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Stawell harness racing trainer Kenneth Taylor and his wife Gaylene would love to have a stable full of horses like their current pin up boy, pacing gelding Kempseys Delight. “He’s just a real trier and he’s been so consistent for us. We’ve got him pretty right with his shoeing at the moment which is a good thing,” Taylor said. Eight-year-old Kempseys Delight (Bettors Delight-Romador (Explorador) got the money narrowly at his home track last week when starting a surprisingly generous 18/1 chance, and tonight he’s again in contention at the Terang fixture. “We’ve tried a few horses over the years, but Kempseys Delight is without doubt the best of them,” Taylor said. “His latest victory was his seventh, but he’s also had 23 second placings and 14 thirds. There’d be a lot of fourths and fifths as well. He’s won over $64,000 now, so we’re pretty excited,” he said. The Taylors obtained Kempseys Delight as a three-year-old from former Horsham trainer Barry Dunn. “Barry had too many in work, so we took over the lease and then eventually ended up buying him,” Taylor said. “He had five starts in his first campaign for us. He was a bad knee knocker, but what we liked was that despite this, he’d keep pushing himself. “We’re pleased that now his shoeing is spot on. I don’t think he’s even brushing a boot at the moment.” The Taylors enjoyed a standout season last year with Kempseys Delight, who posted two wins at Ararat (driven by Denbeigh Wade) and one each at Terang (Emma Hamblin) and Horsham (Wade victorious again). “We’ve used Grant (Campbell) in recent weeks because Denbeigh is a bit hard to get nowadays. She’s moved from Ararat with her partner Michael Gadsden to be based at Charlton,” he said. Taylor, who lives at Concongella, a stone’s throw from Stawell, does a few hours work each morning at the local racecourse. “My job is to oversee track work. It’s 5am to about 9.30am and a fair few horses turn up. On one day I think there was near 50. When I’m finished, I head home and train our pacers,” he said. “It all works in well for me. I’m only doing two horses at the moment because it’s just a hobby. I’ve had more than that a few times, but small numbers are our go, although we have been looking out for perhaps one more.” Taylor has been involved in harness racing for nearly 10 years after gaining a stable hand licence. “I have no family background in the sport, but just decided one day I’d like to give it a shot. I helped out another district trainer in Jeff Kilpatrick for 12 months and then went from there,” he said. “We mainly race within a few hours of home at tracks like Terang, Hamilton, Stawell and Horsham, although we’ve also been to Ballarat, Bendigo and Charlton at times.”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Winning’s never looked or felt so good at Geelong Harness Racing Club as it will on Saturday night, when metropolitan racing comes to the track for the first time since its dramatic upgrade. A nine-race card concludes with the Winning Post Bar & Restaurant Pace, the race name a tip of the hat to the new on-track hero, a drinking and dining space that club General Manager John Dunne said would put race goers both in comfort and the thick of the action. Dunne said the club had also greatly improved facilities for participants as part of the $1.1 million works, which include $175,000 contributions from both the Andrews Government’s VRIF program and Harness Racing Victoria. With Tabcorp Park Melton’s track undergoing an upgrade, Geelong is hosting Saturday night’s program and Dunne said that was “fantastic for us”. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our new bar and restaurant, which is now on par with any race track in country Victoria,” he said. “The Winning Post Bar and Restaurant is a brand new extension with a bar and two-tiered dining right on the windows, so you can dine while overlooking the winning post. It feels as though you are almost in the cart with the drivers.” The expansion and improvements also include a new float carpark, upgraded drivers’ rooms and upgraded stables, while the upgrading of the grandstand facilities included a new roof. “With these works, from a participant point of view, there are no better facilities, and so that helps sure up our racing future, and now we have the dining facility, so even in the depths of winter people can come and have a great night in comfort. “We still have got some vacancies available in the Winning Post restaurant, so (patrons) can simply ring the club and we will book them in for their dinner on Saturday night.” To book call 5275 4880, with plenty of great racing on offer across the nine-race card. One major attraction will be the Jack Rabbit Winery Sundons Gift Trotters Free For All, where victory would see Tornado Valley become only the ninth Australasian trotter to break through the $1 million barrier. The night also features the TAB Captain Sandy Free For All, which features Pacifico Dream, Boncel Benjamin, I Cast No Shadow, General Dodge, Im Anothermasterpiece, Roman Aviator and Reactor Now in a quality, open $24,000 free-for-all. The club will also use the occasion to name the Lang Drivers' Rooms, in honor of the Lang family's enormous contribution to the sport.    HRV - Michael Howard

Four-year-old pacer Perfect Stride produced a track record breaking performance in winning Easter Sunday's $35,000 The Downtowner Warragul Pacing Bowl Cup. Driven by talented young reinsman Zac Phillips for Melton trainers Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith, Perfect Stride was patiently driven, settling at the rear of the nine-horse field from the start of the 2627-metre event. Phillips moved his horse three wide on the track heading into the final lap, before a sweeping run up to the lead horses on the home turn. Perfect Stride overhauled the race leader Fourbigmen in the closing stages to score a three-metre victory. Majestic Cruiser also made good late ground to run second with Fourbigmen holding third spot at the finish. The winning mile rate took half a second off the track record set in the 2016 Cup courtesy of a solid tempo set throughout. Perfect Stride won the Cobram Pacing Cup earlier this year and now boasts a record of 13 wins and 14 minor placings from only 38 starts for owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, and looks set to continue his rich vein of form in coming starts. Not long after their Warragul win, Perfect Stride's trainers landed a second feature race win, when Wolf Stride won the $100,000 Riverina Championship Final at Wagga to cap a big day for all concerned. Elsewhere on the Cup program there were small fields in most events but still some entertaining racing. The Eddie Evison Memorial Trotters Cup drew plenty of attention, with Stress Factor taking out the handicap race for trainer Brent Lilley and driver Daryl Douglas, in his return visit to Logan Park since making a comeback to race driving. Douglas has now driven the winner of the Gippsland trotting feature three times, with his other pair of winners, Homer Hawk and Our First Jewel, being among the top trotters of their time. Stress Factor collected the feature trot at Echuca at its previous run, and may continue to work towards being compared to those other two trotters - the six-year-old has now won 13 times from only 43 starts. Douglas wore the club's colours of white with the blue W, normally a bad omen for the wearer if you believe the old racetrack talk. However this set of silks were also sported by the winner of the first race of the day, Bonnie Belle, for driver Greg Sugars and trainer Alan McDonough. Eleven-year-old gelding Wonderforce won race two for trainer Julie Mifsud and driver Monique Burnett the veteran pacers latest victory coming almost a year after his last triumph. Young local reinsman Kyal Costello steered the Ahmed Taiba trained pacer Major Mal to a nice win in the third event, while Cranbourne horseman Scott Ewen won the Trotters Handicap with Trouble Giero. Reinswoman Taylor Ford landed her first winner at Logan Park with The Chancer in the sixth event for trainer Jodi Quinlan. The victory was also the 100th of Ford's career. One lucky punter left the course with a broad grin after Croydon trained pacer Lotakevi scored an upset win in the last race of the day. Lotakevi gave reinsman Daryl Douglas a winning double and the lucky punter, who had his name drawn out of the barrel for a $10 TAB betting ticket, managed to turn his free flutter "on the nose" on Lotakevi into a return of just over $1000. The nine-year-old pacer scored at triple-figure odds and for the sake of the punter in question the horse picked the right day to record just his third career win at start 85. Warragul Harness Racing Club officials were pleased to welcome back a crowd to the racetrack for the first time in more than 12 months. Though numbers are down on traditional crowd sizes as the racing industry eases its way back to how things used to be, there was a still a good atmosphere trackside on Sunday. Patrons were impressed with upgraded spectator facilities at Logan Park, which now sees Warragul offer one of the most comfortable places to watch the racing action, certainly as far as the smaller trotting tracks in Victoria are concerned. Racing returns to Warragul on Monday afternoon, May 24th.     by Kyle Galley

Sunday’s Councillor Neil Beattie & Family Boort Pacing Cup promises to be a ripper after attracting a field jam-packed full of quality. Ten horses - including impressive last-start winner Uncle Jord (Craig Turnbull) and recent Wedderburn Pacing Cup champ Pembrook Charlie (Julie Douglas) - will duke it out over 2250m, with Jess Tubbs confident her two charges - Larajay Macray and Im Anothermasterpiece - will be in the mix. The Myrniong trainer said Larajay Macray, who will start from the pole, had “been racing really well”. “She likes racing up front and has drawn ideally,” Tubbs said. “Her work has been really good and hopefully she can be pretty prominent at the start and we will see where we end up.” She said Im Anothermasterpiece - who ran second in the 2019 Victorian Derby as a talented youngster for Mark Purdon (as Another Masterpiece) - had a “class edge on most of the other runners”. “We are really happy with how he has been going,” she said. “He had a little freshen-up before (the Ararat Pacing Cup) and over-raced in that run; if he looks to settle in this race he should be in the finish.” Elmore trainer Keith Cotchin said his hopeful Brackenreid had the potential to rise to the occasion. “He’s in with a good chance; he always runs a really good race (and) can sort of kick on a bit,” Cotchin said. “He’s probably going to have to do a little bit but will be thereabouts.” The pacing cup headlines a feature-packed day to celebrate the oldest continuous trotting club in Australia during its 130th year, with the card including The Honourable Peter Walsh Boort Trotters Cup, a 2612m feature with $14,500 in prizemoney up for grabs. Highlights off the track include Fashions on the Field and yabby racing, while vocalist Susan Foley will perform. The club is also celebrating champion trotter Grand Voyage, who won the Boort Pacing Cup 100 years ago in 1921. Paddy Glasheen trained and drove the horse through his career and his family will be on track, as well as a sulky used by the horse on that day at Boort. Cotchin said country cup days like Boort were always popular. “It is always nice to go to the cups and the country clubs really put on a good show,” he said. “They try to look after the public and have everything there for you. Boort is a good meeting and there is some good prizemoney on offer there.” Tubbs agreed, saying volunteers put in a lot of work behind the scenes. “I have worked in racing administration myself for a long time now and there is so much work that goes in; (volunteers) with their committees do such a terrific job so it is important that we do support them when they do have the chance to shine with their cups,” she said. “Just to be able to see crowds starting to come back to the races and owners back on track cheering their horses home, it is an important part of racing.” Entry to the COVID-compliant event is free, with racegoers receiving a racebook on the house. Bookings must be made via Brook Shaune-Bould on 0417 344 802, John Campbell on 0437 077 887 or via email at boorttrots@gmail.com   Jess Tubbs on Millah Joy’s chances in the Keith & Dawn McClelland Pace (Race 4) at Boort: “She’s dropping in grade - she will need a bit of luck from the draw. “She has been racing well without much luck. She’s fit and well so hopefully she does find that luck in running.”   Keith Cotchin on Rocknroll Noah’s chances in the Keith & Dawn McClelland Pace (Race 4) at Boort: “He is going to have to come from behind, which is hard on this track, but if the ones in front of him get out well and he gets up there he has that short and sharp sprint (which will allow him to) make his presence felt. “He has been going quite well; his last start I think he ran his last mile in 1:53.5 - the fastest he has gone, but when you make it to that grade you need a little bit of luck.”   HRV - Shaun Campbell

There will be no delay in finding out how high Lady In The Sky can fly for trainer Amanda Grieve, with the newly arrived three-year-old filly to make her Australian debut tonight against some of the best her class has to offer. Having a second and a win to her credit in two New Zealand starts, the Muscle Mass filly formerly known as Lady Loins has joined Grieve’s stable to capitalise on Victoria’s wealth of racing for emerging trotters. That begins with tonight’s Need For Speed Princess heat at Ballarat, a $12,000 warm-up of sorts, with all runners qualifying for the February 27 $60,000 final. “They had a bit of an opinion about her,” Grieve said of her New Zealand camp, which included trainer Mark Jones and driver Samantha Ottley. “We will throw her in the deep end and get a good line on her. “She has only been here two weeks. Her work at home has been good. We will just see how she goes and get a guide.” Her two New Zealand starts were both against open-age competition, with Lady In The Sky (then named Lady Loins) running second on debut at Timaru when leading throughout and only being run past late by five-year-old Dudes Star. She then followed up with a maiden win, when she led all-the-way to score by two lengths in a 2:03.4 mile rate over 1980 metres. How does that measure up to what she’ll meet tonight? Time will tell, but Grieve’s well aware they are running into a classy bunch. “Bangles, John and Maree Caldow’s Breeders Crown winner Sangreal, Brent Lilley has a good one (in Queen Elida), Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith’s (Ima Cherished Stride) goes good. It is a handy field,” she said. Grieve would love to see a “top three” finish, optimistic “whatever she does she will improve on (for the final), but she’s not that far off”. The Need For Speed Princess Heat is race seven on tonight’s eight-race card, preceding the Need For Speed Prince Heat at 9.51pm, when favourite Kyvalley Hotspur clashes with the likes of Watts Up Majestic and Have No Fear. They will all advance to the February 27 finals, which shares the card with a heat of the $100,000 TAB Australian Trotting Grand Prix, part of the Aurora Australia Series. The Tabcorp Park Melton meeting also features the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold, Silver and Bronze series finals, with horses qualifying from heats at Shepparton on February 10 and Bendigo last night. Sleepee reinforced her title claims at Bendigo with an impressive win for trainer Alison Alford and reinsman Chris Alford in the second Gold Series heat, leading from gate two and getting home in 56.7 seconds to score by 4.5 metres from Group 1 winner Moonshine Linda. Waiting for her in the final is Andy Gath’s Monaro Maro, who broke the Shepparton track record in winning heat one. Fear The Yankee came from the back of the field to win the Silver Series' second heat for trainer-driver Chris Svanosio, while the second Bronze heat was won by a half-neck by Wanda for trainer Faye McEwan and reinsman Josh Duggan. The first five across the line from each heat advance to the February 27 finals, part of an all-trotting card that also features the WomenCan Team Teal Night At The Trots function.

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

The Horsham Club this afternoon, is set to play host for the running of the time-honoured $25,000 Tontine Championships for pacers and trotters on a huge, ten event card of harness racing action.   The West Side Horsham Tontine Championships are jointly conducted on a rotational basis by the South West Outer Zone Clubs (Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell & Terang) with the support of HRV.   The first Tontine series for pacers was run in 1981 and saw the winner Kiwi Conference (Peter Rothacker) race four times in twelve days to earn the Tontine crown in a last-man-standing contest through heats, semi-finals and a final.   The 2021 editions have attracted very strong fields, with a number of very promising up-and-comers pitted against more-seasoned performers with the score on the board.   Trainer Emma Stewart stable has three runners in this year's pacing division and has provided her thoughts: "Cant Top This (Kate Gath) is a nice horse having his first run back off a short break after the Vicbred Final. We were really happy with his racing last preparation, so hopefully he improves again this time in. Carlas Mach (Jason Lee) draws nicely for him as he has a lot of speed and from gate eight follows out a fast beginner. Krafty Bart (Jack Laugher) is a horse we really like. He has had no luck in his last couple of starts but shows plenty of ability and I think is the pick of our runners."     Young Terang trainer Paddy Lee will take on Stewart's trio with the lightly raced, 4yo gelding Jilliby Selwood (Glen Craven).   "He's from the same family as Jilliby Bartel (11 wins, $89,919) and gets his name from my Uncles - John, Des and Harry who are mad Geelong supporters. While he's three from three, the Tontine represents a big step-up in class. It's a very strong field but he should run a good race and with luck be in the placings."   Hopes of a local victory in the Tontine, rest with two runners for the Aaron Dunn - Steve Blacker training combo. Kenya NZ (Sam Barker) comes into the race as an emergency after the scratching of Dress Sense and is ideally drawn in gate one. Dunn will drive his own horse Shady Azz (12) in the race, fresh from an impressive victory on Ballarat Cup night.   Paddy Lee will also be represented in the West side Horsham Tontine Trotting Championship with former NZ mare Milly An Eyre. "I have been really pleased with her improvement over the last month and from the pole gets the chance to show her best. Once again, though, this is a very tough race. If she steps and trots all the way I will be pleased if she can run a place." he said.   Lee's cousin Matty Craven saddles up Lotamuscle NZ (4) in the Trot with James Herbertson to take the reins. The 5yo son of Muscle Hill (US) scored impressively at Hamilton when making his Aussie debut and finished strongly to finish second at Stawell last Monday. He's sure to appreciate the 2700 metre trip around the spacious Horsham circuit and looks the one they'll have to beat for the Tontine crown.   Veteran Horsham committeeman, owner, trainer and breeder Bill Deleeuw will be trackside on Monday afternoon and hoping for a touch of deja 'vu when Lotamuscle lines up in the big race.   Some thirty years ago at Stawell, the now part-owner of Craven's charge, cheered as his son Lance reined Lily Low to victory in the 1991 edition of the Tontine Trotting Final for the Bendigo Harness Racing Training Centre .   There have been many changes to the Tontine format since it's inception - a switch from standing starts to the mobile for pacers, introduction of a handicap series for the trotters in 1985, a $10,000 clean sweep bonus, the brief inclusion of Geelong and Ballarat clubs into the mix, stakemoney parity for both gaits, separate venues for the pacers and trotters, a flirtation final at Melton in 2013 and more recently, the Tontine as a one-off feature event.     But some remain constant during the 40-year history of the Tontine - a decent payout to the winning connections and the race often being a springboard to bigger and better things, like past winners Kentucky George (33 wins), Noopy Kiosk (34), Lombo Rapida (27), Acacia Ridge (22), Flaming Flutter (27), The Godfather (20), Supersonic Miss (17), Great things Happen (16), Deltasun (19) and Major Times (18).     Tony Logan

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

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

It is far from a surprise, but Lochinvar Art will start a commanding favourite for Saturday night’s Group 1 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. The five-year-old Chariots of Fire, Victoria Cup and Vicbred Super Series champion drew gate six tonight for the $110,000 TAB Summer of Glory, Grand Circuit opening night Ballarat feature, and TAB responded by opening him $1.30. And the $1.30 disappeared literally quicker than Lochinvar Art’s 1:48.6 4YO Bonanza run – wheeled into $1.25 moments later. Trainer-driver David Moran was certainly confident immediately after the draw. “I guess Hurricane Harley drawing gate two makes it a little bit tricky,” he said, before adding “but at the same time it leaves them with a tough decision to make; whether they try to post (Arty) knowing he (Harley) probably won’t get the 2700 metres,” he said. Quizzed about how Lochinvar Art had pulled up after his Shepparton Cup dalliance, Moran said “really good”, adding “he’ll be spot on” for Ballarat. It is obviously ominous given the heights this horse has already achieved, including that Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup win in October when he was simply better than a cracking field, which included New South Wales star King Of Swing.   Of the other runners in a sterling Ballarat Cup line-up, Sicario pulled the plum gate one draw, with Hurricane Harley likely first to the pegs in two. The remainder of the field is Out To Play (three), Bettor Be The Bomb (four), Somewhere Secret (five), Lochinvar Art (six), Our Uncle Sam (seven), Always Fast (eight), Wolf Stride (nine), emergency Kowalski Analysis (10), Jamieson Steele (11), Forty Thieves (12), and Sunday’s Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup winner Fourbigmen (13).   HRV - Cody Winnell

The TAB Summer of Glory narrative had its first chapter written at the weekend, when legs three and four of the Trots Country Cups Championship were won by horses with bold ambitions. Lochinvar Art will enter this Saturday night’s $110,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup a short-priced favourite after obliterating his rivals on his home track of Shepparton last Saturday, while Fourbigmen reaffirmed his standing among the next tier with a commanding win at Hamilton on Sunday. The performances only fuelled the fire for what shapes as a terrific month’s racing, which will culminate with the $500,000 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup on February 6 at Tabcorp Park Melton, when interstate raiders King Of Swing and Chicago Bull will battle Lochinvar Art for what’s essentially the nation’s heavyweight title. Though for some it may be disputed, others will argue that title currently rests with Victoria Cup winner Lochinvar Art. They would have had their position reaffirmed by his performance on Saturday when he cruised to victory in his home-town Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup, in the process matching the track record despite being largely untested. Trainer/driver David Moran admitted post-race “it’s pretty scary really”. “He had a pretty easy lead time, but to do it the way he did it (was) pretty arrogant,” he said, after Lochinvar Art stormed home in a 54.9sec last half to win by 16 metres. “He’s pretty basic. He’s not too perturbed by a lot of things. I always refer to him as Mike Tyson, he pulls the black trunks up and he’s pretty happy go lucky, he doesn’t care, he’s just out there to fight.” Making the result all the more significant for Moran was that it was his first victory in his home cup. “Not only is it good to win your home cup on your home track, but it’s great to do it in front of everybody involved,” Moran said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and family here tonight, there are a lot of local people that seem to follow this horse. It’s great for the industry.” Lochinvar Art is among nominees for Saturday’s Ballarat Cup along with Bendigo Cup winner Wolf Stride, Cobram Cup winner Perfect Stride and Hamilton Cup winner Fourbigmen, meaning all who have claimed a Trots Country Cups Championship this season could be on a collision course. The last of those to salute, Fourbigmen, was impressive in confirming his favourite status in the Hamilton Cup by sitting in the breeze for the last lap and holding off all comers. In only her second drive on the Emma Stewart-trained five-year-old, following on from a last start second in the Bendigo Cup, Kate Gath advanced Fourbigmen to the front of the running line with a lap to go and rattled home in 54.9sec outside leader and stablemate Struve. “When Struve had to give a little bit to find the front and then backed off it was the perfect opportunity to put ourselves in the race and then ease off once we got there,” Gath said. “He was really good up the straight. He was the class runner of the field and that’s what he did to them today.”   HRV - Michael Howard

AUSTRALIA’S best pacer Lochinvar Art became a millionaire and equalled the track record, seemingly still in second gear winning Saturday night’s $60,000 Group 2 Shepparton Cup. The $34,200 first prize took his career earnings to $1,020,756 with 26 wins and 19 placings from just 48 starts. And Lochinvar Art’s blistering 1min56.1sec mile rate for 2690m equalled Im The Boss’ track record from three years ago. Trainer-driver David Moran used the pole to lead easily, set a solid midrace tempo and rip home in 54.9 and 27.4sec to win by 14.2m. Lochinvar Art will probably do much the same in next Saturday night’s Group 1 Ballarat Cup given the lack of NZ or interstate raiders. So the focus is on his fourth clash with King Of Swing in the Hunter Cup at Melton on February 6. Moran also has feature race hopes for his lightly-raced three-year-old Patsbeachstorm, who returned from a life-threatening illness and long spell with a sparkling Shepparton win. The gelding won two of his first three starts, but hadn’t been to the races since a Bendigo win on March 31, last year. Despite the long break and not having a trial, Patsbeachstorm led and zoomed away to win as he liked by 14.2m in a 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2190m. “It’s great to get that out of the way because he vulnerable and will improve a heap from it,” Moran said. “I’ve got a really good opinion of him and we’re aiming at the NSW Derby.” Moran will be tempted to throw Patsbeachstorm into the big league for the $100,000 Group 1 VHRC 3YO Classic at Melton on January 30. ____________________________________________________________________________________ A MELTON trial Monday night will decide the immediate racing future of ageing trotting superstar Tornado Valley. Trainer Andy Gath admitted to being disappointed with the veteran’s first trial back at Melton last Wednesday. So only a much-improved effort will see Tornado Valley back on target for a racetrack return a Ballarat on Saturday night and a possible defence of his Great Southern Star crown on February 5. “We don’t have a lot of time on our side. This trial is really important,” Gath said. “I was disappointed with his trial last week. I know they ran home quickly, but I expected more from him. He didn’t show his usual fight in the home straight. “We won’t run him in Great Southern Star for the sake of it.” So this trial is vital because the $30,000 Group 2 EB Cochran Cup at Ballarat was to be Tornado Valley’s only lead-up race for the Great Southern Star. The nine-year-old hasn’t won a race since the Scotch Notch Memorial a Melton on March 21, last year and has only raced four times since. In other stable news, it was another race and another easy win for McLovin’s baby half-brother Havehorsewill travel in Australia. The five-year-old looked encouraging winning his first three runs for Andy and Kate Gath, but went to another level by “spacing” his rivals with a 14.3m win in the secondary trot at Shepparton on Saturday night. ____________________________________________________________________________________ THE Chariots Of Fire remains a possibility for WA’s most exciting pacer Magnificent Storm. The former Kiwi stretched his unbeaten WA record for trainer Ray Williams to 11 races when he sat parked and easily won the $50,000 Group 2 4YO Championship at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Magnificent Storm’s task was made much easier when his main danger, WA Derby winner Patronus Star, copped a nasty flat tyre and was retired from the race after 400m. Driver Aldo Cortopassi seized the moment on Magnificent Storm and worked around to sit parked outside the leader Al Guerrero and control he race. Despite doing the work, Magnificent Storm cruised to the front rounding the final bend and ripped home in 56.4 and 28.1sec to win easily in a 1min54.9sec mile rate for 2130m. “I’m pleased to get that one out of the way. It was three weeks between runs and he was a bit vulnerable, especially from the draw,” Williams said. “The run will improve him a lot for the next two big ones. “The Golden Nugget (February 12) is Grand Final, but the owners have talked about going interstate. If he keeps winning, we’ll have to look at it.” The Chariots Of Fire is just eight days after the Nugget, but victory in the Nugget would gain Magnificent Storm automatic entry into Sydney’s feature. ____________________________________________________________________________________ STAR Galleria’s Hunter Cup tilt hit a snag when he was upstaged as a hot favourite in a Menangle free-for-all on Saturday night. The former classy Kiwi cruised to victory at his first run for Craig Cross, but had to do all the work and was nabbed late by stablemate Motu Gatecrasher in a 1min51.5sec mile. It turned into a real sprint home with closing splits of 54.4 and 27.1sec. Earlier in the night, another recent Kiwi import Burnham Boy put himself into Chariots Of Fire contention with a fighting all-the-way in a 1min51.7sec mile. The son of Bettors Delight won five of his 24 Kiwi starts before being bought by US owners Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks and switched to Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto in NSW, Burnham Boy’s won two of his three runs for Pizzuto and looks to be building nicely. On the same card, Australia’s top mare Bettor Enforce showed why she dominates prepost betting for the Group 1 Ladyship Mile a Menangle with another dominant win. First-up since November 30, Bettor Enforce who won 13 of her 25 starts last season and ran second in the Ladyship Mile, blazed home in 1min50.9sec mile.   by Adam Hamilton

CHARLTON'S thriving harness racing training complex will soon be home to another new and exciting tenant. Astute Menangle-based trainer Shane Sanderson has confirmed plans to relocate his stable and family to Charlton from either late February or early March. Sanderson becomes the third out-of-town trainer in the last 20 months to establish base in the Buloke Shire town, following on the heels of Greg Norman, who moved to Charlton in mid-2019, and Michael Gadsden and Denbeigh Wade, who arrived midway through 2020. He will bring with him an initial team of about a dozen horses, with the ambition to eventually grow that number to 20 and beyond. Sanderson cited increased opportunities for his children Ryan - a talented young driver - and Abbey as a key factor behind the move to Charlton. Ironically, it was an unfortunate race-injury to Ryan, sustained during a fall at Charlton last October, which opened the channels of communication between Sanderson and Charlton Harness Racing Club president Joey Thompson. "I sort of met Joe when my son had that bad race fall at Charlton and he kept in contact with us and continued to have a bit to do with him," he said. "We discussed that one day we might want to go to Victoria and Joe said, 'well, let me show you Charlton. The rest is history. "Joe really left no stone unturned trying to get us there. We are certainly looking forward to it. "We get our fair share of winners up here (in New South Wales) and have been reasonably successful. We don't have the big numbers like the top stables, but we'll get somewhere around the 40 to 60 winners a year. It's a pretty reasonable strike rate and we hold our own." Sanderson, who started his training career in Queensland about 25 years ago, has been based at Menangle for the past four seasons. He said he was unsure whether the best horse in his stable Whereyabinboppin would make the move south, but other handy types, including the free-for-aller Loorrim Creek - a winner of 20 of 84 starts, including at Group 3 level - and the promising Smokin Shazza would. Two of the team already well-known to central Victorian harness racing enthusiasts are Leigha Miller and Flaming Fives. Both were previously trained at Junortoun by Gary Donaldson and raced by the Bendigo Pacers syndicate, managed by Alan Prentice. Sanderson could not be more impressed by his new location especially in relation to its relative proximity to most other Victorian tracks. "We'd like to get a few more horses and hopefully place them well at some of the country tracks down in Victoria," he said. "We don't have a lot of metro-grade horses, we have a few - maybe two or three - but the majority deserve to be on a country track. "For the metro-grade horses, we can access Melton very easily too; I'd think from Charlton we could easily get to most tracks. "With Greg Norman there (in Charlton) doing well and Mick Gadsden with 15-or-so horses, if we can get up to 20 or 30, it's going to be a busy place." Sanderson will be accompanied to Charlton by his wife Naomi, son Ryan and daughter Abbey, who has only recently gained her trials driving licence. Charlton club president Thompson said the latest influx of horses and personnel as a win-win for the harness racing club and town. "Eighteen to 20 months ago we had no horses down at the training complex, but about 30 in town," he said. "Now, when Shane turns up, he'll start with a minimum of 12 and we'll have about 45, with the potential to go up to about 60. "The great thing is this is not just a win for the club, but it's a win for our community in Charlton with the influx of all these people." He said the club would move quickly to build more facilities at the training complex to accommodate its newest tenants.   By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

After big brother beat the best, Havehorsewilltravel continued his Australian adventure with a third victory from as many attempts and another valued trophy for one of Victoria’s most successful trainer-driver-owner combinations. The five-year-old claimed yesterday’s Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup with an all-the-way win, giving broodmare Winfield Invasion an impressive double after half-brother McLovin won the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile the previous night. The result was a continuation of the extraordinary domination that trainer Andy Gath and reinswoman Kate Gath have had with owner Norm Jenkin, which also includes their star trotting trio Tornado Valley, McLovin and Majestuoso. Havehorsewilltravel arrived with the camp late last year, having won four of 18 starts in New Zealand, and has almost matched that winning record in his new homeland, scoring on debut in a 56-69 rated trot at Ballarat, again in a 70-85 metropolitan-equivalent race at Melton and then in yesterday’s Group 3 long distance standing start. “(McLovin and he) are beautiful horses to work with,” driver Kate Gath told Trots Vision. “They are just a pleasure to handle. We’ve been lucky enough to acquire them thanks to Norm Jenkin … it’s just been a really great ride.” It was smooth sailing at Cobram, which was the first leg of the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship, which encapsulates the country cups season. From gate two, Havehorsewilltravel stepped briskly from the standing start to comfortably lead, with Well Defined tucked on his back and, initially, no pressure on his outside. Second-favourite Sammy Showdown loomed with a tick over a lap to go to sit in the breeze, but the leader had the answers, getting home in a 28.4-sec last quarter to hold off Well Defined’s late challenge and win by 1.7 metres. “Well Defined had really good standing start form, he’s a pretty dangerous horse to have on your back and the fact that he could do what he did then and hold him off is a pretty good guide that he will probably go places. “I’m not sure how far he will go, but he’s got a bit of strength about him and can also rip off a quick quarter. He’s good from the stand, good from the mobile, so fingers crossed he can do a really good job. I’m sure not before long he will have a chance against the better ones.”   HRV - Michael Howard

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