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Super-talented South Australian pacer Culture King showed this week that he's right on target as he warms up for a tilt at some of the huge interstate harness racing riches on offer. Part-owner and trainer Paul Cavallaro said the four-year-old had been sent to New South Wales, specifically aimed at the inaugural $1Million Pace at Tabcorp Park Menangle. "We just sort of thought we'd give it a shot-he's a lovely horse, but we realize with that amount of stakemoney on offer, it's going to certainly attract the very best," Cavallaro said. "I've never really knocked him around and he's won 11 from 18 starts. So, he just might take the next step and show further improvement. That would be nice," he said. Culture King (Art Major-Tessace (Aces N Sevens) was sent late last year to Cobbitty, 60 kms south-west of Sydney, to be trained by Craig Cross. The bay horse trialled at Menangle on Monday and impressed with a comfortable win over the flying mile in a tick under 1.54. He was handled by Cross' number one pilot, champion reinsman Luke McCarthy. "I've spoken to Luke since and he was quite happy with the horse," Cavallaro said. "We were just pleased that he'd settled in well at their property because he virtually had the run of my place back home. I think Craig and Luke put them out into paddocks as much as possible so that's good. He's living the same life," Cavallaro said. Paul Cavallaro "They are now weighing up the options. Because Culture King is from interstate, he must have five starts in NSW prior to the start of heats of the million-dollar series," he said. To kick off proceedings, Culture King will compete at Goulburn this Sunday afternoon where he has drawn the three alley in the $12,000 Goulburn Soldiers Club Tom and Angela Hewitt Memorial. "There's 10 of us in the horse and we live as far away as Perth in WA. There are other owners in Sydney, Victoria and South Australia. We've had a ball so far-we're in it for the fun. But we'd all be rapt if we got a slice of the big stakes along the way," Cavallaro said. The lucrative $1M series will take in 14 tracks-basically half of NSW- in each of the State's harness racing regions, as well as Broken Hill. Preliminary $5000 heats at Broken Hill on May 3, will be followed by $10,000 heats at various tracks in the Hunter, Western Districts, Riverina and metropolitan. Quarter finals of $15,000; and $10,000 consolations will be from May 20-24, with the grand finale-$1M final and $25,000 and $50,000 consolations-at Menangle on May 31. Coincidentally it was at Menangle where Culture King caught Cavallaro's eye. "I went to the Ready to Run sale and he was the last one to trial. He ran a half in 56 secs which was second fastest to Lochinvar Art, now a superstar with David Moran," Cavallaro said. "I just loved him from the start. He was obviously unraced and hadn't trialled, but there was something special about him," he said. "Anyway, the price was way out of my league. I went on a holiday to Queensland, but there was probably not a day went past when I wasn't thinking about the horse. "I spoke to my mother-in-law on the telephone and she told me to count her in. It just snowballed from there, mainly through word of mouth and now the 10-member Ready to Run Syndicate races him." Prior to sending Culture King by road transport to Cobbitty late last month, Cavallaro had been "keeping him up to the mark" through a number of trials. "He was underdone the first time, but his next two were strong. I think he went around in 1.57 and home in 56 secs so I was really happy with him," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 15, 2020 -- Harness racing driver Ed McNeight, Jr. passed $10 million in career purses Wednesday at The Meadows with his victory aboard Big Booty Rudy in race 7. It was career win 3,516 for McNeight and lifted his total purses to $10,001,903. McNeight began his career on the Buffalo-Batavia circuit before relocating to The Meadows in 1994. He was inducted into the Upstate New York Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2011.   In Wednesday's feature, an $11,800 Conditioned Trot, following an aborted quarter-pole move, Slated To Win found his best stride down the backside and went on to score in 1:57.1. Dan Rawlings tipped Slated To Win at the quarter but wasn't happy with the way that was working out and was able to duck back to the cones. However, when he came first up with Slated To Win, the 4-year-old Uncle Peter-Slated For Success gelding wore down the leader, Aftermeyourfirst, and downed the rallying Malloy by a neck. Aftermeyourfirst saved show. Kelly Stackowicz trains Slated To Win for George Beck.   Tony Hall and trainer Scott Betts teamed for a pair of victories on the 13-race program while trainer Kevin Johnson and Rawlings also fashioned a double. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Friday when the card features a $2,307.96 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 1:05 PM. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association    

By Jonny Turner    Much has changed for the re-running of the group 3 Central Otago Trotting Cup at Wyndham today. The Central Otago Trotting Club feature at Omakau on January 2 was called off when leading driver Ricky May collapsed after suffering a medical event in its early stages. May was revived after the falling to the track from his sulky and then airlifted to Dunedin Hospital. He was subsequently transferred to Christchurch Hospital. The race has undergone significant changes with withdrawals and additions to the field that will compete over 2400m at its temporary venue. But those changes pale into insignificance when compared with the change May has gone through since the incident on January 2. The champion driver has made excellent progress and has returned to his Methven home. Canterbury driver Jonny Cox gets the chance to reunite with Nandolo, who he could not drive earlier this month because of suspension. Though Cox is glad to get back behind the John Howe-trained pacer, he wishes it was under different circumstances. “You never like to see anything like that happen to anyone. The main thing is Ricky is doing well.” Cox was behind Nandolo when he was beaten by his main rival, Heisenberg, in last month’s Ashburton Cup. Howe said after the race Nandolo may not have been at his best for the 3200m race and Cox agrees. “The horse had raced right through New Zealand Cup week and ‘‘Coaster’’ [Howe] was trying to look after him after he had had a lot of hard racing. “He was probably not quite ready for Ashburton and he did have quite a good blow after it. ‘‘He should be right up to the mark now.” Heisenberg looks the toughest horse for Nandolo to beat. Nandolo’s task to win looks easier now as A G’s White Socks, Vintage Cheddar and Jazzy Star are not starting in the re-run. Swamp Major and Franco Santino return alongside Nandolo and Heisenberg. Mach’s Back, Lawrence, Kilowatt Kid and Robyns Play have joined the field. The withdrawal of several high-class opponents does not mean Cox will look to dominate the race with Nandolo. “He is not that great in front. He knocks off a bit and you have to keep tapping him along. “He has got a lot of speed and if we were able to slot him in somewhere that could be his best chance.” Heisenberg was the early leader of the race at Omakau before he handed the front to A G’s White Socks. The 4yr-old led in his strong Ashburton Cup win and he looks the likely leader again today. Bookmakers opened Nandolo the $2.90 favourite for the Central Otago Cup when the fixed-odds market opened yesterday. The pacer was quickly backed in to $2.20. Heisenberg also received support, moving from $3.20 to $2.70. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Boom Kiwi and favourite for Saturday night's feature, Self Assured, is facing a very tricky return to Australia. The outstanding pacer, who many rate the most talented pacer in Australasia, drew the inside of the second line in the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup, the one draw co-trainer Mark Purdon didn’t want for the 2710m mobile Group 1. “That makes it tricky and we will have to look at our options at the start,” Purdon said. Those options look limited as Self Assured follows out two stablemates from the Emma Stewart team in Tam Major and The Storm Inside and if Purdon, driving Self Assured, elects to try his luck sticking to the inside early he isn’t likely to get many favours. So the punters who take the short odds are probably betting on him going back to near last to get into the running line. That could potentially leave him vulnerable to rivals who may not be as good, including his own stablemate Chase Auckland, but could get more economical trips. Chase Auckland has drawn barrier four (after emergencies) with fellow Kiwi pacer A G’s White Socks at barrier three and the three New Zealanders dominate the market. “Chase Auckland has come through last Friday (Cambridge) really well but Self Assured would still be our best chance this Saturday,” says Purdon. Former New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer has been allowed to miss this week’s race after casting a shoe in the Flying Mile and will instead target the Casey Classic on Saturday week as his lead-up to the Hunter Cup on February 1. South Auckland pacer Triple Eight is now also set to cross the Tasman to contest those same two races. Purdon’s Victoria Derby hope Smooth Deal has an awkward draw but will still start favourite in Saturday’s strongest heat of the Victoria Derby, where he meets Bad To The Bone and Line Up as well as last season’s Aussie juvenile star Be Happy Mach. They all need a top four finish to qualify for the final at Melton the following Saturday. Purdon is now also the caretaker trainer for Stylish Memphis who contests a Victoria Oaks heat this Saturday night. Oscar Bonavena was the only trotter from the All Stars stable to make the trip across the Tasman and races at Melton the following two Saturdays.   by Michael Guerin

Team Bond has strength in numbers. But that does not guarantee success, certainly not in the biggest event on the West Australian harness racing calendar, the Gr.1 $450,000 TABtouch WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park this Friday night. The famed Grand Circuit event, first staged in 1913 when Letty Lind proved triumphant, has a rich and proud history and features some of the biggest names of the sport, both human and equine. Champion pacers Pure Steel and Village Kid are forever etched in the pages of history with four wins apiece while the Gary Hall trained duo of The Falcon Strike and Im Themightyquinn have each won it three times. But many a talented horse and trainer/driver partnership have come up short over the course of time. Greg and Skye Bond, the husband and wife combination who work together from their picturesque Forrestdale property are yet to strike glory in the state’s biggest race. And it’s through no lack of trying. Since 2013, the leading stable has had 13 starters including six representatives last year with El Jacko doing best for the stable after finishing a close second behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Their list of starters during that period includes Can Return Fire, Russley Rascal, Ima Rocket Star, Our Jimmy Johnstone (x 3), Delightful Offer, Galactic Star (x 2), Our Max Phactor, Vampiro, Saying Grace and the already mentioned El Jacko. The stable never had a starter in 2016. In the 2020 version, the reigning State Trainers of the Year will have a record seven (7) starters facing the gate in the 2936m mobile start feature including Our Jimmy Johnstone (Bailey McDonough), Our Alfie Romeo (Michael Grantham), El Jacko (Kim Prentice), Mighty Conqueror (Dylan Egerton-Green), Ana Malak (Nathan Turvey), Vampiro (Colin Brown) and Galactic Star (Ryan Warwick). Is aging warrior Our Jimmy Johnstone the pick of their runners after landing the coveted inside gate? The 11-year-old gelding is lining up at his 4th attempt at glory; he had his first start in the WA Pacing Cup back in 2015 when he finished fourth behind My Hard Copy. He finished 11th in 2017 behind Chicago Bull while he was 5th last year behind Rocknroll Lincoln. Or will it be in-form mare Our Alfie Romeo to provide the couple with their maiden Pacing Cup trophy? Possessing a brilliant win strike rate and superb Gloucester Park record, the Washington VC mare will become the first mare since Pyramus (1972) to win the Pacing Cup. Both Ana Malak and Galactic Star seemed luckless last week in the Fremantle Cup behind Caviar Star while El Jacko, Mighty Conqueror and Vampiro all have solid claims with normal luck. Will the Pacing Cup go the way of the Gary Hall stable yet again? Since 2002, the Hall surname has featured in the winners list twelve times with Snr preparing 11 winners during that period while Jnr has driven eight (8) winners including last year’s victor Rocknroll Lincoln. Clint Hall combined with Snr to claim three straight winners – Hokonui Ben (2014) while My Hard Copy went back to back in 2015/16. Last week’s Fremantle Cup winner Caviar Star is the sole representative for the powerful stable and again will be handled by young Stuart McDonald. The last pacer to claim the Fremantle/WA Pacing Cup double in the same year was the Hall trained Chicago Bull in 2017. Will the husband and wife combination of Chris and Debbie Lewis land the Pacing Cup with their emerging star Bill Haley? His third placing last week in the Fremantle Cup gives an excellent chance of providing Chris Lewis his sixth winner in the event after previous victories behind Village Kid (x 3), Hilarion Star and Saab. Golden Nugget winner Shockwave is looking to bounce back following his unplaced effort last week in the Fremantle Cup, trainer Ryan Bell has handed the reins to Gary Hall Jnr again and is hoping to land his biggest success as a trainer. Shockwave is co-owned by Kevin Jeavons who shared in the ownership of 2010 winner Washakie. Former WA Derby winner Handsandwheels is looking to overcome a tough run last week in the Fremantle Cup but faces a difficult challenge after landing a second-line draw. Aiden De Campo will take the drive behind the classy six-year-old entire, a pacer he prepares himself. And evergreen performer Vultan Tin lines up for his third Pacing Cup start, the Phil Costello trained gelding has finished 10th in the past two editions (Rocknroll Lincoln & Soho Tribeca). Regular reinsman Chris Voak will take the drive behind the popular performer. The WA Pacing Cup is the fifth leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Australian owned and New Zealand trained Cruz Bromac sits atop of the leaderboard with 170 points after contesting all four legs staged to date. No runners from the east coast of Australia are represented this year owing to transport difficulties. The TABtouch WA Pacing Cup is scheduled as race 6 and listed to start at 7.58pm local time.   by Chris Barsby

Hightstown, NJ — Dexter Dunn wasted little time in making a name for himself in North America. In his first full season of harness racing competing in the U.S. and Canada, the 30-year-old New Zealand native won 460 races and more than $12 million in purses on his way to being named Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. He ranked eighth in wins and third in earnings among all drivers on the continent. Among the highlights for Dunn were sitting behind Dan Patch Award-winning 3-year-old male pacer Bettor’s Wish and piloting Manchego to the fastest mile ever by a female trotter, 1:49 at Red Mile. Dunn will receive his award Feb. 23 at the Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Fla. “It was a massive thrill,” Dunn recently told Racing from the Meadowlands co-host Dave Little on the Big M’s In the Sulky broadcast. “It’s really a dream come true. I just had a great year with the horses I got to drive. The support I got was huge. It was a big thrill.” Dunn came to the U.S. during the summer of 2018 at the invitation of trainer Chris Ryder, a longtime family friend. A native of Christchurch, Dunn led New Zealand’s premiership in wins for 10 consecutive years from 2008 through 2017 and his 2,225 wins ranked fifth in history there. Upon his arrival stateside, Dunn picked up two wins on the 2018 Grand Circuit, with Ryder’s Stonebridge Soul in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes and trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman’s Southwind Avenger in the Valley Victory Stakes. Last year, he was a major player on the Grand Circuit, where his wins included Breeders Crown finals with Norman’s Amigo Volo and trainer Nancy Takter’s Manchego, as well as the Fan Hanover with trainer Tony Alagna’s Treacherous Reign. Counting restricted stakes, Dunn won 25 races worth at least $100,000 in 2019. “I got lucky,” Dunn said. “I got, obviously, great support from Chris Ryder and Nifty Norman when I got here. They gave me a chance early on and put me on some horses with ability and got me going. I guess it was a snowball effect from there. I picked up other ones and it sort of just ran on from there. It was a surprising season, I didn’t expect it whatsoever, but it was great and thoroughly enjoyable.” Bettor’s Wish was Dunn’s top horse, winning 13 of 19 races and never finishing worse than second on his way to leading harness racing in purses with $1.64 million. He colt won the Carl Milstein Memorial, Art Rooney Pace, Matron Stakes, a division of the Tattersalls Pace, and the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship. He finished second in the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace, Messenger Stakes, Breeders Crown, and against older horses in the TVG Series Open Pace championship. The colt was named the sport’s best 3-year-old male pacer in Dan Patch Award voting and is a top contender for Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year, both of which will be announced at the awards banquet next month. “The horse is once-in-a-lifetime for someone like me to be able to drive,” Dunn said. “He had an unbelievable year. He’s just so tough and game. He had some pretty tough runs, but he bounced back week after week. I almost feel sorry for him. I think if I had drove him a bit smarter in some of those big races, he would have won them. But he was just awesome all year.” To watch Little’s complete In the Sulky interview with Dunn, which also covers topics such as his former rugby aspirations, win in the 2015 World Driving Championship, and the differences in racing in New Zealand and North America, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Dexter Dunn wins 7 races at The Meadowlands on Saturday night.   Superstar Down Under harness racing Driver Dexter Dunn who was recently crowned United States Harness Writers Association's Driver of the Year produces an amazing night of driving to win 7 races. Just one win off equalling the all-time record for amount of wins at The Meadowlands in a single night of racing.   He won race 1 and 2 and then from race 5 went on to win 5 races in a row.   Two of his winners were on former down under horses. The first being Italian Delight N who paced his winning mile fresh up in 1:50.1 in a $16,000 pace.   “The feel he give me I think he can have a pretty good winter”, Dunn said of Italian Delight N.   Another former Down Under pacer, Effronte A was also among Dunns 7 wins. Effronte A won the $16,000 Pace in a very strong mile time of 1:48.3, making him the fastest pacer in 2020 to date.   Another highlight of the winners was aboard trotter JL Cruze who was successful in the $15,000 Trot in a time of 1:51.2. JL Cruze is a quality square gaiter who was the first ever trotter in Meadowlands history to break 1:50 for a mile.   The remainder of Dunns wins were on Willie Boots in 1:52.2, Major Omen in 1:50.2, Harambe Deo in 1:50.2 and Hurrikane Ali in 1:51.2.   Tuesday 7 th January Yonkers Raceway NY Milliondollargem A – Time: 1:55.1, Stake: $14,500     Wednesday 8 th January Dover Downs DE Flashazz N – Time: 1:56.3, Stake: $14,000 Soho Burning Love A – Time: 1:52.2, Stake: $16,000 Lucky Artist A – Time: 1:53.4, Stake: $7,500     Thursday 9 th January Dover Downs DE Robbie Burns N – Time: 1:52.0, Stake: $7,500 Kasey John A – Time: 1:51.0, Stake: $16,000 Mister Ohanzee A – Time: 1:51.3, Stake: $16,000 Bigonpersonality N – Time: 1:51.1, Stake: $14,500   Freehold Raceway NJ Ginger Spice N – Time: 2:00.3, Stake: $4,200   Yonkers Raceway NY Jewel Lehigh A – Time: 1:55.4, Stake: $14,500 Donegal Rundlescreek N – Time: 1:56.2, Stake: $17,000     Friday 10 th January Miami Valley Raceway OH Eliza Dushku N – Time: 1:53.2, Stake: $24,000   The Meadows PA Poacher N – Time: 1:54.2, Stake: $9,000   Yonkers Raceway NY Kimani N – Time: 1:54.0, Stake: $17,000 Rockin The Boys A – Time: 1:53.2, Stake: $20,000 The Charging Moa A – Time: 1:53.1, Stake: $27,000   Woodbine Mohawk Park CA Lady Rocknrolla A – Time: 1:55.4, Stake: $16,000     Saturday 11 th January Freehold Raceway NJ Executive Dash N – Time: 1:54.2, Stake: $6,300 Polak A – Time: 1:52.0, Stake: $12,000   Meadowlands NJ Italian Delight N – Time: 1:50.1, Stake: $16,000 Effronte A – Time: 1:48.3, Stake: $16,000   Miami Valley Raceway OH Persistent Threat A – Time: 1:54.1, Stake: $20,000   Yonkers Raceway NY American Boy N – Time: 1:52.4, Stake: $20,000 Soho Lennon A – Time: 1:52.2, Stake: $20,000 Ourlittlegeneral A – Time: 1:53.2, Stake: $22,000   Woodbine Mohawk Park CA Sly Eleanor N – Time: 1:55.1, Stake: $16,000 High Rolling A – Time: 1:55.0, Stake: $20,000     Sunday 12 th January Flamboro Downs CA   Uncle Ben N – Time: 1:56.2, Stake: $5,000     Previous weeks 7th January 2020 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 24th December 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 17th December 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 10th December 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 3rd December 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 26th November 2019 + Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 19th November 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 12th November 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 5th of Nov 2019 + Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 29th October 2019 + Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 22nd October 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 15th October 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 8th October 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 1st October 2019 - Down Under Winners with Carter Dalgety 24th Sep 2019 - Down Under Winners with Carter Dalgety 17th Sep 2019 - Down Under Winners with Carter Dalgety 11th Sep 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 3rd Sep 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 27th Aug 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 20th Aug 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 12th Aug 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 5th Aug 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 29 Jul 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety 24 Jul 2019 - Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety   Carter Dalgety        

One of the most colorful and talented of Australia's female harness racing pioneers is back in the winner's circle. The highly-skilled and prolific former Victorian horsewoman Gaita Pullicino is rekindling her relationship with the sport she loves as a driver in South Australia - and success was never going to be far away. "I'm just so excited-I love the industry and horses have always been a big part of my life. I've still got the fire in the belly," an obvious delighted Pullicino said after her first winner at Globe Derby Park on Saturday night. The lightweight reinswoman was at her best to land six-year-old gelding Farbio (Aldebaran Yankee-Call Me Nancey (Straphanger) in the Air Diffusion Agencies Trotters Handicap. An elated Gaita Pullicino crosses the line on square-gaiter Farbio  (Harness Racing SA photo) "We decided to make a fresh start in South Australia with my husband Frank being the trainer of our team and me getting back to driving, which I love. We were very lucky to find a lovely property at Mallala," Pullicino said. The Pullicinos' property is on 45 acres and includes a 650-metre banked track, stables, paddocks, a horse walker and bungy pool. With a chequered career behind her in Victoria, the ever-enthusiastic Gaita is keen to move on and continue building on her impressive strike-rate as a driver. Pullicino was a pioneer of female drivers in her home State along with Debbie Quinlan (née Turner), Pam Wilson, Leonie Collins, Ruby Tyack and others. "Back in the 1970s I remember we weren't allowed to drive in Victoria, but new ground had been broken in NSW and females got the green light through the efforts of Margaret Frost," she said. "I was just champing at the bit. I ended up convincing my late father Leli Mifsud to nominate a horse in Albury, NSW where I could drive. "That was in 1979 and it was stinking hot. It had to be close to 50 degrees. The bitumen was melting and our old Chevy boiled so many times on the way I thought we were never going to get there. "We drew barrier three with Ben Rowland. We jumped to the front, led all the way and I got a winner at my first attempt!" Pullicino has gone onto drive hundreds of winners, but Saturday night's comeback victory, on the eve of the 37th anniversary of her dad's death, was extra special. Pullicino is a member of one of Victoria's most prominent harness racing families. "There are five girls and three boys in our family, and we're all involved in the sport in one way or another," she said. Before getting back in the sulky this month, Pullicino's last drive was in April 2015 (when she finished second at a Geelong meeting) but she is thrilled to be resuming her career in South Australia. "We have always liked competing in SA. I'm at the stage of life where I enjoy racing just a couple of times each week-I'm too old to race too often!" she laughed. "There's some nice horses in the team and we hope Farbio, owned by the Cormack family, can keep improving because we like him a lot. Its Elvis is another that we think can do a job for us." She's hard-pressed to name favorites among the many handy performers she's been associated with over the years - but a Ballarat cup win in the early '90s with speedster You Wish is a cherished memory. "You Wish was owned by Mario Zammit and he was a very fast horse. When I got him to train, he was a lowly C3, but he ended up in open class," she said. "Another was Revonez, who I trained and drove when he ran second to the mighty Courage Under Fire in the Australia Derby at Moonee Valley, with Shakamaker in third spot." And for a favorite driver? "That's an easy one," says Pullicino. "Bendigo's Brian Gath is a legend of the sport. He's my idol and he's always been very good to us."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

NOT only is classy Kiwi three-year-old Smooth Deal in by far the strongest Victoria Derby heat, but he’s also got a wide draw to overcome. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s lone Derby contender has drawn gate six, second from the outside, in a heat which also boasts prepost Derby favourite Be Happy Mach (gate 10), other Kiwis Line Up (gate 3) and Bad To The Bone (nine), along with classy former Kiwi Virgil (five) and Emma Stewart’s pair Mach Dan (one) and Carlas Mach (two). Remembering the three Derby heats at Ballarat on Saturday night, mean only the first four home are guaranteed a spot in the final at Melton a week later. There’s loads of speed underneath Smooth Deal, but if Purdon goes back he will be behind main dangers like Be Happy Mach and Bad To The Bone. The key runners in the first Derby heat are Emma Stewart’s Pacifico Dream (gate seven), the regally-bred and very exciting Soho Hamilton (nine) and emerging Youaremy Sunshine (10). Exciting Queenslander Governor Jujon, a sparkling Group 2 Menangle winner last outing, holds the key from gate two in the second Derby heat. Other key runners are Stewart’s Gee Smith (one), Yejele Hammer (three), Mirragon (six) and Anthony Butt’s former Kiwi Perfect Stride (seven). It is a similar story with star NZ filly Stylish Memphis in her heat of the Victoria. Purdon confirmed he would be driving and looking after the filly for Mark Jones in Victoria, but she has a wide draw (gate six) to overcome in the first Oaks heats. Stylish Memphis is drawn outside another Kiwi, Cran Dalgety’s Dr Susan, who sparkled winning at Group 2 level at Menangle last Saturday and packs plenty of gate speed. One of Emma Stewart’s top Oaks hopefuls, Amelia Rose, has drawn the pole in that heat, but races better with a sit. The other key runners in the heat are Stewart’s emerging and speedy Shesskylah and Adam Kelly’s classy and in-form Alice Kay, but they’ve drawn the back in gates 10 and 11 respectively. Like the Derby, the Oaks heats go to the staying test of 2710m this year so that’ll test lots of the fillies who would never have been tested at the distance. Stewart rates last season’s star juvenile Maajida here best Oaks hope and she’s drawn gate six in the second heat where the major rivals look to be stablemates Jemstone (eight) and Treasure (10). There are only two heats of the Oaks. ___________________________________________________________________________________ SURPRISINGLY, there isn’t a Kiwi in sight in the feature trot at Ballarat on Saturday night. The Kiwis raiders are all waiting another week for the Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton and another week later, the Group 1 Great Southern Star, also at Melton. So Aussie star Tornado Valley looks the one to beat at Ballarat despite drawing the back row (gate nine) and not being able use his blazing gate speed in the Group 2 Cochran Trotters’ Cup (2200m). Last year’s Great Southern Star winner, Dance Craze (gate eight), and former star juvenile Wobelee (10), are the other key runners.   by Adam Hamilton

By Jonny Turner    West Melton mare Miss Mucho can help continue the mid season momentum of her trainer Tony Barron at Timaru today. Miss Mucho and Sheree Tomlinson will attempt to repeat the impressive win they combined for at Omakau in a competitive junior driver’s event. The 4yr-old fired up her trainer’s season when powering away from her maiden rivals to win by nearly five lengths at Omakau. The victory was Barron’s first for the season and came with just his 11th starter. The West Melton trainer has had a quiet start to this term, but it has clearly about to heat up. “We haven’t lined up many, mostly because we have been working on quite a few young ones,” Barron said. “It’ll be good to line a few of them up, but I am looking forward to next season even more, to be honest.” Tomlinson gave Miss Mucho a brilliant steer at Omakau, keeping her out of a hectic early pace before letting her charge home to win. Barron is hoping the reinswoman can produce more of the same in today’s 2600m mobile. “It was a great drive by Sheree at Omakau, the way she stayed out of the early speed.” “If they go hard she will be able to do the same at Timaru, but she is a pretty adaptable mare.” “So, if she needs to she will be able to get around them.” Barron hopes Miss Mucho can score a penalty free win in today’s race to help the mare’s progress. “It would be great to pick up a free one, it would just make it a bit easier on her.” “I might look at bringing her down south after this for a crack at the Robin Dundee Crown.” Miss Mucho will need to work to notch a penalty free win, judging by the quality of today’s field. Talented pacers Burlington, Kensington Bill and Firenze Amore are among the line up. Barron also lines up Matau Meg in race 2 and Glassy Web in race 5. Both have their share of ability, but must overcome horror second row draws. Matau Meg, who starts from barrier 13, went a sound race for third behind Lucys Delight in her last start at Omakau from barrier 1. Glassy Web will be worse off when he starts from barrier 14 following his seventh behind Itz All Down To Luck at Omakau. Talented 4yr-old Pressed For Time must overcome a 30m handicap to win race 6, today’s feature pace. The Tom Bagrie trained mare bolted in in her first start since winning last season’s Southland Oaks final at Rangiora, earlier this month. Pressed For Time’s task in today’s race has been made a little easier with the scratching of her main rival, Just Holla. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The Grand Prix de Cornulier (monte, Gr.I International, 2700 meters, purse 650,000€) is set for Sunday and initially 29 horses were engaged in what is likely to be an 18 horse field. The well-regarded Bilibili, Fado du Chene and Traders are among the top prospects. Bilibili, trained by Laurent Claude Abrivard for breeder/owner Jean Pierre Barjon, is a nine year old son of Niky and has proven to be an accomplished monte performer as he won the 2019 version of the Cornulier, the richest monte event, and has lifetime earnings of 1,510,600€. by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

The riches-laden racing record of Princess Tiffany is set to be added to over the next month or so with the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained mare making her first appearance this time in at Rangiora trials on Tuesday. While the trial win (the daughter of Art Major won well in an overall time of 2.29.9 over the 2000m mobile) had its usual class about it more pressing matters will be foremost in her connections minds as they plot their way towards Group racing success in both New Zealand and Australia. Immediate racing options for Princess Tiffany would seem abundant but also come with a catch as the Group 1 Breeders Stakes at Addington on February the 14th, itself a fine race to compete in and potentially win, clashes ever-so-closely with two Ladyship Mile lead-in races on Australian turf with those races all but promising Ladyship Mile starts to those finishing within the top three. The Breeders Stakes offers that carrot only for the horse first across the line.. A betting man could offer a compromise of a bob-each-way with Princess Tiffany competing at Addington and, if missing out on that prize, flying the Tasman for a tilt at The Robin Dundee on the 22nd the following week although that would seem a stern examination of the horses ability to have three major races (if you include the then following Ladyship Mile) in a little over two weeks and would be highly dependent on logistics falling into place. As things are it would seem a bounty of sorts awaits whatever racing schedule is decided and with Princess Tiffany's NSW and Queensland Oaks wins no doubt fresh in the memory bank you couldn't blame connections demanding a continued assault on group racing features on Australian soil. Buyers at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale can snare a little of the Princess Tiffany factor for themselves in the form of "Miki Diamonds" who is being offered by Breckon Farms. The colt ,lot 103 , is by Always B Miki and is a 1/2 brother to both Princess Tiffany and Rock Diamonds (22 wins) with first dam Dancing Diamonds being a NZ Yearling Sales Championship Final winner herself. The maternal line and wider family has produced wonderful racetrack results of late and include Sir Major Stride, 1.55.1 pacer Code Red and the Golden Slipper winner of 2010 in the form of Ohoka's Bondy. To say it's a family of winners would be understating it by some margin. by Ben Mcmillan, for Harnesslink    

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

POPULAR Sky Channel harness racing presenter Brittany Graham swapped "gigs" recently with great success at Albion Park. The accomplished on-track interviewer and studio anchor slipped into her harness racing silks to steer Big Bang Leonard for her trainer sister Stephanie - and a short time later was the toast of punters, at 4/1. And she did it with aplomb! After being near the tail of the field for most of the way, Big Bang Leonard (Art Major-Finest (D M Dillinger) stormed home four and five wide down the extreme outside to snatch victory with at "The Creek" on Thursday. The pair were eight lengths from the leader Chapter One (Grant Dixon) at the bell with the race being run at a fast clip. Sections of 27.3, 28.8, 28.8 and 28.5 tell the story. It was the fifth win in a row for the 9yo gelding who is racing in near career best form. He now has 19 wins and 40 placings from 139 starts for $147,000. Brittany is the owner of Big Bang Leonard but due to work commitments she's been able to handle him on only two of his most recent triumphs. Skilled reinsman Adam Sanderson has taken the reins on the other occasions. For the 17 race drives she's been able to fit in this season, 23-year-old Graham has managed four wins - and before giving up the driving game professionally, she had more than 250 winners to her name. _______________________________________________________________________________________ THERE'S a handy combination emerging around Sydney harness racing circles at the moment. Talented young reinswoman Ashley Hart is something of a quiet achiever but as a talented junior, she's putting the runs on the board for Menangle's Tim Butt stable. Young Ashley has taken the reins for Tim on four occasions for a 100 percent return. The latest of her four wins was Mac Almighty (Mach Three-Dollys Daughter (Beach Towel) at Bankstown, giving her bragging rights over her better-known brother, Cameron, who finished runner-up on Abitmorebliss. Mac Almighty has now had 44 starts for eight wins and 17 placings for $60k. Ashley Hart (Ashlea Brennan photograph) _______________________________________________________________________________________ MENANGLE based horseman Rickie Alchin made a successful trip home to Temora at the weekend. Alchin, one of the most energetic people in the industry, cut his teeth in the well-known harness racing town in the NSW Riverina. With a population of about 6000, it's 400kms south-west of the State capital. Alchin won at the annual cup meeting with 4yo Regulus (Christian Cullen-Sheez Not Perfect (Perfect Art), sent out a warm $1.22 fav. He later finished sixth in the $15,000 Pacers Cup with Little Change-the winner being Rusty Crackers, trained by Brooke McPherson, and driven by her boyfriend Thomas Gilligan. While back home, Alchin took his well-known "Pop" Russell Harpley out to Yirribee Pacing Stud to check on a few of his future stars. He says his "Pop" and Nanna Pam are his greatest supporters. Alchin reports his star trotter Tough Monarch has been freshened after a gruelling NZ Inter campaign and he's looking at the Great Southern Star event at Melton. And while Rickie is doing his best to put Temora on the map, it's still perhaps better known for the "Temora Tornado" - aka Paleface Adios. The flashy chestnut pacer with the unbelievable never-say-die attitude mesmerized trots fans from 1972 to 1981 with 108 wins. Rickie Alchin made the most of a recent trip home to Temora with Regulus _______________________________________________________________________________________ MORE and more heartfelt support continues to come from our industry for those hit by the shocking bushfires still devastating our country. Manuka Health New Zealand has donated a shipment of high grade manuka honey with aloe vera as well as boxes of wound dressings for horse owners. Many competitors, including Robert and KerryAnn Morris, of Sydney, are giving a portion of their winning earnings to appeals, while the Tassie Yole stable has gone past the $1100 figure in donations with five meetings to go. HRNSW and Club Menangle have so far pledged over $26k to bushfire relief. Donations to WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) of $15,400 and Red Cross, $11,200, will steadily increase during the month. For every odd-numbered horse that wins, $200 goes to WIRES, and for every even numbered horse, a similar amount goes to Red Cross. Matt and Jackie Peterson horse transport in Stanhope have been amazing, moving 325 horses free of charge from fire danger zones. They can now also pick up donations of hay in their travels. A big pat on the back to drivers Steph, Tim, Loz, Ebony and Peter. Team Yole in Tasmania is keeping the till ticking over for bushfire victims   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

By Jonny Turner    Some brilliant home straight maneuvering from Robbie Close helped Bringitonhome head a track record breaking quinella for trainer Regan Todd at Nelson on Sunday. The 6yr-old unleashed a powerful finish after Close negotiated a passage out of a horror spot on the home bend to help Bringitonhome run down his stablemate Taxman and win in a sizzling mile (1609m) time of 1-52.2. Todd was full of praise for Close’s home straight handywork that guided Bringitonhome through the tightest of gaps. “It was a great drive by Robbie to get him through those gaps,” Todd said. Though he was beaten by more than a length, Todd rated Taxman’s effort to run second in the race’s hot time just as good as the winner. “They both went great – Taxman went just as good as the winner after doing a lot of work in the race.” “I was rapt with both of them.” The chance to race middle grade pacers off level marks in Sunday’s mile feature was a key to Bringitonhome scoring his first win since April of last year. “It was a really good opportunity to race those kind of horses off level marks,” Todd said. “He had raced in some pretty good fields through the cup carnival and that race was probably a bit easier than them.” “If there were more of those kind of races people might be able to keep more of the horses in that grade.” Bringitonhome and Taxman are likely to take different paths out of Sunday’s feature. Neither will return to the top of the South Island for this weekend’s Marlborough meeting. Bringitonhome could contest the Invercargill Cup later this month. Taxman will stick to mobile racing and head to the upcoming premier night at Addington. “I will discuss it with the owners, but Bringitonhome could go to the Invercargill Cup.” “It might just depend on what handicap he will be off.” The track record Bringitonhome broke lasted just two races. Earlier on Sunday, Marlborough battler Sonic Reign seriously upgraded his resume with a booming 1-53.9 mile (1609m) win in rating 40-45 company. Driver Tim Williams sat the Kevin Musso trained 5yr-old off a strong speed set up by Barkley and All Nuts N Bolts, before launching his winning run before the home turn. Todd will have two runners in his form hometown of Wyndham on Thursday. Seamark will attempt to go one better than his second on debut at Omakau. Swamp Major will contest the rerunning of the Central Otago Cup.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Smoky conditions greeted participants and spectators for the start of another year of trotting at Warragul today (Monday).   There were eight races which produced good contests and fast times, despite some small fields.   Gippsland born reinswoman Michelle Phillips returned home from her Bendigo base to drive another winner at the Pacing Bowl after her first success on the track at Warragul's December meeting.   Michelle drove the first starter Crocrock to an all the way victory in the fourth race for Bendigo trainer Chris Svanosio.   Michelle Phillips all smiles after her winning drive with Crocrock   Her victory was the third in a row on the day for female drivers - Shannon O'Sullivan drove Its The Emblem to win the second event for Cranbourne trainer Bill Kucks, while Kate Gath steered Goodtime Pe Rabbit to an all the way victory in the Trotters Handicap for Gruyere horseman Peter Goudie.   Top reinsman Greg Sugars and Chris Alford again collected their share of success at the meeting.   Alford drove the opening race winner, Say A Prayer, for Longwarry horseman Geoff Walker, along with Heavens Showgirl and Its Longtall Sally for Drouin West's Quinlan stable.   Sugars and his wife Jess Tubbs produced the Daily Double with Robert The Bruce and Little Peanut.   The two top drivers look set to battle out another driving premiership at Warragul with six meetings remaining in the season. Next trots at Warragul are on Monday afternoon, February 3rd.     by Kyle Galley

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