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When writing on any sector in the equine industry - it's a positive sign when the sport in question threw up so many feel good moments and exciting events that the problem is condensing the news into the allotted space. 2019 saw world class harness racing performances on the track and major progress at organisational level in Irish harness racing. Despite huge efforts by the IHRA to entice horsemen to race early in the season the local scene got off to a stuttering start. The April columns in this paper were buoyed by good news from America where Reclamation, still part owned by Donal Murphy (the main owner being Bill Donovan ) and Robyn Camden, owned by Dubliner Jason O'Sullivan, both ran up winning sequences. The latter mare continued her winning ways into ' the fall '. Another feature of 2019 was healthy progress in the career of Jack Killeen of Tallaght as a driver in the USA and Ballydehob born Robbie Cleary, who is building a big reputation as a public trainer in New Jersey. Robbie featured in an October report wherein he signed for the top priced pacing yearling at the Harrisburg sales. Back at home, both Billy Roche and John Richardson took headlines in the pre - Delaney meetings and the two great rivals traded blows all summer. Richardson was to take both the national and Portmarnock drivers titles - a late surge ( a four timer in fact ) at the deciding meeting secured The Irish Field silver salver and a generous cheque. Billy won a separate title for driving the most Trotteurs Francais winners. He has no peers when it comes to freshening up old battle hardened geldings. May saw a feast of nostalgia as the followers celebrated 50 years at Portmarnock. Jack Wilson (86) who won the final at the opening meeting is still alive and well and was guest of honour at a dinner at the track. There was much mention of the visionary Hughie Richardson who teamed up with thoroughbred breeder WJ Mc Enery to open a 400 yard track. The 18th May meeting was full of memories of man and beast : Paddy Kane, Paddy Manning , Walter Cunningham, Ulex, Eastwood Relko and Smoke Away. The summer highlights came and went - racing at ' heaven on earth ' (Inchydoney Strand ), followed a few weeks later by the superbly organised Red John Memorial near Clonakilty. The world renowned Vincent Delaney meeting was graced by a skilful American driver, one Jordan Stratton, and saw a home victory in the fillies (Rainbow Writer) and a British based winner in the colts (Mattuceuous). In September John Richardson and Jonny Cowden brought the house down at Tir Prince, North Wales. Jonny won a graded race with the Coreys' Fairdays Western. JR took Britain's biggest race for French Trotters with Maxie Collins' Besame Mucho and followed up with their biggest race for pacers ' The Crock of Gold ' on his own Gentleman Jim. The Coleraine yard of Walter Stewart hit winning form in the autumn. Porterstown Courage won the Red Mills All Ireland Final and Ladyford Dollar picked up major races for three year olds in Ireland and one across the water. Sean Kane, second on four occasions previously in France shook off his jinx on November 16th when he drove the unfancied Delsa Derangere to win during the France vs. Ireland competition at l' Hippodrome d'Argentan in Normandy. Sean has only 3,999 to go to catch up with Charlie Mills, the Irishman, who dominated European trotting on the post - war years. Late in the season Bobby Barry's Blackwell Ruby, lightly raced in these islands won her first start in the USA. BEST MOMENTS IN 2019 ; To see Jack Wilson sitting alongside John Richardson in a two seater training cart behind Emeric Perreux summed up a lifetime of racegoing for me. Jack actually owned Windys Son, John's first drive in a race in 1981. Windys Son failed to win a race. The driver went on to win 1300 and counting. A few weeks later Jack presented a cup to Stevie Lees who won the Bookmakers Pace with Panam Colt, a catch drive for Billy Roche. The hardened pro, with the scars to prove it and Corinthian Jack, a baker by trade. I was within earshot, and was impressed that little Stevie took so much interest in Jack. PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR : The performance of the year was on Irish soil from a pair of gifted English hands. Stevie Lees' inspired move when he sensed a lull in the pace at the half in the Bookmakers Pace ( Lees was on the aforementioned Panam Colt ). That stuff cannot be taught - you either have it or you don't. The aptly named Miraculous put up the equine performance of the year in breaking the track record in August. The time of 1.54.6 is stunning when we consider that most of the Irish and British horses which have tried their hand in the US have 'found ' six or seven seconds due to climate and tracks. I refuse to say training methods as I would back the best of the Irish and English trainers against all comers. ONE THING WE GOT RIGHT IN 2019 : The introduction of the Tiny Hooves Series of pony racing has been an unqualified success. The joy on the children's faces and also their adult co -drivers was sight to behold. Well done to Nadina, Mary and Leah and any other helpers. Plans and some welcome funding from Horse Sport Ireland are afoot to improve the racing and most importantly the training of the young drivers. ONE THING WE NEED TO IMPROVE : I am mindful that the racing is run by unpaid volunteers, therefore I am loath to criticise any aspect of the sport. I must also confess a vested interest as a working bookie at the track. There is simply too much confusion in communicating driver changes and handicap marks over the PA system. I have lost count of the number of horses which went behind the car with a driver in the bike different to the card and/or the announcement. Scottish and Welsh harness racing and also point to points are also run by volunteers and in my experience have an almost 100% accuracy in this aspect. If we wish to sell the product to betting chains this has to be ' regimental ' AN UNSUNG HERO : Ivan Swindle of Fermanagh has done sterling work in building a glass fronted bar and canteen at Annaghmore Raceway. Hopefully the little facility will be open in 2020. Another of our unsung heroes, a giant in the sport, is currently on a sabbatical from fence painting, track grading, battery charging, and number cloth repairing. I appeal to this individual to come back to the fold, the racing is poorer without your input. Come back, and then we can sing about you ! PREDICTION FOR 2020 - 2019 will be a hard act to follow. My gut feeling is that with so much knowledge and effort amongst Irish horsemen that something is going to break ( not that type of break ! ) that puts Ireland on a world stage. It could be a horse ( Blackwell Ruby, Reclamation or Gentleman Jim ) or a horseman ( Sean Kane, Alan Richardson or Robbie Cleary ) or a major race in Ireland. I put in my letter to Santa that it would be great if a US based trainer would buy a colt or filly (he / she wouldn't need to be a sales topper ) for the VDM and then get the horse ready for the big race in North America before flying the animal here for the big weekend. The venture won't break even but what a story that would make ! by Dan Carlin, for the Irish Field    

Where do we go from here? Horse racing is caught struggling against an increasingly competitive sports betting platform which leaves the sport proverbially behind the eight ball - so to speak. Why is this? Well it’s because we have done absolutely nothing innovative to draw the betting public to our product. In your eyes you may think we are one of the ‘best entertainment values around’ - because it costs you nothing to watch the sport and the core product hasn’t really changed in at least my lifetime. Take a look at the sports betting industry and the constant innovative product they bring to the table and think about that for a minute. Now that you’ve thought that over - switch the focus strictly to horse racing and the lack of innovation you’ve witnessed in your lifetime. I’m a horse player and I’m a sports gambler. I have a hard time selling horse racing to someone who tells me the product isn’t good and I can’t make money betting horses.   Talk to most race book operators in Las Vegas (and I have spoken with more than my share in the last thirty years) and they’ll all tell you the same thing… “The sport has been declining rapidly because the product just isn’t good enough.” Can we attribute some of the blame to the tracks and their take-outs? Is it the aging demographics of the sport? I know tracks will tell you the cost to operate a facility is tremendous and I wont question that, but stop and look at a sample of the take-out and you be the judge. Test this theory… Let’s say your pool in an exotic wager, like a trifecta, has a take-out of 20%. I know the track up here currently has it listed as 19.7% collectively - in a single race. And let’s say the pool generates $100,000 wagered - the track then takes out $19,700 from that pool leaving only $80,300 to split between those who hold the winning tickets. Some of the take-outs are even as high as 23% on live handle and we aren't even given the take-out rates on simulcast races. Now you see what I mean about the payouts not being attractive to the player. A well-known race track owner did say a while back… “Look at my betting room… You’ll be lucky to see any of those people ten years from now.” Having attended my share of OTB rooms - I have to agree 100% with that statement. Horse racing is attracting less people to the table and we haven’t done our share to promote this to the younger generation and the sport is perceived as ‘something old people do - to pass the time’. The entire concept of pari-mutuel wagering (which is prehistoric in my mind) could be the problem. Just look at the innovation… When was the last time we examined the entire structure of the win, place and show pools? I know all these factor are easier said than done, but if we want to move forward and increase our life-line, then we better make some drastic changes along the way - which are going to appeal to that young demographic player - which right now is basically non-existent when it comes to betting the horse racing product. If you look at our past and where we are today most - if not all - of the major markets for horse racing, across the globe, are monopolies run by track operators and this isn’t the best recipe for innovation that will push us to the next level. It’s time we change the mindset of the track operators, pari-mutuel agencies and of course the core of our horse racing sport - the bettors. A big challenge is to recruit the proper people who can get you to that next step when it comes to making the right choices in terms of technology and innovation. Let's not all sit around the table and wait for sports betting to help save our coffers. We, as an industry, have the ability to grow. There is plenty of room to grow the horse racing sector without falling further behind. If we continue to live in ‘nineties era’ - this sector will never grow and eventually die under the shadow of the wire. Track operators need to listen… Even if it requires changing their mindset - to try new approaches in areas we haven’t tapped yet - but areas that we do have at our disposal. Let’s look at the sports betting model and the innovations which have made it one of the most lucrative forms of gaming in the world. The Super Bowl - a single game on a national stage - will have over $800M wagered on it - in that single day and that doesn't include the $1.5B bet illegally across the globe. I can bet a coin toss. I can bet a player versus a player. I can bet the first half of a game or the last half of a game. If you were to ask a sports bettor… “Would you be interested in betting what horse will get to the three-quarter pole first?” or “Would you be interested in betting on a horse you think will finish last?”… I have a feeling you'd probably get a pretty sound “YES” to either of those questions... Think about it. Innovation isn’t measured by what we do with people surrounded in the sport of horse racing. Innovation is what we do with those who have never witnessed or placed a wager on our product and how we can make the sport more attractive to them - since it's a sport non-existent to many in media and you'd be hard pressed to find it on any TV channel other than a paid subscription channel. The clock is ticking and at the stroke of midnight - we don’t want to be the people standing around looking for someone or something to latch onto. If we get to this point - then we’ll have nobody to blame - but ourselves. by Lou Sorella, for Harnesslink  

A shining two race triumph had a shadow cast over it at Cambridge as Thefixer ran into potential problems by casting a shoe during the Flying Mile won in dashing style by Chase Auckland. A decision was likely to be made on Saturday but with the Ballarat Cup so near, it could be Thefixer will stay in New Zealand and prepare for the Miracle Mile. Self Assured will step up to the plate in the Ballarat Cup alongside Chase Auckland. Thefixer’s career has been blighted by foot problems and it could only be his luck that the plate cast was from the foot which has caused most concern. “It would have happened early on because he didn’t feel that good most of the way”Natalie said “It usually would set him back long enough to delay his trip to Australia but we will wait overnight before making any decisions” “Everything had been going well with him and its a shame this has happened” If Thefixer misses Ballarat , Natalie, with little hope of dislodging Mark from Self Assured will be reunited with Chase Auckland whom she guided to a series of brilliant victories as a three year old. Chase Auckland lived up to his career defining win in the NZ Free For All by coasting home in the end giving Mark his first winning drive on the outstanding son of Auckland Reactor whom Mark had steered to victory in terrific style in 2009. In a race where things were stacked against the All Stars horses, Chase Auckland produced the sprint he had done so effectively in the NZ Cup to win easily in good time. Chase Auckland was at stunning odds considering he was fourth in the Miracle Mile last season. Nobody missed Oscar Bonavena however as he powered home as expected in the Trotters Flying Mile with Winterfell third. The always adventurous Winterfell was lively before the start but his chances were more affected when the Inter Dominion final pacemaker was not allowed the lead which left him parked but meant Oscar Bonavena sat in the one one on the back of his stablemate thereby guaranteeing he would get the last run and the win-which he did with flair. He is headed for the Cochran Cup next up where the pair are likely to clash again.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Nathan Williamson’s race strategy worked out well yesterday in the House Of Travel Lakers Summer Cup. Driving Franco Santino and drawing the outside of the front line he knew he had the gate speed to cross all of the inside runners and that’s what he did. “I was quite keen to leave the gate but I had to work a lot harder than I thought to cross, so I elected to trail Bettathanfast which was good. He’s a rolling horse that was never going to hand up. He was a good target to follow,” he said. Bettathanfast took Franco Santino to the passing lane and the two horses fought out a sterling finish, Franco Santino winning by a head. “He was travelling that good turning for home but I struggled to get him to the inside. He flattened out when he got there. They ripped home in 27.” The overall winning time was 2-43.7. It’s the second time Williamson has won the Summer Cup, also winning with Costa Del Magnifico in 2017. Owned by Neville Cleaver, Franco Santino has now won eight races. His racing has been restricted each season to a limited number of starts, as the stable  waited for him to mature. “He still needs probably another six months to develop. His hind quarters aren’t real strong yet. He’s racing really well so you can’t knock him too much.” The rescheduled Omakau Cup at Wyndham and the Invercargill Cup the week after are two of his immediate targets. “The Northern Southland Cup is also coming up so there’s plenty for him”   Bruce Stewart

Southern Belle Speed Series heat winner at Ascot Park yesterday Bridesdale Robyn didn’t have the best start to life, as at six weeks old her mother Robyn’s Treasure had a paddock accident shattering her shoulder, and she had to be put down. From that point part-owners Judy Dillon hand reared Bridesdale Robyn, feeding her two and a half litres of milk four times a day. Understandably that experience has shaped who she is. “That’s why she’s got a bit of bolshiness about her,” said part-owner and co-trainer Ross Wilson. At the start Bridesdale Robyn was left three wide on a hot pace set by Stay Aboard. With a lap to run of the 1700 metre race driver Craig Ferguson had reached the front, but he’d used a bit of petrol to get there. At the 300 Ferguson pulled the ear plugs and pinched a break on the chasing bunch and she held on to beat Bella Sara and Yankee Party who both came late down the middle of the track. The time was 2-04.2 and the winning margin over Bella Sara was a length and a quarter. Co-trainer Chris Wilson wasn’t able to enjoy the win on-course. Previously he’s missed stable wins because of his children’s hockey tournaments and family holidays, but this time he was busy at work. As a senior technical field rep for the Gore based Advanced Agriculture, at this time of year there’s a fair bit of demand from farmers requiring his services. The win was Bridesdale Robyn’s seventh and she’s now inelidgible to start in any further heats of the Southern Belle Speeds Series. “We may have to look at going to Christchurch and look at those mares races. The fact that we have two horses we can take (Robyns Playboy for other races) will make it a bit easier.” Wilson however is holding his breath as the stable has a virus running through it at the moment. “That’s why Swift Robyn dropped out at her last start. It’s probably just a matter of time before they all get it.” Winning connections and sponsors Vet South – Photo Bruce Stewart The races was delayed a considerable time as the previous race result was under review and given Bridesdale Robyns record, Wilson was understandably starting to get nervous. “She’s on the warning list from the other day. At Winton she was just looking out at the car park, not concentrating and broke. She’s done it before. Same race, same day.” By Christian Cullen, Bridesdale Robyn is named after stock the Dillons produce on their farm ‘Bridesdale’ at Ardlussa in Northern Southland where they also raise Romney and Dorset Downs sheep on their 100 acre home block.   Bruce Stewart

Breeding authority Peter Wharton presents all the harness racing news on breeding from Australia, New Zealand and North American every Friday brought to you by Garrard’s Horse & Hound.   Bendigo Cup winner’s family background   The Terang horse Code Bailey, the track record-breaking winner of the Group 2 $70,000 Garrard’s Horse & Hound Bendigo Pacing Cup, is a member of New Zealand’s top ranking standardbred families.   To watch the video replay click on this link.   Code Bailey, who has won 16 races and $169,585 in stakes, is a five-year-old entire by the In The Pocket horse Christian Cullen, a legendary pacer who topped the sire’s list in both Australia and NZ.   Taffeta Bromac, the dam of Code Bailey, was by the American import Badlands Hanover, from Trapiche, by Pacific Rocket from the Noodlum mare Burgundy Lass, dam of the dual NZ Cup winner, Horse of the Year and successful colonial sire Il Vicolo.   The winner of three races, Taffeta Bromac also ranks as the dam of the Gloucester Park winner Trust My Judgement 1:58 ($95,650 to date). Burgundy Lass founded a most successful branch of the Regina family. She was the grand- dam of Stunin Cullen ($1.3million), Gotta Go Cullen ($1.1million) and Coburg, all Group 1 winners, and the third dam of the Caduceus Club Classic winner Veste (dam of recent 2YO winner It’s All About Faith), Match Point 1:51.6 ($194,501) and The Culture (1:51.6).   Our Triple Play, a multiple Group winner in NSW, is also a member of this fine family.     Brother to Smolda   Scorcha, a three-year-old brother to the Inter Dominion champion and A. G. Hunter Cup winner Smolda, made an auspicious debut at the Cobram Cup meeting.     Forced to sit parked from the outset, the gelding careered away in the closing stages to score by 11 metres in a 1:57.8 rating over 1670 metres. Bred and raced by Paul Blackshaw, of Wangaratta, Scorcha is a gelding by Courage Under Fire out of Under The Mattress (1:58), a capable racemare by Safely Kept from Lotsa Wealth, by Entrepreneur from the Golden Wealth mare Tara Wealth.   Under The Mattress, who won 17 races and earned $105,711, ranked as a half-sister to seven winners including the Tasmanian Derby winner Ginger Bliss 1:53.7 ($191,917), her dam, Lotsa Wealth, being a half-sister to the Gloucester Park winner Balthazar.     Won Simpson Memorial   Winner of the Paleface Adios Classic as a two-year-old last season, Governor Jujon downed the top three-year-olds in the Group 2 $50,000 Simpson Memorial at Menangle on Monday.   Governor Jujon pictured in a previous win                       --Dan Costello photo   Governor Jujon has been sparingly raced but has proved himself a young pacer of great ability. By Cammibest, who stands at Burwood Stud in Queensland who bred the Simpson winner, Governor Jujon is out of a capable racemare in Fifth And Broadway (1:56.7), by Western Terror from the Muckalee Strike mare Broadway Gal, who left a string of classic winners including the Victoria Oaks winner and dual Sires Stakes champion Broadway’s Best ($643,091).     A Star from top WA mare   One of the most consistent mares in Victoria so far this season is All Starzzz Megan, who downed a handy field in the Graham Goffin Memorial at Melton.   All Starzzz Megan                                                         --Ararat Harness Racing photo   An eight-year-old mare by Four Starzzz Shark, she is out of a top flight WA racemare in Lady De Beau and the second of her produce to race. Lady De Beau, who totted up 15 wins and $206,097, was by Million To One from Perfect Lass, by Cadillac from the El Patron mare Imapet, and tracing to a noted foundation mare in Free Advice, ancestress of horses the calibre of Welcome Advice, Rip Van Winkle, Dale Spring and Allwood’s Chief.     Half-brothers win at Penrith   It was no mean feat for the half-brothers Chewalla (by American Ideal) and Tupelo Beach (by Somebeachsomewhere) to win consecutive races at Penrith recently.   Both were bred and are raced by American cousins Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks and are trained by Kevin Pizzuto.   My Tupelo Honey (1:59.8), the dam of Chewalla and Tupelo Beach, was out of a champion racemare in Tupelo Rose, who took a record of 1:51.4, earned $879,867 and won 35 races including a record four Oaks classics. Besides My Tupelo Honey, she was also the dam of Willy Mucha 1:50.2 ($390,400), the Addington winner Tupelo Mississippi and the three year-old Gracelands Rose, who qualified in September.   Two of Tupelo Rose’s daughters, Kiwi Rose and Capelo Rose, bred on with marked successes. Kiwi Rose left the Tasmanian Derby and Terang Cup winner Maraetai 1:52.3 ($157,710) and the Melton and Albion Park victor Glenferrie Boss 1:53.6 ($87,740), while Capelo Rose is the dam of the Ontario Sire Stakes champions Machapelo 1:51.4 ($653,082) and Capela 1:52.8 ($254,115) and the Little Brown Jug heat winner Resistance Futile 1:49.2 ($402,109).   Other members of this family have been The Tupelo Flash 1:52.2 ($169,800), Our Ideal Act (Northam Cup) and Mayhem Seelster 1:51.6 ($300,709).     Group winner from top American family   Our Millionaire, who has won seven races in quick time this season, and has graduated to a NR 85 mark, is regarded as one of the best young pacers in the country. He notched his sixth win on end when he outclassed a smart lineup in the Group 3 $30,000 Metropolitan Pace Final at Melton last Saturday.   Our Millionaire                                                          --Stuart McCormick photo   Our Millionaire has an all-American breeding background and one which has been most successful. By the Little Brown Jug winner Million Dollar Cam (son of Cam’s Card Shark), he is out of the Western Ideal mare Rarified Air, who was unraced and first bred from in America.   Rarified Air, who was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, was out of the studbook gem Rich N Elegant, by Direct Scooter from Proven Perfect, by Abercrombie from the Shadow Wave mare Shifting Sands, who founded a noted branch of the Golden Miss family.   Rich N Elegant was the dam of seven classic winners, five successful siring sons and the winners of around $6 million including Rocknroll Hanover, Royalflush Hanover and Red River Hanover.     Noted family of trotters   Mr Sundon, who won the $50,000 Trotters Cup at Gloucester Park in track record time and has now won his last three races, is a six-year-old gelding expected to graduate far beyond his present rating.   A member of Ross Olivieri’s Oakford team, he has a good deal more in his favour on the score of blood than most. By Sundon, the leading sire on both sides of the Tasman for over a decade, Mr Sundon is out of the Gee Whiz II mare Geena Hest, a capable racemare who is proving a very successful broodmare.   Besides Mr Sundon, she is also the dam of The Redwood winner Maidstone Miss, Countessa Hest Tr 2:01.5 ($137,858), Dreamit (Tr 2:00.8), Geena’s Success (Tr 1:59.6) and the Pine Chip mare Anreca Hest, dam of the NZ Trotting Stakes and Inter Dominion heat winner The Fiery Ginga Tr 2:00.1 ($397,927).   Another daughter, Rosedorae, is the dam of the talented Victorian square-gaiter BD Khaosan Tr 2:01.2 (11 wins and $93,238 to date).   Mr Sundon is the tenth and last foal of Geena Hest. By the Speedy Crown horse Gee Whiz II, Geena Hest was out of Lisa Hest (Tr 2:03.7), by Count Bay from Den Hest (4 wins), by Johnny Globe from Mocassin, the dam of the Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final winner Stylish Major and his full brother, the ID Consolation winner Le Chant.       Tasmanian yearling sale on February 15   The 2020 Tasmanian Harness Yearling Sale will be held at Carrick Park, near Launceston, on Saturday, February 15. The sale has attracted 21 entries from many of the State’s leading breeders.   The on-line catalogue can be viewed at Hard copy cataloguesare available from all tracks.     First winner by trotting sire   The Sundon horse, Red Samurai, a cups winning trotter and who stood stud in Victoria, was represented by his first winner when Peachee was successful at Pinjarra (WA).   Peachee has been placed twice from six starts as a three-year-old last season. Raced and trained by his breeder, Nigel Johns, Peachee is out of the Continentalman mare Continentalcastleton (Tr 2:06.1), whose dam, Gee Castleton was by Gee Whiz II from the Tarport Coulter mare Margaret Castleton, who left several useful winners including a Free-For-All trotter in Boy Castleton, who won in 2:00 in America.       Art Meeker’s death   One of Tasmania’s best known standardbred veterinarians and studmasters, Dr Art Meeker, of Hobart, died last Saturday as a result of an injury sustained in a fall aged 79. Meeker, an American native, conducted the Neptune Stud for almost 20 years.   The stud stood the imported stallions Holly Sand, Scotch Luck and Duke Duane, who sired more than 360 winners between them and made a substantial mark on Tasmanian breeding and racing.   When Neptune Stud closed down in 1990, he established a mobile veterinary clinic, making up to 20 visits in a day in southern Tasmania. Meeker was recognised for his services to the industry by being awarded the Edgar Tatlow Medal in 2015.     USA Dan Patch Award winners   The divisional winners for the 2019 Dan Patch Awards were announced recently. The winners were: 2YO Colt/Gelding: Tall Dark Stranger (Bettor’s Delight-Precocious Beauty-Art Major) 2YO Filly: Lyons Sentinel (Captaintreacherous-Tutu Hanover-Western Ideal) 3YO Colt/Gelding: Bettor’s Wish (Bettor’s Delight-Lifetime Star-Western Ideal) 3YO Filly: Warrawee Ubeaut (Sweet Lou-Great Memories-Apache’s Fame) Aged Horse/Gelding: McWicked (McArdle-Western Sahara-Western Ideal) Aged Mare: Shartin N (Tintin In America-Bagdarin-Live Or Die) 2YO Trotting Colt/Gelding: Real Cool Sam (Muscle Hill-Cooler Schooner-Broadway Hall) 2YO Trotting Filly: Ramona Hill (Muscle Hill-Lock Down Lindy-Lucky Chucky) 3YO Trotting Colt/Gelding: Greenshoe (Father Patrick-Designed To Be-Donato Hanover) 3YO Trotting Filly: When Dovescry (Muscle Hill-Cedar Dove-Andover Hall) Aged Trotting Horse/Gelding: Six Pack (Muscle Mass-Pleasing Lady-Cantab Hall) Aged Trotting Mare: Atlanta (Chapter Seven-Hemi Blue Chip-Cantab Hall)     by Peter Wharton

After nearly 30 years at the echelon of harness racing Down Under, you'd be forgiven for thinking Menangle trainer Tim Butt's passion might be a little dulled. But nothing could be further from the truth -he's bubbling with anticipation as he finalises plans for a trip to France later this month on a mission to find Australasia's next boom trotter. Butt already has a cornerstone investor on-board with his plan to source an elite French stallion to race and then stand at stud in Australasia, but he's excited that smaller shares still available could possibly bring serious new investors into the sport he loves. "I've never really thought about doing anything other than harness racing. My parents did it, and my grandparents on both sides of the family were in harness racing, so I've just always loved going to the races and wanted to be good at it," Butt said. "I love the sport and the competitiveness, but for me, it's the challenge of finding that next top-liner. Having a good horse and winning the big races drives me and keeps me excited for what's ahead," he said. "I'm heading to France to look at the best trotting stallions in the world and that's exciting for me, but also an opportunity for investors who want to be part of it." Butt is unrivalled in the Southern Hemisphere for his Group One success - he's won more than 90 Group Ones, including the Miracle Mile, InterDominion Pacers and Trotters final (4), NZ cup (2), Auckland Cup (2), Hunter Cup (2), Dominion Handicap (8) and the list goes on. "We don't have a big team - we aim for quality and hold our numbers at about 24 so we can aim primarily at those big races," Butt said. "That's what our goal is in France. To identify the best modern bred trotting stallion we can afford, race him down here in those good races, with the goal of setting him up for a stud career. So for the people who come on board it's a long-term investment and we're hoping a profitable one." The idea for sourcing Northern Hemisphere trotting blood began when the Butts campaigned with their champion trotter Lyell Creek during their early 2000s. "Lyell Creek was no doubt the best horse I've been associated with - he was brilliant," Butt said. "But this idea really stemmed from when we took him to the Elitloppet in Sweden and it was clear to me just how far ahead of us their trotters were," he said. "We've previously brought three European horses to race down here, in Peak (Denmark), Kvintet Avenger (Finland) and Daryl Boko (Finland) and they had two group one wins and a placing between them. We also brought out Mr Feelgood from America, who was probably the most successful pacer to come out from the States, so I know the qualities I'm looking for," he said. "I've done a lot of homework and have a good relationship with (premiere French horseman and trainer, and owner of Love You) Jean-Pierre Dubois' son Jean Dubois, who is now a gallops trainer out here, at Mittagong. "I've spent a fair bit of time with him talking about my ideas and going through catalogues and we've identified some good options - it's just a case of being able to afford the one you want, taking into account the exchange rates." The Butt team also has a profile in Europe through their hosting of a number of young Swedish horsemen and women to work in Australia. Butt is joining a La Trot (French trotting authority) sponsored tour of about 25 potential buyers and investors being organised by Harness Racing Australia. The week-long tour leaves on January 23 and will be based in the horse-racing region of Normandy. The key focus for Butt will be horse auctions during the initial days of the tour, including broodmare, ready to run, yearling and stallion shares. But the tour will also take in key racing and breeding establishments in Normandy - studs including Le Haras du Pin, the Haras de Sassy training centre, Ecurie Guarato training centre (home of Bald Eagle) and the property of Jean Pierre Debois to view renowned stallion Love You. The tour will also visit the historic Grosbois training centre, on the outskirts of Paris - a harness racing community that includes a castle, trotting museum and 1500 horses in training, utilising numerous straight, forest and qualifying tracks, a restaurant, cinema and veterinary clinic. HRA delegates are also presenting at the Stallions Exhibition, an industry trade fair that is a fixture on the French racing calendar and will be showcasing the innovative Australian BestSeat 360 concept - immersive technology that provides interactive driver's-eye view of the racing action.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

In this series sponsored by Southern Bred Southern Reared, Bruce Stewart looks back on some of the great harness racing stock that’s come out of the Southern region. Whilst last year he profiled horses from the south that have become millionaires, this series is about other pacers and trotters that that were bred, reared and raced for part of career in Southland, and made an impact in the Harness Racing industry. Robin Dundee Age: 1957 bay mare Sire: Hal Tryax Dam: Cherry Blossom (Dillion Hall) Breeder: JW Hewitt Owner: JW Hewitt Trainer: Jack Walsh At just 14.2 hands Robin Dundee was a diminutive bay filly and was Southland owner/breeder Jack Hewitt’s first venture into harness racing. He borrowed Dillon Hall mare Cherry Blossom from his brother-in-law and mated her with the imported American sire Hal Tryax. Hal Tryax stood at stud in NZ for 8 seasons before becoming infertile in 1963 at the age of 16. Robin Dundee’s early education and training was entrusted to Jack Walsh who’d also raced and won with Fashion Queen. She is the third dam of Robin Dundee. Unraced at two, Robin Dundee began her racing career at Invercargill in October 1961, winning the Southern Stakes for non-win three year olds by sixteen lengths. She was driven by Charlie Franks who also drove her to victory in the 1961 New Zealand Oaks at New Brighton. Later that season she won at Roxburgh in the hands of Robert Cameron. Interestingly both Robin Dundee and Cardigan Bay won at that Roxburgh meeting in 1961. Cardigan Bay by four and a half lengths in the Roxburgh Handicap, and Robin Dundee in the Central Otago Stakes by a length and a half. The TAB double paid forty two pounds, eight shillings and six pence. As a four-year-old Robin Dundee recorded two wins, five seconds, a third and fourth from twenty one starts. She won two of her twenty four starts as a five year old, recording six seconds, a third and fourth. At six she won two races and had her first start in the New Zealand Cup finishing second behind the great Cardigan Bay. In her final New Zealand start at Addington, in the hands of Doody Townley she started off 12 yards to beat Tactile, Jay Ar and Cardigan Bay. In the 1964 Interdominion Grand Final Robin Dundee finished a gallant fifth, breaking down during the race and subsequent x-rays revealed a fractured pedal bone and crack in the navicular bone of her near foreleg. There were grave fears that Robin Dundee would never race again and she returned home to the Southland.  However she made a spectacular recovery from the injury to race 12 times in New Zealand during the 1964/65 season recording five wins, four seconds and a third. As a seven year old she was involved in the controversial dead heat with Jay Ar in the 1965 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Forbury Park where she stormed down the outside in the hands of Doody Townley. The judge announced Jay Ar as the winner and called for a photo shortly after. Club officials ignored Townley’s insistence that the presentation was premature. Jay Ar’s driver George Noble also thought he may have been pipped at the post. However the presentation went ahead and Jay Ar was decorated while a dejected Walsh took Robin Dundee back to the stables. Well into the presentation an announcement was made over the PA to the 15,000 crowd declaring a dead heat.  Officials hastily recalled Robin Dundee to the presentation, transferred the sash to the mare and both horses did a victory lap together. Jack Hewitt, Mrs Hewitt and Roy McKenzie with the Interdominion trophies they had to share As an eight year old, there was no stopping Robin Dundee. She raced 25 times in New Zealand during 1965-1966 season for eight wins, nine seconds, and one third for 14,855 pounds, making her New Zealand’s leading stakes earner for that season. As a nine year old she started in New Zealand nine times for two wins, one second and one third. She was then leased to an American syndicate which included famous New York trainer Eddie Cobb. She arrived in America with a New Zealand career record of 25 wins, 32 seconds and 10 thirds and New Zealand stakes earnings of $79,248. Her first American target was the 1967 International Series at Yonkers but she contracted a virus on the eve of the series, finished fifth and was then withdrawn. In January 1968 Robin Dundee went under the knife again to remove bothersome splint bones. The operation was successful and she was put back into light work. As an 11 year old she won her first race at Roosevelt Raceway, finishing the season with 5 wins, 8 seconds and 6 thirds for earnings $59,275 from 35 starts. As a twelve year old she raced 5 times for only one third and was retired after finishing last in May 1969. Her lifetime earnings were $292,272. Robin Dundee will be remembered as the first pacer to beat the two-minute mark in a race when she won the Craven Filer Miracle Mile at Harold Park in 1967 in a time of 1-59.0. “You can’t forget the Miracle Mile because she was the first mare in Australasia to break two minutes,” said driver Robert Cameron. Cameron ended up winning eight races in New Zealand driving Robin Dundee, so he knew her pretty well. “She got a bit crabby at times like a lot of those good fillies. But she was a terrific mare that would never stop trying. You had to be a bit careful from a stand because if you touched her mouth she was inclined to lose it. She got better as the years went on.” Robin Dundee also carried a bridesmaids tag throughout her career. She ran second in the 1966 Inter Dominion Grand Final at Harold Park to Chamfer’s Star, was runner up three times to Cardigan Bay, Garry Dillon and Lordship in the New Zealand Cup, and in Freehold New Jersey in 1968 she chased Cardigan Bay home when he became the first pacer to win a million dollars. Robin Dundee’s record New Zealand: At Three (1960-1961): 15-4-4-1 At Four (1961-1962): 21-2-5-3 At Five (1962-1963): 24-2-6-1 At Six (1963-1964): 13-2-3-2 At Seven (1964-1965): 12-5-4-1 At Eight (1965-1966): 25-8-8-1 At Nine (1966-1967): 9-2-1-1 New Zealand Total: 119-25-31-10 First New Zealand win: Southern Stakes at Ascot Park Invercargill Saturday 29th October 1960 Driven by Charlie Franks. Winning margin sixteen and a half lengths. Last New Zealand win: Saturday 19th November 1966 – Olliver Handicap at Addington when she beat Lordship off 54 year handicap – Driven by Robert Cameron. Notable New Zealand wins: Interdominion Final, dead heating with Jay Ar at Forbury Park. 1960 New Zealand Oaks Flying Mile at Addington running 1-59. Alan Matson Stakes 1965 Hannon Memorial 1965 New Zealand Free For All 1965 Auckland Cup Olliver Handicap GJ Barton Memorial at Forbury Park Successful drivers of Robin Dundee in New Zealand: Robert Cameron 8, Maurice Holmes 8, Doody Townley 5, Charlie Franks 2, Bob Young 1 and Kevin Murray 1 Other known facts: She won $229,270 in stakes by racing in New Zealand, Australia and America. Was the first horse to better two minutes in a race in Australia. Won 1967 Miracle Mile pacing the journey in 1-59. The winning stake was $12,500. Was runner up three times in the New Zealand Trotting Cup (Cardigan Bay 1963), (Garry Dillion 1965) and (Lordship 1966). Ran four times in the Interdominion Final. As a broodmare Robin Dundee had a lot of bad luck. Her best race horse was Genghis Khan which paced 1-51.8 in America. She also left Dundee Adios which stood at Roddy McFarlane’s stud near Winton. Truly one of the great race mares to represent Southland across three countries.   Bruce Stewart

Sunday at Paris-Vincennes is the fourth “B”  race leading to the 900,000€ Prix d’Amerique 2020, it’s the Gr. II Grand Prix de Belgique for 110,000€ purse and raced over 2850 meters. The harness racing field includes the 2019 Elitloppet winner Dijon, 2019 Prix d'Amerique winner Belina Josselyn and a few that have already qualified – Looking Superb, Delia du Pommereux and Davidson du Pont. Others that need a good showing are Enino du Pommereux, Carat Williams and Uza Josselyn, the latter coming in off two fourth place finishes in the last two “B” races. Qualifiers (10) to date for the 2020 Grand Prix d’Amerique include: GP Bretagne – Davidson du Pont, Chica de Joudes, Looking Superb GP Bourbonnais – Delia de Pommereux, Bold Eagle, Billie de Montfort GP Bourgogne – Billie de Montfort (previously qualified), Bahia Quesnot, Vivid Wise As Criterium Continental – Face Time Bourbon Prix Tenor de Baune – Excellent Amerique 2020 Promo We’re heading to a highly competitive Prix d'Amerique the last Sunday this month. by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink  

Mach Shard is ready to stand up to the big boys in the $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight. And while trainer Barry Purdon says driving tactics will be left up to Zachary Butcher it looks a good bet the vastly-improved pacer will be trying for an all-the-way win in the group two sprint. Mach Shard was one of the unheralded stars of the Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park last month, finishing a close second to Ultimate Sniper in the final after racing him in every heat. The series showed he has blazing gate speed and the ability to run with the best pacers in Australasia, so much so Purdon is now eying the Hunter Cup at Melton on February 1. But while Butcher was happy to take trails with Mach Shard during the Inters tonight’s dash around Cambridge should be a different proposition. The Flying Mile has been extremely kind to leaders over a long period of time, horses who have been able to lead and control the race. Star Galleria did just that to beat Heaven Rocks two years ago and Pembrook Benny did the same to down Christen Me. With his gate speed Mach Shard should be first of the favourites to the markers tonight and as good as Thefixer and Chase Auckland are, they are not as scary as their stablemates like Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured. So while Purdon wouldn’t come out and declare it, he is confident Mach Shard can stand up to be counted. “The final driving tactics will be up to Zac but he did, after all, work early and still run a close second in the Inter Dominion Final. “So he would definitely be hard to beat in front.”
 If Mach Shard does lead as expected he would easily pace a 1:52.5 mile on peak performance should tonight provide good conditions and that would mean horses coming wider on the track, as the favourites may have to do, will need to be good to beat him. Thefixer and even Chase Auckland may simply still be a length better than Mach Shard and either one sitting in the one-one, if Mach Shard, leads might grab him. But the history of tonight’s race suggests Mach Shard is a great each way bet. While leading might be enough to give Mach Shard a huge chance in the pacing feature, it might not be enough for Oscar Bonavena’s rivals to down him in tonight’s $30,00 Trotting Mile. He was beaten in the National Trot at Alexandra Park last start when forced to sit parked, an expensive reminder than as talented as he is this is his first summer in the big time. Rivals likes Tickle Me Pink and Massive Metro may fancy their chances of staying in front of Oscar Bonavena and stablemate Winterfell tonight but Oscar may still be too sharp if he can get handy. Still, punters might struggle to take the $1.30 fixed odds about him as the one-one might be his only economical path to victory. Winterfell is a hard one for punters to asses as he has to rated our best trotter on performances in the last month but there are usually question marks about him left-handed and if he wins tonight he may have to do it the hard way. Still, he keeps rising to the challenge and another victory tonight would take him even closer to the Trotter of the Year title. Meanwhile, former Dominion winner Marcoola has returned to Canterbury and trainer Ken Ford after his rollercoaster short stay with Barry Purdon over the Inter Dominions. And the Purdon pair of Bad To The Bone (Vic Derby) and Belle Of Montana (Ladyship Mile) are on target for Victorian campaigns in coming weeks.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    A classy field will give punters plenty to ponder ahead of today’s Nelson Cup. The in-form line up means reigning winner Dadndave will need to be on his game to defend 2019 title. The Tim Trathen trained pacer showed toughness to conquer the 3000m feature as a 3yr-old last season. That victory left no doubt about 4yr-old’s staying credentials, which Trathen thinks will be the horse’s biggest asset when he takes on today’s smart line up.    “He is a tough wee bugger – he loves a bit of distance.” “The further, the better.” The timing appears right for Dadndave to defend his cup title. The 4yr-old has returned to peak form after a scratchy start to his season. “He had an abscess in a foot, then he had a bit of a snotty nose and things went wrong there for a while,” Trathen said. “He is definitely a bit perkier now and I think we are on the right track.” “He seems back to his best.” Dadndave went two from two at last year’s two day nelson meeting before ending a respectable 3yr-old run with creditable sixth behind Jesse Duke at the Harness Jewels. The pacer was not able to carry on that momentum with two below opening runs as a 4yr-old, which were followed by two slightly improved performances in strong company. “He drew back every time and we were back all of the way and it is hard to make a bit of a move in that company,” Trathen said. “I wasn’t disappointed, it is tough racing those good ones.” “I always thought he was good enough to be in them.” Backmarker Change Is Good is set to start race favourite following her brilliant run of spring and summer form. The adaptable Mitchell Kerr trained pacer starts alongside Bringitonhome, Hayden’s Meddle and Memphis Tennessee on the 20m mark. Dadndave, Stars Tonight, Yorkshire and Rah De Rah get a head start on them from the 10m mark . Kendra, Rocknroll Rod and recent grass track flop Taxman start off the front alongside Doctor Tim. Group 1 winning trotter Great Things Happen must overcome a huge 60m handicap to win today’s feature trot at Nelson. The Gavin Smith trained and driven will have 30m between him and Overzealous, who has the second biggest handicap in the 2400m event. Great Things Happens goes in to today’s race after producing a solid effort to run fifth behind Pres The Belle in a significantly stronger race at Addington. The 8yr-old travelled south to the recently abandoned Omakau meeting after that run. Great Things Happens has placed in both of his starts at Nelson. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Hightstown, NJ — Fast horses have put Marcus Melander’s career on a fast track. In late December, one year after being named the Rising Star Award winner by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, Melander was recognized as the sport’s Trainer of the Year by the same organization. The 27-year-old native of Sweden is the youngest person to ever receive the honor. The previous youngest was Mark Ford, who at the age of 30 in 2000 shared Trainer of the Year with Jimmy Takter. Marcus Melander’s stable posted 86 victories and $5.36 million in purses in 2019. USTA/Mark Hall photo. Melander’s first full season as a trainer was in 2015. He has seen his stable’s wins and purses increase every season since, reaching 86 victories and $5.36 million in 2019. His earnings last year ranked fourth among all trainers in North America despite having fewer starts (332) than any trainer in the top 17. “I’m very humbled,” Melander said. “It’s very exciting and a very big honor. It’s not that many years I’ve been a trainer, so it’s all been very fast. I have a lot of people to thank for that; the people that work for me, family, owners. “We were lucky; we had no sick horses or anything like that. We had a good year all along. We won big races, both 2- and 3-year-olds. The horses raced well all the time. They all performed.” Marcus Melander’s top horse in 2019 was Greenshoe, who received the Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old male trotter. USTA/Mark Hall photo. Melander’s top horse in 2019 was Greenshoe, who received the Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old male trotter. Greenshoe won 10 of 13 races, finished second in all three of his losses, and earned $1.27 million to top all trotters in North America. Gimpanzee finished second to Greenshoe in the Dan Patch voting. He won eight of 14 starts and $1.12 million. Melander became only the second trainer ever to have two million-dollar-earning trotters in the same division in the same season, joining Takter, who accomplished the feat in 2014 with Father Patrick and Nuncio. In addition, 3-year-old male trotter Green Manalishi S won six of 13 races and $646,838. That trio’s wins included the Kentucky Futurity and Zweig Memorial (Greenshoe), Breeders Crown and Yonkers Trot (Gimpanzee) and Canadian Trotting Classic (Green Manalishi S). Greenshoe was retired to stallion duty at the end of his season. Gimpanzee and Green Manalishi S will return in 2020, with Green Manalishi S expected to race in Europe after spending the winter in training with Melander. Marcus Melander with Gimpanzee, who was the Dan Patch Award winner at age 2, and has won 17 of 23 career races and $1.72 million. USTA/Mark Hall photo. Gimpanzee, who was the Dan Patch Award winner at age 2, has won 17 of 23 career races and $1.72 million. He finished last year with a fourth-place finish against older horses in the TVG Series championship at The Meadowlands. He was within 1-1/2 lengths of the top three: Six Pack, Manchego, and Guardian Angel AS. “I’m very excited he’s coming back,” Melander said. “We didn’t over-race him and I think he will be a very good older horse. In my opinion, he raced great in the TVG. With another year, he will be good. He has everything that a horse needs to be a good older horse. He’s always sound, he’s always happy, he always does his job. He never really had a bad race for us.” Among last season’s 2-year-old trotters, Hypnotic AM won the James Doherty Memorial while Capricornus, Back Of The Neck, Rome Pays Off, Hell Patrol, Expectations, Hellbent For AM S, and Hall of AM S all were Grand Circuit or state-restricted stakes winners. Hypnotic AM was her division’s New York Sire Stakes champion while Rome Pays Off was second in the Breeders Crown and Peter Haughton Memorial and Capricornus was runner-up in the Wellwood Memorial. Cruzado Dela Noche, a 7-year-old stallion trotter in 2019, won the Cutler Memorial for older trotters. He will perform stallion duty in Sweden, Melander said. Anders Ström’s Courant Inc. owned or co-owned a number of the top horses in Melander’s barn, including Greenshoe, Gimpanzee, Green Manalishi S, and Hypnotic AM. Courant Inc. was named the sport’s Owner of the Year by USHWA. “We have a really good relationship,” Melander said. “I train a lot of horses for him and I’m very happy for him as well.” Melander now must put 2019 in the rear view mirror and focus on the road ahead. His stable has 43 2-year-olds and a total of 66 horses for 2020. “I’m excited to start the new season,” Melander said. “Hopefully we can match those numbers from last year, but it’s going to be tough. But we have a good staff, good owners; we’re just going to keep what we’re doing. It will be an exciting year.” by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

IT is looking likely the two stars of tomorrow’s (Friday) Group 1 Fremantle Cup won’t make the race. NSW-trained pair My Field Marshal, the defending champion, and in-form Alta Orlando are still stranded in Victoria. A string of planned flights have been scrapped and the last hope is a midnight flight tonight (Thursday) from Melbourne to Perth, but that’s far from a lock. “I’m told it’s 50/50, but I think that’s even being optimistic,” Alta Orlando’s co-trainer and driver Luke McCarthy said. “They were supposed to go across Monday and they’re still here. I think it’s had something to do with the smoke and the fires.” Both McCarthy and My Field Marshal’s trainer Tim Butt aren’t fussed by such a late flight, if it eventuates. But, if they don’t get across tonight, it’s likely only My Field Marshal will still go to Perth for next week’s Group 1 WA Pacing Cup. “Tim’s still going if we don’t get to the Freo Cup, but I’m leaning towards staying here and taking him (Alta Orlando) to the Ballarat Cup on his way to the Hunter Cup,” McCarthy said. “The problem is if we nominated for the WA Cup and don’t get there for some reason, we can’t run at Ballarat instead. We have to make a choice.” Making matters worse is good barriers for the star pair has them heading the market. My Field Marshal is $2.80 favourite from gate four with Alta Orlando at $4.40 second elect from gate five. ________________________________________________________________________________ VICTORIA Cup winner Bling It On is back on song after his failed Auckland Inter Dominion raid. Luke McCarthy said his stable star worked superbly in a private hitout at Menangle during the week. “He’s flying and could’ve run at Menangle this weekend, but I’ll take him to the Goulburn Cup (Sunday week) instead because it’s a random draw,” he said. “It’s then two week’s from that straight into the Hunter Cup.” McCarthy said he could have as many as three Hunter Cup runners. “Bling and Alta (Orlando) are headed there and if King Of Swing wins well for us at his first run for us (Menangle, Saturday night), then we’d consider taking him down as well,” he said. “Cash N Flow is another good enough, but the 2760m doesn’t suit him as well, so we’ll keep him at home for the mile racing at Menangle.”   Adam Hamilton

Ricky May can now laugh at the fact he died on live television last week. He can't laugh too hard though, because of the broken ribs he got from the guardian angel horsewoman who probably saved his live. And even after one of the most shocking incidents in harness racing history, the champion harness racing driver is adamant he will return to the sulky. May stunned the racing world last Thursday when he collapsed mid-race and fell to the track when driving A G's White Socks in the $30,000 Central Otago Cup at Omakau. His heart had stopped and thousands watching live and on television feared the worst. Initially, they were right. Ricky May was dead. "The doctor in Dunedin Hospital told me later that I was gone," May told the Herald from his Christchurch Hospital bed on Thursday. "I don't know how long for. They reckon it could have been 10 minutes. I don't remember anything. "I remember driving a winner earlier (two hours before the incident) and then the next thing I remember was waking up in hospital with all my family there and that was two days later." From what the doctors at the hospital and those first to him on track have told him, May knows he had no heart beat when fellow driver Ellie Barron rushed to his side. Barron, a trained physiotherapist, performed CPR on him, working so hard to keep his heart pumping she broke his ribs. She may also have saved his life. "I spoke to Ellie yesterday and when she got to me I had no heart beat.   "She just took over 'til the medics got there and used the paddles (defibrillators) on me. To be honest, I think Ellie was my saviour." First, one helicopter came, then another; the second was needed because it was equipped with the GPS to navigate through the fog to get the 61-year-old to Dunedin Hospital. He was stabilised there and before being flown to Christchurch Hospital a few days later where he had surgery to have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in his chest on Thursday. The device delivers a shock through a wire which runs into a chamber of the heart and May will have it in his chest for the rest of his life in case his heart stops suddenly again. May's heart stopped without warning, and his official diagnosis was hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. If you don't know what that is you are not alone - May doesn't really either. It is a sometimes genetic condition that can see the heart muscles thicken even though the heart itself is healthy, even affecting young athletes at the peak of their physical prowess. May was in shape and very active. He had no warning of what could happen and seconds before the incident was talking normally. "The doctors told me there was nothing actually wrong with my heart and I didn't have an cardiac arrest. They actually said I am too fit and the muscles around that area too strong. "But to honest I don't know a lot about it. I'm still learning." What May knows is that he is alive to enjoy life with his wife Judy and his three children. "I have a lot of people to thank. Ellie of course, the medics there and the helicopter people, all the staff at the two hospitals and the people who flew me from Dunedin to here. "So many people have contacted us it is quite overwhelming. And Judy has been a rock. "But now it is done I want to get back to the farm, even though I won't be able to work for a while. The boys are taking care of that at the moment." The farm at Methven may be home but the sulky is May's domain, a throne from which he has driven a record seven New Zealand Cup wins among his 2949 winners in New Zealand alone. He wants that get that number to 3000, maybe more. "Yeah, I want to drive again," he says. "I didn't think I would want to after the initial shock of it all but now I have had a chance to think about it I don't want that to be my last race drive. "So maybe I will travel less, maybe stay a little closer to home but I will go back to driving." Less than a week after his heart stopped mid-race and a nation of racing fans held their breath, May can laugh now. The nervous laugh of a man who has been given a second chance. The laugh of the lucky. "I suppose one day I will want to see the race, to see what happened. But not yet." But while he is a husband, father, farmer and friend, May is also inherently a race driver. That can't be scared out of him. "You know, I am sure I would have won that race once he (A G's White Socks) led," he says wistfully. In one sentence Ricky May confirms he will be back. You can bet on it.   Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

How much yeast is in the rise and rise of Lochinvar Art will get a thorough examination this Saturday night when David Moran's four-year-old faces a deep and talented field in the coveted Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup. Enlisted a $2.30 favourite by at opening, which has since shortened to $2, there is plenty of support for the Group 1 winner to secure a second Trots Country Cup in six days, having zipped past Sicario to win Sunday's crown at Cobram. While Moran admits Saturday night's star-studded cup field presents a greater challenge, he told Trots Talk Lochinvar Art should only be stronger second-up. "We thought he'd go extremely well (at Cobram), but there's always a little bit of the unknown when you go into a 2600-metre race first up," Moran said. "We seemed to have him forward enough to get the job done there and he should be a lot better this week. I know it sounds funny off a six-day back up, but it's amazing how the horse handles himself the following week, race-to-race. He's just always better again the next week." Moran said it could be "tricky" transitioning to open age racing, but that Lochinvar Art was well placed after a testing three-year-old season when he raced over varying distances and against quality competition, meaning he entered 2019-20 "reasonably well seasoned". That will be put to the test from 9.35pm on Saturday when he steps out in the $60,000 Group 2 Cup. "I don't expect him to be too dominant and I don't think he should be too short-priced a favourite, but I think he will acquit himself well and it will just depend on what happens throughout the run," Moran said. "San Carlo and Our Uncle Sam and My Kiwi Mate, those sorts of horses are pretty well seasoned, and then you've got Code Black and Phoenix Prince, who are going really well at the moment." The hit-out will give a valuable insight into what lies ahead for Lochinvar Art, with the riches of the TAB Summer Of Glory to get underway with the January 18 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. Among the lures is the Alabar 4YO Bonanza, a $100,000 Group 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton on January 25, but Moran said he would tread a cautious path through the summer. "The horse will tell me how he's going, we will get through this week and see how he backs up racing week-to-week in the open grade," he said. "We are up in the air with the Bonanza, I think it will be an extremely strong race and we don't want to cook him too early." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN IN TO TROTS TALK:     Michael Howard   HRV Trots Media 

Gloucester Park Harness Racing vice-president Kevin Jeavons is a realist, but he has high expectations that Shockwave has the ability to buck considerable odds and win the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Jeavons, who races Shockwave in partnership with his son Kyle and Howard King, is hoping the stallion will become only the fifth four-year-old to win the prestigious Group 1 feature event in the 90-year history of the race. And he is also looking for Shockwave to break the stranglehold of New Zealand-bred pacers who have won 13 of the past 14 and 17 of the past 19 Fremantle Cups. Shockwave, bred by Kevin and Annette Charles and sold for $46,000 as a yearling, is one of three West Australian-bred pacers in the field for the 2536m Cup, the others being Handsandwheels and Vultan Tin. The only WA-bred pacer to have won the Fremantle Cup in the past quarter of a century is David Hercules, who led and beat Northview Punter in January 2015. “Whether a four-year-old can measure up and beat his more experienced rivals, that’s the question,” said Jeavons after Shockwave had drawn favourably at barrier No. 2 on the front line. “But I think he’s up to them; I wouldn’t start him if I didn’t think he was on the way up.” Shockwave, trained by Ryan Bell, will be driven by champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr, who has won the Fremantle Cup a record eight times scoring with The Falcon Strike (2002 and 2003), Im Themightyquinn (2009-10-11), Im Victorious (2014), Beaudiene Boaz (2016) and Chicago Bull (2017). The Falcon Strike, Im Themightyquinn, Beaudiene Boaz and Chicago Bull are the only four-year-olds to have won the Fremantle Cup. Regarding tactics, Jeavons said he would leave Hall with making the decisions. “I think we’ll leave it to Gary to plan his tactics after seeing what eventuates out of the gate,” he said. “Gary has driven Shockwave eight times as a three-year-old for four wins and two thirds. Twice he led (from barrier five) and won (beating Eloquent Mach and Gee Jay Kay over 1730m and beating Robbie Easton and Eloquent Mach over 2130m). So, there’s nothing wrong with leading.” Shockwave has thrived since he stormed home from 11th at the bell to snatch a head victory over the pacemaker Patrickthepiranha in the 2536m $200,000 Golden Nugget four Fridays ago. He then impressed greatly in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra last Sunday week when he trailed the pacemaker Mighty Conqueror, surged to the front 420m from home and won by 2m from his talented rival after a scorching final 400m in 25.8sec. “We were hoping for a good, solid trial, like a race,” Jeavons explained. “And as it turned out, Shockwave and Mighty Conqueror had a good battle and they ran good time.” The toughest opponents to Shockwave loom large as the New Zealand-bred New South Wales performers My Field Marshal and Alta Orlando and the brilliant WA pacer Galactic Star, one of four runners from the outstanding Forrestdale training establishment of leading WA trainers Greg and Skye Bond. Galactic Star, to be driven by WA’s leading reinsman Ryan Warwick from barrier No. 10 (inside of the back line), is in peak form and gave a superb performance in the 1730m Village Kid Sprint last Friday week when he started from the outside of the back line, was seventh at the bell and unleashed a withering finishing burst, out five wide on the home turn, to be an eye-catching third behind stablemate Vampiro and the pacemaker Herrick Roosevelt. Two starts before that, Galactic Star raced in the breeze for 1150m before taking the lead in the home straight and winning from Vultan Tin and Ana Malak. Galactic Star, prepared by leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond, has amassed $488,947 in stakes from 26 wins (four in New Zealand, two in New South Wales, one in Victoria and 19 from 46 starts in WA). He also started from the inside of the back line in last year’s Fremantle Cup when Warwick got him off the pegs immediately after the start. He then raced in eighth position before sustaining a powerful three-wide burst to finish a half-length second to My Field Marshal.  Skye Bond was eloquent in her succinct appraisal of Galactic Star’s prospects on Friday night, saying: “He has proven himself at this level and all his runs back (after a spell) have been fantastic.” The Bonds will also be represented by Ana Malak (Michael Grantham, barrier seven), Vampiro (Colin Brown, barrier nine) and El Jacko (Dylan Egerton-Green, barrier 11). El Jacko also started from barrier 11 in last year’s Fremantle Cup when he raced in sixth place, three back on the pegs, and was hopelessly blocked for a run when an unlucky seventh behind My Field Marshal. He is a brilliant sit-sprinter and capable of causing an upset. Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr has prepared a record eight winners of the Fremantle Cup, and without injured stable stars Chicago Bull and Major Trojan he will be pinning his hopes on Caviar Star (Stuart McDonald, barrier three) and Herrick Roosevelt (Maddison Brown, barrier eight).     “It looks a very even field in which I think Galactic Star is the best horse, with My Field Marshal a bit suspect over this journey and Shockwave facing a task at his first appearance in top company,” Hall said. “Caviar Star did all the work in the race and was brave in defeat when second to Bill Haley last week. “Obviously, Caviar Star is not the best horse in the race, but he’s very tough and never runs a bad race. I think he’s equal to most of the horses in the race. Herrick Roosevelt did a fine job, racing wide in the last lap and finishing third behind Bill Haley. He has had a lot of injuries and hardly ever runs a bad race.” McDonald is upbeat about Caviar Star’s prospects, saying: “I know he’s good enough to be in this grade. He ran fast time over 2130m last week and the longer trip (2536m) this week will suit him down to the ground.” The Debra Lewis-trained five-year-old Bill Haley bounced back to his best form last Friday night when he sprinted home strongly from tenth and last the bell to win from Caviar Star and his owners are delighted at drawing the coveted No. 1 barrier. Champion reinsman Chris Lewis is sure to take full advantage of the draw and the gelding’s excellent gate speed. My Field Marshal, trained by Tim Butt and to be handled by his brother Anthony, has drawn barrier No. 4 and has bright prospects of repeating his all-the-way victory (from barrier two) in last year’s Fremantle Cup after setting the pace and winning the Village Kid Sprint at his previous outing. My Field Marshall has raced superbly at his two starts last month after resuming racing after a nine-month absence. He reappeared in a group 3 2300m Free-For-All at Menangle on December 14 when he started from the outside barrier (No. 10) and raced in ninth position before charging home to finish second to Alta Orlando. Then, on December 26 Mr Field Marshal contested the group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial over 2790m at Bathurst when he started from the outside of the back line and was in 11th position when he started a three-wide move at the bell. His run was followed by Alta Orlando, who finished strongly to win from Our Uncle Sam, with My Field Marshal a close-up fourth. There was a significant omen for the Butt brothers when they combined to score a thrilling last-stride debut victory for four-year-old Surreal in 1.53.6 over 1609m at Menangle on Tuesday afternoon. Surreal is a full-brother to My Field Marshal, who has raced 66 times for 26 wins, 22 placings and $1,373,612 in stakes. Also, at Menangle on Tuesday trainer Craig Cross and reinsman Luke McCarthy joined forces to win with 9/2 chance Flingandwingit. Cross and McCarthy have high hopes that eight-year-old Alta Orlando will complete a winning hat-trick when he starts from barrier No. 5 on the front line in the Fremantle Cup.   Ken Casellas

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