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In a positive move for harness racing in the Riverina the first sod was turned at the site of the new Wagga track at Cartwrights Hill today. The New South Wales Minister for Racing Paul Toole was in attendance alongside Harness Racing NSW Chairman Chris Edwards and his fellow Board Members for the significant milestone. "The journey has been a lengthy one from when we first called for expressions of interest in a Riverina Super Centre back in 2006," Edwards said. "But now that we are finally at this stage, it is pleasing to know that in a year's time we will have completed a strategy to install 1000m tracks in all the regions Hunter, Western and Southern. "What is really positive for Wagga is that what we have learned from the other projects has been enhanced, corrected or improved with this last instalment." The long-awaited project will see a 1070m race track constructed with a width of 20m to accommodate 10 horses starting off the front row, if required. There will be a camber of 10 degrees on the 110m radius turns to assist with equine welfare, driver safety and to enhance the speed performance of the horses as well as a sprint lane to provide all horses a competitive opportunity. Alongside the track, public facilities similar to those at Bathurst will be constructed as well as race stalls that can accommodate for 140 horses, including a designated area for mini trot participants. Harness Racing NSW's long term vision for the property is to also include a training centre. AMANDA RANDO

Harness racing trainer Shane Hillier and driver Blake Jones each took home two of the awards at the Wagga and Southwest & Riverina presentation evening on Saturday. Hillier and Jones claimed the trainer and driver of the year titles at both Wagga and in the Riverina last season. Talented young driver Cameron Hart took home the Junior Driver of the Year award in a season where he also represented the region at the NSW Rising Stars Series. Breeders Challenge regional final winner Killara Hustler was judged the region’s best performed pacer with four wins from six starts, while Leeton Breeders Plate winner Our Mach Jack was the top juvenile. Killara Hustler’s owner and trainer-driver Damien McKelvie bred the promising pacer, but was unable to be in attendance due to an overseas wedding. His father Brian said Killara Hustler would remain in training for a few more starts this preparation. Our Mach Jack added his name to the honour roll of the Leeton Breeders Plate and was able to win three times from eight starts for trainer-driver Ray Walker, his wife Jane and fellow owner John New. Wagga’s Pacer of the Year title went down to the wire with Halle Maruia finishing second at the final meeting of the season to edge out Jessica Amber. Halle Maruia raced 10 times at Wagga for three wins, four seconds and three thirds for owners John, Sandy and Des Klemke of Henty. The mare is trained by Hellen Scott at Albury and was able to race at a high level of consistency at Wagga after being off the racing scene for 12 months. Some 125 guests attended the night where naming rights to the feature races at Wagga this season were announced. The final two feature races came down to the last draw between father and son Paul and Jared Kahlefeldt with their respective businesses – Baylis Grind and Workout. Baylis Grind will sponsor the Wagga Cup, Workout the Wagga Derby and Caltex On Fernleigh the Wagga Oaks on Saturday night, March 3. by Graeme White

Local harness racing participants continue to contest regional meetings with trainers having both major and minor successes at Leeton, Parkes, Bathurst and Wagga. Tuesday night four local trainers traveled to Wagga with Young driver Blake Micallef having a win and placings on the nine race program. Glenn Wilmot started off the night with a creditable 4th with Annatto after being awkwardly placed on the inside line, the eventual winner Doctor Feld ($32.80) in a mile rating of 1:56.9.  Wilmot handed driving duties to Nic Dewar in the second behind the consistent Casino Grin. After being three wide at the bell, the more fancied Wagga pacer Split Second Lombo circled the field to secure an impressive 15 m win over the local pacer in a mile rating of 1:59.9. Mako Bay contested the third race but lady luck was not kind and the pacer finished toward the tail of the field after starting from the inside line. Race four resulted in an impressive win for Micallef who drove the recent arrival to the stable, Another Fireball ($11.70) to victory in a mile rating of 1:59.2.  Previously racing in Queensland, the Mach Three mare has now won 10 races from 50 starts for her owners. Once the decision is made to send her to the breeding barn, her best winning mile rate of 1:55.1 and wins in all three eastern states will surely stand her in good stead for the future. Blake almost made it back to back wins when family favourite Crusty ran within a short half head second in race eight behind Kiki Diva ($3.60) favourite after going forward at the bell.  The winners mile rate of 2.02.2 was a creditable performance and both Blake and Crusty can look forward to many more exciting times in coming months. The final race of the night resulted in Elegant Heaven ($2.50) and favourite, handing in a good performance for Bruce Harpley, the locally trained Sunofasis for Maurice Johnson found form with a fast finishing second behind the more fancied runner with the Kevin Powderly trained Miami Ruler again pulling hard early and finishing out of a place, the winner recording a 2:03.0 mile rate. Local trainers then travelled to Bathurst on Wednesday night and raced with moderate success, no doubt in readiness for the forthcoming meeting to be conducted by the Young Harness Racing Club next Friday night August 25.  Participants are reminded that the annual presentation night will be held on Saturday night September 23 at the Young Golf Club, tickets are available from Chloe Powderly or at the track next Friday night. By Stuart Maxwell Reprinted with permission of The Young Witness

Jessica Amber has the chance to jump to an outright lead in the Wagga Horse of the Year honours on Tuesday night. With less than a month left in the harness racing season, Jake Stockton’s mare is level with Padrisimo on 16 points. She jumped from a share of third to equal first with a win at Wagga last time out. She also has an advantage over the former pacer of Rod Woodhouse, who has since moved to Sydney. Despite a spelling Tiwanaku in second there are plenty of other runners who can pick up valueable points. Serene Major and Navajo Rocky are both on 13 while Jessica Amber has to contend with barrier six on Tuesday night. She is one of two Stockton runners in the Supermix Concrete Pace (1755m) with last start winner Our Classical Art drawn in seven. However Jessica Amber is coming off an impressive second in the Group Three NSW Breeders Challenge Regional Final at Bathurst. By Courtney Rees Reprinted with permission of the Daily Advertiser

Harness Racing in the Riverina received a major boost this week with the announcement of a contractor assigned to begin works on the site at Cartwrights Hill north-east of Wagga. Work is expected to commence on Riverina's new home of harness racing as early as next month with Ladex Constructions Group. Weather permitting, the timeline of this stage of the project is estimated to take around 12 months. It has been a lengthy process to get to this point according to Harness Racing New South Wales chief executive John Dumesny. "It is somewhat of a relief that this project will finally start rising from the open paddock in North Wagga," said Dumesny. "HRNSW and the harness racing fraternity have been frustrated at many stages during the past 10 years but that is all behind us now. "To all those concerned to date with the project I offer the Board Members congratulations and appreciation of their efforts. "The end result will be a racing precinct for the Riverina to be extremely proud of." Plans for the multi-million dollar racing facility will see a similar development to that constructed at Bathurst. This includes a 1070m racetrack capable of starting 10 horses across the front thus resulting in maximum field sizes as well as a sprint lane. Plans for this Riverina Supercentre began in 2007 and these are the events that have followed since: Site inspections took place at six locations in areas of Wagga, Coolamon and Junee; The HRNSW Board decided that due to the population base and centrality to the region, Wagga was determined as the preferred location; Site selection was narrowed down to North Wagga Flats as the preferred site due to the additional land available for future developments, proximity to Charles Sturt University its students and the equine veterinary clinic, the convenience by road for harness racing participants located in Junee, Coolamon, Leeton and Albury; HRNSW undertook two water studies through Wagga Council’s preferred flood impact professionals WMA Water on the site – other tracks built on flood plains/low lying areas include Tabcorp Park Menangle, Harold Park, Goulburn, Albion Park, Yarra Valley, Terang; HRNSW Stewards frequently visited the site in winter to inspect the fog conditions; HRNSW purchased the land in May 2016; Countless meetings with local residents to explain the project; Numerous meetings with Wagga City Council and the Southern Region Planning Panel to have the development approved; A thorough expressions of interest to attract the most suitable construction company. Amanda Rando

Harness racing heats for West Wyalong’s award-winning Standing Start Final will be held next week in Dubbo and Wagga. Trainers and drivers are reminded of the need to qualify in a standing start trial prior to be eligible for the Bolt Sulky Innovations Standing Start Series valued at $16,000. Heats will be held at Dubbo on Wednesday April 5 and Wagga on Friday April 7, while the third heat is at West Wyalong on Easter Saturday, April 15, with the final at West Wyalong’s Carnival of Cups on Sunday April 23. As well as $7,420 prizemoney up for grabs, and $1000 cash for the winning driver, trainers will be vying for the latest $7,600 Insain Bolt sulky thanks to major sponsor Bolt Sulky Innovations who has joined West Wyalong Harness Racing Club (WWHRC) to make the event possible. Trainers and drivers are welcome to trial one of the innovative sulkies at the Dubbo and Wagga heats or at the Carnival of Cups meeting. The sulky can be used in a race, with several people trialling it recently at Penrith to try and confirm the claims that the Australian designed-and-built sulky has turned 50 to one long shots into winners. Company director Joe Watkins says it’s the pivoting shaft that gives horses the advantage: “particularly in the turns where direct tracking ability without fishtailing and zero torsional forces greatly assists with balance and speed," he said. WWHRC President Ray Moore welcomed the new sponsor, saying the Club was thrilled to be able to continue to offer the Standing Start Series, after last year’s inaugural event proved a major draw card for competitors. Moore said the final was expected to be a great spectacle for the crowd once again as horses being handicapped according to their grade, gives every entrant the opportunity to win, and usually means a close finish.   Bathurst trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull’s Oh Jonny B Good, overcame a 70m handicap to win last year’s edition by 1.7 metres just beating a CO contender. The favourite Sporty Spook, who won the Wagga and West Wyalong heats, had to start off a 60m but was forced to run an exhausting race three wide and finished last.   ”This exciting race almost saw the front marker Seenohearnospeakno get away with the chocolates, and this is what provides the spectacle where the favourite can run last, the pole marker almost gets home and the winner is forced to run four and five wide on the home turn to catch the leaders,” said Moore. The standing start series is already attracting plenty of interest with Amanda Turnbull mentioning at Young Carnival of Cups recently that she’s planning to return for a chance at another sulky and brother Mitch, who has been driving exceptionally well lately, says he’s also interested. The inaugural standing start event was introduced last year thanks to the assistance of Dubbo and Wagga Clubs who are on board again. “We put a lot of work into the event as a way of building up the program for our Carnival of Cups for both competitors and spectators,” said Moore. And the work paid off when the Club won the Harness Racing NSW Innovation Award for introducing the race to the program in an attempt to grow the race meeting. “It’s an exciting addition to our Carnival of Cups program that we hoped would prove a success,” said Moore. “West Wyalong only runs two race meetings a year but the track is in excellent condition and the racing is expected to be of high quality. “Small clubs like ours have to put in the extra yards to stay viable and keep our meetings on the annual racing calendar.” The nine race program is expected to attract a lot of interest after last year attracting 170 nominations. Races include the $12,240 S and C Clubs Pacers Cup (C4-C7) and two $10,000 Menangle heats. The lead up event on Easter Saturday April 15 is a restricted event, with heats for the standing start as well as C0- C1 four-year-old heats. By Melanie Sincock

With a new regional centre being built in the Riverina there are some exciting times ahead for harness racing in the south west of New South Wales with a newly formed Committee now in place. Also on Tuesday (yesterday) the global company GHD Group was appointed as the project manager for the new track development on the Cartwright’s Hill site in Wagga and it is all systems go according to Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny. “The design is currently being refined and the leading tender companies will be requested to resubmit prior to the end of the year.” Mr Dumesny said. “There is a full expectation that construction will commence in February and should run to 50 weeks weather permitting.” “It is envisaged that the first major race meeting will be the Wagga Gold Cup program in March 2018.” Adding to the ‘new look’ in the Riverina is the new Wagga Harness Racing Club Committee. At the recent Special General Meeting a new Constitution was adopted. The new Constitution takes into account the new facility and the fact that the track will be the hub of the Riverina. Existing Committee members Linda Inwood (incumbent President), Bill Tipping, Kevin Wheatley and Brian Hay have been re-elected by the members. They will joined by HRNSW appointees breeder, owner, trainer and accountant Paul Kahlefeldt, Denis Conroy who currently is the representative of Non-TAB Clubs Harness Racing Industry Consultation Group as well as the Griffith Club Secretary, and also Christine Brewer who had formerly held administrative roles in the Hunter region. Mrs Brewer has recently relocated to the region. “This newly formed Committee is part of the new Constitution adopted by the Club (Wagga) as we move forward and create the new regional centre,” Mr Dumesny said. Secretary Graeme White remains in that post for the Wagga Club. AMANDA RANDO

At nine years of age, Glenburn Addy’s race days are drawing to a close but she’s showing no signs of slowing down just yet with her 15th harness racing career win at Wagga Paceway on Friday night. Glenburn Addy ($4.10) was perfectly placed to win under the conditions of the race with most of her rivals having won far less races. Trainer Tim Doherty has been looking after Glenburn Addy for the past two weeks. “She is due to go in foal to Modern Art and it was easier having her down here at Albury to have that done,” Doherty said. “She was well placed with the drop back in class clause for mares and the concession claim for Reece (Maguire).” Glenburn Addy has earned $70,000 and added an extra $1000 as owner Ray Walker is a member of the NSW Standardbred Owners Association. Doherty believes Glenburn Addy can win another race before she is retired. “She pretty much paid for herself to go in foal the other night,” he said. “She will keep racing until she goes in foal.”  Maguire won the race named in his honour as the leading driver at Wagga last season. He is shortly to leave Australia for a stint working in the harness racing industry in New Zealand. The bonus was won in consecutive races after promising filly Million Dollar Gem ($3.50) again led throughout for her second win. The three-year-old collected Yirribee Stud a further $1000 on top of the prize money. Million Dollar Gem won at odds of $30 late last month, but started second favourite on Friday night on the strength of that win. Reinsman Scott Woodhouse again found the lead form gate two on the lightly raced juvenile before clearing out at the finish. The Million Dollar Cam filly won by five metres from Proserpina and beaten favourite Rocknchaton, in a mile rate of 2:01.7. “She goes pretty good and keeps getting better,” Woodhouse said. Mammals Flash produced the win of the night spacing his rivals in a fast mile rate of 1.58.9 to take out the Wagga Premier Trainer Shane Hillier C1-C2 Pace (2165m). The five-year-old won by almost 30 metres to add to his impressive record since joining his trainer Brian Smith. Junee reinsman Cameron Hart found the lead on Mammals Flash who couldn’t hold the big pacer slow enough as he entered the final 600 metres. The favourite dominated his opponents for his third win for Smith which also includes three seconds and two thirds from nine starts. Other winners on Friday night were the Laura Crossland-trained Fiery Achiever ($2.30), Steve Boyington’s Desiring Bella ($3.90), Chris Chant’s Danielles Pride ($3.70) and Bruce Harpley’s new filly Habanero ($3.50). Reprinted with permission of The Daily Advertiser

Stening produced one of the best performances of his harness racing career and raced into calculations for the $25,000 Menangle Country Series Final with his heat victory at Wagga on Tuesday night. The well-performed pacer had to earn his 11th win the hard way racing outside the leader before holding off the favourite Lombo Newsy Scoop, who along with the third-placed Mammals Flash, won through to the decider on August 27. Stening's win in the $10,000 heat took his earnings past $60,000 and provided trainer-driver Bruce Harpley with a first-up win under his care. The winner was trained until recently by Bernie Kelly and has been driven in most of his starts by Harpley. "I think just the change of environment can sometimes help some horses," Harpley said. "That was a very good win against some nice horses. "When I saw he drew barrier six on the outside of the front row I thought that was the end of our chances." Stening falls well short of the best pacers raced by Kelly and his wife Dianne, but he has been highly consistent with 11 wins and nine placings from 31 starts. Lombo Newsy Scoop was given every chance, but couldn't haul in Stening when he kicked clear while Mammals Flash ran on well for third in a fast mile rate of 1.57.5 seconds. Comeback pacer The Real Eagle continued his charge qualifying for another final at Menangle with a win over Chickies Boy. It was a carbon copy of their last encounter when The Real Eagle kept Chickies Boy into second placing on July 19. On that occasion, The Real Eagle was having his first start for almost four years. Trainer Brad Hillyer only has The Real Eagle in training and has a real talent on his hands. Leg injuries have restricted The Real Eagle's career to just 15 starts for seven wins. "The big track at Menangle will suit him and that run will top him off," Hillyer said. "I haven't had any leg problems with him this time in so hopefully he can stay in one piece." Reinsman David Moran drove the short-priced favourite to perfection following Chickies Boy throughout before emerging late. Meanwhile, Northern Velocity won her second race at Wagga in the space of four days with a dominant display. The well-bred filly has earnings of more than $160,000 and since racing in Australia has produced four wins and two seconds from six starts. Owner Scott Robertson said Northern Velocity was purchased because of her breeding and was doing the job asked of her during her racing career. "She had a good record in New Zealand where she won most of her prize money," he said. Northern Velocity has been transferred to the care of trainer Steve Maguire after doing her recent racing with Belinda McCarthy - one of the state's leading trainers. "We will see where she is at whether or not she has another start," Robertson said. Northern Velocity also won at Wagga on Friday night. The filly is a daughter of leading sire Mach Three from Northern Franco making her a half-sister to $900,000 earner Pembrook Benny. Amanda Rando

The Riverina’s new multi-million dollar harness racing complex is moving closer to a starting date with work expected to commence in September. Harness Racing New South Wales is finalising the tender process and have narrowed the number to six of which one will take control of building the $6.5 million project at Cartwrights Hill at Wagga  “We have been anxiously waiting for work to start. There has been some holds ups but it’s close now,” HRNSW chief executive John Dumesny said. Meanwhile, Harness Racing NSW were in Wagga on Monday and Tuesday meeting with clubs and trainers discussing a range of issues. The regional board meetings have been well received by all who have attended with HRNSW to consider feedback they received. “The trainers had some issues which we will work through with them,” Dumesny said. The trainers have concerns with the handicapping and not being able to place their horses in races they select. Money from tax parity will be distributed to a number of areas providing potential growth and stability for the industry. The savings from tax parity for clubs means they no longer pay for ambulance fees, photo finish equipment and starters’ fees. It’s a considerable saving for clubs who will be able to channel the savings into other areas of their operation. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Young’s Jason Grimson’s win in the Rising Stars Series has provided his career with the boost it needed at just the right time. Grimson has taken up employment with trainer Jarrod Alchin at Menangle and with his concession claim he will no doubt be given his share of opportunities. What a year it has been so far for Grimson. He won the biggest race of his career when Don’t Think Twice took out the Bathurst Gold Tiara and was then named as one of the Riverina’s representatives in the Rising Stars before winning the series. Don’t Think Twice was recently announced as the Riverina’s juvenile pacer of the year. She will be acknowledged when her owners accept the award at the Wagga and Riverina awards and sponsors’ evening on Saturday night, September 3. Sporty Spook, the winner of the Junee and Leeton Cups last campaign, will be acknowledged as the Riverina pacer of the year. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Widely acclaimed Rodney Vincent will provide the entertainment at the region’s awards’ night with more than 120 guests expected to attend. The evening will be held at the newly renovated Rules Club in Wagga commencing at 7pm. More than 50 sponsors will be in contention for naming right to various feature races at Wagga during the 2016-17 season. The major prize is naming rights to the Wagga Pacers Cup to be held on Saturday night, March 4. The Riverina and Wagga trainer, driver and pacer of the year awards will also be presented. At this stage, Corey Bell leads on 42 wins ahead of Reece Maguire (33) in the Riverina drivers’ premiership. Bell hasn’t driven in the region since departing for Victoria in late May. The Riverina premiership is Shane Hillier’s for the keeping with 42 wins – two ahead of Shaun Snudden with Phil Maguire on (22). Snudden was well ahead before he made a career change to work as a handicapper with Harness Racing NSW. Hillier also leads the Wagga title while Reece Maguire leads the drivers’ premiership. The pacer of the year at Wagga is at an interesting stage with Redbank Harry and Shadesoff equal leaders ahead of Im Johnny Jet and Tactful Lady by two points. There are four meetings at Wagga in August which should ensure the award goes down to the last meeting. Two-year-old filly Simply Clever won her fourth race at Wagga at only her fifth start to help provide father and son Phil and Reece Maguire with a memorable quartet. The Leeton based duo started six horses for a personal best four wins and two seconds on July 19. They won with Drive The Dream, Im Johnny Jet, Simply Clever and Bettors Power and finished second with The Mighty Falcon and Chickies Boy. Previously, their best was a training and driving double before they passed that mark and then Bettors Power made it four. “We only have seven horses racing and they are ones that the owners have paid a bit of extra money for,” Phil Maguire said. “Reece is going to New Zealand for six weeks in October to further his driving so for him to get four winners so early in his career is good for him.” It wasn’t only the Maguire stable producing multiple winners in July, but also Shane Hillier. He teamed up with Victorian reinsman David Moran for four wins at Leeton on July 22. They won with Doctor Feld, Serene Major, Pental Survivor and Janices Cullen. Moran has never had a week like it before winning eight races including two at Wagga and one each at Melton and Swan Hill. Moran has previously driven five winners on a program at Albury while the Hillier stable has produced four winners a few times. “It’s a credit to David because he does a lot of miles and deserves every bit if success,” Hillier said. by Graeme White - Wagga HRC

Champion reinsman Gavin Lang had armchair drives in front on Heavens Trend and Lettucefirestar to win both heats of the Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge at Wagga on Friday.  Lang had no cause for concern on either three-year-old as both moved through to the semi finals with the high probability both will be in the rich finals at the end of June. Lettucefirestar speared out from barrier six to find the lead after 200 metres as he maintained his unbeaten record in five starts for trainer Wayne Potter. “I was very confident of winning on what he has been doing back home,” Potter said. “He has a huge amount of speed and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes against the better three-year-olds.” Lettucefirestar is raced by a syndicate from Wagga who are enjoying a wonderful run with the son of Courage Under Fire who was bred by Redbank Lodge Standardbreds.  Potter said he made some gear adjustments to Lettucefiretstar when he arrived at his Avenel stables and he was excited by what could lay ahead. Lang was impressed with both and said it made a big difference having gate speed to find the front. “I have had a few drives at Wagga over the years and gate speed is a big asset,” he said. “Lettucefirestar went really well and looks to have a nice future.” Lettucefirestar clocked a mile rate of 1.56.7 which was 0.1 seconds outside of the track record held by Modern Era.  There is little doubt Lettucefirestar could have broken the record had Lang wanted to. Heavens Trend’s time of 1.57.7 seconds could have also been much faster as the top class filly raced into the semi finals. Lang was at Wagga last year when Heavens Trend won the Breeders Challenge heat as a two-year-old before going onto claim the semi final and final.  It could be a similar story this time as Heavens Trend continues to dominate her age group. “I have driven her most of the time, but was only filling in on Lettucefirestar,” Lang said. “She does everything you ask of her.” Heavens Trend accounted for the gallant Sport Report by almost ten metres with Boundtobemad running on well for third.  The daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven has won 11 of her 16 starts and earned in excess of $200,000. Meanwhile, reinsman Corey Bell and trainer Shaun Snudden recorded a significant victory with East Emperor.  The meeting was the last for Snudden and Bell in the Riverina as they follow new career paths.  Bell will relocate to Victoria to continue driving, while Snudden will close his stables at Narrandera and  commence working with Harness Racing NSW as a handicapper in a couple of weeks. Snudden said after six successful years it was time to move on. “I will still be in the industry, but in a different capacity,” he said. The win by East Emperor was the 150th together for the pair. “I have won ten races on East Emperor so to win this last one with Shaun means a lot,” Bell said.  GRAEME WHITE

Expressions of Interest are being sought to participate in the selection of suitably experienced and qualified Building Contractors and Earthworks Contractors for the construction of the new harness racing facility at Wagga. Harness Racing New South Wales has placed advertisements in the Riverina and is keen to see the building process begin on time. HRNSW Chief Executive John Dumesny believes the announcement should be exciting for the industry in the local area. "It is very fulfilling we are edging closer to turning the first sod of soil on the new harness racing facility at Wagga Wagga," Mr Dumesny said. "The Riverina deserves a racing complex equal to what HRNSW has provided at Bathurst and when completed it will be a benefit not only for the industry but for the community of Wagga Wagga." The EOI's will be used to determine a select tender list for the project and must be received by McKinnon Design before 5pm Monday June 6. "This is going to be a state of the art complex, a new clubhouse, grandstand, race stalls and track will be built and it should be good news for all of the participants in the region." EOI's can be sent to McKinnon Design at PO Box 1929, Orange NSW 2800. For more information contact McKinnon Design on (02) 63631780 or Greg Hayes

Teenager Jess Gilchrist had to wait until the final race of the night to make her driving debut, but it was worth it as she made a memorable start to her harness racing career at Wagga on Saturday night.  Gilchrist had all night to prepare for her only drive and it was a moment to cherish as she guided Lighting Colony to victory. The 19-year-old had the majority of her eight siblings on track plus other well wishers as her long awaited debut produced the perfect result.  Gilchrist has worked for Lighting Colony’s trainer Bernie Kelly for several years and the master trainer was delighted she could win on debut. “What a great start for her. She had her licence for a while and I wanted Jess to have plenty of trial drives before she went into a race,” Kelly said. Gilchrist took a break from harness racing for short time switching over to thoroughbreds, but found her way back into harness. “It’s pretty exciting to win at your first drive,” she said. “I was a bit nervous, but more anxious to have my first drive.” Lighting Colony was reluctant to parade correctly as the field circled for the start, but once out and running he found the lead after several hundred metres and remained there throughout.  Gilchrist gave her rivals little chance setting a time rarely seen at Wagga for the first 800 metres – 69.7 seconds.  She received a $100 fine for the slow pace, but the result was the most important part to her. “I was going a bit slow, but he won which is the main thing,” she said. Gilchrist has learned a lot from Kelly over the years and was pleased to win for the veteran trainer. “Bernie has given me a lot of trial drives and my first race drive for a win so I’m pretty happy,” she said. Graeme White

Teenage reinsman Jordan Seary did everything asked of him to win his first race with Sokys Bigbullet at Wagga on Friday. Charged with the responsibility of driving the harness racing favourite from barrier five, Seary was cool under press outwardly but inwardly there were the obvious nerves. The 16-year-old from Junee was having only his fifth race drive and having the chance to drive a pacer with the record of Sokys Bigbullet brought with it added pressure. Sokys Bigbullet worked his way to the front after 650 metres and when challenged by Franco Noriega raised another effort for an easy 15 metre record. The in-form pacer has an impressive record of 40 top three finishes from 56 starts having recently also won the Coolamon Cup after a run of minor placings in other Riverina country cups. Seary was delighted to win and be given the chance to drive a pacer like Sokys Bigbullet by trainer Bruce Harpley. "I was nervous, but I just did what I was told," Seary said. "It's good driving these better horses because they make it a lot easier." Seary has driven Sokys Bigbullet in a lot of track work and also former stablemate, Frith. Harpley was delighted to see the schoolboy break through. "It's not easy when you start out but he did very well," Harpley said. "He drives to instructions and will keep improving with experience." Sokys Bigbullet has earned close to $125,000 and could soon be on the move as he continues to rise in class. "He is best to be racing in better class races now so we will see what happens," Harpley said. Greg Hayes

A new harness racing track on the floodplain at North Wagga Wagga could be up and running in just over a year. The CEO of Harness Racing NSW, John Dumesny, said he is relieved the revised application was approved on the casting vote of the Chairman of the Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel. North Wagga residents raised concerns about flooding, noise and light impacts from the $6.5m development. Once the complex is up, operational, I think there could be some hysteria as to what the effect is, it won't actually eventuate. Mr Dumesny says they will be addressed in revised consent conditions, yet to be released, and the industry will continue liaising with affected residents. "I would suggest we'll go out to tender early in the new year and commence the construction shortly after that," he said. "Hopefully we'll have a new facility up and running by the end of 2016." Mr Dumesny believes North Wagga residents concerns about a new track on Cooramin Street will never become a reality. He said there has been benefit in the delay to approving the track, because extra studies have been done. Mr Dumesny said the industry body looks forward to consulting further with residents who have ongoing concerns. "They correctly put it, that if you haven't lived through a flood you haven't seen the devastation," he said. "I'm relying on our consultants to say that the effects won't be any worse than any flood that's occurred in the past, so we'll have to wait and see. "There are other concerns with noise, traffic, what have you. "Once the complex is up, operational, I think there could be some hysteria as to what the effect is, it won't actually eventuate." Reproduced with the permission of ABC News

Two more harness racing drivers will qualify for the Michael Brown Planning Strategies Indigenous Drivers Invitation at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday November 1 after the Wagga meeting this Saturday night. Eight indigenous drivers will compete this weekend with the first two drivers past the post joining reinsmen Andrew Lincoln and James Sutton after they secured invitations in a similar event at Dubbo last month. The $10,000 race on Sunday November 1 will be part of the Fisher's Ghost Meeting and will be for horses assessed C1 to C3. With four drivers qualifying from the Dubbo and Wagga events, the remaining indigenous drivers will be selected by the NSWHRC. The eight drivers competing this Saturday night at Wagga are; Jeff Brown Danny Gibson Jess Prior Royce Gregory-Jack Scott Gregory Bruce O'Brien Mckayler Barnes Nathan Giles Greg Hayes

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