derby and I think he is going to be very competitive in any race he competes in here in Australia." "He will go towards the Victorian Derby after he races in Sydney and then I will get him ready for the Breeders Crown so he has still got a few features to go before the end of the season." The Gr. 1 NSW Trotting Derby will be held on Saturday May 31 at Tabcorp Park Menangle. By Greg Hayes - SKY Racing  

It was a brilliant Barry Purdon quinella that marked the 100th year since the first ever running of the harness racing Victorian Derby. In a tactically brilliant move Craig Demmler switch Our Sky Major - a noted leader - off the pegs in the opening stages to take the lead off his stablemate - a noted sit sprinter. From there the McCarthy army enforced the pace through the middle stages with Bling It On finding the chair and Lettucrockthem in the one by one. But a lack of mid-race pressure told the story of the race as Our Maxim was produced along the sprint lane to claim the $200,000 classic in gritty fashion. A winner of over $340,000 in prizemoney now, Barry Purdon has never been willing to split his two rising stable stars and the VHRSC Victoria Derby proved just why. Our Sky Major clung on for second in a mile rate of 1:56.0 with the last half coming in 54.2 seconds while Yayas Hot Spot shot along the pegs to claim third to complete an all New Zealand bred trifecta. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The Kiwi’s struck their first blow on harness racing's Hunter Cup night with Our Maxim in the third and final Victoria Derby heat. Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher combined to upstage favourite Lettucerockthem via the passing lane. It turned into a race of tactics with Our Maxim utilising his front row draw as he kept working forward to eventually find the top but Luke McCarthy and Lettucerockthem came with to take the front mid-race. Rather than allowing a speed battle to develop, Butcher eventually relented, handing over the lead to the favourite who was working through a sizzling 28.2sec second quarter of the last mile. That mid-race pressure might have proved the difference as Our Maxim just pegged back the favourite in the straight to run a mile rate of 1:55.9. The official margin was a neck by 5.6 metres with Vicbred Super Series winner Major Secret sitting parked for the last lap and putting in a brave performance to make it into the final. Our Maxim has now taking his earnings to in excess of $215,000 from his 18 starts in what was his fourth win. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

In the second heat of the Victoria Derby it was expected to be another McCarthy domination with Allblack Stride sent out the long odds-on favourite but harness racing punters were left bleeding when the favourite folded up as the entered the straight. After securing a fairly easy run in front, Allblack Stride couldn’t sprint with Young Modern, who threw out the first challenge, but then Motor Smoker and SA Derby winner Paua Fella who both came rushing down the outside. The run to the line saw Motor Smoker pull out all stops to kick on and defeat Paua Fella by a head with Young Modern in third and the Peter Manning-trained Znana getting through from three back the pegs to secure a place in the final. The time of the race was slower than heat one with the winner recording a mile rate of 1:56.9 and quarters of 31.7secs, 29.7secs, 29secs and 27.1secs. Motor Smoker has now won three from four this preparation with driver Gavin Lang explaining post-race that having the horse gelded lead to plenty of improvement between his two and three-year-old seasons. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria

The first of the Victoria Derby heats for 2014 kicked off harness racing's Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup night in style and it saw a brilliant performance from blistering New South Wales three-year-old Bling It On. The half-brother to Miracle Mile winner Baby Bling was stuck three wide early before rolling around the field to take up the running in the early stages. It was a heady Luke McCarthy drive that kept his rivals at bay in even quarters of 30.8secs and 30.5secs to open the last mile before he let rip off the back and flew through the third quarter in 27.5secs. Fellow New South Wales visitor Yayas Hot Spot returned to near his best while trailing the leader into the race and never giving up even in a slashing last quarter of 26.5secs. The official margin was just under four metres with Kiwi invader Our Sky Major working mid-race to find the breeze and holding on for third clearly. The overall mile rate was 1:54.8 with the winner, Bling It On, appearing to cruise to the line with something left in the tank for next week’s final. by Blake Redden Harness Racing Victoria  

After finishing second in the Treuer Memorial at Bankstown, Jim Douglass believes former Victorian Derby winner Scandalman is nearly back to his best. Scandalman was having his fourth run back from a lengthy spell and has improved steadily with each run this campaign. "Ian (Wilson trainer) gave him four trials to get him ready to race and while the trials were good hit-outs he needed to get some racing under his belt," Douglass said. "He is a stallion and during his break he was very big and fat and it has been a job to get the weight off him but he is definitely getting fitter and fitter with each run." Douglass expected a good performance at Bankstown but was even more confident of a forward showing after completing the warm up. "He felt very sharp in the preliminary on Saturday night, he felt like he was ready to run a race and I actually thought on the turn I was a chance of beating Washakie but he held us to about a length all the way up the straight. "Scandalman won't be going to the Newcastle Cup, he chased very hard in the Treuer and has had four runs in four weeks so he won't be racing this weekend but I'm sure Ian will have him in somewhere the following week, there are a couple of options coming up including the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst." Scandalman is still assessed M0 but Douglass expects him to take the next step in his career within twelve months. "I think we all expect this season to be the one when Scandalman starts racing against the better opposition and I'm sure he is ready to make that step up, he will benefit from the experience of chasing home horses like Washakie." "The Treuer was a good race for the stable because Tori Jack finished fifth as well and it was good to see him run so well." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |              

Former Victorian Derby winner Scandalman will have his first run in more than seven months on Saturday night when he competes in a heat of the M0 series at Newcastle. The five year old stallion has not raced since winning the Goulburn City Sprint in March but with four trials 'under his belt' driver Jimmy Douglass is expecting a good performance. "It has taken him a while to get into race condition, he is a five year old stallion and he does so well while he is out that Ian (Wilson trainer) has had to give him four trials to prepare him for his first run back," Douglass said. "He trialled at Menangle on Monday, he was beaten about two lengths in 1:54 in the fast class trial, he has been getting better and better with each run and while there will be definite improvement after Saturday night I'm still expecting a pretty good run from him especially after he drew barrier one." Douglass stated that Scandalman has always been a horse that has improved with racing and his win in the Victoria Derby was proof of that. "He won the Victoria Derby after an absolute gut buster in the heat a week prior and I honestly think he is a horse that could race ten times and he would get better with every run, he just thrives on racing." "Despite his performances as a younger horse he is still only classed M0 so this upcoming series with the final at Menangle on Miracle Mile night looked perfect for him, after that Ian will sit down and reassess what races to target him at." Douglass is returning from suspension this week and Scandalman will be his first drive back. "Luckily I got to drive him in the trial on Monday otherwise I might have needed to have a practice myself." "I'm back from suspension after Thursday night but I won't be driving on Friday so Newcastle will be the first meeting for me and I've got a few nice drives so I'm looking forward to it." Dale Walker (Harness Racing NSW)  

The Australians were left with a few crumbs after New Zealand's big guns blasted the locals off the track at Saturday's feature harness racing meeting at Melton.

The New Zealand harness racing contingent made their presence felt on Del-Re National Food Group Hunter Cup night and they struck the first blow in the Group 1 events when Ohoka Punter capitalised on a fast pace in the VHRSC Victoria Derby.

The biggest owner in New South Wales Emilio Rosati believes Ee And Em Stride can play a major role in the Victoria Derby on Saturday night after drawing barrier one. The son of Christian Cullen has won five of his eleven starts and finished second in his Derby heat on Saturday behind Lennytheshark.

Dr Hook, Mah Sish appeal as top prospects but no guarantees of Victoria Derby success. New Zealand's chances of a group one treble at Melton on Saturday received two boosts and a giant setback yesterday. Kiwi harness racing horses will be among the favourites for the Hunter Cup, Australasian Trotting Champs and Victoria Derby.

Champion Bolinda harness racing reinsman Chris Alford snared a quartet of winners at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, including a rare treble of all three heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby.

The headline act going into the VHRSC Victoria Derby heats was Guaranteed and he didn't disappoint anyone with a dominant display ensuring he will retain overall favouritism for the harness racing final to be run next week at Tabcorp Park.

Tony Herlihy is no stranger to bringing horses across the ditch for a mission at our premium Group 1 harness racing events but with Our Bettor Dream he is starting with the softly, softly approach.

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