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Sidelined superstar pacer Ride High may have run his last race. That’s the opinion of his owner-breeder Peter Gleeson, who is already progressing plans for one of the most gifted pacer’s of the modern era to “serve a full book of mares” at stud later this year. “I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the worst,” he said. “He’s now had problems with both front tendons 18 months apart. I’ve been involved with horses for a long time, I’ve told my family and I’m bracing myself for the fact he won’t race again.” Ride High suffered just his second defeat in 18 starts when fifth at his most recent run in the Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint at Melton on October 3, last year. He was subsequently found to have injured a tendon. “I went out and saw him a week or so back and he’s big, really big. Clayton and Emma’s water-walker has been out of action for the past month or so and he hasn’t done much, so he’s put on plenty of weight. “I hope I’m wrong, but it’s a long way back from here. He’s months away from racing even if everything went right from here. “It’s that last month or so, when they really have to put the pressure on him which worries me the most. “He’s a big, heavy horse and 65 per cent of their weight goes through their front legs.” Gleeson did a deal with Alan Galloway and Alabar Stud to buy half the horse for stud duties before his latest injury and all concerned are mindful of the looming breeding season. “I’ve spoken to Alan who says we can juggle stud with still trying to get back to the races. I ran that by Clayton (Tonkin) a week or so back and he’s onboard. We all agree we can’t risk missing another breeding season with him,” Gleeson said. Galloway, a giant of the international breeding industry, said Ride High is one of fastest and most talented pacers he’s seen in the world. “I simply had to buy into him. Let’s hope he gets back to the races to show just how good he is, but, either way, he’s going to be in huge demand as a stallion – here, in NZ and in the US,” he said. By Adam Hamilton for racenet.com.au

The old marvel is back at it again. The one-time “King” of Menangle, Cash N Flow, returned from a break to post his 22nd win at Sydney’s home of harness. That’s from just 39 starts. The eight-year-old’s Group 1 days may be behind him, but Cash N Flow’s gate speed and love of Menangle still makes him a fantastic money-spinner for connections, including HRNZ CEO Gary Woodham. Cash N Flow’s now banked $574,201 from 72 starts with 34 wins and 13 placings. Luke McCarthy balanced him up early before surging around to take the lead from Thunder Dance, dictating terms through the middle and dashing home in 26.5sec for a 1min51.3sec mile. Watch the race replay click here! ____________________________________________________________________________________ Cash N Flow's was the middle pin of a thumping five wins for Luke McCarthy at Menangle. The biggest of them came when he teamed with former Kiwi and now Victorian-based trainer Brent Lilley to win the Group 2 NSW Trotters’ Derby with the Breckon Farms-bred Kyvalley Hotspur. The colt worked his way to the front and absolutely bolted in by 14m over last week’s NSW Trotting Oaks winner Aldebaran Ursula in a slick 1min58.6sec mile rate for 2300m. McCarthy’s others wins came with Kingmaker, La Bella Vita and Mister Catch. Former Kiwi gelding Kingmaker is loving life in Sydney. The son of Mach Three cruised to his fifth win from as many Aussie runs for Team McCarthy when he worked to the front and clocked a 1min55.7sec mile rate for 2300m last night. Stablemate La Bella Vista added to her fantastic record since crossing the ditch with a slick 1min52.7sec mile win at Menangle on the same card. Watch the race replay click here! The Changeover mare has raced eight times for Team McCarthy for six wins, a second and a third. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Champion trotter Tornado Valley is creeping towards rather than bursting through the millionaire club. For the third consecutive start, when victory would’ve taken the nine-year-old past $1 million in earnings, Tornado Valley fell short. This time he was a tad disappointing by his lofty standards when a well-held third after sitting one-one behind leader and winner Sparkling Success in the Group 3 Vulcan Trot at Melton. The $2400 third prize took his career earnings to $996,797. But all credit to the winner, Sparkling Success, a star himself before a serious injury a couple of years ago, who led throughout for trainer John Meade and driver Jackie Barker in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 1720m. It’s been a story of persistence for Meade on the comeback trail with last night’s victory being only Sparkling Success’ second win from 19 starts since his long stint on the sidelines. The nine-year-old’s won 19 of his 56 runs and $466,390. His comeback is also a fantastic opportunity for the talented young Barker on a class horse in some big races. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Memories of the great trotter Knight Pistol were revived with Plymouth Chubb’s monstrous Group 1 Vicbred Home Grown Final win at Melton last night (Saturday). Amazingly, it was the first time in 11 years father and daughter Peter and Kerryn Manning have teamed-up to win a Group 1 race, the last time being with Leilani Lombo in the 2010 Australian Gold 2YO fillies’ final. The Mannings shared a glorious ride with the mighty Knight Pistol through the mid-1990s, winning a stack of Aussie features and even a Group 1 race (the Harley Davidson Trot) in Norway. So it was fitting they won their first Group 1 race as a combo with a trotter. Plymouth Chubb’s win was remarkable and he looked every bit a potential trotting star of the future when he overcame losing 40-50m after an early gallop to win pulling clear by 17.7m. The Majestic Son galloped and lost all hope on debut and has won all four starts since. The fillies’ Home Grown final went to trainer-driver Geoff Webster with his exciting daughter of Skyvalley, Aldebaran Misty. ____________________________________________________________________________________ The man with the pink wheels was at it again last Friday night. The popular and bubbly Chris Voak teamed with trainer Barry Howlett to win the $50,000 Group 2 WASBA Breeders Stakes for fillies and mares with the emerging Star Of Diamonds. Voak wanted the front on the daughter of Bettors Delight and eventually got there, but had to survive some serious midrace pressure (56.3sec split from the 1200-400m) before winning comfortably by 4.5m over former Victorian mare Heavens Showgirl. It continued a breakthrough season for Star Of Diamonds, who has raced nine times this term for five wins, three seconds and a third and banked almost $100,000. Talented young horseman Corey Peterson teamed with trainer Kim Prentice for an upset win in the free-for-all with Kiwi-bred son of Washington VC, Extradite. In the other feature of the night, the $50,000 Australian Gold 4YO Consolation final, father and son Mike and Mark Reed upstaged the favourites with their $17 shot Caveman. ____________________________________________________________________________________ The Rando clan is one of the real backbones of NSW trotting and richly deserved a semi-feature win with Empire Bay in the Bulli Trotters Cup. Renowned for his big finish, Empire Bay camped off a solid pace for driver Chris Geary and put his rivals away in the blink of an eye halfway down the home straight to win by 6.2m. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Former Kiwi Amanda Grieve is helping out the rampaging Anthony Butt/Sonya Smith barn and having some fun herself with recent Kiwi import Hezacrocwatcher. The son of Hes Watching showed promise with two wins and three placings from six NZ starts and has thrived in Victoria with three wins from as many outings. There was a lot to like about his win in the $30,000 Group 3 Nutrien Equine Country Clubs Championship final at Melton. Driver Zac Phillips wanted the front early, but was posted wide, did plenty of work and eventually got to the top, but still ran home in 57.4 and 28.9sec to score by two metres in a 1min56sec mile rate for 2240m.   by Adam Hamilton

The door is open and the contenders are coming knocking. When Lochinvar Art was ruled out for the rest of this year with injury, the crown as Australia’s best was up for grabs. Sure dual Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing justifiably inherits the number one seeding, but the challengers are coming thick and fast, headed by Expensive Ego. Although he’s got a lot to prove and needs to stay sound, but General Dodge has entered talks with his two stunning comeback wins. And, of course, we all await news of when/if Ride Hight will be back in action. Then there’s Wolf Stride, who came so far, so quickly last campaign. But let’s chat more about Expensive Ego. I got the impression chatting with Luke McCarthy last week he already thinks is right there with King Of Swing. We’ll know more in a couple of months when they clash in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake at Albion Park. You could argue Expensive Ego’s Miracle Mile run when second was as good as King Of Swing’s win and the former looks to still be on an upward spiral. You wouldn’t see a softer Group 1 win than Expensive Ego in the Australian Gold 4YO final at Melton last Saturday night. Even before the race, McCarthy said: “If he stays sound, he’ll be the next horse to be scared of.” That’s not just anyone saying it, that’s Luke McCarthy. Excitingly, even before the Blacks A Fake, we’ll get another great line on Expensive Ego when he tackles the new $250,000 Group 1 The Rising Sun in Queensland’s “Constellations” Winter Carnival. The race could be one of the great success stories with the inaugural running set to pit Expensive Ego against NZ’s two most exciting pacers, Copy That and Krug. It should be something special. General Dodge couldn’t have looked better in his two wins back, albeit of soft runs and great drives, but he just oozes X-factor. Now it’s a case of hoping he stays sound and keeps building towards October’s Victoria Cup, which shapes as his first crack at the really big league. WA Derby winner Mighty Ronaldo could be the first horse to take top young WA trainer Justin Prentice interstate. In the wake of last Friday night’s barnstorming Derby win, Prentice said a Victoria Derby raid was a strong possibility later in the year. “It would be a great next step for me, to travel a horse interstate, I’d love to do it and think he’d be the right sort of horse to do it with,” he said. “He’s got a bit to get through here still first, a couple of $50,000 races in next few weeks then the WA-bred series. After that I’ll weight up the back end of the year.” Prentice proved the giant-killer again, just as he did in last year’s Group 1 2YO Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park, when he used Mighty Ronaldo’s speed to storm home over his major rivals. Last Friday night’s Derby was billed as a match race between glamour pair Lavra Joe and Jumpingjackmac, who went at each through the middle stages, while Prentice sat, waited and hoped for clear air from four pegs. “When the gap came, he picked up and sprinted so quickly, I knew he had them,” Prentice said. Prentice described the win up with the best of his career, but lamented the fact owners Glen Mortimer others weren’t allowed trackside because of Perth’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. “It was a special race to win, one I’ve always wanted, and to do it after the build-up around the other two stars is extra special,” he said. “It’s just a shame for everyone there was no crowd and my owners couldn’t be there. There might’ve been only 10 people on the lawn when I came back. There was no atmosphere.” Some mixed news for Aussies fans with the future paths of the two stars out of last Friday night’s stellar Alexandra Park meeting in Auckland. The Aussie-owned Copy That – raced by Victorians Merv and Meg Butterworth – is definitely headed our way for a two or three runs in the huge Queensland’s Constellations Carnival. His main target is the new Group 1 The Rising Sun, but that comes after he tackles the Harness Jewels in Cambridge in early June. Sadly, it seems we may never get to see NZ’s dominant trotter Sundees Son race here. It was hoped he may tackle the NSW Inter Dominion trotting series in November/December, but connections have a string of feature races in Christchurch and Auckland around the same time and will stay home. Copy That   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

Former top class Kiwi mare Spellbound made it two easy wins from as many starts for Nathan Purdon at Melton on Saturday night. Backing-up a week after her stunning Aussie debut win, Spellbound enjoyed an easier trip this time and have Stewie McDonald an armchair drive on her way to an soft 2.3m win in a brisk 1min53.2sec mile rate for 1720m. Watch the race replay click here! The early signs say Spellbound will be one of the top mares in Australia in coming months. And she’s potentially the sort of stable headline act the now Aussie-based Purdon wished for. Formerly trained by Robert Dunn the Art Major four-year-old had five wins from 29 starts in New Zealand before heading across the Tasman in March.   __________________________________________________________________________________ What a shame it is former star Kiwi pacer Alta Christiano died before we got to see much of him at stud. His record from limited opportunities in the breeding barn have been stunning, headed by last Friday night’s $200,000 Group 1 WA Derby winner Mighty Ronaldo. It’s the second time in as many seasons Mighty Ronaldo has won WA’s biggest race of his age group and both times he’s proven a giant-killer. Last Friday’s Derby was billed as a match race between stars Lavra Joe and Jumpingjackmac, but Mighty Ronaldo stormed home off a soft trip to blow them both away. Jumpingjackmac led, while Lavra Joe was snagged out from a bad draw and circled the field to sit parked and pressure the leader through the middle stages. Trainer-driver Justin Prentice sat and hoped for clear air from four pegs and when it came, Mighty Ronaldo showed dazzling speed to score easily. “It’s up there with my very best wins and the Derby is a special race, one I’ve always wanted to win,” Prentice said. “This was extra special to beat those big guns after the all the huge build-up to the race. “The only sad part was no crowds on track because of Covid. There was no atmosphere and the owners not being allowed there for such a special moment was so disappointing.” Prentice hinted at a possible Victoria Derby raid later in the year. “It’s a chance. I haven’t travelled horses yet and I’d love to, but he’s got a few big races here first and I don’t have to rush into any decisions,” he said. Prentice took he reins himself last Friday, which is rare these days as he prefers to use Gary Hall Jr as stable driver. “Junior has been as loyal as he can to me, but Senior (Gary Hall Sr) locked him into Jumpingjackmac a month ago, so I had a month to prepare for the drive myself,” he said. “It was certainly a thrill to drive myself, but it won’t change anything, Junior is my go-to driver whenever he’s available.” __________________________________________________________________________________ What a week it’s been for NSW power couple Kerry Ann and Robbie Morris. Just days after the birth of their second child, Stella, they defied a strong batch of interstate raiders to win the Group 2 NSW Trotters’ Oaks with Aldebaran Ursula. Just when it seemed Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi filly Queen Elida was home, Aldebaran Ursula dived and snatched a half-head win in a 1min58.3sec mile rate for 2300m. Aldebaran Crescent capped a big night for the Aldebaran Lodge breed when she won the Group 3 La Coocaracha for trotting mares at Menangle for trainer David Aiken and driver Jimmy Rattray. It was another second for Lilley with Tailored Image 3.8m away in the minor spot with Chris Alford aboard. __________________________________________________________________________________ Exciting filly Cat King Cole stole the show from the two Australian Gold 2YO finals at Albion Park on Saturday night. After a luckless debut run, the daughter of Hurrikane Kingcole has won her past three starts in great style, including the Gold final by a thumping 29.7m for the Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen combination. The boys Gold final produced a quinella for the dominant Grant Dixon stable, but in the wrong order for punters. Dixon finished second aboard $1.80 favourite Leap Of Faith, while his wife, Trista, took the prize with American Ideal colt Class To The Max in a slick 1min55.2sec mile rate for 1660m. __________________________________________________________________________________ First it was Kima Frenning now it’s Sofia Arvidsson. The two former Swedes have made a huge impact in Victorian harness racing. While Frenning has opted for a behind the scenes role in training and some media work now, Arvidsson’s on-track success and profile continues to grow. She teamed with partner Matty Craven for a breathtaking win aboard the promising Crime Writer at Melton on Saturday night. In what looked a strong and open race, Crime Writer destroyed his rivals with an 18m victory in a slick 1min54.9sec mile rate for 2240m. Throw in the recent success Arvidsson’s had with the likes of Kimble and Kowalski Analysis and she’s really going places. __________________________________________________________________________________ The McDowell clan has been a huge contributor for harness racing and richly deserved their upset win with $26 shot Michelle Lee Mac at Melton on Saturday night. The daughter of Bettors Delight, superbly driven by Greg Sugars, enjoyed camping off a hot tempo and cruised to a 6.7m win in the $210,000 Australian Gold 4YO Mares’ final in a slick 1min54sec mile rate for 1720m.   by Adam Hamilton

He's the most exciting pacer in Australia. And by the end of the year Expensive Ego could be the best as well. The still slightly goofy four-year-old continued his stunning rapid rise to the top when toyed with his rivals in the $210,000 Group 1 Australian Gold final at Melton on Saturday night. It was redemption, having returned to Melton where everything went wrong for him in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza in late January. But that seems a long time ago with Expensive Ego since scoring a monstrous Chariots Of Fire win, running a fantastic second in the Miracle Mile and now coasting to his Aussie Gold triumph. “We weren’t here to break records or run times, just get the job done and he did it easily,” driver Luke McCarthy said. Expensive Ego worked his way to the front and coasted to a 9.5m win over Pacifico Dream and Mach Dan in a 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1720m. “He’s still getting better this horse. He’s learning and is becoming a pleasure to drive,” McCarthy said. Now he gets a little freshen-up before heading to Queensland for a clash with Kiwi superstars Copy That and Krug in the new $250,000 Group 1 The Rising Sun at Albion Park. Expensive Ego’s nine starts this season have netted six wins, two seconds and $418,390. “He’s got it all. He’s so strong, but he come off a sit as well. You saw what he did in the Miracle Mile,” McCarthy said. “If stays sound, he could be the next horse to be scared of.” Expensive Ego headlined a big night for Luke and Belinda McCarthy, who also welcomed high-class veteran Alta Orlando back into the winner’s circle at Menangle. Alta Orlando, driven by Jack Callaghan, led then took a sit on the classy Ignatius before coming off his back then holding off in-form mare Rubies For Tash to win in a blazing 1min53.6sec mile rate for 2300m. It was the nine-year-old’s 19th career win and edged him past $820,000 in earnings. Team McCarthy went close to winning with another of their former classy Kiwi pacers when Star Galleria ran a mighty second in the Golden Reign free-for-all at Melton behind Victoria’s buzz pacer General Dodge. Star Galleria did all the work outside the leader, hit the front on straightening and was only nabbed late by General Dodge, who trailed the leader and used the sprint lane. They went a slick 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2240m and ripped home in 55sec and 26.7sec.   Adam Hamilton

Hopefully the barrier draw hasn’t robbed us of an epic $200,000 Group 1 WA Derby at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The build-up has been superb with Lavra Joe in one corner, Jumpingjackmac in another and then potential blowout contenders headed by Mighty Ronaldo. The marbles seemingly couldn’t have fallen worse for Lavra Joe, who goes into the Derby with seven wins and a massive second from his eight starts this season. He’s drawn inside the back row. In contrast, Gary Hall Sr’s emerging Jumpingjackmac gained a huge advantage with gate four, which should see him work forward and find the lead. Mighty Ronaldo also drew ideally in gate two. Lavra Joe is so good and mighty strong, but it looks an enormous ask to overcome the draw. His masterful driver Chris Lewis firstly has to decide whether to push through at the start and hope for luck or, more likely, snag right back and get into clear air. Jumpingjackmac’s draw has seen him installed a commanding $1.40 favourite. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ A kind barrier has tightened Expensive Ego’s grip on Australian Gold 4YO final favouritism at Melton on Saturday night. Team McCarthy’s Chariots Of Fire winner is a $1.30 from gate four, while his two key rivals have drawn worse: Mach Dan (gate nine) and Pacifico Dream (six). In the 4YO mares’ final, much-travelled Queenslander Pelosi holds all the aces from gate three in a surprisingly weak race for the $210,000 purse. The highlight of the night could be the Golden Reign free-for-all where untapped, but injury-plagued Victorian pacer General Dodge has to overcome a wide draw (gate seven) and strong opposition. General Dodge returned from 14 months out with a sparkling Geelong win on April 17, taking his record to 13 wins from just 18 starts. He’s only raced three times since mid-2018. This is much harder than Geelong with Team McCarthy bringing down the classy former Star Galleria (gate 10) and former NSW Derby winner Max Delight (eight) also in the field. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ Aussie fans could get their last glimpse of Ignatius at Menangle on Saturday night. The Tassie-owned star could head to North America to continue his career with trainer Noel Daley, but it’s pending a suitable flight. Ignatius finished a luckless seventh in the Miracle Mile and has brilliantly won both starts since. This week he stretches to the 2300m in the free-for-all and takes on some quality from Team McCarthy in Balraj (gate two) and Alta Orlando (eight). There’s a strong trotting flavour to the Menangle card as well with the Group 2 NSW Trotters’ Oaks and Group 3 La Coocaracha for open-aged trotting mares. The Oaks looks open, but Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi Queen Elida is favourie from gate two ahead of another Kiwi-bred Lady In The Sky (one) for Amanda Grieve. The value could be Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith’s Ima Cherished Stride (gate three), who galloped while leading and looking the winner at her latest run.   Adam Hamilton

SUPERSTAR four-year-old EXPENSIVE EGO has unfinished business at Melton. The only time he’s been down to Melbourne proved a complete and utter shambles in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza and left some Victorians doubting the huge buzz around him. Fair to say he’s deemed himself since through a stunning Chariots Of Fire win and arguably even bigger run when second to King Of Swing in the Miracle Mile. Most left Miracle Mile night thinking they’d seen the next big thing in the sport. But all of that has been in his own backyard, Menangle, and now he returns to the scene of his last horror show, Melton, to try and add another Group 1 win in Saturday night’s $210,000 4YO Australian Gold final. Before we talk about his opposition this week, let’s dissect that Bonanza run a bit further, through the eyes of co-trainer and driver Luke McCarthy. “It was a total forgive run,” he said. “We thought he could go down and sit parked and win, he’s that good, but then he drew the one barrier we didn’t want, inside the back row. “Everything went wrong that could. He got an early check, lost his rhythm and then then we was just getting a head of full of steam again at the top of the straight, he was knocked down again.” McCarthy’s message is clear, don’t assume Expensive Ego won’t be comfortable around Melton because of that one run. Standing in his way will be much-improved and hugely exciting local MACH DAN, who has been brilliant winning all six runs this campaign, albeit dictating most of those races. Group 1 Vicbred winner PACIFICO DREAM is another major player. But this is Expensive Ego’s race to lose, especially after he returned from a break with a career-best 1:48.6 mile and 18-metre winning margin in his Gold heat at Menangle last week. He just won’t want to draw inside the back row again. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ THIS shapes as an epic - Friday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Sky Racing WA Derby has all the ingredients of an old-fashioned match race. With respect to their rivals, it’ll be a massive shock if LAVRA JOE or JUMPINGJACKMAC don’t win. Just a month ago, most had conceded the race to Lavra Joe, but Jumpingjackmac’s emergence and the bullishness of his trainer, Gary Hall Sr, has shifted the dial. Of course barriers will be crucial, but both are outstanding, versatile and at the peak of their powers. You have to lean to Lavra Joe because of the long 2536m trip and his mighty staying qualities. But Hall Sr has trained great three-year-olds like King Of Swing, Chicago Bull, Alta Christiano and others and he says Jumpingjackmac is the best of the lot. Catch the clash on Sky Racing Friday night. ____________________________________________________________________ A COUPLE of months back a good judge told me Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin had their best juvenile crop yet. It seemed a huge call given the stunning dominance they’ve enjoyed in Australian juvenile racing, especially Victoria, in recent years. But the good judge is just that – a good judge – for a reason based on what we’ve seen over the past three weeks. PETILLANTE, IRISH BLACK LABEL, FIAMMA and BEACH VILLA have all looked a bit special. Beach Villa, POSTER BOY’S baby brother, looked green and raw, but the way he put a big gap on them coming to the final bend and oozed a work in progress was super exciting. ____________________________________________________________________ WATCHING the superb action from Auckland’s Alexandra Park last Friday night left me wanting. Not for more on the night itself, but wanting to see so many of the Kiwi stars back on our side of the ditch in our big races. COVID-19 has robbed us of so much, most notably a spirited Trans-Tasman rivalry which is such a big part of our racing. Thankfully mighty Kiwi mare Stylish Memphis gave a sniff when she enjoyed a bumper NSW Carnival of Miracles, but that also left us wanting more … wanting to see the likes of SELF ASSURED, COPY THAT, KRUG, et cetera in Australia. With huge credit to the innovation Queensland industry, its new Constellations Carnival in a couple of months promises to reignite a fair chunk of the rivalry. Kiwi superstars Krug and Copy That are headed our way. Fascinatingly, Krug has taken one of only two available wildcard spots for three-year-olds in the inaugural Group 1 Rising Sun, a race predominately for four-year-olds. Krug, as a three-year-old, will have the advantage of a preferential draw. There’s a real buzz about Queensland harness again and they’ve made winter their own with so many other states banking on the October/March window for their features. Before then, keep watching the great Kiwi action on Sky Racing in the countdown to a ripper Harness Jewels meeting at Cambridge on June 6.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

Almost six weeks after winning Tasmania’s biggest race Bullys Delight has been stripped of victory. A subsequent inquiry, headed by one of racing’s most experienced and respected stewards Ray Murrihy, not only took the $75,000 Group 2 Tasmanian Cup final off Bullys Delight, but relegated him from first to last place. It all stemmed from driver Rhys Nicholson’s excessive and improper whip use along with him continually dropping his right foot from the sulky rest to kick the hock – known as “hocking” – Bullys Delight in the home straight. Bullys Delight won by 4.6m and survived protests straight after the race from the drivers of second and third placegetters, Heath Woods on The Shallows and Conor Crook on Lip Reader. Stewards did however cite Australian harness racing rule 174, which allowed them to refer the matter subsequently for further inquiry once Nicholson has pleaded guilty to a string of charges and been penalised. In handing down his verdict yesterday, Murrihy didn’t hold back, describing Nicholson’s actions as “grievous violations of the rules and were so far outside what is permitted in the conduct of harness racing that they’d be viewed as an affront by a fair-minded person.” He added: “We cannot accept a victory at any cost approach. You wouldn’t take that risk (as a driver) in a $5000 maiden, but there is more incentive in bigger races and it’s those bigger races which are watched by larger and broader audiences. “In this case, you have to consider not just the seriousness of the infractions, but the welfare considerations and social licence we have to conduct racing. I looked at totality and gravity of what occurred.” There are so many layers to this fascinating case. It is believed to be the first time since the infamous 1993 Group 1 Treuer Memorial won by Master Musician where the result of harness race has be subsequently overturned on the ground of incidents during the event. In that race, Master Musician won, but shifted up the track sharply and only narrowly held-off Franco Tiger. The race night protest was dismissed, but Franco Tiger’s connections went to the Supreme Court, which ordered an independent re-hearing of the protest. It was upheld. This Tasmanian case poses questions about why the stewards didn’t uphold the protest on the night and/or if they rules allowed for them to. It also plays to the ultimate statement of cracking down on improper and excessive whip use, which has been a huge talking point in harness and thoroughbred racing. In regards the race night protest, Murrihy said: “It’s like we’ve come to T-intersection (in harness racing). There seems to have been a presumption the harness racing rules require stewards to believe the actions of a driver changed the result of a race factoring in the margin involved and that’s not the case. “A conversation could well be held to test the criteria of protest hearings to reflect today’s standards. “Thoroughbred rules are different and do clearly state that. I’m not saying that’s perfect either.” However, in this Tasmania case, Murrihy clearly felt Bullys Delight should be stripped of the race on every measure, including the margin. “In my view, had it not been for the whip, had it not been for the hocking, Bullys Delight wouldn’t have finished in front of the (subsequently) first and second placed horses.” The connections of Bullys Delight have 14 days to appeal Murrihy’s verdict.   By Adam Hamilton

NATHAN Purdon has settled in across the ditch in Australia and is raring to go. The former Kiwi horseman has 14 pacers in work, is backed by some heavy-hitting owners and has recruited another talented former Kiwi in Stuart McDonald as his right-hand man at his Lara stable, about 45 minutes outside of Melbourne. Throw in the fact he’s bought seven yearlings in Melbourne in recent weeks – five at Nutrien and two from Australian Gold – and the foundations are firmly being built. “It’s a young team with nine of the 14 we’re working being two-year-olds, but a couple of them already look quite promising,” Purdon said. “Zeus Dan will make a nice horse, but time will be his friend. He ran second at the (Ballarat) trials on Tuesday and will keep improving with time. “Lanai, who is a Captaintreacherous like Zeus Dan, ran third is his trial. He’s very professional youngster and should do a good job when he heads to the races soon.” Purdon has already produced yet another Captaintreacherous, Capt Me, for a second and third in three starts. Zeus Dan, as his name suggests, is raced by leviathan owner Danny Zavitsanos, who lives in Geelong, just down the road from Purdon’s stables. “Danny’s got a couple with me, Mick Harvey (part-owner of King Of Swing) has got Captn Me and two others and then there’s (big US owners) Gordon Banks and Marc Hanover. They’ve got six with me, including Lanai,” Purdon said. Purdon loved his father, champion horseman Mark visit and give some guidance for just over a week earlier this month. “There’s obviously nobody better than him to have a look how we’ve got the place set-up, how the horses and going and all that sort of thing,” Purdon said. “It was great to see him so relaxed. Stepping back has certainly been good for him. He looks like the weight of the world is off his shoulders. “I remember when I was a kid at school he asked if I was really sure I wanted to go down the training path because you have to put everything into it and often the rewards aren’t always there for the amount of work. But I was never going to do anything else.” Purdon’s inspiration for the move across the ditch came during his three years with Cran and Chrissy Dalgety where he noticed how many owners wanted to sell their horses to Australia after just a few starts. “We’d put 18 months into getting horses right, they’d have five, maybe 10 runs and the owners would want to move them on because of lack of opportunities. They’d hit their mark too fast,” he said. “It’s different here. A one or two win horse can win 10 races in Aussie if you place them right, but it’s hard work and long hours with so many meetings spread all across the state (Victoria). “Victoria is also really competitive with so many good trainers.” Purdon said he was pleased with the set-up at Dean Braun’s Lara stables where he is based. “I spent about 12 months here working with Dean back in the Ohoka Punter days and I liked the stables and the area. I won’t be going anywhere in a hurry from here,” he said. “The passion for the sport feels really strong over here.” Purdon unveils his best “tried” horse when former top Kiwi mare Spellbound has her first Aussie run in the good mares’ race, the Ian Daff Memorial, at Melton on Saturday night. “She’s probably in the best four or five mares in NZ when she’s right, but she lost her confidence a bit in those really strong races,” he said. “She’s doing everything right at home and I was going to trial her, but Dad drove her and said she’s probably ready for a race. “It’s a bit hard to line them up and she’s drawn wide, but she’s got gate speed and it looks the right sort of race to kick her off in.” And it gives stable foreman Stuart McDonald a chance to jump in the sulky at Melton. McDonald joins Purdon after almost a decade in Western Australian, broken-up with a six-month NSW stint about four years ago. He’s driven almost 350 winners in that time, most notably the 2020 Group 1 Fremantle Pacing Cup in record-time on Caviar Star. “I’d had the past three-and-a-half years with (Gary Hall) Senior and got into cruise mode a bit, stale if you like. I needed a change-up and this sounded exciting,” McDonald said. “I’ve only been here a couple of weeks and my main job is the foreman role, but I love driving and it’s great to get on Spellbound and drive a couple of Nathan’s nice ones at the trials (Ballarat) on Tuesday. “I also drove one for Anton Golino at the trials and he’s indicated I could get some race drives for him.”   By Adam Hamilton

WE should know the result of the fascinating Tasmanian Cup inquiry early this week. And it could have far-reaching ramifications for not just the harness but the thoroughbred industry as well. How you might ask? Well, should decorated and hugely respected former Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy change the result of the race, much interest will centre on how much the improper and excessive whip use contributed to his decision. Bullys Delight won the Group 2 Tasmanian Cup and survived protests from the second and third placegetters against driver Rhys Nicholson’s whip use and him using his right foot to allegedly contact the hock of the pacer down the home straight. Murrihy held the inquiry last Tuesday, taking evidence from Nicholson, his father John Nicholson as well as Bullys Delight's part-owners Jim Kefalas and Phillip Winder. “I adjourned the inquiry to consider all the evidence, but I’ll be giving my decision quickly, probably by early next week,” Murrihy said after the inquiry. The devil will be in detail of Murrihy’s finding, but there’s huge interest in his stance around the whip use, especially in this crucial climate of animal welfare. So far, despite the crackdown on whip use, it’s been almost unthinkable a jockey or driver could be stripped of a race for improper or excessive whip use. If Australian racing is serious about policy and minimising whip use, that has to change. _________________________________________________________________________________________ AUSSIES have known for decades Anthony Butt, pictured steering Wolf Stride, is one of the all-time great drivers. Now it’s great to see the extra layer of his horsemanship, what a superb trainer he is as well. The success of Butt and partner Sonya Smith since making Victoria home last October has been nothing short of extraordinary. And it continued when they snared the quinella in South Australia’s biggest race, the $60,000 Group 2 SA Pacing Cup with classy four-year-olds Boots Electric and Perfect Stride. As good a training effort as it was, Butt’s dashing front-running drive on Boots Electric was glorious. “When I got the front I was happy to let him roll and make them chase. He’s a lovely horse. He really just jogged that in,” Butt said. Zac Phillips loomed strongly around the final bend on Perfect Stride, but he peaked on his run and Butt was still nursing Boots Electric, who clocked a 1:57.2 mile rate for the long 2645m trip, just 0.4s outside the race and track record (1:56.8) set by the great Smolda in the 2017 SA Cup. _________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to be trackside for a very rare Geelong 'metro' meeting Saturday night. The Tornado Valley 'million-dollar' party was thwarted by classy speedster Big Jack Hammer and a ripper front-running drive by Josh Aiken. Tornado Valley had to be content with a brave second after doing all the work. It was the wins of the injury-plagued General Dodge and debutante juvenile Irish Black Label who turned most heads. How awesome were these quotes from driver Jason Lee after winning first-up for over a year aboard the seriously gifted General Dodge for trainer Mick Chircop: “All credit goes to Mick and all his crew, they’ve done a great job with him. He’s definitely not an easy horse to train. They’ve been patient, it’s just great to be able to reward them tonight with a win like that. Just hopefully they can keep him in one piece. He’s scary what he can do. “(For Mick), he’s like his child, he’s in love with him and you can see why – I’m in love with him now too. It probably goes to show the little guy in harness racing can still get a good horse and still beat the best. It’s a credit to him and his hard working team. He knows what he’s doing and is a great trainer, he only has a little team but his little team always run great races.” While Irish Black Label looked like a total pro and yet another star youngster in the making for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin when she dashed home in 55.6 and 27.7s to thrash the previously unbeaten and hugely exciting Beach Memories. It was also great to see Tim Butt and son, Riley, combine to win with exciting three-year-old Swayzee. Well done to John Dunne and his team at Geelong with the ripper grandstand renovations and naming the new drivers' rooms after the Lang family, following last year’s passing of Graeme and Gavin Lang. _________________________________________________________________________________________ YOU’VE got to love top WA trainer Gary Hall Sr. Just moments after his exciting three-year-old Jumpingjackmac thrashed a handy field at Gloucester Park, Hall Sr beamed: “He’s the best three-year-old I’ve had … He will win the Derby.” Remember, Hall Sr has won four of the past six WA Derbys with stars like King Of Swing (2018), Chicago Bull (2016) and Alta Christiano (2013). While you’ve got to respect Hall given the long list of superstars he’s trained, standing in his way for this Derby is Ray Jones’ stunningly exciting Lavra Joe, who holds a 2-1 advantage over Jumpingjackmac so far. Lavra Joe has looked awesome with six wins and a monstrous second from his only seven starts this season. Fingers crossed the barriers help shape what could be an epic contest.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

That was Anthony Butt at his brilliant best. Butt’s superb and daring front-running drive on Boots Electric in the $60,000 Group 2 SA Pacing Cup was all designed to beat his main danger, which just happened to be stablemate Perfect Stride. They ran the quinella, but it was Boots Electric who “really just jogged it in,” according to Butt. “He felt fantastic tonight. He’s a lovely horse. When he got the front I wanted to run them along and make them chase,” Butt said. “I know Perfect Stride came quickly at him on the final bend, but I was still cruising and Perfect Stride had chased from so far out he came to the peak his run. They both went really well.” Boots Electric, already a Group 1 winner of the 4YO Bonanza earlier this year, won by 7.8m in a slick 1min57.2sec mile rate for the long 2645m trip. It was just 0.4sec outside the great Smolda’s race and track record. “To come here and quinella the big one is a real thrill,” Butt said. “We’ve got a really nice team of horses and this continues the great run we’ve been having.” Boots Electric, a Kiwi-bred by Somebeachsomewhere raced by Emilio and Mary Rosati, has raced just 20 times for 10 wins, four placings and banked $161,672. ____________________________________________________________________________________ Former All Stars gelding Aladdin has quickly made a splash in Victoria. Two starts in a week have netted the Mildura Guineas and Group 3 SA Pacing Derby. And both have been in very easy fashion. Driver Kerryn Manning took Aladdin straight to the front from gate two in last SA Derby and kept s steady tempo with a 59.9sec middle half as main danger Bondi Lockdown sat outside him. When Bondi Lockdown wobbled on the final bend, Aladdin opened up and big league and coasted to a 6.1m win in a 1min57.5sec mile rate for 2230m. It was special win with the now Victorian-based Norman being from SA and Aladdin’s new owners Adam, Ben and Terry Cormack all being South Australians.   By Adam Hamilton

The top lot of Australia’s inaugural Nutrien Yearling Sale is heading to NZ. The Victorian-based Jean Feiss broke her recent trend to buy exclusively at the NZ yearling sales when she splurged $180,000 on a Bettors Delight colt out of former star Kiwi filly Our Golden Goddess yesterday (Sunday). “He’s the first yearling I’ve bought in Australia since Sicario five years ago,” Feiss said. “He’s already booked to fly across to NZ to Hayden (Cullen). “I really liked this colt and the clincher was the fact he’d been paid-up for the NZ Sires Stakes. I’d urge everyone to pay-up for as many of those futurity races as possible.” The now Victorian-based Nathan Purdon took home four yearlings, including the $90,000 Bettors Delight-Miss Hazel colt. Former Kiwi, now Victorian-based Tim Butt, splurged on six yearlings, including $90,000 for a trotting colt by Quaker Jet out of Glenferrie Burn offered by Yabby Dams. The trotting flavour at the sale was very strong and headlined by Alabar Farms paying $170,000 for a colt by Father Patrick out of Victoria Trotting Oaks and Derby winning mare Une Belle Allure. “We’ve had a long association with Andy Gath and we think he’s the best trainer of trotters in Australia, so that’s where he’s headed,” Alabar’s Brett Coffey said. Another to turn heads was trainer Matty Craven paying $110,000 for an Art Major colt out of former brilliant Kiwi-bred mare Arms Of An Angel (by Elsu). Across the two days of the Nutrien sale, 269 lots were offered, 205 for a clearance rate of 77.07 per cent. Sales totalled $6,400,000 at an average of $31,219.   by Adam Hamilton

IT is time to take the Breeders Crown back to where it began – the bush. After a stellar month of regional racing – firstly in NSW at Bathurst and Wagga and now at Mildura – it’s clear taking the sport 'on the road' is vital and needs to be embraced even more. Australian thoroughbred racing’s most iconic country carnival, Warrnambool – or simply 'The Boo' as it’s known – is just around the corner and it begs the question why Mildura is Victoria’s only true country carnival. Sure we have a proud, robust and important country cup circuit, but building that into a couple more carnivals where participants and fans can gather and socialise as well as enjoy the racing looks a no-brainer. And the Breeders Crown is a ready-made product. It’s just my opinion, but the Crown has never felt quite at home at Tabcorp Park Melton. I loved the days, albeit many of them cold, at Bendigo in the Crown’s infancy. And who can forget that epic two-year-old final at Ballarat when the almost invincible Lombo Pocket Watch snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. We’ve got some great racing at Melton and the end of the year is getting pretty hectic, so a country-based Breeders Crown would be a good change-up. Bathurst, Wagga and now Mildura have oozed passion, competitive racing and a real connection with fans. Let’s have more of it. ______________________________________________________ A BIG tick to Nutrien for its first foray into harness racing yearling sales. Having spent a long and cold three days at the superb Inglis Oaklands Junction complex for the parade and sales, it was clear Nutrien threw the kitchen sink at the sales. I’ve been to loads of Inglis thoroughbred sales at that very complex and this felt very, very similar. Professional, strongly-staffed, attentive and even a dash of flair. Even the two coffee spots had the cheeky sort of baristas you’d expect to bump into in one of those iconic Melbourne laneways. It all came together for a terrific atmosphere. Sure there will be much discussion over the average prices and clearance rate, but for a first crack, Nutrien did everything it could. For me, the key learning was the late Saturday afternoon timeslot for the first session – going up against harness meetings at Mildura, Menangle, Albion Park and others – needs changing. No doubt it’s easier said than done to find an ideal timeslot, but surely the industry working as one can find a solution. It was great to see Victorian newcomers like Tim Butt and Nathan Purdon (son of Mark) taking float loads home. And hugely successful Victorian owner Jean Feiss broke a “five or six year” drought from buying at the Aussies sales, to splurge $180,000 on the sales-topping Bettors Delight-Our Golden Goddess colt. The growth of the trotter was underlined when Alabar Farms paid $170,000 for a colt by Father Patrick out of Victoria Oaks and Derby winning mare Une Belle Allure with a view to racing and hopefully “making” a stallion. He goes to Andy and Kate Gath. It’s always good when a former star racemare turns head at the sales and Matty Craven ensured that happened for Miracle Mile placegetter Arms Of An Angel. He paid $110,000 for her second foal by Art Major. Queenslander Shannon Price changed the trend of the sale late Saturday when she paid $100,000 for a Captaintreacherous colt out of Musical Delight. “I’m still haunted by being the under-bidding for Lazarus a few years back so I wasn’t going to miss this guy,” Price said. ______________________________________________________ DANNY Zavitsanos has quickly become a leviathan in the sport. Few could begrudge him winning his first Mildura Cup with Mach Dan as it came while he was still writing the cheque to pay for the three yearlings he bought just minutes earlier at the Nutrien sales, including $90,000 for a Bettors Delight colt out of Miss Hazel, bound for Nathan Purdon’s new Lara stable in Victoria. He also paid $80,000 for a Captaintreacherous colt out of Lovelist to be trained by Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. Zavitsanos, as good a bloke as he is supporter of the sport, spreads his horses around, supports Australia and NZ and oozes passion and enthusiasm every time you see him. It’s remarkable to think it was less than three years ago Zavitsanos and wife, Joanna, won their first Group 1 race as an owner when Enhance Your Calm took out a Harness Jewels final at Cambridge. He’s since kept winning them, most notably with Cruz Bromac in the 2019 NZ Cup at Addington. ______________________________________________________ AUSTRALIANS will see a lot more of NZ’s best pacer Self Assured next campaign. Owner Jean Feiss said the five-year-old would have one more run for trainer Hayden Cullen this campaign in NZ before a spell. He will then return for a defence of his NZ Cup crown before a possible Sydney Inter Dominion tilt and other Aussie features like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile. “While he’s had a few hard races, it’s been a lighter season than we expected because of COVID which meant he didn’t travel to Australia,” Feiss said. But don’t expect Self Assured to change stables. “When Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen) said they were taking a break, I said I’d stay loyal to Hayden (Cullen, who took over the stable) and that’s exactly what I’ve done and will keep doing,” Feiss said. Feiss confirmed the sale-topping Bettors Delight colt she bought at the Nutrien sales on Sunday was already booked to head to Cullen’s NZ stables.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

CHAMPION trotter Tornado Valley is on the verge of becoming only the ninth $1 million-earning trotter in this part of the world. The veteran speared to the front and never looked in danger on his way to a 38th career win and $13,680 first prize in the Uncle Petrika free-for-all at Melton on Saturday night. Tornado Valley’s earnings sit at $990,297. Lyell Creek is in a league of his own as the richest-earner with $2,256,724. The others to top $1 million are: I Can Doosit ($1,377,319), Sundons Gift ($1.275,264), Speeding Spur ($1,220,147), Take A Moment ($1,132,695), Stent ($1,130,406), Keystone Del ($1,063,560) and One Over Kenny ($1,060,394). “As you know we almost retired him before the Great Southern Star so to come back and win that and be a chance to top the $1 million shows how remarkable he is,” trainer Andy Gath said. “It was great to see him keen on the gate and when he led we all know how hard to beat he is in front.” Tornado Valley staved off a strong late finish from his improving stablemate Monaro Maro to win by 2.3m in a 1min55.4sec for 1730m. It completed a trotting double for Andy and Kate Gath on the night with recent Kiwi import Justamollyarcher leading throughout to make it two wins from as many Aussie runs as well. _____________________________________________________________________________________ DAVID Moran has plenty of good distractions while he nurses superstar Lochinvar Art back to full health and fitness. The good news is Lochinvar Art is finally on the mend after his hoof abscess turned nasty and gave Moran a real fright. “It lingered so long and got so bad, we had to have scans to make sure it hadn’t got into the bone. Thankfully it hadn’t,” he said. “It’s finally turned for the better and, although he’s not totally through it, he’s coming out the other side now.” Moran will let Lochinvar Art’s recovery decide whether he can prime Australasia’s best pacer for a planned raid on the rich Brisbane Winter Carnival, now dubbed Constellations. In other stable news, his brilliant juvenile filly Beach Memories made it two wins from as many starts at Maryborough las Thursday. The margin was a lot closer than her runaway debut win, but she did all the work and ripped home in 55.4sec for her last half to rundown the Nathan Purdon-trained Captn Me for a 1.1m win in a 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1690m. “There’s a race at Geelong next week and I’m weighing-up whether I go there or spell her now. Sadly there’s nothing much else for her now. She’s not in the Australian Gold, so it’s more a long term view to the Breeders Crown and Vicbred at the end of the year. She’s very, very exciting,” Moran said. Meanwhile his NSW Derby winner Patsbeachstorm is just “ticking along” with a slow build-up towards the Queensland Constellations where the Queensland Derby will be his main goal. _____________________________________________________________________________________ TURN It Up’s baby half-brother is making a name for himself. Narutac Prince, a three-year-old sone of Art Major trained by David Aiken, posted his fourth win from just five starts when he smashed the clock to win the $50,000 Group 2 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown final (1730m) at Melton on Saturday. The colt ripped to the front from gate two, kept rolling and then finished-off in 54.7, 27.7sec to score in a 1min52.6sec mile rate. The fillies’ version was won by dominant fashion, albeit a much slower 1min55.3sec mile rate, by Ruby Wingate for trainer Adam Stephens and driver Michael Bellman. Another feature, the Shakamaker 2YO Classic, went to A Rocknroll Dance colt Solesseo Matuca in a 1min55.5sec mile rate. Another win to turn heads on the night was exciting mare Tangoinsierra, who made it five wins on end and 11 wins from just 23 starts. She raced three most of the 1730m trip in a 1min54.1sec mile rate. It was an emotion-charged win with trainer Gary Hoban battling cancer. “That was special on many levels,” driver Greg Sugars said. “It was a win full of heart, she just wouldn’t let them get past her despite doing so much work.” _____________________________________________________________________________________ IT was a triumph for the locals in one of Tasmania’s biggest races. Locals filled the trifecta, headed by Scooterwillrev, in the $75,000 Group 2 Easter Cup at Launceston on Saturday night. Trained Craig Hayes and driver Gareth Rattray landed their first win in the feature when Scooterwillrev staved off an early challenge for the front and then led throughout to just hold-off Tasmania’s best pacer Ryley Major in a stirring drive to the line. Outside Isaac completed the local trifecta. Dean Braun’s former Kiwi Willie Go West was crunched into favouritism, but made a complete mess of the standing start and lost all hope. Stablemate and superstar former Kiwi mare Our Princess Tiffany found a 30m backmark beyond her and finished 11.6m from the winner in sixth spot. _____________________________________________________________________________________ THE picket fence continues to build for Gary Hall Sr’s latest exciting Kiwi import Texas Tiger. The son of American Ideal led throughout to win the free-for-all in easy fashion, stretching his unbeaten WA streak to eight races at Gloucester Park on Good Friday. Driven Gary Hall Jr dictated the terms in front and dashed home in 55.2 and 27.6sec to win by 3.9m in a 1min55.8sec mile rate for 2130m. The Gloucester Park feature, the $50,000 Group 2 Easter Cup, continued its tradition of upset results when $26 shot Leap Of Faith, a former Kiwi by McArdle, finished over the top of favourite Lawrence to win by a neck. The other win of note came from Team Bond’s Kiwi-bred filly Unconditional who burst into contention for next week’s Group 1 WA Oaks when she improved to lead throughout in good style, relegating star filly Black Jack Baby back to fourth spot. _____________________________________________________________________________________ RESPECTED horseman Clayton Harmey had the numbers and delivered with complete dominance of the time-honoured Maitland Inter City Pace final on Saturday night. Harmey qualified a staggering six of the 10 finalists and landed first, second, fourth and fifth in the final. It was the Kiwi-bred Im Quick As Fire, a son of Bettors Delight, who scored for driver Robbie Morris in a slick 1min59.4sec mile rate for 2422m trip around the old-school Maitland circuit.   by Adam Hamilton

ANTHONY Butt’s decision to make Victoria home will go down as one of the great decisions. While the stable, largely backed by leviathan owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, were making waves in NSW, it’s gone to a whole amazing new level since relocating to Victoria last October. And yesterday was a perfect example with Butt and fiancé Sonya Smith winning “majors” in Victoria and NSW. Former Victoria and NSW Derby placegetter PERFECT STRIDE scored his most important open-aged win when he upstaged a good field in the Group 2 Warragul Pacing Cup for Butt and Smith’s number two stable driver, Zac Phillips. Not long after, their stable star and emerging open-class force WOLF STRIDE capped a wonderful first campaign in the big league with another Group 1 win, this time in the $100,000 Riverina 4&5YO Championship final at Wagga. The margin wasn’t great, but Wolf Stride did all the work outside the lead in slick time and just staved-off a late lunge from the outstanding runner-up OUT TO PLAY. Wolf Stride now goes for a long, old-fashioned spell and won’t be back until September to prepare for the Group 1 Victoria Cup the month after. The Wagga series proved a real “win” for harness racing with entertaining heats and finals. Coming a week after a ripper Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival, it’s an important reminder there is something special about major regional racing events. Adding to the thrill and emotion of Wagga was local (well, he’s from Junee) Cameron Hart snaring his first Group 1 victory with a daring front-running drive on Victorian mare TECHYS ANGEL in the $100,000 final for 4&5YO Mares’. It made for an all Victorian training triumph in the big ones with Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin not only training Techys Angel, but also runner-up MAAJIDA. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ TORNADO VALLEY’S remarkable comeback from the very brink of retirement is set to add another chapter. As if returning to win a heat and final of Australasia’s biggest trotting race, the Great Southern Star, wasn’t enough, Tornado Valley is within one metro win of topping $1 million in career stakemoney. And boy he deserves to become only the ninth trotter to reach $1 million in this part of the world. Tornado Valley posted his 38th career win when he led throughout in last Saturday night’s Uncle Petrika free-for-all at Melton. It took his bankroll to $990,297. Lyell Creek is in a league of his own as the richest-earner with $2,256,724. The others to top $1 million are: I Can Doosit ($1,377,319), Sundons Gift ($1.275,264), Speeding Spur ($1,220,147), Take A Moment ($1,132,695), Stent ($1,130,406), Keystone Del ($1,063,560) and One Over Kenny ($1,060,394). “As you know we almost retired him before the Great Southern Star so to come back and win that and be a chance to top the $1 million shows how remarkable he is,” trainer Andy Gath said. While Team Gath keeps producing exciting new trotters, Tornado Valley is still top of the heap despite being a nine-year-old and having raced 103 times. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ The proud harness racing state of Tasmania has regained some mojo and mainland attention during an exciting past month of racing. The Tassie Carnival came to a close with “all locals” finish to the $75,000 Group 2 Easter Cup at Launceston, won in all-the-way fashion by the talented SCOOTERWILLREV. Manners proved the key with Scooterwillrev stepping straight to the front, while Victorian visitor WILLIE GO WEST was backed into $2 favouritism but galloped out hopelessly. Scooterwillrev staved-off a brave late surge from one of the state’s top pacers, RYLEY MAJOR, with outsider ISAAC finishing third. Let’s hope the resurgence helps Tassie restore at least one of its majors to $100,000 purse and Group 1 status.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

Through an era of new and richer juvenile races, the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival has successfully and proudly kept its place as a genuinely major event on the calendar. There’s lots of factors behind it, but passion is its backbone. The passion of the club, its key people, the local community and the passion of those of cover plenty of territory to be part of it as often as they can. And that passion shone brightly on what was truly a golden night for the Carnival at Bathurst last Saturday night. There were so many great stories, some really special performances and loads of emotion shown across the major finals. Passion oozed with abundance when a big group of largely Victorian-based owners – headed by the likes of Tom “Tara” Hogan, Fred Crews, Scott Whiteman, Mark Hunter, Gennaro “Spud” Sposato and others – snared their first Group 1 win with the exciting Idyllic (pictured) in the 3YO Gold Chalice final. The Clayton Tonkin-trained pacer had been placed in last year’s Gold Crown and, more recently, the Vicbred 2YO final at Group 1 level and richly deserved his gritty win. Having Tonkin and his partner Emma Stewart make Bathurst an annual event – they won the 2YO Gold Tiara with Joanna last year – is another big win for the Carnival. I first met Russell Jack at Bathurst in 1995 when he won the Gold Tiara with one of the best fillies I’ve seen, Yeronga Songbird. Jack won his first Tiara final since then when the superbly-bred Just Hope toyed with her rivals and Captains Queen gave him the quinella. Knowing Jack, snaring another Bathurst final will rank up with the proudest achievements of his career. And who could forget the victory salute from driver Darryl Perrot aboard Mister Rea in the Group 1 Gold Crown final itself. Sure it was Perrot’s first Group 1 win, but the salute was as much for Mister Rea’s trainer Ray Walker, something of a local legend in Temora, a Riverina town best known in harness circles as the former home of the great Paleface Adios, aka “Temora Terror.” There is a rich harness heritage in Temora and no doubt the town cheered as one when Mister Rea gave Walker his biggest moment in game. Respected NSW horseman Rickie Alchin summed-up the thoughts of many straight after the win when he tweeted: “Ray and Jane (Walker) have mentored a lot of people in the Riverina, including myself, and nobody deserves this more. (Mister Rea is) named after a very close friend of Ray’s who passed (away) too early. (It is) a great story … Temora will be buzzing tonight,” he said. Mister Rea first stamped his potential when he blazed a much quicker first half than King Of Swing on Miracle Mile night and still kept going to win the Group 2 Sapling Stakes in a 1min52.1sec mile. Although unbeaten in four starts, Mister Rea still looks raw and went roughly at times in the closing stages of the Bathurst victory. There’s every reason to think he’ll only keep improving.And then there was Anntonia, who despite some other great performances on the night, stole the show with her mesmerizing Group 1 3YO Gold Bracelet win. Better known as a sit-sprinter, the NSW Oaks winner blasted to the front from the pole and always looked in cruise control. She roared away to win by 15.6m and the time was phenomenal – a 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1730m, which broke the all-aged track record. And she seemed to win with plenty in hand. It capped a heck of a month for young Kiwi horseman Jack Trainor, who won his first two Group 1’s back on February 27 at Menangle with Anntonia in the NSW Oaks and Stylish Memphis in the Ladyship Mile. Long live Bathurst and all it brings to the sport. _____________________________________________________________________ THE Riverina theme continues this week when some of the stars of the sport step-out at Wagga tomorrow (Tuesday) night. It will be awesome to see big names like Wolf Stride, Maajida, Out To Play, Muscle Factory and Max Delight in action. Even Lochinvar Art would have been there except for his injury issues. It’s all because of the new NSW Riverina Championship series’ for four-year-old entires and geldings and another for four and five-year-old mares. The clash of the night looks to be the second entires and geldings heat (race three) where former Victoria Derby winner and now comeback hero Muscle Factory meets Miracle Mile contestant Out To Play. Muscle Factory, unbeaten in five runs on the comeback trail for new trainer Belinda McCarthy, has the advantage of a better draw (gate six), while Out To Play will start from the outside alley (eight) over 2270m. Out To Play will be on the quick back-up after contesting Sunday’s Group 2 Horsham Cup where he made good late ground and smashed the clock late from an impossible to finish fourth. Miracle Mile placegetter Wolf Stride, nominal favourite to win Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 final, should be too classy in his heat (race five) despite the outside draw. Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s best mare, Maajida, returns after a mystifying flop in the Ladyship Mile on February 26. She’s the class runner in her heat (race seven) and being the lone back row runner looks a plus.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

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