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John Ballestrino knows harness racing will never recapture packed grandstands and roaring crowds of the high-flying 1970s and ‘80s – but his passion for the sport is still strong as it was when he first sat in the grandstand of “the showgrounds” as a 14-year-old. “My family ran a milk bar in Gordon Street Footscray – we didn’t have any connection with the trots and I was never really an animal sort of person, but I did get an interest in going to the Showgrounds,” Ballestrino said. “I’d hook up with three or four other young fellows and we’d walk there.  The running joke was that there were three ways to get home – train, taxi or walk, depending on how we went.  We usually walked! “But the racing itself was such a spectacle, especially at the Showgrounds, where you were just so close to the action and for that reason, out of the three codes of racing, I just loved the trots.  That’s the pity now, where people sitting at home betting on their accounts don’t get that same experience,” he said. “But harness racing is and will always be a great sport, and a family sport and that’s one of its real strengths, I think.” Ballestrino has been on the committee of Geelong Harness Racing Club for 21 years and president for the past six, and was recently honored with the Ray Beckley Memorial Award for a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the Club. All smiles . . . John Ballestrino. “I didn’t have any idea that I was getting it – in fact I’d prepared a speech to present it to another committee member.  Everyone else knew, my family, all of the committee, I think I was the only one who didn’t know! “It was a lovely honor though because when Ray passed away, I had the idea of starting the Ray Beckley Memorial Night in 2013.  I’d always held Ray in the highest regard, and I used to joke that being on the committee was one thing – you still had to be anointed by Ray!” The late Ray Beckley, who was president of Geelong HRC from 1969 to 1984, and who played a major role in establishing the Club’s Beckley Park complex.   Ballestrino’s boyhood interest in harness racing morphed into ownership – and in a big way – when he met former Kiwi John Green in the mid-1990s. “I was introduced to John by (former trainer) Michael Langdon.  John was bringing horses in from New Zealand, and he’d imported a horse called Kiwi Motoring.  We got talking and he offered me a half share – I bought it the night before it had its first Australian start in Bendigo, and it won by the length of the straight!  “We went on to form a company called Aussie Kiwi Limited and we imported hundreds of horses over the next five years, mainly to onsell to other Australian interests. “John’s mantra was that ‘everything is for sale’ and there were plenty of stories of him making offers to buy horses as they were being geared up to go out on the track! He was that kind of bloke.  I learnt a lot off John, all good stuff – he was brilliant.” Ballestrino said the company enjoyed 106 winners in its first season of racing. “We won races at every metropolitan track in Australia. Our best horses were Infinite Spirit and Cracker Night who both won cups.  We had horses with (Elmore trainer) Cliff Powell as well, and for eight or nine years I really didn’t do anything but drive around Victoria to watch our horses race.  We were lucky of course, because luck’s always a factor, but John knew his horses, too,” he said. “In New Zealand in those days, they kept the good ones, and we usually got the second tier.  If they could run 4th 5th or 6th over there, the rule of thumb was they would win country races here.  And if they were running third or better, they would win metro races, here,” he said. “That was until the Canadians became involved in buying and things changed – we were relegated to the third-tier horses at best.” Ballestrino, who lives at Point Cook, said after he retired from the company, he began work as an electorate officer for local MPs, including former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessey, and currently Opposition Whip Joanne Ryan. He became involved in Geelong HRC, because it was the closest club to where he lives. “I just love the club and the committee.  I can’t speak highly enough of them.  There are no hidden agendas, no egos, and that’s why it’s really rewarding to be involved.  We’re all just focussed on what is best for the sport and the club. “I remember in 1976 when Moonee Valley opened, you couldn’t move in the place.  To get a decent seat at the Valley, you used to have to reserve a seat in the grandstand for $10!  People think you’re mad when you tell them that.  Even at my home club, Geelong, the crowds were huge. “I don’t have any horses racing at all now and haven’t for quite a while. But it’s definitely something I want to get back to when work commitments allow. “There is absolutely nothing like the feeling of being in the grandstand, with heaps of people around you, cheering your horse home and celebrating a win with your friends and family. It’s one of the great things to experience. “Those days are never coming back, which is a pity, but I think harness racing, and certainly our club, is fairly healthy.”   Terry Gange   NewsAlert PR Mildura

Winning’s never looked or felt so good at Geelong Harness Racing Club as it will on Saturday night, when metropolitan racing comes to the track for the first time since its dramatic upgrade. A nine-race card concludes with the Winning Post Bar & Restaurant Pace, the race name a tip of the hat to the new on-track hero, a drinking and dining space that club General Manager John Dunne said would put race goers both in comfort and the thick of the action. Dunne said the club had also greatly improved facilities for participants as part of the $1.1 million works, which include $175,000 contributions from both the Andrews Government’s VRIF program and Harness Racing Victoria. With Tabcorp Park Melton’s track undergoing an upgrade, Geelong is hosting Saturday night’s program and Dunne said that was “fantastic for us”. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our new bar and restaurant, which is now on par with any race track in country Victoria,” he said. “The Winning Post Bar and Restaurant is a brand new extension with a bar and two-tiered dining right on the windows, so you can dine while overlooking the winning post. It feels as though you are almost in the cart with the drivers.” The expansion and improvements also include a new float carpark, upgraded drivers’ rooms and upgraded stables, while the upgrading of the grandstand facilities included a new roof. “With these works, from a participant point of view, there are no better facilities, and so that helps sure up our racing future, and now we have the dining facility, so even in the depths of winter people can come and have a great night in comfort. “We still have got some vacancies available in the Winning Post restaurant, so (patrons) can simply ring the club and we will book them in for their dinner on Saturday night.” To book call 5275 4880, with plenty of great racing on offer across the nine-race card. One major attraction will be the Jack Rabbit Winery Sundons Gift Trotters Free For All, where victory would see Tornado Valley become only the ninth Australasian trotter to break through the $1 million barrier. The night also features the TAB Captain Sandy Free For All, which features Pacifico Dream, Boncel Benjamin, I Cast No Shadow, General Dodge, Im Anothermasterpiece, Roman Aviator and Reactor Now in a quality, open $24,000 free-for-all. The club will also use the occasion to name the Lang Drivers' Rooms, in honor of the Lang family's enormous contribution to the sport.    HRV - Michael Howard

Kate Gath put on a masterclass in the sulky tonight, taking out both feature races at Geelong on cup night. The star driver piloted Phoenix Prince to a last-stride Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup victory after providing him with a brilliantly economical trip in transit, despite starting from the widest barrier on the front line. Earlier in the night Gath drove Andy Gath-trained War Spirit to victory in the Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup. Both winners started at double-figure odds, further highlighting Gath’s expertise. And Emma Stewart trained the trifecta in the pacing cup, a masterful training performance, with second-placed Code Black (driven by Greg Sugars) and third-placed Tam Major (driven by Chris Alford). “He was looking for a run at the turn and when he got it he just strode through,” Gath said of Phoenix Prince, who was three-back on the fence in the run before exploding through in the straight. “His run in the Maryborough Cup was terrific without luck. He’ll be a threat in all these races going forward. “We decided to come out hard but Jason (Lee, aboard Jilliby Chevy) was able to hold us so I was happy to grab hold straight away. “Three-pegs looked up for grabs and I thought that looked not a bad spot for him over the trip.” There was little between the winner and the fourth-placed Shelby Bromac in one of the most thrilling Geelong Cups in recent memory. Phoenix Prince rated 1:56.5 for the 2570-metre trip and has now won 15 out of 27 starts and almost $160,000 in stakes. Gath also scored a victory aboard Miss Hartley to finish with a driving treble on the night.   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Often-underrated mare Reciprocity will attempt to make a leap to the state's elite via this year's Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup, fresh from a one-lap last to first dash at Melton. Having won nine of 30 starts for trainer Peter Manning at an average starting price of $8.83, Reciprocity will launch from gate three in Saturday night's feature and has been installed as a $13 outsider with Reinswoman Kerryn Manning told Trots Talk the six-year-old mare "needs to step up and see what happens". "It's a very strong field, she's just drawn a bit awkward in three, where she's going to need to get in the running line probably and hopefully get some good cover." While co-favourites Tam Major and Trots Country Cups Championship leader Code Black loom large on the back row, Manning will be hoping the big guns pour plenty of pace into the race to allow Reciprocity to invoke her fast finish. That was certainly on display last Friday night, when she came from last at the bell to climb over the 12-horse field and win the $20,000 pace. "The race was run to suit - the leaders went pretty hard up front, we got a nice cart up, albeit three back and three wide, but she's a pretty smart horse on her day," Manning said. "It was pretty pleasing to go on and win." The world's most successful reinswoman is hoping that form can translate to Saturday's higher grade. "She's quite versatile, she has shown at times she can sit-sprint or she can do a bit of work. She's probably going to have to rely on a bit of luck, but if the speed's on she will run on really well. "The owner's a lovely fella, Henry (Campbell), and hopefully she can go well in the cup. It's a bit harder again this week but she deserves to be there." Manning has also prepared Pantzup, the pacer turned trotter who was a nominee for Victorian trotting mare of the year. Previously trained by Gavin Lang, who's battling illness, Pantzup will step off the back mark in Saturday's Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup. "Again we will need a lot of luck in a big field, but it's a nice even field, if she improves off St Arnaud (Cup) and gets a little bit go her way they will know she's there." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Chapter two in Lumineer's long-awaited sequel will be scripted at Geelong tonight and Ange McDowell's extraordinarily talented five-year-old is well placed to produce a happy ending. The Sportswriter entire, unbeaten except for an injury plagued Victoria Derby in January last year, was clinical in winning at Terang on September 11, when he was first-up after an almost 21-month lay-off. "It was good," trainer McDowell said. "He did everything that we wanted him to do and what he is capable of doing first up after 20 months. He pulled up well and through to the next assignment." That is tonight's R U OK? Pace at Geelong tonight (9pm) and, speaking to Blake Redden for the Inside Word, McDowell said the run had "really brought him on the run, reminded him what it's all about and what he's there for". CLICK BELOW FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW:       HRV Trots Media

The Breeders Crown Silver races are gaining a reputation for being punting puzzlers. Tonight at Geelong the favourites failed to land a blow, going 0/6 in the feature events as the rich series wound up. At the corresponding meeting last year the tote fancies went 0/7. The each-way punters might have fared well early, with Theultimate opening tonight’s proceedings with a half-neck win in the Always B Miki Breeders Crown two-year-old fillies’ Silver Pace. Despite starting a $5.9 outsider against $2.4 favourite Jo Dina and $2.5 second-elect Summertime, Theultimate – prepared by astute trainer John Yeomans – bloused her rivals up the Beckley Park straight courtesy of a typically patient Gavin Lang drive. The champion reinsman bided his time aboard the improving daughter of champion sire Art Major before unleashing her late, Theultimate nailing La La Bron at the post for a half-neck win in a 2:00.0 mile rate. She was specked in fixed-odds markets throughout the day.  The winner is out of unheralded racetrack mare Salix, whose true value has shone in the breeding barn with five winners from five foals – including 38-time winner Ultimate Art (1:50.3). Itzamajor Surprise proved just that in the Woodlands Stud Breeders Crown three-year-old fillies’ Silver Pace, causing a boil-over for Terang’s Matthew Craven. Another daughter of Art Major, Itzamajor Surprise looked every bit the athlete late as she powered to her third career victory by 5.1m over Jess Tubbs-trained pair Lady Rocknrolla and Larajay Macray in 1:57.7. Itzamajor Surprise started at $13.7, with commanding $1.2 favourite Two Times Bettor tiring to finish fourth after riding shotgun throughout. Two Times Bettor broke in the score-up and had to do a power of chasing to get into her starting position, before motoring forward to the position outside the leader early on. The effort told late. In addition to being an Art Major, Itzamajor Surprise has bloodlines to shine on her mother’s side, her dam Itz Nosurprisesthere a three-time Oaks winner in 2013 – claiming the New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmanian features. Veteran horseman Graeme Whittle took out the Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown two-year-old Silver Trot with Skyvalley-Kyvalley Diva gelding Floating Mountain (pictured above by Stuart McCormick). At start No.4, Floating Mountain trotted flawlessly and held off the fast-finishing Miss Maia by a half-head in a rate of 2:05.3. Steve Turnbull and Bec Bartley combined to win the IRT Breeders Crown three-year-old colts and geldings’ Silver Pace with Firestorm Red, narrowly upstaging hot favourite Hurricane Harley. Firestorm Red, a colt by Somebeachsomewhere out of Spirited Storm, had produced a couple of eye-catching runs during the Vicbred and Breeders Crown preliminary races, so the writing may have been on the wall for some punters clever enough to take some of the $14. Firestorm Red rated 1:57.6. An aggressive drive by Kate Gath aboard Night Spirit (pictured below by Stuart McCormick) helped land the Downbytheseaside Breeders Crown two-year-old colts and gelding’ Silver Pace. Gath made her intentions clear early aboard the son of Mach Three, driving hard to get across heavily backed polemarker The Tiger Army. Once in front Night Spirit had to sustain the effort when Krafty Bart pulled and applied pressure throughout. But Night Spirit was up to the task, pulling clear late to upstage The Tiger Army by 5.3m with Monsieur Delacour close-up in third in a 1:59.4 mile rate. Night Spirit is trained by Andy Gath and is a member of the powerful Uncork family (his dam Blissfull Night was out of daughter of Uncork Whatacorka). Uncork has had 13 foals to the races for 12 winners, with Rambunctious – her only maiden runner – showing ability from just six starts to date. Rave On Hall (Andover Hall-Pretty Peggy Sue) capped the night at $11.10 for the all-conquering Anton Golino camp, taking out the What The Hill / Father Patrick Breeders Crown three-year-old Silver Trot. Driven by Rodney Petroff, Rave On Hall packed too much punch late for stablemate Norquay (a $58.3 outsider), rating 2:04.0. And for the trivia buffs, the last favourite to win a Breeders Crown Silver race was Carter Bromac for Amanda Turnbull back in 2017.   Cody Winnell HRV Trots Media

Buster Brady has announced himself as a contender in the Trots Country Cups Championship after an impressive win in the Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. The six-year-old backed a convincing maiden Australian win at Cranbourne on November 17 with a hard-fought victory on Saturday night, when he punched the breeze for much of the 2570m race before running over the top of TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Championship entrant Cash N Flow (third) in the straight. It was Buster Brady’s first win of the championship after a disappointing first-up ninth in the St Arnaud cup earlier this month and the victory took driver Kima Frenning’s record to an impressive 21 wins from 73 starts this season and her second victory as trainer. Frenning said to take out a $50,000 cup for owners the Stokie Racing Group in just her third race as a trainer was “ridiculous”. “I’m still on cloud nine today,” she said. “I can’t believe it and I really, really want to thank Luke Stokie for giving me the opportunity but also David Aiken. I could not have done this without him. “He’s just been a great mentor and to be able to work alongside him for so long has just been amazing. He’s such a great trainer and I couldn’t have done any of this without him.” She said it hadn’t been the ideal run in the Geelong cup and had been concerned about Buster Brady being so open for much of the race, but he was proving to be a “tough” horse. “I was a bit worried throughout the run being without cover for that distance but you know he was just so strong the whole race and then, at the last turn, I was like, you know we might be able to finish this,” she said. Buster Brady finished just outside the ID18 rankings at 43 but Frenning said even if they had snuck through he’d already been scratched from the series. “He’s probably 12 months off that and there’s other races that we can target,” she said. “There’ll be a couple of country cups he’ll go in and I know there’s a free-for-all on Inter Dominion finals night that we’ll aim him for as well. There’s plenty of good races around for him.” In the Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup Endsin A Party held off a fast finishing Save Our Pennys for an impressive win for owner-trainer Brad Stevens. In Chris Svanosio's hands, Endsin A Party found the front from the standing start and held on to win by a head and gift Stevens his greatest stakes win. San Carlo and I’m the Boss (10 points each) continue to lead the 2018-19 Trots Country Cups Championship while King Denny (12 points) has pulled clear of the Maori's Idol Trotting Championship. The Trots Country Cups Championship reaches its 2018 conclusion with Sunday’s Barham Insurance Advisers Stawell Pacing Cup, which presents as a big day in Victoria’s west as the party continues after Saturday night’s first heats of the TAB Inter Dominion Pacing and Trotting Championships. A big day is planned, with more details here:   Mark Smith Trots Media

Collendina Cricket Club will be hoping the Grassroots Gold GoodForm Game Plan whacks the TAB for six this Saturday night. The Ocean Grove club will have $500 wagered on its behalf in Saturday night’s Geelong Harness Racing Club meeting, which includes the $50,000 Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup. Club founder Leigh Norquay said Collendina greatly appreciated the trots support, having formed a great friendship with those at Beckley Park. “We go to a meeting each year at the trots,” Mr Norquay said. “Everyone had a good night every time we went.” A windfall in Saturday night’s trots would greatly help the club’s expansion and he expected about 20 Collendina members to attend the pacing cup night to soak up the trots. “We are at the present time trying to put an extension on our rooms,” Mr Norquay said. “We only have a little kitchen from where we do our meals and a bar area. We hope to extend that room and are doing all the work ourselves.” He said the tireless efforts of the club’s volunteers were crucial to not only upgrading facilities but keeping youth engaged in the sport. “It’s harder and harder to get the kids to play the sport these days, but we do as well as we can,” he said. “We have four senior sides and six junior sides and keep pushing on.”   Trots Media    

Champion reinsman Chris Alford has produced the greatest season by an Australian driver, officially breaking new ground with win number 389 at Geelong tonight. With a victory on $13-shot Dependlebury in the Flying Brick Original Cider Pace, Alford moved past Daryl Douglas' season record of 388 wins that had stood since the 2007-08 season. “It’s a mark that may never be beaten," caller Dan Mielicki told Trots Vision in the wake of Alford's win. "400 is in danger, and that’s a record that will stand for a very, very long time.” Alford entered today one shy of Douglas' record but won with his family's two-year-old trotting filly Sleepee at Stawell today and then made the 210km trek to Geelong to steer Dependlebury to an against-the-odds win. The achievement attracted much praise from his peers and trots fans. Read More Michael Howard For Trots media

A potentially historic day has dawned with champion reinsman Chris Alford within reach of setting a new Australian mark for most wins by a driver in a season. Alford ascended to a remarkable 387 wins last night with a treble of victories at Tabcorp Park Melton, including with Kyvalley Clichy and Joe Vassallo in the final races on the card. A victory today will see Alford tie Daryl Douglas's record setting 388 wins in 2007-2008, when  he brought up the magical milestone from 2063 starts. Before today's double-header at Stawell and Geelong, Alford had ventured on to the track 1410 times and smashed his previous best single-season winning rate, which had been the 336 wins he produced in 2011-12. “It would be pretty special. I keep an eye on it, if it comes it comes," Alford said of the landmark. "I just try and win as many races as I can." Speaking on the eve of an extraordinarily successful Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals night, when he piloted four winners, Alford typically attributed much of his success to the opportunities he'd been given.  “A big part of it is due to Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin), and there are others whose horses I’m driving who have also been going well at the right time," he said. “I’ve been pretty lucky over the years to drive for most of the good stables. I think if you do the right thing by them they will stick with you." So when will the landmark win occur? Alford steers two at Stawell today and a further two at Geelong tonight. First up is Hot Breakfast for trainer Malcolm Phillips in the Hygain Micrspeed Pace at 2.55pm, who Good Form analyst Rob Auber has rated a $5 chance, second favourite behind Matt Craven's short-priced Wardan Express. "Wardan Express is a very smart horse that has taken his time to strike his best form this campaign," Auber said. "Clearly looks the class horse. Hot Breakfast has enjoyed a good season. Racing well and is a place hope." His other driver for the day is Sleepee, the raw but impressive two-year-old trotting filly who steps out in The Maori Legend at 3.33pm, a $14,000 race. Trained by Chris' wife Alison, it would be a fitting way to tie the record or set a new mark and Auber has Sleepee as the most likely winner, quoting him as a $1.80 pop. "Sleepee’s been very impressive at both starts to date and appears to be getting better," Auber said. "Runner-up in the Group 1 Vicbred final last start. Hard to beat." If the cards don't fall today, it's on to Geelong tonight, where Alford has a further three drives. Auber rates Dependlebury an $8 in the Flying Brick Original Cider Pace at 8pm, Bossanova Bay a $5 chance in the AON Business Insurance 3YO Pace at 8.30pm and Elteearr a $2 pop in the Jims Mowing pace at 9.30pm. And then it's on to Bendigo for a further seven drives tomorrow night. Michael Howard

Geelong Harness Racing Club is gearing up to celebrate its 2017 Pacing Cup this Saturday, 9 December, thanks to a joint funding package of $104,000 supported by the Andrews Labor Government. The Labor Government is contributing more than $25,000 through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund to the night race and a further $13,000 for a range of upgrades to the club’s Beckley Park home. The Group 3 Geelong Pacing Cup program is a high quality harness race meeting that provides the opportunity for local families, sports clubs and community groups to get together for end-of-year celebrations. A wide range of offers and entertainment will be available to racegoers on the night, including discounted family tickets, live music from Gruven as well as face painting, a balloon artist and a petting zoo for children. The evening’s proceedings will be hosted by harness racing personalities and form experts including Rob Auber, Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden. Beckley Park will also benefit from several upgrades, including a new heating and cooling system for the club’s grandstand and a new head-on camera to improve vision on the home straight. The owners’ facilities will also be renovated and thermal imaging of the track’s electrics will ensure all lighting systems are working correctly. The club is providing more than $26,000 towards its Cup meeting, while Harness Racing Victoria is contributing more than $24,000 to support the Cup and facility upgrades. The Victorian Harness Racing Sports Club is also providing almost $6,000 for the owners’ room renovations. Since 2014, the Labor Government has provided almost $120,000 for five infrastructure projects and three race day events at Geelong. The racing industry in the Barwon region generates more than $106 million for the Victorian economy annually and helps sustain more than 1050 full-time equivalent jobs in the region. Quote attributable to Minister for Racing Martin Pakula “We’re proud to support the Geelong Harness Racing Club because the racing industry is a vital part of Victoria’s economy and it creates thousands of local jobs.” Quote attributable to Member for Geelong Christine Couzens “The Geelong Pacing Cup is a great opportunity for local community groups, businesses and families to come together and celebrate the festive season.” Quote attributable to Geelong Harness Racing Club President John Ballestrino “We’re very appreciative of the support we’ve received from the Victorian Government for the Geelong Pacing Cup, which will be a fantastic start to the festive season.” Minister for Racing

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Stewards have today concluded an inquiry into a matter emanating from the Geelong Harness Racing meeting on 31 July 2016, involving former licensed trainer and driver Mr Scott Gill. In accordance with Australian Rule of Harness Racing (ARHR) 183(d), which states: Pending the outcome of an inquiry, investigation or objection, or where a person has been charged with an offence, the Stewards may direct one or more of the following that a licence or any other type of authority or permission be suspended, HRV Stewards initially suspended Mr Gill’s trainer and driver licences as of 31 July 2016, until such time as an inquiry was conducted into Mr Gill’s failure to provide a urine sample when directed to do so by HRV Stewards at the Geelong Harness Racing meeting on 31 July 2016. Given evidence tendered by Mr Gill, HRV Stewards provided Mr Gill a further opportunity to provide a urine sample on 1 August 2016, however Mr Gill refused to do so and he then elected to relinquish his licenses with HRV. After considering all of the evidence tendered, Mr Gill was subsequently found guilty of a charge under ARHR 250A (1)(b) which states: A person carrying on or purporting to carry on an activity regulated by licence at any time or carrying on official duties at a meeting commits an offence if he or she refuses or fails to deliver a sample as directed by the Stewards, or tampers with, adulterates, alters, substitutes or in any way hinders the collection of such sample or attempts to do any of those things. The particulars of the charge being that at the Geelong Harness Racing meeting conducted on 31 July 2016, Mr Gill as the trainer and driver of Shell Green in Race 3 the ‘Flying Brick Draught Cider Pace’, failed to provide a urine sample as directed by the Stewards and furthermore after being provided another opportunity to deliver a urine sample at his registered address on 1 August 2016, Mr Gill refused to provide a urine sample when directed by Stewards to do so. Mr Gill was disqualified for a period of six (6) months with immediate effect. In assessing penalty Stewards considered the following factors: That Mr Gill had voluntarily relinquished his trainer and driver licence with HRV on 1 August 2016; Mr Gill’s previous long standing and clear prior record in the industry; Previous penalties under the relevant rule; That such offence is considered to be serious in nature; That any penalty in this instance required a general and specific deterrent in relation to such conduct. Mr Gill was advised of his rights of appeal and notified that any future application for a licence will be subject to a ‘Show Cause Sub-Committee’ hearing and him providing a urine sample to Stewards. Harness Racing Victoria

The gateway to the Surf Coast and the Bellarine Peninsula has a new landmark. A mammoth sign visible from both the Princes Highway and the Geelong Ring Road signifies the recent signing of a corporate partnership between the Geelong Harness Racing Club and The Flying Brick Cider Co. The Flying Brick Cider Co is part of the burgeoning ‘stable’ of Bellarine hospitality entrepreneurs David and Lyndsay Sharp who also oversee the popular wineries Jack Rabbit and Leura Park Estate. Marketing Manager Luke Holland described The Flying Brick Cider Co.’s partnership with Geelong Harness Racing Club as a "nice fit". “The Flying Brick brand wasn’t associated with any major sporting organisation in Geelong and the harness racing club is in a high traffic pathway through to the start of Surfcoast and Bellarine Peninsula,” Holland said. “It’s a great venue and it was an opportunity to get some local flavour in it,” he said. Holland cited the last month’s Geelong Pacing Cup as a fun, action-packed night. “David and Lyndsay and their guests had a ball, right on top of all the action on the race track and of course they were able to enjoy it with great food and a cider,” he said. “Lyndsay is still talking about her ride in the mobile barrier.” The sign which fronts the club’s Track View Bar & Bistro is 34 metres long and three metres high.   “In the short time it has been up a lot of people have noticed it and it has had a good run on social media; it really is a talking point around Geelong,” he said. Meanwhile, the Geelong Harness Racing Club has spring boarded 2016 with a very successful cup meeting held on the first Saturday night in January. The race attracted the strongest field for several years with emerging star It Is Billy grabbing a sprint lane win over Hectorjayjay and Im Corzin Terror. GRHC Manager Paul Prout was pleased with the size of the crowd. “The crowd exceeded our expectations and the on course betting turnover was good,”Prout said. “The date works well for us due to the number of holiday makers in the region, we promoted the night among the caravan parks in the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula and we got a healthy response,”he said. HRV Media

Less than a month out from the Summer of Glory harness racing carnival Daylesford star It Is Billy is the talk of the town. Trainer Michael Barby’s seven-year-old scored his biggest win yet last night at Geelong, pocketing the lion’s share of the prize money and the silverware in the Group 3 Corio Waste Management Geelong Pacing Cup. Driven a treat by Barby’s wife Anne-Maree Conroy, It Is Billy signalled his arrival on the grand stage by out-sprinting race favourite Hectorjayjay at the end of the 2570-metre feature. In the run you wanted to be on either race favourite Hectorjayjay ($2.40), who pinged off the arm from gate one to lead easily, or It Is Billy ($5.5), who trailed the leader from eight. At the quarter pole the leader looked to have plenty in hand after 29.3, 29.8 and 29.1 opening splits of the final mile. But once the sprint lane opened up Conroy and It Is Billy blasted into top gear to overhaul the leader in a final split of 27.7secs for a 1:56.6 mile rate. Underrated stayer Im Corzin Terror (Greg Sugars) ran third but his was the run of the race outside the winner, covering ground three-wide from the half-mile and beaten only half a length at the finish. The night’s other cup feature, the Flying Brick Cider Company McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup was taken by Dead Cat Bounce (Revenue/Wee Annie) for trainer Nicole Molander and reinsman Chris Alford. The six-year-old mare stepped like a professional from the tapes and was never overtaken on her way to a 2:04.3 win – her second country cup success since crossing the Tasman. There will be plenty of horses to follow from the Geelong meeting with winners Macterra Lad, Emmanuel, Cruz Bromac and Ellas Puppeteer all rising stars. by Cody Winnell

We head to Geelong this Saturday night and what a way to kick off 2016 harness racing season with a tremendous renewal of the Corio Waste Management Geelong Pacing Cup. A wonderful field has been assembled for the race but the big winner from the Barrier draw was star pacer Hectorjayjay after he landed the pole. Beaten first up in the Yarra Valley Cup on a rain affected track before taking no part after bombing the stand start in the Cobram Pacing Cup last Sunday he looks perfectly suited back to mobile conditions and trainer/driver Simone Walker has loads of options at the start “I will just see what happens out of the gate and take it from there. I might decide to hold the lead depending on how the race is run.” She said He has always been armed with devastating speed but Walker said that this time back in he has developed the strength to allow him to compete with the big guns “He has come back much stronger. The break did him the world of good actually. He is now against the open class horses so he still has to step up but I am pleased with how he has come back.” Walker said she was disappointed that the gelding by Dream Away missed a run in the Cobram Cup last week after completely messing up the stand and might need Saturday Nights run “It was a long way to go for nothing but those things happen. It would have been nice to get a proper race under his belt last week but we press on to this week instead.” Main danger will be Ballarat Lightning Mile winner Keayang Cullen who has drawn the back line which will make its task a lot harder but he is more than capable. The cup is the feature on a massive night of racing with the first of 10 races to get underway at 6.29pm by Matt Jackson Fields for Geelong, Saturday 02 January 2016 Form guide for Geelong, Saturday 02 January 2016

Bolinda trainer Brent Lilley took the honours at the Geelong trots on Tuesday, finishing the night with a stable double thanks to a pair of six-year-olds. Art Major/Endeared mare Star Crossed, first-up for the stable having her first outing since February, greeted the judge first in the Flying Brick Cider Company Pace for C1 class over 2100 metres. With stable reinsman Anthony Butt in the sulky, Star Crossed starting from the extreme draw wasn’t pushed early, settling with most of the field ahead of her as Joelissa led from gate two after the hot favourite Captain Snoozzze galloped away from gate three. Gaining a three-wide trail home in the final circuit on the back of Jimmy The Editor, Star Crossed at tote odds of $17.40 finished best to score from Jimmy The Editor and Joelissa in a mile rate of 2:00.2. Kiwi bred American Ideal/Jazz Tanner gelding Eric Clapton taking a concession for youthful Brad Chisholm who has been helping out at the camp, made a one act affair of the Relay For Life Dec 3rd Pace for C3 & C4 class over 2100 metres. Beginning fast from outside the front line, Eric Clapton ran his rivals ragged in accounting for Guggenheim (four back the markers) which death-seated for the last lap by a neck, with Bad Boy Brad (four wide last lap from near last) five metres away in third place. The mile rate was 1:57.1. Wallan’s Shinn family snared the Harness Breeders Victoria Trackbred Pace for C0 class (mares) over 1609 metres with Aurore, a four-year-old daughter of Dawn Ofa New Day and Aurelia bred and raced by Noel Shinn. Trained by Ruth and driven by son Chris, Aurore was another to begin with great zest from outside the front row to lead and was never headed, registering a 1.3-metre margin in advance of Fianna Gael which trailed from the pole and Nymeria (one/one – three wide home turn) in a rate of 1:59.5. Flowerdale part-owner/trainer/driver Ivan Antolas was successful with 4Y0 Bacardi Lindy Springhasprung  mare Aussie Beach Blond in the Corio Waste Management Trotters Mobile for T0 class over 2100 metres. A winner in restricted company at Bendigo on November 7, Aussie Beach Blond from gate four was trapped in the open, before receiving cover racing for the bell when Anthony Butt sent Georgies Smile forward from mid-field to park outside the pacemaker Shiftywall which crossed to lead as the start was effected. Easing wide in the last lap, Aussie Beach Girl raced clear on turning to record an easy 12.2-metre victory over Handy That from last at the bell in a mile rate of 2:09, with Very Belle third after following the weakening leader. Drouin’s Gary and Debbie Quinlan snared the Geelong Pacing Cup 2nd January Trotters Mobile for T0 class over 2100 metres with 4Y0 Sundon/Star Spangled Rama gelding Omy Son which broke his maiden status at start number 10. Driven by Nathan Jack, Omy Son settled four back along the markers from gate three, with Lilymaystorm inside him beginning best to lead. Rushing forward when the speed slackened to make an unsuccessful bid for the front running, Omy Son was then eased to drop to the back of the pacemaker. Moving off the heels of Lilymaystorm on the final bend, Omy Son was nursed to the wire in winning by 3.8 metres from the leader, with Ghent (one/one at bell) third. The mile rate 2:06.3. Perennial placegetter The Gingerbreadman finally cracked it for another victory by taking the Devcon Properties Pace for C2 class over 2100 metres in 1:59.8. Part-owned and trained by Meltonian Ian Hunter, The Gingerbreadman driven as usual by John Justice possied four back in the moving line, as the polemarker Aloha Don Ho retained the front running. When Aloha Don Ho surrendered the lead mid-race to stablemate Bettor Than Best, The Gingerbreadman was off and running three-wide racing for the bell. Despite racing wide for the remainder of the trip, The Gingerbreadman raced away in the straight to score convincingly by three metres from Glenferrie Arch which followed him home. Aloha Don Ho used the sprint lane to finish third. McArdle/Glenferrie Miss 6Y0 gelding Glenferrie College notched up his 12th victory at start number 70 when successful in the Jims Mowing Claiming Pace over 2100 metres. Trained at nearby Lara by Dean Braun, Glenferrie College driven by Chris Alford starting from inside the second line was restrained immediately the start was effected to settle at the tail of the field, with only stablemate Comply Or Die behind him after being trapped wide from gate six. Trailing Our Mels Dream forward in the last lap, Glenferrie College despite being four wide on the home turn, ran home strongly to record a 6.2-metre margin on the wire over Our Mels Dream and The Family Guy which raced in the open. The mile rate 1:58.4. Terang trainer Matthew Craven combined with Chris Svanosio to land the Bendigo Bank Trotters Handicap for T2 or better class over 2570 metres with smart but sometimes unreliable 8Y0 Ganymeade/Smokey Robyn gelding Hinault, who has been going great guns of late. Raced by a large group of stable supporters including veteran Terang identity Ray Payne, Hinault began safely from 30 metres and was soon racing one-one after Sundons Comet went forward at a great rate from 10 metres to cross the poleline leader Shiraz Cabernet. Not happy with the tempo through the middle stages, Hinault was set alight to assume control at the bell and from there on, the race became a procession, with Hinault coasting to the wire untouched to register a 1.8-metre victory over Sundons Comet along the sprint lane in a rate of 2:05.3. Maybelina, first-up since July, ran home nicely from four back the markers to finish third 4.1 metres away. Len Baker  

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