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Cessnock reinsman Blake Hughes is confident Portalegre can win on Friday night as his battle with Tom Ison for the Newcastle harness racing drivers' premiership comes down to the wire. Hughes, who celebrated his 18th birthday last Friday, holds a one-win advantage over Ison heading into the final meeting of the season at Newcastle Paceway. Both have racked up centuries statewide to top the NSW concession drivers' premiership. Ison, with 114, is six ahead of Hughes. However, Hughes has the edge 62 to 61 at Newcastle, where Ison has six drives on Friday night. Hughes has only four - Dollys On A Roll, Fantasize, Portalegre and Platinum Revolution - and all are for his boss and premiership winner Clayton Harmey. Newcastle premiership or not, Hughes has had a remarkable first full season of driving, which has included the Tamworth title. "It would be good to get [the title], but if doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," Hughes said. "I'm very happy with the season and I probably couldn't have gone better. I never thought I'd get close to a hundred in a season in my whole career, so it's good to get that." Dollys On A Roll starts from the outside of the front line in race one after breaking but still winning last start on June 1. The filly also won on debut for Harmey in May when Hughes had his only race drive with her. He has also taken her to two recent trial victories. "She goes pretty good, even though she does a bit wrong," he said. "It's a hard race but still, she should go all right. She's played up before but she's been good this time in." Fantasize has drawn gate one in race three. "One is probably not that good for her because she hasn't got great gate speed, but hopefully she can come out better," he said. His best chance is Portalegre, which has drawn three in the fourth. He has won four of his past six starts and was a comfortable victor at the track on August 17. "I've been going really good with him and I think over a mile this week, he should go good," he said. "I don't think anything would beat him if he got to the top." Platinum Revolution won six in a row for Harmey but last raced in February. "She had a trial and went around 54, so she should be right," Hughes said. Ison will hunt three wins in a row with Motu Sapphire (race one). He also has strong hopes with Deanne Panya (five) and Let's Blaze (seven). His other drives are Mac Toddy, Yayas Hot Heart and Laceys Lad. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Kevin Warby believes a bad barrier may cost A Paradigm Shift in the opening race at Newcastle Paceway on Friday night, but the Denman harness racing trainer already feels a winner with the four-year-old he bred and races. A Paradigm Shift (Pet Rock) has won his past two starts at Newcastle - just three days apart - but he faces a tougher task from the extreme outside gate in a slightly higher grade on Friday night. Warby said the sit-sprint specialist would have to go back from the poor draw and be driven for luck, but he was grateful to still have the pacer at all. "We're lucky to still have him," Warby said. "He got his leg caught up in a fence as a two-year-old and he ripped his leg open just above the coronet band and it was only millimetres away from the flexor tendon. "The vets told me I would have to put him down, but I said 'he hasn't cut the flexor tendon, so I can fix that'. "I just bandaged it up with honey for three months, I just kept changing the honey bandage every three to four days and we got him back on the racetrack and he's won six races since they told me to put him down. "If he wasn't already named, I would have named him Revenant, which means back from the dead." Race one is 5.05pm. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Premier Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey believes Straddie and Western Heir's Regional Championships (2030 metres) heats on Friday night at Newcastle Paceway are "their races to lose" after favourable draws on Wednesday. Straddie drew two in heat nine and Western Heir gate three in the seventh when fields for the second and final round of qualifiers for the $100,000 group 1 decider at Newcastle on May 23 were released. The winners of the 10 heats will contest the final and Harmey already has Kanye Crusader in the race. Kanye Crusader, also owned and bred by Harmey, was the longest-priced of the Cessnock trainer's trio on night one of the series last Saturday at Newcastle. Straddie and Western Heir finished well back in their races, but Blake Hughes took Kanye Crusader to the lead from gate five in heat two and he controlled the pace to win by 6.4 metres in 1:57:9. Harmey had set Straddie and Western Heir for the series but Kanye Crusader's entry was an afterthought. "It was a massive run," Harmey said. "Before the race we put the gig on him and I said to Blake, 'what do you reckon here?' He said 'I'll lead and win'. I said, 'Get into it but I don't like your chances'. "I didn't think he would cross and he did a fair bit of work to cross. When he tried to get a break, he got attacked, but Blake drove him good because he got a cheap third quarter and that helped us. "When everyone was starting to move, he kicked away, and Blake said he was strong." Straddie and Western Heir both started from gate six last week and finished seventh and eighth respectively after tough runs. Harmey believed better draws this week would help them challenge and he expected both to lead. "Western Heir got caught outside the leader and they ran the second and third quarters in 28s, and it was just too hard," he said of last Saturday night. "He's got the lesser chance of the two this week because Roll With Lachlan [gate eight] is in his heat. He was very good last week, but we've got the draw advantage. "Straddie's draw is good and there's not much in his race, so he's got every chance. "His run was a wee bit ordinary last week but again, he was three wide for the lead time and they ran 29.7 and not many get home once you break 30 for the lead time, especially three wide working forward. "On paper his run looks ordinary, but if you do the times and sectionals, he was up against it from the start. "Both seem to have pulled up well, so they are their races to lose really. Everything has fallen my way with the draws. "These two horses are really in a different league to Kanye Crusader, but they've got to prove it." Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding had top hopes in four heats last week without success. Rocknlachlan (heat six, gate six), Roll With Lachlan (heat seven, gate eight), Jasper Styles (heat eight, gate two) and The Choreographer (heat nine, gate one) return on Friday night. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Salt Ash trainer-driver Glenn Bull expects the work of equine chiropractor Tony Jones to help bring more success to his stable at Newcastle Paceway on Friday night. Bull has Regal Rock in race three and Can't Explain It in the sixth on the eight-event program. Regal Rock returned to form with a win two weeks ago at Newcastle, fighting back to beat Roll With Lachlan by 3.8 metres in a 1:56.8 mile rate over 2030m. The former Queensland-based gelding announced himself as a potential city class pacer with a mile win in 1:53.9 at Newcastle last July but his form since has been patchy. Bull believed gear changes and Jones had helped get Regal Rock back firing. "We've had a lot of problems with him," Bull said. "He lost half the sole of his wall on one foot and it took us a while to get that right, and he's also been really sore. "Tony went over him before he won, and I said he'd run second the week before, and Tony said he was surprised the horse could do anything. He did it on three legs. "He said he should be right now, and he was. They ran quick time and he got hammered in front as well, so I think we've got him back to right now." Can Explain It, winless since July, was second last start at Newcastle and Bull expected another strong effort. "Tony went over him because he'd been going ordinary and he said he was sore too, and worse than Rocky," he said. "He came out and led and ran second, and that was his best run in a long time." "Tony's gone over him again and he's right now, so I'm hoping the two of them go well." By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Newcastle Herald  

Newcastle Paceway will host a second harness racing Group 1 race this year after four new regional series, each with a $100,000 final, were announced on Tuesday to replace the Million Dollar Pace. A regionalisation of the industry, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and government regulations, forced Harness Racing NSW to abandon the new Million Dollar Pace, which was to include statewide heats and a final at Menangle. In its place, HRNSW has introduced the Regional Championships. The metropolitan, western districts, Riverina and Hunter regions will each conduct two rounds of $9500 heats and a final. Menangle, Newcastle, Wagga and Bathurst will host each series, which will have a maximum of five heats per round and also a $14,500 consolation final. HRNSW chief John Dumesny said the new races would give trainers the chance to place horses set for the now abandoned series. "From last February all eligible horses must have been located and trained in a specific region, so this aspects remains in place," he said. "The championships dates have been held to the schedule previously set for the Million Dollar Pace so the training of horses specifically set for that race series is not affected." Heats start at Menangle on May 5, Bathurst on May 6, Wagga on May 8 and Newcastle on May 9. The Newcastle second round of heats are on May 15, with the final on May 23. The race, at least for this year, will give the track two Group 1 features. The Newcastle Mile was elevated to $100,000, Group 1 status last year. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permision of The Newcastle Herald

The number 13 is synonymous with bad luck. You just don't have 13 guests at a dinner party. And many people avoid getting married on a day marked by this dreaded number. But it's not a superstition that's going to hold much water with young Sydney harness racing driver Ryan Sanderson. The sixteen-year-old recently landed his first winner as a reinsman -- you guessed it - at his 13th attempt! "I've had a few third placings, but I really hadn't got close to getting a win," he said. "When I headed off to drive at Newcastle last Saturday night, I really thought I could be in the money somewhere." But showing the poise and experience of a driver well beyond his years, Ryan drove eleven-year-old gelding Don Boston (Ponder USA-Full Pleasure (Armbro Operative USA) to perfection to land first prize in the $6630 Wolf Blass Pace. "Gee it was a great feeling. I was pretty excited when I went across the line," he said. After an early burn with an opening quarter of 27.2, Ryan steadied the pace to 30.7, 28 and 29, for a mile rate of 1.54-9. "I had a talk with trainer Brad Abbott before the race. We decided to try and lead all the way because that's how Don Boston has won a lot of his races," Ryan said. "It was the first time I've driven him, but he was always travelling nicely. He's a great old horse who has now won his past three races." Don Boston will line-up for his 200th race start at his next outing and has been a grand campaigner over the years, with 34 wins, 25 second placings and 23 thirds for stakemoney of more than $266,000. Ryan said he had been around horses for as long as he could remember. His father Shane is a former A Grade rugby league player in Queensland and represented Australia in an under 20s competition but is now a highly-regarded trainer. Shane Sanderson has been associated with a number of classy horses over the years, with well over 450 winners to his name. "My mum Naomi loves the sport and lends support as well as doing well lots of hands-on stuff around the stables," Ryan said. "We've cut down our stable numbers a bit in recent months. I think we are down to 11, but that's still enough," he said. "I'm doing Year 10 at school now, but mum and dad have decided to let me try to pursue a career in harness racing at the end of the year. "I came through the pony trots. Then there was a heap of track work and I drove in trials to get my B Grade driver's licence. "Most of my race drives so far have been for dad, but I'll take other drives as long as it doesn't interfere with my studies - school comes first for the moment." The family has been based at Menangle since early 2016 and previously trained at Gatton, west of Brisbane, in the Lockyer Valley region. Ryan said that while he used to enjoy playing rugby, he was more focused on harness racing. "I've only ever wanted to do the horses," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Ace Brisbane harness racing driver John Cremin usually tends to keep it all low key...but at the moment he's, understandably, quite upbeat. Cremin, a former Albion Park metropolitan premiership-winning reinsman, has formed an awesome partnership with boom two-year-old filly Pelosi (American Ideal USA-For Dear Life (Life Sign USA). Pelosi continued on her winning way at Newcastle on Saturday night with a sparkling victory in the Rock N Roll Heaven Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge 2yo fillies heat. Starting a short priced $1.04 favorite, the Wayne Honan-bred and owned youngster, took control soon after the start and made it five wins (the last four in a row) from six starts. Cruising through the first few quarters in 29.4 and 31 seconds, Cremin slipped the pacer into another gear over the final half, which was run in a brisk 56.1. "She was entitled to dash home in good time as she did the first part of the event well within herself," Cremin said. "I only let her quicken up at the 400-metre mark but didn't fully extend her and she just felt super. Credit must go to the runner up Shezlikeroyalty who popped off my back and was brave, although she was eight metres back." Race Replay Cremin was full of praise for trainer Anna Woodmansey, who is enjoying the ride of her life in the sport. "Anna is doing a terrific job and the filly has been in peak condition ever since I first sat behind her in a few trials back in February," he said. "I've been friends with her for a long time - probably since our teenage years. "Over the years I've driven for Anna on and off, although I was pretty much her number one driver for about 12 months at one stage." Pelosi will now head to the $25,000 semi-finals at Menangle next month with the big $125,000 final at that track on June 30. Cremin, who flew down from Brisbane with his wife Tanya to drive at the Newcastle meeting, had two reasons to celebrate. Their pacer Psychedelic (Rock N Roll Heaven-Pretty Inpink (Statute) won the Qualifying Pace at Albion Park - the 18th win of the six-year-old's career. "We pulled over and watched it on our phone. The horse is owned by Tanya, so she was pretty excited. He's now won nearly $140,000," Cremin said. The win saw what could perhaps be described as "musical chairs" between Cremin and well-known trainer, albeit sometimes-driver, Graham Dwyer. Cremin is number one driver for Dwyer who prepares a big team. "Graham decided to concentrate mainly on the training side of things and sort of only drives when he has to," Cremin said. "When we were heading to Newcastle and looking for a driver for Psychedelic he got the first call, and jumped at it. "I told him after the race that the drive didn't rate all that highly! But it was actually very good - we do have that sort of working-friendship relationship." Cremin, who has been the senior farrier at the strong Grant Dixon stable for the past 15 years, said his success was due to help he was getting around him. "My wife Tanya has been the mainstay for a long time, and just recently we had some Victorian friends in Nigel and Kim Ingram lending a hand. You always need that help going on in the background and it appreciatively lightens the load," he said. After flying back home from Sydney on Sunday, Cremin managed to put his "backside on a chair for an hour or two" before heading off to a Redcliffe meeting where he had a big book of drives - including snagging a winner in the first in Gotta Moment (Gotta Go Cullect NZ-Fleeting Moment(Falcon Seelster) for, you guessed it, his mate Graham Dwyer   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Maitland father-and-son harness racing team Guy and Mitch Chapple believe Roclea Star is the best pacer in his NSW Breeders Challenge heat at Newcastle on Saturday night. Roclea Star will start from the widest barrier in nine in the two-year-old colts and geldings heat. Two 2YO fillies heats of the group 1 series will also be held. My Ultimate Bondi, for visiting trainer-driver Jarrod Alchin, was the favourite for the male heat after winning easily on debut at Newcastle on May 11 and drawing gate one. Roclea Star has the edge in experience after seven races for one win and a last-start second in the Gold Crown Yearling Sale Graduate Final at Bathurst in April 17. Guy Chapple, who will drive Roclea Star for his son, Mitch, was confident of a top-two finish and a place in semi-finals at Menangle. "He's the one to beat but I think mine is a better horse," Guy said of My Ultimate Bondi. "Mine's raced the best at Bathurst and had to sit outside the leader, and he might have to do the same this week. "But he certainly hasn't gone backwards. He's definitely improved since the freshen-up." Roclea Star has had no recent luck in barrier draws but Chapple was hoping for a better start from out wide. "It probably suits him out there because he's got a ton of gate speed and from the inside you can't muster that quickly," he said. "We'll go forward and we'll press to try and get the lead." In the second fillies heat, Chapple will fill in for the injured Andrew Bourke in driving long-shot Illgiveuadaisyaday for Chris Bourke. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Louth Park harness racing reinsman Brad Elder is looking forward to driving Shezlikeroyalty in the group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge series after her impressive first win at Newcastle on Saturday night. Shezlikeroyalty ($11) cruised to an 11-metre win over stablemate Juslikeroyalty for trainer Darren Elder in the two-year-old pace to close the program. The front-running win in 1:59:1 came after thirds at Maitland and Newcastle for the filly in her first two starts.  "I reckon it's going to be a pretty good horse," Brad said on Sunday. "The way she keeps improving, she should be on the big stage. "She'll have to have a go at the Breeders Challenge, she's going good enough. She went like a rocket last night and got home in 28.2, which is pretty good for a two-year-old. "I never pulled the plugs or touched her with the whip. She did that all herself." The victory was part of a double for Brad, who was rewarded for an early move on Its Allabout Alice ($11) in a two-metre win in 1:55:3 for Maitland trainer Peter Neilson. Elder sat the four-year-old mare behind the leader before stealing a break approaching the home turn. "She's pretty cool to drive and she went pretty good last night," he said. "We got a nice run and we were able to pop off in time and slip away before they could run me down. "She's been racing really good lately. Last week she sat parked, which is not her go, and she still ran second."  "Last night was a pretty good trip and I thought I pretty much had it won with 800 to go and no one outside me." Days End added to a good night for the Elders when he stormed home to win at $41 for trainer Melanie Elder. Michael Formosa, who trained the opening race winner, Rolling With Stell, steered the seven-year-old to victory. Jack Callaghan drove Rolling With Stell and For The Bettor to wins. Mark Callaghan had a training double with For The Bettor and Guptas Cullen. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Teenage Morisset harness racing driver Jack Callaghan scored a winning double at Newcastle on a good night for his father's stable on Saturday. Trainer Mark Callaghan won with Vega Star at Menangle and Kotiro at Newcastle, where his son, Jack, oversaw their team. Jack gave the Geoff Dorn-trained favourite Mista Taptoe Lombo a comfortable run in the one-one before the nine-year-old gelding proved too good in the straight to win by 4.6 metres in race five. Callaghan had more work to do on Kotiro ($5.50) in the next, sitting behind leader Breakntherules before getting out late to just beat him on the line. At Menangle, Vega Star resumed from a six-month break with victory on a good night for the Hunter brigade. Todd McCarthy took Vega Star to the front from gate six and he was never headed to win by a half-neck in a career-best time of 1:52:8. Lovin Miss Daisy was a 1.8m second for Callaghan and McCarthy in the next, where Major Occasion clocked 1:51:6. Also on the program, Kitchener trainer Michael Osborn and Maitland reinsman Dan Morgan combined to win with Exterminate, which ran a personal-best winning time of 1:53:7. Keinbah trainer Roy Roots jnr finished the meeting with a victory as accomplished trotter Glenferrie Typhoon had his first win for the stable. The nine-year-old, a winner of $527,999 in stakes, was having his first run back after finishing a distant last on debut for Roots jnr in December, after which he was stood down by stewards pending an electrocardiograph.  By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of the Newcastle Herald

Cessnock harness racing trainer Clayton Harmey is hoping to grab another front-running win with Always A Secret on Monday at Newcastle after he dominated in a career-best time on Saturday night. Always A Secret led throughout with Leigh Sutton aboard to win by four metres in 1.55.5 in race two at Newcastle and will back up at the track in the fifth on Monday. It was a fourth win in 18 starts for the four-year-old, a brother to the former Harmey-trained Secret Jack which now races in Queensland. "He loves the front but he's half the horse in the field," Harmey said. "Secret Jack was the same. I think he won about 10 races for me and nearly all of them were when he led. "I was pretty proud of Always A Secret, especially on a rain-affected track, it was very good run to clock that time. And he just kept going. He was never on the bridle the whole race." Harmey has a soft spot for Always A Secret, which has beat the odds from an early age to still be competing. "As a foal, one of his back legs was cut up really bad in a paddock accident and the vet said he would never race. He didn't think he would even survive. "But the owners kept going with him. His leg looks terrible but it doesn't worry him. He's amazing, he just keeps pushing on. "If the race tomorrow was harder, I probably wouldn't start him but I don't think it's overly hard." Harmey also has a high opinion of Straddie, which races in the third on Monday. Although drawn wide, Straddie was "a little hope at big odds", the trainer said. Also on Saturday, Sutton drove a winning double when he saluted on Courage Lips for Jinaya Niass. Michael Formosa (Si Si Senor and Eagle Falls) and Rickie Alchin (Regulus and Crunch Time) also drove two winners each. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

DEFENDING champion Majordan has opened as the favourite for Friday night’s Group 1 AVE Technologies Newcastle Mile.  The Kevin Pizzuto-trained pacer is the $1.80 elect with TAB Fixed Odds over stablemate Picard at $2.20. Both pacers have drawn beside each other with Majordan in three and Picard in four. Driver Chris Geary is pleased with Majordan’s starting position. “It’s really good, he comes out of barrier two with the removal of the first emergency so hopefully he can push forward and be handy,” said Geary. “It looks a pretty suitable race for him.” Majordan set the track record at Newcastle when winning last year’s Newcastle Mile clocking 1:51.4. This edition of the Newcastle Mile received a major prizemoney boost and will carry a purse of $100,000 making it the only Group 1 race in the Hunter Region in all three racing codes. The winner will also receive an automatic invitation to the $1million Miracle Mile on March 2. AVE Technologies Newcastle Mile – GROUP 1 (1609m) 1   Little Rascal 2   Yayas Hot Spot (EM1) 3   Majordan 4   Picard 5   Loorrim Creek 6   Maximan 7   Rakarolla 8   Lombo Kotakinabalu (EM2) 9   Mattgregor 10            Ultimate Art     AMANDA RANDO MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER (02) 9722 6600 • •  @Amanda_Rando

Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny hopes an operational review of the Newcastle club will help it turn around eight consecutive years of financial losses. Dumesny confirmed HRNSW was conducting a review of Newcastle Harness Racing Club, which had a record loss of about $240,000 for the 2016-17 financial year. That followed annual deficits of $116,910, $171,000, $207,000, $103,000, $122,000, $120,000 and $97,000. The review comes as the club prepares to lose CEO Tony Drew. The 64-year-old confirmed to the Herald almost three weeks ago that he was retiring. The former Wyong Race Club boss is set to leave later this financial year after four years at the helm following the death of long-time chief Ross Gigg. Dumesny told the Herald the independent review at Newcastle was not unusual and was done “to see how clubs are doing and to improve the clubs”. “Each of the past few years we’ve assisted clubs with reducing the costs of conducting meetings,” Dumesny said. “It’s a balancing act between providing a level of prizemoney for participants, but at the same time you also need to provide for the clubs. “Newcastle is one of our ‘A’ clubs, so we’re just looking at it. It’s opportune, but it’s got nothing to do with the resignation of Tony.” He said the harness racing clubs’ committee has “each year put forward ideas on how we can help clubs and that’s what we are doing”.  Newcastle had blamed deficits on the loss of regular TAB Saturday meetings almost a decade ago. However, an increase in Saturday dates in recent years has failed to improve its bottom line. “We just want to look at their model there and how it works and if we can help them further,” Dumesny said. “They’ve made a loss of varying amounts for the past few years now and we’ve worked with the club, changing race dates. “We gave them all those Saturdays, and those Saturdays come at a cost to the industry, but we want to see what it is that continues not to assist them with making a profit.” He said the annual losses were a concern but he was hopeful of a turnaround. “In the next allocation of race dates we looked at the balance and there were indications that a combination of Fridays and Saturdays would work better,” he said. He said wagering revenue was the industry’s lifeblood “but we are also driven to have on-track attendances”. Asked if the review could lead to a change in administrative structure at NHRC, Dumesny said that was a decision for Newcastle’s board. He added that the review will be complete before Drew leaves, “so the club will be privy to what it uncovers and they will be able to address that in their future thinking”. The review comes as Hunter participants await further news on the NSW government’s plans for the Broadmeadow sporting and recreational precinct, which takes in Newcastle Paceway. Harness racing has not been included in plans despite NHRC holding a lease on its facility until 2027, with an option for another 20-year deal. The Herald understands HRNSW and state government authorities have been looking for a site in Maitland and Cessnock to build a new Hunter headquarters taking in a training centre and racetrack similar to Bathurst. “The success at Bathurst is known, we can measure it,” Dumesny said. “We are building Wagga and it’s different to Bathurst, but Newcastle is our second-biggest club on race meetings and the Hunter Valley is a very strong harness racing precinct. So whatever occurs there, HRNSW will certainly be looking after the stakeholders throughout NSW and the future of harness racing in the Hunter.” “There’s a licence agreement there for decades, so there’s no uncertainty for the participants. There is a venue there they can race on once or twice a week. They’ve got a home and they are safe.”  By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Tony Missen is back in the winner’s circle after Smokenapipe won the Mitavite-Make A Difference Pace at Newcastle on Tuesday night.  The horse was a very astute and cheap purchase by Tony’s wife Joy. The couple have only had the Grinfromeartoear-New York Express gelding since the end of March, and the win came in only his second race start for the stables. With Sydney reinsman Leigh Sutton in the spider, the win paid $6.60. Racing in behind the leader, Glen Innes Boy, Sutton set Smokenapipe the task down the long Newcastle straight to post a 1.5-metre win over Talk About It (Aaron Garaty), with Officially Shady (Jordan Whiting) another metre away in third place. Job well done for the Missen stables, with Smokenapipe posting a career personal best mile rate of 1.59.7 for 1609 metres. ++++ Narrabri hosted three feature races at the Carnival of Cups meeting on Easter Monday – and what a cracker finish it was in the Santos Cup. The Aaron Goadsby-trained pacer Last Party, driven by Guy Chapple, and the Lola Weidemann-trained-and-driven Chevals Diamond had a tussle down the home straight, as both pacers gave more with every stride. Judges took a long time to deliberate before awarding the win to Chevals Diamond, who had the edge over Last Party by a short half head. Bathurst pacer Uncle Peter (Anthony Frisby) was third. “I always knew it was going to be a hard race but I certainly don’t want a finish like that again,” said Weidemann. “He [Chevals Diamond] did a great job to get me as far as he did.” Chevals Diamond was backing up after finishing third at Marburg on Easter Sunday in the $25,000 Oakwood Capital Goldstrike Series Final, while Last Party came straight from contesting the Bathurst Carnival, where the mare finished second in the Ladies Invitational. In the John Dean Memorial at Narrabri, Bathurst pacer Our Uncle Alan backed up from a win in the heat to take out the final, which was a set as a mission for trainer Chris Frisby and his son Anthony, who drove Our Uncle Alan to the win. “It’s great to win this race,” said Anthony. “We won it back in 2013 so it’s fantastic to get another winner on the board. “Once he got to the lead I thought he would be too hard to beat – he did what he had to do and got the job done.” The 2390 Narrabri Cup also proved to be a nail-biting finish, when Ultimate Dawn (Anthony Varga) gained an inside split down the home straight to have a two-metre win over Arrokeefe (Narissa McMullen), with Our Chittybangbang (Anthony Frisby) a head away in third place. “I was just glad to get the win,” said Varga. “I was a bit worried behind the leader and stayed there hoping for some luck and I got the luck. Once he saw the gap he sprinted quick.” +++ Harness racing will return to Tamworth on April 13, while Tamworth trainer Richard Williams will contest the Newcastle meeting on Saturday night.  Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader  

Sawyers Gully harness racing hobby trainer Stacie Elliott is excited to think where bargain buy Pete’s Big Jim will take her. For the moment, she will have to settle for Newcastle Paceway on Saturday night. However, Elliott is eyeing the group 1 Victorian Breeders Crown in August with the $11,000 purchase after his impressive second in the group 3 Sapling Stakes at Menangle on February 24. “We went in as a rough chance, I’m only a hobby trainer against all the big guys, and he really went well,” Elliott said. “He tried his heart out. He just keeps stepping up and getting better and better. It’s pretty exciting to think where we could end up with him. His work this week was another half a second on his work leading up to the Sapling.” Pete’s Big Jim won a heat of the Breeders Plate at Leeton on debut and will chase his second victory in five starts in race nine at Newcastle. Pete’s Big Jim was one of four buys by Canberra’s Peter Kohlsdorf from ready to run sales put in Elliott’s care. However, the gelding was not paid up for this month’s Bathurst Gold Crown or the NSW Breeders Challenge. As a fallback, Elliott hoped to race in the Rod Fitzpatrick group 3 race for two-year-olds at Menangle last week but the event received only four nominations. Now Elliott is looking at a run or two locally before a spell and campaign aimed at the Victorian series. Also on Saturday night, a $2500 cheque from Newcastle Harness Racing Club and Newcastle and Maitland Mini Trots will be added to the Team Teal fundraising campaign for the Women’s Cancer Foundation. Drivers across Australia have worn teal coloured pants to raise awareness and each winner they have scored has earned a $200 donation harness racing bodies. By Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

Brandy Hill trainer Sam Dimarco’s hopes of getting Shadow Runner back to top-class competition were raised when the 2015 Bathurst Gold Crown champion had his first win in 13 months at Newcastle on Saturday night. With James Harding in the gig, Shadow Runner ($5.80) worked hard early from barrier eight to get the lead with a 27-second first quarter in race four.  The five-year-old gelding then held out fast-finishing 2017 Newcastle horse of the year Rockmemama, the $2 favourite, by a metre to win in 1.56 flat. It was Shadow Runner’s fifth start back from a year out with a leg injury. “I was really happy with the run,” Dimarco said. “He’s improving but he’s not 100 per cent yet. That was his fifth run back and he takes a while to get going. “We may just stay around Newcastle for a couple more runs and then take him to Menangle for the MOs, “Hopefully we can get him back to somewhere near where he was before the injury.” The win came on the same night three-year-old filly Black Silhouette, which is also owned by Dimarco’s daughter and Harness Racing NSW director Marissa Dimarco, qualified for another Evolution series final. She led the heat but was run down late by Gemma Rue’s Callmequeenbee. The pair will meet again in Saturday night’s final at Menangle “I biggest thrill for Marissa was Shadow Runner,” Sam said. “To get him back and win a race, even though it was only by a metre, he’s got it all in front of him if we can keep him sound.” It was also a big night for visiting driver Leigh Sutton, who took Polly Downing’s Elsie Gem, Clayton Harmey’s Yourblueyescrying and Tiarn Sutton’s Team Of Starzzz to victory. Meanwhile, former Keinbah-based team Shane and Lauren Tritton had a winning double at Menangle with two-time Newcastle horse of the year Mach Beauty and Franco Nelson. Craig Kerry Reprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

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