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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.

If the temperature in Victoria hasn't been hot enough lately, things are about to heat up even more over the next few days with a whopping fourteen New Zealand trained harness racing horses set to do battle over the weekend.

The Dean McDowell trained Home Of The Brave will compete in this weekend's harness racing Gr.3 Simpson Memorial at Tabcorp Park Menangle before embarking on a trip south to compete in heats of the Victorian Derby on Australia Day. The three year old son of Presidential Ball resumed from a spell at Bankstown earlier this month and demonstrated that he has lost none of the ability he showed last season.

The war of words in lead-up to the Gr.1 $200,000 Alabar Victoria Derby continues. Earlier this week, harness racing fans were robbed of the opportunity of seeing the first match-up between the country's two most exciting prospects in reigning Australian 2yo Pacer of the Year Majestic Mach and proven Gr.1 winner Guaranteed in the blue riband classic.

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