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Greats of the sport Peter Manning and Geoff Webster reminded that trotting genius never fades, with the pair clutching Group 1 wins on Aldebaran Park Vicbred Home Grown Classic finals night at harness racing's Tabcorp Park Melton. Manning captured his first Group 1 in 11 years and Webster broke through for his first in almost six as gelding Plymouth Chubb and filly Aldebaran Misty won their respective $50,000 two-year-old trotting finals. Fittingly, it was Kerryn Manning who steered the winner for her dad, the pair’s first father-and-daughter Group 1 win since Leilani Lombo won her Australian Pacing Gold final in 2010. However, despite the drought-breaker, Kerryn told Trots Vision champagne was unlikely to flow. “We might have a Coke. Strong one, full strength, Dad doesn’t drink anything (else), he likes Coke,” she said. “(Mum Barbara’s) very pleased, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, so it’s a good present for her.” Plymouth Chubb Plymouth Chubb had won three of his four starts for owner-breeders Gary Benson and Steven Hegyi, who pared their mare Pocket Fantasy with Majestic Son to produce the filly. The dam had already been lucrative, producing both My Skypocket ($131,168) and Edge Hill ($110,161) as well as winning five starts herself. They included Kerryn’s 2132nd career win in 2005, which saw her pass German reinswoman Rita Drees and become the winningest female driver in history. “I remember driving (grand dam) Kims Fantasy and Pocket Fantasy, it seems like such a long time, and then you see how many foals they’ve had, time flies,” Manning said. “They’ve just been such a good breed.” And they appear to have produced another ripper in Plymouth Chubb, who overcame breaking gait early in tonight’s 1720-metre trot to mow down the leader and favourite Kyvalley Pierro. “(Plymouth Chubb) came out quite good and then a gap opened up behind (Chris Alford on Kyvalley Pierro),” Manning said. “Obviously you are going to have a good run (from leader’s back), but if (Kyvalley Pierro) goes slow will he outsprint you? “I just made my mind up that I’d go there and just as I pulled him down he put in a roughie, so he went off stride. I managed to get him down reasonably fast, but had to make the ground back up and he didn’t steer great after that – he wanted to hang in all the way.” Off a 31.1s second quarter the job looked well in hand for Alford, but Plymouth Chubb picked up over the last half and stormed home to win by 18 metres. “I was in a bit of trouble at the 800 and once I got him in the middle of the track by himself he made ground,” Manning said. “I was a bit worried, but the horse is pretty good and goes very well. “You see him out there and he’s sweating white and he’s still very fat, so he’s got a lot of fitness to go too. There should be good improvement in him. He’s got the big ticker in there. It doesn’t really matter what you look like, but he’s certainly got strength about him that’s for sure.” A big future also looks to lay in the path of Geoff Webster’s two-year-old filly Aldebaran Misty, who’s been another plum find from the horseman’s partnership with Duncan McPherson’s Aldebaran Park. Aldebaran Misty's by Skyvalley out of Mason Magic, who’s in turn out of Sumthingaboutmaori ($461,499). “I’ve had a little connection with Duncan over the last two or three years,” Webster told Trots Vision. “I’ve been going up and picking out a weanling from their paddocks, I picked out Aldebaran Dianna first year, this was the second one that I picked out 18 months ago now. I have another yearling that I’ve done the same thing with. I’ve only got the two or three with Duncan, but it’s a great association.” That certainly proved the case tonight with Aldebaran Misty leading from gate two and holding sway throughout. Off of even quarters, the primary challenger looked to be Stingofawasp, who loomed from leader’s back for Mick Bellman and threatened in the straight. But she was unable to make ground on the leader and, while Andy and Kate Gath’s Thunder Wing hit the line strongly from three back on the pegs to nab second, Webster and Aldebaran Misty were largely unchallenged in winning by 4.5 metres. “She’s really quirky at home,” Webster said. “She’s a real handful, but when she’s in the kart ... her manners are foolproof, she galloped at her first start, but she panicked when horses got along side her after the start. From the mobile she’s got good manners, good gate speed and is an all-round nice horse.” Connections of Aldebaran Misty Also tonight, Sparkling Success produced his first win since March with an all-the-way victory in the DNR Logistics Vulcan Trotters Free For All for trainer John Meade and driver Jackie Barker. Sparkling Success gained the ascendancy from the widest front row gate and, while favourite Tornado Valley had a great run in transit from the one-one, Andy Gath’s champion was unable to make ground late and grab the win that would make him the ninth Australasian trotter to become a millionaire. He would finish third, pocketing $2400 and taking his career winnings to $996,797, with Mick Blackmore’s Jackson Square splitting the pair in running second. On a night where no trainer nor driver produced a winning double, there were also highlights for trainer Amanda Grieve and stable addition Hezacrocwatcher, who won the Nutrien Equine Country Clubs Championship with reinsman Zac Phillips to make it three from three in Australia for the four-year-old former Kiwi. There were also big smiles in the Sonny Weaver camp, with the four-year-old crashing the line to win the Del-Re National Food Group Pace for Russell Jack and Leigh Sutton, swooping to another eye-catching win after favourite and leader Honolua Bay failed to fire.   HRV - Michael Howard

The result may have given harness racing trainer Peter Manning his first Group 1 victory in more than a decade but it was not all smooth sailing when Plymouth Chubb won the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic at Melton tonight. Manning has built his illustrious career as a renowned juvenile conditioner and the 76-year-old trained 2700 winners since the 1980/81 season. And even after all that success and experience, nothing prepares you for that feeling when you watch your young trotter gallop and giveaway ground. That is what happened when Plymouth Chubb headed around the first turn tonight in the $50,000 feature. Manning’s daughter Kerryn Manning was in the sulky, a veteran of 4021 wins and even she was “worried”. “He came out quite good and then a gap opened up behind Puppet (Chris Alford) and as I made up my mind to go there, just as I pulled him down he put in a roughie and went off stride,” she said. “I managed to get him down reasonably fast but I had to make the ground back up and he didn’t steer great after that he wanted to hang in all the way. “I was in a bit of trouble at the 800m and once I got him in the middle of the track by himself he made ground. “I was a bit worried but the horse was pretty good.” Despite his mishap, Plymouth Chubb cruised to the line to beat his rivals by more than 17 metres. Clocking 2:00.0, the two-year-old gelded son of Majestic Son and In The Pocket mare Pocket Fantasy extended his record to four wins in five starts. Watch the replay here:   By Amanda Rando for Harnesslink

It’s always hard to know how a horse will come back from a spell, but Darraweit Guim harness racing trainer-driver Lisa Miles could hardly have asked for much more from her talented mare Shes A Hovercraft at the weekend. The daughter of Night Of The Stars, who hadn’t been seen since her down-the-track finish in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series 3YO Fillies Final on December 31, signalled that she is in for a good preparation with an eye-catching second in Saturday night’s Nevele R Stud Pace (1720m) at Tabcorp Park Melton. Shes A Hovercraft greeted the bell towards the rear of the field in the running line before Miles peeled off the back of Orbie and let fly down the home straight. For a brief moment, it looked as though the four-year-old might challenge crack Kiwi mare Spellbound, but in the end could only get to 2.3m of Nathan Purdon’s import on the line. Nevertheless, it was a great return, with the sectional times backing it up. Shes A Hovercraft reeled off the fifth fastest last 800m of the entire meeting – bettered only by horses in the TAB Golden Reign Free For All – and clocked easily the slickest final 400m of the race. There looks to be some winnable races in store for the horse, with Miles eyeing a second-up run at Cranbourne on May 16. Watch replay here: General Dodge (Mick Chircop) produced the fastest final quarter of the meeting, ripping home in 26.39sec, while the fourth place-getter in that race Max Delight (David Aiken) actually reeled off the best closing 800m sectional of 54.61sec. There was also Melton racing on Tuesday night last week, where PJ Data was also collecting all the sectional information. Maryanne Laffan-trained Keepcrackingjokes had the best last 400m of the meeting when fourth in the Menzclub 3YO Pace and John Justice’s Smoken Shazza the hottest final 800m of the night in winning the Dynamic Print Group Pace.   FASTEST FIVE MELTON TUESDAY, APRIL 27 LAST 400m KEEPCRACKINGJOKES - 28.02sec - 4th MENZCLUB 3YO PACE 1720m CHEDDAR VALLEY - 28.17sec - 1st EMPIRE STALLIONS PACE 2240m GHANASUYA - 28.26sec - 5th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m BETTER STEAM AHEAD - 28.31sec - last MENZCLUB 3YO PACE 1720m MACELLI - 28.39sec - 4th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m   LAST 800m SMOKEN SHAZZA - 56.52sec - 1st DYNAMIC PRINT GROUP PACE 2240m MUSZTANG - 56.55sec - 2nd ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m OHOKA MAXIMUS - 56.61sec - 6th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m MACELLI - 56.64sec - 4th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m MISS BLUE GLORY - 56.83sec - 1st ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m   CLICK HERE TO SEE SECTIONALS OF EVERY RUNNER   MELTON SATURDAY, MAY 1 LAST 400m GENERAL DODGE - 26.39sec - 1st TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m MAX DELIGHT - 26.61sec - 4th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m STAR GALLERIA - 26.65sec - 2nd TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m IDEALSOMEMAGIC - 26.66sec - 5th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m MAJESTIC CRUISER - 26.79sec - 8th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m   LAST 800m MAX DELIGHT - 54.61sec - 4th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m STAR GALLERIA - 54.67sec - 2nd TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m GENERAL DODGE - 54.70sec - 1st TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m IDEALSOMEMAGIC - 54.72sec - 5th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m SHES A HOVERCRAFT - 55.04sec - 2nd NEVELE R STUD PACE 1720m   CLICK HERE TO SEE SECTIONALS OF EVERY RUNNER HRV - Tim O'Connor

Former top class Kiwi mare Spellbound made it two easy wins from as many starts for Nathan Purdon at Melton on Saturday night. Backing-up a week after her stunning Aussie debut win, Spellbound enjoyed an easier trip this time and have Stewie McDonald an armchair drive on her way to an soft 2.3m win in a brisk 1min53.2sec mile rate for 1720m. Watch the race replay click here! The early signs say Spellbound will be one of the top mares in Australia in coming months. And she’s potentially the sort of stable headline act the now Aussie-based Purdon wished for. Formerly trained by Robert Dunn the Art Major four-year-old had five wins from 29 starts in New Zealand before heading across the Tasman in March.   __________________________________________________________________________________ What a shame it is former star Kiwi pacer Alta Christiano died before we got to see much of him at stud. His record from limited opportunities in the breeding barn have been stunning, headed by last Friday night’s $200,000 Group 1 WA Derby winner Mighty Ronaldo. It’s the second time in as many seasons Mighty Ronaldo has won WA’s biggest race of his age group and both times he’s proven a giant-killer. Last Friday’s Derby was billed as a match race between stars Lavra Joe and Jumpingjackmac, but Mighty Ronaldo stormed home off a soft trip to blow them both away. Jumpingjackmac led, while Lavra Joe was snagged out from a bad draw and circled the field to sit parked and pressure the leader through the middle stages. Trainer-driver Justin Prentice sat and hoped for clear air from four pegs and when it came, Mighty Ronaldo showed dazzling speed to score easily. “It’s up there with my very best wins and the Derby is a special race, one I’ve always wanted to win,” Prentice said. “This was extra special to beat those big guns after the all the huge build-up to the race. “The only sad part was no crowds on track because of Covid. There was no atmosphere and the owners not being allowed there for such a special moment was so disappointing.” Prentice hinted at a possible Victoria Derby raid later in the year. “It’s a chance. I haven’t travelled horses yet and I’d love to, but he’s got a few big races here first and I don’t have to rush into any decisions,” he said. Prentice took he reins himself last Friday, which is rare these days as he prefers to use Gary Hall Jr as stable driver. “Junior has been as loyal as he can to me, but Senior (Gary Hall Sr) locked him into Jumpingjackmac a month ago, so I had a month to prepare for the drive myself,” he said. “It was certainly a thrill to drive myself, but it won’t change anything, Junior is my go-to driver whenever he’s available.” __________________________________________________________________________________ What a week it’s been for NSW power couple Kerry Ann and Robbie Morris. Just days after the birth of their second child, Stella, they defied a strong batch of interstate raiders to win the Group 2 NSW Trotters’ Oaks with Aldebaran Ursula. Just when it seemed Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi filly Queen Elida was home, Aldebaran Ursula dived and snatched a half-head win in a 1min58.3sec mile rate for 2300m. Aldebaran Crescent capped a big night for the Aldebaran Lodge breed when she won the Group 3 La Coocaracha for trotting mares at Menangle for trainer David Aiken and driver Jimmy Rattray. It was another second for Lilley with Tailored Image 3.8m away in the minor spot with Chris Alford aboard. __________________________________________________________________________________ Exciting filly Cat King Cole stole the show from the two Australian Gold 2YO finals at Albion Park on Saturday night. After a luckless debut run, the daughter of Hurrikane Kingcole has won her past three starts in great style, including the Gold final by a thumping 29.7m for the Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen combination. The boys Gold final produced a quinella for the dominant Grant Dixon stable, but in the wrong order for punters. Dixon finished second aboard $1.80 favourite Leap Of Faith, while his wife, Trista, took the prize with American Ideal colt Class To The Max in a slick 1min55.2sec mile rate for 1660m. __________________________________________________________________________________ First it was Kima Frenning now it’s Sofia Arvidsson. The two former Swedes have made a huge impact in Victorian harness racing. While Frenning has opted for a behind the scenes role in training and some media work now, Arvidsson’s on-track success and profile continues to grow. She teamed with partner Matty Craven for a breathtaking win aboard the promising Crime Writer at Melton on Saturday night. In what looked a strong and open race, Crime Writer destroyed his rivals with an 18m victory in a slick 1min54.9sec mile rate for 2240m. Throw in the recent success Arvidsson’s had with the likes of Kimble and Kowalski Analysis and she’s really going places. __________________________________________________________________________________ The McDowell clan has been a huge contributor for harness racing and richly deserved their upset win with $26 shot Michelle Lee Mac at Melton on Saturday night. The daughter of Bettors Delight, superbly driven by Greg Sugars, enjoyed camping off a hot tempo and cruised to a 6.7m win in the $210,000 Australian Gold 4YO Mares’ final in a slick 1min54sec mile rate for 1720m.   by Adam Hamilton

He's the most exciting pacer in Australia. And by the end of the year Expensive Ego could be the best as well. The still slightly goofy four-year-old continued his stunning rapid rise to the top when toyed with his rivals in the $210,000 Group 1 Australian Gold final at Melton on Saturday night. It was redemption, having returned to Melton where everything went wrong for him in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza in late January. But that seems a long time ago with Expensive Ego since scoring a monstrous Chariots Of Fire win, running a fantastic second in the Miracle Mile and now coasting to his Aussie Gold triumph. “We weren’t here to break records or run times, just get the job done and he did it easily,” driver Luke McCarthy said. Expensive Ego worked his way to the front and coasted to a 9.5m win over Pacifico Dream and Mach Dan in a 1min52.1sec mile rate for 1720m. “He’s still getting better this horse. He’s learning and is becoming a pleasure to drive,” McCarthy said. Now he gets a little freshen-up before heading to Queensland for a clash with Kiwi superstars Copy That and Krug in the new $250,000 Group 1 The Rising Sun at Albion Park. Expensive Ego’s nine starts this season have netted six wins, two seconds and $418,390. “He’s got it all. He’s so strong, but he come off a sit as well. You saw what he did in the Miracle Mile,” McCarthy said. “If stays sound, he could be the next horse to be scared of.” Expensive Ego headlined a big night for Luke and Belinda McCarthy, who also welcomed high-class veteran Alta Orlando back into the winner’s circle at Menangle. Alta Orlando, driven by Jack Callaghan, led then took a sit on the classy Ignatius before coming off his back then holding off in-form mare Rubies For Tash to win in a blazing 1min53.6sec mile rate for 2300m. It was the nine-year-old’s 19th career win and edged him past $820,000 in earnings. Team McCarthy went close to winning with another of their former classy Kiwi pacers when Star Galleria ran a mighty second in the Golden Reign free-for-all at Melton behind Victoria’s buzz pacer General Dodge. Star Galleria did all the work outside the leader, hit the front on straightening and was only nabbed late by General Dodge, who trailed the leader and used the sprint lane. They went a slick 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2240m and ripped home in 55sec and 26.7sec.   Adam Hamilton

"If he stays sound, we might have a challenger to Lochinvar Art!" Those were the words of legendary harness racing broadcaster Dan Mielicki as he called General Dodge to victory in Saturday night's TAB Golden Reign Free For All at Melton. It's onwards and upwards for the Mick Chircop-trained eight-year-old, who backed up his brilliant first-up win at Geelong a fortnight earlier with another sizzling sprint lane success. With driver Jason Lee in the sulky, General Dodge shot across the face of the field from barrier seven to find the early lead and then handed up to Jilliby Chevy, who quickly surged to the top from his back row draw. It was then left to see if General Dodge could show his explosive speed in the home straight and he did just that, running past Jilliby Chevy to win by 1.6m over a brave Star Galleria, who battled on bravely to claim second. Lee was once again in awe of the injury and illness-plagued son of Courage Under Fire, who has had just the 19 career starts for 14 wins. "It is a shame that he hasn't raced more, but all credit goes to the team behind him that they have got him here now," Lee said. "They've been through a pretty tough road so it hurts no one more than them. I'm just very much enjoying just being a very small part." Lee was impressed with the versatility of General Dodge, who relaxed well despite flying the start early. "It's hard to get a horse to be the complete package where they can burn the gate and take cover like that and back straight off. He was already backing off before he got there," he said. "When you do get them and then they have this much ability, it's pretty special." Lee rated General Dodge as the fastest horse he's ever had the pleasure to drive. "From point-to-point speed, I think he's the quickest horse I've sat behind," Lee said. "Obviously, I've been lucky enough to drive some really nice horses over the years - trotters and pacers - and I don't think I've quite driven one with the point-to-point speed (of General Dodge). "I always said Chilli Palmer was electric one night when I drove him. He had gears upon gears and this guy is every bit of him, if not more." Watch the replay below: HRV - Tim O'Connor

Interstate rivals dominated harness racing’s Group 1 Australian Pacing Gold Four-Year-Old Finals at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight. Leading the way was exciting New South Wales pacer Expensive Ego who lived up to his favouritism to claim the entires/geldings edition. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven was steered to the front by reinsman Luke McCarthy, and that is where they stayed throughout the $210,000 feature. Expensive Ego clocked 1:52.1 and spaced his rivals by more than nine metres. “We didn’t need to break any records we just wanted to get the job done,” said McCarthy. “I was really happy with him tonight. “He is a big goofball-gangly-sort-of-fella and is just a cool horse. “He is still a stallion and is just a pleasure to drive.” Watch the replay below: Trained by Belinda McCarthy, Expensive Ego will now be aimed for $250,660 The Rising Sun at Albion Park, Queensland, on July 10. “He was one of the first horses invited for the race and the owner Jason Grice has accepted the invitation,” said McCarthy. Meanwhile, in tonight’s Australian Pacing Gold Four-Year-Old Mares’ Final, New South Wales mare Michelle Lee Mac caused an upset at starting odds of $24. The Dean and Kerry McDowell-trained daughter of Bettors Delight was driven by local reinsman Greg Sugars to secure her second Group 1 win. Michelle Lee Mac won Bathurst’s Gold Tiara Final as a two-year-old. Watch the replay below:   By Amanda Rando for Harnesslink

Harness racing young guns will steer the ship at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight (Saturday) with Sydney’s leading reinsman Luke McCarthy on a hit-and-run trip to Victoria to chase one of their feature races. Trainer Belinda McCarthy will still have a big team contesting several Menangle features and there’s one in particular that her husband Luke admits he’d love to be aboard. While Luke will be hoping to capture the $210,000 Australian Pacing Gold four-year-old entires and geldings final with Expensive Ego at Melton, another of their potential stars, Ilikemebettor will have the services of young Jack Callaghan as he tries to annex the $50,000 APG Consolation at Menangle just 45 minutes earlier. Callaghan, along with Ashley Hart and experienced Victorians Chris Alford and John Caldow, will handle the McCarthy runners at Menangle and Luke admits he has full confidence they will be able to get the job done. “Ilikemebettor is a really nice progressive type of horse and I think he’s likely to get a good trip,” said Luke. Ilikemebettor finished third to Expensive Ego and Jay OK in the APG qualifier at Menangle on April 20 and the lightly-raced Bettors Delight stallion has drawn gate seven but should come into six for tonight’s race after the emergencies are withdrawn. Meanwhile, McCarthy reports that Expensive Ego could not be better, and the Miracle Mile runner-up had the perfect draw to account for his rivals in the Group 1 Melton feature. “Not many horses can sit outside of King Of Swing and still be coming in the straight, which is what he did in the Miracle Mile,” said Luke. “We gave him a freshen-up after that run and he could not have been more impressive when he came out and went 1:48.6 first-up. “It’s a good race with horses like Mach Dan in really good form but we have turned the page on Expensive Ego’s last run at Melton because he got knocked over and raced without luck. “I expect him to be a much different proposition this time around.” McCarthy also took stablemate Star Galleria to Melton as a travelling companion for Expensive Ego and despite drawing the outside of the second row in the TAB Golden Reign Free-For-All, expects the last-start Menangle winner to give a good account of himself. “The free-for-alls in Sydney are pretty strong and he ran a good time last start so he should go well again,” said the champion reinsman.   HRNSW MEDIA Michael Court

Mick Chircop can't help but dream of Inter Dominion, Hunter and Victoria Cups as his prodigiously talented General Dodge continues to build towards Grand Circuit harness racing, including stepping out for tomorrow night's TAB Golden Reign Free For All at Melton. Lightly raced, with illness and injury limiting the eight-year-old to 18 starts that produced 13 wins, Chircop said he'd step with caution but confidence is clearly high in the camp after General Dodge's win on return at Geelong. "You watch these big races and think, he should be there, he's a good horse," he said. "High cruising speed, that's his greatest asset. When you train him here some days he just lets rip and it didn't feel like I went a 28 quarter, it just didn't feel like that at all - it felt like a 31. It just felt effortless." He's going to have to show those elite attributes to register victory at Tabcorp Park Melton this weekend, with a class field to contest the $24,000 feature, which will separate the $210,000 Australian Pacing Gold four-year-old finals. "There's two (top horses) in (his race), Star Galleria and Max Delight - I think highly of Max Delight, I think the next 12 months he will be a real nice horse," Chircop said. "He'll be right up there. "We got the advantage at the draw to be able to push forward and get into a nice possie before them and see what happens from there. As long as he pulls up well and everything goes well he'll push on."   HRV - Michael Howard

Champion sire Love You left important winners in two States last week. Central Otago, a three-year-old colt, was a dashing end-to-end winner of the Group 1 $50,000 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Final at Melton. The colt won as he liked with the heat winner Sweet On You completing a quinella in the Final. Watch the race replay click here! The mile rate for 1720 metres was 1:58.8 highlighted by a closing 800 in a slick 57.7. One night earlier, the Love You gelding Affaire De Cover, a Group 2 winner as two-year-old last season, was an effortless winner of the Bathurst Gold Coronet. Other recent Love You winners were the two-year-old Highgrove, who is unbeaten in two starts at Addington, New Zealand by a combined 12-1/2 lengths, and the three-year-olds Celebration Stride NZ (Maryborough) and Harbour Queen (Banks Peninsula, NZ). The promising Quaker Jet two-year-old filly Quik Barbie notched her first win in a NZ Sires’ Stakes prelude at Cambridge Raceway, scoring by 8-1/2 lengths. She will be one o fthe leading fancies for the $60,000 Trotting Championship Final at Addington on May 21. To complete a successful week, the Orlando Vici gelding Beau Garcon, a Group winner at two, posted his ninth success at Hobart on Friday night (March 19). Orlando Vici and Quaker Jet will both be strongly represented at the inaugural Nutrien Equine Standardbred Yearling Sale on April 10 and 11.  Orlando Vic’s eight lots include a half-brother to the dual Vicbred champion  Always Ready 1:56 ($245,090) and fillies out of the Group winners Heavenly Sister 1:56.5 ($129,748) and Nieta (1:58.1) and K D Muscles 1:56.8 ($170,402). While Quaker Jet has a colt out of the multiple Group winner Glenferrie Burn 1:55.5 ($234,430) and a filly from the Breeders Crown champion Val Gardena 1:59.9 ($122,208).   by Peter Wharton

Husband and wife Chris and Alison Alford combined for a memorable Group 1 harness racing victory on a special Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. The pair teamed up with talented mare Sleepee for a dominant win in the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Series Final, with the four-year-old leading all the way to claim her second success at the elite level. The champion reinsman had no trouble finding the front from barrier two and controlled the race before ripping home in a final quarter of 27.8sec to win by 6m over runner-up Alderbaran Crescent. The Dejarmbro mare, who is trained by Alison at the pair's Bolinda property, has now won 11 of 22 career starts for more than $150,000 in prizemoney. Chris Alford said it was a pretty easy display from the daughter of Dejarmbro, who is now back racing in top form after a significant injury early in her career. "She missed about 18 months racing with a torn tendon behind her knee and she never really went out of work. She just stayed in with a bit of rehab for all that time," he said. "To hold her form and to be back racing well is a great effort from everyone at home. "She had it pretty easy tonight, but she has got a real high cruising speed and she was doing it so easy tonight..." Sleepee was bred by Colin Murphy, who leased her to Alison Alford and her mum, Vicki Woodhouse. To watch Sleepee win tonight click on this link. It took some Chris Alford magic and a little bit of luck to get Queen Elida home in the Group 1 IRT Australia Need For Speed Princess Final earlier in the evening. Alford got buried three back the pegs on the Brent Lilley-trained filly and ran into dead ends when he tried to extricate into the clear, but eventually found the gaps and finished powerfully to win by 2m on the line. A galloping Ima Cherished Stride presented a run back along the sprint lane and the daughter of Love You did the rest, rocketing home to win over Lady In The Sky (Amanda Grieve, Brad Williamson) and Banglez (Emma Stewart, Kate Gath). The Group 1 win came at the former New Zealander's seventh run here in Australia. To watch Queen Elida win tonight click on this link.       "When she had her first run here she just didn't know what she was doing and gradually got better," Alford said. "Now she gets up on the bit and knows what racing is all about. She had to go from three wide, nearly four wide, turn five carts inwards and go to the sprint lane and flat pump. She handled that well and only nice ones can do that." Trainers Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith combined to get Wolf Stride into the Miracle Mile with victory at Tabcorp Park Menangle and then just minutes later watched on as stablemate Have No Fear took out the Group 1 Alan Mance Need For Speed Prince Final at Melton. Zac Phillips, who has been helping run the Butt/Smith stable while they are interstate, produced a clever front-running drive to beat the well-fancied odds-on favourite Kyvalley Hotspur (Brent Lilley, Chris Alford) by 9m, with My Used To Be (Lisa Miles) more than 30m back in third. "Great effort by this horse and the whole team at home," Phillips said. "I can't take credit for this one. Brad Chisholm, Amanda Grieve and the whole team out there - I really can't single out anybody. There's five or six of us and a lot of them have put a lot of hours in while Ants and Sonya have been away. So this win is more about them than me, that's for sure." To watch Have No Fear win click on this link.   Have No Fear, a gelding by Father Patrick, is also a former Kiwi who has now won five of his nine starts. For full results of tonight's program click here. HRV - Tim O'Connor

Zac Phillips’ drive on Magicool in the What The Hill Great Southern Star Final was nearly the stuff of legends, and although the young reinsman has to deal with the disappointment of getting so close to a massive Group 1 success, he seems content being beaten by a champion of the sport. Phillips provided the first shock of Friday night’s race when he crossed two noted speed runners to lead, a place he stayed until the last 50m when grabbed on the line by Andy Gath-trained star Tornado Valley. It was a brave performance from both driver and horse, who had been backed heavily at long odds for the final despite a modest third placing in the heats. "It probably wasn't as hard to take because I had every chance to beat him (Tornado Valley) and he was still too good for me,” Phillips said of the half-neck defeat. "Through the turn he (Magicool) was just jogging and I knew I had the favourite outside me in Majestic Man - I knew I had him beat - and there didn't look to be anything coming out wide. "I knew there was only one horse that I had to beat from then on in and it was going to be Tornado Valley. Obviously, there was a lot of talk that they weren't sure he'd back up after his huge run in the heat, so I was pretty confident through the turn. I thought I was travelling as good as any of them. "Even at the top of the straight when he kicked, I was still super confident and just that last 50m he was just out of gas. The early burn took the toll on him and he was found wanting." Great Southern Star: "A fairytale" as Tornado does it again Phillips said it was decided to give Magicool a warm-up before the final after he trotted poorly during the heat and that pressing forward from barrier five was the best way to give the horse a good spot in running. However, Phillips admitted that finding the lead was never expected. "I said (to trainer Rob O’Connell) that I was going to come out as hard as I can for 200m and try find a spot. And that if he happens to gallop, he gallops. But I wanted to go out giving it a red-hot crack,” he said. "That was the plan, but to be honest I never thought I'd cross either of the two inside of me (Majestic Man and Tornado Valley). It was more done hoping that I'd lob one-one, be behind the leader or something like that.” Phillips said it was a tremendous effort from the seven-year-old, who is edging towards $300,000 in stake earnings. "He just gives everything he's got every time he goes out there and I was so proud of him,” he said. "You know what? We didn't win, but it was probably one of the proudest moments I've had.”   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Kerryn Manning's outstanding on-track deeds were celebrated at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night when the female drivers' rooms were officially named in her honour. Only days after she became the first female driver or jockey in the world to eclipse 4000 driving wins, Manning was also awarded a commemorative frame, commisioned by Harness Racing Victoria, that celebrated her feat. Aided by reinsmen John Caldow and Mick Bellman, Trots Vision on-track host Rob Auber made the presentation and explained why the female change rooms were so deserving of baring Kerryn's name. "This was the drivers' room that once you owned by yourself, now you've got to share it with lots and lots of very talented women," Auber said. "It's only fitting that we name the ladies' drivers' room in your honour." A chuffed Manning said "that's really really special that is". "Hopefully Mick Bellman doesn't write something on it, I'll know who did if he does," she laughed. "That's really really nice." CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE PRESENTATION COURTESY OF TROTS VISION   Harness Racing Victoria

LOCHINVAR ART’S got that rare magical mix harness racing so badly needs. He’s not just a superstar pacer, some would say already deserved of the “champion” tag, but he’s got charisma. In the words of trainer-driver David Moran, he’s quickly become a people's horse. And Moran is such a big part of that with his refreshingly open-book and can-do attitude to any and every media request. It was wonderful watching so many of the COVID restricted crowd at Melton line the fence after Lochinvar Art’s latest big win, the biggest of his career so far, in Saturday night’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup at Melton. Moran soaked it up and walked along the fence to make everyone feel part of it. The package that is Lochinvar Art has cut-through. Thoroughbred fans are taking notice, so too is the broader sporting world. He’s the pin-up horse harness racing can really ride on. Lochinvar Ar’s powerhouse Hunter Cup win was his sixth Group 1 victory in the past 13 months and he’s got another two he’s expected to win in the next month. The Arty Party is in full swing and now heads to owner-breeder Kevin Gordon’s hometown for the Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday week. Then it’s to Menangle on March 6 to try and go one better than he did last year in the $1 million Miracle Mile. TAB slashed his Miracle Mile odds from $2.20 to $1.70 after his Hunter Cup victory. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ IN THE aftermath to TORNADO VALLEY’S remarkable Great Southern Star win, champion trainer Tim Butt summed it up the best. Butt, who has trained some of the great modern champs like LYELL CREEK, TAKE A MOMENT and MR FEELGOOD, tweeted: “You’ve been good all your life and then moments like these define your career. Kudos to Andy and Kate and the team.” It’s so true. Andy Gath’s been a great trainer for a long time and Kate’s CV is stunning, but that three hours at Melton last Friday night will define them both for the rest of their careers. Just six weeks earlier they were both almost resigned to retiring Tornado Valley after a lacklustre trial followed a previous campaign where he looked a shadow of himself. Kate suggested – in effectively a desperate “last straw” move – to try interval training with the nine-year-old former Inter Dominion champion. It’s now history he only forced his way into the Great Southern Star with a stunning workout at home five days before the series. First-up since October 10, last year, Tornado Valley came out and downed the raging hot favourite MAJESTIC MAN and smashed the track record as well. Then, just to underline his greatness, about 2.5 hours later he did what he’s done so many times before, he found a way to win again and post the 10th Group 1 victory of his 101-start career in the Great Southern Star final. Andy was moved to call him just the second champion he’s trained, LA COOCARACHA being the other. And Kate said Tornado Valley was a “one in a million” horse and the package of the against-the-odds heat and final win ranked right up with her 2006 Hunter Cup win on About To Rock as a 23-year-old as the greatest moment of her career. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ THE Chariots Of Fire picture isn’t much clearer after two key qualifiers last weekend. Melton’s 4YO Bonanza has been the ultimate formline in recent years with the past four winners going on to win the Chariots – LAZARUS, JILLIBY KUNG FU, POSTER BOY and LOCHINVAR ART. Anthony Butt’s emerging BOOTS ELECTRIC scored an upset win this year, leaving horses like PACIFICO DREAM, EXPENSIVE EGO, KOWALSKI ANALYSIS and PERFECT STRIDE needing to rush to Sydney for the last qualifier, the Paleface Adios, at Menangle next Saturday night. At Menangle, ZEUSS BROMAC booked his spot in the Chariots with a 1min 50.9sec win in the Hondo Grattan. The next three home – STYLISH MEMPHIS, JAY OK and CRUNCH TIME – also qualified. The key runner yet to try and qualify is former Kiwi and now Queensland-based ONE CHANGE, who heads down for what will be a very strong Paleface Adios at Menangle on Saturday night. His stablemate, TURN IT UP, will come down with him to prepare for a clash with Lochinvar Art in the Newcastle Mile.   Sky Racing - Adam Hamilton

Tornado Valley, the reigning Trotting Masters champion, easily eclipsed his previous best efforts to claim the harness racing Gr.1 $300,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight (Friday). And in doing so, claimed the feature event with a straight sets victory. Reverting to the original format of elimination heats followed by the final on the same program, the Andy and Kate Gath prepared champion smashed the track record in his elimination heat with his all the way victory in a time of 1:53.1 which easily bettered the previous best time of 1:53.7 set by Keystone Del back in 2016. It was a stunning start to the 2021 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series. Having his first start since failing behind Pink Galahs in the Gr.1 $50,000 Bill Collins Sprint back on October 10, many wondered if the highly decorated performer could regain his best form. A searching piece of trackwork earlier in the week was the catalyst for connections accepting for the richest trotting feature staged in the southern hemisphere. Connections rolled the dice, and the decision was ultimately vindicated. Tornado Valley recorded splits of 28.6, 29.2, 27.5 and 28.4 seconds to topple star Kiwi trotter Majestic Man and Sundons Courage which safely stamped his ticket to the final. To watch Tornado Valley win this heat in a record 1:53.1 mile rate click here. It was a stunning return to racing, but it was only part of his amazing comeback. Recently crowned NSW Trotter of the Year Tough Monarch also led throughout in his elimination defeating McLovin and Magicool in a time of 1:54.6. Prepared by Rickie Alchin and handled by Anthony Butt, Tough Monarch recorded sectionals of 28.6, 30.2, 28.5 and 27.9 seconds. To watch Tough Monarch in his heat click here. With the two eliminations completed, the stage was then set for the final. Tornado Valley fared well and landed gate three while Tough Monarch faced a second-line draw after landing gate nine. The start was going to be crucial. Tornado Valley was fired off the gate but Majestic Man and Magicool also had plans on leading and the speed was on early. Magicool won the early battle to lead which surprised many while Tornado Valley sat in the trail which left Majestic Man parked without cover. The opening quarter was timed in 28.7 seconds. Driver Zac Phillips was allowed to back off the speed during the second quarter and Magicool settled perfectly while rivals left him alone. The second split was registered in a pedestrian 32.8 seconds. Entering the backstraight, the pressure intensified as Magicool quickened as Majestic Man moved closer while McLovin loomed three-wide. Tornado Valley remained locked in the pocket. The third quarter was timed in 28.5 seconds. As the field straightened, Magicool kicked clear of Majestic Man while Tornado Valley aimed up on the inside for the passing lane run. Magicool was kicking strongly but Tornado Valley kept driving, the ageing warrior was able to dig deep and grab and narrow lead from Magicool and beat him officially score by a half neck margin with Majestic Man holding third 4.3m away. The final sectional was a slick 27.9 seconds. The overall time for the 1720m final was 2:05.1 with the winning mile rate set at 1:57.1. To watch the Gr.1 $300,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star Final click here. Tornado Valley is raced by Norm Jenkin. His pair of Gr.1 victories tonight takes his tally to 10 overall with the promise of more still to come. The victory also provided Andy and Kate Gath with their third triumph in the Great Southern Star after scoring back in 2017 with Glenferrie Typhoon while Tornado Valley has gone back-to-back. “It’s a fairytale to come back and win the heat, that was very satisfying but then to come out and claim the final is just surreal given what he’s been through of late,” Winning driver Kate Gath stated. “He’s provided so many special moments for our stable and tonight is just unbelievable.” She added. Kate has now driven 37 Gr.1 winners while her trainer husband has prepared 49 to date. While all Gr.1 victories are special, tonight’s double (heat & final) from their champion trotter might be the sweetest of all for the popular and gifted couple. The next leg of the 2021 Trotting Masters is the Gr.1 $100,000 Hygain Australian Grand Prix on February 27 at Melton. Chris Barsby

YOUR first Group 1 winner is special to every driver, but this one had so many layers for Brad Williamson. It came in another country, on his favourite horse, against odds that COVID-19 have created and in the most stunning fashion. No wonder Williamson flourished his whip with a victory salute as sailed past the winning post aboard Majestic Man in the $50,000 Dullard Trotters’ Cup at Melton last night (Saturday). The win also broke Majestic Man’s Group 1 hoodoo, finally snaring a win at the ultimate level at his ninth Group 1 attempt. Trainer Phil Williamson would have been a proud many on so many different levels as he watched on TV from home in the South Island. Much discussion went into whether it was worth all the effort, hassles, stress, paperwork and time to make Majestic Man’s Aussie raid happen. It’s by fluke he’s the only Kiwi raider at this year’s rich Victorian Summer of Glory. Brad Williamson put his hand-up to play caretaker trainer and driver for the trip, a not insignificant commitment given it meant almost two months away from home and a couple of weeks in quarantine when he does get back to NZ. But that lure of a maiden Group 1 win was irresistible. And it only took one race to justify it all. Majestic Man used a great draw and his blazing early speed to lead and then Williamson drove to give nothing else – most notably his main danger Majestuoso – no chance from back in the field. He ran the splits of the last mile in 29, 29.2, 28.2 and 29sec and cruised to a 10.8m win. Majestic Man smashed the track record for good measure, his 1min55.4sec mile rate slicing 0.6sec off Keystone Del’s record. “He’s never felt better than he did tonight,” Williamson said. “It didn’t feel like he was going that quickly. He got an easy first 500m or so and then I decided to let him run. When I knew Majestuoso was making run around the field, I really decided to take no prisoners. “It was a big risk trying to get across here and some thought we were mad coming, but it’s a great way to start and there are lots more big races to come here for him.” The next is only a few days away in Friday night’s Great Southern Star, Australia’s top trotting race. Majestic Man’s odds were crunched from $4 to $2 with the Aussie TAB for the Great Southern Star after his Dullard Cup romp. Williamson’s one query is the need to race a heat and final in the same night, but it’s the same unknown for most other runners as well. “It’s the unknown the double heats, but he’s got such great gate speed and the short distance really suits him.” Majestuoso pleased trainer Andy Gath in third spot despite having a late gallop for a few strides in the home straight. “Kate said he lost a shoe, probably early on, and that might have contributed to him becoming unbalanced late, but he still showed all his great speed to come from late in a very quick quarter down the back straight,” he said. “He’ll obviously need to improve again for next week given what we saw from Majestic Man tonight, but the barrier draws will be so important.” Gath expects to have Majestuoso, McLovin and Monaro Maro in the Great Southern Star, with defending champion Tornado Valley seemingly running out of time after some niggling issues. “I’d go for McLovin as our best hope because he’s been able to sit outside some good ones and win lately, but we know how good Majestuoso is when he gets the right run,” he said. Kate Gath hopes McLovin and Majestuoso draw different heats so she can delay her choice until the final.   By Adam Hamilton

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