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Swedish-born horsewoman Sofia Arvidsson has lost count of the hours she's spent working on her "special project", harness racing square gaiter Gus An Maori - but recently, there was no doubt it was worth every minute. The rejuvenated trotter had one hoof on the road to retirement when Arvidsson took him on at the Ecklin South stable of her partner Mattie Craven, and by Arvidsson's admission, they've "come a long way together". "I used to ride him - a lot! And all I used to think of when I was riding him was that 'one day he's gonna win a metro race, this horse, and it will all be worth it'," she said. Last Friday night the pair finally achieved Arvidsson's dream of metro success - and a first group victory for both in the Schweppes Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters Free For All (Gr 2). To watch the video replay of this race click here. "He is my number one, and has been for a long time. He is just a lovable horse. A bit of a show pony, but just a lovely boy and I'm just so proud of him," an elated Arvidsson said. "We always thought if we could just win one or two more with him - and now this!" she laughed. On the face of it, the pair made an unlikely combination. Arvidsson admits she knew nothing about harness racing before joining the Craven team and eight-year-old Gus An Maori (Angus Hall - Sumthingaboutmaori (Pine Chip) had been dogged by long periods on the sidelines, largely the result of bad feet. Sofia Arvidsson and Gus are planning a tilt at some country cups after their Group Two success Gus An Maori was more than three years without a win before his comeback victory at Horsham. Almost 12 months later to the day he recorded his first Group Two success - and, in between, another seven victories. Arvidsson said undoubtedly the key to turning him around was a dramatic change in training approach. "Mattie came back with me to Sweden and he spent some time there with trainers who use straight tracks. Also, the European style of training is not to work them so much, but when they do, they work them quite hard," she said. "It was something we wanted to try, and Gus was the guinea pig on the straight track. It doesn't work for every horse, of course, but for him it's really been the key to him." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's training regime was based a lot on "feel". "Before, he used to jog every day and fast work every second day on the round track. Then I started with riding him and working him the more European way - fast work, a couple of days off, then fast work," she said. "So, before he won this time, he ran on the previous Saturday night. He had nothing the next day, I might have swum him once, then I gave him a fast work on the Wednesday, and he raced and won on the Friday. "Before, he would chicken out or have a gallop, but he has a lot of confidence this season. He isn't sore and he's stronger, and he knows he can do it. "I'm so excited for the owners, as well, who are massive supporters of Mattie and breed some lovely horses. Gus had been battling for a long time and now they're just so thrilled to enjoy watching him race again." Winning team: Sofia and partner Mattie Craven Teaming with Gus An Maori has also undoubtedly built the confidence of the novice driver, who became licenced only in October last year. Arvidsson recorded 20 wins from 110 drives in the 2019-20 season, and so far in the extended season she's been flying, with 14 wins from 49 starts. Although she was accomplished in dressage and jumping before she arrived at the Craven stable, Arvidsson had no experience at all in the harness racing game. "I was backpacking, travelling and living in New Zealand for a bit, then spent time in Melbourne. I had to do some farm work to get my visa extension in Australia, so I went to Alice Springs. Then to finish it off Kima Frenning (another expat Swede having success in the sport in Australia) suggested I come down here," Arvidsson said. "I'd always had riding horses but had never driven a horse before. But as soon as I started fast working I thought: why haven't I been doing this all my life? "I am very fortunate that Mattie gives me a good go, but I am absolutely loving it. It's such hard work, but the highs are just such highs and it's easy to keep going when you are having success." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's success now has them looking to target more feature races in the months ahead. "I'm so happy to be able to put look at some country cups - we've climbed the ladder together and to take that step together would be very exciting." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Im Ready Jet, a three-year-old harness racing filly by the Haras Des Trotteurs stallion Quaker Jet, and one of his first Australian crop, captured her second Breeders Crown title when she won the $80,000 Group 1 at Melton on Saturday night (November 21). Starting from inside the back row, Im Ready Jet slotted into the one, one trail in the early part before exploding to the front with 1300 metres to go. Despite being pressured in the last lap, the filly pulled out plenty in the home straight to land the thick end of the prize. The mile rate for the 2240 metres was a brilliant 1:57.2 with the final three sectionals in 28.7, 29.2 and 29.1. To watch the video replay click here Im Ready Jet ($153,870) is the richest of the 10 winners from Quaker Jet’s initial crop of 24 foals, 15 of which have raced. Cracker Jet, also sired by Quaker Jet, finished third in the Breeders Crown for three-year-olds colts and geldings. Orlando Vici, whose first Australian crop has made a huge impact, was represented by the Breeders Crown Final placegetters in Red White An Bloom (2nd – 3YO C&G) and Brandlo Prince (3rd – 4YO E&G). Dont Care, a two-year-old gelding by Used To Me, finished a brave second in his $100,000 Final. Used To Me was also represented by the two-year-old My Used To Me, who scored back-to-back successes at Globe Derby Park recently. Meanwhile, Love You, the sire of Quaker Jet, also led in a ‘new’ winner in Thank You, who scored at Manawatu Raceway, New Zealand. Brillantissime, a multiple Group winning son of the great Ready Cash, and who has been fully booked in his first season at Haras Des Trotteurs, was represented by the French-bred three-year-old filly Hopeful Beauty, a runaway winner at Charlton. Quaker Jet, Used To Me, Love You, Orlando Vici and Brillantissime are all members of the Haras Des Trotteurs sire roster for the 2020/21 season. Peter Wharton

YOU hope to leave a night like Breeders Crown having seen some potential superstars and that was certainly the case on Saturday night at Melton. The series was built to showcase the emerging young stars of the sport and, despite being COVID compromised like so many of our feature events this year, the Crown still delivered in spades. Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin had 20 runners across the 10-race card, won four of the finals and produced the two brightest stars in juvenile winners Ladies In Red and Major Moth. You could argue their four-year-old Hurricane Harley, who downed Lochinvar Art in track record-equalling time, and their unbeaten three-year-old trotter Cover Of Darkness rounded-out the top four performances of the night. But it was the filly Ladies In Red, a Mach Three half-sister to Our Little General, who left everyone in awe after doing all the work and stretching her unbeaten record to seven wins in the $300,000 2YO fillies’ final. Ladies In Red’s clash with star stablemate Tough Tilly, who looked a certain leader, was billed as THE showdown of the night and it delivered in spades. As hard as Tough Tilly tried in front, Ladies In Red had all the answers and overpowered her late to win by 2.4m in a brilliant 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2240m. “She’s some sort of filly,” driver David Moran said. “When I got outside the leader I wanted to eye-ball her and I was able to do it on my terms. It took some work to get past the leader, but my filly was still strong on the line. I think she’d have found more again if something had come at her.” Ladies In Red’s lethal combination of speed and strength have stamped her as one of the best juvenile fillies we’ve seen in Australia for many years. She capped a big night for Bill and Anne Anderson’s Lauriston Bloodstock, who also raced Hurricane Harley. As powerful as Ladies In Red was, stablemate Major Moth turned heads more for his sheer brilliance in arrogantly winning the $300,000 2YO colts and geldings finals for Stewart and Tonkin with Damian Wilson aboard. Major Moth had the run behind the leader, main danger and stablemate Act Now, but it was the ease with which he roared past the leader in a 26.5sec last quarter (Major Moth ran his in 26.2sec) which astounded onlookers. It marked a career high for Wilson, who has been in-and-out of the game and only had the drive on Major Moth through the 20 years of support and loyalty owner-breeder Len Parker has shown him. “All thanks to Len. We’ve had some good moments together with some nice horses, but this tops them all,” he said. Wilson’s previous biggest win was the 2009 Kilmore Cup on Ohoka Nevada. Cover Of Darkness led throughout to take his unbeaten record to six wins for Stewart/Tonkin and driver Jodi Quinlan in the $80,000 Group 1 3YO trotting colts and geldings finals. Despite his relative inexperience and scaring Quinlan pre-race by bucking and kicking in the warm-up, Cover Of Darkness led from gate two and never really looked in danger on his way to a two metres win in a 1min57sec mile rate for 2240m. “He’s sort of come from nowhere a bit to win this and when you considered he’s nowhere near as seasoned as most of these horses, he should just keep getting better as well,” Quinlan said. ________________________________________________________________________________________________ NSW trainer Paul Fitzpatrick added some interstate flavour to the Crown when his talented former Kiwi colt Zeuss Bromac led throughout to win the $200,000 3YO colts and geldings final. The son of Bettors Delight had to burn to hold the lead early then overraced throughout the middle stages for driver Kerryn Manning, but still ripped home in 54.7 and 27.2sec to win by five metres over Jilliby Nitro. Zeuss Bromac was Manning’s third Crown final win, following three-year-old trotter Djerriwarrh (2000) and three-year-old pacer Emmas Only (2004). “He got a bit keen after the early burn and I tried to bring him back to me without cutting off his wind. It was really only at the bell he settled better so he did a good job. He battled on really well,” Manning said. COVID meant Fitzpatrick couldn’t campaign the horse in the Victoria, so his good friends Noel and Ruth Shinn were caretaker trainers for the stint. It was a similar story, but more official with Watts Up Majestic’s win in the $100,000 2YO trotting colts and geldings finals. Rickie Alchin of Tough Monarch fame wouldn’t been in Victoria were it not for COVID, but sent the youngster to Chris Svanosio to train and drive for the Crown series. Svanosio drove Watts Up Majestic superbly and pounced late for a runaway win. ________________________________________________________________________________________________ IT wouldn’t be a Breeders Crown trotting series without the powerhouse Yabby Dams team snaring a big one. This time it was lightly-raced Quaker Jet filly Im Ready Jet who went back-to-back, adding the three-year-old fillies’ title to the two-year-old crown she won last year. It came thanks to an inspired Jason Lee drive, seizing the gaps and opportunities while others galloped and weaving through from an inside back row draw to take the lead.  ________________________________________________________________________________________________ NOT even all the experience and genius of Chris Alford would lift gifted but wayward three-year-old filly Sweet Louise to a fairytale win in her $200,000 Crown final. She’s just one of three horses trained by hobbyist Phil Chircop and raced by John Dorrington, who has owned horses for decades without winning a Group race. Sweet Louise worked to lead from the pole but raced greenly and switched on-and-off at times, eventually being out-dashed along the sprint lane by Greg Sugars aboard The Panthiest, who won by 1.7m in a 1min54.7sec mile rate for 2240m. ________________________________________________________________________________________________ THE night finished on a high for the Caldow family with wins in the last two races courtesy of Sangreal and No Win No Feed. Sangreal, raced, trained and bred by the Caldows, caused a huge upset when pick-up driver Daryl Douglas weaved through the field late in an incident-packed race to win by a neck as a $50.60 outsider. The race was over at the start for star Kiwi raider Mexicana when she galloped away from the pole and lost all hope. John Caldow then made the most of a pick-up drive on NSW raider No Win No Feed for Craig Cross when he blasted to the front and gave nothing else a chance in the $60,000 Group 2 Crown 4YO Mares’ final. Glamour former Kiwi mare Our Princess Tiffany moved around to sit parked, but never really looked a hope and just battled into third spot.   by Adam Hamilton

Jason Lee and Jack MacKinnon had plenty of reason to smile after Im Ready Jet secured their first Breeders Crown title and first Group 1 respectively. An outstaning Lee drive helped capture the Catanach's Jewellers class for three-year-old trotting fillies, a very satisfying result for co-trainers Anton Golino and MacKinnon, Pat Driscoll's Yabby Dam Farm and Lee himself. "Huge thrill to win a Breeders Crown," Lee told Trots Vision. "Grew up as a kid coming with Nana and Pop and Mum and all the uncles and watching these races and it's just awesome to be able to win one. "Obviously pretty great to be able to give Jack MacKinnon his first Group 1 winner in partnership, really happy for him and obviously Pat (Driscoll) and Anton and all their staff do a great job and I'm thankful for the opportunity." He certainly rewarded their faith, taking advantage when stablemate Imamaorijet galloped at the start from gate four, which enabled Lee to slide off leader's back and into the running line. He then advanced to the lead and sustained pressure from Sofia Arvidsson's front-running Aldebaran Tess to set up the win, holding off swooping Ofortuna (second) and Queen Of Crime (third).                                                                                     --photo by Stuart McCormick "She was a bit of tactical one," Lee said. "I was just worried if I stayed on the fence that one of the other ones may have come and seeing how they raced in their heats they were pretty strong, they may have put it to Matty and been able to cross him. "I just wanted to try and stay in front of them. It's probably one of those, if it comes off it looks great, if it didn't it's going to look a bit silly. Thankfully it came off and she was good enough and ran a great race."   HRV - Michael Howard

The TAB Breeders Crown finals fields have been set and the barriers drawn, and the series has again proven the plaything of Emma Stewart's stable. The Ballarat district trainer delivered again, producing five winners on pacing semi-finals night and qualifying an extraordinary 14 for the November 21 Group 1 finals, including the first five home in the night's opening heat. Ladies In Red, Tough Tilly, Techys Angel (pictured) and Mach Dan swept the night's first four heats for Stewart and then Act Now added another, while her training partner, Clayton Tonkin, one another with Major Moth. Zeuss Bromac (for Paul Fitzpatrick) and Sweet Louise (for Phil Chircop) rounded out the winners, and all trainers and drivers will now be closing analysing the finals barrier draws, which were drawn live on Trots Vision during tonight's semi-finals coverage. The trotting and pacing Breeders Crown finals draws are as follows: 2YO TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS: Click here for the heats recap: Barmah turns up the heat with all-the-way win Click here for the market 2YO TROTTING FILLIES: Click here for the heats recap: Mexicana holds on but 2YO rivals emerge Click here for the market 3YO TROTTING COLTS AND GELDINGS: Click here for the heats recap: Unbeaten colt advances to 3YO Crown final Click here for the market 3YO TROTTING FILLIES: Click here for the heats recap: Tess smashes track record with audacious win | Click here for the market 2YO PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS: Click here for the semi-finals recap: Major chance knocks for Damian and Parkers Click here for the market 2YO PACING FILLIES: Click here for the semi-finals recap: Stunning final showdown looms as fillies fly Click here for the market 3YO PACING COLTS AND GELDINGS: Click here for the semi-finals recap: Dan and Zeuss emerge from bruising 3YO semis Click here for the market   3YO PACING FILLIES: Click here for the semi-finals recap: 3YO fillies Sweet results for Phil and Emma Click here for the market   Harness Racing Victoria

Cover Of Darkness defended his unbeaten record and looks set to give the TAB Breeders Crown three-year-old colts and geldings final an almighty shake, having recorded a fifth win from as many starts in today's Maryborough heats. The Emma Stewart-trained Majestic Son colt survived a late challenge by No Biggie to win by three metres today and justify his $1.10 price for reinswoman Jodi Quinlan, who didn't hustle her contender off the gates. Instead, Quinlan allowed Cover Of Darkness to find his feet before working to the lead and with a 57.3-second last half he found separation from his rivals, despite No Biggie impressing late when trainer-driver Emmett Brosnan extricated himself from three back on the pegs. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE HEATS ON TROTS VISION It would have been a pleasing result for Quinlan, who knows much of Cover Of Darkness's potential but also his tricks, having steered him for all five of his starts for owners TSR Racing Group, Ben Prentice, Sue Murray, Anthony Shelly and Stuart Watt, as well as having had her hands on much of his extended family.  The Australian Premier Trotting Sale graduate was bred by Martin and Kaye Hartnett out of Illawong Moonshine ($63,515), who is a full-sister to Yankee Spider ($317,657) and a half-sister to both Illawong Armstrong ($230,652) and Quinlan's promising three-year-old Illawong Stardust ($44,330). Third-placed Sky Eagle and fourth-placed Glengarriff joined Cover Of Darkness and No Biggie in advancing to the Breeders Crown finals with today's top four finish. They will be joined by Gimondi, Elite Stride, Red White An Bloom and Andover Sun, who advanced from the second heat but not without something of a surprise. The two New South Wales entrants Elite Stride and Gimondi were dominant, but it was the latter who emerged late for trainer Blake Fitzpatrick and reinsman Greg Sugars to unseat the $1.60 favourite. Trained and driven by Anthony Butt, Elite Stride had won nine of his 12 starts heading into today, including the Need For Speed Prince Final and NSW Trotters Derby, but Gimondi sat outside him for the final lap and toughed it out in the straight to win by a head. The winner is owned by Ethan Hill and was bred by New Zealand's Ivan and Ann Behnes, who pared their dam Merckx with Denmark-bred stallion Peak, who stands at Alabar. Powderkeg closed out the Catanach's Jewellers three-year-old trotting colts and geldings' heats with a continuation of his good recent form for trainer-driver Lisa Miles. A Vicbred Super Series winner in only his third start, Powderkeg hadn't won since saluting in the February 28 Need For Speed Consolation final but got back on the winners' list at Maryborough today with a commanding victory. On the back of second and third placings in the Victoria Derby heat and final, Miles confidently guided Powderkeg to the front of affairs and with an impressive 57.1-second last half the favourite upstaged his rivals to win by 6.4 metres from Rules Dont Apply, who again ran on well for trainer-driver Anthony Crossland. Cracker Jet and Kyvalley Shaunie also advanced to the Group 1 final, having finished third and fourth respectively. Owned and bred by Wyndown Stud, Powderkeg is by Muscle Hill out of Sparks Ignite, who's great grand-dam is the brilliant trotting broodmare Maori Miss.   HRV - Michael Howard

Mexicana remains at the top of the two-year-old trotting fillies tree but the Redwood Classic winner has plenty snapping at her heels, including Andy Gath's Aldebaran Ursula who very nearly broke the Kiwi's four-race winning streak in today's third Breeders Crown heat. With the first four advancing to the Group 1 finals, qualification was never in doubt for reinsman Anthony Butt as he guided Mexicana to the front from the gates, with fast-starting Aldebaran Ursula moving on to her back for reinswoman Kate Gath. It would then become a run to the line, with the judges' photo giving Mexicana, a Muscle Mass filly out of Pocaro, a half-head win for owners Trevor Casey and Kate Marriott. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE HEATS ON TROTS VISION Lucky Charm, for trainer Blake Fitzpatrick and reinsman Jason Lee, and Sheza Pleasure, for trainer Dennis Paton and reinswoman Kerryn Manning, finished third and fourth respectively to also advance. Queen Elida (heat one) and Tipsy Turvy (heat two) led all-the way in the day's first two Aldebaran Eagle @ Aldebaran Park two-year-old trotting fillies heats to build confidence and book their places in the Group 1 finals. For trainer Brent Lilley and reinsman Chris Alford, Queen Elida entered a $1.90 favourite and the Love You filly out of unraced dam Queen Kenny won comfortably by 5.1 metres. The result was a second successive victory for the former Kiwi from three starts on Australian soil for owners Gordon, Graeme, Blair and Brad McKenzie, and Tony and Cheryl Barron. Sangreal, trained by Maree Caldow and driven by reinsman John Caldow, also gave a good sight to finish second, and while there was a further 15 metres back to third-placed Appearfromnowhere (trainer David Abrahams, driver Josh Aiken) and fourth-placed Amour Maternal (co-trainer Anton Golino and co-trainer/driver Jack MacKinnon) the pair also booked finals berths. There they will be joined by Tipsy Turvy, Banglez, Evas Image and Thats Not My Gait, who all advanced from the second heat for two-year-old trotting fillies. For trainer-driver Chris Lang, $2 favourite Evas Image never really threatened but importantly boxed on well late to finish in the first four and gain finals qualification when it looked like it may slip from her grasp. There were no such worries for trainer Maree Caldow and reinsman John Caldow, with Tipsy Turvy building on her bold fifth in the Redwood Classic to record a third win in four starts for owner-breeders Sue and Evan Crick. Banglez, for trainer Emma Stewart and Greg Sugars, ran on well to threaten late and go down by only a head, while fourth-placed Thats Not My Gait (trainer Alison Alford and reinsman Chris Alford) finished fourth to also advance.    HRV - Michael Howard

OH WHAT a night - a great result for A-P-G… With six Group races for pacers conducted in Melton during the weekend, Australian Pacing Gold purchases dominated proceedings in emphatic style. The home of harness racing in Victoria hosted another marvelous Breeders’ Crown night which saw four Group Ones and a pair of Group Twos contested. APG Sales graduates captured each of the Group One Finals, while Goodtime Heaven was triumphant at Group Two level. A Sydney buy, Goodtime Heaven rounded out her four-year-old season by leading throughout for trainer Courtney Slater. Part-owned by the Slater family, Goodtime Heaven boasts 12 wins and three placings from 18 starts for a bankroll of $224,017. Earlier on the card record-breaking horsewoman Emma Stewart made a clean sweep of the two-year-old division when Be Happy Mach and Maajida turned their Finals into one-act affairs. Confirming his status as the nation’s premier freshman, Be Happy Mach stretched his record to an impeccable 10 wins and a third from 11 starts by rating 1:56.2 over 2240 metres, with his time nine-tenths of a second quicker than Maajida. With Greg Sugars holding the reins, Maajida led throughout to extend her record to seven wins and a second from eight starts for earnings of $271,800. As for the three-year-olds, Max Delight and No Win No Feed confirmed their position at the head of their crop by adding another top shelf win to their ever-growing tallies. Having already secured the New South Wales and Tasmania Derbys, Max Delight has won nine of his 16 starts for the season, with three placings and $299,310 also to his credit. No Win No Feed annexed her third Group One of the term, following wins in the Bathurst Gold Bracelet and New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge Final.   APG Media

On a star-studded night featuring some of harness racing's most prestigious Group One and Group Two futurities, for pure emotion, it was hard to go past the performance of seven-year-old gelding Tee Cee Bee Macray at Melton on Saturday night. The gifted but trouble-prone pacer scored his first win for more than two years in the only non-listed race on the program, the Always B Miki Breeders Crown Graduate Cup of $24,000 - but the sentiment could scarcely have been more poignant. Tee Cee Bee Macray (Ponder-Wya Mya Macray (Pacific Fella) was "one of the favorites" of respected trainer the late Alan Tubbs and it's been the mission of his daughter Jess and son-in-law Greg Sugars to nurture the pacer back to winning form since Alan Tubbs' death. "It's just amazing and it's one for dad!" a tearful Jess Tubbs, Tee Cee Bee Macray's trainer, said in a post-race interview. "It's been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues but we've worked through them. The horse is a bit one-dimensional, but it all just worked out so well tonight," she said. Tee Cee Bee Macray burst onto the scene as a three-year-old in the hands of Alan Tubbs, then won 12 of his first 20 starts, including a Vicbred Platinum final, and amassed career earnings of more than $200,000. But the pacer was beset by health issues including a throat condition requiring surgery and a litany of ongoing unrelated infections. He was a constant challenge for the astute trainer, who died in October 2017 after enduring many years of kidney-related ill-health. Jess Tubbs took over the training of the pacer, but admitted the challenge, at times, almost became too much. "He had raw ability and he was dad's follow on horse from Melpark Major, so it always meant a lot to dad to get the best out of him, and so it became that way for us as well," she said "By all rights the horse shouldn't really be here. It's been a long road but it's two years and 20 days exactly since his last win. That was one of dad's last wins, so this means a lot." She said the pacer's nature was something of a double-edged sword. "Dad spent an incredible amount of time with him. He walked him and spent a lot of time with him and probably spoiled him a bit. He is a bit of a brat and he's definitely a handful to deal with, but we just love him," she said. "There's no nastiness about him, but he has brute strength, he's big and he doesn't care for opinions he doesn't agree with - like last night when we arrived at the track and went to get him out of the float, he just barged out backwards before we had a chance to get him undone and broke the new tie-ups. "That's the kind of fellow he is. But to come back from what he's had to, that's how he's had to be. "We've been so pleased with how he's been lately - so well in himself, so to have him win this race has just been a tremendous thrill." Sugars drove the pacer to a nicety, sitting in the one-out, one-back position, then launching with a withering sprint in the straight. The usually-composed reinsman saluted in jubilation crossing the line, reflecting the depth of emotion attached to the victory. Sugars said although the pacer had looked promising as a young horse, he was perhaps a victim of his early success, and his imposing presence on the track. "He looked very promising, but he's never really been void of issues and to be fair, Tubbsy and I really didn't buy into the hype. We didn't think that he would carry (his form) against the very best in the country. He got pressure that he didn't really deserve and I think a lot of unfair criticism," he said. "This mightn't be the biggest race in the world, but tonight it certainly feels like it! "I would have given up just about every win this season just to get this one over the line." Sugars said the new National Ratings system was serving horses such as Tee Cee Bee Macray well. "He was just battling away against the top end horses and not only finding it hard to win but hard to earn - keeping him alive in the system was a bit of a challenge," he said. "Without the change to the system, most likely this horse wouldn't be here this season and would have been retired." Jess said retirement now seems a lot further off for Tee Cee Bee Macray, now that he's found form against a more suitable class of horse. "But because of the way he is and looks, there's a line up of people who've put their hands up for him when he does finish racing," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR

WHEN managing owner Michael Guerin pushed for a Breeders Crown raid with Kratos a couple of months back, trainer John Dickie had mixed emotions. Firstly he wasn’t sure the young Kiwi trotter was quite good enough and then came some pride from Dickie around protecting his “perfect” Breeders Crown record. That’s why Dickie pointed all the credit Guerin’s way after Kratos won last night’s $80,000 Group 1 Crown final for three-year-old trotters, albeit on controversial protest circumstances. It was Dickie’s fifth Breeders Crown final win from just the five finalists.  “I won two with Paramount Gem, one with Flying Isa, another with Speeding Spur and now this one,” he said. “I joked when Mick said about bringing this guy across that I had a perfect record to protect. “I have to say it was Mick’s idea to come. We know he’s not the best back home, but Mick said the best Kiwis weren’t going to Australia and we should give it a shot.” Guerin watched the race on his phone in the USA where he’s away on business. And it was a dramatic watch with Kratos being second across the line but gaining the race on protest when the stewards deemed the leader All Cashed Up should be demoted to second for galloping in the last two or three strides. Opinions were certainly divided on the protest with varying outcomes from similar scenarios over the past two years in Victoria. As an aside issue, it’s now crucial for the sport to remove any “greyness” around the situation and set a firm and clear rule when horses gallop late in races. HRV chief steward Brett Day said of last night’s protest: “It was a very difficult decision. It happened so close to the line and even though Glen (Craven, driver of All Cashed Up) restrained his horse, we felt All Cashed Up did maintain his position and it warranted reversing the result.” Guerin tweeted: “Really feel for the connections of All Cashed Up, that’s a bloody tough way to lose a Group One. But we are thrilled for little Kratos to win a Breeders Crown and pay back all the hard work from John and Josh Dickie along with Sammy Kilgour, who looked after him so well … “ Things panned out superbly for Kratos early when Hatchback galloped behind the leader and driver Josh Dickie was able to drop to the marker pegs and trail All Cashed Up, which left hot favourite Majestuoso – known for his speed not stamina – in the worst possible spot for him outside the leader. “He got the perfect trip, but when he came to hook around Majestuoso, that horse drifted up the track and probably cost him getting past All Cashed Up and winning the race without needing a protest,” Josh Dickie said. All Cashed Up team of Yabby Days, trainer Anton Golino and driver Glen Craven were privately seething after the protest result. They had some well-deserved compensation later in the night when untapped juvenile trotter Im Ready Jet won his Group 1 Crown final by a big space. “This one feels good after what happened earlier,” Craven said. “This filly went awesome. She jogged it in. It was just a matter of trotting all the way, because she had it won at the 400m. She’s something special.” Craven then capped the night by winning the last race, the Group 2 4YO Mares’ final, with the Courtney Slater-trained Goodtime Heaven in strong all-the-way style. “Courtney’s done a great job to get her back from a year out. Things went her way when she led tonight and she won it really well after getting some pressure in front,” Craven said.   Adam Hamilton

Phil Williamson’s trotting genius helped the New Zealand flag fly proudly on Australasian Breeders Crown Finals night at Melton on Saturday. Williamson led the charge for the kiwi contingent by producing blueblood trotters Liberty Stride and Ultimate Stride for emphatic victories. Liberty Stride set the tone for a great night out for the New Zealanders when powering away from her opposition to win the group 1 3yr-old fillies final. Williamson’s renown trotting skill shone through when the filly, who had galloped in two of her three Victorian starts, put in a faultless display to win by almost 20 metres for driver Anthony Butt.  “It is a big thrill for us – massive,” Williamson said.  “We are just so thrilled to come here and win nice races, it is not easy.” “You do have to bring the right horses and if you have a nice horse this is what you can achieve.” Williamson had put the finals night polish on his daughter of Muscle Hill and Jasmyns Gift at the Victorian stable of Brent Lilley and his partner Tracey Cullen. Williamson revealed his Victorian venture had become far more than just a business trip.  “I have been here for six weeks with [Brent], he has been a sensational host.” “His partner Tracy is up at 4.15am feeding the horses and their little son Jack has allowed me in to their family.” “I have just had a fantastic stay.” Little more half an hour after Liberty Stride’s demolition job, Williamson produced Ultimate Stride for an even more emphatic group 1 victory. The son of Love You and millionaire mare One Over Kenny embarrassed his Australian opposition when he ran away with the 2yr-old trotting colt’s and gelding’s final by nearly 40 metres.  Ultimate Stride powered through tough conditions as rain and wind pelted the Melton track during the group 1 event. And though his Australian opposition could not match him, Anthony Butt revealed that he could not get his charge to go any slower.  “The conditions weren’t ideal.” “He was getting pretty keen that first lap – I couldn’t get him going any slower. “ “He just wanted to get on with it, but he was very good, he smashed them.”  The New Zealand contingent added a third Breeders Crown title to their haul in dramatic circumstances when Kratos was crowned the 3yr-old trotting colts and geldings winner in the enquiry room. The John and Joshua Dickie trained squaregaiter was second past the post in a thrilling three-way finish with the winner, All Cashed Up, and third placegetter Majestuoso.  All Cashed Up galloped late in the run home, but it was not just a case of waiting for the horse to be automatically relegated like he would have been under New Zealand rules for breaking over the line. An enquiry was held to decide whether All Cashed Up had either had not gained an advantage or at least was unable to maintain his momentum when galloping. Stewards ruled All Cashed Up had not complied with Australia’s breaking rules and Kratos was crowned the group 1 Breeders Crown champion.  Earlier on the Melton card, star filly Princess Tiffany was defeated in a shock result in 3yr-old pacing fillies final. Sitting parked throughout, and copping some minor interference before the home turn, took its toll on the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 3yr-old when she was beaten in to third behind upset winner No Win No Feed. Princess Tiffany was caught late by fellow New Zealander, Best Western, who continued her superbly consistent Breeders Crown campaign by finishing second.  The New Zealand pairing of Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac could not match brilliant Australian colt Be Happy Mach in the 2yr-old pacing colt’s and gelding’s final. But, the pair still performed admirably and completed a brilliant night for the New Zealand contingent by finishing third and fourth respectively.    By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

THE similarities are remarkable. Just as the All Stars barn continued dominates so many of the juvenile features in NZ, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin do the same in Australia. It was underlined again when Stewart and Tonkin snared the two richest Breeders Crown finals at Melton last night with Be Happy Mach winning the $300,000 Group 1 2YO colts and geldings pacing final and Maajida winning the fillies’ equivalent. Winning drivers Chris Alford (Be Happy Mach) and Greg Sugars (Maajida) both heaped praise on the genius of Stewart and Tonkin. “This guy’s had a long season and done plenty of travelling, but kept getting better through it all. He hit a new peak in his last run of a long season. That takes some doing as a trainer,” Alford said. Sugars added: “It’s just been a pleasure to be part of the season with this filly. The thing people don’t probably see is how well-mannered Emma and Clayton’s horses are. You very rarely see one of theirs without great manners.” Be Happy Mach matched young Kiwi trotter Ultimate Stride for “win of the night” honours. Alford launched him early from an outside back row draw, burned through a 27.7sec opening quarter to bludgeon his way to the front from heavily-backed Kiwi raider Zeuss Bromac and then win as he liked. “He’s a really special young horse and just such a professional. To sprint as quickly as he did at two different parts of the race, but relax in between … that’s real maturity for a young horse,” Alford said. Be Happy Mach’s win cemented him Aussie 2YO of the Year honours with 10 wins and third from just 11 starts and $344,215 in earnings. Kiwis Perfect Stride (third) and Zeuss Bromac (fourth) ran good races, but were simply outlassed by Be Happy Mach. Perfect Stride stays in Australia and goes to Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith in NSW, while Zeuss Bromac will also continue his career in NSW. Maajida led and made a one-act affair of her 2YO fillies final, finishing the season with eight starts for seven wins, a second and $271,800. Stewart and Tonkin also landed the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final with the much-improved Tam Major, who came around to sit parked early and won like a horse headed to the Grand Circuit. “He’s racing like a killing machine,” driver Chris Alford said. “He wanted to get going at the 600m, so I just cut him loose and away he went. “He’s gone from just behind the best ones the past couple of years to winning the Vicbred and Breeders Crown this season.” _____________________________________________________________________________ CHAMPION driver Luke McCarthy was still smarting hours after superstar Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany’s shock loss in her Breeders Crown final. And that’s despite the fact McCarthy is a part of the team who trains the filly who beat her, the massively improved No Win No Feed. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong there,” McCarthy said. “Tiffany should’ve won easily.” Our Princess Tiffany had to sit parked outside Miss Streisand, but McCarthy knew he had her beaten down the back straight and went for home. “I was just about around the leader and I’d have been off and gone and the race was over, but Miss Streisand veered up the track, took me out and the winner got the run through,” he said. “She kept coming, but that burn the back straight and being pushed out like that, it really cost her.” You could still argue the very best version of Our Princess Tiffany this season would’ve picked herself up again and still won. But maybe that’s disrespectful to No Win No Feed, a former battling Victorian filly who has now won three Group 1 races this season. “She’s been super consistent this filly and just kept stepping-up. Things obviously worked out well for us in the run, but she was still good enough to take advantage of it,” driver Todd McCarthy said. _____________________________________________________________________________ MAX Delight surely locked away Australian 3YO of the Year honours and added some Tasmanian flavour to Crown night with his win in the $200,000 3YO colts and geldings final. Driver Todd McCarthy made the most of the good draw (gate two) to lead, pinched a soft lead time and Max Delight scorched home in 54.6 and 27.8sec to beat a fast-finishing Out To Play. It followed wins in the NSW and Tasmanian Derbys earlier in the season. Max Delight is owned in Tasmanian by big spending owner Michael Maxfield. “I was able to get a bit of breather in front while they sorted themselves out early and then he was so brave in that slick last half,” McCarthy said. It was McCarthy’s second Group 1 win on the night after he teamed with No Win No Feed to cause a huge upset in the 3YO fillies’ pacing final. “It caps a great season, especially down here at Melton,” McCarthy said. Most notably, McCarthy won the Victoria and Hunter Cups as well as the Inter Dominion at Melton this season aboard Tiger Tara.   Adam Hamilton

Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson had one of those dream nights in Australia last night, winning two Group One races at the Melton track, and both trotters were very impressive. “It’s getting up there. To win two Group One races in one night and three Group One races with two horses in six weeks is a pretty good effort I’d say,” said Williamson, rating last night’s achievement. Three year old trotting filly Liberty Stride got the ball rolling, winning her Breeders Crown Final by 19.4 metres in the hands of former New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt. One race later Ultimate Stride continued on his winning way by taking out the two year old section of the Breeders Crown. Having completed his Australian trip unbeaten – he’s won all of his four starts and has banked $87,490 for owners Emilio and Mary Rosati. Williamson who’s no stranger to taking horses to Australia says both horses were eligible for the rich series, so a trip to Australia was always a possibility. “We just had to make sure their form was right. Liberty Stride won at Forbury and went super. Ultimate Stride had a couple of wee issues at the Jewels so I had to get on top of that. He’s a very soft skinned horse and was having trouble with cracking his heels and bleeding. Once that happens they’re not happy. We gave him a wee bit of time off.” Normally members of the Williamson family drive Phil’s horses on both sides of the Tasman but not this time, with Williamson hiring expat Anthony Butt. “He’s a big race driver and that showed in Liberty Stride’s race. He probably outdrove the others. I used him when I came over for the Interdominions. With the boys (Nathan and Brad) having their own busy lifestyles with their own teams and Matty having just been away to the World Drivers Championships it made more sense to use Anthony.” Ultimate Stride’s dam One Over Kenny won six races in Australia including the Group One Australasian Trotting Championship and the EB Cochran Trotters Cup in 2007, and a semi-final of the 2009 Interdominions. Jasmyn’s Gift, the dam of Liberty Stride also raced in Australia but without much luck. Williamson says Ultimate Stride will return home on Wednesday but Liberty Stride will stay in Australia to be trained by Brent Lilley.  “As a four year old mare there’s not a lot of opportunity in New Zealand. She’s up to it but it would be harder. If she gets a nomination for the Harness Jewels she’ll come back to me for that. Brent’s been a wonderful host and has looked after me really well.” Ultimate Stride, after a busy juvenile season will now have time off. “He’ll have six to eight weeks off and we’ll look towards racing him after Christmas. All going well we’ll head back to Australia for the Three Year Old Breeders Crown and we’ll have another crack at the Victoria Derby. It was the only one that got away from us on the trip.” Springbank Richard won the Group One Victoria Derby for Williamson and son Nathan in 2007.   Bruce Stewart

Challenging conditions saw the toughest emerge and reinforce their dominance on TAB Breeders Crown night, when eight Group 1s were captured amid some unforgettable triumphs. Emma Stewart's two-year-old pair Maajida and Be Happy Mach only added to their lofty reputations, Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson produced a trotting double from his only two contestants, Yabby Dam Farms lost one on a protest but captured another and there was even an upset or two. Relive all the winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Breeders Crown night with this rolling blog. TEE CEE BEE MACRAY WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI BREEDERS CROWN GRADUATE CUP An extraordinary start to the night as Tee Cee Bee Macray, the horse who means so much to trainer Jess Tubbs and reinsman/husband Greg Sugars, salutes in the Graduate Cup. Having been trained to great heights by Tubbs's late father, Alan, Tee Cee Bee Macray's victory tonight was his first since Alan's passing, some 37 starts ago. "That's just amazing, that's one for Dad," Tubbs said. "Been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues, we've all just worked through them and he's been really well lately. "It just worked out so well tonight, I'm just so proud for Dad. (Tee Cee Bee Macray) by all rights shouldn't really be here, he's ovecome a lot of health issues, a few surgeries along the way, it's been a long way back. Dad was so patient with him and spoiled him, he's a bit of a brat and a handful to deal with but we just love him." Sugars has enjoyed plenty of big wins, but few have meant more than this. "I would have given up just about every win this season to get this one over the line. There's been a lot of downs, a few ups along the way and a lot of criticism and a lot of weight on our shoulders from everyone but it just means the world to us."   LIBERTY STRIDE WINS THE FATHER PATRICK @ NEVELE R STUD 3YO TROTTING FILLES FINAL: A perfect Anthony Butt drive and a very good horse in Liberty Stride, trained by Phil Williamson, kicked off the night's TAB Breeders Crown Group 1s with a dominant victory. There was plenty of heat on early in the three-year-old trotting fillies final but every move played more in the hands of Liberty Stride, the well-back favourite, and when the moment came Butt streaked clear to win for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati. "We had high expectations but you never know with these young trotters. Got a really good run and it worked out beautifully," Butt told Sky Racing Active. "I wanted to be a little bit aggressive but take my time as well and nurse her, got into a good spot down the back, I was lucky to drop in and then Johnny pulled in front of me getting to the back and got a beautiful dragged into it and she jogged it. Won really easily." Butt gave much credit to Williamson and his owners, with the Rosati's producing not only the winner but also second placed Emerald Stride. "Emilio and Mary have been really good lately supporting me and given me some really good drives so, long may it continue. Also Phil Williamson, great mate from New Zealand. We've been mates a long time and he's got some great boys who drive at home so very lucky to get a call up."   ULTIMATE STRIDE WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL: Ultimate Stride was spectacular in winning by almost 40 metres in the two-year-old trotting boys' final to leave no doubt who was the best horse in the class. It was a second consecutive Group 1 win for trainer Phil Williamson, reinsman Anthony Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, with Ultimate Stride unbeaten in his Victorian campaign and capping it with a Crown. "He is a nice horse, very nice horse," Williamson told Sky Racing Active. "He showed that he was a wee bit dominant on them, without stating the obvious he is a wee bit smart isn't he? "His mother (One Over Kenny), she won a million, (his sire) Love You was pretty good too, so it's a bit of a combination made in heaven you might say. When you hit the jackpot you've got yourself a good horse." Williamson said they knew Ultimate Stride was a very good horse from "the very first day". "Day one I said we have got a very special horse here," he said. "He just oozed class right from when we bought him at the sale. He's just a quality horse." It's great reward for the Rosatis, who Williamson said had "put a lot into the game". "He's had probably his fair share of disappointments so it's great to give him some upside. It's what we do it for."   NO WIN NO FEED WINS THE WOODLANDS STUD 3YO FILLIES FINAL Opportunity knocked and Todd McCarthy burst through to produce a boilover with $43-shot No Win No Feed saluting in the three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown final. All the drama again surrounded Our Princess Tiffany, the brilliant All Stars three-year-old who looked lacklustre in her heat, improved in her semi-final but ultimately outpointed in tonight's Group 1 after a testing run punching a stiff breeze. Instead it was No Win No Feed, trainer Craig Cross and reinsman McCarthy who pinched the headline, with McCarthy steering his filly to the front from gate six, getting cover from Miss Streisand and then stealing a march on the field when the latter hung wide and enabled him to gain the front again at the final bend. That set up a 3.5-metre win ahead of Jeremy Young's Best Western, with Our Princess Tiffany a close third. "She's been a terrific filly," McCarthy said. "She's been super consistent all season, she's really come a long way, she's done a great job. "I probably would have liked to have held the front but Chris (Geary) come at me pretty hard and I was happy to take the sit at that time. I know that filly (Miss Streisand). I've driven her before and she can get up the track. I never thought it would be at that point in the race, but it worked out good for us."   TAM MAJOR WINS THE HYGAIN BREEDERS CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS Tam Major's advancement this season was capped with a powerful victory in the four-year-old Breeders Crown Championship, a title to add to his Vicbred Super Series success for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart. Alford couldn't have been more glowing in his praise when speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "There was good speed early and we were able to get around at the right time," Alford said. "He's just racing like a killing machine at the moment. "He got a good breather there for a little bit, about the 600 he wanted to get on with the job, so I said let's go racing." Seated in the breeze for much of the race, Tam Major wore down leader Rackemup Tigerpie and held off sprint lane stablemate second-placed Major Times to reinforce that he's a Grand Circuit contender of the future.   KRATOS WINS THE WHAT THE HILL 3YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was a drama-fuelled finish to the TAB Breeders Crown final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, with a first-past-the-post All Cashed Up galloping in the closing stages and prompting a protest from second-placed Kratos. Only a nose separated Anton Golino's trotter from the Kiwi challenger, trained by John and Josh Dickie, with Majestuoso just a head back in third. HRV Chairman of Stewards explained their decision to Brittany Graham on Sky Racing Active. "They are always so difficult to do when they are so close to the line," Mr Day said. "The relevant rule requires that when a horse does break gait that either it doesn't gain ground or, importantly, doesn't maintain ground. When they gallop so close to the line it's very hard for them to lose ground, or alternatively not maintain their ground, and we were satisfied that when All Cashed Up broke in the final 50 metres, initially while in a gallop, it did maintain its position. "Mindful of the very small margin between the two of a nose, we were satisfied the protest ought to be upheld and we amended the placings."   MAX DELIGHT WINS THE IRT 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was an impressive and clinical performance by Max Delight as the David Aiken trained horse was placed in front by Todd McCarthy out of the gates and controlled a class field to win another Group 1. The front row draw proved beneficial and while a strong clan of Emma Stewart runners and highly-rated Lochinvar Art had to shuffle and work to gain their best chance, Max Delight was always in control and with 26.8-second and 27.8-second third and fourth quarters had enough in reserve to hold off Out To Play. "He was super," McCarthy told Sky Racing Active. "We got out of the gate quick, once he held up easy enough I think everyone knew he was going to be there. I was able to a bit of a breather while everyone sorted themselves out and he was just so brave in that slick last half." McCarthy gave great credit to trainer Aiken, whose confidence was rock solid despite the semi-final fourth placing. "David's so good with these horses and he said after that run (in the semi-final) last week 'don't worry, he will be better next week'. Full credit to David, he had him spot on. "I've been very fortunate to be able to drive some great horses throughout the season and I can't thank the owners and trainers I've been involved with enough for that. I've had a pretty good season here at Melton, it's a pretty good place to me."   BE HAPPY MACH WINS THE DOWNBYTHESEASIDE 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL Chris Alford drove Be Happy Mach like he was the best horse in the race and he only served to further prove that reputation in the run with a commanding Breeders Crown Group 1 victory. A significant exclamation was put on the talented Mach Three colt's season for trainer Emma Stewart, with Be Happy Mach coming from the back of the field to tackle Zuess Bromac for the lead. While trainer-driver Zach Butcher initially responded, Alford wouldn't be denied, muscling to the front and despite that early work blazing away on the final bend to set up a seven-metre win from an impressive second-placed Youaremy Sunshine. Alford had plenty of praise for the champion when talking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "He had a bit of a chequered passage early," Alford said. "Two galloped in front of him, he hit one wheel and it didn't even faze him, he just rolled around and had to put it to the leader to wrestle the front off him. "Once you buzz him up then he'll drop the bit and go 31 and a half and just walk along, let another one head him and when it's time to go he goes. "(At the final turn) it was just like he hit the turbo button and his arse just dropped and off he went." It's been a significant two-year-old season and the champion reinsman's confident much more is to come. "You look at the size of him now, he's only going to get bigger and stronger and that's a bit scary."   MAAJIDA WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI 2YO FILLIES' FINAL The professionalism of Emma Stewart's runners was to the fore for a second successive TAB Breeders Crown final with, like Be Happy Mach before her, Maajida capping a dominant season with a royal performance. Greg Sugars easily held the front from his advantageous draw and while those behind him shuffled for a good sit, Maajida was clinical in careering away to a 12-metre win ahead of a valiant Iolanta for Mick Stanley. Sugars, speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race, gave plenty of credit to the Stewart stable. "Not only do they get the best out of them ability-wise but their manners are first class," Sugars said. "It's very rare for them to have an unruly horse in their stable, especially their youngsters, they do a terrific job. "She's relatively lightly raced this one but she's got a lot of runs on the board. It's just been a pleasure to be a part of it. "She was fortunate enough to have good draws right through this series, which have helped. She's got better and better as the races have gone on. Very happy with her, she felt very sharp tonight and did leave the gate a lot better, which made it a lot easier."   IM READY JET WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING FILLIES' FINAL A difficult night for Yabby Dam Farms gained a significant silver lining as Anton Golino and Glen Craven captured their Group 1 when Im Ready Jet put in a scintillating finish to win her TAB Breeders Crown final. Having lost a protest in the three-year-old boys class after All Cashed Up galloped in the closing stages, there was no question as to the winner in the fillies' final with Im Ready Jet careering away for a 20-metre win from Jaxnme and Illawong Stardust. "She was just jogging at the 400 and it was just a matter of trotting to the line," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "I was quite surprised on her last start how quick she can run a last quarter. I knew if the pace was on and she was thereabouts in the run she would be hard to hold out." Craven was particularly pleased for Golino and Yabby Dam Farms owner Pat Driscoll. "They put so much into the sport. Unfortunately that poor bloke (All Cashed Up)'s run three seconds in Group 1s now, but that's how it's going to be. This filly, she's something special."   GOODTIME HEAVEN WINS THE VINCENT @ ALABAR CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO MARES The pressure came but you wouldn't have known it as reinsman Glen Craven and mare Goodtime Heaven sat cool as a cucumber in front and then when it came time to win the night's final title they put paid to all comers. The Courtney Slater-trained leader held the front and withstood pressure from $2.70 chance Art Series in the breeze, with the latter's reinswoman Amanda Turnbull attempting to hold at bay favourite Nostra Villa's three-wide advance. Craven and Goodtime Heaven answered the challenge with a 28.5-second first quarter and then had enough to get home in 57.7 seconds for the final 800 metres to take the Crown with a nine-metre win from Major Sea. "It's been a nice night after all, a second and two wins, I'll take that," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "She didn't get it all her own way tonight, she's such a good little racehorse, she's so quick off the arm and was able to settle and let the horse outside the leader sit in front of her the whole way. When I asked her to go she went good."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Traveling 2624kms is a long way to go to drag race your stablemate up a short straight in search of group one glory.  But that is the unusual situation Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride find themselves in in the A$300,000 Breeders Crown juvenile boy’s final at Melton on Saturday night.  Of course Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride aren’t technically stablemates. The former is the first horse trained by young gun driver Zac Butcher while Perfect Stride is trained by Ray Green.  But Butcher actually works for Green and his Lincoln Farm’s bosses so Zeuss Bromac is trained at the same stable, eats the same food and basically lives the same stable life. Butcher, as the stable driver, has even driven Perfect Stride in his ealry races.  And yet here they are two unlikely favourites in one of the richest juvenile pacing races in the world.  Perfect Stride only ended up at the Crown after a mid-season lull that saw him left with petrol in the tank to race into August and is owned by huge-spending NSW couple Emilio and Mary Rosati, who are never scared to travel their horses to the best races.  Zeuss Bromac is an even more unlikely Crown story, being a maiden in June and Butcher’s first horse.  But since arriving in Australia, together naturally, they have both been very good in their heats and semi finals of the Crown and then their chances got massive boosts at Saturday night’s barrier draw where Perfect Stride drew the ace and Zeuss Bromac barrier four.  That suits both as Perfect Stride, even though he led to win his semi final, is a better follower and Zeuss Bromac is the stronger horse better suited to leading and rolling.   So there is a very real chance the two South Auckland babies could end up lead-trail in the group one and while they will still have to stave off high-class local Be Happy Mach, he has the handicap of starting from the outside of the second line. “I think if they lead and trail, which would probably be ideal, then they are going to give the locals a good go,” said Green, who won the Crown two years ago with King Of Swing.  “I’d love to win it again and it would be great for Emilio and Mary because they put so much money into the game.  “But I honestly think our best chance is trailing because he loafs a bit when he leads but he sprints very sharply coming off another horse’s back.  “Would we beat Zac’s horse coming off his back up the sprint lane at Melton? I think we would go close. I’d love to think so. “But if we had to get beat, and I don’t want to, there is nobody I’d rather lose to,” laughs Green.  Bookie have already taken money for Zeuss Bromac as the possible lead-trail scenario became more evident and while Be Happy Mach is enormously better performed than the Kiwis, Breeders Crown are notoriously hard to win sitting parked when the other favourites lead and trail.  So the two South Auckland unofficial stablemates could be each others greatest ally on Saturday night. Right up until they become each others greatest rival.   Michael Guerin

Kate Gath already boasts her best season, but hopes to take it another level on Breeders Crown night at Melton.  Gath has smashed her PB with 152 wins and there’s been plenty of quality amongst them, most notably an Inter Dominion and string of other Group 1’s aboard Tornado Valley.  But the extra dimension of this season has come as a bit of a surprise to Gath.  “It’s been the outside driving opportunities which have been the pleasant surprise,” she said. “It’s been great to get drives for a few different stables, obviously Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) being on some fantastic horses.  “That’s been a big part of what’s certainly been my best season. Not only have I driven more winners than ever before, but I’ve been in more big races as well.  “I think that says some great things about our sport … that at 36 years of age I’m having by far my best season and getting more opportunities than ever. In so many other fields, it gets harder for women as they get older.”  Gath has drives in three of the Group 1 Breeders Crown finals on Saturday night: Majestuoso (Race 6, 3YO colts and geldings trot); Demon Delight (Race 7, 3YO colts and geldings pacing final) and Pacifico Dream (Race 8, 2YO colts and geldings pacing final). She’s also down to drive Jo Dina in the 2YO pacing fillies’ final if the first emergency gains a start.  Gath will also take the reins on major players Maraetai in the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final as well as Nostra Beach in the Group 2 4YO mares’ final.  In a sign of the career shift for Gath, only Majestuoso is trained by her and her husband, Andy.  “It’s a great book of drives on a fantastic night of racing,” Gath. “It’s terrific to be part of it, especially with so many good drives.”  Majestuoso gave Gath her latest Group 1 win in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough last month and is a $2.20 favourite to win his Crown final.  “I was probably a tad easy on him after the Derby win because he’s had to the two staying races back-to-back. Even though he was beaten, he still got very close and fought it out well,” Gath said.  “It’s a good field, but thankfully most of our main dangers, including All Cashed Up who beat him in the heat, are drawn the back row with us.  “The shorter 2240m trip compared to the Derby distance is a bit of a leveller, but he’s so fast this guy. He’ll be very hard to beat.”  Gath can’t wait to drive Demon Delight for Stewart and Tonkin again.  “He’s got everything this horse. He’s so versatile. We knew he was tough and then he comes out and shows that sort of speed to win from back in the field last week,” she said.  “He never seems to draw well for me, but it’s great to have options and be able to drive him according to how the race is run. He’s such an exciting horse.”   Adam Hamilton

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