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Lochinvar Art etched his name in trots immortality with a commanding victory in the $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup, claiming the heavyweight title that’s long seemed his destiny. The Shepparton harness racing superstar was advanced to the front early for trainer-driver David Moran and broke the field open with an extraordinary 53.2sec last 800 metres to win by 6.4 metres. Watch the race replay click here! “It was huge for me,” Moran said. “It’s one of those races you watch as a kid growing up. It’s probably a race that I’ve wanted to win to be honest more than an Inter Dominion and races like that. It’s just been such a time-honoured event. “You see some great horses and great drivers win it over the years. It’s great just to know your name’s going to be up on the honour roll with some of the greats. It’s a big achievement.” Lochinvar Art led for the last two laps of the 2760-metre feature, flushed out early by the advancing Star Galleria. With a tick over a lap to go his lead rival King Of Swing advanced to sit on his outside, but Moran never allowed Luke McCarthy’s reigning champion a sniff, putting his foot to the floor a long way out and winning in a 1:54.8 mile rate, just 1.2 seconds outside the track record. “It looked like a good draw on paper but we had to get on our bike a bit earlier than we would have liked,” Moran said. “I was pretty confident. He just felt good in the run. He did it pretty easy, I know his first half wasn’t too bad, but he did it so easy, he was gliding across the ground.”   HRV - Michael Howard

The opening leg of the 2021 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit was dominated by Victorian pin-up pacer Lochinvar Art when he accounted for his rivals in the Gr.1 $500,000 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton tonight (Saturday). Boasting brilliant recent form with victories at his past five starts, the David Moran trained and driven entire was sent off at unbackable odds ($1.30) before scoring easily from the Belinda McCarthy trained duo of Alta Orlando ($36.80) and King Of Swing ($5.60). In many ways, the race was billed as a match race between the local ace Lochinvar Art and defending Hunter Cup champion King Of Swing with both facing second line draws but the expectations fell flat when Moran confidently guided his burgeoning star to the lead within the first lap of the 2760m mobile start feature. It was at that point; the race was effectively over. With the weight of an entire state on his back, Lochinvar Art was untroubled thereafter. The lead time was covered in a comfortable 83.7 seconds. Settling closer to last soon after the start, King Of Swing looped the field three-wide to sit parked outside his arch-rival as the field passed the mile marker. With the two favourites dictating the tempo, rivals were not prepared to make any moves. The first half of the final mile was covered in splits of 29.9 and 30.1 seconds. Entering the backstraight for the final time, Moran released the brakes on his gun five-year-old and quickly had his rivals off the bit with a brilliant 26.2 second third quarter split. Lochinvar Art started to move clear as Alta Orlando briefly loomed as a threat while King Of Swing battled hard to stay in touch. In the straight, Lochinvar Art raced clear with Moran barely moving aside from giving the big crowd a big whip flourish as they combined for the seventh Gr.1 victory. The final section was timed in a swift 27 seconds. Lochinvar Art scored by 6.4 metres from Alta Orlando with King Of Swing a further 3m away in third. Watch the race replay click here! The overall time was 3:16.9 with the winning mile rate posted at 1:54.8 – well outside of the track and race record held by Tiger Tara at 1:53.2 when successful in this race two years earlier. Lochinvar Art is raced by Kevin Gordon who described the winning moment as a “Dream come true”. The Modern Art – Ponder In Paris entire takes his record to 28 victories from 50 starts while his earnings are well past $1 million. Lochinvar Art joins the likes of Koala King, Popular Alm, Preux Chevalier, Blacks A Fake, Mr Feelgood, Bling It On, Lazarus and Tiger Tara as winners of both Victoria open class features, the Hunter and Victoria Cups. The next major target for Lochinvar Art will be the next leg of the APG Grand Circuit, the $1 million Ainsworth Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle on March 6   Harness Racing Australia.

The King of the Cup says tonight’s $500,000 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup isn’t the race it used to be. And seven-time winner Anthony Butt says that is actually a compliment. Butt’s remarkable dominance of the Hunter Cup started with a Blossom Lady double back in 1993 and ‘94, the second time off 30 metres in an era of pacing titans. Back then the Hunter Cup was a 3280m standing start, but eventually as the breed improved and times went ballistic, the Hunter Cup’s handicap nature meant some champions skipped the race. “It has always been a great race but over the years, as the game changed, either the standing start, the distance or the handicaps didn’t suit the occasional top horse,” Butt said. “But that suited us.” He speaks of he and brother Tim, who trained five of his Cup-winning drives. “The race used to be perfect for us New Zealanders because we had horses who had come through a hard summer of standing start staying races. “Now with the move to it being a mobile 2760m there is no reason for the absolute best horses to ever dodge it any more and that makes it harder to win. “You see that this week with Lochinvar Art and King Of Swing, the two best horses racing are in there off level marks with horses like Wolf Stride (trained by Butt), and that makes it a lot harder for us.” Yet Butt isn’t totally buying into the theory that Lochinvar Art punches through from the back row to eventually lead, which has fuelled his shortening into $1.30. “These types of races are rarely that easy, especially from the second line, but I do love the horse. He (Lochinvar Art) reminds me quite a bit of Blacks A Fake in that he has all the weapons.” Butt hopes some early pressure will bring his hope, Wolf Stride, into the race, but admits after a stellar rise his next campaign will be when he is at his best. Still, Butt and partner Sonya Smith are to be feared in any race at the moment, with 13 winners in 24 starts so far this year. “We are loving training in Victoria, we have so many options and I think it suits our style more,” he said. “And I think we have a really good chance in the (4YO) Bonanza (tonight) with Perfect Stride, so even if I don’t get another Cup tonight we can get a Group 1.”   by Michael Guerin

Victoria’s Premier Grand Circuit Showcase event – the $500,000 (Group 1) A.G. Hunter Cup will be held at Tabcorp Park, Melton this Saturday February 6 and what a race it will be featuring a wonderful array of the best horses in the country headed by Victoria’s Lochinvar Art and NSW hope King Of Swing. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 conditions, the usual New Zealand contingent’s travel plans have been thrown into disarray with a number of stable’s electing to stay at home.   Named to honor the Trotting Control Board’s first chairman Alex Hunter who was inducted into the Victorian Harness Racing Hall Of Fame in 2011, the race was first held for a stake of two thousand pounds ($4000) in 1949 with a champion of the era Silver Peak successful for Frank Culvert, returning a mile rate of 2-11 for the 12 ½ furlong journey. A list of who’s who in harness racing circles have won the race over time including Amorous (Albert (Darky) Gath, 1950 from a 24 yard handicap), Ribands (P.J. Percy Hall 1954 - 48 yards), Sheffield Globe twice for South Australia’s Bill Shinn (1961 & 1962 - 12 yards), Waitaki Hanover (Doody Townley 1967 - 24 yards), Monara (Don Dove 1973 & 1974) and Pure Steel (three times 1977, 1978 & 1980 with Jack Ratzlaff and Ted Demmler (twice) in the sulky. Champions Koala King (Brian Gath 1981), Gammalite  (Bruce Clarke 1982), Popular Alm (Vin Knight 1983), Preux Chevalier (Barry Perkins 1985) and Village Kid (Chris Lewis 1986) all etched their names into the record books at a time when harness racing was big and crowds flocked to the track. Paleface Adios, the legendary people’s horse that travelled from his base at Temora all over Australia to places such as Perth and even Cairns contested the race on multiple occasions but couldn’t break through for a victory. 1976 was the last time the race was held at the Melbourne Showgrounds, with Graeme Morgan’s Truant Armagh victorious with Brian Gath aboard, returning a kilometre rate of 1-21. A new era commenced when harness racing shifted to Moonee Valley in 1977 with the race changing to a mobile start. Transferring back to a stand in 1993, Kiwi Master Musician (Robert Dunn) came from a 40 metre backmark to score in a mile rate of 2-02.8 for the 2840 metre journey, with fellow countrymen Derek Jones and grandson Anthony Butt taking the race in successive years of 1994 & 1995 with outstanding mare Blossom Lady who came off 20 and 30 metre handicaps. There was conjecture through the years 1987 to 1993 when the race still called the A.G. Hunter Cup dropped dramatically in stakes and was held as middle rage event. It reverted back to its former glory in 1994 (Blossom Lady) and has been held in the highest esteem ever since. The race became a mobile once again in 2017 with Bling It On the victor for John & Luke McCarthy in a rate of 1-55.1. There have been many memorable performances in winning  such as Yulestar (2000 for Lorraine Nolan & Tony Shaw), Safe And Sound (2002 John & Lance Justice), Mont Denver Gold (2003 Barry & Chris Alford), Elsu (2005 Geoff Small & David Butcher), Sting Lika Bee (2007 Brian Tuddenham & Chris Alford),  Blacks A Fake (2008 Natalie Rasmussen) and Mr Feelgood (2009 Tim & Anthony Butt). The curtain came down on Moonee Valley in 2010 when Christchurch duo Catherine and David Butt scored with Bondy. The following year, David’s cousins Tim and Anthony Butt prevailed with Stunin Cullen as Tabcorp Park Melton staged the season’s feature for the first time. The Butt’s have made the race their own as Mister DG (2004) Mr Feelgood (2009), Stunin Cullen (2011), Choise Achiever (2012) and Mar Sish (2013) were all victorious. Outstanding conditioner Mark Purdon has recorded two victories (Smolda 2016 and Lazarus 2018) as has brother Barry with Vics Vance (1996) and plunge horse Surprise Package in 1997. Other notable multiple winners have been Eric Hurley and Minuteman (1964 & 1966), Bob and Vin Knight (Popular Alm 1983, Armchair Ride 1987, Sir Reilly 1988, while Stephen Dove partnered Odds Torado for the stable in 1991). Reinswomen have been successful on four occasions - Tracey O’Sullivan (Our Brenray 1990), Kate Gath (About To Rock 2006), Natalie Rasmussen (Blacks A Fake 2008) and Kerryn Manning (Arden Rooney 2015). The race is one of the great Grand Circuit events on the Australian calendar and another name will be recorded with dignity on February 6.   Len Baker

It’s a new look Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season. And the 2021 season starts this weekend. The seven-leg series takes in open class racing from across the three east coast states of Australia plus both islands of New Zealand, the Hunter Cup starts the season while the Auckland Cup closes the year being staged on New Year’s Eve. The Gr.1 $500,000 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup will take place this Saturday night at TABCORP Park, Melton and naturally, it’s drawn together an excellent field headed by star performers and reigning Grand Circuit champion King Of Swing and local ace Lochinvar Art. King Of Swing, trained in Sydney by Belinda and Luke McCarthy, is the defending Hunter Cup Champion after scoring last year when handled by Gary Hall Jnr but enters this year’s edition in brilliant form after winning his past five starts. The Rocknroll Hanover entire scored last weekend at his home track of Menangle while he was the recent winner of the Grand Circuit feature in Queensland, the Blacks A Fake on December 12 at Albion Park. In 2020, King Of Swing won the Hunter Cup, Miracle Mile and Blacks A Fake while amassing more than $1 million in stakes for the term. Lochinvar Art, trained and driven by David Moran, is a winner of both the Shepparton and Ballarat Cups at his past two starts is looking to add the Hunter Cup trophy to his collection after claiming the Victoria Cup back in October. On that occasion, Lochinvar Art beat King Of Swing. In the head-to-head battle, King Of Swing holds a 2-1 advantage over his younger rival but in their most recent clash, the Victoria Cup, Lochinvar Art claimed an emphatic victory. But both pacers will need to overcome second line draws if they are to claim the 2760m mobile start feature. King Of Swing will start from gate 12 (five off the second-line) while Lochinvar Art will run from gate 9 (two off the second-line). Luke McCarthy won the 2017 Hunter Cup aboard Bling It On while Moran is only having his second drive in the feature staying event following his unplaced effort last year with Lochinvar Art behind King Of Swing. The McCarthy stable is also represented by former New Zealand pacers Alta Orlando (gate 2) and Star Galleria (gate 10), both boast solid recent form and will be given hope of upstaging the headline act. Leading trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin will have three runners represent their stable including Fourbigmen (gate 4), Somewhere Secret (gate 7) and Out To Play (gate 8 – inside of second-line). The trio boast excellent credentials with Fourbigmen being a recent winner of the Hamilton Cup. The dominant training duo are yet to get their hands on a Hunter Cup trophy. Bathurst pacer Our Uncle Sam is hoping its case of third time lucky when he lines up this weekend, the Chris Frisby trained star has been a runner-up in past two editions after chasing home King Of Swing last year and Tiger Tara in 2019. The Sportswriter gelding will start from gate 6. Hunter Cup legend Anthony Butt is chasing his eighth victory in the Garden State feature and prepares in partnership with Sonya Smith the richly talented Wolf Stride (gate 11). The emerging star produced an unbelievable effort last start when third behind Lochinvar Art and Out To Play in the Ballarat Cup two weeks ago. New Zealand pacer Triple Eight returns to Australia and will again attempt to win the feature after finishing unplaced last year behind King Of Swing, this time he has landed the coveted inside draw (gate 1). The American Ideal gelding has only started twice on Australian soil and was unplaced in both efforts – fourth in the Casey Classic before finishing 9th in the Hunter Cup the following week. Triple Eight is in the care of Steve and Amanda Telfer with Greg Sugars to drive. Last week’s Casey Classic winner Bettor Be The Bomb takes his place for trainer Basil Dooley and driver Jack Laugher, the in-form gelding will start from gate 5 while the horse who was runner-up to him last week, Malcolms Rhythm must overcome gate 13 (the outside of the second-line). Prepared by David Aiken, Malcoms Rhythm is only having his fourth run back from an injury enforced layoff. Sirletic (gate 3) has unluckily been named the emergency for the race. With maximum points up for grabs, connections will be keen to consolidate their position on the leaderboard quickly. Points are awarded during the Circuit, 100 points for a win, 60 points for second, 40 points for third, and so on, to last placing. The A.G Hunter Cup is race 7 on the program and listed to start at 9.15pm local time.   Chris Barsby

Luke McCarthy looms as the key driver on Hunter Cup night. McCarthy and his wife Belinda will take five of their stable stars down from NSW for Victoria’s biggest meeting. Along with Hunter Cup runners King Of Swing, Alta Orlando and Star Galleria, McCarthy confirmed Australia’s best mare, Bettor Enforce, and Chariots Of Fire favourite Expensive Ego will tackle Group 1 races. King Of Swing capped his Cup preparation with a 2300m Menangle free-for-all win on Saturday night, but didn’t look quite as sharp as he can and only beat Burnham Boy by 1.9m, albeit in a slick 1min53.5sec mile rate. Bettor Enforce, who won easily in a 1min51.4sec mile at Menangle on Saturday night, has the $100,000 Group 1 Ladyship Cup, while Expensive Ego will chase a ticket into the Chariots by winning the $100,000 Group 1 4YO Bonanza. Expensive Ego showed he was primed with a blistering 1min53.1sec mile rate and 13.4m win at Menangle last night. He went 0.4sec faster than King Of Swing and the time smashed the record by a 4YO at Menangle for 2300m. Interestingly, the 4YO Bonanza has become the defining Chariots Of Fire lead-up race and form pointer in recent years. The past four Bonanza winners have gone on to win the Chariots: Lazarus (2017), Jilliby Kung Fun (2018), Poster Boy (2019) and Lochinvar Art (last year). All the Cobbity Equine horses have been are now officially trained by Belinda McCarthy with Craig Cross sidelined following recent surgery on a leg. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Stunning four-year-old Magnificent Storm stole the show again at Gloucester Park Friday night, but three-year-old filly Black Jack Baby also turned plenty of heads. The way she unleashed from back in the field to roar past the favourite and leader Royal Essence was breathtaking. Throw in the fact she was timed to run her last half in 55.1sec and it’s no wonder she’s near the top of betting for the WA Oaks in April. There’s a Kiwi connection with Black Jack Baby being by the All Stars’ former gun juvenile Follow The Stars. Trained by Shane Quadrio and driven by Chris Voak, she has raced just 14 times for nine wins and two seconds. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ The countdown to the NSW Derby is in full swing. A couple of feature 3YO races at Melton and Menangle on Saturday night will have a influence. At Menangle, Chris Frisby’s raw but exciting gelding He Aint Fakin blasted home to win the Group 2 Simpson Memorial in a 1min53.1sec mile. Frisby’s always had a big opinion of the Art Major gelding and it was an exciting return. But the run of the race came from last season’s star juvenile Tasty Delight, who did a power of work first-up and fought so bravely into second spot in the slick time. At Melton, David Moran’s buzz 3YO Patsbeachstorm was surprisingly beaten but far from disgraced when second in the $100,000 Group 1 VHRC Caduceus 3YO Classic. Just second-up from almost a year out, Patsbeachstorm led and was rundown late by the raw and gifted Bondi Lockdown in a 1min53.8sec mile rate for 1720m and 26.4sec last quarter. Trainer-driver David Moran made no secret of the fact Patsbeachstorm had “loads of improvement” to come. “He was so, so underdone first-up at Shepparton when he won and will still get plenty out of tonight’s run,” he said. Bondi Lockdown won’t be NSW-bound with trainer-driver Aaron Dunn looking longer term. “He’s out for a break. I just kept him going for this race. The Australian Gold is his target,” he said. “He’s got so much talent this guy, but he’ll be best served with us taking our time with him.” It was a magical moment for Dunn, snaring just his second Group 1 win – 19 years after his first. “I won the Vicbred (2YO) final on Dees Dees Dream in 2002 and I remember when we broke this horse in I told people he was the best we’ve had since Dees Dees Dream,” he said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ The history of racing is built on fairytale stories. We all love it when a battler gets his horse into a Melbourne Cup and we’ve got the equivalent with Basil Dooley and Victoria’s most-improved pacer Bettor Be The Bomb in the Hunter Cup. The hobby trainer was lost for words when the rejuvenated Bettor Be The Bomb stormed home to win a very hostly-contested Group 2 Casey Classic at Melton on Saturday night and booked a spot in the Hunter Cup. “I don’t quite now what to say. It was such a thrill having a runner in this race, let alone winning it. It’s by far my biggest moment in the game and now I’ve got a Hunter Cup runner,” Dooley said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Next stop Sydney for former top young Kiwi pacer One Change. It’s been an inspired move to send One Change across to Queensland where, in the care of Vicki Rasmussen and Shane Graham, he’s raced 12 times for eight wins, two seconds and a third. His only unplaced run was a sound fifth at Grand Circuit level behind King Of Swing in the Blacks A Fake at Albion Park back in December. One Change did all the work and won narrowly but impressively in a slick 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1660m at Albion Park on Saturday night. Now he heads to Menangle to try and qualify for a Chariots Of Fire birth. He’ll be accompanied south by stablemate and another former Kiwi star, Turn It Up, who is chasing a Miracle Mile berth. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Team Aiken is likely to take a conservative short-term approach with comeback star Max Delight. The NSW Derby winner and Chariots Of Fire placegetter returned from 11 months with injury to easily win at Melton on Saturday night. “There’s another race on the support card for him Hunter Cup night then there is the option of going to Sydney, but at this stage we’ll probably keep him here for some of the country cups,” driver Josh Aiken said. “It’s great to have him back. He’s had a long, slow build-up and he’ll get a lot of benefit out of tonight.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ There is no temptation to throw exciting former Kiwi trotter Havehorsewilltravel into the deep end with a Great Southern Star start. Driver Kate Gath is excited about the future with McLovin’s baby half-brother, who made it five wins from as many starts in Andy Gath’s care when he cruised home at Melton on Saturday night. “He’s doing everything right and winning easily, but it’s a big step-up to a Great Southern Star and there are other good races for him at this stage,” Kate said.   by Adam Hamilton 

New South Wales harness racing trainer Belinda McCarthy has three runners in this year's $500,000 Hunter Cup field, with Blacks A Fake, Miracle Mile and reigning Hunter Cup champion King Of Swing her stable's headline act. $500,000 2021 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup Final Field 1) Triple Eight (1:55.4) by American Ideal - 54 starts, 12 wins, 8 seconds, 14 thirds for $291,388 in earnings. 2) Alta Orlando (1:49.8) by Courage Under Fire - 85 starts, 18 wins, 17 seconds, 14 thirds for $669,927 in earnings. 3) Sirletic 1st EM (1:53.7) by Rocknroll Hanover - 32 starts, 13 wins, 9 seconds, 4 thirds for  $160,533 in earnings. 4) Fourbigmen (1:52.6) by Mach Three - 49 starts, 15 wins, 4 seconds, 12 thirds for $233,750 in earnings. 5) Bettor Be The Bomb (1:54.2) by Bettor's Delight - 93 starts, 15 wins, 14 seconds, 12 thirds for $165,910 in earnings 6) Our Uncle Sam (1:52.3) by Sportswriter - 97 starts, 22 wins, 16 seconds, 7 thirds for $653,676in earnings. 7) Somewhere Secret (1:53.8) by Somebeachsomewhere - 36 starts, 14 wins, 1 second, 6 thirds for $133,047 in earnings. 8) Out To Play (1:53.3) by Art Major - 28 starts, 12 wins, 6 seconds, 4 thirds for  $253,427 in earnings. 9) Lochinvar Art (1:48.6) by Modern Art - 49 starts, 27 wins, 14 seconds, 5 thirds for $1,083,456 in earnings. 10) Star Galleria (1:52.9) by Art Major - 56 starts, 15 wins, 10 seconds, 5 thirds for $416,407 in earnings. 11) Wolf Stride (1:51.3) by Rock N Roll Heaven - 25 starts, 12 wins, 2 seconds, 7 thirds for $212,820 in earnings. 12) King Of Swing (1:48) by Rocknroll Hanover - 63 starts, 31 wins, 10 seconds, 4 thirds for $1,631,336 in earnings. 13) Malcolms Rhythm (1:52.9) by Art Major - 37 starts, 9 wins, 10 seconds, 6 thirds for $188,520 in earnings. King Of Swing was the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion following his brilliant display in the final leg of the season, the Gr.1 $175,660 TAB Blacks A Fake at Albion Park in early December Following victories in the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile earlier last year, the star pacer held an insurmountable lead going into the Queensland feature, but connections were keen to put an exclamation mark against his name. And that they did. Starting as a dominant favourite, King Of Swing ($1.50) completely dominated his rivals when racing clear of Colt Thirty One and Turn It Up in the 2680m feature under a rain-soaked skyline. To watch this race click on this link “It’s a great way to be crowned Grand Circuit champion, he’s been awesome all year and winning this title as a stallion is a big thing for connections,” McCarthy said. “He’s such a smart horse, he’s part human and has a great demeanor. He handled the trip up really well and took in the new surroundings like he’d been here before, it’s a real thrill to be part of his team.” King Of Swing has had two starts back in January for two wins and is on target for this weeks clash with Lochinvar Art in the $500,000 Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton this weekend. At the New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sale on the 14th February at Karaka, Breckon Farms are presenting three colts and two fillies all closely related to King Of Swing. In fact Lot 39 Twist Like This is a half brother to King Of Swing by A Rocknroll Dance. LOT 39 - TWIST LIKE THIS (Photo taken early December) Lot 39 Twist Like This is a brown colt by A Rocknroll Dance, the sire of Australia’s fastest ever two-year-old Bar Room Banta and the classic winners No Win No Feed, Its Rock N Roll and Keayang Jackie. He’s a half-brother to the great Australian pacer King Of Swing, the winner of the Miracle Mile, A. G. Hunter Cup and Breeders Crown and $1.6 million, and the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship winner Bettor Twist. Their dam is the outstanding racemare, Twist And Twirl, the Sires’ Stakes 3YO champion and Northern Oaks winner whose a sister to the Newcastle Cup and Shirley Turnbull Memorial winner Feels Like Magic and a half-sister to the dam of the NSW Sapling and SA Derby winner Mach Dan. LOT 7 - BETTOR HEIST Lot 7 - Bettor Heist's dam is a half-sister to mother of top Australian Grand Circuit pacer King Of Swing. A colt by the incomparable Bettor’s Delight out of the Art Major mare Reachforthetill, an unraced half-sister to the NZ Sires’ Stakes 3YO champion and Great Northern Oaks winner Twist And Twirl, the dam of the Miracle Mile and A. G. Hunter Cup winner King Of Swing and the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Final winner Bettor Twist. His dam is also a half-sister to the multiple NSW Group winner Feels Like Magic and to the $130,000 winning mare Bettor Give It, whose the dam of the NSW Sapling Stakes and SA Derby winner Mach Dan. LOT 28 - HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS (Photo taken early December) Lot 28 - Hollywoods Nights is from winning half-sister to Sires Stakes champion Twist And Twirl. She is a bay filly from the second crop of the world’s ever fastest pacer and the leading first crop two-year-old sire in 2020 in Always B Miki. Her dam Spandau Ballet is a 1:58 winning half-sister to five winners including the Sires’ Stakes 3YO champion and Northern Oaks winner Twist And Twirl, she the dam of the Miracle Mile, A. G. Hunter Cup and Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing and the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship winner Bettor Twist. Spandau Ballet is also a half-sister to the Newcastle Cup and Shirley Turnbull Memorial winner Feels Like Magic and to the $130,000 winning Victorian mare Bettor Give It, the dam of the NSW Sapling and SA Derby winner Mach Dan. LOT 32 - STUMBLIN IN (Photo taken early December) Dam a half-sister to Twist And Twirl, dam of the great King Of Swing. Lot 32 Stumblin In is a Art Major filly who is the third foal of the Mach Three mare Spin To Win, a 1:59.3 placegetter whose a half-sister to five winners including the Sires’ Stakes 3YO champion and Northern Oaks winner Twist And Twirl, she the dam of the Miracle Mile, A. G. Hunter Cup and Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing and the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship winner Bettor Twist. Spin To Win is also a half-sister to the Newcastle Cup and Shirley Turnbull Memorial winner Feels Like Magic and to the $130,000 Victorian mare Bettor Give It, the dam of the NSW Sapling and SA Derby winner Mach Dan. LOT 83-  DOUBLE TIME (Photo taken early December) A colt very closely related to the top Australian pacer King Of Swing. Lot 83 - Double Time is a colt with a 4x4 cross to Albatross, he’s by A Rocknroll Dance, the sire of Australia’s fastest ever juvenile Bar Room Banta and the classic winners No Win No Feed, Its Rock And Roll and Miss Streisand. He’s the first foal of the Artsplace filly Double Twist, a sister to the Sires’ Stakes 3YO champion and Northern Oaks winner Twist And Twirl, she the dam of the Miracle Mile, A. G. Hunter Cup and Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing and the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship winner Bettor Twist, and to the Newcastle Cup and Shirley Turnbull Memorial winner Feels Like Magic. Double Twist is a half-sister to the dual Listed winner Bettor Give It, winner of $130,000 and now the dam of the NSW Sapling and SA Derby winner Mach Dan. Harnesslink Media

Longford harness racing trainer Todd Rattray is sweating on a run for star Tasmanian pacer Ignatius in the $500,000 A G Hunter Cup at Melton on Saturday week. Rattray said he had been given no indication on whether Ignatius would get a start so he had a couple of back-up plans in mind. "There's another race on the same program that he could run in but if he misses out on the Hunter Cup he may go straight to Sydney," the trainer said. He's shown at his past two starts that he's nearly back to his best. Trainer Todd Rattray on Ignatius There are 21 entries for the Hunter Cup, which is restricted to 12 runners, and the final field will be selected on Sunday just before the barrier draw. If tab.com.au price assessors are on the ball, Ignatius should sneak in. He is equal ninth in the order of betting at $34. Lochinvar Art ($1.70) and King Of Swing ($3) dominate the market. "It might be against him that he's been racing in Tasmania but he's shown at his past two starts that he's nearly back to his best," Rattray said. "I think he can improve a bit more but he'll need to because it (Hunter Cup) will be a hot field - if he gets in, I just hope he can keep up." Ignatius came down with a cold after finishing fourth in the Golden Apple at Mowbray in mid-December and had a week off. He returned to score a dominant win over Ryley Major in the Toreace Mile in Hobart on Monday night going 1:54.7. "That was a good win - he felt really good and I never had to pull the plugs or blinds," Rattray said. KADAR 'IMPROVED' FOR HOLGATE FINAL Todd Rattray will have only two runners this weekend but one of them could win the $12,000 Harry Holgate Memorial at Mowbray on Friday night. Kadar was narrowly beaten by outsider Postal Run in his heat at his first run for a month. "I didn't think he was quite right the other night," Rattray said. "He had missed a couple of runs leading up to the race but he should be right now hopefully." Kadar drew outside the front row last Sunday night and Rattray went back at the start to settle last. He circled the field to hit the front at the 150m but Postal Run, who had tracked him into the race, grabbed him in the last few strides. The final looks a very competitive race so he will need a little luck from the second row but he should go close if he gets it. Rockandahardplace and Kivik are likely to battle him for favouritism while Roosevelt, El Jays Blu, Rock The Casbolt and Machbev look each-way chances. NEW DRIVER FOR BURNIE CUP HOPE Trainer Mark Yole has been forced to find a new driver for the in-form Tisu Spirit in Sunday's $12,000 Burnie Cup. Yole was suspended for six meetings at Mowbray last Sunday night for causing interference that led to a two-horse fall. He has booked Natalee Emery to drive Tisu Spirit who is coming off a win in the North Eastern Pacing Cup at Carrick and a game third to Ryley Major and Lip Reader in the Devonport Cup. The gelding has drawn inside the 10m line but is a quick beginner and, if the gaps open, may be able to take up a forward position. Mister Gently and Bettabrown Tiger hold the key to the race. Both boast 50 per cent winning strike-rates but are returning from spells. Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Examiner

Saturday night should be another walk in the park for Lochinvar Art. Australia’s best pacer already looked a class above his Group 2 Shepparton Gold Cup rivals, but drawing the pole cemented it. He’s $1.10 with the Aussie TAB in a seven-horse race where former Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup runner-up Our Uncle Sam (gate five) and talented comeback pacer Malcolms Rhythm (three) look next best. Trainer-driver David Moran said Lochinvar Art was “pretty close to his top” for his first race of 2021. His last run was that stunning 30.5m Group 1 Vicbred final win on New Year’s Eve. “He had a few days off after that last win and I said I’d play it by earn whether he ran this week or waited to Ballarat, but he’s ready to go,” he said. “This will sharpen him up a bit and then he’s got Ballarat next week to top him off for the Hunter Cup (February 6). “He’s had his share of bad draws in big races, so it’s great to have a couple of draws at his past two. Hopefully he keeps getting the good draws, especially come Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile time.” ______________________________________________________________________________________ Rejuvenated trotting star McLovin headlines the feature trot at Shepparton when he backs-up from gate seven in the Group 3 George Gath. He’s one of three Andy and Kate Gath runners, Monaro Maro (three) and Majestic Courtney (five). McLovin is going for four wins on end after his mighty Group 1 Maori Mile victory at Bendigo last Saturday night. His baby half-brother, Havehorsewilltravel, is going for four wins from as many starts for Team Gath in the third race at Shepparton. The Angus Hall gelding found the front and won well in the Cobram Trotters’ Cup last Sunday. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Former classy Kiwi pacer Star Galleria continues his Hunter Cup preparation in the free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night. Driver Luke McCarthy was delighted with the gelding’s first run for trainer Craig Cross when he won easily, albeit in moderate time, at Menangle two weeks back. Star Galleria will start from the outside gate, but should be further improved and looks a classy above his rivals with Cross’ other big guns not in the race. On the same card, prepost Ladyship Mile favourite Bettor Enforce should be too classy from gate in a small but select Group 3 Ladyship Pace. Classy Queenslander Pelosi is down to start her quest towards the Ladyship Mile and looks the main threat from gate five, while former WA mare Dracarys (two) and the talented Nostra Villa (four) add some class. There will be plenty of interest in the opening race when last-start Breeders Crown 3YO winner Zeuss Bromac returns from a break to build towards the Chariots Of Fire.   by Adam Hamilton

The Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup can’t come quickly enough. February 6 at Tabcorp Park Melton is when we’ll get to the see the return bout between King Of Swing and Lochinvar Art. There’s a big chance you can throw in the likes of NZ Cup winner Self Assured, WA hero Chicago Bull and the emerging Hurricane Harley as well. But it’s the tussle for supremacy, the fight for Australia’s pacing top seeding, between King Of Swing and Lochinvar Art which most excites. King Of Swing iced a mighty season with an arrogant win in the $175,000 Group 1 TAB Blacks A Fake at Albion Park on Saturday night. He looked a class above them and won accordingly. It capped a season where he raced 12 times for nine wins, three seconds and secured both the Grand Circuit champion and Australian Horse of the Year crowns. Lochinvar Art’s emphatic win over King Of Swing in October’s Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup convinced many he was the best pacer in Australia. He atoned for a fighting and mighty second to King Of Swing in the Miracle Mile earlier in the year. Lochinvar Art has the Alabar Vicbred Super Series final on New Year’s Eve then goes through the Shepparton (January 16) and Ballarat (January 23) Cups on his way to meeting King Of Swing again in the $500,000 A. G. Hunter Cup on February 6. King Of Swing will stay home and prepare through a couple of Menangle runs before a hit-and-run A. G. Hunter Cup raid. Luke McCarthy can’t wait for another crack at Lochinvar Art with King Of Swing. “They’re both great horses. It’s terrific for the sport to have them both and Lochinvar Art beating us last time makes you want to have another crack at him,” he said.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

By Michael Guerin  In Melbourne.— Even basking in the glow of group one glory Barry Purdon couldn’t help thinking of the one that got away. Which is understandable when the one that got away is the A$500,000 Hunter Cup. Purdon provided the star Kiwi turn on a drizzly night at Melton on Saturday when Belle Of Montana led throughout to win the $100,000 Ladyship Cup, clinging on after having to work hard to hold the lead. The win continued her quite remarkable group one record since she burst into the scene as an unknown maiden 18 months ago, having now won six times at the highest level in just 18 starts. Her victory also qualifies her for her next group one assignment the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle in March, where she could clash with arch rival Princess Tiffany. “She will come home now. Because she is qualified she doesn’t have to go to Sydney to get into the Ladyship Mile and that means we can prepare her at home,” said Purdon. But as much pleasure as Purdon took from the perfectly-executed plan, he left Melton knowing the night could have been far more special. He had to scratch Mach Shard from the Hunter Cup just three hours before the race after he showed signs of bruising in a hoof on race afternoon. “It wasn’t a major problem and we got an expert farrier to come re-shoe him to see if it helped but I could feel he wasn’t right,” said Purdon. “It is such a small thing and it could have easily come up a few days later. He is a real shame.” Scratching any horse, particularly a favoured one, from a half million dollar race is a gut punch for a trainer but it was much harder to take because after a crazy set of circumstances, Mach Shard probably would have won the race. The weirdness started on race morning when San Carlo was ruled out by vets so King Of Swing, the former Kiwi pacer, snuck into the field at the last minute. At the time his driver Gary Hall was still in Perth and had to fly to Melbourne to take the reins. That had many experts thinking King Of Swing would lead from barrier three with stablemate Alta Orlando on his back but that theory didn’t even make it to racenight as Alta Orlando was scratched upon arriving on track. Why? Because a stablemate bit him on the neck in the float on the way to the races and Alta Orlando lunged forward and cut his head. Nothing serious but serious enough to miss the race. That meant Mach Shard moved into barrier one where he now looked certain to trail leader King Of Swing until his withdrawal. So what happened next? King Of Swing led, set a pedestrian pace and held on by a nose from trailer Our Uncle Sam, who looked to have him beaten at the 100m mark. Mach Shard, a better sit-sprinter than Our Uncle Sam and guaranteed the same run before his scratching, would have won this Hunter Cup. “I definitely looks that way, the way it all panned out,” said Purdon. Mach Shard will now head to Sydney for the Miracle Mile carnival where King Of Swing, who won the Breeders Crown as a two-year-old when trained by Ray Green, will also head. But several of the Kiwis who failed at Melton won’t be there, including Thefixer and Oscar Bonavena. Thefixer was beaten in a moderate free-for-all field and has trainer Mark Purdon scratching his head so he will go home and spell, his troublesome hooves keeping him from the winner’s circle all season. Oscar Bonavena was a solid but not spectacular fourth in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star won by Tornado Valley, who like almost every other major winner of the carnival led throughout. Oscar Bonavena surged up to sit parked at the bell but proved again he is still developing the toughness to compliment his blinding speed so he will come back to New Zealand and be set for the Rowe Cup carnival. Remarkably, his trainer Mark Purdon did not officially train a winner over the three nights of the carnival. He will now head to Sydney with Self Assured and Hunter Cup placegetter Chase Auckland.  

Leaders King Of Swing and Tornado Valley survived bold challenges from the horses on their backs to respectively win Victoria's richest pacing and trotting races in tonight's TAB Summer Of Glory finale. King Of Swing claimed an eventful Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, with the emergency only getting a start in the race this morning before leading all-the-way to win the Group 1 $500,000 feature. And Tornado Valley made amends for last year's scratching from the What The Hill Great Southern Star to win the $250,000 trotting feature, holding off a bold challenge from Red Hot Tooth. Scroll below to relive all the action through the Live Blog. HOW DID YOU GO IN WEEK 3 OF TROTSTARS? CHECK NOW King Of Swing wins the Hunter Cup A drama-filled lead-in to the A. G Hunter Cup filed into a thrilling two-horse battle to the line, which would see the title claimed by a horse from the west who resides up north. King Of Swing, having initially been an emergency before gaining a start this morning, led from start to finish to win the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, surviving a bold challenge from Our Uncle Sam to salute by a half-head. It was a result that brought delight to many, including previous trainer and part-owner Gary Hall Snr, present trainer Craig Cross and reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, who leapt from bed this morning when he received the sweetest call of all. "Pretty surreal feeling,” Hall Jnr said post-win. “I went to bed last night without a drive in the race basically, didn't look like he was going to get a run, to get the phone call 5.30 in the morning saying you better get here. It's a rush trip but I was really happy to get the call.” As the day wore on the situation only got better for King Of Swing and connections. First off San Carlo’s scratching gave him a place in the race, then both gate one (stablemate Alta Orlando) and then gate two (Mach Shard) horses scratched, handing the one-time emergency the pole draw. Amid continual rain and a pegline dominance throughout the night it was advantage King Of Swing, and he comfortably held the lead and controlled proceedings inside breeze horse Triple Eight, with an 84.5-second lead time proceeding first and second quarters just a tick under 30 seconds. King Of Swing produced a 27.7-second third quarter to hold challengers at bay, but the favourite Chase Auckland loomed very likely at the final turn after reinswoman Natalie Rasmussen’s patience paid off and a gap appeared. But the All Stars' entrant’s advance halted short of challenging the leader and instead it was Our Uncle Sam threatening from leader’s back amid a 26.9-second final quarter. King Of Swing looked troubled but lifted to record a thrilling win for his connections. "I must say half-way down the straight I thought we were going to run a nice second, but like Luke (McCarthy) said, they seem to be able to get to his girth but it's the next half a length that they have trouble with,” Hall Jnr said. To watch the race click here. "This horse, it's no secret he's always had great ability. To win the Breeders (Crown) here and now come back and win a Hunter Cup, I'm pretty proud of the horse because I always knew he had that ability. It can be frustrating when you can't get them to put their best foot forward, so for him to get this on his resume is very pleasing.” It was also a thrill for Gary Hall Snr, who was among an ownership group who paid plenty for the former Ray Green-trained pacer and toiled manfully without much success in Western Australia, prompting the recent stable change to the east coast. "It's a great result,” Gary Hall Snr said. “I have been trying to win this race for over a decade. I had to give one to Luke McCarthy and Craig Cross to win it. "I'm over the moon, I'm rapt for Gary (Jnr) too - he's a great driver, one of the best around. It's just been a great night, fantastic, even the rain can't spoil it." 9PM: Tornado Valley wins the Great Southern Star It's been a long road to wrapping their hands on Victoria's biggest trophy again, but Andy and Kate Gath claimed a second What The Hill Great Southern Star win courtesy of Tornado Valley. The brilliant front-runner produced an 18th victory from as many races in the lead to claim the $250,000 Group 1, the richest trotting race in Australia. The victory means all the more after Tornado Valley had to be scratched from the 2019 edition when a commanding favourite and then had a rocky road into the 2020 edition, having erred in the lead-up in his last start and been forced to trial twice to be back in the draw. "This horse has got a wonderful CV, he was probably going to win this race last year but we had to scratch him on the eve of the race, which was disappointing," Andy said. "To actually win it with this horse - he's achieved so much for us and we love him - it's a great thrill." Tornado Valley looked in complete control throughout, sliding to the front ahead of polemarker Red Hot Tooth and experiencing little pressure throughout. A modest lead time and first and second quarters played into the leader's hands, though a little pepper was put into the race as Oscar Bonavena lobbed into the breeze. Tornado Valley followed a 27.9 third quarter with a 28.8 last 400 metres, and while it was enough to see off Mark Purdon's highly-rated trotter Red Hot Tooth loomed to potentially spoil the party for trainer Kari Males and reinswoman Kerryn Manning. Red Hot Tooth battled to the final post, but fell a short half-head shy of claiming the crown. To watch this race click here "The job he's done, you can't believe it," Kate Gath said of Tornado Valley. "Once again he keeps his unbeaten record in front. "He didn't win by much, I actually thought on the line Kez might have got me. It was pretty close there, over the moon to win the race again." 9.15PM: Sicario wins The Pure Steel  Off a terrific Inter Dominion campaign, in which he outshone most expectations to run seventh in the final, Sicario snapped up his first victory back on Australian soil. Reinsman Chris Alford guided Sicario down the sprint lane in the $30,000 Group 1, mowing down front-runner, the well-backed Bright Energy, to win for trainer Brent Lilley. 8.10PM: Sammy Showdown cruises to Group 3 win The rise and rise of Sammy Showdown reached a new level, producing a sixth victory in a row via the Group 3 DNR Logistics Vulcan Trotters Free For All. Continuing a tremendous run for trainer-driver and part-owner Kylie Sugars, Sammy Showdown had complete control of the race, cruising through more than 30 seconds for the first three quarters before putting her well-rated rivals to bed in a 27.5-second final sprint. "He just keeps stepping up and up and he keeps getting better and better," Sugars said. "He had to step up tonight and he's done that." She said the result was made all the more special by wearing the Team Teal silks, a fundraiser for ANZGOG, which sees Harness Racing Victoria and the TAB donate $200 for every female win from tonight. "It's super exciting ... to do it on a big night like this is really special, and I'm rapt to throw $200 into the kitty for the Women's Cancer Foundation as well." 7.45PM: Belle Of Montana wins the Pridemore's Electric Ladyship Cup On a difficult night for the Barry Purdon-Zac Butcher team, whose entrant Mach Shard was scratched from the Hunter Cup, there was more than a little delight in the Group 1 $100,000 Ladyship Cup, with their brilliant mare Belle Of Montana leading and narrowly holding off Bettor Enforce to win. While Belle Of Montana appeared to have it sown up rounding the bend, it got a little tight late but Butcher was always confident he had enough in hand. "I felt halfway up (the straight) like I had it pretty comfortably, I had to ask her for a little bit more at the finish and she gave it to me," he said. "It may not have looked pretty but it always felt like I had them covered." The Kiwi reinsman said it was a pleasing result amid a difficult night. "(Mach Shard's scratching's) a little disappointing, obviously it would have been great to be in the Hunter Cup, but (Belle Of Montana's) been my favourite horse for a while now, she's been pretty special too, so it's still a good day." Barry Purdon said Mach Shard had developed a foot abscess and was scratched by the vets after an on-course examination, which he said was "probably fair enough too, he just wasn't quite right". 7PM: Drama in the lead-up to the Hunter Cup Both the gate one (Alta Orlando) and gate two (Mach Shard) horses were scratched in the hours leading up to the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, turning the race on its head. Sadly, stewards reported Alta Orlando sustained lacerations and abrasions to the head and neck and inflammation to the back area during travel to the course. A blow for reinsman Todd McCarthy, trainer Craig Cross and connections. Then in the following hour, scans of Mach Shard revealed the gelding to be lame and Barry Purdon's runner was also removed. Mark Purdon, trainer of favourite Chase Auckland who has shifted into Gate 2, told RSN Carnival "the scratchings changed the whole race completely". "Nat's got options (with Chase Auckland) from there," Purdon told Michael Guerin. "I don't think her intention will be to try and cross King Of Swing." HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

In Melbourne.—- If the Kiwi domination of the harness racing summer is going to continue on Saturday night they may have to buck the trend of the season. Because while we have a huge array of chances in both the A$500,000 Hunter Cup and A$250,000 Great Southern Star, they are likely to have to come from behind some very good Australian horses to beat them.  And that hasn’t been the story of the season so far. This Victorian carnival, starting at Ballarat and then Melton last Saturday, has been dominated by on-pace runners in the biggest races.  The Derby, Oaks and Ballarat Cup have all been won by leaders and while Temporale and Mach Shard managed to come from back in the field to win A$50,000 races last Saturday, they were minus some of the stars who hit the track tonight.  Go back a step further to the Auckland Cup, National Trot, Inter Dominion Pacing and Trotting Finals and all were won by horses on the speed with a lap to go. This has not been the summer of the swooper.  But it might have to be if the Kiwis want to take home some serious Aussie cash in the baking heat of Melton tonight.  That is not to say the likes of Mach Shard (2) and Chase Auckland (4) can’t lead the Hunter Cup, both are in strong form and with two of the best NZ-based drivers on Aussie tracks in Zachary Butcher and Natalie Rasmussen. But as fast as they are off the gate horses like Alta Orlando (1) and Cash N Flow (5) have been racing well at Menangle where gate speed is the weapon of choice for many.  Their drivers know if the Kiwis get the lead and can control the race they will probably be too good so expect fireworks early and with the economical marker pegs runs so crucial in major staying trips, winning the Hunter will be trickier than the market suggests. A new spanner could be thrown in the works this morning, with local iron horse San Carlo to undergo a veterinary examination on a troublesome hoof. If he is scratched emergency King Of Swing gets a start from a good draw and with intentions of leading.  That would rachet up the pressure a notch or two more.  The good news is that all four New Zealanders in the race have won races from behind off a solid speed.  Triple Eight, who is drawn wide, is at his best following a hot speed while A G’s White Socks may have led to win the Ballarat Cup last start but he was stunning coming from off the speed to win an Interdom heat in November. So you get the feeling a New Zealand-trained horse might still get over the top of the locals but that will become more difficult should King Of Swing get into the field.  The A$250,000 trot will be even harder for the visitors as not only will Oscar Bonavena, Massive Metro, Temporale and Majestic Man have to come from off the speed but the leader will almost certainly be Tornado Valley.   He won the Inter Dominion leading here 14 months ago and has been unbeatable in front since joining the Andy Gath stable as a mid-grade battler from New Zealand. Tornado Valley has been heavily backed from $3 to $2.30 and will take an enormous amount of running down, particularly if he gets a soft first lap so speed becomes the key to the race. Oscar Bonavena was expensive for punters when fading to eighth after working over the last lap last Saturday and while nobody doubts his ability the hype and his place in the market don’t match his group one performances yet. He has had four starts in group one races for one placing and while that includes two gallops, he is still getting used to the rough and tumble of racing at the highest level.  Trainer Mark Purdon blamed himself for having Oscar Bonavena too pretty last Saturday and has vowed he will have him at his peak tonight. Driven cold he may do something special but that hasn’t really been the way to win the richest harness racing races all season.  But with three very serious other New Zealand trotters in the race, tonight might buck the trend.  Earlier in the night Belle Of Montana should lead or trail and win the A$100,000 Ladyship Cup for Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher.   Michael Guerin

WILL the huge plunge runner of the Hunter Cup even get a start in the race? Enigmatic former NZ and WA pacer King Of Swing has been backed “off the map” from $21 into $5 with the Aussie TAB to win tomorrow night’s $500,000 Group 1 feature at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. But he’s not in the field. King Of Swing, now part of the powerhouse Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy barn, is first emergency. He needs a scratching by 8.30am tomorrow (Saturday) Melbourne time to gain a start. And that looks a genuine chance with a fitness cloud over ageing Victorian star San Carlo. HRV vets inspected San Carlo on Thursday morning and found him to be “mildly lame in the off foreleg.” They will return to check again and give their final verdict at 8am tomorrow (Saturday). San Carlo’s trainer, Steve O’Donoghue, said San Carlo was “tender, not lame” because of a cause of greasy heel, which is effectively tinea in humans. “He’s not lame, he’s not sore. He’s tender where the greasy heel is. I think he’s fine to run, I wouldn’t take any risk with him at all,” he said. “But I do understand the vets take no risks at all these days and I wouldn’t say I’m confident they’ll clear him, even though I’m sure he’s fine to run.” King Of Swing’s team have pushed ahead as though he’ll get a run. He was floated down to Victoria along with stablemates and fellow Hunter Cup runners Bling It On, Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow this morning (Friday). And champion WA driver Gary Hall Jr has booked a flight across from Perth to take the reins. “You don’t wish any bad luck on anyone else, but gee this horse (King Of Swing) will give the race a mighty shake if he gets a run. I think he’ll be the horse to beat from that draw,” McCarthy said. “Put it this way, the way the marbles have fallen, he’s the pick of our four. That said, they’re all flying at the right time, but King Of Swing and Alta Orlando have the draws and that’s a huge edge. “If King Of Swing doesn’t get in, then Alta Orlando would probably be our best hope because he’ll certainly hold the lead early and then Todd (McCarthy, driver) will have all the options.”   Adam Hamilton

Accomplished Sydney reinsman Luke McCarthy took little time to decide which horse he wanted to partner in one of harness racing's premier events, the $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup at Melton tomorrow night. McCarthy had a choice of three, without counting the race emergency, but his loyalty stayed with his acknowledged favorite in big-time performer Bling It On, nicknamed "Yank" around the stables. "Our trainer Craig Cross ended up with Alta Orlando (barrier one), King Of Swing (three, but emergency), Cash N Flow (five) and Bling It On (ten)," McCarthy said. "We've had 'Yank' since he was a two-year-old, so he's a bit of a special boy around here. He just wasn't himself during the NZ Inter series in December, but he's on top of his game now," he said. After the Inter, vets found the nine-year-old to have a low-grade virus and he was sent for a spell when he got home. On his return to the racetrack, a brilliant 1.50 trial sounded a clear message. "We took him to race at Goulburn about two weeks ago. He led and coasted home in 1.54 (55sec last half) and broke the track record held by one of our old racehorses in For A Reason-ironically the two of them have both been doing stud duties for us," McCarthy said. Prior to the NZ trip, Bling It On (American Ideal -Alldatglitterisgold (Caprock) had been given two starts back from his 2018 retirement. He recorded a Menangle win 15 months after his previous race appearance and (who could forget this one?), a track record victory in the $250,000 Victoria Cup at Melton in October. His record stands at 48 wins, 20 placings from 92 starts for $1.8M. "We always try to be regulars at the Hunter Cup-along with any of the other big feature meetings in Victoria. It's good to be part of them," McCarthy said. Apart from "Yank", McCarthy also heaped praise on the other Cross stable runners. "Alta Orlando is flying, and his past two wins were huge. Cash N Flow got held-up two starts back, but his recent form has been super." The stable's emergency runner King of Swing is also racing well, with a tough runner-up performance at Menangle in mid-January, before winning brilliantly in the Perc Hall G3 FFA in 1.48-7 last week. But the opposition is pretty smart with the Kiwi visitors Chase Auckland, Mach Shard and A G's White Socks and the other Aussies in Lochinvar Art, Code Bailey and Our Uncle Sam. "It'll be a great race that's for sure," McCarthy said. Cross, based at Cobbitty, also has Hows The Memory and Bettor Enforce in the $100,000 G1 Ladyship Cup, while Bright Energy will contest the $30,000 Pure Steel G3. The team will be floated today to Shepparton, a seven-hour trip, to maintain the stable's normal routine. Cross has 50 horses in work and is again enjoying a successful season with 86 wins and 56 placings for nearly $1.1M. Last season he landed 110 winners (30 metro) and 125 placings for $1.4M in stakes.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

As it stands for the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season, we have witnessed five different winners from as many legs to date. Entering the sixth leg of the APG Grand Circuit, the $500,000 Del-Re National Hunter Cup at TABCORP Park, Melton this Saturday night, millionaire pacer Bling It On has a chance of becoming a dual winner this current term. The Craig Cross trained entire scored in the opening leg of the season, the Victoria Cup at this track back on October 12 and shoots for further feature race glory this weekend. Bling It On, a winner of the Hunter Cup back in 2017 returned from an unsuccessful Inter Dominion campaign in Auckland in December with a brilliant victory at Goulburn two weeks ago. The American Ideal entire must overcome a second-line draw (gate 10) but has the services of champion reinsman Luke McCarthy. When looking for the last pacer to complete the Victoria/Hunter Cups double in the same season, you don’t need to look to far back through the pages of history. Star pacer Tiger Tara completed the double last season. Cross, based at Cobbitty in New South Wales, also prepares the ideally drawn Alta Orlando (gate 1) and Cash N Flow (gate 5) plus the emergency King Of Swing (gate 3). All three pacers boast outstanding recent form and have legitimate claims. Bathurst pacer Our Uncle Sam, a runner-up to Tiger Tara in the event last year, has drawn nicely and will start from the inside of the second-line (gate 8) and looms as a definite threat again. The Hunter Cup is a famed staying feature on the Australian calendar, rising to notoriety with the famous Kiwi raids during the late 1990’s and early 2000 years at Moonee Valley. Since moving to Melton in 2011, the Kiwi pacers have still held a dominant grip on the silverware winning six of the nine editions. In 2017, the Hunter Cup switched from the standing start procedure to a mobile start event and dropped in distance, now raced at the distance of 2760m. A quartet of New Zealand trained pacers will start this weekend headlined by the last start Ballarat Cup winner A G’s White Socks (gate 11), the All Stars prepared Chase Auckland (gate 4) plus the North Island prepared duo of Mach Shard (gate 2) and Triple Eight (gate 6). Interestingly, Barry Purdon (trainer of Mach Shard) scored in the 1996 Hunter Cup with Vics Vance before backing it up the following year with Surprise Package, David Butcher (driver of Triple Eight) tasted success with the incomparable Elsu in 2005 while the tally of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in this race currently sits at three (Blacks A Fake - 2008, Smolda - 2016 and Lazarus - 2018). Since the turn of the century, Victorian trained pacers have won their home state feature five times with Safe And Sound (2002), Mont Denver Gold (2003), About To Rock (2006), Sting Lika Bee (2007) and Arden Rooney (2015) proving triumphant. Representing the Big ‘V’ this year is boom four-year-old Lochinvar Art (gate 7), Code Bailey (gate 9), San Carlo (gate 12) and My Kiwi Mate (gate 13). History is against Lochinvar Art with no four-year-old winning the Hunter Cup since being staged at Melton but the David Moran prepared pacer looked scintillating last week when he scorched home in the Gr.1 4yo Bonanza in a track record time of 1:48.6 (1720m). In fact, no four-year-old has won the event since undergoing a massive transformation back in 1993. The Hunter Cup is scheduled as race 8 and listed to start at 9.30pm local time.   Chris Barsby

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