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It is far from a surprise, but Lochinvar Art will start a commanding favourite for Saturday night’s Group 1 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. The five-year-old Chariots of Fire, Victoria Cup and Vicbred Super Series champion drew gate six tonight for the $110,000 TAB Summer of Glory, Grand Circuit opening night Ballarat feature, and TAB responded by opening him $1.30. And the $1.30 disappeared literally quicker than Lochinvar Art’s 1:48.6 4YO Bonanza run – wheeled into $1.25 moments later. Trainer-driver David Moran was certainly confident immediately after the draw. “I guess Hurricane Harley drawing gate two makes it a little bit tricky,” he said, before adding “but at the same time it leaves them with a tough decision to make; whether they try to post (Arty) knowing he (Harley) probably won’t get the 2700 metres,” he said. Quizzed about how Lochinvar Art had pulled up after his Shepparton Cup dalliance, Moran said “really good”, adding “he’ll be spot on” for Ballarat. It is obviously ominous given the heights this horse has already achieved, including that Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup win in October when he was simply better than a cracking field, which included New South Wales star King Of Swing.   Of the other runners in a sterling Ballarat Cup line-up, Sicario pulled the plum gate one draw, with Hurricane Harley likely first to the pegs in two. The remainder of the field is Out To Play (three), Bettor Be The Bomb (four), Somewhere Secret (five), Lochinvar Art (six), Our Uncle Sam (seven), Always Fast (eight), Wolf Stride (nine), emergency Kowalski Analysis (10), Jamieson Steele (11), Forty Thieves (12), and Sunday’s Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Fourbigmen (13).   HRV - Cody Winnell

The TAB Summer of Glory narrative had its first chapter written at the weekend, when legs three and four of the Trots Country Cups Championship were won by horses with bold ambitions. Lochinvar Art will enter this Saturday night’s $110,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup a short-priced favourite after obliterating his rivals on his home track of Shepparton last Saturday, while Fourbigmen reaffirmed his standing among the next tier with a commanding win at Hamilton on Sunday. The performances only fuelled the fire for what shapes as a terrific month’s racing, which will culminate with the $500,000 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup on February 6 at Tabcorp Park Melton, when interstate raiders King Of Swing and Chicago Bull will battle Lochinvar Art for what’s essentially the nation’s heavyweight title. Though for some it may be disputed, others will argue that title currently rests with Victoria Cup winner Lochinvar Art. They would have had their position reaffirmed by his performance on Saturday when he cruised to victory in his home-town Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup, in the process matching the track record despite being largely untested. Trainer/driver David Moran admitted post-race “it’s pretty scary really”. “He had a pretty easy lead time, but to do it the way he did it (was) pretty arrogant,” he said, after Lochinvar Art stormed home in a 54.9sec last half to win by 16 metres. “He’s pretty basic. He’s not too perturbed by a lot of things. I always refer to him as Mike Tyson, he pulls the black trunks up and he’s pretty happy go lucky, he doesn’t care, he’s just out there to fight.” Making the result all the more significant for Moran was that it was his first victory in his home cup. “Not only is it good to win your home cup on your home track, but it’s great to do it in front of everybody involved,” Moran said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and family here tonight, there are a lot of local people that seem to follow this horse. It’s great for the industry.” Lochinvar Art is among nominees for Saturday’s Ballarat Cup along with Bendigo Cup winner Wolf Stride, Cobram Cup winner Perfect Stride and Hamilton Cup winner Fourbigmen, meaning all who have claimed a Trots Country Cups Championship this season could be on a collision course. The last of those to salute, Fourbigmen, was impressive in confirming his favourite status in the Hamilton Cup by sitting in the breeze for the last lap and holding off all comers. In only her second drive on the Emma Stewart-trained five-year-old, following on from a last start second in the Bendigo Cup, Kate Gath advanced Fourbigmen to the front of the running line with a lap to go and rattled home in 54.9sec outside leader and stablemate Struve. “When Struve had to give a little bit to find the front and then backed off it was the perfect opportunity to put ourselves in the race and then ease off once we got there,” Gath said. “He was really good up the straight. He was the class runner of the field and that’s what he did to them today.”   HRV - Michael Howard

Veteran trainer-driver Lance Justice still has fond memories of his superstar pacer Sokyola, who won 78 races and close to $2 million in a glittering career that came to a close in 2007. More than a decade on, the former New Zealander's racetrack legacy remains up in lights thanks to a $24,000 free-for-all feature named in his honour. And Justice will turn to another ex-Kiwi in his bid at landing a third win in the race. Rishi is one of the fancied runners in a small but select field of six, which will tackle the Ballarat 1710m journey on Boxing Day night. For the first time, the Sokyola Sprint will be run at a circuit where Justice's champion enjoyed plenty of success. In his 15 trips to Bray Raceway, the son of Sokys Atom won six races but was never able to claim the Pacing Cup from three attempts. Rishi has not won since bursting the bubble of pin-up pacer Ride High in the group 2 TAB Smoken Up Sprint in early October, when he surged home under the urgings of Michael Bellman to win at odds in excess of $100. Justice, who will take the reins this evening, has his fingers crossed for a fast speed. "He's a really hard horse to train and I haven't quite got him right," Justice told Trots Talk. "When I have got him right, as you saw in the Smoken Up Sprint, he can beat anybody. "He's going to need the race to be run at break-neck tempo - around the 1.50 (mile rate) - for him to get over the top of them. If they have to stop-start, he's not quite a stop-start horse yet. "I'm sure with a little break, he can come back and he'll be in the grand circuit next year. It's a pleasure to have him in (the Sokyola Sprint), he's a very good horse, but I would just like him to be a little bit more consistent and just work it out. Eventually he will get there." Rishi, like Sokyola, started his career in New Zealand before being purchased and then trained by Justice here in Victoria. Since arriving on our shores in late 2017, the son of Bettors Delight has won 13 races and taken his career prizemoney well over the $200,000 mark. He faces stiff opposition this evening from the likes of Anthony Butt's Wolf Stride, who looks a Group 1 winner in the making after a run of recent form that includes three victories from his last four outings, and the consistent Code Black, who beat home Rishi and Somebeachshadow when second in the VHRC Caduceus Classic earlier this month. "I do think he'll run a good race and I'm sure he'll be in the placings, but unless they go really, really hard, it's going to make it hard for him. He has to have the speed right on," Justice said. The Sokyola Sprint is race eight on tonight's nine-event card and is scheduled to go at 9.58pm. SOKYOLA SPRINT HONOUR ROLL 2007 Cincinnati Kid NZ Mark Peace 2008 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice 2010 Smoken Up NZ Lance Justice 2011 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan 2012 Decorated Jasper Jodi Quinlan 2013 Jaccka Clive NZ Greg Sugars 2014 Five Star Anvil NZ Gavin Lang 2015 Franco Ledger NZ Geoff Webster 2015 Keayang Steamer Glen Craven 2016 Metro Mike Jason Lee 2017 John Of Arc NZ Nathan Jack 2018 Shadow Sax Mark Pitt 2019 Phoenix Prince Greg Sugars   HRV - Tim O'Connor

The battle lines are drawn, with the much-anticipated match-up between Ride High and Lochinvar Art scheduled for Saturday night at Ballarat, seeing off what's seemed the longest winter. The Ballarat Beast has taken all before him this campaign but faces his greatest challenge to date on his home track when he finally crosses swords with Victoria's fastest ever pacer, Lochinvar Art. The latter's trainer-driver David Moran will back up his 4YO Bonanza and Chariots Of Fire winning star this Saturday night, reassured by Lochinvar Art's convincing victory in last Saturday's Simonds Homes Bendigo Pace. Moran joined RSN927 and SENTrack this morning to declare his superstar would face off against Clayton Tonkin's speed machine Ride High at Bray Raceway. "Providing everything goes good between now and Saturday we are probably going to go ahead," Moran told RSN927. "He'd been pretty good all week. I knew he'd need the run a little bit, but once I got up outside Jodi (Quinlan on Major Times) at around the 900-metre mark I knew he was on song then, because he wanted to get up and stare him down. I knew he was back then." It was a significant bounce back for Lochinvar Art after he was undone in his previous start by Major Times, when he was later found to have suffered a minor viral infection. Moran said Ballarat this Saturday was "not the most ideal timing" for Lochinvar Art to lock horns with Victoria's most explosive pacer, but this hit-out was the best option owing to no suitable race at Shepparton the following week and an unsuitably long trip to Terang the only option on September 13.  "I'm not going to say I'm confident by any means," he said. "There's no doubt that if (Lochinvar Art) did draw inside him that Ride High would have to be good to beat him. "(Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be rock hard to race a horse of that ilk. (Ride High)'s in good form and he's a great horse. (Lochinvar Art) probably needs to be 110 per cent rock hard to beat him." But Moran said he "did feel a lot relief when we crossed the line, that's for sure" when Lochinvar Art returned to winning form at Bendigo and was hopeful he would draw inside Ride High, with both having the maximum 120 national rating points. "This preparation has been a little bit up and down," he said. "It would be good to have another couple of runs under his belt, but at the end of the day if he did happen to draw inside him he still will have to be good to beat him." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW:   HRV - Michael Howard  

Cardigan harness racing trainer Emma Stewart strung together more wins on her home track on Wednesday. Stewart had a treble in Ballarat to take her tally to 15 over four race meetings in eight days. The run began with five victors at Bray Raceway on Wednesday, May 6, and continued with another seven over two Melton fixtures - morning and night - on Saturday. Ballarat and Melton have been the only tracks Stewart has been able to race her team at under the region-based model introduced by Harness Racing Victoria in response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Stewart's treble was made up of My Bettor Lady ($1.90 favourite), 3yo pacer Ostapenko ($3.40) and 3yo first starter Execution Oro ($2.90). My Bettor Lady was having her first start for the stable after crossing from South Australia. Allan McDonough had a driving double on Ostapenko and Execution Oro. Kate Gath and Gordon-based Darby McGuigan also landed driving doubles. Meanwhile, HRV has announced it is to begin phasing out regional racing, which was introduced on April 2. to reduced the industry's footprint.  Allan McDonough with Ostapenko - one of trainer Emma Stewart's three winners.   HRV chief executive officer Dayle Brown said six regions would reduced to three on May 24. Ballarat and Melton will join with Terang and Stawell, and Bendigo, Shepparton, Cranbourne and Kilmore combined. Mildura will remain standalone. In another change brought about on harness racing by coronavirus, Harness Racing Australia will extend the 2019-20 racing season December 31. The season normally finished at the end of August.   By David Brehaut   Reprinted with permission of The Courier        

Long-time harness racing aficionado Ken Whelan was back in the winners’ stall yesterday at Ballarat trots. The astute horseman produced four-year-old trotter Charlie Walker to win the TAB, Long May We Play Trot. Driven by John Caldow, Charlie Walker (pictured) settled three back on the fence from the pole as a 50-1 shot in Well Deserved set the pace. Turning for home Caldow was angling for runs, and when Well Deserved galloped he was able to steer around that horse and manoeuvre into the gap for a narrow triumph. The victory was win No.1 for Charlie Walker at his 12th start, but there’s no doubting his ability, showing several glimpses of a breakthrough before yesterday. “When I broke him in, I thought he’d be really smart because he could skip over the ground pretty good without asking him to run and he’s never been a silly horse,” Whelan said. “He is a bit hesitant to do something new on the racetrack and he shies a bit, but I think he’ll make a nice racehorse.” And Whelan would know. The horsemanship history among his family goes back generations. His father’s parents and grandparents had the “cabs and coaches” business at Maryborough dating back to the goldrush days. “They would tell me that they often would carry 50 or 60 miners pulled by eight horses in hand and my father drove the cabs from the station as a boy and the hearse to the cemetery,” Whelan said. Whelan’s father, Bill Whelan, “WJ”, trained horses successfully over many years, picking up club premierships at tracks like Maryborough, St Arnaud, Charlton and Ouyen and having periods of dominance at the Showgrounds during the 1960s. “We had nice horses back then. I think we had about five horses go to free-for-all company. We had Doxa Joe too, who was the fastest Australian bred horse ever to go America at the time, named after the Doxa Youth Centre at Malmsbury and its founder Father Joe Giacobbe,” Whelan said. “Geoff McDonald was very friendly with him and he bred Doxa Joe and Robin Guy. We had them both. Doxa Joe was sold to American and went 1:53.0.” Ken and his father had an enormous setback in 1985 after the central Victorian bushfire, which started in Avoca, burnt out their property. “I shifted to Smeaton, which is now Lawrence, and started up,” Ken said. Some of his best winners along the way since have been Gerry Leigh, Kenfig Boy and Puhinui Jim “They were handy horses. Puhinui Jim was first class but he had a bad accident one night at Moonee Valley and only ever won one race after that. He won 18 or 19 races from about 24 starts and broke two minutes most times he went around,” he said. In September of 1995 Whelan broke his back in a race fall when at the peak of his powers, having won multiple club premierships in the weeks leading up to that accident. “I crushed vertebrae and was in lot of trouble for a long time. I still wear a brace. A horse fell on top of me upside down on the cart,” he said. Whelan also explained that long-time harness figure Len Baker and his father raced numerous horses with the family over the years. Asked about his best memories, Whelan said a win of Roman Chapel one night at Globe Derby was “pretty special” driving for Trevor Spry. But those wins such as Charlie Walker are the most satisfying. “When you break one in, get him going and then train him, it doesn’t matter what race it is, that is the greatest pleasure you get,” Whelan said. One of Charlie Walker’s owners, Geoff Walker, has a grandfather whose second name is Charlie, Ken explained, adding “he was going to call him something ridiculous and my wife, Merna, said, ‘Why don’t you just call him Charlie Walker?’ So that’s how he got his name.” Other winners at Ballarat were Indigo Dancer (A Rocknroll Dance-Tauto Jane) for Ricky Ryan and Caldow, Ofortuna (Majestic Son-Fortunate Phoenix) for Craig Demmler and Jodi Quinlan, Better Boppa (Betterthancheddar-C C Bopper) for Emmett and Richard Brosnan, Jobells Image (Always A Virgin-Arts Image) for Emma Stewart and Greg Sugars, Abouttime (Art Major-Limerick Star) for Stewart and Sugars, Im A Denny Too (Art Major-Pricillas Girl) for Dennis Grieve and Sugars, and Pradason (Shadow Play-Stylish Jasper) for trainer-driver Allan McDonough. At Shepparton last night the winners were Santa Casa Beach (Somebeachsomewhere-Lombo Sleek Street) for Russell Jack and David Moran, Hateitwhenyourrite (Lucky Chucky-Adhesive) for David Abrahams and Brent Thomson, Well Well (Well Said-Johnola Babe) for Rosemarie and Paul Weidenbach, Hanover Sunshine (All Speed Hanover-Beverley Button) for Mark Buckingham, Sofala (Safari-Sass And Bling) for Donna Castles, Blingittothemax (Art Major-Alldatglittersisgold) for David and Josh Aiken, Alta Mach (Mach Three-Alta Vista) for Shayne Eeles, and Golden Sand (Somebeachsomewhere-Fususi) for trainer-driver Laura Crossland. First-Starter Form A quick guide to today’s trots debutants Bendigo tonight Race 1 Keilah (3yo filly by Art Major out of Shakeilah, trained by Luke Stapleton and driven by Alex Ashwood) Out of a Bendigo debutant winning daughter of In The Pocket, who has already produced 13-time winner Thatswhatisaid (by Well Said) and I Will Rock You (by Rock N Roll Heaven). They went 1:51.4 and 1:52.5 respectively. The mare has a 100% strike rate for her foals to the races, so that suggests there’s a win in this girl at some stage. Roxy Royale (3yo filly by Pet Rock out of Baroda Bess, trained and driven by Ross Graham) This filly is out of an unraced Armbro Operative mare, who has so far produced Animated (1:53.6, 21 wins from 103 starts and still racing well) and Sports Bounty (eight wins, 1:55.5).   Race 2 Tellmesumthingirl (3yo filly by Julius Caesar out of Parisian Operative, trained and driven by Dylan Marshall) This filly is from a one-time winning daughter of Armbro Operative who has not yet produced a foal to the races.   HRV - Cody Winnell

Ballarat and District Trotting Club will pioneer a new Victorian region-based harness racing model on Thursday. The club will run an eight-race day-time meeting based on programming which limits travel for trainers and drivers in line with public health recommendations to slow the spread of CODIV-19 virus. The state has been divided into six regions, with Ballarat and Melton tracks making up the inner-west. Only horses trained within the region and drivers who live in it can take part at Bray Raceway and Melton. Dunnstown trainer David Murphy and Myrniong-based Jess Tubbs have the biggest representation in Ballarat with five starters each. Murphy is also in demand as a driver, with six engagements. He begins his day with Meet Michaelangelo in the Ballarat Veterinary Practice Trot, 2200m - a winner at Bray Raceway two starts ago. Meanwhile, Matt Maguire, a relative newcomer to Victoria, will give two starters their first outings for his stable in Ballarat. Kraze, formerly trained by Scott Stewart, lines up in the Ballarat Commercial Laundry 3yo Trot, 2200m, and promising type Blue Sparkler is first-up in the Ballarat Sound Trotters' Handicap, 2200m. Blue Sparkler had three wins in four starts for Emma Stewart late last year, with the 4yo not racing since November. Based at Melton, Maguire is previously from South Australia and the early part of his career with leading trainer-driver Ryan Hryhorec. By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

One of Australia's best juvenile trotters of two years ago continues his return from injury at Ballarat harness raceing on Friday night. Always Ready will have his second start off an extended break in the Nextra Wendouree Newsgancy Trot, 2200m - the opening event on a 10-race card at Bray Raceway. Trained by Anton Golino at Cardigan, Always Ready returned on a winning note in Ballarat on March 4. That was his first race start since a third in the Breeders Crown 2yo colts and geldings trotting final at Melton in August, 2018. Always Ready missed his entire 3yo season with a hoof issue, with Golino giving the son of Ready Cash plenty of time to get back to full fitness. This included three official trials in February to round out the preparation. Always Ready had eight starts as 2yo for four wins, three seconds and third. His big moment came with victory in a group 1 Vicbred Super Series final. This was complemented by a win in the group 2 Tatlow Stakes. Two of his seconds were in group 1 company, including the Redwood Classic at Maryborough. Golino was pleased with Always Ready's first-up run, when he was able to find the lead and dictate terms. One of Always Ready's biggest rivals from his 2yo campaign, Kyvalley Clichy, also goes around in Ballarat on Friday night. Kyvalley Clichy stretches out. Picture: Stuart McCormick.   The Brent Lilley-trained entire is engaged in the Easy Waste Trotters' Handicap, 2200m. Kyvalley Clichy was also a group 1 winner in his 2yo season - beating Always Ready home in the Breeders Crown final - and like Always Ready placed in the Redwood Classic (third). While Always Ready was sidelined last season, Kyvalley Clichy added another group 1 to his name in the Vicbred Super Series 3yo final. This will be Kyvalley Clichy's third run this preparation, with him having won his last start at Bendigo. While they do not clash on Friday night, the paths of Always Ready and Kyvalley Clichy appear certain to cross on the big stage later this season. This will be the first race meeting run by Ballarat and District Trotting Club since a public lock-out was introduced by all three racing codes in the battle against the spread of the coronavirus. Harness Racing Victoria is restricting attendance at race meetings to licensed participants - trainers and strappers - with a horse engaged and essential staff only. They are being encouraged to leave the track as soon as possible after their last racing engagement. Owners and the public are not permitted to attend. By David Brehaut Reprinted with permission of The Courier

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

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

.MARK Purdon has plenty of thinking to do. Emerging star Self Assured is the best horse in Saturday night’s Group 1 Ballarat Cup, but he’s drawn the trickiest barrier – inside the back row (gate eight). He’s already drifted from $2.50 opening price to $2.60 with the Aussie TAB. Self Assured is one of two runners Purdon and Rasmussen have in their quest for a fifth successive Ballarat Cup win. Smolda won in 2016 &17, Heaven Rocks in 2018 and Thefixer last year. Purdon will drive Self Assured with Rasmussen aboard last-start brilliant Cambridge winner Chase Auckland (gate five, $5). Purdon’s big decision is whether to stay on the inside and risk being pocketed, or snag right back at the start and give away a huge head start to his rivals. The other Kiwi raider, dual Auckland Inter Dominion heat winner AG’s White Socks, is drawn to use his gate speed and possibly lead from gate four. He’s firmed from $5 to $4.60. Australia’s top trainer Emma Stewart has four of the 12 runners – Tam Major (gate one, $15), The Storm Inside (two, $6), Demon Delight (six, $18) and Phoenix Prince (nine, $13) – as well as the emergency, Somewhere Secret (gate three, $71). “It’s great to have such a strong hand in our hometown Cup and all of them are at the top of their game,” Stewart said. “Put a line through The Storm Inside’s Bendigo Cup run. He’s raring to go again, and Phoenix Prince is flying.” Tim Butt’s former Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal is a surprise Ballarat Cup runner after WA Cup plans were shelved because of ongoing plane issues. He’s a $21 shot from a horror outside back row draw (13).   BALLARAT CUP DRAW Front row Tam Major $15 The Storm Inside $6 Somewhere Secret (emerg, $71) AG’s White Socks $4.60 Chase Auckland $5 Demon Delight $18 Idealsomemagic $101 Back row Self Assured $2.60 Phoenix Prince $13 Code Bailey $11 Our Uncle Sam $21 Rackemup Tigerpie $151 My Field Marshal $21   By Adam Hamilton

Avid central Victorian harness racing driver Tina Ridis is making every post a winner after again teaming up with a pacer she hasn't driven for nearly 12 months. Ridis, who trains at the former gold mining town of Havelock 10 kilometres north of Maryborough, has formed a formidable partnership with seven-year-old gelding Calvert Hot Shot, trained by 80-year-old veteran horseman Ray Cross. Calvert Hot Shot (Town Champion-Etched In Ice (Perfect Art) got the money at Maryborough on November 3 and repeated the dose at Ballarat with a strong win in the Mazda Pace last Thursday. Ridis said Calvert Hot Shot was racing in great form and thoroughly deserved his two recent victories. "He's a lovely horse and I've only driven him three times this campaign-he's really been hitting the line hard," she said. "I drove him probably eight or nine times back in October and November last year. I got the opportunity when Ray returned back to Queensland after a working holiday down here and left the horse with Phillip Giles, at Great Western. "I remember nearly winning at my first drive on him at Maryborough-we went so close, going down by a neck." The Ballarat fixture was a memorable one for Cross and his wife Janelle with Calvert Hot Shot the first leg of a winning double. The second was courtesy of five-year-old trotter Honey Please (Yankee Spider-Kumbya (Sundon), driven by Michael Bellman. The popular freelancer is in terrific form and showed his customary fine touch to score by a half head over Dicko Dixon (Glen Craven). Ridis has certainly been making the best of her driving engagements this season with an enviable top three strike rate of nearly 58 percent. She has had 19 drives for six wins, two seconds and three thirds for over $26,000. Last season Calvert Hot Shot faced the starter only 15 times for three placings, while this season he has two victories from just 10 attempts. Overall, he's been a consistent earner for the Cross couple with eight wins and 22 placings for $43,000. The husband and wife team previously trained at Calvert, a small town near Ipswich, 40 kms south west of Brisbane, before deciding on a sea change early this year. Cross has a love for square gaiters and believed the opportunities in Victoria were too good to ignore. They have been training out of Maryborough stables owned by friend Mick Clover, while searching for a property of their own. Ridis says she has been involved in harness racing "forever" after being born into it. "I grew up around horses because my dad John was a trainer-driver. He used to breed and train a few while growing potatoes at Korweinguboora, about 15 kms from Daylesford," she said. "When I decided to get my driver's licence, dad then just concentrated on the training part of it. I can still recall my first win-it was my 13th attempt and at the old Horsham track. "Dad ended up shifting to Ballarat after suffering some heart conditions through the heavy work that was involved on the farm and he still trained a couple up until he passed away about 20 years ago." Ridis will soon have her team back and racing after giving them a break. "I've got six in work. There's a few new ones that are shaping up okay so hopefully they will do a good job," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Surprise packet Savannah Jay Jay will be hoping to carve another fairytale chapter tomorrow night when the low-flying eight-year-old trotter zeroes in on Ballarat's trotting cup. The John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, at 8.40pm at Bray Raceway, is the penultimate race of the Maori's Idol Trotting Championship, in which Shaun McNaulty's Fratellino has an unassailable lead. Savannah Jay Jay can jump to equal third with victory tomorrow night, which would add to his earlier success in November's St Arnaud Cup and, of course, last Saturday's Schweppes Australasian Trotting Championship win, which delivered trainer Stan Cameron and reinsman James Herbertson their maiden Group 1. "I had no idea that he could run the whole journey out," Cameron told RSN 927's program One Out One Back. "I thought, if he got a bit of cover he would have been right, but right up to the end I was right up on my toes I tell you. The horse just kept on fighting and fighting and fighting to the end." Savannah Jay Jay was priced a $2.25 chance at the for the John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, a win that would mean the world to Cameron. "I had a fair bit to do with John years ago," he said. "John used to always get a ride down to the start on the side of the cart, he used to always say 'you need to do this, you need to do that'. I picked up a fair few pointers off him over the years. He was a great bloke."   HRV Trots Media

Justin Baker has quickly become attached to the Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable. The 42-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success since joining the ownership ranks in recent times and is hoping one of his newest acquisitions can debut in winning fashion this Friday night at Ballarat. The well-bred Pandering, who is a half-brother to $500,000-winning US pacer Panmunjom, heads to the races with some good trial form under his belt. Pandering, who will be driven by Chris Alford in the Cervus Sunshine 2YO Pace (1710m), is being targeted at the Group 1 Allwood Stud SA Sale Classic Final. "Really the aim was to buy a horse to support the sale and then hopefully try and get a runner in the Allwood race in June," Baker said. "That Adelaide race is just a really good one in terms of where it sits in the program." While there are Group 1 aspirations for the son of Courage Under Fire, Baker isn't going over the top with his expectations. "He's a pretty natural two-year-old. He just does everything right," Baker said. "We think he's going to be a nice two-year-old. I'm not sure where he sits in the pecking order down there (at the Cardigan stables) and that's obviously an Emma and Clayton thing. I generally don't ask them, but I think he's going to make a nice two-year-old. "He's just really well gaited. I think doing it all right at this stage as a two-year-old is a big part of it, so I reckon he'll go pretty well." Baker's first real taste of success came with the ultra-talented The Storm Inside. That horse collected the Group 1 Australian Pacing Gold Final before being crowned the 2YO Pacing Colts/Geldings Horse of the Year in 2016. "It has really gone from there," Baker said. "I get along really well with (Emma and Clayton), I love spending time with them and their records speak for themselves. "We've probably bought 15 or 20 horses with them in the last three or four years." Surely the most exciting of those is gifted trotter Alpha Male, who is already a dual winner at the elite level and is being set for the IRT Harness Jewels in New Zealand later this year. "It's a heck of a lot of fun with those guys and spending time with them outside of the races is also really good fun," Baker said. "They're great mates of mine and they make it all the more worthwhile from our perspective." Baker has never achieved a winning double on the same program, but looks a chance of securing a treble at Friday night's meeting. He also has ownership of Stewart-trained pacers Concealment and Phoenix Prince, which look well placed on their home track.   Tim O'Connor for Trots Media

Save Our Pennys got a well-deserved first taste of sweet success this campaign with a comprehensive all-the-way win in the harness racing E B Cochran Trotters Cup. With driver Gavin Lang’s trotter having been valiant in Tornado Valley’s shadow, finishing second in five of his previous six starts, Save Our Pennys enjoyed the freedom of his main foe’s absence to dominate the $30,000 Group 2 on PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup night. It was the perfect tune-up for next Saturday night’s showcase Woodlands Great Southern Star, the $250,000 Group 1 that's Australia’s richest trotting race. “He’s an old marvel really,” said Lang. “Dad (Graeme) always said he’d win a good race, but he’s won three or four now. “His behaviour before the race tonight was a bit like a two-year-old, not like an eight-year-old who’s had 50-odd starts. He’s a great horse, just trots, as you can see no gear on him, no head check, no nothing. He’s just a great horse to have around.” Save Our Pennys won by 5.2m from Dance Craze who boxed on well to finish ahead of Yabby Dam stablemate Pizza Queen, with the winner holding all at bay with his 56-second last 800m amid a 1:59.8 mile rate. “Once Tornado Valley didn’t turn up it opened the race up a bit and then we were fortunate to come up with the right barrier. Made our own luck tonight, because he’s been a bit of a bridesmaid lately behind Tornado Valley, but that’s OK, I’ll cop that. “He deserved that win. Dad and mum will be very happy and I will be back in the will now that I have got a win on board.” The focus quickly turns to night two of the TAB Summer Of Glory, when Kiwis Marcoola and Speeding Spur travel to Tabcorp Park to take on TAB Inter Dominion winner Tornado Valley and a host of challengers hoping to flip the trotting landscape. “Tornado Valley has got the record on the board,” Lang said. “The opposition is always hopeful (that they can turn the tables) one day. He’s a great horse from the front of the field or the back of the field. “Horses like (Save Our Pennys) can never be discounted. He’s got great manners and a great will to win. There’s three or four Kiwis coming over for the Great Southern Star. It will be a Trans-Tasman race for sure, Tornado Valley’s probably not going to get it all his own way. It will be a great event.” To watch the video click on this link. Trots Media - Michael Howard ID18 5 8:30pm E B COCHRAN TROTTERS CUP (GROUP 2) 2200M $30,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 SAVE OUR PENNYS      Fr4 4 Graeme Lang Gavin Lang   $ 1.80 fav  GS L 1 SWAB   BAY GELDING 7 by SAFELY KEPT USA out of TUPENNY BIT (SUNDON USA)  Owner(s): G A Lang, R J Sleep, Estate of G Lucas, J Glavas  Breeder(s): Bromfield Park Pty Ltd 2 DANCE CRAZE      Fr5 5 Anton Golino Rodney Petroff 5.20 $ 4.30   PRS 3WE OLM 2 SCT 3 PIZZA QUEEN USA      Fr3 3 Anton Golino Mark Purdon 8.10 $ 9.20   PRS GS 4 4 BIG JACK HAMMER      Sr1 8 David Aiken Kima Frenning 8.30 $ 17.70   PRS 5 HUE CTS D/F$ 5 SAVANNAH JAY JAY      Fr1 1 Stan Cameron Neil McCallum 9.20 $ 36.10   GS L SLE 3 6 SKY PETITE      Fr7 7 Michael Stanley Ryan Duffy 9.40 $ 8.00   RAS 10 3WL 7 DELTASUN      Fr2 2 Terry Young Kerryn Manning 13.70 $ 17.40   PRS 6 8 FABRICATION      Fr6 6 David Abrahams John Caldow 15.50 $ 53.90   RAS 8 Scratchings All started Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 2:43:8 Mile Rate: 1:59:8 Lead Time: 44.1 First Quarter: 32.1 Second Quarter: 31 Third Quarter: 28.7 Fourth Quarter: 27.9 Margins: 5.2m x 2.9m    

Having been involved in harness racing all her life Katrina Fitzpatrick is not one to sit on the sidelines as her daughter and grandchildren prepare for a heartbreaking situation, life without a husband and father. Her son-in-law Nigel Munro has terminal brain cancer and is in palliative care in Ballarat after being told he would not return home.  He will leave behind wife Kylie Munro and daughters Sienna, 5, and Tia, 2. Ms Fitzpatrick has worked with the Ballarat and District Trotting Club to put on the Trots Night Fundraiser A Mother’s Plea for Help.  The event, along with a GoFundMe page, will raise money to support and offer a sense of security to Mrs Munro and her two daughters. “It’s really lovely for everyone to get behind us because we’ve never asked for anything like this,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.  “But when you have a family going through this, and Kylie has had a pretty rough go, I just wish I could have a wand and wave it and make everything good. But I can’t, we’ve just got to make sure that the girls are secure.” The fundraiser will include a three-course meal and a night of harness racing, along with auctions, raffles and a race book. There will also be face painting and children’s activities.   Already there has been a strong response with a long list of sponsors, many donating prizes for the auction. “It’s pretty hard to go and see Nigel the way he is at the moment, but the community has really rallied around us,” Ms Fitzpatrick said. “It is a terrible thing but you have to do what you can.” Ballarat and District Trotting Club chief executive officer Paul Rowse said he was expecting a big attendance on the night and a lot of support for the Munro family.  “When something like this affects one of our trotting community, I would say that the people always rally behind them,” he said.  “And I know that Katrina Fitzpatrick is well known and well liked in the sport. “I’m sure that people will rally behind the family to raise as much money as possible on the night.” The fundraiser will be held in the club’s function rooms on February 2, from 6-10pm. Tickets are $35 for people 16 years and over, $22 for children 12-15, and $13 for children 2-11, bookings are essential via 5335 9041. If you can not make the event, but still want to help, you can donate to the family’s GoFundMe page online at  By Siobhan Calafiore Reprinted with permission of The Courier News

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