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Journeyman harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga isn't afraid to head five or six hours down the highway if he thinks he has a winner. Vallelonga, based at Bolinda, 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, has been a frequent-and successful-competitor in the far north west of the State, particularly over the past month. "I grew up in the Mildura area and have some great memories from there - besides, my parents Joe and Anne still live up there so it's nice to catch up with them," he said. Vallelonga and his foreman and reinsman Ross Payne have been in sensational form landing seven winners and a few placegetters at the last four Mildura meetings. The most recent fixture last Friday was by far their best with three wins apiece. Vallelonga was successful with Melinka (Shadow Play-Luva Rum Ball (Presidential Ball); Fire Safe (Courage Under Fire-Talk Safely (Safely Kept) and Staley (Bettors Delight-Left In Paris (Life Sign). Payne partnered the first two for his boss but opted for race favorite Gobsmacked in the 3yo event. He's sure to cop some ribbing this week as while Gobsmacked was not on his best behavior and broke in the score-up, Staley was always well positioned by catch driver Boris Devcic and "got the chocolates" in fine style for Vallelonga at 20/1. But Payne picked up an outside drive earlier and was victorious with Coolncalm (Changeover-Mini Bonus (Armbro Operative) in the Park Douglas Printing Pace for Ouyen trainer Malcolm Retallick. Much of the Vallelonga stable success at Mildura has been due to the efforts of Melinka and Fire Safe with six wins and two minor placings between them. "I just can't heap enough praise on Fire Safe who has been a life saver for us. She has kept the ship afloat since I had my accident when I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip," Vallelonga said. "My partner Elizabeth Ferrinda and I paid $12,000 for the horse at the Sydney sales, which has proved to be a bargain buy. But Fire Safe does owe me as she was the one that knocked me over causing my injuries on July 17 last year! "Without the support of Elizabeth, Ross and a few others, I doubt that the stable would be operating." Vallelonga grew up with two sisters and a brother at his parents' vineyard on the outskirts of Mildura. When he was a teenager, every school holidays would be spent mainly at Rochester, where his two uncles, astute trainers Neil and Frank Cavallaro were then based. "I learnt so much during those early days and I still remember the first horse they put me on to jog. It was named Egyptian Byrd," he said. "I got a trainer's licence when I was 16 or 17 and a neighbor of my parents' property let me put a track on his land. It just went from there." Apart from a brief stint in his early 20s when Vince ran a pizza shop with his brother Mario, he's always been involved with the horses. "When I was cooking pizzas, the late Vin Knight had one of my horses in Don't Bug Me. He told me to take the next day off and get to Maryborough trots. The horse won and I didn't get home for two days! There were some good times back then. "But looking back it has been fun. I had time at Mildura and Euston with Eric Anderson, then I was out on my own at Hattah and Yaapeet, the latter pottering around with just a few horses while I was growing pigs. I later spent 18 months with Peter Tonkin at Ballarat and over three years with Lance Justice, so I have some outstanding mentors." Vallelonga enjoyed success with a good bunch of owners at Sam Godino's property at Riddells Creek, before taking his biggest step up six year ago. He joined forces with Archie Anastasiou and the pair transformed a 130-acre sheep property at Bolinda into a picturesque training complex featuring an 1100m sand track and a 1200m track for fast work. "There's 18 in work at present, but we can always find room for more." Vallelonga said he was fortunate to have the expertise of ex-Kiwi horseman Ross Payne. "He's a true professional and he's got a wealth of experience having worked for the Purdon stables in New Zealand," he said. "I saw Ross's work ethic first-hand because he was at our place when he was the Purdons' travelling foreman at one stage. "He stayed for a month and drove a few winners for me too, so when I heard he was keen to call Australia home, I wanted to have him here. "But it wasn't that easy - I reckon he ignored my calls for more than six months! But I finally got him on board and we're lucky to have a tremendous working relationship."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

On 22 June 2017, Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Stewards conducted an inquiry into the activities of unlicensed person Nea Fresenius at the Tabcorp Park Melton race meeting on 17 June 2017. After considering all available evidence, licensed trainer Vince Vallelonga pleaded guilty to a charge under the provisions of Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR) 90A(2.9)(a) which states:         The holder of a trainer’s license shall ensure that all persons carrying out the activities         of a stable hand are licensed as stable hands. The particulars of the charge being that as a licensed trainer Mr Vallelonga failed to ensure that Nea Fresenius was appropriately licensed when carrying out stablehand activities at Tabcorp Park Melton on 17 June 2017. In assessing penalty Stewards took into account Mr Vallelonga’s guilty plea, that the offence was an isolated episode due to his recent injury and previous penalties for offences under this rule. Stewards accordingly imposed a fine of $200.    After considering all available evidence, Nea Fresenius pleaded guilty to a charge under AHRR 91(1)(a) which states:         A person shall not carry on an activity regulated by licence -                 (a) if that person is not the holder of a current licence; The particulars of the charge being that on 17 June 2017 Ms Fresenius did carry on an activity regulated by licence, namely as a stablehand for trainer Vince Vallelonga, when not the holder of an appropriate licence. In assessing penalty Stewards took into account Ms Fresenius’ guilty plea and previous penalties for offences under this rule. Ms Fresenius was fined $200. Harness Racing Victoria

The moment long in his team’s focus has arrived and Vince Vallelonga can’t wait until the gates open Friday night and the harness racing stars of his Bolinda stable are unleashed. Stunning Grin and Major Crocker will be among the 30 hopefuls whose TABtouch Inter Dominion campaigns begin in earnest at Gloucester Park. “We have been here over a week and a bit and are itching to go,” Vallelonga said. He said both had settled in well in the west, with Vallelonga taking lodge at Alan Bell’s property at Hopeland, which sits about halfway between Gloucester Park and Pinjarra. “(Stunning Grin and Major Crocker) are pretty good mates, which makes it even better for them,” Vallelonga said. “Stunning Grin has settled really good. He is eating, drinking and really happy. Major Crocker worked good this morning. He’s a seasoned traveller and settles in well wherever he goes.” So far the cards have fallen well for Stunning Grin. He has drawn gate four of the field of 10 in the first heat, with a front line of nine and one runner on the back row. On his inside are Emma Stewart’s pole marker Guaranteed and local hopes Our Jimmy Johnstone and Tricky Styx. “It’s an ideal draw for him,” Vallelonga said. “I’m not too sure how fast some of the horses drawn inside him are, but he can come off the arm pretty quick and hopefully he will find the fence.” The luck of the draw may well play a role in Stunning Grin’s ability to advance to the December 9 final, with the Grinfromeartoear six-year-old needing to be at the pointy end to press the best. “If he draws bad barriers in the other heats it will be hard for him to earn points, but if he is in front or behind the leader he just keeps trying and giving,” Vallelonga said. “It is a bit of a step up for him. He is probably one step behind the really good ones, but if he gets the opportunity he can be cheeky.” By contrast, Major Crocker has form at this levels that infers he can make his own luck, including winning the TABtouch Inter Dominion Consolation at Gloucester Park last year and been one of the few to have pipped Lennytheshark in his dominant 2015-16 season. “I know this year’s series is probably a little bit tougher, but last year he didn’t have a draw and when he did he won the consolation final,” Vallelonga said of Major Crocker. He is drawn gate seven for Friday night’s second heat, outside local hope Bettors Fire and fellow Victorian Yankee Rockstar. “There is a bit of form inside him and Yankee Rockstar is pretty quick off the arm,” Vallelonga said. “My bloke is pretty quick, but I don’t want to use all of him up in heat one. We will just look to put him on the outside and find a spot and go from there.” Following Friday’s launch, the Inter Dominion heats continue on Tuesday night and Friday, December 2, ahead of the final in Friday, December 9. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A casual greeting spawned a mateship and then a partnership that is producing some stunning results for a harness racing trainer almost lost to the game. Trainer Vince Vallelonga and owner Arthur Anastasiou will again unite at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night when Stunning Grin continues his Free For All campaign. Restrepo, Flaming Flutter, Ohoka Punter and Messini will be among those to present quality opposition for Vallelonga’s five-year-old in the VHRSC Classic. “It’s going to be a terrific race and he has never let us down,” Vallelonga said of Stunning Grin. “He always tries his hardest.” The Grinfromeartoear gelding was snapped up for $4000 by Anastasiou and has been one of a handful of success stories since they set up camp at Bolinda. Vallelonga takes up the back story. “I was working for Lance Justice at the time and met Sam Godino, who bought his own stable complex in Riddells Creek,” he said. “I then worked for Sam and met Arthur through him. Arthur had been involved in the horses and the dogs, but we got him a horse in Anvils A Coaster, who won about his first seven in a row and he got hooked. “He then bought another one in Fergus Maccool, who won a few and turned out to be one of his favourites. “Sam Godino wanted to sell his property and move out of harness racing, and I wasn’t sure whether to move to Mildura or hang around Melbourne. “Arthur said why don’t we just go and buy our own property, and so we set one up and it has gone from there. We found a property that was just a house, a shed and a farm and built it from scratch. That was four or five years ago and it has taken off from there and we have got new clients involved. “He’s been terrific support. If it wasn’t for Arthur and a couple of horses who came along I probably would have walked away from the sport myself.” Anastasiou said he bought the property for his “good mate” so that he could continue his flourishing connection with the trots. “It is a hobby, and I get a thrill when they win, even if it’s a $3000 race,” Anastasiou said. “I’ve bought a lot of yearlings and are breeding some now. “ Having started in a syndicate for Anvils A Coaster in 2010, Anastasiou now has 31 horses to his name, most who stand at Vallelonga’s stable. Among that number are Chilled Desire, purchased for $6000 and with stakes of $84,924, three-year-old All Done Up, purchased for $7000 and with $23,978 in winnings, and of course Stunning Grin, the $4000 pick-up who now has $157,588 to his credit and a Group 2 trophy in the closet. “Nobody wanted him,” Anastasiou said of Stunning Grin. “He looked stunning when we got him as a colt. At the farm he’s probably the favourite horse of everyone, he’s a gentleman. He follows you around with no lead on. “Vince has done a wonderful job with him. (Stunning Grin)’s fairly lazy at home, but come race day … wow. He thrives on it. He’s gone to the next level. He’ll win another good race.” It’s an assessment Vallelonga agrees with. “He’s adapted to the Free For Alls pretty well. He’s progressively gotten better as he has kept racing,” he said. “He is a versatile horse. He doesn’t have to lead to win and he’s capable of being anywhere in the race.” Stunning Grin will need to continue to ride that wave of momentum if he’s to gain a ticket to the trots big dance in December, the Perth Inter Dominion. Since his win in the $18,325 Exclusive Homes Pace on August 5 he’s finished outside the top four only once in six starts at Tabcorp Park Melton, but despite three placings ultimate success has evaded him and driver Rodney Petroff. Sitting at 41 in the Inter Dominion rankings, Stunning Grin will need a boost to join stablemate Major Crocker (ranked 20th) in the top 30. “We will make the first payment,” Vallelonga said. ”If he keeps performing at Free For All and can win a country cup it might lift him up the rankings. We will probably aim him at the Swan Hill Pacing Cup (on October 15) after Saturday night.” Anastasiou has little doubt his gelding will get to the west. “He will be off to the Inter Dominion and if he draws on the front line at Gloucester Park he will take some running down. He’s just a superstar.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator) Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 08 October 2016 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 08 October 2016

Further Breeders Crown glory is firmly in the eyeline of Major Crocker’s connections after their in-form five-year-old dominated a quality harness racing field at Tabcorp Park Melton. Amid resuming Grand Circuit quality entires Flaming Flutter and Messini, it was Major Crocker who found the front in Michael Bellman’s hands and never looked back, claiming the Blacks A Fake Free For All for trainer Vince Vallelonga with a bit of change in the bank. “Vince has done a great job with him, getting him back home and up and firing, and the best part about tonight was he did it pretty easy,” Bellman said. To the delight of owner Gary Crocker, manager of the Walk Proud syndicate who owns the five-year-old Art Major gelding, Major Crocker showed no ill effects of his Albion Park venture to contest the Group 2 Sunshine Sprint and Group 1 Ubet Blacks A Fake. He finished sixth and fourth in those respective races, and look seasoned and fit against rivals early in their campaigns to win by 3.6m from Metro Mike, with Messini a short-half-head third. Bellman took the ascendancy out of barrier five, taking the lead with Flaming Flutter on his back while Messini took the breeze. The group bunched when it came to hit the line, but Major Crocker maintained his lead for a 20th win to close in on the half-million stakes mark, rewarding loyal owner Gary Crocker. “Gary loves it, they all do – they all love winning and it’s just good to be a part of that ride,” Bellman said. “I always like to come any time that he races and I’ve been to Brisbane and Vince has done a fantastic job,” Crocker said. “Michael thought he could lead and he said he only just let him go about halfway down the straight. It was pretty good.” Plans are for Major Crocker to return to Tabcorp Park Melton for Breeders Crown, the stage that produced his shining moment in 2014 when he won the three-year-old classic. “That was unbelievable and he will be back here on the 26th of August,” Crocker said. Michael Howard

Hectorjayjay was superb last night on debut for the David Aiken harness racing stable, winning his Park Douglas Printing Mildura Cup heat with a last half of 56.1 seconds. Hectorjayjay rated 1:59.3 to defeat local Murranji Track by 9.8m as the annual Sunraysia carnival got under way to an action-packed start. While Hectorjayjay is likely to start a hot favourite for Saturday night’s Group 2 final, it was last night’s other heat winner, Stunning Grin, who broke the track record courtesy of a 1:57.5 mile-rate scorcher around the half-mile circuit. Trainer Vince Vallelonga was understandably thrilled with the performance of his five-year-old gelded son of Grinfromeartoear out of Rosalee Hanover. “I’ve had the Mildura Cup in my mind for him for a while,” he said. “I thought it was important he got to the fence first because he’d never been around Mildura before and if he got to the fence I thought he’d handle it. “Normally the horse flies the gate then drops the bit nicely. Last night he was hitting the wheel and that’s why he was taking off in patches… he’d hit the wheel again and away he goes. But we’ll fix that up for the weekend. “It was a real credit to the horse that after charging like that, which was out of character, he was able to finish it off so well. Even Anthony Butt said he was entitled not to finish it off like he did.” Stunning Grin has drawn gate three for the $60,325 final on Saturday night, outside Murranji Track and Itz Dreamin Jonesy. “Murranji Track has plenty of speed but it handed up last night and I think it would be in its best interests to hand up in the final,” Vallelonga said. “I’m not super confident we can beat Hectorjayjay… that horse doesn’t have to lead to win, but I figure in front he can run a quick half and make it tough for Hectorjayjay. Even before the track was done up I remember real good horses going up to Mildura and getting beat. It’s a very competitive track because people have to make moves. You’ve got to put your horse in the race.” Country cups specialist Ideal Success, who broke the track record securing the silverware at Ararat recently, has drawn barrier five for Kerryn Manning. Melton 1720m record-holder Cold Major will start from barrier 11 under the preferential barrier draw conditions, with recent Terang track record-breaker Glenferrie Hood drawn nine, inside prolific country cups performer Uncle Wingnut. View the fields for Saturday night’s Park Douglas Printing Mildura Pacing Cup Final  Cody Winnell

The Feature race on a big night of trots at Melton on Saturday is the Group 2 City of Melton Plate and harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga is hopeful his star pacer Major Crocker can use it as a stepping stone to gaining a start in this year’s Inter Dominion in Perth. “We paid the first payment the other day so we will go there if we can. I’m hopeful we can win Saturday Night to sneak up the rankings a bit,” he said. Vallelonga hasn’t ruled out a trip to Queensland if needed to help him gain a start but would prefer to qualify in his home state. “If he doesn’t win Saturday Night we will look at other options like the QPC next week.  Ideally I don’t want to travel that far then have to come back and then go to Perth.” A terrific run last week finishing off well in a blistering last half behind Philadelphia Man Vallelonga is extremely happy with how the horse pulled up from that run. “He is going good, he came through it really well and I am pretty happy with him.” He is the only horse drawn the second line on Saturday night so driver Greg Sugars will have options early and Vallelonga will leave it all up to him. “Once they’re out there things can change so I’ll just leave it up to Greg, he has driven enough races to know what to do and he knows the horse inside out.” Vallelonga has two other runners engaged on the program including the luckless Stunning Grin in the first, who is racing very consistently and would thoroughly deserve his M0 win, and also Manuka Man in Race 6, who has been freshened after having issues with his feet but has drawn well for the claim of Jason Lee. by Matt Jackson Related Links Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 10 October 2015 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 10 October 2015

Last season’s Breeders Crown and Southern Cross winning gelding Major Crocker returned to the winners’ list last night at Kilmore and took a step closer to securing more harness racing silverware. The victory in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 4YO Entires and Geldings Fifth Heat locked in a semi-final berth for Major Crocker, who finished second in the Super Series last year to Messini. Trainer Vince Vallelonga freshened the son of Art Major/Aratusa Lass up for last night’s assignment after a below-par 10th in the TAB.com.au Rising Stars Final at Melton last month. Vallelonga reported the gelding had pulled up from that race a virus and said he felt the Group 1 winner was back to his best, though not fully wound up last night. “The only thing he probably lacks is a bit of race fitness,” Vallelonga said ahead of last night’s victory. Forced to work early through the quickest lead time of the night for the 2180-metre trip (39.7secs), Major Crocker eventually found the front ahead of polemarker The Fat Man. Greg Sugars was able to apply the brakes through the second quarter after an opening split of 30.6secs, the much needed reprieve coming via a 31.8secs second stanza. The pace went on again through the third quarter (29.2secs) as Barimah in the breeze tried to eyeball the leader. In the straight Sugars and Major Crocker kicked on strongly and held firm through a 29.2secs final quarter, The Fat Man (Chris Alford) finishing along the sprint lane to grab second, while Field Major (Troy McDonald) flashed home for third. Barimah (Damian Wilson) battled on for fourth and Okelerho Lad (Matthew Craven) ran fifth from his outside-back-row draw. The mile rate was 1:58.5. The other Super Series heat for the night was the fifth heat of the 4YO mares’ division, taken out by $1.20 favourite – and reigning series champion – My Bella Starr for trainer Adam Kelly and driver Gavin Lang. The daughter of Art Major/Badland’s Legend rated 2:00.6 to hold off Fullness Of Time (Neil McCallum) by three metres, with Indiana Angel (Rodney Petroff) third, So Demanding (Chris Alford) fourth and Petite Agee (Scott Stewart) fifth. 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS 5th HEAT Finishing order Video replay 4YO MARES 5th HEAT Finishing order Video replay Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Harness racing mare Bonny Under Fire loves Mildura, and why not?   The track’s been pretty good to her.   The bonny mare from the Vince Vallelonga stable won her third race at the venue at start number eight there last night and secured a spot in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 4YO Mares Semi-Final for her trouble.   Pinging the start from gate six in the mares’ Super Series 1st Heat for Damian Wilson, Bonny Under Fire crossed to the markers before handing up to short-priced favourite Our Petite Soeur (Michael Stanley) for the slipstream.   After doing some work early the leader was able to get away with cheap first and second quarters of 33 and 31.7secs before upping the tempo slightly down the back with a 30.3secs third stanza.   Bonny Under Fire followed the leader everywhere until the home bend when Wilson wheeled her to the outside and the daughter of Courage Under Fire/Heirofgrace hit top speed, momentum carrying her clear at the finish to win by 5.6m over Our Petite Soeur in a mile rate of 2:03.4.   Flagbearer (Ryan Hryhorec) finished third with Little Lyn a well-beaten fourth for Aaron Dunn. Vallelonga and Wilson combined for a winning double at Mildura, with three-year-old filly Regal Hostess having the mostess in Race 4 at gigantic odds.   CODY WINNELL

Ross Payne made a good fist of his temporary return to Victoria aiding All Stars to one of its biggest campaign successes of the season at the Breeders Crown. He was full of praise for the facilities at the property of Vince Vallelonga where the team was based. "It's all modern, right up to date and the track is really quick. Maybe too quick even because Follow The Stars and Major Crocker ran their last quarter there in better than 27 on the eve of the Crown " Ross rates Major Crocker, who won the three year old Breeders Crown for Vallelonga  to give the property a great Breeders Crown day, as a potential New Zealand Cup winner. "Another year on him and he will be a top stayer for Vince and a race like the Cup would suit him fine" Vince also gave Ross several drives during his stay. "I didn't win one but I had a couple of seconds and wasn't further back than fourth on any of them" Ross hasn't been letting the grass grow under his feet since coming home either. He trialled Young American trained by his brother, Greg, and after an initial deal to Australia was delayed Luke McCarthy stepped in and bought the three year old after trialling him. "He didn't hesitate" Ross said " He will probably race out of here to try for a Sires Stakes start before he goes to Australia which would make some sense. Even though it is shaping up as a hot race to get into I am convinced he is good enough" Courtesy Of All Star Racing

  If you listened to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga throughout the season you would have the thought he was either a nutcase or a genius.   As it turns out, he is the latter thanks to Major Crocker success in last Sunday’s Australasian Breeders’ Crown Final at Tabcorp Park Melton.   At any point during the year, if you got into a conversation about Major Crocker, Vallelonga would have told you in no uncertain terms he was good enough to win at Group One level.   Sure he finished second in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final, but to the casual observer the son of Art Major was a step below the best.   Much to Vallelonga’s delight – and “I told you so’s” - Major Crocker is now a top shelf winner.   “I never had any doubt he was good enough to race against, and beat, the best of his age,” Vallelonga said.   “He just needed that ounce of fortune to take one out and today he got it.   “This is only his first season of racing and he has come such a long way, but I knew all along what he was capable of.”   Driven by Greg Sugars, Major Crocker began swiftly to lead from barrier three, but was instantly challenged by Hectorjayjay for the pacemaker’s role.   Given little peace, Major Crocker was then challenged by Saloon Passage before Bling It On became the third opponent to ‘have a crack’ as Sugars, in a race winning move, elected to take a trail.   Enjoying the run of the race along the pegs, Major Crocker was angled into the passing lane during the latter stages before regaining the lead in the last stride to score by a head from Bling It On.   Alleluia, which gained a late three-wide trail, was two metres away third.   “He had to work hard to get there, but I was happy when we found the lead,” Sugars said.   “Then around the home turn I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling.   “The others were flat out and he was just cruising.”   Covering the last half in 56.6 seconds, the year-old rated a slick 1:55 for the 2240 metres to provide Vallelonga with his initial Group One triumph.   “I’m just over the moon with him,” Vallelonga said.   “To be honest I am just lost for words right now.   “I knew he was ready to run the race of his life.   “I’m not saying I declared him the winner, I just knew how good he was feeling and that he was ready for a big effort.”   Sent to for a spell the following morning, Major Crocker will spend up to three months in a paddock.   “It has been a long season, but he has handled it like a seasoned trouper,” Vallelonga said.   “I will give him eight to 10 weeks off then aim him at races such as the Chariots Of Fire.   “I’ve always said he would be better as a four-year-old after he had a season of racing under his belt and hopefully that will remain the case.”   Bred and owned by Gary Crocker, the gelding took his tally to nine wins and seven placings from 24 starts for earnings of $264,665.   Paul Courts    

Vince Vallelonga’s three-year-old Art Major gelding Major Crocker made it five wins in a row by taking out the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown Final for 3YO geldings today at Tabcorp Park Melton. In what became the race of the day, Greg Sugars took the in-form pacer to the lead early and held out a fierce challenge from Simone Walker on Hectorjayjay. Once Major Crocker had found the markers first he then had to fend off another challenge, this time from Nathan Hurst aboard Saloon Passage, which galloped at the start but quickly got going again. A quick lead  time of 43.8secs was followed a first quarter of 29.5 before the on-pace runners finally got some reprieve when Bling It On ran to the front and was followed into the race by his co-favourite Our Sky Major. A second quarter of 30.1secs was the calm before another storm as Bling It On took it up a notch down the back, ripping out a 27.2secs third quarter. Our Sky Major appeared to be travelling well coming to the turn while Sugars and Major Crocker were cruising up behind. In the straight Sugars took Major Cruiser up along the sprint lane and overpowered Bling It On stride by stride, eventually getting his head in front right on the line. Queenslander Alleluia ran on powerfully from the back of the field to finish third for Grant Dixon, while Our Sky Major battled on gamely for fourth. The mile rate was a slick 1:55.0. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria  

Harness racing drivers Zac Butcher and Luke McCarthy both produced brilliant drives in the second semi-final of the three-year-old boys’ Breeders Crown at Bray Raceway in Ballarat tonight. In the end Butcher took the win, just, aboard New Zealand star Our Sky Major, while McCarthy – whose dashing mid-race move aboard Bling It On from his back-row draw gave his horse a genuine winning chance – had to settle for second. If those two repeat their runs in the final at Tabcorp Park Melton next Sunday, it will be a classic Group 1 race. Hectorjayjay pinged off the arm to lead for Simone Walker early, which was a  surprise as the pre-race hype had been about Saloon Passage and Our Sky Major possibly getting involved in a two-horse speed duel. Hectorjayjay quickly handed up to Our Sky Major, which shuffled Saloon Passage three back along the pegs. McCarthy made a bold and dashing move aboard Bling It On at the 1200-metre mark and the star pacer had such a head of steam up that he was able to run to the lead. Our Sky Major was then behind the leader, Hectorjayjay was three-back the inside and Saloon Passage was in all sorts of traffic. But Butcher didn’t panic and was able to extricate the $1.50  Our Sky Major into clear running in the home straight, the son of Art Major driving hard late to pip Bling It On in a thriller, with Hectorjayjay rallying again for third. Jilliby Jagger ran on hard to finish fourth, while Saloon Passage was fifth and Mighty Gift sixth. The other three-year-old boys’ semi-final was taken out by Major Crocker and Greg Sugars for trainer Vince Vallelonga. Major Crocker was too strong for runner-up Alleluia, with Will Mach My Word third. That trio were 1-2-3 for the last lap. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Bolinda harness racing trainer Kari Males is enjoying a blistering run of form. Males, whose two-year-old stable star Niki No No won the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series Final at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, had a winner on Tuesday night at Shepparton with trotter The Truth before backing it up on Wednesday afternoon with six-year-old gelding Hall Of Famer victorious at Maryborough. It means Males’ last three runners to the races have been winners. Hall Of Famer, a C6 horse, utilised the claim for junior driver Kyle Marshall in the C4-C5 Bill Davies Memorial Pace over 1690m. Marshall took the son of Blissfull Hall to the breeze early, outside pacemaker With Gusto (Daryl Douglas). At the 400m, Hall Of Famer poured the pressure on full-blast, taking the lead early in the home straight before With Gusto fought back gamely to go down by a neck. Another junior driver in Mark Pitt enjoyed a great day out at Maryborough with a winning double. Pitt piloted Yankee Strutter home in the Col and Margaret Ford Memorial 2YO Pace (Race 1) before bookending the program with victory in the last on Waltalight. Both winners were trained by Wayne Potter. Two heats of the Trustees Carisbrook Racecourse Reserve Trotters Handicap were run and won at Maryborough, with Bill Morgan trained-and-driven Gioiosa Ionica victorious in the first heat by 4.3m over William John, while Tennotrump gelding Jay Gee from the Ross Graham stable won the second heat by 8.4m with Daryl Douglas in the sulky. Veteran trainer-driver Ginger Gleeson drove Sun Bird into second behind Jay Gee, the 10-year-old trotter finding some form at huge odds. Peter Manning and Greg Sugars combined with Village Jasper gelding Mixedwithajasper in the Seelite Windows and Doors 3YO Pace over 1690m, the three-year-old defeating Fremarks Ceejay by 3.7m in a mile rate of 1:57.2. Fremarks Ceejay and trainer-driver Courtney Slater bowled along freely at the front of the field for much of the race but couldn’t match the winner in the last 50m. Alan Dunsmuir-trained Western Gretel continued her strong recent form with victory in the McPhersons Printing Group Pace, defeating hot favourite Hellovaway by 3.6m. Driven a treat by young gun reinsman Alex Ashwood, Western Gretel finished too strongly for Hellovaway (Michael Sullivan), which was backing up after a gutsy seventh in the Vicbred Super Series Final on Saturday night. And another junior driver, Corey Bell, scored career win number 11 aboard Stunning Grin in the Happy 90th Frank Bartlett Pace over 2190m. The three-year-old Grinfromeartoear gelding from the Vince Vallelonga yard prevailed by 8.1m at $1.60 in a mile rate of 1:59.4. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria

Not only is he the most inexperienced pacer at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, outside of Chancellor Cullen in the Gammalite, Manuka Man is perhaps the most untapped horse on the entire program. He will only be tackling a C2-3 race early on the night but his three starts to date have yielded two impressive victories and a brave second where he had to venture three wide in the last lap. Vince Vallelonga only acquired the horse through a bit of luck too. A casual conversation with a fellow trainer led to the opportunity to purchase the son of Our Sir Vancelot. “We actually bought him after his first start. I was saying to Geoff Martin that it’s hard to buy good horses in Australia these days and I wouldn’t mind trying to find one that goes half alright,” Vallelonga said. “A fortnight later he rang me and said I think I might have found a nice horse and he told me a bit about him so I made arrangements to go and drive him and I went over and he felt good so I negotiated the price and I told Luke (Primmer, former trainer) that I’d take him.” That set the wheels in motion for his second race start, a win at Beckley Park, which was followed by what Vallelonga described as an even better run. “I thought his second was a better run than his win at Geelong. His times were unreal, being off the track to run home in that time was unheard of,” he said. “He’s a nice horse in the making; I’ve got a lot of time for him.” His previous connections also knew he had ability, in fact having just turned five it’s reasonable to think it’s unusual to have had just three starts. Vallelonga asked the same question of Primmer and was given a surprising answer. Having jumped on the back of his own hoof as a two-year-old, Manuka Man had to spend six months in the paddock thanks to what his trainer described as “pulling half his foot off.” But with those issues behind him, the gelding now has to contend with barrier seven in a tricky race. “It’s all a learning curve, he is still pretty green and he hasn’t done a lot but he does have some gate speed he just hasn’t had the chance to use it,” Vallelonga said. “It’s a bit tricky whether we can use it this week because I don’t really want to break him early in his career.” And it’s a career that his conditioner believes can blossom in the coming seasons, for that reason he won’t be pushed this preparation. With the allure of a summer campaign after he has been given some time out in the paddock the driving force behind the decision. “He’ll have a short preparation then have a break in the nice spring weather and then we’ll bring him back. He should go through his classes, once he has a spell he might come back that little bit stronger,” Vallelonga said. “I think he has a nice future; I would actually love to get him to Menangle in some of those heats and finals series because he’ll develop into a horse that can sit on any speed and run home well. He’s so relaxed and casual.” Manuka Man has been marked a $4 chance by Harness Racing Victoria price assessor Jason Bonnington. by Blake Redden Harness racing Victoria

Bolinda trainer Vince Vallelonga was responsible for an old fashioned well planned plunge at the Kilmore trots on Tuesday September 3, when 9-Y-0 former Kiwi gelding Pontificate greeted the judge in the Weddings, Parties & Celebrations Expo Nov 3rd Pace for C0 class over 1690 metres. Having his first outing since May 2009 when unplaced at Moonee Valley and only 15 in all, Pontifico (Safely Kept/Trans Tasman) backed on the fixed odds betting from $26 to run at $4.80, was driven forward by Rodney Petroff from gate six to assume control at the bell and was never headed, scoring by 3.2 metres in a mile rate of 2-00.2 from Jialiner (three back the marks at bell), with Squiggymaguire (four back the markers) third. Pontificate's only victory was at Gore back in 2008. Shrewd Lara based trainer Shaun Kittel does a terrific job with his small but capable team and was successful with 6-Y-0 Life Sign/Jazz Opera gelding Jazz King at Kilmore, taking out the Cheeky Monkey Market 13th October Pace for C2 & C3 class over 2180 metres in a mile rate of 2-01.3. With stable reinsman Michael Bellman in the sulky, Jazz King formerly trained in the northern part of the state by owner Greg Fleming was driven in almost identical fashion to Pontifico by going forward to arrest the lead away from the poleline pacemaker Tombstone Eden. Always travelling under a tight rein, Jazz King bounded away from his rivals on straightening to score by an easy 7.8 metres in advance of the heavily supported Manuka Man, a stablemate of Pontifico which led up the three wide line from the bell. Revivalist which was also well backed finished a creditable third after moving from the one/one to race in the open for the final circuit. It was a vintage Brian Gath who landed the Become A Club 200 Member Pace for C1 class over 2180 metres aboard local trainer Pat Carrafa's 5-Y-0 Grinfromeartoear/Nightline gelding Classic Grin. Beginning swiftly from the pole to retain the lead leaving the red-hot favourite Colby Reilly in the breeze, Gath was seen at his brilliant best rating the horse to perfection. Even though Colby Reilly issued a strong challenge on straightening, Classic Grin gave plenty over the concluding stages to record a half head victory in 2-03.5, with Patos Wallet (one/one - three wide home turn) third. Len Baker  

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