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An old truism in racing that 'the stopwatch matters little, it's the victory that counts' was never more evident than on Sunday afternoon in the running of both The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup and Speeding Spur Trotters Cup.  Although conducted over the staying distance of 2700 metres the outcomes were obvious a long way from home with drivers at the head of affairs dictating the tempo throughout. Exciting four-year-old gelding Mach Dan, with Greg Sugars aboard, quickly found the lead as the starter said "go" in the $60,000 pacers cup and, without any pressure coming from the opposition, was able to amble along at his leisure in some of the slowest sectionals recorded by Cup class horses on the Horsham circuit. Pictures: Tony Logan With 800m remaining, Sugars gave his charge an inch of rein but not until heading for home did he ask Mach Dan for anything approaching his best. The $1.50 favourite responded with a blistering final quarter of 26.3 seconds and cruised home 2.5m in advance of Somewhere Secret (Jackie Barker), who raced outside the leader for most of the trip, with Fourbigmen (James Herbertson) five metres away in third spot after finding the Hygain sprint lane. Highly-fancied stallion Out To Play (Kate Gath) was fourth home and stablemate Like A Wildfire (Leigh Sutton) fifth in an amazing training quintet for the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin barn. Lightly raced since scoring on debut at Swan Hill in February 2019 Mach Dan has built a record to date of 22 starts for 12 wins, six minors and a bank of $264,172.  Fingers and toes firmly crossed that the impressive son of Mach Three stays sound and gives the Stewart/Tonkin camp and owners Danny Zavitsanos, his wife Jo and Warren Viney plenty of joy through seasons to come. ****  Classy trotting mare Monaro Maro took a little longer than Mach Dan to find the lead in the $25,000 Speeding Spur Horsham Trotters Cup but two laps out had the race in her keeping Backing up less than 24 hours after finishing second to Moonshine Linda in a $24,000 Melton FFA, Monaro Maro with former 'Mallee Boy' John Caldow in the sulky was a tad slow to begin from her 20 metres handicap, but quickly found her rhythm and steadily made ground on the Stawell trained and owned bay, The Penny Drops (Daryl Douglas). With a little over two laps to travel Caldow took his charge to the front and rated to perfection from that point, Monaro Maro was untroubled to record a 3m victory over The Penny Drops, who tried valiantly to reel her in over the final stages. The even-money-favourite Well Defined (Ellen Tormey), after looking a threat on the home turn, battled on to finish third, a further 11 metres away.  While the winner's mile-rate of 2:06.7 may rank towards the bottom of the 25 trotters cups staged to date at Horsham, the amount on the owner's cheque sits equal first. Trainer Andy Gath has made a super-successful habit of bringing tried trotters across the ditch to race here for prolific owner Norm Jenkin. Monaro Mara is another product of that recipe, with 11 victories, 11 minors and earnings of around $115,000 since relocating to Long Forest.   Len Baker and Tony Logan

The Horsham Club this afternoon, is set to play host for the running of the time-honoured $25,000 Tontine Championships for pacers and trotters on a huge, ten event card of harness racing action.   The West Side Horsham Tontine Championships are jointly conducted on a rotational basis by the South West Outer Zone Clubs (Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell & Terang) with the support of HRV.   The first Tontine series for pacers was run in 1981 and saw the winner Kiwi Conference (Peter Rothacker) race four times in twelve days to earn the Tontine crown in a last-man-standing contest through heats, semi-finals and a final.   The 2021 editions have attracted very strong fields, with a number of very promising up-and-comers pitted against more-seasoned performers with the score on the board.   Trainer Emma Stewart stable has three runners in this year's pacing division and has provided her thoughts: "Cant Top This (Kate Gath) is a nice horse having his first run back off a short break after the Vicbred Final. We were really happy with his racing last preparation, so hopefully he improves again this time in. Carlas Mach (Jason Lee) draws nicely for him as he has a lot of speed and from gate eight follows out a fast beginner. Krafty Bart (Jack Laugher) is a horse we really like. He has had no luck in his last couple of starts but shows plenty of ability and I think is the pick of our runners."     Young Terang trainer Paddy Lee will take on Stewart's trio with the lightly raced, 4yo gelding Jilliby Selwood (Glen Craven).   "He's from the same family as Jilliby Bartel (11 wins, $89,919) and gets his name from my Uncles - John, Des and Harry who are mad Geelong supporters. While he's three from three, the Tontine represents a big step-up in class. It's a very strong field but he should run a good race and with luck be in the placings."   Hopes of a local victory in the Tontine, rest with two runners for the Aaron Dunn - Steve Blacker training combo. Kenya NZ (Sam Barker) comes into the race as an emergency after the scratching of Dress Sense and is ideally drawn in gate one. Dunn will drive his own horse Shady Azz (12) in the race, fresh from an impressive victory on Ballarat Cup night.   Paddy Lee will also be represented in the West side Horsham Tontine Trotting Championship with former NZ mare Milly An Eyre. "I have been really pleased with her improvement over the last month and from the pole gets the chance to show her best. Once again, though, this is a very tough race. If she steps and trots all the way I will be pleased if she can run a place." he said.   Lee's cousin Matty Craven saddles up Lotamuscle NZ (4) in the Trot with James Herbertson to take the reins. The 5yo son of Muscle Hill (US) scored impressively at Hamilton when making his Aussie debut and finished strongly to finish second at Stawell last Monday. He's sure to appreciate the 2700 metre trip around the spacious Horsham circuit and looks the one they'll have to beat for the Tontine crown.   Veteran Horsham committeeman, owner, trainer and breeder Bill Deleeuw will be trackside on Monday afternoon and hoping for a touch of deja 'vu when Lotamuscle lines up in the big race.   Some thirty years ago at Stawell, the now part-owner of Craven's charge, cheered as his son Lance reined Lily Low to victory in the 1991 edition of the Tontine Trotting Final for the Bendigo Harness Racing Training Centre .   There have been many changes to the Tontine format since it's inception - a switch from standing starts to the mobile for pacers, introduction of a handicap series for the trotters in 1985, a $10,000 clean sweep bonus, the brief inclusion of Geelong and Ballarat clubs into the mix, stakemoney parity for both gaits, separate venues for the pacers and trotters, a flirtation final at Melton in 2013 and more recently, the Tontine as a one-off feature event.     But some remain constant during the 40-year history of the Tontine - a decent payout to the winning connections and the race often being a springboard to bigger and better things, like past winners Kentucky George (33 wins), Noopy Kiosk (34), Lombo Rapida (27), Acacia Ridge (22), Flaming Flutter (27), The Godfather (20), Supersonic Miss (17), Great things Happen (16), Deltasun (19) and Major Times (18).     Tony Logan

The Horsham Club on Monday afternoon, will play host for the running of the time-honoured $25,000 Tontine Championships for pacers and trotters on a huge, ten event card of harness racing action. The West Side Horsham Tontine Championships are jointly conducted on a rotational basis by the South West Outer Zone Clubs (Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell & Terang) with the support of HRV. The first Tontine series for pacers was run in 1981 and saw the winner Kiwi Conference (Peter Rothacker) race four times in twelve days to earn the Tontine crown in a last-man-standing contest through heats, semi-finals and a final. The 2021 editions have attracted very strong fields, with a number of very promising up-and-comers pitted against more-seasoned performers with the score on the board. Hopes of a local victory in the West Side Tontine Pacing Championship, rest with two runners from the Aaron Dunn - Steve Blacker training camp. Kenya NZ (Sam Barker) comes into the race as an emergency after the scratching of Dress Sense and is ideally drawn in gate one. Dunn will drive his own horse Shady Azz (12) in the race, fresh from an impressive victory on Ballarat Cup night. Veteran Horsham committeeman, owner, trainer and breeder Bill Deleeuw will be trackside on Monday afternoon and hoping for a touch of deja vu when Lotamuscle lines up in the West Side Trotting Championship. Some thirty years ago at Stawell, the now part-owner of the Matty Craven trained trotter, cheered as his son Lance reined Lily Low to victory in the 1991 edition of the Tontine Trotting Final for the Bendigo Harness Racing Training Centre . Monday's meeting is closed to the public but the West Side Trackview lounge will be open to follow the action "through the glass" with food, beverage, TAB and rest room facilities available downstairs. Full fields, form, punting plan and gear changes for Horsham can be found at www.harness.org.au and all the action will be live streamed on Trots Vision and broadcast on SKY and racing radio. They're off at Swan Hill (N) Tuesday 9th February; Ararat (N) Cup meeting Friday 12th; St. Arnaud @ Charlton (D) Sunday 14th; Terang (N) Cup meeting Saturday 20th & Stawell (D) Friday 26th. From the sulky Reprinted with permission of the Ararat Advertiser

When Wimmera harness racing trainer Greg Cooper arrived home one afternoon to find a newborn foal, it took him no time at all to come up with an appropriate name. "I'd been to the funeral of a popular guy earlier on in the day. His name was Bob Radley. He was a good friend and I'd worked with him a bit. I knocked around with his son and I guess in my eyes he was a local icon," Greg said. "So later on, when we sat down and had to come up with some names for the horse to race, 'Local Icon' was the first one to come to mind." And four-year-old bay gelding Local Icon (Grinfromeartoear-It Is What It Is (Panorama) has made quite an early impact himself, with a win and a placing from just four starts. The pacer steps out today at Horsham, one of a number of clubs that have been waiting patiently to resume racing due to the pandemic restrictions. "I think he will be competitive despite coming off the back row because we'll be able to choose who we want to follow," Greg said. "He shows that he's got a lot of bottom at home and his work on our track is as good as any of the others. So, when the penny drops, I'm hoping he could be the best one we've had over the years." Greg has a property at Glenorchy, between Stawell and Horsham, and does cropping, as well as run sheep and cattle. "I've been around horses all my life because my late dad Reg was a keen breeder. He had legendary trainer Jack Moore preparing them back in the day," he said. Reg Cooper, who died a few years ago just short of his 90th birthday, had a 60-year association in the sport. He was a life member of both Stawell Harness Racing and the Race Club. He also served on the harness racing committee for 25 years and was president for 13 terms as well as the scales clerk at the gallops. "We got an outstanding broodmare first up in Romantic Express, which was a Noel Simpson breed. She left five free-for-all horses, including the brilliant Bar Adios, trained by Ralph Ford," Greg said. "In recent years we raced and then bred from the Paulsboro-sired mare Reasons Why, a winner of six races, who is the grand-dam of Local Icon. "Reasons Why was a tough horse. She won her first start at St Arnaud for Chris Alford and won another five at Ararat, Ballarat and Charlton. Neil McCallum was also successful on her a few times. "She had three of her foals get to the races, one being It Is What It Is (by Panorama) the dam of Local Icon. We just enjoy breeding and owning a few of our own." Greg said Local Icon was "very green" when he took him to compete in his first trial. "He wouldn't score up and then was looking around everywhere and galloped. But he did a few at Stawell later on and ran well," he said. "We took him to Bendigo for his race debut and we were happy to finish fourth. Then at Terang on a rainy night he hated the wet dirt in his face and was well back. "His next start third at Stawell was encouraging because the first three placegetters in that event all came out and won at their next outings- including us, because we were successful at Ballarat seven days later. So the Stawell race presented a good form line." Greg said he was fortunate to have his daughter Megan around to give him a helping hand. "Megan is terrific with horses and did the pony trots when she was younger. She now has her own riding horse and is right into dressage, as well as being a qualified equine myotherapist," he said. "I love having her on the farm because apart from Local Icon, we also have a couple of two-year-olds to keep us busy." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

An accumulation of points rather than victories led to reinswoman Kate Gath clinching her first Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship on Monday afternoon.   Gath won the title after compiling 34 points in four heats at Horsham Racing Centre.   Her victory was the first occasion in 30 editions of the event that the honours went to a driver who failed to post at least a single heat victory.   Gath finished second with Fourth In Line for Horsham trainer Rod Carberry and owners, the Connelly family in heat one of the event. She was second again, in heat two, this time with You Ninety Two for the Peter Salathiel stable.   A fourth placing in heat three aboard Pebble Sands for Mt Gambier horseman Barry Finnis kept her points tally rolling along.   Gath finished the day with another second, on Glenavril King for Horsham owner-trainer Barry Dunn, in heat four to win the championship.   Nathan Dawson from Queensland was second on 31, Victorian Greg Sugars was third with 30, Chris Voak, Western Australia 29, and the Wimmera's Kerryn Manning in fifth spot with 26.   The championship wooden spoon went to Mark Yole of Tasmania on a countback from Kima Frenning, both with 16 points and both as first-time competitors in the "Noel Smith".   The Invitation event features 10 of Australia's finest drivers competing in four races and is reliant on owners and trainers making their horses available.   As thanks and in appreciation of the 24/7 contribution to harness racing made by breeders, owners, stablehands, drivers and trainers the Horsham Club and their generous sponsors distributed on Monday a host of equine products, merchandise, services and giveaways from Decron Horse Care, Carbine Chemicals, Hygain-Mitavite, Hyland Racing Colours, Oringi Protection Wear, Zilco International, Grafx Inc. Custom Helmet Design, Claire Weston Photography, Fly Veils By Design, Tabcorp Park Melton, Roma Pocock Rugs, Allbenz Park, Virbac Equimax, Norton Estate Wines & Mustad Australia. They also enjoyed a BBQ and hospitality courtesy of the Victorian Trainers & Drivers Association.   Reprinted with permission from theweeklyadvertiser   

Ten of Australia's finest drivers will assemble at the Horsham Racing Centre this afternoon to contest the 30th annual Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship but with one notable absence. Legendary reinsman Gavin Lang has been a regular part of  Horsham's Invitation Drivers Championship since its inception in 1990.  Gavin was there under the lights at the old showgrounds track when Gaita Pullicino took out the first Golden Pacers Horsham Invitation title. He also drove in the first edition staged on the new 1000m circuit at the Racing Centre in 1993.   Gavin saw the "Noel Smith Memorial" banner assigned to the event in 1995 and has been a constant through changes of sponsors to the current era of Decron Horse Care's support.  Apart from being a regular competitor, Gavin was often called on by the Horsham Club to act as "taxi driver" for interstate competitors and "courier" for trophies, equine products and merchandise prizes. Success in the event came Gavin's way in 1991 (dead-heat with Jim O'Sullivan) 1992, 1996 and 2014.  Incredibly, he's missed only four of the 29 championships to be staged - 1993, 1999, 2013 & 2019 - due to injury, the wrath of stewards or family commitments. However, 2020 is a far different kettle of fish. With Lang currently battling a rare type of lymphoma, the trots industry has rallied in recent months to raise nearly $100,000 towards the incredibly expensive treatment which is  being sourced from USA. A Sportsman's Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on Tuesday March 17th will further boost the fundraising tally to support Gavin and his family. Fellow reinsman and organiser Stephen Cleave says the event “promises to be memorable” and “full of great yarns”. Hosted by AFL great and harness aficionado Mick McGuane, GoodForm’s Jason Bonnington and RSN’s Gareth Hall, the evening will feature multiple ‘all-star’ panels telling stories about one of harness racing’s genuine all-time greats. Tickets @ $25 are available on 03 8746 0600. A mega raffle and on-line auction is running in conjunction with the gala event, with tickets and bidding available now at https://app.galabid.com/gav/items While Victorian drivers Chris Alford, Kerryn Manning, Greg Sugars, Kate Gath and Jason Lee together with WA's Chris Voak and Ryan Hryhorec (SA) have participated in past editions of the "Noel Smith" the 2020 lineup also sees three "first-timers" in the mix. Swedish national Kima Frenning (Vic) has enjoyed great success as both driver and trainer since coming out to Oz to ride in a few Monte (saddle trot) races.  Young Queensland driver Nathan Dawson currently leads the 19/20 state and metro tally boards with 99 victories (23 metro) and former Victorian, Mark Yole (TAS) took out the 18/19 state premiership with 88 wins and is enjoying another successful season.   Tony Logan  

Horsham Harness Racing Club has today announced the list of 10 invitees to contest the time honoured Decron Horse Care Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship to be conducted at on Monday March 9. Victorians Chris Alford, Kate Gath, Jason Lee, Kima Frenning, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning are set to do battle with Chris Voak (WA), Nathan Dawson (QLD), Mark Yole (TAS) and Ryan Hyrhorec (SA).  The series consists of four $7000 ratings-exempt races with the invited drivers being randomly allocated a drive in each heat. Trainers are advised that nominations for all events on the program close at noon on Wednesday  March 4. Horsham's feature was staged for the first time in 1990. Later it was re-named in honour of Noel Smith, past president and delegate of the Horsham Club, who made an enormous contribution to the industry at grass roots level through his tireless work for the M&CTA and South West Zone Clubs.   Tony Logan

Harness racing action will return to Horsham this afternoon, Friday, February 7 with an eight-race program commencing at 1.17pm. The powerful Emma Stewart stable is only occasional visitors to the Horsham Racing Centre but rarely miss out when they make the trip from their Cardigan base. Smart 3yo filly Amelia Rose with Jackie Barker in the sulky, will start an odds-on-favourite in the Team Teal For Ovarian Cancer Pace (R7) even having drawn gate nine in a capacity field and over the sprint trip of 1700 metres. The only chance of an upset looks to be the Matty Craven trained, NZ import Kenya which makes his Aussie debut on the back of a victory at Nelson on January 10. Stewart's other runner is the beautifully bred 3yo colt Lizzadro (r8) in the Group 1 Gav - Donate At Gofundme Pace over the distance of 2200m. Swedish national Sofia Arvidsson takes the drive on Lizzadro which drops markedly in class after a recent outing in a heat of the Victoria Derby. WMT readers can find full fields, form, gear changes and punting plans for Horsham at www.harness.org.au Team Teal Victoria has made a flying start to its six-week fundraising drive for Ovarian Cancer. The horsewomen will wear the teal coloured driving trousers in all races during the period, with TAB and HRV each tipping in $200, every time they're a winner. As of Wednesday night, a total of $4800 has been donated by the HRV/TAB team for 12 Team Teal Vic. winners, with Ellen Tormey (x2), Kylie Sugars, Kate Gath (x2), Kerryn Manning, Lisa Miles, Shannon O'Sullivan, Anne-Maree Conroy, Jodie Quinlan, Kima Frenning and Rebecca Bartley all one winner since last weekend's launch. They're off at: Horsham (D) today (February 7); Charlton (D) Monday 10; Mt. Gambier (N) Tuesday 11; Terang (N) Cup meeting, Saturday 15; Wedderburn (D) Cup meeting Sunday 16 & Ararat (N) Cup meeting, Friday, February 21. WIMMERA WALLY: Last return: $32.60 @ Ararat gallops. Balance: $170.00.Best bet: R5 No2 Imasportsstar $6 win. Value bet: R6 No6 Dancingallalone $4 eachway. Multi bet: Running double R7 Nos 6,9 into 2 spend $6. By Tony Logan Reprinted with permission of The Ararat Advertiser

A new three quarters of a million-dollar function centre at Horsham will provide a timely boost to harness racing facilities in the Wimmera next year. The funding announced by the Racing Minister Martin Pakula this week will clear the way for one of the most important infrastructure projects since harness racing co-located with the gallops club more than 25 years ago. Harness racing began in Horsham at the tight showgrounds circuit in 1913, but the sport outgrew the site and moved to a new 1000-metre track at the Horsham Racing Centre. The centre is now home to the West Side Horsham entertainment complex. Horsham and District Harness Racing Club President Robbie Connelly said the new development was a much-needed expansion that would be a boost to both codes of racing. "For the past decade both clubs have been operating with portable infrastructure and marquees which are impractical and inappropriate for a dual-code course that hosts 14 meetings a year," Mr Connelly said. "The new entertainment and function centre will deliver massive benefits on race days and for non-raceday events," he said. Racing action at Horsham The Victorian Government is investing $175,000 from the Racing Industry Fund to the project, Horsham Harness Racing Club is pitching in $350,000 and the Wimmera Racing Club, Racing Victoria and Country Racing Victoria a combined $175,000. The facility will extend from the existing grandstand and feature a full glass frontage with views of the track and winning post. It will include a bistro and cafe, commercial kitchen, cool room, keg room, kids' area and storage. The new centre will create a modern facility for club and community use that can host up to 100 people.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Ultra-honest 3YO gelding Crime Writer out-toughed the opposition to capture the Alabar Horsham Classic on Thursday afternoon for Ecklin South horseman Matty Craven and Carrum Downs owners Tony and Pam Coniglio. Craven drove the son of Sportswriter and Our Crime Of Passion like he was the best horse in the race and so it proved as the $1.30 favourite bought up his fifth career victory. "He's the sort of horse you wish you had a stable full of," said Craven as he accepted the trophies from Alabar General Manager Brett Coffey. "While a step below the really good ones, he's made both Vicbred Finals for two and three-year-olds and hopefully we can get through to the Breeders Crown Final in a few weeks." Drawn the extreme outside of the second line in the field of 11, Craven was content to drop to the back of the bunch until the leaders sorted themselves out and backed off the tempo. With a mile to go Craven made his move and worked Crime Writer forward to race outside the leader, Luverboy (Kerryn Manning), for the last 1200 metres of the contest. Craven put the pressure on at the 400-metre mark and Crime Writer, with his head down in trademark fashion, dashed home in 27.5 seconds to score by four metres from the gallant Luverboy with Hugo Rocks (Alex Ashwood) finishing the race off nicely to claim third money. Crime Writer's record of five wins, five minor placings and a bank of $76,310 from 22 starts represents a whole lot of joy for his connections - with his biggest paydays being $17,400 when fourth in the 2YO Breeders Crown Final and $10,000 for fourth place in the Group 1 Victoria Derby Final back in January. Coffey also presented Craven with a service certificate to Auckland Reactor to pass on to the winning owners of the inaugural Alabar Horsham Classic. "Pam and Tony have a few nice mares and I'm sure they'll pick one out and make use of this," Craven said. "So it's a big thankyou to Alabar, they put a lot back into all levels of our industry."   Tony Logan

FORMER Kiwi Buster Brady confirmed his tag as Victoria’s Country Cups “King” with a spellbinding win in the $60,000 Group 2 Horsham Cup. The gelding is known for switching off at times in his races, but also for his staggering will to win. He showed plenty of both, but rallied courageously when it mattered to snatch a 1.5m win over talented pair Jilliby Chevy and Cant Refuse. Both had easier runs than him. Today’s Horsham Cup win followed other country cup wins at Maryborough, Echuca, Cobram and Geelong. The gelding has been a revelation for owners the Stokie Group and Kima Frenning, who is trying her hand for the first time as a trainer with Buster Brady. It was a stirring contest today, especially when Cant Refuse’s trainer-driver Matty Craven showed aggression in the middle stages, posted Buster Brady three-wide then eventually worked to the front and Buster Brady outside him. Cant Refuse pinched a break coming to the home turn and Buster Brady looked spent, while Jilliby Chevy surged through along the sprint lane. Just when it seemed Jilliby Chevy had Cant Refuse beaten and was home, Buster Brady lifted remarkably, surged and snatched the an epic win in a 1min58.7sec mile rate for the long 2700m trip. Another former Kiwi, Monty Python, made light of a 10m handicap courtesy of a superb Chris Alford drive to win the $25,000 Group 3 Horsham Trotters’ Cup. Andy Gath’s latest Kiwi import, Il Pirata, was the heavily backed favourite, but did some midrace work, trotted roughly and hung in the last 300m and was just fair in third spot. __________________________________________________________________________________________ THERE is a real sense of timing about Major Trojan’s WA Derby campaign. In fact, barriers pending, Gary Hall Sr’s latest star has next Friday night’s Group 1 feature at his mercy. That became clear when, after three placings from his only three previous WA runs, Major Trojan finally draw well, led and thrashed his rivals in the Derby Prelude at Gloucester Park last Friday night. It was an armchair drive for Gary Hall Jr, who dictated through a dawdling 62sec middle half then zipped home in 56.2 and 27.3sec to win by 10.6m in a comfortable 1min58.1sec mile rate for 2130m. “All his runs have been fantastic and we knew he was building fitness. When he drew well this time, we knew he had the speed to use the draw and expected to him to win,” Hall Sr said. “Gaz said he did that easily and he’s right where we want him going into next week.” The main rival looks to be Kyle Harper’s exciting Franco Edward, who actually beat home Major Trojan (third) when second to Eloquent Mach at Gloucester Park two week’s back. Franco Edward stormed home from last and also looks to be building nicely. His owner Rob Watson shocked many recently when he said Franco Edward was potentially the best horse he’d had, remembering Watson also bred and races the outstanding Soho Tribeca. __________________________________________________________________________________________ THIS is shaping as one heck of a juvenile crop in Australia. Jilliby Nitro grab top seeding with his mesmerizing Gold Crown win at Bathurst last Friday. But we’ve been hearing for weeks now Be Happy Mach is the next young star out of Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s barn. Be Happy Mach made the most of a lovely run to win his second race from as many starts and beat some exciting youngsters in the process in last night’s $24,000 Shakamaker Classic (1720m) at Melton. After trailing the leader and using the sprint lane, Chris Alford nursed him to a 2.9m win over the eye-catching Sanday for Andy and Kate Gath charging home for second and Kiwi-bred Hes Goneski tiring after leading for third. The only buzz youngster in the race, Soho Hamilton, was far from disgraced in fourth spot after drawing wide, being three and four wide early then doing the work outside the leader. Be Happy Mach and Jilliby Nitro are headed towards an Australian Gold showdown. __________________________________________________________________________________________ LOVEABLE young mare Miss Sangrial gave Team Brennan and stable driver Michael Grantham not only one of their biggest, but most rewarding wins at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Blowing punters away as a $51 shot, Miss Sangrial snatched a half-head win over classy former Kiwi mare Our Alfie Romeo with Lady De La Renta third and hot favourite Eden Franco fourth in the $50,000 Group 2 Empress Stakes (2536m). “This is as good as it gets,” trainer Michael “Mouse” Brennan said. “We’ve always had a good opinion of this mare, she’s a stable favourite, and to share the big win with Mickey (Grantham) is fantastic.” Another popular win on the came from Vultan Tin, who returned to form in the free-for-all for trainer Phil Costello and driver Chris Voak. The seven-year-old snatched a half-head win over Brennan’s evergreen The Bucket List with favourite Handsnwheels third in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2536m. __________________________________________________________________________________________ LAST season’s star three-year-old trotter Stress Factor will need to lift to snare a Harness Jewels invite. The Trotters’ Derby and Breeders Crown winner was moderate at best when fifth to Claudys Prince at Maryborough last Friday. He’s yet to show anything like his best form this term, casting in serious doubt a planned Kiwi raid by trainer Brent Lilley. __________________________________________________________________________________________ AS well as a Melton treble, top trainer Emma Stewart also won the feature race at Globe Derby last night. Stewart’s filly Celebrity Chef did the work outside the leader and dug deep to win the $15,000 Botra Fillies’ Classic with Jaimie-Lee King aboard for her first race start.   Adam Hamilton

Tim O'Brien hasn't ruled out running Perspective in all three of the remaining features on the Trots Country Cups Championship calendar. The in-form son of Art Major is second on the series leaderboard and could move to the top if he can upstage some of the big guns in this Sunday's The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup (2700m). O'Brien's charge has accumulated 17 points from his seven country cup starts, five less than Kima Frenning's star Buster Brady, who will also race in this weekend's Group 2 event. Simply starting in a cup earns a championship point, meaning even if Perspective misses a place at Horsham he’ll improve to 18 points. Victories in the season’s last two events – Mildura and Warragul – could still see O’Brien hoist the title. The Trots Country Cups Championship carries a $25,000 bonus for the winner, with $15,000 given to the successful owner and $10,000 to the horse's trainer. Given O'Brien trains on a "half stakes" arrangement with owner Kevin Murray, it could be a nice pay day if the gelding can get the job done. "I always go to Mildura every year, so he'll go there. But Warragul is a long way away," O'Brien said. "The only way I'll go to Warragul is if he's half a chance in the series, which I really doubt we are. "I'm rapt with what he's done this year, let alone winning anything else." Perspective's only victory in the series came when he took out the Boort Pacing Cup with a barnstorming finish on March 17. Last Sunday he backed it up with a second placing in the Ouyen Pacing Cup behind Brallos Pass. O'Brien said he'd recently changed the six-year-old's work, a move that appears to be paying dividends. "I used to work him pretty hard. I've done all that and he's gone through his classes. I've sort of backed off his work, just raced him once a week and not done a lot at home," the Ararat trainer said. "It seems to have helped him. It must be because as he's getting older he's getting sick of the hard work. "He seems to be thriving on what I've been doing with him." Perspective has drawn barrier four for Sunday's Horsham Pacing Cup, where he will be driven by champion reinsman Chris Alford. Matthew Craven-trained-and-driven Cant Refuse - who is third on the overall leaderboard - will be there, while Jilliby Chevy (Margaret Lee/Jason Lee) and Flaming Flutter (Geoff Webster/Greg Sugars) form part of a quality field. The Group 3 Pegasus Spur Horsham Trotters Cup (2700m) is the other feature on Sunday's card.   Tim O'Connor

Everyone involved in the ownership of a horse dares to dream: to make the track, win a race or two in the bush and, who knows, maybe even rise through the ranks to open company, the classic events, the Cups? Barry, Yvonne and Aaron Dunn have been in the racing game for more than 40 years and have been lucky enough to experience one such ride of a lifetime with their stable star, Dee Dees Dream. It kicked off in January 2002 when Dee Dees Dream debuted in a $1000 restricted event for 2YO pacers at Warrnambool. The youngster made short work of three rivals, leading from barrier to post to score by 13 metres in the leisurely mile rate of 2.09.3 over the sprint trip. A moderate assignment by any measure but it was the start of a racing career that spanned more than six years until 'Deedees' retirement in August 2008. His record of 117 starts, 38 wins, 21 minor placings and stakes of $412,971 included success in a Vicbred Super Series Final (2YO colts and geldings), Victoria Sires Classic, Tasmanian Pacers Derby, 11 victories at Moonee Valley and many wins in Tasmania and South Australia. Dee Dees Dream contested the 2005 and 2008 editions of the Horsham Pacing Cup but finished out of the money on both occasions. "It's hard to win a race anytime anywhere," said Barry. "But even more so with the country cups in Victoria." More than consolation for finishing close in feature events at Hamilton, Nyah, Maryborough, Bendigo and Globe Derby are Dee Dees Dream's trio of City Of Launceston Pacing Cups, earned after starting from the extreme outside of the second row on each occasion. So the Dunn family continue to live the dream and every year bring a number of new youngsters into the stable. "We'll enter Shady Azz and Sporty Azz in the 2YO race here on Sunday," said Barry. "They probably won't be good enough to beat the better bred ones going around but they need the experience and it will stand them in good stead for when we find something more suitable." So, like the Dunns, the Horsham club encourages family and friends to pack the picnic rug, hamper and Esky and enjoy a great community event on the spacious lawns of the Horsham Racing Centre. "For the first time on Cup Day the gates will be open with free entry and you'll be greeted by tin rattlers for the Naked Farmer's nominated charity, Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Unit," club president Justin Lane said. "Apart from all the action out on the track you'll enjoy a vibrant atmosphere with live music, sweeps, giveaways and prizes, including a chance to win $4000 in the Dunn Ezy Seed Cleaning Owner-For-A-Day competition. "There's plenty of free activities to keep the kids entertained. The jumping castle, gladiator ring, giant slide and basketball throw cater for all ages and one lucky youngster will win an iPad mini." So getyabackside trackside and seeya Sunday!   Tony Logan

The sight of wide open gates and the sound of rattling collection tins will welcome patrons to The Weekly Advertiser Horsham Pacing Cup meeting on Sunday March 31. "We decided to make our biggest day of the year a free event in support of our very special guest, The Naked Farmer - Ben Brooksby," explained Club President Justin Lane.  "It will be a great opportunity for our community to come together, enjoy the racing and off-track entertainment and toss in their gold coins for Ben's nominated charity, the RFDS mental health unit." What started as a bit of fun with a tasteful nude photo of Ben in "the buff" laying back in a truck load of lentils in order to educate consumers about the work that goes into putting food on their plate, has grown into a cheeky but powerful platform for raising awareness of mental health issues in the bush and providing support for the many sufferers.  Ben directs The Naked Farmer's fundraising efforts towards the RFDS mental health unit.  “I chose them because their professionals visit our remote towns and properties, providing treatment, support and mental health education for our rural communities,” he explained. Factors such as social isolation, lack of community connection and limited mental health services along with severe economic hardship caused by drought, fire and flood all contribute to the agricultural sector's over representation in Australia's (shocking) suicide rate. "Having dealt with mental health first hand, seeing others struggle with it and having family and friends take their own lives has encouraged me to stand up and help in any way I can," said Ben.  All the profits from sales of The Naked Farmer 2019 Calendar went to the RFDS together with $1 from each pair of TNF undies and hats sold. "We raised a staggering $17,228 last year and looking to build on that in 2019," Ben said. Ben will be out and about on the spacious lawns at the Horsham Racing Centre, enjoying his day out at the Cup. No doubt he'll be in for a chat and a photo or two, so make sure you get your backside trackside with your family and friends on Sunday, March 31, and chip in a couple of bucks for the RFDS and be a part of this great community event.  You never know just what might happen and what the outcome may be!   Tony Logan and Helen Friend

Legendary WA reinsman Gary Hall Jnr took out the 2019 edition of the Decron Horse Care - Noel Smith Memorial - Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship on Monday afternoon. It was Hall's second time as competitor but the third occasion he had accepted the Horsham club's invitation to make the long, west to east haul.  "Back in 2009 I was having a few issues with being on aeroplanes and was a late-late scratching," he said. "But it turned out a good result for my replacement Lance Justice, who went on to win the title." Hall made it to Horsham for the 2010 series and finished in the middle of the tally board behind Jim Douglass (NSW) with a first, fifth and eighth from his three drives. "I really enjoyed the visit over here and hoped to be back again sooner, but this is the first time I've been able to slot it in since."  The first heat of the day saw Hall gain valuable points when partnering 50/1 chance Cripparno into fourth spot behind Ardens Winstar for the Chris Alford/David Drury combo. Heat two saw Hall lead all the way with the Michael Stanley debutant Off The Bench to gain maximum points after looking likely to be run down by the 70/1 outsider Crowded Reactor (Rob Morris/Bec East), who galloped in the shadows of the post. It was a popular win on social media, with Off The Bench part-owned by Craig Hutchison and AFL footballer and trots ambassador Josh Jenkins. The horse had been much discussed in the lead-up on the Off The Bench radio program, which airs throughout Victoria on Saturday mornings. Hall then drove a trademark heady race aboard Emma Stewart's very smart four-year-old entire Concealment in the third round of the contest to score by five metres over the $1.50 favourite Crime Writer (Chris Alford/Matt Craven). Heading into the fourth and final heat, Hall needed to beat a few others home with the 70/1 roughie Rocking Tess to secure the championship while Alford, Jason Lee and Michael Bellman had some chance of stealing the title if the cards fell their way.  Courtesy of a soft trip on the pegs, Rocking Tess managed to cross the line in sixth place, some 40 metres behind Major Times (Kerryn Manning/Emma Stewart) and Jean Luc (Chris Alford/Lance Justice) who fought out a very close finish. When accepting the Noel Smith Memorial shield from club president Justin Lane, Hall admitted that the luck had certainly fallen his way, but that it was still a great thrill to come out on top. Hall went on to thank series sponsor Merv Butterworth together with the many other sponsors who made the day so enjoyable, not just for the 10 invitees but all the trainers, drivers and owners  who have supported the meeting. He also thanked the Horsham club for staging what is "such a fun event for us."  While Hall took home the Noel Smith Memorial Shield, a host of trainers, drivers and owners also went home as winners with product and voucher giveaways courtesy of Decron Horse Care, Carbine Chemicals, Finn Tack, Mustad Australia, Oringi Protection Wear, Tabcorp Park Melton, Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association, Claire Weston Photography, Roma Pocock, Grafx Inc, Norton Estate Wines, Virbac Animal Health, Harness Breeders Victoria and Riverspa Apartments Moama.   Tony Logan

The life of a standardbred horse after harness racing commitments will take centre stage at Horsham Harness Racing Club's 2018 Pacing Cup meeting on Sunday. Nine-time winning pacer Kenny Trickem and former accomplished trotter Waikare Aristocrat have made a seamless transition to a new career under saddle and will appear at The Weekly Advertiser Pacing Cup celebration as ambassadors for Harness Racing Victoria's Harness Education and Rehoming, HERO, program. Cup patrons will have an up-close-and-personal opportunity to meet both horses as part of a new promotion called 'Pat Your HERO'. Waikare Aristocrat, 'Toff', has been involved with HERO since its inception. The 10-year-old trotting-bred gelding notched 15 wins for $124,160 in stakes from 69 race starts and worked his way down to metropolitan class before retiring in July 2015. He now regularly attends country cup and feature race meetings. HERO program manager Tanya McDermott, whose family bred and raced the son of Safely Kept, said the gelding thrived on human attention and demonstrated the renowned standardbred temperament "Toff is a people horse but has a special affinity with children," she said. "He likes nothing better than getting out and about and has travelled to all parts of the state to promote HERO. "He is also an accomplished show performer and enjoys trail and recreational rides. When he's not working for HERO, he is an excellent nanny, babysitting his yearling niece." The other HERO horse in Horsham, Kenny Trickem, was a favourite of trainer Luke Bryant's stable and has recently completed his re-education for riding under the care of Warren Cochrane at Cobe Lodge. Ms McDermott said Kenny Trickem, the son of Stonebridge Regal, last raced in September 2017 and was now available for sale to a loving forever home. She added that the horse had a magnificent nature and was 'very' laid back under saddle. "Kenny is a gem. His racing owners were passionate about finding him the perfect life after racing opportunity and he will be the ultimate trail-riding companion for his new owner," she said. "He is so entirely relaxed and loves to get out in the bush. Not much happens in a rush in Kenny's world, he epitomises the standardbred temperament we all love." Now in its third year, HERO is designed to create positive pathways for standardbred horses exiting racing, catering for horses that had ended their career and others that fail to make it to the track. "HERO works directly with the harness-racing industry, its breeders, owners, trainers and drivers," Ms McDermott said. "The program's focus is the facilitation of opportunities for standardbreds to transition from training to appropriate long-term retirement homes, primarily as ridden or pleasure harness horses. "Since HERO's inception, the support from all sectors of the harness-racing community has been extraordinary, not only those involved with the hands-on care and training of horses, but also sponsors, administrators and the like. "As a result, more standardbreds than ever before are placed into loving life after racing homes, which is a very satisfying outcome. "With the financial support of both HRV and the State Government via the Victorian Racing Industry Fund, we are providing tangible financial and practical support for retrainers and heightening the profile of standardbreds who make amazing pleasure horses after their racing life has concluded." People seeking further information about the HERO program can visit www.hrvhero.com.au, email hrvhero@hrv.org.au or phone 0407 413 156 during business hours.   TANYA McDERMOTT

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