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As a harness racing "newbie" starting out in the 1990s, Stawell Harness Racing CEO Lisa McIlvride certainly didn't ever envisage herself at the helm of the country Victorian club. And even much less that she would be celebrating her 25th work anniversary alongside a colleague who started with her that same year, Manager Kim Mornane. But this week the two marked the career milestone, in cohort with the 25th anniversary of the club's Trackside Bistro and Gaming facility, the opening of which lured them on-board with the club. But, not surprisingly, the popular administrator says it's "the people along the way" who have been the highlight. "Kim and I went to Melbourne and trained together because back in those days, that's where you had to go to do your gaming machine training. Kim was a casual and I was one of two full-time staff who started when Trackside opened," Lisa said. "I really didn't know what I was walking into - at the time I'd been married a year, and the job got my interest. Now I've got two adult children and for a lot of that time I've been able to work full time helping to run a harness racing club. I am proud of that, but it also says a lot about the flexibility of the role and the people around us." Although Lisa began working on the gaming side of the Stawell HRC operation, she made the transition to the sports administration in 2000, when the club lost its long-serving manager Kaye Matthews. "I guess that is one of the things I have really valued about doing this job, the really beautiful people you meet and work with every day. People like Stan Anyon, who helped establish the club in 1956 and was on the committee for so long, and Reg Cooper and Geoff Sanderson. Colleagues like Les Chapman and Elizabeth Clark and Paul Rowse have all helped me learn in the industry," she said. "The foundations those people put in place and the support they have given me have helped us build the club into the success it is now. We now have a 45-machine facility, and a 200-seat bistro and have gone from just a handful of staff, to between 32 and 40 on the team, a lot of whom are also coming up to mark 20-year milestones with us," she said. The Stawell Harness Racing Club runs nine race meetings a year, but Lisa said the bistro and gaming business provided it with support and resources that other clubs don't have. "Harness racing certainly takes up a lot of my time - you're advocating for the club, working on programming, structuring your feature races and building on each race meeting. There's all the advertising and marketing that goes with that, applying for grants and so on," she said. "And of course, you're pretty much working on your cup day all year. Running a club means you are always working on harness racing and in a lot of the clubs with part-time administrators, they end up doing a lot of work out of hours or it falls back on volunteers. "Having a full-time person means that you can dedicate that time and it also means you have resources for trophies, for additional prize money and try things like our Maori Legend feature race." Lisa's respect in the industry earned her the sport's highest honor for women in Victoria, the Pearl Kelly Award, in 2014. "That was the same year that (Great Western horsewoman) Kerryn Manning won the Gordon Rothacker Medal," she said. "Along the way Kerryn and I seem to have shared some milestones, so it was lovely that it was here when she got her 4000th winner and the next day Lisa and I celebrated 25 years at the club. Kerryn Manning celebrated her own milestone at the Stawell HRC meeting – her 4000th win as a driver "That's what it's all about - the people. I've loved horses since I was a little girl and I can't ride now because of an injury, but I still enjoy very much being around them. "It's a buzz to see the excitement on racedays from people who just absolutely love their sport and their horses. People like Katrina Fitzpatrick are just hilarious when they get so excited - it's just beautiful and you can't really get that in any other job. That's what it's all about!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Western Victorian harness racing trainer Aaron Dunn has to go back a long way to remember a horse in his stable with better prospects than his precocious youngster Bondi Lockdown . The two-year-old made very comfortable work of a 28.5 final quarter (MR 1:57.1) in a super-impressive debut win around the tight Stawell circuit and Dunn couldn't be happier with the colt he bought on a whim at the Fosters Gold yearling sale. "He just went a bit rough on the home turn but otherwise he was perfect. I did have to wake him up in the straight, but once he got down to work, he went really well," Dunn said. "He's pretty exciting. Dad and I think that he's potentially the best-looking horse and the best moving horse we've had on the farm since Dee Dees Dream." Watch the replay click here: And that's no small wrap! Dee Dees Dream (Camtastic-Westburn Tess (Windshield Wiper) won 19 of his first 30 starts, including the Gr 1 VicBred (2yo) Super Series Final, the Vic Golden Nursery Stakes, the Victorian Sires Classic and the Tasmanian Derby, before injury ended his career in 2008 with 38 wins and more than $400,000 in stakes. In the past Dunn and his father Barry have been regular buyers at the yearling sales. Other than Dee Dees Dream, other handy acquisitions have been Speedo George (17 wins) and Nikki Badwagon (11 wins). But Aaron's focus recently has been mostly on breeding at his Horsham property and the Bondi Lockdown buy was the result of his first venture to the yearling sales in 13 years. "When I bought him I really didn't go to the sale looking to buy anything other than a filly, mostly to breed from in future," Dunn said. "I did get a filly and I think she'll be handy, but I also was bidding on a few just because I thought they were good value. "I saw this bloke and he looked great and when you look at the cost of a service fee to Somebeachsomewhere, I just thought he was going too cheap not to have a go at. His half-brother Rocknroll Eyes had won two or three at the time and was looking like a nice horse, and I ended up getting Bondi Lockdown for $20,000." It's not hard to see why he took a second glance at the good-looking colt, though. Bondi Lockdown is out of handy broodmare Without Guile (Art Major-Innocent Eyes (Safely Kept). The mare has previously produced three foals for three winners: Rocknroll Eyes (15 wins); Joeys Hangover (eight wins); and Without Hesitation (four wins). Bondi Lockdown's grand-dam Innocent Eyes won more than $400,000 in her 18 victories. Dunn is keeping his feet on the ground but is hoping that Bondi Lockdown might make 2020 entirely memorable for all the right reasons. "It's pretty obvious why we named him Bondi Lockdown - being by Somebeachsomewhere and this year being what it's been," Dunn said. "We've been very excited with how he's come on since he came back from the breaker Rod Barker but you don't really want to get ahead of yourself, and we really had been hoping to go first up to either Ballarat or Terang, being bigger tracks, but the races didn't stand up," he said. "His win at the Ballarat trials a couple of weeks back put a bit of hype around him, so I was just rapt that he did go so well at Stawell. When you have a high expectation you just hope it all pans out!" The win was the high point of a very good day at the office for Dunn. He brought up a double with Vanity Bay (Western Ideal-Forest Bliss (Blissful Hall) and went within a nose of owning (or part-owning), training and driving three winners when narrowly defeated on Keayang Shady (Shadyshark Hanover-Alimar Star (Safely Kept). Dunn said he would wait to see how the youngster developed and how the unpredictable season 2020 season unfolded before making too many plans for Bondi Lockdown - but the sires, VicBred and 2yo features are definitely on the radar. "I've tried to wrap him in cotton wool to a degree up until now, because I've thought he was quite a bit above average for six months or so," Dunn said. "I'm really the only one to drive him. He's good in nature, but I was worried that, being a colt, he might get a bit over the top. "At this stage we know he's got speed, but he will need to get tougher and will still have to take another step to match it with the good ones." Bondi Lockdown's next assignment is on Wednesday night at Terang, where he meets an interesting field on paper - including a Michael Stanley-trained first starter in Hammers Hellpatrol, a full brother to Breeders Crown champion Menin Gate ($574,000).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Stawell Harness Racing Club President Geoff Sanderson received an early birthday present when four-year-old mare Beekaecee broke through for a long overdue win at his home track. Trained by Michelle Wight, Beekaecee (Four Starzzz Shark - Carly Michelle (Albert Albert) squeaked home by a short-half-head in the Sign Online Pace last week to reward Sanderson and co-owner Brett Crouch a VicBred bonus for their patience. The winner was driven by young gun, Jason Lee. To watch the video replay click on this link The consistent mare has had 22 starts and failed to weigh in only five times, but Wight said it had been frustrating to finish so close, so many times. "She's run a heap of seconds and thirds, and I wouldn't know how many fourths, to it's great to finally get there," Wight said. "It's taken a while, but sometimes when they get that first win, that can be a turning point for them. A pacer we raced a few years ago called Pacquiao took nearly 40 starts to win his first one - then went on to win four from six starts! So things can turn around once they get the hang of it!" she laughed. Wight said a large group of interested supporters had a small interest in Beekaecee. "It was a pretty popular win. There are some of Brett's mates, some poker mates and some other friends. And I didn't realise at the time, but being Geoff's birthday the next day, it certainly made it that much sweeter for him." "And it was actually a Great Western First Four in that race! We won the race, dad (Peter Manning) ran second, with Sport Dreamer, Jason Ainsworth, who works for dad ran third, and (Michelle's sister) Kerryn and Grant finished fourth." Beekaecee (inside) scored a narrow breakthrough win at Stawell Geoff Sanderson has enjoyed a long association with the sport, most notably as the owner of superstar square-gaiter Knight Pistol during his early racing in the 1990s. "Geoff's been in the sport a long time, and Brett and Geoff raced Babalaas Jack with me," Wight said. "But he won a few and got on his mark, then he got claimed, so they were looking for something to replace him and ended up buying Beekaecee," Wight said. "She's been a nice little horse who's kept earning, without getting that VicBred bonus, so it's now great to have won that for them." Wight has reduced her usual team of three or four horses in work, to just two racehorses for the time being, over the winter months. "I'm just racing Beekaecee and Outback Feather at the moment, but I've been inspired by the lovely wintery weather to bring another young one in to break in and another to jog up!" she said "Things have been full on at work (Hotondo Homes), so that will keep me busy enough." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

As a third-generation harness racing trainer Rebecca East is the first to admit she never considered not pursuing the family passion for the sport. But while her family enjoyed its share of success over the years, Rebecca's training treble at Stawell last week is no doubt one of her personal milestones in the sport. "It's not my first treble, because I had one at Mount Gambier not too long ago, but they're hard to get and you always enjoy them, whenever they come along," Bec said. "This was my first one in Victoria, and it was a pretty good day!" East's Stawell success began with consistent three year old She Will Wantano (Roll With Joe - Mama Tembu (Albert Albert) who scored a much-overdue second career win - the filly has failed to weigh in only twice in 20 career starts. To watch the video replay click here The stable followed up that success two races later with blowout ($30) winner Girls In Charge (Lincoln Royal - Proud Trick (Falcon Seelster) and rounded off proceedings with the second win within a week for handy stable acquisition Juddy Douglas (Auckland Reactor - Markeaton Navi (Falcon Seelster). To watch the video replay of Girls In Charge click here To watch the video replay of Juddy Douglas click here "We thought they all had a bit of a chance, but you never get ahead of yourself and you always need a bit of luck," East said. "Fortunately, we did get a bit with Girls in Charge when another horse galloped, and she was able to pop in behind the leader. "Then the third one was Juddy Douglas and we were a bit lucky there, too, because he had won previously at Terang, but was still eligible for the race at Stawell - and because the barrier draws had already been done it was nice for us that he was still able to come out of barrier one." Rebecca said her love of harness racing was inherited from her parents, the late Judy and Robert East (who were hobby trainers at Condor, before moving to Heywood) and Robert's father Les East. "They all had some nice horses. Mum and Dad raced Irish Liner, which won the Horsham Oaks and a Mount Gambier Cup, and they also had another handy one in Silent Talk, so it's always been in my blood," she said. "I first got my licence after dad had a heart attack in 2001 and I kind of had to step up to keep on with the family interest. I've always loved the horses and now I can't ever imagine not doing them." East works part time as an aged care worker, and she and her partner, veteran former trainer Kevin Brough, put the polish on a team of around 15 horses at their Heywood property. "It's a lot of work, and the only disadvantage of being down here are the distances we have to travel to race. But we have a couple of part-time staff who come out each day in John Sutters and Kaylea Towers and they're a terrific help," she said. "We breed a few each year and we do enjoy the babies. You do the hard yards of handling them, getting them broken in and trying little things that you hope might be the difference. Like everyone, you're hoping for that Group One horse, and that keeps you just popping away!" At this time of year, though, with the chilly south west Victorian weather and short winter days, Rebecca said thoughts usually turn to September, which is the couple's annual month off to recharge the batteries. "But this year, I'm not so sure," she said. "With regional racing, we've been competing at Stawell and Terang, but both the Marg Lee and Matty Craven stables are in this region, so it's been pretty strong," she said. "This week we're opening up to take in Melton and Ballarat - but that brings in another couple of strong teams such as Emma Stewart and Andy and Kate Gath. "Hopefully it will be around September that the post COVID-19 racing might be starting to return to normal, and we can look to place our horses in the most suitable races again, so we'll wait and see how things pan out," she said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

The old saying 'make hay while the sun shines' has never been more applicable to Bendigo region harness racing participants than it was on Wednesday. With the sport in Victoria moving to a new region-based operating model from today, yesterday provided the last opportunity for trainers and drivers to notch up wins at venues outside of their own designated area. Plenty rose to the challenge. At Stawell, young reinsman Jayden Brewin scored a driving double aboard Fowsands and Wingate Guy, while the exciting young training combination of Maddie Ray and Haydon Gray picked up their third victory this year with Rigondeaux. A prolific run continued Wednesday night at Shepparton, where Inglewood trainer Grant Innes struck with the in-form trotter Vincent Kai, and Elmore's Matthew Higgins notched up a victory with the five-year-old mare Lilnova. For the foreseeable future, trainers and drivers from the Bendigo region (encompassing the Greater Bendigo, Buloke, Central Goldfields, Loddon and Mount Alexander local government areas) will be restricted to solely competing at Lord's Raceway, starting this Friday night. In the sulky for Rigondeaux's impressive 3.3m win, co-trainer Maddie Ray said she was glad to see 'the locals' make the most of their last chance to race at tracks outside this region. Race 3 won by number 10 Rigondeaux. Driven and trained by Maddi Ray. Mile rate 2:04.9.    To watch the race click here She felt only time would tell whether it would be any harder or easier for trainers such as themselves to find a winner under the revised format. "If you look at the two trot races this Friday night (the Aldebaran Park Trot and Vale Colin Redwood Trot), there were more nominations than horses that could get a run," she said. "We'll just have to see how the racing and the programming goes. "Hopefully there are a few races where we can get another winner, we will just see what happens. "We've got five horses in work, three two-year-olds and two older trotters, which keeps us plenty busy. "We have got a few in the paddock we are trying to think what we do with, but we are happy to keep the numbers down a little bit." Ray could not hide her delight at the progress of Rigondeaux, a four-year-old, whose three wins, from 15 starts, have all been this year, starting at Kilmore on January 2 and quickly followed by another 14 days later at the same venue. The Majestic Sun/Galleons Bliss gelding had not raced for nearly six months before his breakthrough Kilmore win, but has since developed into a remarkably consistent trotter with seemingly plenty of upside. A steady and productive first three months of the year for Rigondeaux has reaped three wins and four placings from eight starts, his only real blemish a seventh at Charlton in mid-March. "Hayden and I couldn't be happier that he's so consistent, he tries his guts out every time he goes around," Ray said. "I guess the main thing is he is getting more confident with each run. "Charlton was only his bad run, but we can't really hold that against him. He galloped at the start and had a few excuses with a false start, it was just one of those days. "He's pretty sensitive if something goes wrong, but he has been unreal this time in. "Hopefully he keeps it going." By Kieran Iles  Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

Classy gelding Emain Macha, who overcame a life-threatening illness earlier in his career, continued his stellar Victorian country cups harness racing campaign by taking out the Stawell Cup on Sunday. The six-year-old, known around the stables as Fritz, was having only his fifth start for the season, but has now claimed two country cups this stint- having won the St Arnaud Cup on November 10. Emain Macha (Safari-Machabella (Mach Three) is trained by astute horseman Greg Scholefield, who a few years ago decided to concentrate on preparing his small team on a full-time basis. A builder by trade, Scholefield is based at Naracoorte, a small sheep, cattle and wheat farming town in south-east South Australia near the State border with Victoria. Emain Macha took an early lead in the Group Three $45,000 feature for in-form junior reinsman James Herbertson, of Ballarat, and narrowly got the money over short-priced race favorite Code Black (Greg Sugars). "He felt terrific in the run and Greg certainly had him cherry ripe for the assignment," Herbertson said. "When I put the foot down with 600 metres to go, the horse really hit top gear," he said. "He knocked off a bit over the final stages, but I wasn't concerned because he always does that." It's been an admirable training achievement by Scholefield to return Emain Macha to prime health and fitness. After winning the $20,000 Guineas at Mildura on April 8, 2017, in what was his 14th career victory from just 18 starts, Emain Macha contracted a virus, which put him on the sidelines for almost a year. Aside from the effects of the virus, the horse later came down with bronchitis, his weight dropped away, he developed foot swelling and there were fears for his life. Trainer and part-owner Scholefield sought the advice of local vet Tony Tully who put "Fritz" on a course of treatment and a long and arduous road to recovery began. Emain Macha resumed racing in late February the following year, winning at a Mt Gambier meeting first up. The pacer, owned by Scholefield, Gail Davis, Peter Lamond, and father-and-son John and Sean Penny, now has a total of 29 wins and 13 placings from his 50 starts, amassing $258,000 in stakes. At Stawell, Herbertson certainly didn't dawdle over the mini marathon Cup distance of 2600m with early splits of 31.4 and 29.9. He later cranked up the tempo with a strong last half of 56 secs (28.8 and 27.2) to hold off Code Black, a recent winner of the Yarra Valley Pacing Cup. "We decided before the event to go for the lead because he bowls along nicely out in front. He's a lovely horse and he's been good to me because in my three drives on him he's had two wins and a second," he said. Watch the race replay here: Herbertson last season topped the ton (102 wins) for the first time in his short career, and is off to a flying start this season, with 37 wins and 75 places, racking up an impressive 43% strike rate. He also got the chocolates at Stawell with Seemepearlywhites (Grinfromeartoear-Numismatic (Elsu). "She is a handy mare and she gives her best. The Platinum Sprint heat was a good race to win and they picked up a Vicbred bonus as well," Herbertson said. Seemepearlywhites is trained by popular Maryborough track curator-trainer Tim Mortlock. Mortlock trains only two horses but comes from a good pedigree with his late father Rob and legendary grandfather Jack Hargreaves both successful horsemen.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

Some of the most famous colours in Australian trotting will come out of the closet when Pink Galahs contests tomorrow's The Maori Legend at Stawell. Trainer-driver Matt Craven will don the green and gold worn by champion Maori's Idol - the horse the race is named after - when he chases glory in the $14,000 feature. Pink Galahs' co-owner Caleb Lewis is married to Laura (nee Healy), who is the daughter of Bryan and granddaughter of Ric. The Healy family bred Maori Miss, the mare who instigated arguably Australia's most famous trotting breeding line which includes the famed Maori's Idol but also Maori Mia, the great-great granddam of Pink Galahs. Lewis said Craven will wear the actual jacket carried by Sumthingaboutmaori throughout her triple Group 1-winning career. Sumthingaboutmaori, another descendant of Maori Miss, won 31 of 75 starts including races at the elite level in 2003 and 2004. "I was with the father-in-law (Bryan) the other day and he asked me if the two-year-old was running in the race. And then he said 'it would be good if you wore the colours'," Lewis recalled. "He gave me the Maori's Idol colours to wear. I have got the original ones but they might blow apart in the wind. These are actually Sumthingaboutmaori's colours." Lewis said it would be a "massive thrill" to win the race that meant so much to the family. "Just for the breeding and trotting industry - the Maori breed has done so much for it," he said. Pink Galahs looks one of the main players in Thursday's feature, having won a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old fillies) before running third in the Group 1 final behind Jaxnme. Lewis said the daughter of Skyvalley was in good order ahead of Thursday's assignment. "She made a mistake in the (Vicbred) final just after the start, happened to get herself back down and made up a massive amount of ground to run third," he said. "She just needs to get a bit of luck. She's drawn inside the second row. If she gets a bit of luck early, well hopefully she can get through a bit of traffic and be thereabouts. "It is two-year-old trotting so you've got to bite your tongue and hope everything goes right." If successful on Thursday, expect one of John Williamson's classics Galleries of pink galahs - the inspiration behind the horse's name - to be playing at Lewis' hotel in Portland. "I'd be happy to play it - no worries," he said. "My grandfather, who got me into trotting, when I was a really young kid we used to go around in his ute and he'd always have John Williamson going on the radio. "Most of my horses are named after songs - that year of two-year-olds I named after John Williamson songs." Pink Galahs is likely to run second favourite behind Peter Manning-trained Dublin Chubb, which has drawn outside her on the second row. Dublin Chubb was second favourite in a heat of the Alderbaran Park Vicbred Super Series (two-year-old colts and geldings), but galloped on numerous occasions and finished last. The Maori Legend is race six on a 10-event card at Stawell and will start at 2.15pm.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

The sun will resurface on Sunday, the experts say, when Stawell will host its biggest day of harness racing in the wake of the big wet. Stawell Harness Racing Club has been preparing manfully throughout the course of the week amid the threat of 50-100mm of rain forecasted to fall up to Saturday. To make matters a little more challenging for the club, fire threatened on Thursday after nearby lightning strikes earlier today, but was soon brought under control by emergency services. Club CEO Lisa McIlvride said they had sealed the race track on Tuesday and again today to do their utmost to ensure a great day’s racing centred around the trotters and pacing cups. “We’re all prepared and have everything in place,” Ms McIlvride said. “We’ve got extra material and a spreader on standby. We can only do what we can do and hope for the best.” Talented pacers Shadow Sax and Bad Billy are among the Choices Flooring By Westside Stawell Pacing Cup, while My Skypocket will try to shoot clear of the pack in the Maori’s Idol Trophy Points Table in the Ecks Electrical Stawell Trotters Cup. “We have got good bookings for the bistro, kids’ activities and a big shed if it’s wet so all the fun can be had underneath cover,” Ms McIlvride said. “A lot of farmers are getting their crops off as we speak and have been hard at it for a few days now, so hopefully Sunday can help them and be a support.” Michael Howard

More than $15,000 was handed out to community organisations by the Stawell Harness Racing Club at Tuesday night’s community grants presentation.  With the funds generated through the club’s gaming facilities, the grants aim to give back to the community.  Stawell Harness Racing Club chief executive officer Lisa McIlvride said it is very important for the club to contribute to the area. “There aren’t a lot of grants available to clubs nowadays,” she said. “It is very important for us as a club to give back to the community.  “It makes us proud of where we work.” 15 community organisations and individuals were handed grants which will assist them in various ways.  There aren’t a lot of grants available to clubs nowadays. It is very important for us as a club to give back to the community. Lisa McIlvride The club also handed out scholarships to Stawell West, St Patrick’s and Stawell primary schools as well as Stawell Secondary College.  McIlvride said the grants were “well received” on the night. “All the groups were happy with their donations,” she said. “Councillor Karen Hyslop, who was part of the panel who approved the grants, talked about how important the grants are to small organisations.” Since 2002, the Stawell Harness Racing Club has given $814,818 worth in community support, including racing stake money and trophies. The grants were handed out in one of the busiest weeks for the club, which will host the 2017 Stawell Pacing Cup on Sunday.  GRANT RECIPIENTS Stawell West Primary School - Bus passes and scholarship Anglican parish of Stawell - Stained glass windows restoration Stawell Ballet School – Printer and ink Stawell Rifle Club - Gun barrel trophy Stawell pony club - New poles and paint Stawell Golf Bowls Club - Tournament Youth Club Cricket Club - Fridge for club house St Patrick’s Primary School - New PA, fruit program, scholarship Campbell’s bridge progress association – Window repairs Stawell Secondary College - Breakfast program and scholarships Stawell Primary School - Breakfast program and scholarship Stawell Golf Club - Honour board restoration  Connor Clarke – $500 Mavis Stanley – $500 Ag society – Gate for show day By Lachlan Williams Reprinted with permission of The Stawell Times

Stawell Harness Racing Club’s track is in the midst of a $546,446 overhaul, which will see significant upgrades. The club’s camber will be vastly increased and its surface improved courtesy of the funding, 50 per cent of which came from the State Government’s Victorian Racing Industry Fund and the remainder from the club and Harness Racing Victoria (HRV). HRV manager of development and infrastructure Rob Pongho said the works would dramatically improve the on-track experience. “The increased camber is another example of the industry optimising track design to improve the welfare and safety on the horses and drivers,” Mr Pongho said. “The new base and cushion will be installed to provide an improved cushioning effect for competing horses and upgraded fending will improve the safety aspects along with the aesthetic enhancement.” The existing camber of about 6 per cent will increase to 12 per cent on the 72m turn past the winning post and to about 14 per cent on the 66m radius home turn. Extensive new fencing works will also be performed as part of the funding. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

It was a bad start for the Stawell Harness Racing Club when on the first bend in the first race a driver was tipped from her sulky and sent to hospital. Jackie Barber lost control of horse Showem Shifty and fell from her sulky. With gravel rash over her body she walked away from the incident, but was sent to hospital as a precaution. The horse Showem Shifty was a late scratching from the race and the race was re-run half an hour later. Club manager Lisa McIllvride said both the horse and the driver were fine following the incident. “As bad as it looked there was nothing major to come from it,” She said. “Jackie has some gravel rash and the horse will be fine.” Showem Shifty was assessed by the on court vet and deemed unfit to race. “The horse dragged its sulky around for a while, but as far as I know there was no injury.” Once the race was officially completed it was race favourite Lemon Shark who was victorious. Dundees Desire took out the Brian Gunnell Memorial race while Peppercorn Dell won the Kaye Mathews Memorial race with starting odds of $23.50.  By Grace Bibby Reprinted with permission of The Stawell Times News    

The Kilmore, Cranbourne and Stawell pacing cup champion, Yankee Rockstar, has been crowned the harness racing Country Cup Championship winner. Trained by Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin at Smythes Creek, 15 minutes south-west of Ballarat, Yankee Rockstar’s three cup wins and a third at Shepparton saw the five-year-old amass 13 points in the series and record a two-point win ahead of Kotare Roland. VIDEO: RELIVE YANKEE ROCKSTAR'S SUPER CUPS SUCCESS Stewart said it was a great result for the horse and the stable. “Safari won it when he was around, so it is good to win because it is hard racing in the cup circuit,” Stewart said. “It is really a feather in his cap. Making the feat all the more remarkable was the depths of illness Yankee Rockstar experienced in the lead-up to the season. “He has had a terrific season. He has really come back well from a bad illness, so that just adds to what has been a terrific job.” Yankee Rockstar suffered from an illness that required a throat operation. Then when returning from Sydney after running seventh in the Chariots Of Fire in March 2015, the gelding was struck with travel sickness owing to his throat alteration. “We nearly lost him,” Stewart said. “It was 50-50 and he was at the vets for a two weeks.” Yankee Rockstar bounced back to not only win the three country cups, but to finish fourth in the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup. Yankee Rockstar is now spelling “for a month” before he will resume, with Grand Circuit racing front of mind. Final standings: Yankee Rockstar 13 points, Kotare Roland 11, Almost El Eagle 9, Im Corzin Terror 9, Ideal Sucess 8, Keayang Steamer 8, Barimah 7, Lennytheshark 6, Ohoka Punter 6, Five Star Anvil 6.  For full standings click here. Michael Howard

The memory of trotting legend Knight Pistol will live on at Stawell’s Laidlaw Park, following the unveiling of a memorial plaque on Tuesday. The plaque, made by Bruce Hemley out of horseshoes from the Peter Manning stables, was unveiled during Stawell Harness Racing Club’s Australia Day meeting. Known affectionately as Trigger, the memorial plaque recognises Knight’s Pistol’s achievements and his induction into the Victorian Harness Racing Media Association Hall of Fame. Knight Pistol’s career was at the crossroads before joining the Manning stables in Great Western. After three ordinary efforts in the double blue silks, he had his act together and in February 1997 the nine year old bay took out the $125,000 Group 1 Australasian Trotters Championship at Moonee Valley. He ended up having 181 career starts for 55 wins. The same year he won the Australasian Trotters Championship, he flew to Norway where he won the Group 1 Harley Davidson Trot. Knight Pistol still holds the record over 3200 metres (2.04.4) which he set at Moonee Valley in 1998. Reprinted with permission of the site

The connections of Narra Operative will be hoping their honest gelding can make it back-to-back Rayners Fruit and Vegetables Stawell Pacing Cup successes on Sunday. Locally owned and trained, Narra Operative hails from the camp of Kerryn Manning in Great Western – less than 15 minutes from Stawell. “He’s a lovely horse. I always like driving him,” the New Zealand Trotting Cup winning trainer/driver said. “First-up he went real good and then second-up at Gunbower he might have been a bit flat maybe. I don’t know if it was because he was backing up so quickly.” Narra Operative has drawn barrier eight in the Group 3 2590-metre stand start race on Sunday, following out stand start debutant Yankee Rockstar, who will start a short-priced favourite. “He’s got a good draw if the one gets away,” Manning said of her charge. “Sometimes barrier one is the toughest draw for one having their first go at the stand.” Manning said the speed needed to be on for Narra Operative to be a winning chance. Stand start specialist Macho Comacho has drawn barrier three and can begin quickly, as can country cups stalwart Arber drawn in four. “He’s not really a sit-and-sprint horse so he needs the speed on, but if there’s a bit of pressure up front and he can get a soft run he’s a rough show. He can surprise them,” Manning said. Yankee Rockstar is trained by Emma Stewart and will be driven by Gavin Lang, the team behind Philadelphia Man in the Perth Inter Dominion series at the moment. From the pole if he steps away the five-year-old is clearly the horse to beat, having won 17 or 23 starts. Almost El Eagle is drawn two and is coming off back-to-back cup wins at St Arnaud and Gunbower. He’s making an early play for country cups horse of the year. Michael Stanley trains Hilltop Hustler, a smart six-year-old who resumes on Sunday and is drawn six for Greg Sugars. Expect a good show from him first-up. Last-start Melton winner Weallwantano has struck form at the right time and is drawn six, while Jivin Cullen is a former Kiwi who has campaigned in Queensland and Sydney but has recently joined the Brad Hunt stable at Great Western. He’s drawn seven. Last year’s country cups king Road To Rock will come out of nine for Haydon Gray, while Master Pip has drawn 10, Nota Lada is the emergency and is No.11, Owen Martin-trained Farmersntradies is racing well and has got barrier 12, while Smudge Bromac from the David Aiken stable – a stablemate of current Inter Dominion favourite Lennytheshark – is the lone runner from the 10-metre tape. The Stawell Times News Stawell Trotters Cup is the other feature race on Sunday. Race one will be at 1.22pm. by Cody Winnell

If you’re ever looking for someone to go fishing, take a long drive or perform any task that requires plenty of patience, call Arthur Lasgis. Based on the first event at Stawell yesterday, Lasgis is certainly a man with a patient nature! Lasgis captured the opening race on the Cup Day card with moderately-performed trotter Mygreekkalesa, which scored at $12.40 on the tote. Not only did the eight-year-old cause an upset, she broke a 38-month, 68-start, drought from the winners’ circle. “It’s been a long time between drinks, but I knew she would win again one day,” Lasgis declared. “It is a really hard game this one to win. “I always felt she would win again, she just needed luck.” Luck certainly came Mygreekkalesa’s way on this occasion. Driven by Greg Sugars, the daughter of Wind Cries Maori began well from her 10-metre handicap to settle two-back along the pegs as Maccas Gone Kracas led and Upandgone worked in the ‘death seat’. Forging his way to the lead leaving the back stretch, Upandgone galloped turning for him, which saw several runners checked as a result. Sugars seized the opportunity to angle Mygreekkalesa away from the pegs, with the mare sprinting to a seven-metre win from Maccas Gone Kracas, with Gavlenn Sunset four-and-a-half metres away third. “She got everything her way this time, but having said that, she trialled well leading up to this and I knew she was at her top,” Lasgis said. “She should’ve won before this as she run several placings in a row, but couldn’t get a win. “I will just keep pressing on with her now and hope she can get another win.” A former Take Away shop owner in Ararat, Lasgis, who part-owns Mygreekkalesa, prepares a couple of standardbreds as a hobby. “My wife Maria and I sold the shop many years ago and now just enjoy our retirement,” Lasgis said. “I like to train a few horses for something to do and keep me active. “We love heading to the races as much as we can.” PAUL COURTS

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