Day At The Track
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Top Victorian harness racing trainer Emma Stewart began her assault on Tasmania's feature races in Launceston last night where she produced a team of six and walked away with four winners including Major Secret that won the City of Launceston Cup. Major Secret stepped away cleanly from his second-row draw but once the field was settled, driver Chris Alford sent the $1.10 favourite around the field to take up the running. Major Secret cruised to an effortless win over Dapper Dana that came from well back with Taurisi flashing home late to grab third just ahead of Destreos. It was s strong enough win to suggest Major Secret could be a serious contender for the Group 3 Tasmania Cup in Hobart later this month. Stewart did not attend the meeting but driver Alford said he believed the horse was heading to the Tasmania Cup but if all depended on how he performed last night. "If it (Tasmania Cup start) depended on tonight's performance you'd reckon he's sure to be there (Hobart)," Alford said. Stewart's team began well with Isntshejust scoring an effortless win in a C1-C2 event over 1680 metres. Isntshejust (Chris Alford) led from the pole position but she was unable to hold out Johns Legacy that crossed from gate three. But Alford quickly had the four-year-old mare outside of the leader and when he allowed her more rein a lap out she forged to the lead and went on to win comfortably. Apache Shark delivered Stewart's third win of the night. With Alford aboard Apache Shark ($1.30) circumnavigated the field a lap from home and proved too strong for Spot Eight and Call Her Julie in a C5-C7 over 1680 metres. Isntshejust and Apache Shark are owned by Victorian Tony Kiel who said it was his first double in ages. "My family have been in this game a long time and we've had plenty of winners but this is my first double since we got two up at Boort (Victoria) about 40 years ago.," Kiel said. Stewart's three-year-old colt American Alli ($2.60) was backed to beat the local favourite Semowillrev ($1.70) in a 3YO and older C0 over 2200 metres but he made an error at the start and lost about 60 metres. Semowillrev worked around the field to lead but he was run down by Izaha and Lead Singer with American Alli, that was making his debut, a game fourth beaten about nine metres. Masterkova made it four winners for Stewart with an impressive all-the-way win over 1680 metres. It was a one-act affair and no doubt Stewart will be aiming Masterkova at the Tasmanian Oaks. Peter Staples

Star Chamber will attempt to make it back-to-back wins in the Tasmania Cup when he lines up in the Tasmanian Pacing Club's premier harness racing event over 2579 metres at UBET Park Hobart today. The Nathan Ford-trained gelding won the race last year as well as a string of other feature events and he tuned up for tonight's assignment with an impressive win in the City of Launceston Cup over 2698 metres at Mowbray last Sunday night. Star Chamber was clearly last season's best free-for-aller in Tasmania and he was recognised for his efforts when awarded the Beautide Medal for outstanding achievement on home soil for the 2014-15 season. Tonight he starts from the outside of the second row (13) but that should have no effect as he is usually taken back at the start and saved for one powerful sprint at the end of his races. His opposition tonight is strong, especially from interstate with the Victorian Lets Elope from the Brent Lilley stable expected to improve at his second start in the state. Lets Elope was second to Star Chamber last week and that came on the back of an impressive win in the Ballarat Cup in his home state three weeks ago. Another Victorian Hilltop Hustler is fresh from a first-up second in the Stawell Cup two weeks ago which convinced Victorian trainer Michael Stanley to send his handy free-for-all pacer for this race and maybe stay on for the Hobart Pacing Cup. Hilltop Hustler resumed from a lengthy spell to finish a game second behind the Emma Stewart-trained Yankee Rockstar that started a short price favourite ($1.50) to easily win the Stawell Cup but the runner-up was game in defeat. The other interstate invader is Glenferrie Hood that is prepared in Victoria by Ahmed Taiba. Glenferrie Hood will be driven by ace New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt who will be hoping the gelding can improve on his last-start fourth in the Yarra Valley Pacing Cup last Friday week. Peter Staples

Last season's best pacer to race in Tasmania Star Chamber signaled he is on track to make it back-to-back harness racing Tasmania Cups when he stormed home to win the $20,000 City of Launceston Cup at the UBET Racing Centre in Launceston on Sunday night. The Nathan Ford-trained and driven seven-year-old came from near last turning for home to get up in the last few strides to defeat Victorian-trained favourite Lets Elope with outsider Call The Marshall a fast-finishing third a metre away. It was a clear message that the gelding was back to near his best and would go into this Sunday's $40,000 Tasmania Cup at UBET Park Hobart at his peak. ''He's not 100 per cent tonight because he's had a light week,'' Ford said. ''I gave him a couple of days at the beach and didn't hopple him on Thursday because I didn't want him fully wound up." ''This race will really top him off and he'll be a lot sharper next week,'' he said. Ford tracked interstate invader Lets Elope all the way and proved too strong for that gelding that is prepared in Victoria by Bret Lilley and was driven by Tasmanian-born Josh Duggan who has been domiciled in Victoria for the past four years. The Tasmania Cup was one of many feature races won by Star Chamber last season which made him clearly the best-performed horse on Tasmanian tracks.   Peter Staples  

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