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Work is underway to expand Cranbourne’s harness racing training centre, including a stable and yard upgrade that will pave the way for more trainers to base at the facility. The centre, which has produced more than 260 winners since its opening, is adding accommodation for 20 more walk-in, walk-out stables and yards, including a new 240 square metre barn with internal feed and tack rooms. It’s also introducing four new quarter-acre paddocks to compliment those that already exist. Cranbourne Harness Racing Centre president David Scott said the club was “grateful to Harness Racing Victoria and the Andrews Government for their support of this project”. “We have long held the view that there is a need to grow participation to the south-east of Melbourne,” Scott said. “We have identified that by creating, and now expanding, facilities at the Cranbourne Training Centre we can make an important contribution to realising that goal.” Operating since September 2012, the centre previously housed up to 50 horses on course and 12 professional and hobbyist trainers, who have access to three maintained tracks, including the 945m racetrack, an equine treadmill, eight-horse walking machine and 24-metre pool. Scott said the club committed substantial money to the initial build and was now investing further to the project, which would “allow us to actively recruit more trainers to the area”. “The configuration of the 20 new stables and yards in clusters of five will allow us to accommodate a single trainer or multiple trainers depending on their needs,” he said. “We have long held the view that there is a need to grow participation to the south-east of Melbourne,” Scott said. “We have identified that by creating, and now expanding, facilities at the Cranbourne Training Centre we can make an important contribution to realising that goal.” Operating since September 2012, the centre previously housed up to 50 horses on course and 12 professional and hobbyist trainers, who have access to three maintained tracks, including the 945m racetrack, an equine treadmill, eight-horse walking machine and 24-metre pool. Scott said the club committed substantial money to the initial build and was now investing further to the project, which would “allow us to actively recruit more trainers to the area”. “The configuration of the 20 new stables and yards in clusters of five will allow us to accommodate a single trainer or multiple trainers depending on their needs,” he said.   Harness Racing Victoria

Success was written in the stars for Victorian horsewomen Jennifer Lewis and Michelle Phillips at the Cranbourne harness racing meeting on Sunday. Their quinella with half-brothers Celestial Trekker and Celestial Gossip was a mirror-image of a race result almost 12-months ago to the day - another top two finish with the same two horses, at the same track, involving the same two drivers! Lewis, of Warragul, combines training a small team with being manager of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre, and said the outcome was exciting and satisfying. "I've had the two horses all along. There's very little between them when we do fastwork and I suppose it's a great joy them being so even," Lewis said "Steven and Michael Byrne, from Adelaide bred both them and I've had horses with them for about 10 years - I race Trekker on lease while they have Gossip in their names. "And we're also so proud of our driver Michelle, who is one of our training centre graduates." Celestial Trekker (Safari-Celestial Diamond (Getting It Right) led all the way in the TAB Long May We Play Pace for talented junior Michelle Phillips. The pair, starting at bolter odds of 35/1, packed just enough to hold off stablemate Celestial Gossip (Greg Sugars), who was sent out the $1.80 favorite. Rewind to one year ago and Phillips again had the wood over champion reinsman Sugars-but on that occasion the lightweight Romsey-based horsewoman drove Celestial Gossip (Tell All-Celestial Diamond (Getting It Right) to victory over his stablemate after a mid-race move to the breeze. "It's nice to get a couple up on Greg. I don't beat him very often, but just lately I'm doing okay at it," Phillips laughed. "I had to rev Trekker up at the start last Sunday to make sure I got to the front. Then it can be a worry that he'll come back to you. But I did managed to do it - the secret is not to rush him back," she said. "Over the final stages I was urging and yelling at him to keep going. I ended up copping a caution for the whip and noise." Celestial Trekker finishes just ahead of stablemate Celestial Gossip Phillips said she had been great friends with Jen (Lewis) through attending the training school, graduating in 2016. "Prior to that I'd been working at the stables of Deb and Gary Quinlan. They actually pushed me to do the school. Jen has been a great influence in my driving career and puts me on her horses at every chance." Phillips obtained an internship to attend the harness training centre-the first person to receive the honor. The centre, which opened in 1997, has seen over 350 graduates through the doors. The inaugural manager was Des Hughes, a passionate and well-known identity in harness racing and Lewis took over the role six years ago. Lewis first became interested in the sport when living in South Australia, prior to her move to Victoria, and is herself, one of the early graduates of the centre. "I would help Trevor Lucas back in Gawler as much as I could. My mum Merilyn has passed away now but jogged horses for Bob and Daphne Sweet who lived down the road, opposite the old Gawler track," she said. "After I moved to Victoria, I graduated from the training centre in 2001-02. So, it's not just trainers, drivers and stablehands who come through. There have been clerks of the course, track managers and attendants and administrators. "The HRV's Acting Chairman of Stewards Nick Murray was also a student and showed enormous ability because he could see things in a race after one viewing that some of us hadn't realized had happened. He could drive well too, but none of us were surprised that he took on a role as a cadet steward after he graduated." The Stablehand Certificate Two course involves a full-time six-month course, and results in a nationally-accredited qualification. "We have 14 full-time attendees and another 10 school students who do study one day a week. There's also three at the moment going for their C Grade licence," Lewis explained. "Most of them fall in love with the horses and when they're finished, take on a standardbred. They retrain them and of course the standardbreds are renowned for the way they transition to do anything. "Not all of them go on and get involved in the industry, but they all have fond memories and that means the word of mouth works well for us." Lewis said the COVID-19 pandemic had presented some significant challenges. "How do you run a hands-on course when you can't be hands on? The course does have practical and theoretical components though, so we decided the best way was to concentrate on the theory and as things have opened up with more relaxed restrictions we've been able to have very small groups at a time." Hoofnote: And another Celestial horse - Celestial Topaz - is expected to make his debut soon. "He's a younger half-brother to the others and is a pacing-bred trotter! We have high hopes because he's trialled nicely a few times," Lewis said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After well over a decade of being mentored and working with some of the best, Kelly Stuart-Mitchell is about to launch her own harness racing career. The 31-year-old former Kiwi was granted a Victorian trainer's licence about five weeks ago. And she is wasting no time jumping in the deep end with her first starter going around at Cranbourne this Sunday night. Three-year-old bay gelding Hey Listen (Crazed-Catchya Maya (Yankee Spider) will make his debut in the $7000 Aldebaran Park Trot at 7.30 pm. The enthusiastic horsewoman has the pedigree for success, with her father Robert a former outstanding trainer, and her brother Todd a highly respected trainer-driver. "I grew up in a 'horsey' town, Cambridge, on the North Island," Kelly said. "There were always horses around when I was growing up because Dad had big teams in work and mum did the yearling preparations. I can clearly recall the first horse I ever got-it was given to me for my fifth birthday!" she said. "Dad enjoyed the square-gaiters and that may be rubbing off onto me a little because three of mine are trotters." Kelly has worked for some of the best along her journey, having had stints with legendary NZ Hall of Famer Barry Purdon for seven years and the formidable Victorian team, Andy and Kate Gath for five years. She also spent nine months with the highly-successful WA combination of Greg and Skye Bond. "They have all been a massive influence on me, not only as mentors, but as friends. As well I'm so grateful for all the help that Joe Pace is giving me. I'm working my horses out of his place at Melton and I just love it there," Kelly said. "I'm pretty excited to have my own starter after all this time. A win of course would be a fairytale, but I'm really just hoping that he does everything right," she said. "He didn't put a foot wrong in a recent trial and we were happy with the way he handled himself. There's quite a few owners in the horse, including my partner Darren Aitken, who along with my parents and family, is my greatest supporter." And while she's starting quietly, Kelly expects soon to build the stable to four, and eventually to get a good team together. "We have one in New Zealand that Todd is keeping ticking along while we're waiting for transportation to get it over here," she said. "I thoroughly love training them. I did drive in trials many years ago, but I'll leave that side of things to the experts!" Hoofnote: Robert Mitchell enjoyed success with Just An Excuse (Live Or Die-My Excuse (Smooth Fella) winner of two NZ Cups, the 2004 $75k Ballarat Pacing Cup and several other feature events. The gelding retired with 16 wins and eight placings from 27 starts for $877,000. Todd drove the superstar for his dad. Robert is now retired on a huge farm at Raglan, a small beachside town on the North Island of NZ, where he prepares yearlings for sale.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Passionate Kilmore harness racing figure Rita Burnett still gets as big a kick out of driving winners as anyone - and that's after 40 years in the sport. Still with the zest of someone half her age, Rita's never been afraid to follow a hunch - and a recent Cranbourne win with comeback pacer Taleggio is confirmation the wily horsewoman's instincts are still sound. Five-year-old Taleggio (Betterthancheddar-My Minnis Folly (Tuapeka Knight) was banished from a racing career, which had yielded two wins and three placings, after pulling up with a roaring noise following a trial last year. "We thought that was it, and because he was only a little fellow he'd be okay to do the pony trots with my sister's grand-daughter Courtney Laker," Rita said. "She's very good when it comes to horses and plans to get into harness racing next month when she turns 16. But after my daughter Monique broke Taleggio into the saddle, Courtney then went off competing in shows with him. They did really well and won a few ribbons." But something about Taleggio kept Rita interested, and she thought he was worth another shot at the track. "I always liked the horse and in the end spoke with his Tassie owner Jamie Cockshutt about having a throat operation done and giving him another go," Rita said. "Jamie's had many very good pacers and he was fantastic. He told me if I was willing to pay for the surgery, he'd sign over the horse and give him to us. So, he had five months away and the operation worked a treat." At Cranbourne on Sunday, Rita showed patience to the final corner before storming home to post a 10-metre victory with Taleggio, a $11 chance in the Mark Gurry and Associates pace. "He's usually a bit rattle-headed at the start, but he may have finally grown a brain! His three runs back have been okay, particularly when he ran fifth in quick time and made up ground," Rita said. "His nerves can get the better of him, but I reckon he can win two or three more with the way he's going." To watch the video replay of Taleggio winning click here. Rita and her partner Jim Maragos work out of the family complex, Grand Lodge, established years ago by Rita's parents, the late Leli and Mary Mifsud. Rita's brother Aussie and his wife Julie are also based there, as well as Rita's daughter Monique and her partner Josh Duggan. And there's more than a bit of excitement at the complex, with Monique recently announcing she and Josh are expecting a baby. Rita had her first race drive when she was 16 and was one of the trail blazers for women in harness racing. The likeable dual-coded trainer has a team of four or five pacers in work at the moment along with one thoroughbred and over the years has built an outstanding reputation for her ability to break-in and educate youngsters. "I get a lot of pleasure working with the babies, even when they give me a hard time! What I love most is when they make it to the races and run well for the owners," Rita said. "But getting a winner now and again...I still just really enjoy it, because we all work hard and put a lot into it," she said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura    

Former New Zealander Geoffrey Clout first got interested in harness racing as a teenager and over 20 years on, he's making up for lost time. Clout is based at Tyabb on Victoria's picturesque Mornington Peninsular and recorded his first victory as a trainer early last month with four-year-old mare My Superannuation. The pair then repeated the dose at Cranbourne last Sunday. To watch a video replay click here. "Her latest win was a big surprise. I still can't believe it, but perhaps she's turned the corner. She went way better than I thought she would," Clout said. Clout grew up near the Hutt Park Raceway in Wellington on the south-western tip of the North Island of New Zealand. "We were just a few hundred metres from Hutt Park, and my brother Phil and I went walking down to the raceway one day with our mother," he said. "We got to know a few of the guys there, including trainer Robert Woolley, and we ended up regularly giving them a hand before and after school. "It was a lot of fun and looking back on it, I'm pretty sure it kept us out of trouble. "I got a trainer's licence as an 18-year-old when I was over there. You had to go to what was called a cadet school at Cambridge and complete stablehand training blocks over two years," he said. "That was over 20 years ago, but the timing to train horses myself was never quite right. I never lost my interest, but I had to be patient!" Clout, who runs his own solid plastering and rendering business, said for a long time he didn't have land to pursue his harness racing interest. "But virtually as soon as we bought our 10-acre block, I started looking for a broodmare to get involved. And it obviously happened quickly because we've been in our house for five years and the first horse we bred is now a four-year-old!" he said. "I got my NZ licence transferred across at the start of this season and thought I'd give it a go with taking over her training. Simone Walker had her as a two and three-year-old and did all the early work." Clout kicked off his training career with an impressive second placing at Yarra Valley in early December. It was nearly four weeks before the pair reappeared to post the first of two Cranbourne victories. Clout said My Superannuation had tied up badly after her first run and he then had to modify her feeding and training routine. "We've only got a small 350 metre jog track on our property, so I float into Cranbourne, which is half an hour away, probably two or three times a week just to work the horse," he said. "I've got to know trainers like Dylan Stratford, Rick Cashman and some others who have been fantastic, so I've had heaps of valuable help along the way." My Superannuation (Mr Feelgood-Honeyrose (Partywiththebigdog) is handled by much-travelled junior concession driver Kyal Costello. Clout recently produced another horse to the races in three-year-old Tyabb Wonder (Mr Feelgood-Ezy Lady (Nuke Of Earl). The brown filly wasn't on her best behavior and finished unplaced after galloping in the run. "I sort of rushed her into the races. It was like the last throw at the stumps because both of the horses have been turned out now-my wife Rosie is expecting our second child," he said. "She is actually due this Saturday so there's more exciting times ahead," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

"It should be a great race," says reinsman Chris Alford as excitement builds for Saturday night's Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup, when a number of Emma Stewart's runners will attempt to bring the heat to their next-big-thing stablemate. Hurricane Harley, the Lauriston Bloodstock bred four-year-old who's already banked $355,640, will step from gate two in his Trots Country Cups Championship debut, with heavyweights Tam Major, Rackemup Tigerpie, Code Black and Phoenix Prince ready to pounce from the back row. Alford will again take the reins of Tam Major, whose finished third in each of his three cups this season. "The (inside back row) draw makes it a bit tricky for Tam, he likes to get out and do a bit of bullying," Alford told Trots Talk. "He's racing really well and he'll give it a huge shake. "He seems to like being up the front end. Cranbourne's not the sort of track that you can sit back and come with one run ... the bends aren't kind to horses out three and four wide, so first plan would be to try and get him up there unless the speed's crazy." That would likely mean applying pressure to likely leader Hurricane Harley, who can call on all the gate speed in the world to gain the early ascendancy. Alford, whose six drives on Hurricane Harley yielded four wins and a second, will instead be plotting against the Bettors Delight. "It's always tricky jumping up to the top class," he said. "When he led last week he had to burn for 200 off the gate, got a real easy run and ran a quick half (home), but I don't think cup races are run like that too often these days. He is brilliant, but I don't think he's unbeatable." Alford will also take the reins of Born To Be Watched in The H & F Abrahams Caduceus Club 3YO Cup, where Emma Stewart's colt will attempt to make it three from three. He will need to be good to upstage the likes of Victoria Derby hope Soho Hamilton, but Alford said while Born To Be Watched was "a little bit green" he had "loads and loads of ability" and "the same sort of talent" as Be Happy Mach, who dominated last year's two-year-old racing. CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL EDITION OF TROTS TALK     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Talented young Heathcote harness racing reinswoman Shannon O'Sullivan was over the moon when her favorite horse grabbed a place at Cranbourne recently - but it meant a great deal more than that. The 20-year old concession driver came home with a barn-storming finish on brown gelding Danman (Village Jasper-Ritzy Emm (Armbro Operative) into third place but in addition - and perhaps more importantly - to capture the 2018/19 Horse of the Year Award. "Going into the meeting, Danman (Rick Cashman) and Captain Bronzie (Bill Galea) were locked together on 16 points for Horse of the Year, and both were competing in the same race," she said. "After starting from a wide barrier, I was happy to sit back with Danman and come around with a late run because he'd won at the track previously for me with the same tactics." With the first quarter a sizzling 26.9 seconds, O'Sullivan's decision to restrain at the start was perhaps fortuitous. With a lap to go, Darby McGuigan on Captain Bronzie, the other horse vying for the award, went to the death seat when the tempo slowed with Danman still biding his time a conspicuous last. But O'Sullivan got a three wide trail late and rattled home four and five wide with a "wing on every hoof" to grab third, just 30 centimetres in front of Captain Bronzie. "I knew it was close and still didn't know if I'd got there in time after coming off the track because the numbers hadn't gone up. Then I heard the commentator Luke Humphries read out the placings and we'd done it! I was ecstatic." she said. "Some of the owners were there and they were absolutely delighted. I felt a bit embarrassed because the winner Live On Broadway, who went brilliant in 1.55-9, probably didn't get the recognition it deserved." Danman had 11 starts on his home track for the season for three wins, two second placings and a third. Cranbourne Horse of the Year Danman in action with driver Shannon O’Sullivan (Matt Walker Photography) O'Sullivan, whose father Jim was the 2017 Gordon Rothacker Medallist, is in only her second season of driving. She has been studying a Bachelor of Exercise Science at University, but recently decided to take six months absence of leave. "I talked it over with mum and dad before making the decision and we all thought it was going to be crazy trying to juggle studies and keep driving on a regular basis. I get a concession of five points and hopefully more opportunities keep coming my way," she said. "I had a goal of 20 wins and I've now passed that so hopefully I can keep the momentum going. I try to do the best I can for the trainers, because I know all the hard work they put into it." O'Sullivan said she received invaluable support from media personality Rob Auber, who has a small share in Danman. "He's so good with form and can predict pretty much how a race might pan out. I watch heaps of replays, but Rob has been a major help," she said. This week has been a satisfying one for the youngster. Danman was one of four placings for the week, as well as landing 60-1 longshot winner Mangochililime (McArdle-The Land Lover (Badlands Hanover) at Shepparton on Wednesday night in her first race drive for trainer Linton Power. *Other seasonal award winners at Cranbourne saw Chris Alford once again leading driver, while Darby McGuigan won back-to-back victories in the Concession Driver of the Year Award. Local trainer Jayne Davies was the leading trainer and Yankee Commando, prepared by Jason Fearn, was rewarded for his consistency by taking out the Trotter of the Year.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Long-time Cranbourne committee man and breeder Les Tilley died on Saturday at age 90. Mr Tilley was a commitee man and secretary of Cranbourne Harness Club for many years, a timekeeper at the Showgrounds and Moonee Valley for about 15 years, and a member of the Standardbred Breeders Association. Mr Tilley and his late wife Joan were members of the VHRC for more than 50 years, when they bred and raced horses successfully. Their best was Group 1 winning trotter Conaroyal and they also had multiple metro winner Desert Chase, who produced recent metro winners Desert Spur and Desert Flyer. The latter won the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Trot at Melton on June 8, the breeder's last winner. HRV sends its condolences to Mr Tilley's family and friends.   Harness Racing Victoria

American author Earl Nightingale once wrote: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. It's a well-used quote, but it still rings true - especially for harness racing's Ken Browne who was last week rewarded for his persistence in never giving up on a goal. Browne, of Gruyere, 50 km north east of Melbourne, could well be the oldest driver to land his maiden victory after driving his first-ever winner just a few days short of his 67th birthday. And after 173 attempts, the win carried a touch of polish that's for sure. After being locked away three back the pegs for most of the trip in the $7000 Trotters Handicap at Cranbourne, Browne moved out quick as a flash when a runner on his outside went off-stride. In a winning move, he slid up to the death seat with 600 metres to go with Chrisken Kiosk (Noopy Kiosk-Baby Button (Safely Kept USA) to join leader Just Anything (Gavin Lang) and got the upper hand, albeit narrowly, right on the wire. To watch race replay Click here! "Now that I've got the monkey off my back, I reckon the next winner will come a lot sooner. I've finally done it, so it will be way easier," Browne joked. Browne has harbored an ambition for over 20 years to get what he calls that "elusive quadrella" of breeding, owning, training and driving a winner. "If I could do that, I always thought it would be a rather big achievement. Just something quite special," he said. "I told my son Chris (his name combined with that of his father forms Chrisken) that when I finally got that long-awaited winner, I would give a salute with the whip going across the finish line. "But I didn't do it because, to be honest, I wasn't certain that I'd won and I didn't want to make myself look silly. "The race camera operator followed me around after the finish line which is usually a good indication that he thought I'd won, but it took ages for the numbers to go up. "I honestly can't remember how I felt. I recall thinking wow I just beat the ice man (Gavin Lang)!" Browne said he had a few drinks that night to celebrate after the reality sank in. "I think I may have overdone the Bundaberg Red Rum because I didn't pull up all that well the next day," he laughed. "I'd come close a few times with some second placings, and there's been quite a lot more thirds. My first-ever second was with Gordonsville, a pacer I purchased off Gordon Turner. "We also had a good run with a pacer named High Tech Fury, but reinsman Michael Bellman did the majority of driving with him." While Browne's needed persistence to notch up his first winner as a driver, he bobs up with a winner or two each season as a trainer, with Chrisken Kiosk his 16th career success. Browne's entry into the sport goes back to 1994 when he attended a clearing sale held by respected industry breeder/owner Kevin Riseley, of Sheron Park. "I paid $2000 for a weanling out of the first crop sired by Safely Kept," he said. "That horse was later to become Baby Button, who was dual-gaited. I raced her as a pacer because of her breeding, but I'm now wishing I'd given her a go as a trotter." Baby Button has had four foals, two of which have got to the races, with the obvious star being Chrisken Kiosk with six wins and 27 placings for over $60,000. Browne said he was virtually forced into obtaining a B Grade driver's licence 10 years ago when he was finding it difficult to get drivers at the trials. "The situation was that we'd have one trial of five horses and five drivers would turn up. There were no spares so a few times I ended up fast-working mine by themselves after the trials to get their fastwork done," he said. Browne is hoping that his seven-year-old stable star Chrisken Kiosk has at least another two seasons left in him. "He doesn't win out of turn, but he's so consistent. There's a bit of a trick to him and that's in his feet-he has to be shod a certain way or otherwise he's hopeless," Browne said. "We try and pick out the most suitable races for him and if that means travelling to Terang, Ballarat or even further, then that's what we do. "We are having a heap of fun and I have to thank Peter Goudie for allowing us to be stabled at his place. In addition to the trotter, we have a 2yo pacer by Metropolitan named Bundy Red, which I'm hoping is real good. He has to be with that name!" Browne said while he had nearly worn out the video replay of his winning drive, he was now eagerly awaiting the race photograph which would take pride of place on the lounge room wall.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Popular Pearcedale trainer Bill Walker passed away at the weekend after battling serious health issues over the past few years. A talented horseman, Bill produced a string of top performers over many years including Lombo Sykrider, Stoned At Midnight, Charley’s Dream and Stoned I Am and is credited with putting the early polish on Hectorjayjay. He was also an active member of the local harness racing community and, fittingly, a funeral service celebrating Bill’s life will be held this Thursday February 14 commencing at 1.30pm on the first floor of the Cranbourne Racing Centre. Cranbourne Vice-President David Scott said "Bill was the consummate professional". "He was a quietly spoken man and was never one to get carried away even when his team got on a roll," Mr Scott said. “He always seemed to have a nice horse in his team and did so without ever having a barn full of expensive blue-blood types. I think that speaks volumes about his horsemanship. “Bill was also a wonderful supporter of our club and could always be relied on to throw in a late nom if we were struggling for fields or help out with a horse or two for a dual-seater sulky race when the need arose. “I’m sure that those who remember Bill fondly will join us at the track on Thursday to farewell one of harness racing’s gentlemen." The Cranbourne Harness Racing Club and Harness Racing Victoria extend their condolences to Bill’s wife Nell, his daughters Simone and Trudy, and all family and friends.   Trots Media  

Local harness racing participants are eyeing off potential glory in Saturday night's $50,000 Cranbourne Gold Cup. Clancys Fobwatch and Mister Wickham tackle a strong field of visitors heading across town for the feature race, one of the highlights of the year for Gippsland harness racing. Eight-year-old grey gelding Clancys Fobwatch is trained outside the Gippsland region by Adam Kelly but owner/breeders, father and daughter John and Kylee Paull, are from Gippsland and have been enjoying a great deal of success with their horse in recent starts. Clancys Fobwatch stormed home to win the Charlton Pacing Cup last weekend, after winning the feature Pure Steel race at Melton at his previous run. From 111 starts, Clancys Fobwatch has recorded 24 wins and 19 minor placings, and, with his recent run of good form, is a strong chance of another feature race success this weekend. Mister Wickham, prepared for a large syndicate of owners by Longwarry horseman Lee Evison, has recorded just the one victory from his last seven starts, but hasn't had a lot of luck in recent races, and is a proven competitor at the top level. He finished second in the Bendigo Pacing Cup and was just behind the placegetters in the Ballarat Pacing Cup last month, and will appreciate the big track and long straight at Cranbourne this weekend. Mister Wickham won last year's Warragul Pacing Cup, and is on target to attempt a second victory in that race on April 1 - a feat never achieved in the 59-year history of that race. The history books also show that only two pacers have collected the Cranbourne/Warragul Cup double - they being The Unicorn 25 years ago, and Grand Crown back in the mid 1970's. Clancys Fobwatch should also compete in the Warragul Cup, which will add a genuine local flavour to the race for the large crowd expected to attend. Saturday night's Cranbourne Pacing Cup is the 45th edition of the event, and the last local winner of the event was champion mare Tailamade Lombo in 2000. Kyle Galley

Great camaraderie and access to first-class facilities make Cranbourne's trots training centre a terrific place to toil, Mick Hughes told Beyond The Gates. The leading Cranbourne trainer, who spoke to Jason Bonnington for Trots Media's program that takes viewers into trainers' stables, has spent four years at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club's facility and said "things are just building". "It has been really good," Hughes said. "We've got a good group. If you ever get stuck or need a hand or you want to work two or three together there is always a Simone or Terry or Casey or Rick to help out and jump in and drive one for you. If you are home alone, you often think gee I wish I had a couple more here to work with." WATCH: EPISODE FOUR OF BEYOND THE GATES FEATURING MICK HUGHES Hughes said since he arrived at the Cranbourne facility, which sits in the south-west corner of the tri-code racecourse, his stable had increased from 10 horses to 18 and he had benefitted from accessing the club's shared facilities. "They've got the swimming pool, walker and the treadmill, which (Cruisin Around) spends a bit of time on when he's jogging, otherwise you jog him in the cart he doesn't really relax as much. That's where having those things is very handy." Cruisin Around returned on Saturday night and ran a stoic sixth from his back row draw in his Tabcorp Park Melton trot, when he was returning from an almost seven months spell. Hughes spoke fondly of the five-year-old in Beyond The Gates. "Apart from the first week, he was just A1," he said. "As much as he can be a real pain in trying to gear him up ... as soon as you get him in the cart he is just a totally different horse. "Every time you wanted to do some work he just did it with ease. He gave you a really good feel and has gone on with the job." Previous episodes of Beyond The Gates: Episode one: Kari Males Episode two: Brent Lilley Episode three: Steve Cleave Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Australia's harness racing spotlight moves to an historic Cranbourne Cup meeting tomorrow (Friday) night. After the $150,000 Cranbourne Cup for thoroughbreds was postponed because of crazy winds back in Spring, the club opted to reschedule it for a bumper dual-codes Cup meeting this week. So the galloping Cup will share the limelight with the $70,000 Group 1 Cranbourne Gold Cup of harness. It’s a truly exciting smorgasboard for fans of both codes. On the harness front, the Gold Cup has attracted a strong field headed by in-form recent country cup winners Flaming Flutter and My Kiwi Mate. They clash for the third time in as many meetings with Flaming Flutter overpowering My Kiwi Mate in the Terang Cup on February 11 then My Kiwi Marte turning the tables and relegating Flaming Flutter to second spot in the Bendigo Cup six days later. Flaming Flutter has the best of the draws in gate three and is a $2.40 favourite on the Aussie TAB, while My Kiwi Mate is $4.20 from gate 11. The other key player is noted frontrunner Maximan, who upstaged Have Faith In Me at Melton last month. He’s a $4 shot and big threat if he can lead from gate four. The other highlight of the harness card is the Group 1 Knight Pistol where Kiwi trotting mare Sunny Ruby is $2.30 favourite to win again despite drawing the outside (gate seven). Sunny Ruby, in the care of Sonya Smith and Anthony Butt, has thrived during her Aussie campaign which has netted three wins and a third from just four starts along with $98,400 in stakemoney. Another big watch runner at Cranbourne is David Aiken’s two-year-old first starter Higherthananeagle in the Sapling Stakes (race four). The colt is a brother to Fly Like An Eagle (19 wins, $699,419), Mach Doro (14 wins, $146,086) and Three Squared (two wins, $62,045), who looked exciting before having to be put down. Higherthananeagle blazed a 1min56.8sec mile rate, including a 56.2sec half, winning a Shepparton trial by a big space last Thursday. “He’s a real natural and exciting. He went a lot quicker than we planned in the trial, but it doesn’t seemed to have taken anything out of him,” Aiken said. “We’ve got Beltane in the race as well and we think he’ll develop nicely as the season goes on, but Higherthananeagle is the pick of them at the moment. We think he’ll be very hard to beat.” Adam Hamilton

It was a case of thirtieth time lucky for Koo Wee Rup pacer Zipping Elmo at the Cranbourne harness racing meeting last Saturday night. The four-year-old gelding by Julius Caesar finally found the winning post first after 29 previous races without a win for trainer Neil "Bluey" Preston. Driver John McGuinness was able to slot Zipping Elmo in behind the leader in the early stages of the race. Appreciating the tempo set in front, Zipping Elmo gained an inside advantage in the home straight and came clear to Beat Tizeh Lucky Lady and Blue Chip Madam. In an event containing several horses that had not won for a while, Zipping Elmo started at the enormous odds of $61.80, making the four-year-old the rank outsider of the 10 horse field. Zipping Elmo's dam, Lotaliberty, has left three foals which have raced, having had 140 starts between them for just three victories, proving trotting people are a patient lot! Preston and McGuinness are two veteran horsemen on the Gippsland racing circuit, and will no doubt race Zipping Elmo locally again at Warragul on Wednesday week, January 18. Local trainer Michael Hughes also had a victory at the meeting on Saturday night, when Rocknroll Gold won the opening race. Kyle Galley

Cranbourne is the 2016 Victorian Country Club of the Year. Announced during the Country Clubs section of Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV’s) annual Gordon Rothacker Medal awards last night at Crown Palladium, Cranbourne’s committee was on hand to accept the gong. “We’ve got a marvellous group of volunteers and a fabulous committee to help us run the club and we’ve also got a very professional CEO in Neil Bainbridge,” Cranbourne president Duncan McPherson said. “We’re lucky we benefit with the multi-use of the venue with two other racing codes.” Mr McPherson said working alongside such passionate people was great fun. “These guys are a very good crew. They’re very professional, great fun, super fellowship and for all of us we just really enjoy it,” he said. Cranbourne was awarded the Club of the Year trophy for its efforts to bolster engagement and participation in the region through a strategic direction. The club’s training centre is also stronger than ever, while the club has thrown its weight behind the important area of ownership promotion by making syndication as easy and affordable as possible. Cranbourne also hosted a variety of race nights to introduce new people to the trots, including an 'aging positively' night and a 'girls’ night out'. The club also undertook a brand transformation to become known as Trots Cranbourne. Warragul picked up two awards, Best Country Cup Meeting and Best Local Traditional Media. The Warragul Cup meeting in 2015-16 saw attendance doubled on the season prior, while on-course wagering was also up. The club was praised for its significant pre-promotion of the event and for offering a range of family activities including free children’s rides and live music. Warragul’s efforts to engage with local media were driven by Kyle Galley, whose passion for the trots is unwavering. Galley’s perseverance saw thousands of words celebrating the Warragul trots spread throughout eastern Victoria, including publication in the Warragul and Drouin Gazette, Pakenham Gazette, West Gippsland Trader and Latrobe Valley Express, as well as the Melbourne Observer and Harness Racing Weekly. “I’m very proud to be able to accept this award,” Mr Galley said. “It is still a buzz to open the local paper and see my work after many years.” The Geelong club picked up the Best Local Media Digital award for its performance on social media and its website, promoting its offerings and the industry to Geelong and surrounding communities. Outgoing Mildura boss Mark Kemp picked up the Frank Ryan Memorial Secretary of the Year honour for the fourth time. Mr Kemp has overseen the growth of the Mildura Cup carnival, which continues to go from strength to strength each year. The 2016 Mildura Cup saw wagering up 23 per cent and attendance up 27 per cent. Mr Kemp will end his 22-year association with Mildura this December. The trophy for Club of the Year (16 meetings or less) went to Stawell, which, under the guidance of Lisa McIlvride and Peter Sanderson, continues to progress. The club continued to grow its newest race-day event, Australia day, in 2016 and undertook major upgrades to its trackside venue, including the bistro and dining room to help increase revenue on both race-days and non-racing days. “It was a huge year for us at Stawell … I’d like to thank our president and committee, my husband for putting up with me, and all the volunteers,” Ms McIlvride said. “I’d also like to thank all those backing up tomorrow and racing at Stawell.” Horsham took the honours in Secretary of the Year (16 meetings or less) with Jo Cross acknowledged for her tireless and ongoing commitment. The Yarra Valley club captured the award for Best Presented Track/Venue, while Shepparton’s Super Heroes Day Out won Best On-Course Promotion for the season and Kyabram was named Graduation Club & Secretary of the Year. Meanwhile, Mavis Collison was acknowledged for years of voluntary service to the Bendigo club, presented with the AVCHRC Volunteer Service Award.  For over 25 years Mrs Collison has volunteered at Bendigo and is known as the face of the club to many owners, trainers and drivers. Overseeing management of the supper room, Mrs Collison said she was driven by her passion for the industry. "I don’t do it for thanks or anything else, I do it because I love it," she said. “Making people happy to have sandwiches, cake and a cup of tea, that's the main thing." The Collison family is well-known among Bendigo trots with Mavis's husband, Ivan, also a volunteer trial steward. And Mildura's Barry Bottams was awarded the Distiguished Service Medal for a long involvement in the industry across various roles. “This is very exciting and unexpected," Mr Bottams said. "Thanks very much to the selectors." Mr Bottams has been involved hands-on with the horses and also behind the scenes working for the club. He said he enjoyed all roles in the industry. "I think both working horses and flying the flag for club have been a thrill. I get a thrill for winning but also from the club being successful," he said.  COUNTRY CLUB AWARDS 2016 Graduation Club & Secretary of the Year: Kyabram Best On-Course Promotion: Shepparton’s Super Heroes Day Out Best Presented Track/Venue: Yarra Valley Best Local Media Traditional: Warragul Best Local Media Digital: Geelong Secretary of the Year (16 meetings or less): Jo Cross (Horsham) Club of the Year (16 meetings or less): Stawell Frank Ryan Memorial Secretary of the Year: Mark Kemp (Mildura) Club of the Year: Cranbourne Best Country Cup Meeting: Warragul Distinguished Service Award: Barry Bottams AVCHRC Volunteer Award: Mavis Collison Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Less than four years since its launch a plan to fill trots fields has ticked every box and produced a ton of winners. Narreeva’s victory in the Dani Lewis Memorial Pace marked the 100th time a horse in work at Cranbourne Harness Racing Club’s training centre had won a race since the centre was launched in September 2012. “It has exceeded our expectations in terms of the results the centre is producing,” said David Scott, the club’s vice-president who was its CEO when the centre opened. “I didn’t think we’d get to 100 wins so quickly.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO John Anderson said reaching the 100th win was "a remarkable achievement" by the centre. "This rewards the Cranbourne club for its initiative to establish the training centre," Mr Anderson said. "It's a valuable asset and a model for increasing future participation in our industry. Congratulations to all involved." Mr Scott said it was very satisfying to have the centre meet its objectives. “We as a club recognised our horse population on the southern side of the Yarra was disappearing quite remarkably and we had issues with race fields producing the sort of racing we wanted to produce,” Mr Scott said. “At the time we recognised that if we initiated a training centre it would introduce a local horse population and give individuals a start in the sport.” In the club’s first season it had 20 to 25 horses in work and Mr Scott said it had “progressively taken us three years to get near capacity”, with 43 horses now in work across its 50 stables. “Last week the centre had 19 runners across the week, eight of whom raced at Cranbourne,” he said. “That is a full-race field and can make a seven-race program into eight races, which can make a significant difference, including to wagering. “From an industry perspective, there are four people training now at the centre that didn’t have trainers’ licences when the centre opened. They are hobbyists who without this wouldn’t have the facility to train horses.” The centre’s most prolific winner, trainer Michael Hughes, also fittingly produced its 100th win when Narreeva tipped out Yackandandah in Saturday night’s sixth race at Cranbourne. Hughes had stints with Garry Rogers and Lance Justice before starting in his own right at the Cranbourne centre. “(The centre) played a big role in my decision. Everything’s here, you have three tracks, a swimming pool, treadmill and a walker,” Hughes said. “To get this set up in a private capacity would take a lot of money. When everything’s here it makes training quite affordable.” And, with a bottle of scotch an added bonus that awaited the trainer who cracked the ton, Narreeva’s win brought great joy to his trainer. “He had a smart horse on his tail, but Narreeva pulled out all the guns and was too good for them,” Hughes said. “To win that was a bit special.” Cranbourne Training Complex honour roll: Michael Hughes 39 wins, Vivian Tomren 19, Charlie Wootton 15, Ken Browne 7, Alan Dunsmuir 6, Brian Duthie 4, Rick Cashman, Michael Langdon 3, Terry Howard 2 wins, Bill Kucks 1, Tony Mallia 1. Michael Howard

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