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The Tough Tilly story is well known to most in the harness racing industry, and regular driver Kate Gath is excited to start writing the next chapter with the sport's feel-good filly. The Emma Stewart-trained daughter of Captaintreacherous closed out her 2020 preparation with a heart-warming win in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series 2YO Fillies Final on New Year's Eve, before returning for a three-start campaign through February that finished with a fourth placing in the NSW Oaks. Tough Tilly is back at the races on Thursday night for a first round heat of the Australian Pacing Gold 3YO Fillies series, which is one of five $7500 qualifiers on the Bendigo card. "It's great to be reunited with her. She's a great filly so we are looking forward to it," Gath said. "I think she should lead and be really hard to beat. Obviously, (stablemate) Beach Music is a quality horse and Momentslikethese (Jess Tubbs) has been going well, but she's beaten them before.” The filly is named after Tilly Wilkes, an inspirational youngster who was born with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic condition that results in wounds that never heal, disfigurement, blisters, bleeding and ever-present pain. Craig Judd, from Benstud Standardbreds, donated a 25 per cent share in Tough Tilly as part of a fundraising auction for EB Research, with the winning bid going to a syndicate including Tilly’s father Corey Wilkes. READ MORE: The flying filly fighting for a cure "It's one of the greatest things of being involved in her really, everything she stands for. And trying to raise funds for EB and make people aware of it," Gath said. "I think most of us hadn't even heard of it before Tough Tilly began racing, so it's a great story." The well-bred three-year-old, who is a half-sister to the late Centenario, has won six of her 14 races for nearly $200,000 in prizemoney. Stewart looks to have a strong hand in the other heat for the fillies with Joanna, who is returning from a runner-up placing in the Group 1 Gold Bracelet at Bathurst. The Cardigan stable also has runners in all three of the first round heats for the three-year-old colts and geldings, including the exciting Act Now who resumes from a break. Round one APG 3YO heats have already been run in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, with second round qualifiers also complete in the Sunshine State. New South Wales will follow suit next week, as will Victoria at Kilmore on May 21, before fields are then assembled for $350,000 Group 1 national finals at Tabcorp Park Melton on May 29.   By Tim O'Connor for HRV

Tornado Valley has run his last race for the preparation, with connections pulling up stumps on the pursuit of $1million in prizemoney for the time being. Regular driver Kate Gath, the wife of trainer Andy, told that a decision had been made to give the champion squaregaiter a break following last weekend's third placing in the DNR Logistics Vulcan Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton. The nine-year-old has so far fallen short in his bid to become just the ninth Australasian-bred trotter to reach the $1 million prizemoney mark, being beaten in his last three trips to the races. This has left the son of Skyvalley stuck on $996,797 in earnings. "We've decided to give him a little break and give him one last go, so that's where he's at at the moment," Gath said. "He's sort of been in work for a really long time. Even though he didn't race a lot prior to the Great Southern Star, we'd had him in work for a really long time trying to get him right. "He'll have a decent break of a month or maybe a little bit longer and we'll give him one last go." Gath said it was hard to know when retirement might be on the cards for the winner of 38 races. "Obviously, we'd like to get to the million dollar mark. If he gets there and we are really happy with him and he goes really well, then (we will) probably look at keeping (him) going. But if he gets there and we think that he's got a few little niggling issues and has got older, we might just stop it there." Tornado Valley is raced by prominent owner Norm Jenkin, who has had a long and successful association with the Gath stable.   By Tim O'Connor for HRV

Kate Gath knows Tornado Valley probably better than anyone on the planet, so she was the perfect guest to have on SENTrack’s Trots Life to speak about the champion trotter ahead of what could be a history-making night at Geelong on Saturday. The star reinswoman has driven the horse in every one of his 46 Australian starts, 31 of which have been wins. If successful at Geelong in the Jack Rabbit Winery Sundons Gift Trotters Free For All, Tornado Valley will become the ninth Australasian-bred squaregaiter to reach the $1 million mark. "He's like the equivalent of my child," Gath told Trots Life. "We were really lucky to acquire him and the job that he has done for us is something that is pretty rare. "His gate speed is something that has been a huge asset to him and his will to win. He doesn't really like getting beat." Tornado Valley’s Group 1 haul features some of the biggest races in trotting, including the Great Southern Star (twice) and 2018 Inter Dominion Grand Final. "He's a great horse and we've been really lucky to have him in our stable for the job that he has done for us,” Gath, whose husband Andy trains the gelding, said. "These horses don't come along often so they are really special." LISTEN TO KATE GATH ON THURSDAY’S EPISODE OF TROTS LIFE:     HRV - Tim O'Connor

Kate Gath will join forces with Ben Yole and Geoffrey Smith during the Australian Female Drivers Championship this Sunday, as Kerryn Manning teams up with five different trainers throughout the competition. Gath and Manning are Victoria's representatives at the event in Launceston, which is the feature of a nine-race card in the Apple Isle. Two female drivers from each state will contest six heats, with the winner to be decided via a point-score system. Gath has four drives for Yole and two for Smith, while Manning will take the reins of horses prepared by those two trainers as well as Steve Lukac, Kent Rattray and Michael Laugher. "I've been before and it's really good," Gath, who has driven the most Group 1 winners of any female driver in Australasia, said last month when selected for the event. "It's always good to catch up with the other girls... we get to catch-up and have a little get-together and do what we like doing."     Manning, who is the winningest female driver in history with more than 4000 victories in the sulky, has also contested the Australian Female Drivers Championship before. “It’s something different to go and do and it’s a bit of a day out,” she said. “It’s great. I do enjoy them.” The first of six heats in Launceston is scheduled to go at 5.21pm. AUSTRALIAN FEMALE DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVERS Kate Gath VIC Kerryn Manning VIC Jocelyn Young WA Emily Suvaljko WA Lisa Ryan SA Danielle Hill SA Samantha Gangell TAS Hannah Van dongen TAS Narissa McMullen QLD Dannielle Veivers QLD Ashley Hart NSW Stephanie Lippiatt NSW CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL LAUNCESTON FIELDS   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Driver of the moment Kate Gath has one of the biggest decisions of her career to make in the next couple of days. Gath has great reasons to drive at feature meetings at both Menangle at Melton next Saturday night. At Menangle she would do the bulk of the stable driving for the powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin, including nominal NSW Oaks favourite Tough Tilly, leading Ladyship Mile hope Maajida, Miracle Mile hopeful Out To Play and well-fancied NSW Derby contender Idyllic in a qualifying heat. But, at Melton, the most special horse in his career, Tornado Valley, will tackle the $100,000 Group 1 Grand Prix. “It’s not a position I’m used to being in. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s such a hard one,” Gath said. “I just wanted to get through tonight (Saturday) and now I’ll have to make my decision.” You’d think Gath, if allowed, would wait until the barrier draw came out on Tuesday for the Grand Prix. As special as Tornado Valley is to her, she’s got amazing bond with Tough Tilly and the EB Research awareness cause the filly races for. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Emerging star Wolf Stride is returning to where it all started to chase a Miracle Mile berth. It was about 10 months ago when co-trainer Anthony Butt touted Wolf Stride as a future Grand Circuit player after a Menangle win and he’s well on the way. Fresh off his terrific fourth in the Group 1 Hunter Cup on February 6, Wolf Stride dropped back in class a tad and made the most of it for a dominant $50,000 Group 2 Terang Cup win on Saturday night. The race was pretty much over inside the first 600m when daring stand-in driver Zac Phillips worked through and around the field from a back row draw to take the lead from Malcolms Rhythm. Wolf Stride then dashed home in in 55.1sec, seemingly still with something in hand, to win as he liked. “He’s a pretty special horse and still on the up,” Phillips said. “All credit goes to Anthony and Sonya (Smith, co-trainer). They’ve sone a fantastic job with this horse. “Anthony’s up in Sydney and this guy heads up Monday join him. Sonya heads up then as well.” Wolf Stride will chase a Miracle Mile berth through one of the two Group 1 qualifying sprints at Menangle next Saturday night. Terang’s other feature, the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup, proved a triumph for young trainer Kate Hargreaves and her improving Well Defined. Driver Ellen Tormey stepped Well Defined straight to the front, took a trail on the tough Robbie Royale and ripped home to win strongly. Class runners Pink Galahs (20m handicap) and McLovin (30m) were well beaten into fifth and six spots. _____________________________________________________________________________________ It wasn’t the Newcastle Mile we were all waiting for, but there were plenty happy with the breakthrough Group 1 win of The Black Prince. Roy Roots Jr’s consistent open-class performer won the Group 1 Carousel at Menangle in 2018, but broke through at the highest level when driver Robbie Morris scooted him along the inside to win in a slick 1min51.1sec mile. The Black Prince, who finished third to Majordan in last year’s Newcastle Mile, also gave Roots Jr his first Group 1 success. Roots Jr was formerly based at Keinbah, just outside Newcastle, before moving his base to NSW’s Central Coast. With Lochinvar Art a late scratching, top former Kiwi pacer Turn It Up was sent out a commanding $1.70 favourite. Turn It Up spent some petrol in a early burn for the lead and had to snag back, but then surged around soon after to take the lead from The Black Prince. Despite steadying through a cosy 29.5sec second quarter, Turn It Up looked in trouble coming to the home bend and tired to finish fifth. He’ll now need to back-up and run much better in a qualifying sprint at Menangle next Saturday night to make the Miracle Mile. But The Black Prince’s win gets him straight through to the $1 million feature on Saturday week. Victorian raider Western Sonador grabbed the eye after being buried in traffic early and storming home from a mile back to finish a fantastic second. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Amidst the Lochinvar Art injury setback and Miracle Mile chaos, his trainer-driver David Moran at least had one reason to smile. His untapped three-year-old Patsbeachstorm sparkled winning his final NSW Derby warm-up against older horses at Newcastle last Friday night. It was his first run since being nabbed late as favourite when second in the Group 1 Caduceus Classic at Melton on January 30. He’s had just six runs for four wins, a second a third and oozes potential. “I wasn’t at all disappointed when he got beaten at Melton. He was only second up from almost a year out and it was six months ago he almost died. He was always going to improve a lot from that Melton run,” Moran said. “I deliberately picked that Newcastle race because it was over the (long) 2550m. It was great to be able to sit him back off the pace and let him finish off them instead of leading as he’s done so often.” Patsbeachstorm stormed home from near the rear to win by 20.7m and run his own last half in 55.3sec. He’s one of the major players in the Derby heading into next Saturday night’s heats. The others are Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s pair Idyllic and Act Now along with local star Tasty Delight. _____________________________________________________________________________________ Gary Hall Jr never ceases to amaze at Gloucester Park. He was right at his best again in the first of the features last Friday night when perfectly executing a plan and winning on comeback pacer Wildwest in the $50,000 Group 2 Governors Cup (2130m). While most thought the headstrong and enigmatic Talktomeurmattjesty would work across to the front, Hall Jr had other ideas. “I didn’t like the position that could’ve left me in, so I wanted to hold the front with everything I had,” he said. Wildwest and Talktomeurmattjesty burned through the lead time, but Hall Jr did hold the front and was still good enough to keep fighting and win despite copping midrace pressure too. It was only Wildwest’s second run back from a break and took his record to 10 wins from only 15 starts. In the other feature, husband and wife team Chris and Debra Lewis combined for an all-the-way win with Rumour Has It to upstage some glamour fillies like Black Jack Baby (third) and Always An Angel (unplaced). It was a race which has throw the upcoming WA Oaks into some confusion.   by Adam Hamilton

Stewart, Gath bag another feature on a stellar night IS there anything trainer Emma Stewart and gun driver Kate Gath cannot do? Stewart dominated the heats of the NSW Oaks, winning all three earlier in the night, with Gath winning one of them for her with Tough Tilly. The pair were back in the winners' circle again when they captured one of the night's major features, winning the $50,000 Group 2 Robin Dundee Stakes with another of Stewart's stable stars Maajida. It was something of an upset as Belinda and Luke McCarthy's star mare Bettor Enforce was sent out an odds-on favourite in the 1609m dash but Maajida and Gath dictated terms to score an amazing win in a slick 1:50.2 mile rate. Watch the race replay click here! The surprises were on right from the start of this race when Queenslander Justalittle Torque shot out of the gate from nine and showed any amount of speed to find the front in a quick sprint-off with Maajida, who drew a lot better in five. But Gath would have none of that and no sooner had Leonard Cain settled his charge in front when Gath took her on again and found the front where she could dictate terms with opening splits of 26.5 and 28.2 seconds. In the meantime Luke McCarthy had a quick 'look' for the front with Bettor Enforce before Gath showed she would have none of that and held the front. Rocknroll Angel (Cameron Hart) then appeared on the scene three wide and McCarthy had little choice but to drop back into a one-one trail hoping for a final crack at them in the straight. Yet that was about as close as Bettor Enforce was able to get to them as Maajida held them all off in the run home with a last half of 55.6 seconds (27.5, 28.1) to score by a half head from Rocknroll Angel with Miss McGonagall third and Bettor Enforce a close fourth which was enough to get her through to next week's Ladyship Mile, where she will again have a crack at the three placegetters. Club Menangle

An overdue change of fortune for Aldebaran Ursula delivered the harness racing two-year-old filly's connections the coveted Victorian feature race win they had been seeking since her arrival from New South Wales in October at Lord's Raceway on Friday night. And it came with the bonus of a new Australian one mile two-year-old trotting record. The supremely-talented daughter of leading Swedish sire Yield Boko - driven by Kate Gath - stamped herself as the inaugural winner of the $20,000 Group 3 Graeme Lang Aldebaran Park Trotting Mile with a standout performance on an 11-race all-trotting program dedicated to the memory of harness racing legends Graeme and Gavin Lang.  Gavin and Graeme Lang Aldebaran Ursula, trained by Andy Gath since being sent south by KerryAnn and Rob Morris, slashed more than a second off her previous best mile in finishing more than 10-metres clear of That's Not My Gait, with Evas Image for trainer-driver Chris Lang back in third. Her mile rate of 1:55.7 established a new Australian record for two-year-olds.   Aldebaran Ursula (Andy and Kate Gath) wins the Group 3 Graeme Lang Aldebaran Park Trotting Mile for two-year-old fillies     Kate Gath said the stable never doubted Aldebaran Ursula had plenty of ability, but conceded things had not exactly gone to plan in the Redwood Classic and again in the Breeders Crown when she finished eighth behind Sangreal. "We had absolutely no luck in the Breeders Crown, everything that could go wrong did," she told Trots Vision. "It was really good to win tonight (Friday) and get some redemption in a race that is quite an honour to win. "The Lang family are so synonymous with harness racing - not just in Victoria, but around Australia." The rich Vicbred Super Series lies over the horizon for Aldebaran Ursula, with Gath confident the filly is just hitting her straps "She has just continued to impress me at home all the time, but as I said, she just had no luck in the Breeders Crown," she said. "She probably would have gone so close to winning it if the horse hadn't galloped in front of her. That's the way racing is. "We were lucky this race was put on by Aldebaran Park and Bendigo, and when you can race for this sort of money at two (years-old) and as a trotter. Honestly, (with) the trotters at the moment, we are earning more money with them than we are the pacers. "There's so much upside to them and we just get our hands on as many as we can. We were extremely lucky to get sent this filly and I'd like to thank Robbie Morris and his family for doing so." Aldebaran Ursula boosted her career record to five wins and two seconds from 10 starts. Her time of 1:55.7 was clearly superior to that of Utopia (1:58.6), who won the colts and geldings division of the mile, named in honour of Gavin Lang. The Gaths now have every reason to be convinced the filly can be a major player in the Vicbred Series. "She's got a bit of strength about her, but she's also got a bit of speed. She's pretty versatile," she said. "You can't win those races with super-hard runs, but she is the type of horse that you could make a little bit of your own luck with, provided as you get a bit as well." By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Kate Gath is still in excited disbelief after snaring the drive on Australia’s most exciting pacer Ride High. In somewhat of a shock, Gath upstaged the likes of Chris Alford and Greg Sugars to get the nod from trainers Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart. Gath’s first drive on Ride High will be as a $1.08 Aussie TAB favourite in the $30,000 Gammalite at Terang on Saturday night, but just around the corner are features like the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (October 3) and $300,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup a week later. Both races are at Melton. Tonkin called Gath with the great news at 8.30am today. “It was completely out of the blue and I couldn’t quite believe it,” she said. “I remember when he won at Bendigo (and smashed the track record), Andy and I were the only two people in the grandstand watching and he gave us goosebumps. He’s something else. “I’d like to thank Clayton, Emma and Peter Gleeson (owner-breeder) for this opportunity. “I’ve had the privilege of driving some nice horses for them before and I have nothing but respect for the job Emma and Clayton do. I can’t wait to drive him (Ride High) for the first time.” Gath replaces replaces Kima Frenning, who has won all five starts on Ride High this campaign, but announced yesterday she was stepping-side from driving to focus on training. “We’ve gone with Kate. There’s a heap of mutual respect between us, Kate and Andy (Gath) and we know the horse will get well looked after (in his races),” Stewart said. Tonkin added: “This has been a long and stressful decision with a horse as good as him. We worked through so many options and changed our minds a few times along the way.” Ride High, $2.10 prepost TAB favourite for the Victoria Cup, is chasing his 16th win from just 17 starts at Terang. Gath, 37, is no stranger to driving star horses in major races, having won a string of features, including the Inter Dominion trotting final on Tornado Valley. She’s also won Victoria’s two biggest pacing races, the Hunter Cup on About To Rock in 2006 and the Victoria Cup on Caribbean Blaster in 2012. Both trained by her husband, Andy.   By Adam Hamilton 

Sweeping a Trots Country Cups Championship night was so night Kate Gath would love to do it twice, with the leading reinswoman to steer a talented duo in Sunday's Stawell pacing and trotting cups. Having guided Phoenix Prince to Saturday night's Geelong Pacing Cup and War Spirit to the trotting equivalent, both in track record time, Gath joined Trots Talk this week ahead this Sunday's Stawell features. "(Winning country cups is) what it's all about and it's good reward for the hard work - definitely makes it worthwhile," Gath said. "(Phoenix Prince) was pretty impressive the way he hit the line. He was jogging the whole way and felt like he was doing it pretty easily, even though they were running. "He felt like he'd get up the straight pretty good if I got a decent run at them somewhere and we were lucky enough to get that and full credit to him. He was still good enough to get the job done against pretty quality horses." Phoenix Prince beat Code Black, leader in the $35,000 Trots Country Cups Championship, into second at Geelong and the Emma Stewart trained pair will go head to head on Sunday in the Talquist Tree Stawell Pacing Cup. "It's a little bit harder on the smaller, tighter tracks off the second row to make up the ground, but it's not a full field and with a little bit of luck he won't be too far away at the finish," Gath said. She will also steer Chief Runningcloud in the Grampians Excavations Stawell Trotters Cup, with the lightly-raced five-year-old to come off 10 metres along side Jerichos Trumpet. "He trialled quite well (at Melton) on Monday night," Gath said. "He's pretty good from the stand. It doesn't have a whole lot of depth in it, obviously Kyvalley Finn's the one to beat, but providing he handles the track hopefully he won't be too far away." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL EDITION OF TROTS TALK:     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard  

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

Kate Gath already boasts her best season, but hopes to take it another level on Breeders Crown night at Melton.  Gath has smashed her PB with 152 wins and there’s been plenty of quality amongst them, most notably an Inter Dominion and string of other Group 1’s aboard Tornado Valley.  But the extra dimension of this season has come as a bit of a surprise to Gath.  “It’s been the outside driving opportunities which have been the pleasant surprise,” she said. “It’s been great to get drives for a few different stables, obviously Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) being on some fantastic horses.  “That’s been a big part of what’s certainly been my best season. Not only have I driven more winners than ever before, but I’ve been in more big races as well.  “I think that says some great things about our sport … that at 36 years of age I’m having by far my best season and getting more opportunities than ever. In so many other fields, it gets harder for women as they get older.”  Gath has drives in three of the Group 1 Breeders Crown finals on Saturday night: Majestuoso (Race 6, 3YO colts and geldings trot); Demon Delight (Race 7, 3YO colts and geldings pacing final) and Pacifico Dream (Race 8, 2YO colts and geldings pacing final). She’s also down to drive Jo Dina in the 2YO pacing fillies’ final if the first emergency gains a start.  Gath will also take the reins on major players Maraetai in the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final as well as Nostra Beach in the Group 2 4YO mares’ final.  In a sign of the career shift for Gath, only Majestuoso is trained by her and her husband, Andy.  “It’s a great book of drives on a fantastic night of racing,” Gath. “It’s terrific to be part of it, especially with so many good drives.”  Majestuoso gave Gath her latest Group 1 win in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough last month and is a $2.20 favourite to win his Crown final.  “I was probably a tad easy on him after the Derby win because he’s had to the two staying races back-to-back. Even though he was beaten, he still got very close and fought it out well,” Gath said.  “It’s a good field, but thankfully most of our main dangers, including All Cashed Up who beat him in the heat, are drawn the back row with us.  “The shorter 2240m trip compared to the Derby distance is a bit of a leveller, but he’s so fast this guy. He’ll be very hard to beat.”  Gath can’t wait to drive Demon Delight for Stewart and Tonkin again.  “He’s got everything this horse. He’s so versatile. We knew he was tough and then he comes out and shows that sort of speed to win from back in the field last week,” she said.  “He never seems to draw well for me, but it’s great to have options and be able to drive him according to how the race is run. He’s such an exciting horse.”   Adam Hamilton

THE two biggest names in Aussie pacing are close to comeback races. This season’s open-class ranks were cruelled when firstly Soho Tribeca and then Chicago Bull were sidelined with serious injuries. But the pair are at the same stage of comeback preparations and only three to four weeks away from the racetrack. “All is going well at this stage. He’s about a month away, so the Len Smith is a big chance. We’d love to get there,” Soho Tribeca’s trainer-driver Stanley said. Hall Sr said: “Chicago Bull sounds like he’s at about the same stage as Soho Tribeca. He’ll be ready for a trial in three weeks or so.” There is talk about a possible Gloucester Park match race, but Stanley said his sole target for now was the Group 1 Len Smith Mile on June 30. That said, owner Rob Watson is a big picture man and will ultimately call the shots on where Soho Tribeca heads. “There’s a lot to consider and get through, but it would be amazing for the sport if a match-race happened,” Watson said. “I’d love to see and would certainly throw some money behind it.” _____________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING former Kiwi trotter McLovin capped his preparation for a return “home” with an easy Melton win last night. The Andy and Kate Gath-trained six-year-old will now head to Auckland for the Anzac and Rowe Cups. McLovin worked to the front, dictated terms and won the $24,000 Group 3 Sundons Gift Trotters’ free-for-all (2240m). He’s won six of seven starts since being bought by Norm Jenkin and joining the Gaths. _____________________________________________________________________________ FORMER young Kiwi star Ana Malak is seeing plenty of Australia. The four-year-old made a huge splash, including winning the Group 1 Golden Nugget, in his first Aussie campaign in WA for trainers Greg and Skye Bond. Worried by his handicap status in WA, the Bonds negotiated with Victorian trainer Dean Braun to take Ana Malak for a stint in Victoria. Braun has set his sights on more travel, this time to Tasmania for the $75,000 Easter Cup at Launceston on April 20. As soon as word got out Ana Malak was being set for the race, he was installed a $3 favourite. It promises to be a strong race with other mainlanders like Kerryn Manning’s exciting four-year-old Duke Of Wellington and recent Charlton Cup winner Cant Refuse are others being set for a Tassie raid. Ana Malak won four of six NZ starts before being unbeaten in three runs for the Bonds. The son of Bettors Delight hasn’t raced since winning the Nugget at Gloucester Park on December 14. _____________________________________________________________________________ COULD exciting juvenile colt Pandering be a “sneaky” for the Harness Jewels? The son of Courage Under Fire won on debut for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin by 35.5m at Ballarat last Friday and is raced by Justin Baker, the managing owner of brilliant three-year-old trotter Alpha Male. Stewart is on record as saying if, as expected, Alpha Male heads to the Jewels she would like to take one or two juvenile pacers with the trotter to Addington. Stewart also has Victoria’s best juvenile so far this season, Be Happy Mach. Another Ballarat winner going places after a sparkling win last Friday is Andy and Kate Gath’s three-year-old trotter Majestuoso. It’s clear he’s in the top few trotters of his age in Australia after posting his fourth win of the season and scoring by 20.3m. _____________________________________________________________________________ ELLMERS Image showed he has the potential to take the next step with a gritty win in blazing time at Menangle last night. Trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull gave him a crack at the Melbourne Inter Dominion last year, but he just battled through the heats before brilliantly winning the consolation. Ellmers Image also ran a strong second to the classy Our Uncle Sam in the Group 1 Bohemia Crystal on Miracle Mile night. Last night he made a midrace move to sit parked outside the speedy Majordan, who did work hard in a 26.1sec opening quarter from a wide draw. The pair hit the line together with the photo showing a nostril margin to Ellmers Image in a 1min49.6sec mile. Former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow was third. The win was Ellmers Image’s 14th from 52 starts and edged him close to $170,000 in earnings. Another winner of note at Menangle was former Great Southern Star winner Glenferrie Typhoon, who won his first race since being bought from Western Australia. Glenferrie Typhoon reached the top for Andy and Kate Gath before connections took him to WA for a stint. Now a nine-year-old with trainer Roy Roots Jr, Glenferrie Typhoon posted his 32nd win in a 1min59sec mile rate for 2300m. It was his first win since last October.   by Adam Hamilton

This is it….this is what we’ve been waiting for! The two best  trotters from either side of the ditch are coming head to head for the first time this season. Tornado Valley vs Marcoola. And the battle ground is TABCORP Park, Melton this Saturday night. Its leg three of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and as it stands, they sit equal at the top of the leaderboard following their respective victories in the Inter Dominion Grand Final and the Dominion. Both have collected 100 points to date. So the winner walks away with more than bragging rights. Who will take the Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star? Will it be Tornado Valley and his relentless hard running or will the sublime speed of Marcoola be on full display? And they will have a great view of each other early after drawing ideally off the front-line; they will start side by side in the 2760m mobile start event. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley has landed gate two while the Ken and Clint Ford conditioned Marcoola starts to his immediate outside in gate three. The Gath’s combined with Glenferrie Typhoon who proved triumphant in 2017. Speedy Sydney prepared performer Tough Monarch has landed the coveted inside gate and looms as the knockout runner following his effortless last start victory at TABCORP Park, Menangle. Inter Dominion runner-up Sky Petite will start from gate four for trainer Mick Stanley and young driver Ryan Duffy; the speedy mare will carry plenty of support yet again. Outstanding young horseman Anton Golino prepares both Pizza Queen (gate 5) and Dance Craze (gate 13) and both will also have plenty of support owing to their consistent form. New Zealand stars Speeding Spur (gate 7) and Temporale (gate 12) are no strangers to success on Australian soil and both return with brilliant recent form, while the barrier draws aren’t kind they will certainly make their presence felt. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star back in 2016. Last start E B Cochran Cup winner Save Our Pennys (gate 8) represents father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang and commands respects given his ultra-consistent form surge of late. Classy mare Red Hot Tooth (gate 9), a last start winner of the George Gath at Shepparton can only improve on effort from last season when finishing at the rear of the field, the Kari Males prepared mare is more seasoned and mature commodity and appeals as a knockout hope. Veteran performer Kyvalley Blur (gate 10) is also looking to improve on last year’s effort (10th behind Sparkling Success) and is drawn to follow out behind Marcoola, the Brent Lilley prepared gelding performed well at his most recent start in the George Gath behind Red Hot Tooth. Emerging talent Big Jack Hammer (gate 11) continues to thrive on racing in the elite company this season and although the draw is unkind, the David Aiken prepared gelding can’t be completely overlooked. With defending champion Sparkling Success absent owing to injury, the depth in the field this year is outstanding with total class spread across the field. Since conditions changed in 2017, Australian trained trotters have proved victorious but will that trend continue this year? What a contest…what a race! The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 9.00pm local time.   Chris Barsby  

SURE it was Inter Dominion weekend in Melbourne, but the most remarkable training performance took place on the other side of Australia. Greg and Skye Bond produced a truly remarkable result with the first five – yes, five – placegetters in Australia’s second biggest four-year-old feature, the $200,000 Group 1 Golden Nugget at Gloucester Park last Friday. They had half the field with the Bonds sixth runner, Thisbeachrighthere, finishing 10th. It was hugely-hyped Kiwi import Ana Malak who took first prize, with driver Ryan Warwick taking advantage of the pole draw to lead, dictate terms and rip home in 55.6 and 28.2sec to win by a whisker. But the run of the race without doubt came from stablemate Mighty Conqueror, who sat parked for driver Dylan Egerton-Green and just kept coming. He’d have won in another half a stride and in a slick 1 min57.5sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. “He could be the real deal,” co-trainer Greg Bond said. “He’s a big fella still filling into himself, so there’s probably still some upside with him which is exciting.” There should be upside to Ana Malak as well. He battled a minor, but niggling hoof issue which limited his racing preparation for the Nugget. He won the big won at just his third start for Team Bond. The next three home for the Bonds were Fizzing, Bright Diamond and Bettor Aim. “We really like this batch of horses and it’s great to get a result like this,” Greg Bond said. With WA’s best pacer, Chicago Bull, sidelined, Bond is looking at running the cream of his four-year-old crop against the older horses in the Group 1 open-class features, the Fremantle and WA Cups, next month. _______________________________________________________________________________________ GRANT Dixon has his sights set on next year’s Auckland Inter Dominion with Queensland’s best pacer, Colt Thirty One. Dixon toyed with running in this year’s Melbourne series, but opted to stay home to ease his stable star into open-class racing through some home state features. And Colt Thirty One completed the double, following last week’s easy Xmas Cup win with a narrow but fantastic Group 2 Queensland Cup win last night. The son of Mach Three came from an outside back row draw, did all the work and dug deep to win a whisker in a slick 1min55sec mile rate for 2138m, beating stablemates Smooth Showgirl and Avonnova. “We did think about taking him to Melbourne, but I’m glad we stayed here and went through these races,” Dixon said. “I know Kevin (Seymour, owner) will want to chase the Inter Dominion next year if he’s going well enough.” Next stop is a trip to Sydney to target Australia’s biggest four-year-old race, the Chariots Of Fire, which promises to be an epic this year. Think of horses like Chase Auckland, Spankem, Im Pats Delight, Ride High, Poster Boy, Ignatius and maybe even WA pacers like Ana Malak and Mighty Conqueror. _______________________________________________________________________________________ WHAT a night it was for the girls at Melton on Inter Dominion final night. Kate Gath took centre stage with the Trotting Final win aboard Tornado Valley, but females won six of the 11 races on the card. They were: Kima Frenning (race two, Pizza Queen), Amanda Turnbull (races four and five on Conviction and Ellmers Image), Gath (races six and seven on Star Of Memphis and Tornado Valley) and Jodi Quinlan (race nine, Glenferrie Blade). Turnbull turned around an otherwise frustrating Inter Dominion series to win the consolation in gritty fashion with Ellmers Image and the free-for-all with Conviction. Conviction’s win was one of the runs of the night, simply running his rivals ragged in front in blistering times. His splits were 28.9, 28.2, 28.5 and 28.3sec for a 1min53.5sec mile rate over 2240m. Let It Ride finished strongly, but had his chance when second, while Buster Brady simply worked too hard outside the leader in the blistering times and did well to fight on for third. It was great to see Quinlan, one of the pioneering females at the top level, snare the Group 3 Richmond Lass win aboard Glenferrie Blade for partner, Craig Demmler. Glenferrie Blade trailed the leader and got clear when favourite Delight Me crushed the leader, My Harmony Blue, and kicked-away, but couldn’t sustain the sprint. They ran a 1min54.4sec mile rate for 1720m and it was a sprint home in a 54.4sec last half and 27.1sec last quarter. _______________________________________________________________________________________ MIRACLE Mile winner My Field Marshal will have to head to Perth without a lead-up race. A deluge of rain caused the abandonment of the Menangle meeting last night where My Field Marshal was due to return. Trainer Tim Butt is keen to get My Field Marshal across to Perth early for a lead-up run the Celebrity Sprint on December 28 ahead of the big Fremantle and WA Cup double in January. In a coup for Gloucester Park, Mark Purdon said he was “seriously considering” sending one of the All Stars’ open-class stars across for the Fremantle and WA Cups as well. “Nat and I need to sit down and think through it, but there is a flight which makes it attractive,” he said. _______________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to see one-time budding star Mr Mojito returned to winning form at Gloucester Park last Friday. It was the now six-year-old’s first win since scoring at Melton on September 17, last year, when trained and driven by Kerryn Manning. Now with Ross Olivieri, Mr Mojito boasts a win and two seconds from three starts back from an injury which sidelined him for almost a year. He’s still very lightly-raced with 30 starts netting 12 wins, five seconds and two thirds. The free-for-all on the same night went to Kiwi import Rocknroll Lincoln in impressive style after leading and copping plenty of pressure in a sharp 1min54sec mile rate for 2130m, including closing splits of 55.9 and 28.4sec. Rocnkroll Lincoln’s win was his ninth from just 19 starts for trainer Justin Warwick. Another winner with a strong Kiwi flavour on the card was Our Angel Of Harlem, who dropped sharply in grade, led from the pole and thrashed a moderate field by almost 17m in a 1min57.3sec mile rate for 2130m.   Adam Hamilton

A blistering beginning and brave finish saw Tornado Valley capture the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship in the hands of reinswoman Kate Gath, who became the first female to salute in the great race. Long Forrest trainer Andy Gath and Kate, his wife, again proved a formidable force in Australasian racing with a thrilling victory by a neck from surprise packet Sky Petite, saluting in front of packed stands at Tabcorp Park Melton. “To win the Inter Dominion tonight blows my mind. It’s the race everyone wants to win and I’ve won one,” Kate said. “I can’t believe how lucky I am in my career to win the races I’ve won. It’s astonishing.” Andy said the pair had “been fortunate to have a lot of good horses win a lot of big races but to win an Inter Dominion is the ultimate”. “We just love this horse, he just knows how to win and we are very fortunate to have him in our stable.” Kate flew the gates from her widest front row draw and found the front after 300m, pocketing the second favourite and well-fancied Kiwi Speeding Spur. It would be the critical move, with Tornado Valley in control out in front as they notched a moderate lead time into a 30.2 first quarter. The challenges threatened in the running line, first Save Our Pennys, then Tough Monarch, but Tornado Valley saw them all off. At the turn it was Sky Petite who emerged from three-wide and loomed next to Tornado Valley, fighting on brilliantly before losing by only a neck in the hands of talented young reinsman Ryan Duffy for trainer Michael Stanley. But it was to be Tornado Valley and Kate Gath’s night. “Leading early was that little bit of luck we needed to be hard to beat and once we led I was happy, but I burned really hard to lead,” Kate said. “I came out pretty aggressively to get him across. Everything fell into place and I’m pretty lucky.”     Michael Howard Trots Media     7 9:08pm TAB INTER DOMINION TROTTING CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND FINAL (GROUP 1) 2760M $150,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 TORNADO VALLEY NZ      Fr6 6 Andy Gath Kate Gath   $ 1.70 fav  PRS GS L 1 PH SWAB ST HT   BAY GELDING 7 by SKYVALLEY NZ out of BEGIN (NZ) ()  Owner(s): N R (Norm) Jenkin  Breeder(s): P L Gaugler, T M McMillan 2 SKY PETITE      Fr7 7 Michael Stanley Ryan Duffy NK $ 104.00   PRS T/F RAS 12 3WL SWAB ST HT D/S D/F 3 SPEEDING SPUR NZ      Fr1 1 J W Dickie, J I Dickie Josh Dickie 9.60 $ 3.00   PRS GS 3 SWAB ST HT 4 MONTY PYTHON NZ      Fr2 2 Phil Williamson Anthony Butt 9.80 $ 46.70   PRS PRU 5 5 SAVE OUR PENNYS      Fr3 3 Graeme Lang Gavin Lang 10.20 $ 14.30   PRS GS 3WE 4 6 WILMAS MATE NZ      Sr4 12 Tim Butt John Caldow 15.50 $ 140.00   PRS 10 7 ROMPERS MONARCHY NZ      Fr4 4 J A Rando, M J Rando David Morris 15.90 $ 201.00   PRS 7 HI CMP 8 KYVALLEY BLUR USA      Sr3 11 Brent Lilley Chris Alford 16.60 $ 13.00   PRS PRU 8 QUER VXAR SCOPE 9 RED HOT TOOTH      Sr5 13 Kari Males Zac Phillips 21.70 $ 121.00   PRS PRU RES 11 10 BIG JACK HAMMER      Fr5 5 David Aiken Kima Frenning 24.60 $ 34.80   PRS PRU GS 6 11 KINGDOM COME NZ      Sr2 10 Andy Gath Alex Ashwood 24.80 $ 166.00   PRS 9 12 TOUGH MONARCH      Sr1 9 Rickie Alchin Rickie Alchin 29.50 $ 19.80   PRS 3WM 2 QUER VXAR SCOPE Scratchings   ILLAWONG ARMSTRONG 8 Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 3:24:9 Mile Rate: 1:59:5 Lead Time: 87.6 First Quarter: 30.3 Second Quarter: 29.5 Third Quarter: 29.1 Fourth Quarter: 28.4 Margins: 1.0m x 8.6m  

The last time an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final was staged, it was 2012. It was staged in Melbourne at TABCORP Park, Melton. And the Kiwi’s got ‘Lucky” when brilliant squaregaiter I Can Doosit proved triumphant for champion horseman Mark Purdon. In fact, it was New Zealand domination with the first four placegetters all hailing from the Shaky Isles. Now, the Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final returns to the feature race calendar and again, it will be staged in the garden state. The Gr.1 $150,000 TAB Inter Dominion Trotters Grand Final is the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and takes place this Saturday night. While the Kiwi’s are well represented, the locals hold the whip hand through the Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley. Bred in New Zealand and raced by Queensland based Norm Jenkin, the Skyvalley gelding has been a revelation since being under the tutelage of the Gath couple. A clean sweep of his three heats has him listed as the punters elect and he’s hoping to join I Can Doosit who swept the 2012 series. But back in 2012, there was only two heats and a final. Throughout this year’s series, Tornado Valley has looked as safe as a bank with the only concern coming last weekend in his final heat after his hind leg bandage starting to unravel with 300m left to run. As it turned out, the star trotter never missed a beat. A winner of 16 of his 20 starts on Australian soil, Tornado Valley will start from gate six in the 2760m mobile start feature while his main danger, New Zealand star Speeding Spur has drawn the ace. Having met in the second round at Ballarat, Tornado Valley took glory with his all the way victory over his Kiwi rival. Interestingly, Tornado Valley led Speeding Spur in that event despite drawing on his outside. But Speeding Spur is a high quality performer, a trotter that is no stranger to the big stage. And his record at Melton underlines his class, with four wins from eight starts including features and excellent form throughout the series, it shapes as a classic Trans-Tasman battle. The stunning looking entire won two of his three heats while placed behind Tornado Valley in the other and the John and Josh Dickie prepared gun is looking to crack the million dollar mark if successful this weekend. While Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur have hogged the limelight throughout the series, several others are looking to take centre stage including several locally trained performers. And most have strong Inter Dominion connections. Legendary father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang will combine with in-form trotter Save Our Pennys, a runner-up in all three heats throughout the series. Both Graeme and Gavin know what’s required to score an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final, they have five trophies combined. Back in 2012, they combined with Save A Sixpence who finshed 6th behind I Can Doosit. Save Our Pennys will start from gate three. Over the past 45 years, the name Lang has been synonomous with Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Finals. Astute horseman David Aiken is looking for success with the talented Big Jack Hammer, a runner-up in his past two heats. Again, the rising star will be handled by Kima Frenning and will start from gate five. While Aiken has lofted an Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final trophy, his best finish in a Trotting Grand Final is 5th (twice) with Twebby Twotter (2002) and Im Dejazzman (2012). Richly talented young horsemen Mick Stanley and Ryan Duffy are looking for their piece of history with the talented Sky Petite, but the mare will need to overcome gate seven. Former New Zealand horseman Brent Lilley is chasing his second Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final after scoring back in 2002 at Harold Park with Game Bid. Representing his stable is the North American bred evergreen Kyvalley Blur, the 11-year-old gelding will start from gate eleven. Kyvalley Blur scored a stylish heat victory in the second round of heats at Ballarat and will again be handled by champion reinsman Chris Alford. Speedy mare Red Hot Tooth is looking to provide Kari Males and Zac Phillips with their biggest triumph but face a massive challenge after landing gate thirteen. The Yankee Paco mare was placed behind Tornado Valley and Save Our Pennys in her final heat last week at Cranbourne. Andy Gath is duly represented in the final with Kingdom Come lining-up from gate ten, young Alex Ashwood will take the drive. The state of New South Wales will have a triple threat through the deeds of Rompers Monarchy (gate four), Tough Monarch (gate nine) and Wilmas Mate (gate twelve). Husband and wife combination of Joe and Mary Rando along with driver David Morris are hoping for their biggest success through Rompers Monarchy while Rickie Alchin is also chasing the ultimate prize with his talented performer Tough Monarch for the first time. Champion trainer Tim Butt, now based at Menangle, is chasing his fourth Inter Dominion Grand Final trophy after scoring previously with Lyell Creek and Take A Moment (twice). Back in 2012, he finished second with Vulcan behind I Can Doosit. Butt is preparing the talented mare for Christchurch trainer Paul Nairn, a winner of the 1995 Inter Dominion Grand Final with Call Me Now. And New Zealand horseman Phil Williamson is hoping it’s five times a charmwhen he sends out Monty Python, the talented gelding will start from gate two. Williamson has previously qualified Allegro Agitato (2005 – 12th), One Over Kenny (2008 – 7th) and Springbank Richard (2011/12 – 8th & 7th). The locally trained Illawong Armstrong is listed as the emergency runner, he will start from gate eight if he secures a start. The Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final is steeped in great history and and now another chapter is about to be written this weekend. Chris Barsby

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