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Emma Stewart looks to have a stranglehold on the final of the Mercury80 after scoring a third win in the four-heat series at Tabcorp Park Melton. And the Cardigan-based trainer also appears well placed to secure the lucrative bonus for connections of Fourbigmen, who set a new benchmark time of 82.1 seconds on Friday night. The fastest winner in the series snares an extra $20,000, half of which is collected by owners and the other half split by the trainer and driver. Chris Alford drove the first heat winner Liftntorque on New Year’s Eve and was at the controls on Friday night as Fourbigmen darted through along the sprint lane to land a convincing five-metre victory. “He had a nice run in there behind the leader and the pace was on sort of all the way. He felt really good and once the run came, he just powered through then,” Alford said. The champion reinsman said he wasn’t bothered if he drove Liftntorque or Fourbigmen in the final. “They’re both nice horses… whichever one they put me on I’ll be happy with,” Alford said. Michael Stanley’s Soho Nolita came home strongly to pip leader Major Exclusive for second, therefore booking a place in the $50,000 final next Saturday night. The qualifiers for the feature from the first three heats include: Liftntorque (Emma Stewart), Van Mara (Andy Gath), Always Fast (Emma Stewart), Gilty Hanover (Kari Males), Off The Radar (Richie Caruana) and Call Me Hector (Matthew Cooper). While his father Ted missed out on reaching the Mercury80 final with Major Exclusive, who is the final's emergency, young trainer Blake Caruana scored his second career win as a trainer at Melton on Friday when Better Exclusive produced a long-odds victory in the Allied Express Pace Final (2240m, NR 56-66). Caruana was ill and unable to make the track on Friday night, but would have had something to smile about as the horse dug deep to hold off runner-up Dan Fernando by a head on the line. “Blake would have been jumping up and down in the bed, that’s for sure,” young driver Connor Ronan said. “It was a big step up in class tonight. Three starts ago he won the equivalent to a C1 and then to win a race like this, where there are some very nice horses in it, it’s a credit to the team and the horse.” HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Harness racing superstar Greg Sugars has had a whirlwind week in the sulky - but he saved the sweetest moment for last, with his unashamed stable "favorite" Little Peanut. The undisputed highlight of the week was Sugars' victory in the $110,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup on Saturday night with rising New Zealand star A Gs White Socks for Greg and Nina Hope. But it was the more modest $14,500 Wedderburn cup victory on Sunday, with former brilliant juvenile Little Peanut (Blissfull Hall-Janbob (Speedking) that was perhaps the emotional high point for Sugars and his partner Jess Tubbs. A memorable week began when Tubbs and Sugars took out a double at Warragul last Sunday with Little Peanut and Robert The Bruce (McCardle-Bumble Bee). The latter then followed up by winning again at Melton on Friday night and the dream run continued with the Ballarat Cup victory, and with Sugars also qualifying the brilliant Emma Stewart-trained filly Maajida (Somebeachsomewhere-Arterial Way (Art Major) for the final of the Victoria Oaks. Then on Sunday Sugars made it a weekend cups double with Little Peanut. Little Peanut “tastes” success in the Wedderburn Pacing Cup (Wedderburn HRC Photo) "You don't get weeks like that too often - and I took a short break in New Zealand to catch up with some friends during the week, so maybe I should do that more often!" Sugars joked. "It's been a long road with Little Peanut - but that's the most satisfying thing. Firstly, that he's back on track, but also that he's racing so well," he said. Little Peanut is pint-sized, but the handsome chestnut has personality plus and he quickly endeared himself as a stable favorite when arriving at the Tubbs-Sugars establishment Larajay Park as a yearling. He was a terrific youngster, taking out a heat of the NSW Breeders 2yo Challenge and finishing second in the final, before winning the Mildura Guineas and the Central Victorian Pacing Championship in his three-year-old season. As a four-year-old, he was Chariots of Fire bound when he went amiss early last year, suffering a sesamoid injury. "He had an operation and the recovery is always a slow one, but for a while it didn't look too good for him," Sugars said. "But credit to Brian Anderson and the team at Ballarat Equine Clinic that we were able to overcome the issues and get him sound and eventually back in work," he said. "Jess and I did most of the work at home with him and he's a real character and he loves attention, so that was probably a plus in his recovery. But it also did make it extra special just to be able to get him back to the track - to win at his second start, then the Wedderburn Cup. We are just so proud of him." Sugars said he didn't expect the pacer would ever be "100 percent back to what he was". "But he's a little favorite, and always has been, so it's just great that he's been able to get this far." The Wedderburn Cup win made it back-to-back in the Central Victorian feature for Sugars after taking out the race last year with Emain Macha. Not so, regarding the Ballarat Cup, which Sugars has finished runner up in twice on Sushi Sushi in 2012 and 2013. "Sushi Sushi is another of my all-time favorite horses, so it was satisfying to win it this time on A Gs White Socks - a great thrill," Sugars said.                                                                                                            --Ballarat HRC photo "It was my first time sitting behind this horse, but he's such an easy going free-roller. He was just cruising, I was very confident a long way out." A Gs White Socks' Ballarat Cup win was a more than impressive warm up to the pacer's main mission on this campaign - the AG Hunter Cup in two weeks.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Club Menangle has moved to ensure that harness racing owners and trainers have every opportunity to provide their three-year old fillies with appropriate lead-in races into the John Gibson Memorial Oaks. The John Gibson Memorial Oaks will be held on 29 February, on Ladies Night of the 2020 Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles, at Club Menangle. Ladies Night, in the middle of the Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles, will showcase the best of Australasia’s fillies and mares with the Group 2 Allied Express Pink Bonnet for two-year old flies, the Group 1 Bodens Projects Ladyship Mile for the mares and – of course – the time-honoured race for three-year-old fillies, the John Gibson Memorial Oaks. Club Menangle Racing Manager, David Wonson has highlighted the racing program developed by Club Menangle to provide the appropriate lead-in during February into the Oaks. David said that Club Menangle is conscious of the need to provide opportunities for owners and trainers to condition their horses for what is the premier event on the New South Wales three-year old fillies racing calendar. The John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks will showcase some of the best fillies in Australasia. However, a race over the Oaks distance of 2400m requires suitable lead-in opportunity and Club Menangle recognises that need. In keeping with Club Menangle’s commitment to filly and mare racing, the John Gibson Memorial Oaks program includes every opportunity for the successful finalists to position themselves for glory. David asked all owners and trainers to note the following race program developed for the three-year old fillies: 8 February – $14,280 Three-year old fillies’ race over 2300m 22 February – $20,000 Heats of the John Gibson Memorial Oaks over 2400m 29 February – $200,000 The John Gibson Memorial Oaks over 2400m Club Menangle Director, Daniel Cordina echoed David’s comments and emphasised the Board was conscious that for the three-year old fillies to peak on Oaks Night, they needed opportunity to race over the longer distances, prior to the race. The John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks recognises the dedication of John Gibson, a NSW standardbred breeding legend who, with wife Mary, made a significant contribution to juvenile harness racing in this state. Club Menangle believes John would have welcomed the 2020 NSW Oaks program. Daniel said this program, developed by David for the Club Menangle Board, needed to be on the radar of all trainers who have a NSW Oaks campaign mapped out for their horses. Club Menangle  

The first progeny of exciting, young harness racing sires Betting Line, Racing Hill and Guaranteed underpin the 2020 Tasmanian Yearling Sale, to be held at Carrick Park on Saturday, February 15. Betting Line, the 2016 Little Brown Jug and North America Cup winner, has a single entry, Lot 20, a filly out of Western Cheater, a Western Terror mare from the family of Risen Star, Punt Road Disco, Vande Velde and Vinokourov. Racing Hill, the USA Breeders Crown 3YO champion, and the colonial bred Guaranteed, a four-time Group 1 winner, are represented by colts as Lots 1 and 10 respectively, both bred by northern breeder Shane Hawes. The Racing Hill colt is the first produce of the Granny Smith winner Ark Breeze, a half-sister to four winners including Drifting West (Tas. Sires Produce) and Frankie Falzoni, while the Guaranteed colt is out of the Shadow Play mare Flightofthedragon, whose dam, Penny’s Dragon, won eight races including the Matron Stakes. Of the 18 lots in the catalogue, 13 different sires are represented. Rock N Roll Heaven, the sire of the Ballarat Cup winner A G’s White Socks and champion filly Shez All Rock, has the biggest entry with three lots. World champion Sunshine Beach has two fillies nominated, one a lovely skewbald filly and the other from a star-studded New Zealand family. Sweet Lou and the defunct Hurrikane Kingcole, the leading first crop sires in Australia last season, both have single entries. Other well credentialled sires are Well Said, Modern Art, Metropolitan, Tell All, Village Jolt, Sutter Hanover, Major Bronski and Caribbean Blaster. The on-line catalogue, with photos of the yearlings, can be viewed here.  Peter Wharton

Former champion harness racing pacer Lennytheshark has served more than 50 mares in his first season at Yirribee Pacing Stud, Wagga. Among the mares he served were Rarified Air USA (dam of Our Millionaire), Eyes Of Courage (dam of Ameretto), The Heat Is On (1/2 sister to Im Smouldering), Earth Angel (1:54.7 and $80,000) and Seaside Beauty (1:55 daughter of Beauty Secret). Million Dollar Cam, who is enjoying a breakout season, left winners in Victoria, NSW and Queensland last week. They included the 1:54.4 Melton winner Jamieson Steele, promising three-year-old filly Didnt I (1:57, Bathurst), the Yirribee Stud bred and raised Sword And Shield (1:59, Redcliffe) and Seddon Dollar (Newcastle). Tintin In America, the sire of USA Female Pacer of the Year Shartin, sired a brace of winners in Andrew Jay, a 1:57.6 winner at Redcliffe, and Cavalry Call (Busselton, WA). Other recent winners were the brilliant 1:55 Wagga three-year-old winner Slick Blaster (by Caribbean Blaster), Folsom Prison (by Lombo Pocket Watch) and the Yirribee bred Hard To Love (1:58.4, Wagga). By Peter Wharton                       Sent from Mail for Windows 10              

Hesashark, what a great advertisement for the upcoming harness racing Allwood Stud Farm SA Yearling Sale! Purchased for just $10,000 at the 2018 sale by trainer Dale Afford, the gelding won three races from just seven starts as a two-year-old last season including a heat of the Southern Cross. Struck down by illness, the son of Shadyshark Hanover missed the final of the Southern Cross and also The Allwood, but now as a three-year-old the money parted at the 2018 is very well spent. After winning three of his four starts this season Hesashark started from the outside of the back line in the $14,000 SA St Leger Final and after meeting interference on the first turn, and losing some 20 meters, he was still able to rally to win the time honoured event. Caller Jim Jacques had all but written Hesashark off at the 400 metre mark when he claimed in his call “Hesashark is too far back to feature” but despite appearing to be struggling, the Port Pirie trained gelding showed he had a heart as big as himself to overhaul the leading pack close to the finish line to score. Offered at the 2018 sale by Ian and Judi Slater of Goodtime Lodge, Hesashark is out of the Grinfromeartoear mare Goodtime Katie. For your chance to purchase a value for money yearling, be at Magic Millions on Sunday March 15 and who knows, you might come home with the next Hesashark. Gary Newton

A Gs White Socks put in an extraordinary all-the-way win in the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, saluting for Greg Sugars and Greg and Nina Hope to cap a terrific night's racing at Bray Raceway. A big crowd also saw the Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby be turned on its head as pre-series favourites Smooth Deal and Be Happy Mach failed to earn direct finals qualification, while the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks looks on course for a terrific showdown between Stylish Memphis and Maajida. Let's relive it all race-by-race. PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup A Gs White Socks took complete control of the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup and had enough left in the tank to stave off a blistering finish from his countrymen and claim the coveted cup in a Kiwi one-two-three. Pre-race favourite Self Assured and All Stars Racing stablemate Chase Auckland savaged the line late but ultimately fell a tick over a metre shy of the eventual winner, much to the delight of A Gs White Socks' first-time reinsman Greg Sugars and trainers Greg and Nina Hope. A Gs White Socks winning the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup    --Photo Stuart McCormick "(It's a) big thrill actually," Sugars said post-race. "I've come close a couple of times with one of my all time favourites Sushi Sushi, so to get this one over the line is super." Sugars advanced to the front with comfort, crossing Tam Major and feeling little heat throughout the race, with Victorian Code Bailey moving to the breeze and remaining there for the entirety of the 2710-metre classic. A Gs White Socks followed an 81.4-second lead time with a 59.3-second first half mile, a gentle pace that had Sugars full of confidence. "You've got to expect to go at least that quick in these sorts of races," he said. "My first time sitting behind this horse, he's such an easy going free-roller. He was just cruising, I was very confident a long way out." Come the final turn Code Bailey boxed on well but was unable to threaten the leader and Our Uncle Sam emerged as a potential challenger but was left in the dust of Self Assured and Chase Auckland, but none could challenge the eventual winner. "He was full of running around the turn and I knew they would have to be starting to make their moves so we put the foot down the best we could," Sugars said. "He just started to feel the pinch the last 50 metres, thankfully he held on." That relief was also felt by co-trainer Greg Hope. "Amazing really, we've always thought he was up with the very best," Hope said. "It's good to prove it on the big stage. We went in like an underdog really. People don't think he's that good but we know from training him, we've always realised that he's pretty special. Hopefully he will go on with it now." The win means all the more as a tribute to regular reinsman Ricky May, the much respected Kiwi who recently collapsed while driving A Gs White Socks and had to be revived on-course. "Ricky will be on next season," Hope said. "He's going to be as good as gold, he's going to be a brand new man." To watch the video replay click here.   Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat One Pacifico Dream grabbed control of the first Victoria Derby heat and was essentially unthreatened for Kate Gath and Emma Stewart, winning by three metres and only enhancing his reputation for next Saturday's Tabcorp Park final. While there was plenty of action in the running line as the breeze swapped hands until Youaremy Sunshine settled in with a little over a lap to go, Gath and Pacifico Dream were unruffled in front. "He got his own way even though there were plenty of moves, there was no speed on," Gath told Sky Racing Active. The leader had plenty in the tank for a 26.6-second last quarter, with Mach Da Vinci emerging from leader's back to force a gap inside Youaremy Sunshine and relegate the latter to a valiant third. There was no such hustle for Pacifico Dream. "He felt pretty good at the end," Gath said. "I still left the ear plugs on, I think he would have found a bit more with those off but he dashed up good himself, so I just let him do his thing and he was good. "It was a lovely run for him first up and it is really good going forward into the final." Joining the aforementioned first three in the final will be fourth-placed Soho Hamilton (Michael Stanley), who finished 8.4 metres off the winner. To watch the video replay click here.   Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat Two No stranger to a Victoria Derby tilt is Grant Dixon and he looks into the 2020 version up to his eyeballs after Governor Jujon led them a merry dance in the night's second heat. Having easily slid to the lead over pole marker Gee Smith, Governor Jujon was unchallenged for much of the running, including a 31.2-second second quarter. It was during the latter that Mirragon advanced three-wide and Emma Stewart's runner put some pace in the race, with Perfect Stride picking up in the breeze and the leader switching on to race mode. Governor Jujon looked to have all the answers, particularly once Gee Smith galloped at the turn and unsettled the peg line, with Perfect Stride boxing on for second, some 9.3 metres off the leader, while Hesty and Mirragon filled the all-important third and fourth placings. It was a happy Grant Dixon who spoke to Sky Racing Active's Cassie Fahey post-race. "He felt good. Obviously the draw's a big help and we got a reasonable time the first half of the race and he was able to kick home," Dixon said. "The final will be a lot more intense and fingers crossed for another good draw." Dixon will be hoping to emulate his 2018 triumph, when Colt Thirty One claimed the Derby. "They've got their different ways, but we are obviously rapt with both horses and it would be perfect if (Governor Jujon) could follow in his footsteps." To watch the video replay click here.   Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby Heat Three Heat Three was the race many were waiting for but not the result they were expecting, with Line Up an exceptional all-the-way winner while Derby finals favourites Smooth Deal and Be Happy Mach failed to finish in the first four. Be Happy Mach, Victoria's standout two-year-old for Emma Stewart, finished fifth and will be emergency for next Saturday's Group 1 final at Tabcorp Park, but while some big names failed to fire Line Up only enhanced his reputation. Trained and driven by Anthony Butt, Line Up was challenged early by Smooth Deal and held off Mark Purdon's advance while laying the foundation for a 78.9-second lead time, some 3.6 seconds faster than any other Derby heat. He ran even time for the first and second quarters and then got home in a 56.3-second last half mile to separate from the field, winning by 3.3 metres from Stewart's Mach Dan, with Virgil and breeze horse Bad To The Bone filling out the qualifying positions. It was a rapt Anthony Butt who spoke to Trots Media post-race."He's a lovely horse. He's a good front runner," Butt said. "He didn't get it easy and he held them off well. "He's been racing really well in New Zealand against the best of the best. He ran third in the Sires Stakes final on Cup Day, which was a great race, so I knew he wasn't too far away from being up with the best of them." To watch the video replay click here.   E B Cochran Trotters Cup Talented mare Dance Craze was best placed and capitalised in an eventful E B Cochran Trotters Cup, scoring by a head from Tornado Valley and a neck from Wobelee. Sitting in the breeze after they settled with her biggest rival on her back, reigning Great Southern Star champion Dance Craze found the front when early leader Kheiron galloped mid-race. Andy Gath's star trotter Tornado Valley, who broke in the score up and then narrowly missed the start, then occupied the breeze and it became a showdown between Victoria's leading trotters. Dance Craze had the answers in a 27.6-second final quarter, while Wobelee, in his biggest open-age race to date, loomed large late and took ground out of the leaders, but even his explosive pace wasn't enough to claw past the top two. The ramifications could be significant for Tornado Valley, who is now out of the draw in mobile starts after tonight's woes only a fortnight out from the What The Hill Great Southern Star. To watch the video replay click here.   Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks Heat One The Kiwis fired the first shot of the TAB Summer of Glory with Stylish Memphis doing plenty in the run and still having enough left in the tank to close in a 26.9-second final quarter and win the first of the night's Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks heats. It was an impressive display by the race favourite, who had to work when sitting outside of initial leader Dr Susan. Reinsman Mark Purdon, who's driving for training combination Mark Jones and Benny Hill, said Stylish Memphis was pulling and he was "a passenger", prompting a second bid for the lead which he claimed after a lap. "I had one go at Anthony and he really didn't want to give it up," Purdon said. "She was pulling harder and harder and I was really a passenger." While Jenden Strike boxed on terrifically for Anthony Frisby to place third, only fellow Kiwi Dr Susan, for Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, threatened Stylish Memphis in the closing stages, but the latter had all the answers. "She stuck to her task well," Mark Purdon said. Stylish Memphis, Dr Susan and Jenden Strike will be joined in the final by Its Beaujolais (John Yeomans/John Caldow), Alice Kaye (Adam Kelly/Josh Duggan) and Amelia Rose (Emma Stewart/Kima Frenning), who finished in places four to six. To watch the video replay click here.   Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks Heat Two There was a little pre-race trepidation that Maajida may not be at her peak but Emma Stewart's Australian two-year-old of the year had all the answers to win her heat of the Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks. While Soho Gloria Jane battled on well for trainer-driver Michael Stanley and Good Faith finished impressively for Jackie and Jim Barker, Maajida responded to every challenge. Reinsman Greg Sugars had to work to find the front, urging Maajida forward as she slid past Soho Gloria Jane, but from there he was able to completely dictate the pace. Stablemate Jemstone advanced to the breeze and Sugars set an 81.7-second lead time, almost two seconds slower than the first heat. A 31.9-second second quarter maintained a modest pace and then Maajida got home in a 56.5-second last half mile to salute in a 1:59.3 mile rate, two seconds slower than the rate Stylish Memphis set in the first. But it was more than enough to secure a 2.4-metre win and advance to next week's final at Tabcorp Park Melton along with Soho Gloria Jane (Michael Stanley), Good Faith (Jim Barker/Jackie Barker), Itz Longtall Sally (Gary and Deb Quinlan/Chris Svanosio), Its Ebonynivory (John Yeomans/James Herbertson) and Rockingwithsierra (Gary Hobans/John Caldow). To watch the video replay click here.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard photos by Stuart McCormick

The trotter with the fragile feet and the driver with the dodgy back will hope this carnival delivers the most glorious peak of their seven-year injury riddled rollercoaster ride. Reinsman Neil McCallum returned to the sulky in August after a horror car crash sidelined him for four months, having suffered a broken vertebra and two broken bones. But he had to wait until late December to get his hands back on Savannah Jay Jay, the gifted trotter who he will partner in tonight’s Group 2 E B Cochran Trotters Cup. “He just had a few little problems with his feet,” McCallum said. “(Trainer) Stan (Cameron) looks to have got back on top of it. “It’s part and parcel of life, I’m not sure who’s been injured the most – me or Savannah Jay Jay – between us we’ve had a fair history. But we are back and having a crack. “It’s exciting. I’ve been racing him since day one, Stan drove him for his first trial and since then it’s been me, except for when I got injured. “He has always had that touch of something, that he’s a bit better than average, it has just taken a lot of races until it comes to fruition.” While McCallum was waylaid talented young reinsman James Herbertson steered Savannah Jay Jay to victory in the Australasian Trotting Championship, a first Group 1 for the now nine-year-old trotter. McCallum would love nothing more than to add a second this TAB Summer of Glory carnival, which takes in tonight’s trotters cup and builds to the What The Hill Great Southern Star on February 1, Australia’s richest trotting race. Savannah Jay Jay has the widest back row in tonight’s feature, having been out of the draw after breaking last start. It was his second since returning from a spell, with each run more eye-catching than the figure form may suggest. “He had a hiccup last week, it’s one out of the box for him,” McCallum said. “Stan’s had him reshod, he trialled on Sunday and trialled damn good. “We are up in grade now, you have to be damn good to have a shot. The whole field is a nice field, but that back line is pretty classy. He won’t be far away if they run it the way he wants.” And then all focus will turn to the February 1 Group 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton. “He’ll be even better after his run this week and by the Great Southern Star he’ll be knocking on the door,” McCallum said. “When you are doing this all your life, these are the races you want to be in, the big ones. The Great Southern Star is a great race and it brings the best horses.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

If Self Assured lives up to the mega hype in tonight’s $110,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup his owner, Jean Feiss, will celebrate by doing her favourite thing – she will get up tomorrow morning to inspect yearlings. That won’t be a matter of just popping down the road; the 69-year-old retired Victorian horse trainer will fly to New Zealand to look at yearlings. By herself. That dedication, that love of the young horse, is one reason Feiss is one of the most successful owners in harness racing. The other is an association that started more than a decade ago. Trainer Mark Purdon was looking for a farm to base his horses at in Victoria. He visited the property owned by Feiss and her husband, Bill, which was being used by son Matt. Purdon liked the property and liked the people. Next time Purdon bought a horse at the sales Bill and Jean wanted in and a remarkable association begun. As Feiss got out of training – “we had some success but not many horses people would know that well” – her and Bill upped their yearling buying. And when you can’t beat them, join them, so Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen became their trainers and the winners flowed. She has owned a champion in Vincent, who was hot favourite for the Ballarat Cup two years ago until he suffered a career-ending injury. Spanish Armada was another favourite, while she owns New Zealand’s best filly this season in Amazing Dream. And, of course, last-start Auckland Cup winner Self Assured and huge Victoria Derby chance Smooth Deal. So how does a former trainer from Victoria find the needles in the yearling sales haystack? “I usually start with the page (breeding) and then I look at the horses myself,” she said. “That is why I will fly to New Zealand on Sunday morning. I’ll go to all the farms I want to see and I like to go by myself, not as part of a tour. “Then I can see the horses and compare them a month later when they go for sale.” Once Feiss makes her list she cross-references that with Purdon and Rasmussen and the list becomes shorter. Feiss rarely misses the ones on the short list. “I think the gap between New Zealand yearlings and the Australian ones has closed a lot but I like buying there and I love racing there. “I like the travelling, even though Bill can’t come that often these days because he has dodgy knees. The group racing in New Zealand is very strong and the industry has a lot of enthusiasm.” So what does Feiss’ magic eye look for? “Never just one thing, it’s the whole package. I think most of us look at the same things, we just interpret them differently.” What is not open for interpretation is that Self Assured is exceptional. Feiss took a risk on him as he was an embryo transfer foal, which some buyers shy away from. The only two times he has been beaten is when missing away from standing starts, but tonight he faces the biggest test of his career, drawn inside the second line in a star-studded Ballarat Cup. “He is very good, we don’t know how good yet,” Feiss said. If he gets clear air at Ballarat tonight we should all find out.   Michael Guerin

That elusive trophy is finally in their grasp. Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond claimed their maiden victory in the state’s biggest harness racing event, the Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park after Mighty Conqueror and Dylan Egerton-Green proved triumphant in a thrilling finish. Steeped in great history, the WA Pacing Cup is a leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit but has proven to be a graveyard for the husband and wife training partnership in recent years. But the monkey is finally off their back. Boasting a record seven (7) of the 12 runners in the 2936m mobile start feature, the Forrestdale based duo not only provided the winner but also filled the minor placings with Vampiro and Our Jimmy Johnstone finishing just behind the winner. The victory of Mighty Conqueror provided extra satisfaction for the couple given he’s battled his share of issues in lead-up to the event, the lightly raced five-year-old bypassed last week’s Fremantle Cup owing to some bruising in his hooves. The extra week between runs proved vital. Mighty Conqueror was driven confidently by Edgerton-Green, it was only the third time the young reinsman had sat behind the American Ideal gelding under race conditions and he never wilted when the pressure was applied. The talented young horseman handled Mighty Conqueror last season when finishing second and third in the Gr.1 four-year-old features at Gloucester Park, the 4yo Classic and Golden Nugget. Starting from gate five, Mighty Conqueror pushed forward at the start with Our Jimmy Johnstone holding the lead from his inside draw while Vampiro also pressed on from his wide gate. Edgerton-Green initially landed the one out, one back position before being left parked out when Vampiro took the lead from Our Jimmy Johnstone within the first lap. Race favourite Galactic Star ($4.20) was shuffled further back on the pegs and raced three pairs back. The lead time was covered in 96.7 seconds. With the majority of Bond trained runners occupying forward positions, the race was devoid of any real pressure and quickly developed into a sprint home. The first half of the final mile was covered in splits of 30.2 and 29.1 seconds. Last start Fremantle Cup winner Caviar Star was the first to make a move three-wide with just over a lap remaining and was immediately tracked up by last month’s Golden Nugget winner Shockwave. Entering the back straight for the final time, Vampiro started to quicken the speed but travelled strongly as Mighty Conqueror and Caviar Star started to close the margin. The third quarter was covered in 27.9 seconds. In the home straight, Vampiro kept fighting off the challengers but Mighty Conqueror refused to yield while Our Jimmy Johnstone and Galactic Star probed for clear space. At the line, Mighty Conqueror ($5.50) surged to the lead and defeated Vampiro ($9) by a head margin with Our Jimmy Johnstone ($7.50) a further 1.8 metres away in third. Watch the race replay here. Handsandwheels and Galactic Star were both flooding home to finish just behind the placegetters while Caviar Star and Shockwave locked wheels in the home straight. The final quarter was covered in 28.7seconds. The mile rate was 1:56.5 and established a new race record but was outside of the track record of Smolda at 1:55.8. And just for the record, the other members of Team Bond finished 5th (Galactic Star), 6th (Our Alfie Romeo, 7th (El Jacko) and 9th (Ana Malak). The stable has now won both open class features in their home state following on from the victory of Money Magnet in the 2006 Fremantle Cup. Mighty Conqueror has now won 16 of his 27 starts while his earnings now exceed $540,000. He now joins Bling It On (Victoria Cup), Cruz Bromac (New Zealand Cup), Ultimate Sniper (Inter Dominion) and Self Assured (Auckland Cup) as winners on the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. The remaining legs for the current term include the Hunter Cup (February 1 - Melton), Miracle Mile (March 7 - Menangle) and the Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship (Albion Park – July 25).   Chris Barsby

The seemingly never ending quality of Love You progeny was highlighted once again over the last week with multiple harness racing winners greeting the judge by the sire. These included the impressive three year old filly The Big Bird, who scored in emphatic style at Alexandra Park on Friday night when taking the passing lane late for driver / trainer Joshua Dickie who had, until then, managed the filly around horses from a running line sit. The nature of the win coupled with her great trotting bloodlines (she is out of ten race winner Great Getaway) and the fact that the filly has a fair bit of growing into her large frame yet to do would suggest a bright future lies ahead. In contrast to the maiden win of The Bird Bird was that of the victorious turn of the tried and tested Lovely Bundy in the Thames /Coromandel Trotters Cup at Cambridge Raceway. The 8yr old mare, by Love You out of Kelly Bundy, faced a handicap of 20m over the 2700m stand distance but enjoyed the sound pace set up by race rival Anna Kate and showed her ability late in proceedings making up the required ground widest on the track to score by half a length. The win was the 10th of Lovely Bundy’s career from 72 starts.    The recent wins continue to outline the success New Zealand breeders have had run when seeking out the services of Love You with his progeny having played a notable part in shaping New Zealand trotting history over the last decade or so. Love You Monbet, trained by the Greg and Nina Hope stable would be the most decorated of his progeny on New Zealand shores but his reach has been far and wide with other notable race tracks winners including Jewels winner Enghien and New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All winner Great Things Happen. By far the most successful partnership of his being the amazing run he’s had when siring foals out of prodigious broodmare Ten To One with NZ derby winner Habibti, Anzac Cup winner Habibti Ivy and Dominion Handicap winner and Jewels winner Habibi Inta all out of the famed mare along with Lothario( 6 wins) and Releven Dream (17 wins). The Big Bird Lovely Bundy With his past successes as a sire of group winners It’s no wonder that Love You continues to attract quality mares and he’ll be strongly represented at 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. An interesting story among them being the two lots offered from the same family by Breckon Farms which will be the only two Love You lots to be presented at Karaka . Lot 97, a bay filly called Online Love , is out of Northern Breeders Stakes runner-up Cyberspace. A further investigation into the strong maternal lines reveals Inda Bank (3yr old trotting filly of the year) who has left multiple Group 1 performers, the most notable of these being Frozen Funds who was victorious in both the New South Wales and Victorian Trotting Oaks. Other high achievers out of Inda Bank include The Almighty Johnson (3rd in the National Trot) now racing in the USA with over $200’000 in career earnings and Yogi Johnson (11 wins). Online Love A bay colt is also going under the hammer, Lot 83, called Forbidden Love is out of a full sister to Cyberspace (both Cyberspace and Broadband are by Muscles Yankee)) and calls upon the same strong trotting pedigree. Forbidden Love Love You has a total of 19 lots to be sold throughout the 2020 New Zealand Yearling Sales with buyers obviously wishing for a continuation of his success as a sire of champions!       Ben McMillan

Star Of Venus eyes title   When the Betterthancheddar five-year-old Caviar Star outfinished his rivals in the $300,000 Fremantle Cup, he credited his dam Star Of Venus with her third Group winner this season and she is a firm favourite for the NZ Broodmare of the Year award.   Caviar Star, one of the first crop by Betterthancheddar, had shown good placed form during the Summer Carnival at Gloucester Park.   Star Of Venus also ranks as the dam of emerging champion Self Assured, winner of the $245,000 Auckland Cup, and Star Of Memphis, winner of The Gammalite at Melton.   Others from Star Of Venus to win have been Vega Star and Star Of Dionysis, both Group winners in Australia.   Star Of Venus, who died 15 months ago, has since produced a three-year-old colt, a two year-old filly and a yearling colt, all by Bettor’s Delight, the grandsire of the Fremantle Cup victor. Star Of Venus was a Christian Cullen mare from Starlitnight, by Tuapeka Knight from Star Of Bethlehem. This family traces back to the foundation mare Mona R, the ancestress of Lazarus, Stars And Stripes, Light And Sound, Star Galleria and so on.     Chase Auckland’s family tree   Chase Auckland, the brilliant winner of the Group 2 Cambridge Flying Mile and who won the NZ Free-for-all and New Brighton and Methven Cups earlier in the season, has a pedigree of more than usual interest in that he represents a combination of the blood of two of New Zealand’s outstanding winning families – that of Flora and Mary Wood.   Chase Auckland winning the Cambridge Mile   A five-year-old gelding, Chase Auckland is one of the first crop of a top colt pacer and cups winner in Auckland Reactor, a Mach Three horse now at Alabar Bloodstock’s Victorian branch.   Auckland Reactor is building up a good siring score with the Victoria Chalice winner Soho Burning Love and the Group winners Gold Reactor and Shining Oro from his first crops.Auckland Reactor is one of several members of the Flora family to enjoy success at the stud – others being Leyoro (a leading sire in Western Australia), Renaissance Man, and in an earlier era, Admiral Wood.   Chase Auckland’s dam, Delicata (2:01), was a Falcon Seelster mare from the noted producer Dreaming Spires (dam of 6 winners), by Dream Away from Danse du Feu, by New York Motoring from the Tay Bridge mare Border Coral.   This branch of the Mary Wood family produced a NZ Sires Stakes champion in Hug The Wind (1:49) and the top West Australian juvenile Sprinter (1:48.6). The Mary Wood family is today as extensively represented in Australia as it is in NZ.       Well related three-year-old   Dr Susan, who won the Group 2 $50,000 Garrard’s Raith Memorial at Menangle, showed ability as a two-year-old last season when she was placed in a heat of the Young Guns series.   Dr Susan winning the Garrard’s Raith Memorial at Menangle   She has opened her three-year-old season on a winning note and will be well in line for the remaining major juvenile classics. She is a filly by the Cam’s Card Shark horse, Bettor’s Delight, from the Southland Oaks winner Safedra (1:56.3), the dam of an earlier winner in Buzinga (1:56.8).   Safedra in action   Safedra ranks as a half-sister to a grand pacer and Inter Dominion heat winner in Bettor’s Fire 1:50.2 ($966,417) and My Alpha Rock (1:49.5), being by Mach Three from the Sands A Flyin mare Sparks A Flyin 1:52 ($510,133), winner of 21 races including the NSW Oaks and Breeders Crown.     Broodmare double   The American-bred Victorian-owned Western Terror mare Kabbalah Karen B left winners in two different countries last weekend.   Kasbah Kid, a five-year-old Art Major gelding, grabbed a last-stride win at Melton in a career-best 1:54.3 on Friday, while Our Little General (by Mach Three), a Derby winner and dual Breeders Crown champion, won in 1:53.4 at Yonkers, New York the following night.   Kabbalah Karen B has a striking Bettor’s Delight yearling filly as Lot 153 at the Australian Pacing Gold Melbourne sale on February 2. The youngster is part of the eight-strong Lauriston Bloodstock consignment which includes an Art Major half-brother to last Sunday’s impressive Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Hurricane Harley.     Half-brother to Derby winner   Tanabi Falcon, a most impressive winner at the Melton midweek meeting, is a half-brother to the Victoria Derby winner and Country Cups king Tanabi Bromac.   A seven-year-old gelding by Falcon Seelster, Tanabi Falcon is out of the unraced Tanabi, a Village Jasper mare from Sinba, by Torado Hanover from the Lordship mare Black Debate, who established a great winning line for Helen and the late Graham Head.   Black Debate was the dam of the Tasmanian Oaks winner Indigenous, the Moonee Valley winner Mabo (1:57.5) and the exported Satan’s Dispute 1:55.6 ($234,192) and the grand dam of the Queen Of The Pacific winner Life Inthefastlane.   Tanabi Falcon was bred by the late Bob McArdle.     Blue blooded mare   Goodtime Grace, who won the Vicbred Platinum Country Series Final at Melton, is a four- year-old mare who can claim some worthwhile blood. By Mach Three, by Matt’s Scooter from All Included, by Abercrombie, she is out of the Art Major mare Art De Triomphe (1:58.8), whose dam, the American-bred Smyrna Duruisseau, left the NZ and Australian 2YO of the Year Follow The Stars (1:53.8 ($707,237), now at Allwood Stud in Western Australia and Stefsbest 1:54.7 ($143,511), runner-up in the APG Final.   Goodtime Grace                                                        --Stuart McCormick photo   Smyrna Duruissea, a 1:56 winner, was a half-sister to seven winners including Texas Shootout, a Little Brown Jug heat winner and second in the final to Mr Feelgood.     Leeton Breeders Plate heat winners   Rocknroll Runa, a gelding by Rock N Roll Heaven, and Im Lady Madeleine, a filly by A Rocknroll Dance, took out their respective heats of the time-honoured MIA Breeders Plate for two-year-olds at Leeton. The Group 3 $30,6000 final will be held on January 24.   Rocknroll Runa winning heat one of the Breeders Plate     Rocknroll Runa is the first foal out of the smart racemare Shes A Runa (1:55.5), a Jereme’s Jet mare who won 19 races including the NSW Oaks and Bathurst Gold Bracelet and $291,126 in stakes. He belongs to the immediate family of the Bathurst Sales Classic winner Lamorak 1:52.6 ($165,715) and the Rowleyalla Sprint winner Albert’s Charm 1:57.2 ($100,665).   Im Lady Madeleine is the third foal and third winner from Confetti (2:02.6), a race-winning mare by Jenna’s Beach Boy from Chenille, by What’s Next from the good Armbro Hurricane mare Dicio, the dam of 10 winners including the Victoria Sires Stakes 2YO champion Fragrance.     A star from Lagoon Lady   A star three-year-old in Victoria so far this season is Soextra, who was bred and is raced by Richard and Pauline Matthews and trained by Chris Lang.   A gelding by Bettor’s Delight, he is out of a champion racemare in Lagoon Lady (1:57.3) and the fourth of her produce to race, the best of whom is the thrice Melton winner Beach Surge (1:51.8).   Soextra is undefeated in two starts at Kilmore and Bendigo (in 1:53.1) and looks a three year-old with the potential one would expect of his breeding.     La Lola shows promise   A bright future is being predicted for the Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old mare La Lola, who is unbeaten in three appearances in Victoria to date.   She has a good deal in her favour on the score of blood. Apart from being by Rock N Roll Heaven, she is out of a capable racemare in Predict (1:56.6), by Grinfromeartoear from Erase, by Classic Garry from Wipe Clean, by Windshield Wiper from Once More, winner of the NSW Ladyship Mile and one of the best mares in the country in the 1980’s.   This family has been bred from successfully over five generations by Ballarat enthusiast Pat Prendergast. Other smart performers further back in her pedigree have been Mode Of Action (Tatlow Memorial and Vis. Sires Classic), Collect Again and Predict (9 wins from 14 starts).     Convert Denario impresses   The six-year-old Convert Denario is proving a splendid advertisement for the In The Pocket horse Changeover, a grand pacer himself and who stood for a time at stud in Christchurch. He is now based at Burwood Stud near Brisbane.   Covert Denario   Convert Denario won consecutive races at Gloucester Park recently and is an emergency for this week’s WA Pacing Cup. All told, he has won 13 races and $134,242 in stakes.   Ergo Denario, the dam of Convert Denario, is a half-sister to the Melton winner Last Flight In 1:53.8 ($134,866), being by Bettor’s Delight from Orse M Denario, by Washington VC from Royaler, an American bred mare by Tyler B.       Nelson winner’s Aussie relations   Glenledi Chief, a double winner at the Nelson Summer Festival meeting, has close breeding links with Australia.   A three-year-old by the Western Hanover horse Well Said, the gelding is out of the classic winner Forever Now, who was bred from originally in Victoria and is now owned in New Zealand by Grant Enterprises.   Glenledi Chief winning at Nelson Forever Now, who won seven races including the Bathurst Gold Tiara, has produced six winners – all in 2:00 – from eight foals of racing age. Besides Glenledi Chief, she is also the dam of John Paul Jones (1:54.4), the Melton and Gloucester Park winner Anna Faye (1:57.9) and Now And Forever (1:58.2).   By Presidential Ball, Forever Now is a half-sister to the exported Anescape (1:50.6) and Pulsation (1:53.2), being out of Anna Matao, by Holmes Hanover from Annabel Scot, by Bo Scot’s Blue Chip from the celebrated matron Black Watch.   Clint Westwood, the winner of the Gore Cup and numerous races at Harold Park, and the WA Oaks runner-up Bettor Boa, are members of the same family of Glenledi Chief.   by Peter Wharton

Legendary Riverina harness racing caller Allan Hull has called time on his 50-year career, but says he's fortunate to have spent every working minute doing something he loves. Hull, who turns 70 this year, officiated this week for the final time at his hometown Wagga Wagga trotting track, but says race-calling never really felt like work at all. "It really didn't. It was my passion and every race is a different story," Hull said. "When I was young, I always wanted to be a sports commentator. I would listen to Alan McGilvray on the ABC (a cricketer who became the doyen of Australian cricket commentators)," he said. "There were no radios back then and I had a crystal set. I worked out that if I attached the alligator clip on the end of the wire to a tin roof at home, the reception would be much better. I would listen to the cricket being broadcast from England until about 2 or 3am. "I did also tune in to the races and my favorite pin-up jockey was Geoff 'the golden boy' Lane. I had a scrapbook of race story clippings because the Weekly Times use to do a two-page spread each week," he said. His passion for sport resulted in Hull starting to call trots trials at Wagga when he was just 17 or 18. "I was a bit keen to get involved and the guy who was running them was a family friend in Max Croker," he said. "I jokingly told Max that I'd do a better job than the bloke they had...and that was indeed true because at the time they had no-one doing it! I got to call the trials using a portable PA and microphone with about 20 to 30 people attending. "Then not long after I was asked if I'd do the Henty Show trots. Back then show trots were huge--all the trainers just loved them. I called four events and that was my first paid gig when I was 19 years old." Hull instantly loved the art and challenge of race calling - and his career took off from there. "I got a lucky break when Tex Condron, who was calling trots at Wagga, Junee and Leeton, was wanting to shift his focus more into training his own horses," he said. "So I took over from Tex and started calling at Wagga Wagga on November 20, 1970. I was the on-course commentator and also got paid for doing it on radio because it was relayed on 2WG. I recall later doing the Leeton Breeders' Plate on New Year's Day, 1971. That was big!" But race calling was never a full-time gig because there weren't enough meetings, Hull said. "After I'd finished my Intermediate certificate at Wagga High School in 1965, my father told me to go and get a trade--I left school on the Friday and started a fitter and machinist apprenticeship on the Monday," he said. "I was there for seven years, working my way up to foreman in the machine shop and one of my brothers also worked there as a boilermaker." Hull also started calling Aussie rules football in the 1970s for a local radio station, and did this for 25 years. "I ended up a sales rep because the manager heard me calling the trots and football on radio and offered me a job. So for most of my life I sold advertising for radio and television." Hull also began calling the gallops, doing his first few meetings at outlying areas such Hay, Griffith and Berrigan. Ted Ryder, regarded as a sporting icon in the town, was the caller at Wagga and Albury meetings, but Hull eventually took over from Ryder, calling his first Wagga Gold Cup in 1979. Allan Hull (centre) was presented with a plaque by Wagga CEO Graeme White (left) and club president Terry McMillan (Wagga HRC) He went on to call the Murrumbidgee Turf Club's feature event for 40 consecutive years, appropriately being dubbed along the way as "the golden voice of the Riverina". Hull said preparing for meetings depended on how many visiting horses were competing and working on their form. "If it's a Wagga trots meeting and I'm familiar with most of them, it may take one and a half hours. But if it's the Wagga Gold Cup gallops carnival over two days, 100 out of the 180 horses might be visitors so I'll take three to four hours doing the form for each day," he said. "I remember colors and names on a race to race basis. You get to know how a particular jockey sits on and if they are left or right-handed and that helps. "I think calling races is really a God-given gift. It's not something that's a natural thing, and it's one of those things that's difficult to do unless you have the knack. Hull is well-known for his two quirky terms of "the gates craaaaaash back" and "they hit the l-iiiiiiiiiiine...". "I guess my love for theatre also comes out a bit, because I've been involved in a few musicals over the years!" he said. "I always thought of three things: to be accurate, articulate and entertaining. "But if you have ever stood next to the barrier stalls, the gates do crash back. And as far as the other 'and they hit the l-iiiiiiiiine'...well, I'm buying time of a second or two to work out who has won! I only say that if it's a tight photo finish. "But I'll always have a go at calling the winner in a photo -- you just have to, I think. If I don't get it right, that's not a blue in my book. But if I call the wrong horse or the wrong colors, well that's different. If a panel beater makes a mistake, they can hide it with a spray can. We have to wear it!" Hull said he admired Matt Hill and now retired caller Greg Miles. "Those guys were terrific when calling races with big stables like Godolpin having multiple runners with the same colors, except for perhaps slightly different colored caps. That's when our business can get really difficult," he said. Hull said among his race-calling highlights were calling four InterDominion finals on radio. "They were at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and New Zealand and InterDominions were huge events. It was for 2WG and I also provided them with snippets and other regional radio stations also picked it up, so they were definitely memorable," he said. Hull will call his last meeting at Albury trots on January 31, although he added that he will probably "help out" at a few non-TAB meetings over the next six months as he winds down. Hull and his wife Gayle have two children in Stephanie, a teacher; and Quentin, a longtime ABC sports broadcaster, who both live in Brisbane, and four grandchildren. "The time has flown, I've importantly enjoyed good health, and I wouldn't have had it any other way--it's been awesome," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

FOR everything top WA trainers Greg and Skye Bond have achieved, they are yet to win their biggest home town race. But they certainly have numbers on their side with seven of the 12 runners in tonight’s $450,000 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup (2936m) at Gloucester Park. Team Bond had six of the 12 runners last year when El Jacko was their first home with a second to Rocknroll Lincoln. Their runners tomorrow night are: Our Jimmy Johnstone (gate 1, $21 into $7.50), Our Alfie Romeo (three, $81), El Jacko (four, $81), Mighty Conqueror (five, $5.50 to $3.80), Ana Malak (seven, $15 to $41), Vampiro (nine, $9 to $11) and Galactic Star (10, $7.50 to $3.70). Stable driver Ryan Warwick has opted to stick with the proven Galactic Star, from inside the back row. Their “fresh” runners, who didn’t contest last week’s Fremantle Cup won by Caviar Star, are the talented Mighty Conqueror and exciting former Kiwi mare Our Alfie Romeo. Mighty Conqueror missed the Fremantle Cup due to deep-seated hoof bruising and a final decision on his spot in the WA Cup won’t be made until race morning. “He seems really well, but the RWWA vets will have a look at home and it’ll be their call tomorrow morning. That’s fairest for everyone,” Greg Bond said. “It’s great to have such a strong hand in the race, we’ve got nice horses racing really well. “Galactic Star was stiff last week. He was coming into really strongly along the inside when he clipped the wheel and galloped. It didn’t surprise me Ryan stuck with him. “I think the mare will run a big race, too. It’s obviously a step-up, but I know on her work at home she’s up with our best horses.” Bond is eyeing-off a Sydney raid with Our Alfie Romeo for the Ladyship Mile. “I’m sure she’s up to it. I looked at Melbourne, but it’s too soon. She can have a quiet week after this then wind-up again for Sydney, everything going well,” he said. “If she goes to Sydney, we’ll take at least another one along with her. Whether it’s Galactic Star, Vampiro or maybe even both of them for the lead-up sprints to the Miracle Mile.”   Adam Hamilton

Greg and Skye Bond are the State’s pre-eminent trainers who will notch a remarkable achievement by having a record number of seven starters in the TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. They appear to have a stranglehold on the $450,000 Group 1 feature event to be decided over the testing long journey of 2936m and they agree that classy seven-year-old Galactic Star is their major hope, with five-year-old Mighty Conqueror their second best winning prospect. The Bonds have won every major Group 1 event in the State, with the exception being the WA Pacing Cup in which they went close 12 months ago when El Jacko flew home along the pegs to finish a half-length second to the pacemaker Rocknroll Lincoln. Galactic Star, owned by Skye Bond and Rob Gartrell, is awkwardly drawn on the inside of the back line, leaving leading reinsman Ryan Warwick with the gnawing problem of whether to follow stablemate Our Jimmy Johnstone, who has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier, or to make a spirited effort to ease Galactic Star off the pegs and into the one-wide line as soon as possible. Galactic Star also started from the inside of the back line in the 2536m Fremantle Cup last Friday night and travelled strongly under lock and key in eighth position, four back on the pegs, before he hit a marker peg 250m from home and broke into a fierce gallop. He dropped back and finished last. “Ryan said Galactic Star was just ‘travelling’ and would have proved to be very hard to beat last week if he had not struck the peg,” said Gartrell, who also is a part-owner of stablemates Our Jimmy Johnstone, Vampiro and Ana Malak. “He’s a great horse and very dangerous. And the 2936m will be right up his alley.” This will be Galactic Star’s third attempt at winning the WA Pacing Cup. A 40/1 chance, he galloped out from barrier three in the 2018 Cup, raced at the rear and was blocked for a clear passage in the final circuit when 11th behind Soho Tribeca. Then, last year Galactic Star was a 4/1 chance from barrier seven when he raced three wide early before obtaining an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, and then wilting to finish 11th behind Rocknroll Lincoln. “To have four runners in the Cup is a great thrill,” said Gartrell. “Our Jimmy Johnstone likes to lead; he loves the long trip and will be very competitive,” he said. “You don’t often draw No. 1 at Gloucester Park, so when you do, you’ve certainly got to do your best work.” Our Jimmy Johnstone, an 11-year-old and veteran of 127 starts, will be handled by 21-year-old Bailey McDonough, the youngest driver in the race. If Our Jimmy Johnstone is successful, he will become the second oldest winner of the WA Pacing Cup behind Defiance, the 13-year-old gelding who was driven to victory by his trainer Bernie Cushing in the 1961 Cup. Our Jimmy Johnstone showed his ability as a pacemaker when McDonough drove him to an all-the-way victory in the 2536m Brennan Memorial last September. He started from  barrier four and raced in the one-out, one-back position when a sound fifth in last week’s Fremantle Cup which was won by Caviar Star who got up in the final couple of strides to beat the pacemaker Vampiro by a head. This will be Our Jimmy Johnstone’s fourth appearance in a WA Pacing Cup. As a six-year-old he was a 6/1 chance as the Bond stable’s only runner in the 2015 Cup when he started from the inside of the back line and raced one-out and two-back before finishing a sound fourth behind My Hard Copy. From barrier six and a 16/1 chance in 2017, he raced wide in the middle stages and finished last behind Chicago Bull. In last year’s Cup he was a 125/1 outsider from barrier nine and raced one-out and two-back when a solid fifth behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Vampiro, to be driven by Colin Brown, will again start from the outside barrier (No. 9) and Brown is likely to again use the six-year-old’s sparkling gate speed in a bid to set the pace. “Skye has always been a big wrap for Vampiro,” Gartrell said. “He’s probably been a bit immature and has taken a while to come through. He’s getting better and better and last week he showed what he can do. He has that speed (at the start) and he’s tough. It will be interesting to see where we go from barrier nine this week. I think he has the speed to cross (to the front).” Ana Malak was driven by Michael Grantham in last week’s Fremantle Cup when he started from barrier seven and was 11th at the bell before charging home along the pegs to be a close-up and eye-catching fourth behind Caviar Star. Nathan Turvey will drive Ana Malak from the No. 7 barrier this week, with Grantham being engaged to handle the Bond-trained Our Alfie Romeo, the only mare in the race. Ana Malak, whose 11 wins from 23 starts include the Four-Year-Old Classic and Golden Nugget in late 2018, is being sought by American buyers. “This could be his swansong,” said Gartrell. “We have received quite a good offer and a decision hasn’t been made. You’ve got to be commercial in this industry. But if he wins the Cup, he probably won’t be up for sale.” Our Alfie Romeo, a winner at 18 of her 36 starts, is favourably drawn at barrier No. 3 on the front line. But she faces a stern test against seasoned group 1 campaigners. The Pacing Cup has not been won by a mare over the past 48 years, with the most recent winner being the Les Marriott trained and driven Pyramus in 1972. Nineteen mares have won the big race in its 106-year history, with only four being successful over the past 73 years. Letty Lind, a mare trained and driven by Charlie Fraser, rated 2.46.3 when she beat another mare, Heather Bells by ten lengths in the inaugural Cup at the WACA Ground in 1913. Our Alfie Romeo warmed up for this week’s assignment in grand style when she began speedily from barrier three, set the pace, sprinted over the final quarters in  28.2sec. and 27.4sec. to win, unextended, by almost three lengths from Fake News at a 1.57.3 rate over 2130m last Friday night. Dylan Egerton-Green has been booked to drive the richly talented Mighty Conqueror, a five-year-old who has raced only 26 times for 15 wins. The New Zealand-bred gelding will start from barrier five and looks set to fight out the finish. He has recovered from a bruised hoof which forced him to miss last week’s Fremantle Cup. Warwick is a great admirer of Mighty Conqueror and after driving him to victory at Gloucester Park earlier this season he said: “His ability is scary. His weaponry is outstanding and every time I come off the track, I say to everyone that it is unreal what he can do. We haven’t had one like him for a while and he doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s pretty exciting.” Egerton-Green has a wonderful association with Mighty Conqueror. He has driven him just twice for a third to Ana Malak and Ideal Liner in the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in November 2018 and for a nose second to Ana Malak in the $200,000 Golden Nugget the following month. Shockwave, the beaten 9/4 favourite when sixth in last week’s Fremantle Cup, has drawn poorly at barrier eight on the front line, but has an exceptional turn of speed and is capable of a bold showing for trainer Ryan Bell and ace reinsman Gary Hall jnr. Shockwave, winner of the Golden Nugget in mid-December, raced in eighth position in last week’s race before starting a three-wide move 900m from home. He moved to second at the 550m mark before wilting in the closing stages.   “When I watched the replay, his personal sections were off the charts,” said Bell. “Barrier eight this week is just a starting point. I’m pretty rapt with him and, with luck, he can play a big part this week.”   Ken Casellas

Evergreen twelve-year-old Poker Storm has proven in recent weeks that he is like a good bottle of wine, getting better with age. This was evident when the gelding brought up career win number 23 in Launceston on 21 December at the Tasracing Official Price of $101.00, beating some quality opposition in the process. He arrived at the Burrows Avenue stables of Adrian Duggan way back in 2009 and it wasn’t long until he showed he had plenty of fire, as he wasn’t frightened to latch one onto me if I didn’t keep my eye on him. He showed enough early, and that was vindicated when he was able to win at his third career start coming from behind in Devonport which gave his owners Chris, Annette and Nathan Rockliff, and close friend Peter Webb a huge thrill. As the season continued, it resulted in a brave second to star youngster Quastor Centurion in the two-year-old Sires Stakes. He was also good enough to compete in the three and four-year-old versions of the prestigious series in Tasmania, and in fact he was a little bit unlucky in the 4YO Sires where he chased home Quastor Centurion and two-time Australian Horse of the Year Beautide, finishing on the heels of them both. The season of 2017 was the career best for Poker Storm as he won the Ulverstone Cup and finished third in the Devonport Cup behind Pachacuti. He also finished sixth in the state’s leading race the Easter Cup, again behind Pachacuti which would have been a great thrill for all involved. The admirable quality about the horse is that he has won races in every season since his debut in 2010, which proves that he is an old warhorse. Winning 10 seasons in succession is something that you don’t see happen very often for a horse that has raced his whole career in Tasmania. Trainer Adrian Duggan looks back on some of his best wins as being those with emotional ties. “Winning the 2014 Ted Plunkett Memorial as the Plunkett’s and the Duggan’s were close family friends for many years,” said Duggan. “But the icing on the cake was when he was able to win the 2018 New Norfolk Cup as a spritely ten-year-old as that was where I started my craft as a young teenager up at Kensington Park,” recalled Duggan on the win in February 2018. Affectionately given the nickname Touchy by Duggan’s son Jacob, Poker Storm has essentially been part of the family having raced through most of Jacob’s childhood. “Touchy who was named by Jacob has been part of the family, and actually they grew up together. Jacob is 14 and gets to drive him at track work now he has his junior licence and the bond they have together is something that touches our hearts,” Duggan said. The gelding has been remarkably durable during his career which is something Duggan attributes to his size and manners. “He’s never broken down in his 11 years and one of the keys to his longevity is that he’s not an overly big horse, and as time has gone on, he’s matured into a beautiful natured horse which allows him to keep racing as well as he is today”. With the Country Cups circuit on at present, Duggan has expressed that he will tick along and try and win another race before his old boy decides he wants to hang up his hobbles. If that race were to be another New Norfolk Cup, it would be really something. Poker Storm is raced by some of the best group of owners a trainer could ask for in husband and wife Chris and Annette Rockliff along with their son Jeremy and friend Peter Webb. “I’m forever grateful to all of them as not once have they put pressure on me to do anything I didn’t want to when it came to Poker Storm, but I often race him at Devonport as the owners are based up there and he also loves the track,” said Duggan with gratitude for the ride that they’ve all been on together with the son of Trump Casino. “I now have three horses for them that include Sacramento Sun who is a winner, and three-year-old Mista Eagle who has shown enough ability to see him win a few races in time,” said Duggan about his strengthening partnership with the owners. Duggan is a dual code trainer, also operating a small team of thoroughbreds which includes recent winner Foreeva who relished a wet track in Launceston. Dabbling in more than one code, Duggan credits the hard work of his support team which enables his horses to get to the races. “I’m a dual code trainer and that’s really something I thoroughly enjoy, but I wouldn’t be able to have the successful operation I have at Defibrillator Lodge without a great bunch of helping hands. “My stepfather Bruiser Young has been by my side each morning for countless years along with my Mum Susie who has been an integral part of my success today. Along with those two my lovely wife Amanda has supported and backed in every decision which has allowed me to be a full-time trainer while she has gone out to the workforce,” said Duggan with pride. “Her father Greg is also a huge helping hand around the stables, and I owe him enormously. I also can’t forget my brother Ricky who in my eyes is up there with the best of all time and I’m more than happy to put him on when his available, but it’s not easy,” laughed Duggan. For Duggan, the family aspect of his training operation is something that makes the hard work worthwhile. “The greatest satisfaction is having my son Jacob following in my footsteps which is something I cherish so much. “Time will tell if he continues to follow the family tradition and join his cousin Josh in the driving ranks as it would be great to have two family members that have followed in mine and Ricky’s shoes,” Duggan said. In closing, the one thing about Poker Storm is that he is a pacer that always goes around at big odds so it a huge credit to Adrian to get him to win the number of races he has!   Jamie Cockshutt for Tasracing

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