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Riverina horseman Daryll Perrot almost gave up harness racing three years ago. Now the farrier/trainer/driver has never been busier – and admits he’s also never had more fun in the game. Perrot claimed the first Group One victory of his career in the Bathurst Gold Crown in March (with the exciting and unbeaten Mister Rea for legendary Riverina trainer Ray Walker) and is also becoming something of an expert in marathon road trips. Last week it was a 12-hour return trip from Coolamon to Mildura, to pick up a VicBred bonus with his own handy three-year-old Hy Voltage (Rocknroll Heaven – Mandalay Rose (American Ideal). “Ray and I did a dash and run to Kilmore in January with Mister Rea for his first start (950 km round trip), then we just did a couple of trips to Bathurst (around 500 km round trip), and then there was Mildura on Friday night (1200 km return) – so I guess you could say ‘will travel’,” Perrot joked. “I have to say I probably won’t be doing the Mildura trip again in a hurry though – I’ve been to Mildura fishing before, but it’s one thing to drive five hours for four- or five-day holiday. It’s another thing altogether to be there for four or five hours then turn around and drive home! “It was a bit of an experience in itself, though, because I’ve never seen more kangaroos than on the way back.  We got home around half past one in the morning, so I think if we’d been in a late race, we would have been in real trouble!” But Perrot’s epic road trip was nothing compared to Hy Voltage’s part-owner, Joel Goring. “He drove from Mossvale, then drove down with me, so that’s around 1800 kilometres all up.  That’s commitment, but he just loves it.  He’s a tinny one – he’s had three horses and all have been winners.  This one’s the best, though, and I’m hoping he’ll be my best as well,” Perrot said. With a bit of luck, Perrot won’t be far from the mark.  Hy Voltage won like a good thing for the jubilant connections at Mildura, pinging out from barrier 4 and leading all the way, eventually making the margin 13 metres on the line.  As a two-year-old, the pacer recorded a 1:54.6 mile rate in his maiden victory in October. Watch the replay below: “We came to Mildura for the VicBred bonus really because we had to.  All of the other meetings in Victoria that were in easier reach for us had 3YO maidens programmed.  I kept looking at Mildura, and thinking it was too far – but in the end it was about the only option,” Perrot said. “I did take him to Temora before we came down, which is a pretty tight track at about 760metres and he got around that very nicely, so I was pretty confident he would handle the (805 metre) Mildura track,” he said. “He’s not the best traveller, though, so I always take one of my yearlings with him for company and this trip it was his full brother, so hopefully in another 18 months or so, we will make the trip again, with him!” Although Perrot now makes a career of shoeing and training horses, it wasn’t necessarily a pre-ordained plan. “My dad Rex and Ray Walker went to school together and had horses together.  Dad was out at the stables a lot, and I just went with him and got hooked. “I was doing fastwork when I was 11 and became a junior driver, but back in those days once your 25 wins were up, you were basically done.  You had to get your own horses and try to get along that way, although Ray and a few others looked after me, which I was grateful for. “I kept working as a farrier, but three years or so ago, I was really looking to get out, because my body was letting me down, and I’d also lost my A-Grade driver’s licence, because I wasn’t driving enough. I was looking at buying a business, and I actually took a couple of years off.  “But our circumstances changed when my wife got a new job and I needed to be there for the kids. Shoeing was really the only option, so I came back to it.  “Then about 15 months ago, Ray got a suspension and started putting me on his horses, then Mister Rea came along, and now this bloke (Hy Voltage). “You’ve got to just take the opportunities you have – you might get hit by a bus tomorrow, or you might get to enjoy the ride I’m on now!”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura    

One of Australia's youngest full time race commentators, 20 year old Luke Humphreys, lives, eats and breathes harness racing - and still has to pinch himself that he's making a career from his obsession with horses and racing. "I got my big break when I was 18, in a full-time role with Harness Racing Victoria - but I'd been practising race calling since I was 10 or 11," Humphreys said. "Dad always had horses, standardbreds, and I never really wanted to do anything else," he said. "I was a singer in a band at school and was pretty serious about that at one stage, and I also thought about camera work. I even thought about being a trotting driver, but I could see that would be very hard. The passion for calling came first, and it was definitely the thing, so I just kept at it." Humphreys, who is based at Gisborne, near Melbourne, became the trials commentator at local greyhound, trotting and racing clubs from the age of 15 - around the same time he became co-host on a community radio harness racing program at Melton. He began as a part-time caller at RSN (Racing Sports Network) radio when he was 16 and spent two years there before working his way into the full-time role at HRV. He clearly remembers one of the "biggest thrills" in his life was climbing the stairs to the commentator's box at Mildura trots on a warm day in 2019. He'd received the call up for his first "real" race calling gig, at Mildura trots. "Mildura always had a bit of an aura about it, and Craig Rail (Humphreys' predecessor) had really made the place his own," Humphreys said. "It's a bit of a unique set up, because of the isolation and the number of meetings held there, and just the following the sport has. That first day I remember as 40 plus degrees, there was a decent crowd, and I was just rapt to be there. "I was just so proud to be able to say that I'd called the Mildura trots! Little did I know that a couple of months later, I'd be lucky enough to get the gig when Craig left, and Harness Racing Victoria offered me a full time job." Commentator Luke Humphreys, Mildura Harness Racing Carnival CEO Michelle McGinty and Luke’s dad Paul Humphreys enjoying the party that is the Mildura Pacing Cup carnival Humphreys is now the permanent Mildura caller and works on roster at other regional tracks. He said he had learned a lot from the support of mentors such as Dan Mielecki, Rob Auber, Matt Hill and Greg Miles. "You never stop learning, I don't think. You take little bits of everyone and then develop your own style," he said. "I generally prefer to call off the screen because with binoculars you can sometimes only see a small section of the field and miss something important. "I always have in my mind that you've got to save yourself that little bit extra, in case something unexpected occurs right up until they cross the line." Humphreys signature parlance "true Mildura style" is now a catch cry for the circuit's tight, unpredictable and competitive racing but due to COVID-19 he had to wait two years to roll out the phrase for the three-day Mildura Carnival party last week "It's humbling how much that phrase has taken off. I never wanted it to or thought it would as much as it has," Humphreys said. "I don't like overdoing it but it definitely deserved to get a few mentions during Mildura Cup week!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A brilliant “handlebars down” battle to the line set up a thrilling Mach Dan victory in tonight’s Tasco Petroleum Mildura Pacing Cup, with Emma Stewart’s young warrior eclipsing another valiant four-year-old to score. Leader Silent Major set the pace and was up for the fight, but Greg Sugars and Mach Dan had the answers from the breeze and drew a head clear on the line to claim the $60,000 classic. “Coming into the bell I thought we will make it a good staying test now over the last lap and we were handlebars down off the back and it was a great duel between both horses up the straight,” Sugars told Trots Vision. “Both of them tried their hearts out. Really good contest.” Major Meister initially led but the advance of Stewart runners prompted an early Aaron Dunn response and the trainer-driver guided Silent Major to the front. Mach Dan and Sugars would soon lob to his outside and the great battle to the line ensued. Watch the race replay click here! “I have a lot of respect for the leader, he was obviously a very good winner of his heat,” Sugars said. “We had a pretty soft heat run and I was hopeful that was enough to turn things in our favour at the end of the day. “He’s such a lovely racehorse Mach Dan. He’s very versatile and can probably adapt to any situation. “He’s just got better and better. Emma and Clayton (Tonkin) have done a super job with him. He’s such a wonderful racehorse, that’s testament to them and the job they do.” Sugars also paid credit to owner Danny Zavitsanos, who purchased Mach Dan off breeders Nixon Bloodstock with his wife Joanne and Warren Viney, and the gelding by Mach Three out of Bettor Give It has rewarded them with 14 wins from 24 starts and now more than $300,000 in winnings. “Danny’s obviously a huge asset to our industry,” Sugars said. "He’s put a lot of horses on the race track. That’s what the sport needs – guys like that. He’s a terrific owner to deal with win, lose or draw. He will get a real kick out of this, that’s for sure.”   HRV - Michael Howard

After adding a "bag of five" to his expanding harness racing CV at this week's Mildura meeting, you'd think talented young Victorian reinsman Jack Laugher would be content to just enjoy the moment. But after an 800-kilometre round-trip from Bendigo and a 4.30 am finish to his Mildura mission, the single-minded Laugher was back feeding up and doing jog work early the next morning...and setting his sights on the next challenge, tomorrow night's Group One Ballarat Pacing Cup. "Yes, it was a pretty good night on Wednesday (at Mildura). You have your good runs and your bad runs in this game, and at the moment I'm having a good run, so I'm definitely enjoying that," Laugher said. "I knew I had a reasonable book of drives and three of my winners opened up at two dollars or less, I think, so I was just glad to be able to get the job done for them," he said. Laugher opened up his winning account at Mildura on White Star Village (Village Jolt - Priscilla Presley (Village Jasper) for young Mildura trainer Reece Moore. He then scored with Pembrook Charlie (Sportswriter - Pembrook Belle (Art Major) for Julie Douglas. He followed up with Maestro Bellini (Bettors Delight - Santuzza (Safely Kept) for the Kate Hargreaves stable, then continued his fine touch with Laser Major (Art Major - Virgin Goddess (Albert Albert) for Mildura trainer Rick Holmes in race 10. Laugher rounded off the "fab five" in the final race on the big 12-race fixture with Harry McKinnis (Shadyshark Hanover - Haryda Hanover (Armbro Operative) for another local trainer in Peter O'Brien. Jack Laugher back in the winner’s circle again (Photograph: Charli Masotti photography) It was a fitting high-point for Laugher who's launched impressively into the new season. Prior to his Mildura success, Laugher recorded seven wins (including three metropolitan victories), and 9 placings from 44 starters. He got 2021 off to a flier on January 2 winning with Better Be The Bomb at Melton (for Basil Dooley) then followed up the next day with a Group three win in the Central Victoria Championship with Krafty Bart (Emma Stewart). On January 4 he won at Maryborough (Fighting Fury for Emma Stewart); January 6 (Ferocious Son for Basil Dooley); January 8 (Rockasaki at Melton, Emma Stewart); January 9 (Torrid Saint at Bendigo for Julie Douglas; and January 15 (Execution Oro at Maryborough for Emma Stewart). In another career highlight, Laugher makes no secret he is thrilled to be partnering Better Be The Bomb in the Ballarat Cup. He's had four drives on the pacer for two wins and a second. "He's the best I've driven no doubt. He's a lovely horse and to get an opportunity to drive in a Group One race while I'm still a junior is a pretty special thing to me," he said. "It'll be a great just to be there and I think the horse will do his best. The race has changed complexion a little bit, with Hurricane Harley scratched. We will definitely need some luck somewhere, but we'll be doing our best." Laugher has already moved away from family in Tasmania to pursue his career, after following his dad Michael and his grandparents into the sport. "I wasn't really that interested until I was about 16. I was always going to be a mechanic, but about the same time I got offered an apprenticeship I'd already started with the horses and getting my trials licence so I was always going to go this way," he said. "Mum and Dad actually moved to Victoria when I was only little, then moved back home to look after my grandma, but dad still used to bring a team over to Victoria to campaign for a couple of months each year. "The last trip he did I came over with him and I just decided Victoria had more opportunities for me. Tassie is great, but you can usually only race twice a week there - here you can race twice a day sometimes. So I just thought if I wanted to make a living out of it, I had to move." Laugher demonstrates on a weekly basis he's willing to go almost anywhere for a drive in an effort to make the successful transition from concession to senior driving ranks. "I'm not really sure how long I have left on my claim, but it's not long, so I need to be getting those regular drives, and driving without a lift, otherwise when my claim runs out, it's going to be hard," he said. "It's nice that a lot of the ones I'm driving don't need a claim, so hopefully now that I've got a bit of a run going, I can keep it rolling." In the past COVID-extended season the youngster had 89 wins.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Central Victorian reinswoman Ellen Tormey had an unforgettable night out at the latest Mildura Harness Racing meeting, but she admits she didn't make the four-hour trek chock-full of confidence. But there's nothing like a run of luck to turn things around - and Tormey did that on Friday night, putting together a "fabulous five" winners for the first time in her career at the far north west Victorian track. "I had an awful night at Echuca the night before and the previous week at Mildura I think I was on four favorites and they all got run down, so I didn't exactly arrive full of confidence," Tormey said. "I've driven four winners a couple of times before at Mildura but you never expect five winners, and I certainly didn't that night. But it was a great feeling!" Tormey got her first winner in race one, Skippers Swan Song (Western Terror - Beejaykay (Tompkins Hanover) for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway.  Watch the race replay click here! And if that didn't revive her confidence, her next drive in race three, certainly would have despatched any doubts, with Smoke My Motor (Mach Three - Celibacy (Safely Kept) being the easiest of winners, by 28 metres, for Bendigo trainer Kate Hargreaves. In race eight, Tormey partnered Mildura headline act Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Heaven - Dolly Mcd (Mach Three) when, in his customary barnstorming last-to-first fashion, he racked up an amazing 15th win this season on the tight Mildura circuit for trainer Julie Douglas. Tormey then went on to score in successive races: again for Douglas with Elegant Jewel (Mach Three - Hilarious Jewel (Artsplace) and Come On Elvis (Rock N Roll Heaven - Modern Girl (Modern Art) for Mildura trainer Frank Cavallaro. "I was fortunate to be driving some very nice horses, and if you can put good quality horses in a good position you hope you can get the job done. But horses like Bernie Winkle just make you look good!" she said. Tormey, who grew up in Charlton and cut her teeth in the pony trots, became passionate about harness racing watching the trots on TV with her dad (trainer John Tormey). "I was only about 10 or 11, but at that time (former world champion) driver Kerryn Manning was winning everything and because she was a girl, I used to take notice of her," Ellen said. "That's really who inspired me to want to be a driver. When I was a teenager, I worked with Kerryn in school holidays and she was a great mentor. Then when I was 16 I got my junior driver's licence. "Dad has been another big influence. He always gives me pretty direct feedback when I drive for him! "He actually did drive a bit himself, but I wouldn't have called him a driver. I watched him one day drive up the back of another runner in a three-horse race, so whenever he gives me a spray I do remind him about that!" After completing school, Tormey moved to Bendigo to begin her "back up plan", business studies at University, while continuing to pursue her harness racing ambitions. She now drives about 500 horses a year, managing over 50 winners a season in most years (her best is 77). And she continues to put in the big miles to race - in the past week for example, Tormey has had engagements on all but two days, and has travelled to every corner of the State to meet her commitments including Mildura, Shepparton, Kilmore, Echuca and Melton. "There are always a lot of miles and a lot of tracks to drive at. It's pretty busy but I am so lucky to have a part time job at Garrards Horse n Hound - they have been fantastic to me in being really flexible around my driving commitments," Tormey said. "Trainers at places like Mildura gave me opportunities and stuck with me and it's still one of my favorite tracks for that reason, and because it's so friendly. But I also love Bendigo, because it's only two minutes away! And Charlton because it's home, of course. "Your priorities do change as you get older too, I think. I have a partner at home who I have hardly seen in the past week, and in the future I'd love to do some travelling as well. But I still love it and nights like Friday night just make it all worthwhile."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing cult hero Bernie Winkle is looking down the barrel tonight of an extraordinary 15 wins for the season at Mildura. Described by owner Eric Anderson as a "bread and butter" pony, "Bernie's" lightning sprint made him a COVID-19 sensation during the pandemic lockdown, and has given his owners plenty to cheer about, netting more than $100,000 in stakes. Bernie Winkle (Rock N Roll Heaven - Dolly Mcd (Mach Three) was moved north by Anderson at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown - and proceeded to rewrite Mildura harness racing record books in an exhilarating run of success. Bernie arrived at the stables of Anderson's friend, Mildura hobby trainer Geoff Lucas in mid-April with solid form - but nothing that gave a hint of what was ahead. The seven-year-old strung together 10 wins on end - and in super-impressive fashion, with his sit-sprint style of racing making the fast class event on the Friday night Mildura card compulsory viewing during lockdown. Altogether he's won 14 races from 21 starts since April, and finished out of a place only once. "It's been fantastic - Bernie's always just been a really honest earner and a few things probably suited him better when we sent him up there long-term," Anderson said. "The smaller field sizes and racing mostly against the same horses and drivers every week during that time were the main thing, and also not having to travel - trips to Mildura knock me about these days, too!" he said. "Whatever it was, it was a fun time. We actually found the regional racing model pretty good for us, overall, with the younger horses we had racing down here doing okay as well, but Bernie was certainly the standout. "We were possibly a bit lucky too in that there were some interested parties in America looking at him early in the year and we found he had a bit of soreness in one knee. The buyers decided not to go ahead, but we got his knee treated properly and that probably was a factor too." Eric Anderson The pacer's Mildura trainer Geoff Lucas, who himself ran into career-best form courtesy of "Bernie" agrees. "I think it was a lot to do with the fact that our stables are only 10 minutes away from the track - he'd get home fresh after the race, he'd lick out his feeder and be rearing to go the next week," Lucas said. Bernie Winkle is now prepared back home at Bendigo by Anderson's daughter, Julie, who is the wife of trainer-reinsman Glenn Douglas. With the assistance of experienced horsewoman Roma Pocock, full time staffer Clayton Wishart, Douglas and Anderson himself, the stable has a team of 27 in work. "We've got a great team around us but I'm pretty lucky with my son-in-law...I rate Glenn pretty hard to beat as a horseman." The former Robinvale transport operator and his wife Heather have enjoyed solid success in nearly 40 years in the sport, most notably through the deeds of 1992 Miracle Mile winner Franco Tiger. A regular buyer of New Zealand horses as well as a consistent breeder (his horses race under the "Ozzie" moniker), Anderson estimates he's had "hundreds" through his barn over the years. "I first got involved when I was in Robinvale, and a friend the late Ron Atkinson kept at me to buy a horse. Eventually we did, then we bought another by the name of Sultana Yankee, who won six in a row for us, trained by (the late) Brian Cummings," he said. "That was the beginning and I've loved it ever since. I started buying horses from New Zealand in the 1980s and obviously Franco Tiger (Bo Scots Blue Chip - Tempest Tiger (Tiger Wave) (43 wins) was the best of them, but Bold Cruiser (Live or Die - Holmes Dream (Holmes Hanover) was another favorite. "I'm starting to think againg that buying New Zealanders might be the way to go, because you can race them virtually straight away, but I have bred three mares this year and I have more than enough young ones around here to keep me going for a lot of years yet!" And what's ahead for Bernie? "He's coming up to 200 starts and he's still very sound, so at this stage it will just be Mildura - and more Mildura!" Anderson said. "But I'm coming up 75 and I don't manage the travelling as well as Bernie does! I still like to bring the horses for most of the trips, but I'm thinking I might need to work out a way not to go up and back in the one day - it's too hard to get up and work them the next morning." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing journeyman Rick Holmes knew that it had been a long time between drinks for his recent stable addition Laser Major - but he was more than happy to team up with the old-timer to try to break the drought. "I was aware that he'd been racing in the Bathurst region and that's pretty strong, but he was struggling a bit to find any form. I wasn't overly concerned by that because I did like the horse," Holmes said. "But the length of time away from the winner's circle did catch me by surprise." However, after some promising placings, 10-year-old Laser Major (Art Major-Virgin Goddess (Albert Albert) landed the money at his Victorian home track with an impressive 1.58-3 over the 1709m trip. To watch the video replay click here. Laser Major and Michael Stanley combined to win at Mildura His prior victory was 1727 days previous (or four years, eight months, three weeks and one day) at Newcastle in February, 2016. And he needed another 51 starts to again taste victory-this time at Mildura. Holmes, who is now based at Red Cliffs, near Mildura, said a friend from Adelaide had told him Laser Major was on the market. "He's a pretty good judge and besides the horse was a real cheapie. So Mick Andreadis, who has horses racing in most States, thought he could be okay for the Mildura region and bought him," he said. "Laser Major was unlucky at his first start. He was going to run a place before copping severe interference on the home corner. He then ran third and second." Holmes said the pacer finished down the track at his next few, but a foot abscess was found to be the problem. "When I saw that Mick Stanley was coming up from Ballarat to drive, I didn't hesitate to put him on and he got the job done for us," he said. Laser Major downed Selaphobia, who has since posted a victory, and consistent Bendigo trained horse Goodjet. "We used to joke that we'd never bought a 10-year-old before. And then when we realized he hadn't won for nearly five years, we probably did start to question ourselves," Holmes laughed. Laser Major has had 85 starts for four wins and 11 placings for $25,900. Holmes grew up in the Millewa farming region, between Mildura and the South Australian border. "We were in the Werrimull area and I used to watch Paleface Adios and other horses of that era. They would show the trots on TV back then and we'd also go to the Mildura meetings as much as we could," he said. "I remember when the grandstand would be packed and there'd be about 25 bookies operating. I used to walk around the grandstand picking up empty coke bottles and getting 10 cents for each one. "My sister started going out with a young trotting trainer and eventually I decided to have a go. I still remember thinking 'how good is this?' at my few first goes! "Later on, another local well-known horseman in Frank Cavallaro was a big influence. It was 32 years ago and Frank wrote a reference to help me get my B Grade trainer's licence." Two years on and Holmes moved to Melbourne and got a job with John "Bulldog" Nicholson. "I've probably had seven or eight stints with him. One of the biggest things I learnt there was that every horse is an individual and the importance of feeding them correctly," he said. "I also worked for the Lance Justice and Tonkin stables. As well I spent eight years in Queensland and was an A Grade trainer and driver. I also had a short stint as a stablehand in SA." Holmes said he took a break from harness racing for a seven-year period during which time he "saw a fair bit of the country". "There were all sorts of jobs - I worked on a cotton farm and ran a pub for a bit," he said. "My harness racing driver's licence ran out, but I'm back at the trials so I can be re-licenced. I've got to do 30 trial drives. "I only ever drove in about 20 races back in 1993 and got a couple of placings-I'd just love to get a winner." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

The prospect of an eight-hour interstate road trip's not everyone's cup of tea, but for champion South Australian harness racing driver Wayne Hill it's part of his weekly routine - and he's stoked to be back doing it. Until April, Hill routinely made the 400-kilometre Sturt Highway road trip from Adelaide to Mildura, but the hard-line COVID-19 State border lockdown left him confined to local meetings only. He searched for any possible exemption to cross the border without luck - until last week. And he will finally be back for Mildura's epic 12-race program tomorrow on Melbourne Cup night. "I've been in contact with the South Australian police on a pretty regular basis," Hill said. "I really thought there was some positivity last Wednesday week when I was talking to them and I got the green light a few days later. So first thing on the following Monday I applied and the next day I was issued with a permit," he said. "I have to do a COVID test every week, but I'm more than happy to do that. Then when I get to Mildura, I'll be temperature-checked at the entry gate like everyone else." For South Australian drivers, competing at Mildura is an incentive money wise, with Victorian driver fees around $70 a drive, as well as percentages for a top-five finish. Hill admits part of the appeal is financial - but it's also become a habit he enjoys. "It can be really good if you have a reasonable night. The four-hour road trip over and back is the downside, but it just becomes part and parcel of your week if you're doing it all the time," he said. "There wouldn't be many Mildura meetings that I've missed in the past five years. I love going there because the people are friendly, the club committee and all the other trainers have always got time for a chat, and I do enjoy the track. "I've kept in close contact with a few of the trainers over there and I'm excited they are again staying loyal to me. That's really nice and I can't wait." Hill is engaged to drive in nine races but he's only one of a throng of trainers and drivers heading to the Mildura fixture. A 12-race card brings a logistical nightmare at the country harness racing hub, but Mildura Harness Racing Club secretary manager Michelle McGinty says it's a challenge she loves to have. "Harness racing is in great shape in our region - it's definitely one of the healthiest places in the state and we could regularly program 13 or 14 races," McGinty said. "We often program 10 or 11 to try to get as many people as possible a run, but I think it's the first time in about three years that we've been granted 12 races - it's great for the trainers, great for the drivers and great for the club," she said. "I think a lot of trainers watched our racing during COVID and thought they'd give it a try once restrictions eased, and we're seeing the benefit of that now. "The only downside is trying to manage the logistics - nearly 120 horses in 103 stables on track is a bit of a challenge! We need to get trainers and horses in and out, and stables and facilities cleaned down in between under our COVID procedures. But we have a fantastic team of staff and volunteers who make sure it all gets done." Mildura continues to be one of the State's most popular venues. McGinty said the $12,000 and $20,000 fast class events were prompting new interest, and the growing local horse population is bolstered this week by 16 visiting trainers. Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn is another hitting the road. "The trip up and back takes a while, but there's usually three of us, so it's pretty easy and there's a great atmosphere," he said. "It's a friendly place and a lot of characters up there, so there's always someone to talk to and have a bit of fun, but also the Mildura racing is almost every week, too, so it's easy to program horses to race there."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Lachlan Prothero might be one of the state's youngest harness racing trainers, but despite the 20-year-old's tender age his strike rate is up there with the best of them right now. Fresh from a further win by Egodan (pictured) at Mildura today, Prothero has 20 winners in 2019-20 from just 82 starters and an accompanying 24.4 per cent strike rate, which has him among the leading Australian trainers for that statistic in only his second season. Prothero has five horses - all of them pacers - in work at his Birdwoodton base, about 15 kilometres outside of Mildura. The son of fellow trainer Andrew Prothero, Lachlan always seemed destined, or at least determined, to follow his father into the sport. Starting nine years ago he spent nearly six years competing in pony trots before deciding whether to continue down the driving path or pursue training. "At the time I wasn't overly interested in or worried about getting my driver's licence, mainly because anything that pulled or grabbed on to me I couldn't hold, so I thought I'd get my training licence instead," Prothero said. "Around that time, dad said he wouldn't renew his, so I thought I'd take over. But dad still helps out. He got his licence back this season - he hasn't trained any - but he helps. He might eventually put one in his name that we own ourselves. "Other than that most will go in my name, but we all help, my sister (Chelsea), mum (Sharon), dad and I." Prothero's first season brought seven wins and 21 placings from 68 starts in a solid introduction to the training game, but business has really picked up this season with 20 wins and a further 23 placings from 75 starts for earnings of $109,300. His more recent form line reads eight wins and eight placings from 27 starts. Three of those wins have come with the stable's newest acquisition, the well-travelled and well-performed Egodan. Trained by an assortment of trainers before his arrival in Mildura, the eight-year-old Sportswriter gelding is a 27-time winner plus 27 placings from 110 starts for earnings in excess in $300,000. His record for Prothero stands at three wins and a second from four starts. "To be able to train a horse like him is pretty special this early in the career," Prothero said. With Victoria racing under a regional model for all but a few days in July since early April, and Mildura functioning as a stand alone precinct, Prothero has looked to take advantage of the closed borders. "As I've built a bit of a record, I've been able to get a few horses from outside the Mildura region into the stable," he said. "Especially with this regional racing, I've been able to get quite a few South Australian horses come across trying to win their (Vicbred) bonus." Included are Santa Casa Dream, who won on June 26 and ran second today, and Caribbean Magic, who won on May 8, and has since returned home. Other consistent performers for the stable this season include Causenfriction (four wins and four placings), Magic In Her Moves (three wins and two placings from 11 starts) and Tunza Tenacity, who produced four-straight wins during May and June. Prothero has never been one to shy away from hard work and commitment. Training horses is only one of two professions for the youngster and member of the Mildura Harness Racing Club committee. He spends his nights stacking shelves at Woolworths in Mildura, before going home for a short sleep and rising again to work the horses. Prothero hopes the long hours and hard grind will eventually pay dividends with even greater success beyond Mildura. "I hope to keep building the stable and building my reputation," Prothero said. "I'm also keen to get more horses to the Mildura area and introduce some new owners to the game. "At the moment we're working five horses, but I've always got room for more. We will look at taking horses we think we can win a couple with and then moving them on and do the right thing by the owners." One industry figure who has followed Prothero's progression with a keen interest is experienced reinsman Neil McCallum. The Lockwood South-based freelancer has previously driven for Andrew Prothero on hundreds of occasions and has been in the sulky for nine of Lachlan's wins this season. That figure would likely be higher on both sides of the ledger were McCallum not prevented from competing at Mildura under the regional racing rules. "Lachlan is doing a great job .... he just loves racing," he said. "As blokes like me are getting through to their older years, he is one of those coming through. "My father drove for his father and then I started driving for Andy probably 25 years ago. In the last few years, Andy had been playing around with just one or two here and there, but now the young lad has come in and taken over and having a real go. "With his background, he had a fair start, but he has done a great job. He just loves it and he's certainly not afraid of hard work."   Kieran Iles

Huge harness racing fan Stevie Blacker has shown an expert eye when it comes to buying former Kiwi pacers and now he's successfully branched off - as a driver. The likeable Blacker, who hails from Mortlake in Victoria's western district, had his first-ever official race drive at Mildura yesterday afternoon and came up trumps. He handled four-year-old gelding Kolovos (Bettors Delight-Queen Camille (Christian Cullen), a horse he owns, for his good mate, Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn. "The COVID-19 has played a bit of role because normally I'm right into football during the winter months and I'm usually umpiring," Blacker said. "But it was probably Aaron's father Barry who got me into it, because he was saying that there were very few trials drivers at Horsham, so why didn't I give it a go?" he said. So Blacker took his advice and got his licence to drive in trials. "After three drives I wasn't fussed either way, then I drove one of the horses I own, which I think was Cool and Calculated and he went super! That was the turning point. I thought: 'Wow! How long's this been going on?! "I started thinking about maybe driving in races, so I went to a lot of trials and there were heaps of people like Geoff Senior and others who were terrific in putting me on." Blacker said he had only recently been licenced to drive. "I sort of picked out the Mildura meeting for my first race drive. It did work out well when Aaron put Kolovos in with my five-point concession claim," he said. And Blacker did the rest...with all the poise of a veteran. Pushing Kolovos out of the gate, Blacker was unable to cross Tracer Bullet to get to the lead, but he didn't get flustered by having to race in the death-seat. When Tracer Bullet kicked to a narrow advantage on the home corner and appeared the winner, Blacker got to work urging Kolovos, who found plenty over the final stages to post a memorable and popular win. Watch the race replay here. Kolovos and Stevie Blacker after their memorable win Blacker grew up around horses. Some of his family was involved in thoroughbreds, but others were caught up by the legendary deeds of the mighty trotter of the 1970s, Maoris Idol (40 wins from 46 starts), trained by Ric Healy at Marnoo. "My brother and I spent hours when we were young playing around with an old cart, built like a sulky, that was made specially for us," Blacker said. "I suppose I did have in the back of my mind that one day I would like to have go at driving - but I really did think I'd missed my chance!" the 47 year old said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A Pacer with strong Bendigo connections has emerged as one of the harness racing stars of regional racing in the North West. Bernie Winkle, formerly a Glenn Douglas stable favourite, has strung together a trio of emphatic victories at Mildura since his transfer to Sunraysia trainer Geoff Lucas. The seven-year-old gelding sounded his arrival in the region with a brilliant 9.1 metre win at the City Oval Paceway on April 24. He has since been able to repeat the dose with a 5.4m victory, before making it a perfect three out of three with another 9.1m win last Friday. While all three triumphs have been nothing short of imposing, the first was simply breathtaking, with Bernie Winkle entering the final lap in second last, about 20m off the leaders. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven rapidly made up ground from the 700m to the 200m, before whisking by two of the undoubted stars of the Sunraysia racing scene in Augustus Jack and Murranji Track in the straight, to record an eye-catching win at a surprising 20-1. There were no such generous odds the second time around with Bernie Winkle paying $2.90. He started a mere $1.80 last Friday and will likely be even shorter at his next outing. His streak has prompted plenty of banter between great mates Douglas and Lucas. "After he won the first week, Glenn rang me and said you know the (previous trainer's) magic lasts a week," Lucas said with a laugh. "Then when he won the second week he told me it lasts two weeks. "Now he's telling me it lasts three weeks, so he's taking all the credit." Normally based just across the border from Mildura at Gol Gol in New South Wales, Lucas has been training his two horses (Bernie Winkle and Without Hesitation) on the Merbein South property of Andrew Stenhouse and Dwayne Locke. He credited the pair's 'soft' sand-based track and a change in racing tactics as key factors in the veteran pacer's return to form. "Their training track is unbelievable - it's the best training track up here by a mile and I'm sure it's helping him," he said. "And we are driving him a lot quieter too. We don't spend any money out of the gate. I reckon he goes better that way rather than being burned out of the gate. "(His driver) Shane Smith, who I didn't even know before this, has done a great job. "I had to find a driver, and Andrew Stenhouse knew Shane when he was in Broken Hill, and convinced me that he went alright. I'd never really taken much notice. "So I put him on and now he won't get off. He said to me he's never driven a horse like this. "He has won a quarter of million (dollars) but had been battling a bit the last few months. "I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg." A veteran of 179 race starts, Bernie Winkle has boosted his record to 25 wins and 40 placings since his move north. Nine of those wins have been at Tabcorp Park Melton.  Bernie Winkle, driven by Glenn Douglas, wins at Tabcorp Park Melton in September last year. Picture: STUART McCORMICK   The gelding had raced 13 times at Mildura before his past three starts, for three wins and two placings. A pair of runs in the Central region before his departure to Mildura, produced a seventh behind Hashtag and a fourth behind his stablemate Vandanta. I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg. Geoff Lucas Douglas, whose training treble at Lord's Raceway on Monday included a win with Diesel Don, another horse to have recently swapped stables, said he was absolutely thrilled with Lucas' run of success with Bernie Winkle. "Bernie was having to race horses down here that were perhaps a touch better than him, " he said. "There's no better horse that I love than Bernie Winkle, he's a great horse to have around the stable. "I'm great mates with Geoff Lucas, he's been a close and dear friend of mine for a while now. "(Owner) Eric Anderson and I spoke to him and posed the question whether he would look after Bernie and he accepted. "I don't think there's anybody more excited than Geoff, and myself for Geoff - he loves winning races. "I'm sure he's getting as much fun out of it as we are." THIS WEEK IN HARNESS RACING: Douglas going from strength to strength Rigondeaux goes back-to-back Shane Organ drives his first winner Two step plan unveiled for the return to normal racing Flushed breaks through for Mark Boyle By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The BEndigo Advertiser

There are few harness racing people more passionate about their sport than Sunraysia trainer Noel "Lucky" Cameron and his wife Midge. In more than 50 years in the sport, only once has the couple from Gol Gol, near Mildura, missed being on track to race their horses. So, you can imagine the tension was high when COVID-19 restrictions meant they had to watch their nine-year-old mare, Bella Cullen (P Forty Seven-Victoria Bound (Christian Cullen) make history at Mildura recently. To watch the video replay click here The durable veteran pacer cracked the $100,000 mark in stakes - but what made the milestone unique is that she's the only pacer ever to have achieved it without venturing outside Victoria's Northern Region. In her 167 starts, Bella Cullen has raced only at Mildura, Ouyen and Swan Hill, winning 13 races and stacking up more than 50 placings. "It wasn't that she was a bad traveller or anything. We just never got around to taking her to race anywhere else," Cameron said. "We just love the horses and love racing and Bella's been a bit special because she's just been so honest and with us so long," he said. "All our horses we just raced ourselves and the only other time we've missed being on track was one night a few years back when I was taken off to hospital! "So I have to say it was absolutely terrible watching at home! We were so thrilled she won but watching on the TV, once it was over, it was all over red rover - we just sat there like stunned mullets!" When Victoria introduced Regional Racing as part of coronavirus management measures, the Camerons were locked out and no longer able to race, because their stable is on their fruit growing property on the NSW side of Sunraysia (less than four kilometres, as the crow flies, from the Mildura track). But with Bella Cullen only $1100 short of $100,000 career earnings her regular driver Dwayne Locke, and his partner Andrew Stenhouse couldn't stand to see "Bella" potentially retire without a chance to reach the milestone. "She's been racing well, her last four or five starts had been good runs without winning, so we were just so happy that Andrew and Dwayne took her on to give her a chance to get to that milestone," Cameron said. "It's not usually her thing, but she was able to lead from barrier two and Dwayne was able to get away with I think the slowest ever lead time at Mildura for the 1720 trip - so she actually broke two records!" he laughed. Cameron said Bella Cullen arrived at their stable as a foal at foot when Midge purchased her dam, Victoria Bound. "She would get around the paddock okay, but she was just a scruffy little club-footed thing when she was weaned and as a yearling. You would never have dreamed she would be anything at all, but she did grow into quite a nice-looking mare in the end," he said. "She was a bit of a hard case to break in. She'd kick pretty viciously and at the races she'd double-barrel the back of the stables and hated being put in the cart. "But after four or five starts she seemed to settle down, and from then on, she has just been a lovely horse to have and to race." Lucky and Midge have been involved in harness racing together for 52 years. Lucky's dad was a gallops jockey, but when Lucky was a teenager, he became more interested in harness racing, working with former Sunraysia trainer, the late Vic Berryman. "But it was Midge who really pushed me over the line into the sport, I suppose. Her dad had pacers, and before we were even married, without telling me, she leased a horse for us," he said. "I think we gave him three starts and he ran last in every one, but we were hooked and it became the thing we loved to do. So since then, we've always had one or two in work, and these days we breed a few as well." Cameron said Bella Cullen was not the most capable horse the couple had raced - naming Kidlin and Grand Hand as their best ability wise, but who had their racing careers cut short by injury. "But Bella's definitely been the most successful and she's the most docile lovely horse you could ever want, so she's probably our favorite," he said. "We've got her booked into Sweet Lou this season, but Dwayne looks after her in her races, and we'll just keep watching from the couch for a bit longer yet, because she's probably, in all honesty, racing as well as she ever has!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Energetic Mildura equine dentist and harness racing trainer Kate Attard is facing months of rehabilitation after a seemingly-innocuous post-race scramble at her home track at Thursday night’s meeting. The skilled horsewoman trains a team of around 10 horses with her father Pat and her teenage daughter Charli at Cardross, near Mildura, and jumps in the race-sulky only rarely these days. But under the COVID-19 regional racing protocols, which prevents drivers from elsewhere in the State travelling to Mildura meetings, Kate elected to get back in the spider. Her horse in the second race, Heza Western, went across the line sixth, but a number of runners spread across the track tightened after the line, and Kate tumbled from the cart. “I was excited to be back driving last night and was just getting back in the swing of it in race two!” Kate laughed. “All I remember is going across the line, then another horse coming at me sideways – I pulled back and across to avoid it and thought I did. But its legs hit my cart and just flipped it fast,” she said. “I hit the ground so hard and then log rolled over and over again. I was awake the whole time. It was hurting, but I didn’t think it was that bad.” Kate suffered three fractures and multiple hairline fractures to her pelvis and injuries to her spine in the incident, which happened in front of the float parking area, and help was on the scene immediately. “(Trainer) Luke Watson was right where I fell – he was the first one there telling me to stay still and that I would be OK, then Charli and Dad and all the track guys and another trainer Andrew Stenhouse were all there,” Kate said. “I thought I was OK, and tried to get up – I even took a few steps!  I really didn’t want to go to the hospital! When they did take me in the ambulance, I really thought it would just be bruising and I didn’t even take my phone with me!” Kate was flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne later in the night, where the surgeons from the trauma team are still deciding on her treatment plan, including surgery probably later today. “It’s probably going to be five months before I will be back on my feet again, and it’s hard to think that my hospital stay will be mostly without too many visitors, because of the COVID-19 restrictions,” Kate said. “I’m lucky to have an amazing family and my partner Matt to support me and help me, because I’ll be needing it for a while!” she said. “I also have some lovely owners and they are letting us keep the horses going, which hopefully Dad and Charli will be able to do.” Kate Attard and her daughter Charli Heza Western suffered only a minor cut to the leg in the scrimmage. Kate is known across a wide area of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria for her passionate practice in equine bodywork and dentistry, as well as through her training.  “I’ve had so many messages of support and care – everyone has been amazing, including the HRV Stewards Wayne Smith and Nick Murray, HRV and Michelle McGinty from Mildura Harness Racing Club,” she said. “I’ll be OK, I always pull through and will be back doing the horses and the work I love as soon as I can,” she said. Which, knowing Kate, will be sooner, rather than later! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises this week’s Mildura Cup has been postponed. The decision was made to discourage participant travel throughout Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic.   The Mildura meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday night has now been cancelled. Thursday’s Bendigo meeting has been moved to Tuesday night. Trainers are reminded that those nominated at Bendigo not wishing to accept have the option to scratch by 8.30am tomorrow morning. Wednesday’s meetings at Stawell and Shepparton will go ahead as scheduled. HRV will tomorrow morning provide a more detailed view of how the racing calendar will look from Thursday onward. HRV's Trots Media

There's no questioning the work ethic of Great Western harness racing couple Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell. The husband and wife team made the four-and half-hour trek to Mildura, in Victoria's far north west on Friday night, picking up three stable winners (and Manning four as a driver), including the coveted Italian Cup with the consistent Stroke of Luck (Major in Art-Bonton Lady (Armbro Operative). Less than 24 hours later they put an awesome win on the board at the other end of the State at "headquarters", Tabcorp Park Melton, with their rising star Pat Stanley (Western Ideal-Jaz Tanner (Artiscape), who, at just his fifth run for the stable, took out the Markovina Free For All. Then on Monday, Manning was her usual chipper self, picking up two winners just down the road at Horsham and taking her place in the Horsham Norm Smith Memorial Invitation Driver's Championship - won by Kate Gath. Close to 1500 kilometres for the weekend, but Manning and Campbell are expert at placing their select 11-horse team to advantage and rarely miss when they make the long trip to Mildura. "You've really just got to be able to place your horses and that's what we try to do," Manning said. "Sometimes that means a trip to Mildura or Shepparton, but if the race suits then you've got to be prepared to do it," she said. "It was really Stroke of Luck we were taking up this time, for the Italian Cup, because it was a race we thought was conditioned to suit him and he's been finding it a bit hard to win. But it was nice to pick up the other two wins as well." Stroke of Luck is raced by the stable's loyal clients, Merv and Meg Butterworth and just held on to take the feature, ahead of local star Murranji Track, who's returning to his best ahead of the home town Mildura Pacing Cup carnival, starting March 31. "Stroke of Luck's been racing well against strong opposition and we just thought the Italian Cup suited," Manning said. "But that said, it's definitely not as easy to win at Mildura as it used to be, either." Someone forgot to tell that to the super impressive Major Assassin (Art Major-Princess Cassi (Armbro Operative), though. The pacer, trained by Campbell, scored with ease for Manning by 34 metres in the Varapodio Estate Italian Pace, in a tidy 1:58.1. "It just shows you what he can do when things work out for him," Manning laughed. "He is quite smart, but he tends to get a bit fired up. He'd definitely be much more popular at home if he was a little bit easier to get on with!" The stable's other winner at Mildura was promising filly, Bettor Romance (Bettors Delight-Chemical Romance (Northern Luck), by virtue of a successful protest in the Three-Year-Old Pace against Sassys a Terror, trained by Jess Tubbs and driven by Alex Ashwood. Manning also scored for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway with Bettor B Nice (Bettors Delight-Alohomora (Badlands Hanover). The Manning and Campbell team will continue clocking up the miles in coming weeks, with Boort Cup winner Pay Rise and Stroke of Luck likely to be aimed at coming Pacing Cup features at Charlton and Ouyen, while Stroke of Luck and possibly even Pat Stanley are under consideration for the Mildura carnival. "I don't think two runs in the five days at Mildura would really be a problem for either of them," Manning said. "All of our horses do heat work every three days, and those two handle it very well, so I think they'd be suited to the carnival format. We'll just see how things pan out in the next few weeks."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Brilliant Victorian reinsman Greg "Candyman" Sugars brushed aside sweltering hot conditions for the long trip to the most recent Mildura harness racing meeting and stamped his authority at the far north west Victorian circuit. Sugars, based at Larajay Farm, Myrniong, with his wife Jess Tubbs, made the gruelling six hour trip with a team of five pacers. It was a near perfect result trainer Tubbs going home with four wins - Sugars handling three and rising star Michelle Phillips, now based at Romsey, getting the gig on the other one. Sugars also landed the money on two catch drives -- Soho Crucio (Matt Maguire) and Tale Of The Dragon (Laurie Callick) giving him a "fab five" - and actually weighed in on each of the eight charges he handled throughout the fixture.   Click on this link for a video replay of Soho Crucio   Click on this link for a video replay of Tale Of The Dragon It was only the fourth time in an awesome career that Sugars has achieved five winners. He did it at Maryborough on January 23, 2013, then repeated the dose three months later at a Melton metropolitan meeting. His other bag of five winners was at Shepparton on July 23 late last season. Sugars comes from a strong harness racing family--his father Ross was a household name in South Australian harness racing circles for many years before shifting to Victoria, while Grandfather Len was a legend in the early days on the Adelaide city circuit at Wayville. Ross Sugars landed five winners on two occasions--the first at Gawler on August 12, 1980, and then the following year on June 27 at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park.   The Mildura victories for the Sugars/Tubbs team were Hector Macray (Shadow Play-Schonbrunn (Albert Albert); The Hervey Bay (Somebeachsomewhere-Bold Opera (Armbro Operative); and Joe Nien (Shadow Play-Riverside Oakes (Art Major). Michelle Phillips landed Lenard Ess (Village Jolt-Kano Phoebe (Troublemaker) for Tubbs.   Click on this link for a video replay of Hector Macray   Click on this link for a video replay of The Hervey Bay   Click on this link for a video replay of Joe Nien   Click on this link for a video replay of Lenard Ess   Five-year-old gelding Lenard Ess continues a fairytale return to racing for the stable. "Len" sliced his tendon running around a paddock in what could have been a career-ending injury. However, thanks to the Ballarat Equine Clinic and stable staff, who were "guided through an often- tedious rehab process", the horse is back and winning. The Mildura success was his third since returning. He ran fifth at Ballarat on October 4--390 days after suffering the tendon injury--and has continued to show improvement, winning at his next start at Echuca and then later at Stawell. But the Tubbs stable makes no secret that if "Len" shows any signs of lameness, that will be it. Sugars, who booted home 262 winners and 398 placegetters for $2.3 million last season, continues to be up there with the best again, while Tubbs, with 70 last season, is already close to half that tally with just four months into the current calendar.   Hoofnote: Bolinda-based champion Chris Alford put his foot on the accelerator at the Cranbourne meeting on Sunday afternoon. Alford had five wins and two placings at the seven-event fixture. His winners were Lady Majestic, Amazing Daisy, Madena Bay, Misschanel and Heavens Showgirl. Terry Gange

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