Day At The Track

Southland harness racing warhorse Franco Huntington despite his age, shows no sign of slowing down. The horse whose stable name is Hunter had his 158th start at Ascot Park today. However despite trying hard as he always does, he didn’t have much luck, sitting parked and finishing last – six and a half lengths away from the winner American Lightning . A bit different to the previous week when he took out a win at Wyndham. The Changeover gelding goes a long way back. He qualified at Rangiora in February 2015 for Spreydon Lodge trainer Steven McRae, but never started at the races for that stable. He began his racing career as a four year old for Knapdale trainer Robin Swain and the Bowl A Bouncer Syndicate, winning for the combination at this third start at Ascot Park in November 2015 with odds of 19-1. Franco Huntington had twenty three starts for Swain, winning just once, and it was then that Myross Bush trainer Doug McLachlan took him on. “He just appeared on Tom Kilkelly’s website (Horse Trader). I leased him for a client. He only had him for a short period, then I acquired him,” he said. He started his career with McLachlan in March 2017 and it took twenty starts before he had his first  win for the stable. “For a start he was a wee bit difficult. The main problem was that he couldn’t race our way around so I had to do quite a bit of Chiropractor work on him. It really wasn’t until I put the murphy blind on him that things were straightened out.” Over six seasons of racing he’s averaged twenty six starts a season, and has won ten races in 158 starts, averaging $620.34 per start. “He’s better than the pension.” John Morrison has won six races on him, Shane Walkinshaw two and Robin Swain and Andrew Suddaby one each. “Johnny says he’s a perfect horse to drive. He’s got great manners.” John Morrison and Franco Huntington         --Bruce Stewart Photo Franco Huntington has won eight races from behind the mobile in 148 starts, and two from the stand from just ten starts. Five of his ten wins have been at Ascot Park, two at Winton and Wyndham, one at Gore. McLachlan says the horse has never had a day off with injury. “He’s never even limped. He’s got beautiful legs and he’s such a strong horse. Since I’ve had the horse he hasn’t had a break, he just loves doing what he’s doing. If I take any of the other horses away it’s just mayhem. Every night he’s boxed.” His largest winning dividend was in June 2018 when he paid $30.80. In four of his ten wins he’s paid under $5 for a win, proving punters recognize that when he’s in the right race he’s a good bet. McLachlan says Franco Huntington is a great horse to have around the stables. “I jump in the cart with him every day with all the horses on the leads. He’ll stand there and wait for me to get into the cart – he’s voice command. If you’re going round the track and you yell out whoa he stops immediately.” He’s also able to educate young and wayward horses. “If there are any other horses on the track with other drivers and they don’t want to turn round, I can go in with him and turn them round. He’s an absolute bulldozer.” And after his racing career is over McLachlan say’s Franco Huntington may still have a role to play on race day. “I’ve said to Sally McKay (Clerk of the Course) that when he’s finished she can have him as a Clerk of the Course Horse. I’ve had a lot of horses in my Rodeo days that have been pick up and safety horses and he’s a good example of that. He’s not scared of carts, he’s got speed so if someone was hanging out the back of a cart he would do a job.” Horse and trainer head home tonight knowing they’ll be back in a fortnight, looking to get the $1,986.00 he requires to get to the $100,000 stake mark. “We won’t go to Winton next week. He’ll have three days off and then I’ll step him up again from there. As long as he’s sound and wants to do it we’ll just keep plugging on. I keep watching these show jumpers that are competing and travelling all the time. They’re seventeen and eighteen year olds.” View the full Invercargill results click here!   by Bruce Stewart

Newly-crowned Group One-winning trainer Craig Edmonds says he doesn’t like trotters any more than pacers. “I just like fast horses,” he laughs. But that comment gets harder to believe when Five Wise Men gave Edmonds and his daughter Aimee their first Group One winner in the $100,000 Livamol NZ Trotting Derby at Addington on Friday and you realise of their 51 career wins together 43 have been with trotters. “I suppose we just tend to get more trotters but I think we have done pretty well with the pacers we have had too,” says Edmonds. “But we have been involved with these owners for a long time and they have had such a great breed of trotters so the better horses we get are trotters. “And I do like the shoeing and mucking around with that part of it all so maybe that helps with the trotters.” Edmonds is being overly modest about his success with the squaregaiters as he does plenty of trotting work for son-in-law John Dunn, who is married to his other daughter Jenna. “We all work in well together and Aimee not only helps out with the horses but it great with the accounts and the owners,” says Edmonds. “So it is a real team effort even though Aimee and I don’t have that many horses in our own name.” They have a very good one now though in Five Wise Men, who has left little doubt he is the best of this three-year-old crop, which he had to be on Friday night. He was left out of the early burn by Dunn but got the breeze easily by the bell before giving punters a scare when chucking in a rough stride at the 850m when he started to race fiercely. But even learning on the job he was too good, holding out a luckless Time Up The Hill, a brave Son Of Patrick and Leaf Stride, who was another pushed back at a crucial stage. As good as he has been, Five Wise Men will have to learn a new skill and quickly before he comes to Auckland for the Sires Stakes Final and Northern Trotting Derby as he has never even been worked right-handed. “He does all his work on the beach so I haven’t tried him right-handed at all,” explains Edmonds. “But I will start that next week and I am confident he will be fine because he is good gaited. He hangs out a bit this way so I think he will hang in up there so we might need to tinker with his gear a bit.” Five Wise Men wasn’t the only major race winner on Friday to sit parked on their way to victory with stablemates Cosmic Major and Self Assured doing the same in the Welcome Stakes and the Superstars respectively. Self Assured slid up to the chair at the perfect time but it will still a commanding performance to hold out Amazing Dream after grinding past Pembrook Playboy. Cosmic Major sitting parked outside favourite Akuta in the Welcome Stakes was more of a surprise even though the son of Art Major has done nothing wrong in his two career starts. The wraps on Akuta were big but Cosmic Major was just too good with a no excuse performance in the hands of Tim Williams,  and suggested right now he might be the best of the Hayden Cullen freshman pacers who dominated the race with the first four home.   by Michael Guerin

Krug’s superstar qualities turned pre-race concern into post-race jubilation as he left his rivals in his wake in a brilliant New Zealand Derby win at Addington on Friday night. Driver Blair Orange seized the opportunity to control the Group One feature in front and in the process delivered the quickest of answers following a week of pontificating by fans and pundits over how the Cran and Chrissie Dalgety trained colt would handle his wide front row.  The result afterwards was both predictable and a delight to the three-year-old’s army of fans as Krug and Orange never gave their rivals even a slight look-in in the home straight.    In winning, the star colt joined a select group of winners of both the New Zealand and Northern derbies.  After taking his camp on a wild ride during his incredible Northern Derby win, Cran Dalgety admitted this time relief was one of his overriding emotions.  “It is actually a thrill just to win one, let alone two.” “Coming into tonight expectations were high that he would perform – that he would win and do this and that.” “But as a trainer you just can’t take that on board until the job is actually done.” “It is a big thrill and a big relief as much as it is a big thrill.” Krug came to be a dual derby winner during a hectic three-year-old season, packed with two-year-old features rescheduled because of COVID19. The Dalgety stable have expertly guided their star colt through a busy schedule and under their management Krug just keeps getting better. Cran was modest when he and his wife were credited for an outstanding training performance.   “We planned to do this, we planned to get him fit and planned to get him healthy.” “But the last percentage is in the lap of the gods and we were lucky in that respect.” “Blair was able to drive him hard and he was still good enough to fight the others off.” The Harness Jewels are the next target for New Zealand’s star three-year-old. Beyond that the Dalgety camp are spoilt for choice with plenty of age-group features to target across the Tasman. Though nothing has been confirmed, the Dalgety stable is leaning towards venturing to Australia rather than aiming their derby winning star at the New Zealand Cup.  “What to do next is a very good question and a very hard one to answer," Cran said.  “To answer it half-pie, sure we would love to be in the New Zealand Cup.” “But I don’t want to miss the age-group racing on the way through because we can’t back-pedal on that.” “The New Zealand Cup will always be there every 365 days.” “You are only three once and to tentatively put it forward, I would love to have a crack at another derby or two in Australia.” The Dalgety camp have the Rising Sun (July 10), the Queensland Derby (July 24), Victoria Derby (October 9) and the Australasian Breeders Crown (November 21) as possible targets.  B D Joe chased hard from the trail to run second behind Krug, his second Group One second placing following his runner-up effort behind It’s All About Faith in the Sires Stakes Final.  The Falcon followed the quinella makers through from three-deep on the markers to run third.    by Jonny Turner 

CHESTER, PA - The pairing of "Down Under wonders," Australian Andrew McCarthy and New Zealander Kelvin "Red" Harrison, were the top newsmakers at Harrah's Philadelphia on Friday afternoon, with McCarthy driving five straight winners on the card, and Harrison training four of them. Three of the four Harrison trainees that McCarthy guided to victory - Bigonpersonality N, Persimmon A, and Claytons Bettor N - were their race's favorite, and their fourth combination, Bettor Trix N, was a second choice. McCarthy's fifth winner, Eddard Hanover, was also a second choice for trainer Jeff Cullipher; all of the victorious quintet raced on the engine except for Bettor Trix N, who was a pocket rocket. McCarthy might have added to his totals, but he left southeastern Pennsylvania after the ninth race to drive in an early Blue Chip Series race at Yonkers. Nevertheless, he is tied with Marcus Miller at the top win spot in the drivers standings with seven triumphs; Harrison is king of the hill on the trainers side with five wins at the meet. A pair of $11,200 paces for younger horses were the top purse events of the day. In the section for distaffs, the Western Ideal mare Avaya Hanover rallied from the two-hole for driver Marcus Miller to overhaul favorite Break The Deal in 1:53.4 for trainer/owner Cote Keim, while the male group was fronted from the quarter by the American Ideal gelding Mancount, who took a new mark of 1:51.3 for driver Anthony Napolitano and trainer/owner Trevor Stafford. Both Miller and Napolitano put together driving triples at Philly on Friday. AVAYA HANOVER REPLAY   The twelve-year-old McArdle stallion Mcerlean became harness racing's newest millionaire when he won for Andrew McCarthy's brother Todd. Trained by Darran Cassar for Muscara Racing Trust, Mcerlean moved his lifetime tally to $1,004,130 -- $942.507 of that for the Muscara family -- with his 47th career victory. MCERLEAN REPLAY   The best card of the young reason season will be held at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, with half of the races not out of place as a feature event at most ovals. First post will be at 12:40 p.m.; program pages will be available at https://www.phha.org/harrahspps.html. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

Mike Tanev of Toronto, CA has been a longtime harness racing fan, owner and an activist for the Standardbred industry in Canada. He has been calling upon industry officials and government representatives to allow racing to resume during both lockdowns in Ontario. He has a vast understanding of the Covid-19 situation as he has two sons, Brandon and Chris Tanev, playing in the NHL, who are allowed to play during the lockdown and go through protocols every day for Covid-19. When it comes to expressing his opinion, watch out as Tanev’s bark is worse than his bite. Especially when it comes to the second shutdown of harness racing in Ontario. “It is just ridiculous what is going on,” Tanev said at the start of the interview. "I did an interview with a reporter from the Toronto Sun Tuesday and I asked him 'tell me what businesses are now closed during this lockdown in Ontario.' He thought about and I then told him, gyms, barbers, hair salons, nail places and the racetracks. Every other business in Ontario is open in one form or another." “And of all these places,” Tanev stated, “the safest place to be is the racetracks because before the lockdown they had proper protocols in place and not one reported case of Covid-19 during the entire time they were racing." “It is an absolute joke that racing is not allowed in Ontario,” Tanev added. Tanev also slammed Woodbine and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA). “They (COSA) ran their televised podcast Sunday,” Tanev said. “And the first thing out of the mouth of hosts Greg Blanchard and Mark McKelvie, who I had respected very much as top people in our industry until this show. They started off talking about without any racing now they would have plenty of time for golfing. These guys are the voice of harness racing and at such a crucial time they are joking about going golfing while there are thousands of horse people whose livelihood are being taken away from them. It was an absolute joke for them to start off the show that way. “It just threw me overboard,” Tanev said. “I thought we were getting some headway. Jim Lawson of WEG called me Friday and I thought we had a great discussion on going forward full blast to get harness racing back going. He told me he was 'taking off the gloves' and instead, he announces that the Thoroughbred meet will be put on hold. “Then he (Lawson) announces that hopefully we will be able to race after the lockdown,” Tanev said. “Well, the way the Canadian government is handling the Covid crisis so poorly, that this lockdown could continue for another month. It’s just brutal the way this has all been handled.” Tanev has also been on the phone with COSA President, Hall of Famer Bill O’Donnell. “I talk with Bill sometimes three times a day,” Tanev said. “I talked with him this morning (Monday) and asked why I’m not on the COSA TV program? I’m one of the few owners in Ontario that gives a s—t. The vast majority of owners are silent. They are not going out and talking with the media, not going out and talking to their government officials. The Toronto Sun reporter asked me for the names of other owners. I told him what’s the use of giving you names, these owners don’t say a word. “Since the first lockdown,” Tanev complained, “I’m the only one that has gone out and spoke with the media, with COSA, with Jim Lawson, with government officials.” There has also been a drove of horses leaving Ontario to race in the United States and that alone could cause big problems even if racing is allowed to start up again. “These owners and trainers know we are in trouble,” Tanev explained. “And I guess they are smart to send their horses to race in the USA. At least they have a chance to earn some money back to pay for all the bills. Horses have to be cared for seven days a week, racing or not. I would be curious to know how many horses have left Ontario to race in the USA. At least 500 or more I would think at this juncture.” Tanev also talked about a recent meeting with all the top sports organizations in Ontario and government officials. “Lawson was telling me last Friday,” Tanev said. “That there was this major meeting with all the major sports teams’ executives about getting the exceptions to continue to play the high-level professional sports. Well, guess what, they did not invite horse racing! The Ontario government did not think that horse racing is not a major sporting event in the province? “Well, we’re a professional sport,” Tanev said about horse racing. “A high-level professional sport. If we had been invited to that meeting, we well could still be racing live today. “Right now,” Tanev explained. “The only team that’s playing in Toronto is the hockey team because we have a separate Canadian division.” “Racing in North America had done so well with little or no Covid cases for months,” Tanev said. “We have developed protocols that have worked so well. But we need to get this across to the government officials and the only way to do that is for everyone in the industry to open their mouths, write or call their government officials and tell them like it is. “A lot of people look at me like I have three heads,” Tanev laughed. “They call me a loud mouth. But they fail to realize I have two kids who play in the NHL. I know what they have to go through daily with Covid protocols. “Owners have to get off their duffs,” Tanev ranted. “And become outspoken and demand that we can start racing again. I told Lawson that what needs to be done right away to for everyone to send a legal letter. Not a law suit, just a legal letter from a top law firm in Toronto, explain all the protocols and why racing should be allowed to start up again. The government must respond to a legal letter. We need to get their attention in a big way.” By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

With two horses already guaranteed spots in the harness racing final of the MGM Borgata Series for older male pacers, trainer Ron Burke will look to add a third on Monday (April 12) when Yonkers Raceway hosts the last preliminary round of the six-week event. Based on points accumulated in the series, the Burke Brigade's Rockapelo and This Is The Plan are among five horses to have already secured places in the eight-horse final on April 19. The others are Western Joe, Hesa Kingslayer N, and Leonidas A. Burke's Backstreet Shadow is in the best position to join that group, pending the outcomes in Monday's last preliminary divisions of the series. Backstreet Shadow, sixth in points, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the first of the last three Borgata splits, starting from post one. The six-horse field also includes four of the five horses directly behind Backstreet Shadow in the standings: San Domino A and Lyons Steel, who are tied for seventh, ninth-place Raukapuka Ruler N and 11th-place Tyga Hanover. The remaining horse in the field is series leader Western Joe. Other horses that could bolster their chances of making the final with wins on Monday are Mach N Cheese and Mac's Jackpot, who are both in the second division, and Ostro Hanover, who is in the third. None are morning-line favorites. Backstreet Shadow has a win and two seconds in the Borgata. A trainer can start only one horse in a division, and Burke has four horses in the series, so Backstreet Shadow sat out last week's leg after coming up sick in his second-place finish on March 29. "He had a legitimate excuse his last start," said Mark Weaver, who is among the owners of Backstreet Shadow, as well as Rockapelo and This Is The Plan. "We had to give someone the week off, so it just made sense for it to be him. We expect him to be pretty good this start and then hopefully even better in the final." Backstreet Shadow, a 6-year-old gelding, has won 25 of 63 career races and $890,162. Last year, he won the Roll With Joe Stakes and hit the board in the Breeders Crown, TVG Open Pace Series championship, Sam McKee Memorial, and Allerage Farms Open Pace. "I think Backstreet Shadow and This Is The Plan are two of the top five or six aged pacers," Weaver said. "They've been factors the last several years. Hopefully, they are again, all season long. This is just the start of a long year, hopefully, for them." This Is The Plan, a 6-year-old gelding with $1.8 million in career purses, has a win and three seconds in the Borgata. He is the 2-1 second choice in Monday's third division. Rockapelo, a 2018 New York Sire Stakes champion who has been lightly tested on the Grand Circuit, is sitting out Monday's action. The 6-year-old gelding has two wins, a second, and a fifth in the series. Nine of his most recent 12 victories have come at Yonkers. "He's kind of a Yonkers specialist, a grinder," Weaver said. "He's surprised us. This will be his Super Bowl, so to speak, for the year. After this, it will be back to overnights." The Burke Stable has traditionally been deep with talented older male pacers. The returning group this season also includes a past Dan Patch Award winner, Dorsoduro Hanover, as well as millionaire Filibuster Hanover, Elver Hanover, The Greek Freak, and Covered Bridge. "The aged division is kind of our bread and butter," Weaver said. "If you get a couple good ones, you can really do some damage. "We try to treat them like a baseball team where you've got some major leaguers, but you're always looking to develop your minor league system. At some point, they're going to get called up to the big leagues. We're constantly trying to keep the pipeline going. Hopefully, we have some that can fill the void when the time comes." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Monday at Yonkers. For complete entries, click here. For the Borgata standings, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

Speedy four year old trotter Muscle Mountain landed a special Group One harness racing win tonight at Addington Raceway giving his driver Ben Hope his first Group One victory when winning the Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship. For Hope winning his first Group One was a dream come true, "Unbelievable, It's what I have dreamed about my whole life, winning races and especially Group Ones,"  he said after the race. "Going into the race I thought a place would be his lot against those top horses but he just proved to me he is just a winner. He just wants to win. "All the way up the straight I thought I would get second but he just stuck his neck out and it is just a huge credit to the horse," he said. Muscle Mountain (Muscle Hill - Paramount Faith) beat a game Sundees Son by 3/4 of a length with 2 1/2 lengths back to Bolt For Brilliance in third. The winners time was 3-14.6 for the 2600m mobile with a sizzling last 800m in 55.4 and 400m in 27.3 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

Just over a decade ago, Australian Peter Chambers made the bold move of purchasing a 2YO trotting filly from France for a six figure sum and his instincts have proven right on the money, with the mare, subsequently named Glenferrie Unixa, having now produced multiple group one winner Une Belle Allure and good harness racing performer Beau Garcon. Glenferrie Farms’ Chambers was, looking to replace brilliant trotting filly Kahdon, who had gone amiss, and had heard of a promising 2YO filly in France through Canterbury horseman Craig Thornley, who knew the trainer’s daughter, Laura Hue, then working in Prebbleton, New Zealand. Thornley, was employed nearby at Spreydon Lodge, where Chambers was a client and understood he had wanted to purchase a trotter with maternal lines from what he considered the best trotters in the world, France. Chambers sent Thornley to France for a week and he was on hand when Unixa was sent to the Normandy port city of Caen to qualify as a 2YO, which entailed trotting flawlessly over 2000m in under 1'22.0 km/h. As Thornley recalled recently: “I went to Caen and watched her trial. There were nearly 200 horses there, all 2YOs and she was the fastest filly on the day and after that I had a few drives of her. She was a really lovely filly.” Indeed Unixa was not only was she the fastest filly on the day, she was actually the fourth fastest overall, trotting home in 1’19”5, which is a respectable time on the sand track at Caen. Thornley says Chambers secured the filly from the trainer, Marion Hue for a six figure sum which as those who have purchased from France know is what you have to pay for a lovely French filly who had qualified well. "He got a really good deal with her, they really looked after him. He actually ended up racing another couple of horses with Mr Hue in France, but he didn't bring those ones back," recalls Thornley. Hue has won some big races in France including the country’s top race for 2YO fillies, the Prix Une De Mai. Unixa is a daughter of Onyx du Goutier (by Franco-American Buvetier d’Aunou) out of Life Sign, by another successful Franco-American-sire in Corot (Workaholic). Both Workaholic and Buvetier d’Aunou’s sire Royal Prestige, are by Speedy Crown, who has proven an absolutely superb nick with the French breed. Life Sign was also a half-sister to the very good performers in O’Donnell (T1.53.4MR, 11 wins, 426.150 euros) and Mister President (T1.56MR, 9 wins, 361,840 euros), a monte specialist. Renamed Glenferrie Unixa, the filly was trained in New Zealand Thornley’s partner Joanne Burrows, and quickly placed three times although she had developed some issues. "She must have injured herself on the way out, must have hurt her stifles or something, because she was not the same horse when she landed here,” says Thornley. “She couldn't stretch out fully, and could not trot as fast as she did when I drove her in France. She only raced a handful of times and she went to stud.” Chambers bred a filly by Angus Hall but after Glenferrie Unixa missed in two subsequent breedings, the mare was put on the market. “I really wished I’d bought her myself, I always thought she’d be a super broodmare, with those French bloodlines, which of course was why Mr Chambers bought her originally,” says Thornley. French enthusiast and Yabby Dam Farms proprietor Pat Driscoll snapped her up, while he also secured the Angus Hall filly (soon to be named Une Belle Allure) as a yearling not long after. Une Belle Allure went on to win four Group Ones, proving Chambers instincts to have been correct all along and both mares are in Yabby Dam Farms broodmare band and have progeny in the  Nutrien Equine Standardbred Yearling Sale on the weekend. Lot 177 (Pictured) is a colt by Father Patrick out of Une Belle Allure while Lot 178 is a filly by Trixton out Glenferrie Unixa, and should be two of the most sought after trotting yearlings in the sale.   Lot 178 is a filly by Trixton out Glenferrie Unixa Lot 177 is a colt by Father Patrick out of Une Belle Allure View the Nutrien Equine Standardbred Yearling Sale website.   Yabby Dam Farms

Breeding authority Peter Wharton presents all the harness racing news on breeding from Australia, New Zealand and North America every Friday brought to you by Garrard’s Horse & Hound. Wolf Stride’s Wagga triumph Wolf Stride achieved yet another moment of glory in a brilliant season when he downed a star-studded field in the $100,000 Riverina Championship Final at Wagga. His superlative success in the Group 1 after being required to overcome a difficult barrier draw and a torrid passage, boosted his seasonal earnings to $349,430, behind only King Of Swing and Lochinvar Lad. Earlier in the year the Rock N Roll Heaven five-year-old gelding annexed the Allied Express NSW Sprint (in 1:49.1), the Bendigo and Terang Cups and the City of Melton Plate and finished third in the Miracle Mile and Ballarat Cup. The winner of $508,950 lifetime, Wolf Stride is out of the Breeders Crown champion Lilac Stride 1:54.4 ($276,140), an Art Major mare who is also the dam of the Group 3 winner Cherry Stride 1:51.2 (129,830). Lilac Stride was out of the Harold Park winner Labretta Franco (1:58.5), by Falcon Seelster from Looks The Part, by Nero’s B B from Living Doll, by Live Or Die. Labretta Franco, the dam of five sub 2:00 winners, was a sister to the NZ Group 2 winner Lewinsky Franco 1:51.4 ($172,980) and the exported Franco Looker (1:53.2) and a half-sister to the NZ Group 3 winner Let Loose and the WA Caduceus Club 3YO Classic winner Franco Look Alike. Wolf Stride was bred and is raced by Sydney enthusiasts Emilio and Mary Rosati.   WA Easter Cup winner   Leap Of Faith, who took out the $50,000 WA Easter Cup, main race of the Gloucester Park Good Friday meeting, is a McArdle mare from the same family as that which produced a top WA pacer in Our Max Phactor. Leap Of Faith – winning WA Easter Cup at Gloucester Park      – Daryl Hallows Photo   Leap Of Faith, who won her first five starts in WA as a four-year-old last season and has now won seven races, has a wealth of breeding on her dam’s side, being out of the Live Or Die mare Faith Philly, a member of the prolific Dusky Morn tribe. Faith Philly, who was only lightly raced, was a half-sister to the WA The Kersley winner Our Max Phactor 1:49.6 ($438,339), the Bathurst Gold Tiara and NSW Pink Bonnet winner My Sweetchilliphilly 1:52.1 ($122,440) and the Gloucester Park winner The Oyster Bar 1:57.1 ($142,184). Their dam, Tact Philly, was a half-sister to the glamour filly Classical 1:57.7, the winner of five and $291,590 in stakes, being out of Class Act (2:02.7), a Smooth Fella mare who was also the dam of The Lead 1:52 ($158,145) and the recent Newcastle winner Cant Explain It (1:56.3) and grand-dam of Mongolian Cavalry (1:53.2), Strawb’s Ideal Act (1:54.5) and Selling The Dream (1:55). This has been one of New Zealand’s most successful families over a long period. From the Class Act branch of it and to which Leap Of Faith belongs, others in the Australian Pacing Gold winner Park Life 1:53.2 ($188,571), the Bendigo Cup victor My Kiwi Mate 1:52.2 ($360,632), My Kiwi Lady 1:51.6 and A Bettor Act 1:55.7 (NZ Diamond Creek Farm Classic) are also members.   By Union Guy Ruby Wingate is proving herself a three-year-old of some worth in Victoria and over the Easter period she numbered the $50,000 Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic among her successes. Ruby Wingate – winning Vicbred Home Grown Classic at Melton    – Stuart McCormick Photo She is a filly by the deceased Western Hanover horse Union Guy from Albert’s Belle, an Albert Albert mare who produced earlier winners in Union Belle (1:55.6), Impressive Guy (1:54.3) and Wingate Guy, all fully related to Ruby Wingate. Albert’s Belle, who was unraced, was out of the American bred Sachet Hanover, an Albatross mare who left five winners including the Moonee Valley winner Youcansaythatagain. Ruby Wingate was bred by Allan Stephens, of Allendale, near Ballarat.   Inter City Pace winner from good racemare Im Quick As Fire, a Bettor’s Delight six-year-old and a winner of the time-honoured Inter City Pace at Maitland, is out of Queen Of Fire, a capable racemare with a record of 1:57.1 who is proving a successful broodmare. Queen Of Fire is also the dam of Bettor Under Fire (1:59.8), a winner of six races in NZ and NSW. Queen Of Fire was a Courage Under Fire mare from Penultimate, by What’s Next from Dream Chaser, by Classic Garry from Dreamwood, by Lumber Dream from Madame Han, who established a great winning line for Victorian breeders Helen and the late Graham Head. Queen Of Fire was a half-sister to the top Tasmanian juvenile Majestic Emperor 1:58.1 ($186,378), to Major Mac (1:59.2) and to the Village Jasper mare Twisted Jasper (2:00.2), dam of Machtwister 1:54.4 (winner of 30 races and $135,893). Their dam, Penultimate, was unraced, but she left seven winners. She was a half-sister to Detroit Dan 1:56.8 ($118,639), Mister Motown (1:59.2, who won 17) and Star Chaser 2:01.1 (7 wins), who, in turn, was the dam of the ‘Cups King’ Safari 1:55.7 ($535,445), the Vicbred 2YO champion Our Maid Marianne 1:57.9 ($110,338), Astronaut 1:53.4 ($264,177) and Major Frank 1:52.8 ($119,028). Other members of this family, which was founded in America by the John Nelson mare Agnes, were the Derby winner Garnet River (1:50), Dont Hold Back (VIcbred 3YO Final), Zeuss Bromac, Gemfire, Vancouver Mac and others. Im Quick As Fire was bred by Melbourne breeders Merv and Meg Butterworth.         Crack colt by A Rocknroll Dance A two-year-old to take high ranking in Victoria this year is Solesseo Matuca, a product of the Rocknroll Hanover horse A Rocknroll Dance, who stands at Alabar Bloodstock’s Echuca property. Solesseo Matuca – winning Shakamaker Classic at Melton         – Stuart McCormick Photo   He has won four races and been twice placed from six starts for $30,300. He won the Shakamaker Classic at Melton in the smart time of 1:55.5 and appears every bit as good as the Victorians rate himn. Solesseo Matuca, who was bred by the late Ken Griffey, is out of a useful racemare in  Princess Dilinger (1:58.2), the best of whose several progeny have been the Youthful Stakes and VHRC 3YO Cup winner Youaremy Sunshine 1:53.8 ($139,500) and Top The Ace 1:55.2 ($107,171). Princess Dilinger ranks as a half-sister to the Melton winner Chirpy Chuckles (1:54.8), being by D M Dilinger from Kylie’s Reason, by Muckalee Strike from Jazz Band, by Jazzy Spark from Smooth Light, a daughter of the Victoria Oaks winner Tail Light. Princess Dilinger was 15 when she left Solesseo Matuca.   Scooterwillrev wins Tasmanian Easter Cup Most important race of the Tasmanian autumn calendar, the $75,000 Easter Cup at Launceston, was won by the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Scooterwillrev, who downed Ryler Major in a photo finish. Scooterwillrev, who was bought for $42,000 as a yearling, has now won 27 races and $235,885 in stakes. He was a brilliant juvenile winning his first six starts including the Crystal Stakes and a Breeders Crown heat, won the Tasmanian Derby as a three-year-old and the Danbury Park Cup at five. By a champion sire in Somebeachsomewhere, he is out of a top broodmare in Karamea Toastime, dam of Australia’s first sub 1:50 mare Jadah Rose 1:49.6 ($465,424), who became the dam of the top Victorian stayer Guaranteed 1:50.4 ($856,316), now standing stud in Victoria, the cups winner Jadahson 1:53.9 ($277,390) and the grand-dam of last year’s outstanding three-year-old Pacifico Dream 1:51 ($251,430). Others from Karamea Toastime were the Melton and Menangle winner Timeseel 1:52.7 ($169,530), the top Tasmanian juvenile Karalta Shine 1:52.6 ($168,973) and Elegant Outlook, dam of this year’s King Island Cup winner Karalta Cruise. Karamea Toastime, who was unraced, was an Armbro Aussie mare from Toast To Missy, an American bred mare by the Bret Hanover who left five winners in Australia including the good Harold Park winner Clickety Clix.   First foal for Maori Time Maori Time, the fastest trotting mare ever bred in Australasia with a record of 1:51.5, foaled a colt by the Prix d’Amerique winner Readly Express at Menhammar Stuteri, one of Sweden’s largest and most successful breeding and training farms, last week. The foal was jointly bred by Fred and Elizabeth Crews, Duncan McPherson, of Aldebaran Park and Menhammar Stuteri. Maori Time won 24 races including four Group 1’s and $421,700 in stakes in her stellar racetrack career. She will be served by Readly Express again this season.   Unconditional is well bred Unconditional, who won at Gloucester Park on Good Friday beating a top rated filly in Black Jack Baby, has now won now four races and looks to be well in line for the forthcoming classics. She ranks as a three-year-old sister by Bettor’s Delight to the brilliant racemare Delightful Offer 1:51.4 ($336,928), now racing successfully in North America. Unconditional – winning at Gloucester Park      – Daryl Hallows Photo Their dam, Dream Offer, was a Dream Away mare from New Offer (1:58.3), by Surmo Hanover from Maria Abbe, has proved a most successful broodmare. She is also the dam of the top Australian pacer Cant Refuse 1:54.5 ($288,733), Our Bettor Dream 1:57.3 ($224,334), Bettor Offer 1:53 ($207,614) and Ultimate Offer (1:54.1), all metropolitan winners. Dream Offer won only once but she was a half-sister to Bella Who (2:00.3), who won three, and to the Frugal Gourmet mare Tightas, dam of the exported Lislight (1:50.8) and Aces N Eights (1:57.4, winner of 11 NZ races).   Up-and-coming trotter One of the most promising trotters racing in Victoria is Justamollyarcher, bred in NZ and trained by Andy Gath. An eight-year-old, Justamollyarcher has raced only twice in Australia for impressive wins in the heat and final of the Colin Redwood Memorial VSTA Trotters Handicap at Melton. Justamollyarcher – winning VSTA Trotters Handicap Final at Melton       – Stuart McCormick Photo   Justamollyarcher has a background of trotting blood second to none. His sire, Angus Hall, has left the great trotting sire Majestic Son, and other top trotters in My Arya, Endsino, Missaandei, Une Belle Allure and Kyvalley Clichy. His dam, Justa Kiwi Girl, a useful trotter herself, is by Gee Whiz II, the leading sire of trotters in NZ for many years. Justamollyarcher ranks as a half-brother to Justakiwiboy (4 wins) and Millwood Munchin (3 wins), the dam of Milly An Eyre, a double winner in Victoria this year.     by Peter Wharton

Experienced Victorian harness racing trainer Greg Norman, who does an outstanding job with his team is putting his magic to the test tomorrow night. The former South Australian, now based at Charlton in Central Victoria, trained 26 winners and 42 placings in last season's extended racing season, and this year he has eight wins and five placings so far, for a top three strike rate of 46 percent. But he admits there's likely to be a few nerves when his brilliant newcomer, a Kiwi youngster named Aladdin, steps out in one of the feature events of the Mildura Pacing Cup carnival-the $14,000 Tankard Dental Guineas. Aladdin (Sweet Lou-Pacing Delight (Bettors Delight) is raced by prominent Adelaide owners Adam, Ben and Terry Cormack. They finalised the purchase of the pacer just ahead of his New Year's Eve appearance in New Zealand's richest race for colts and geldings, the inaugural $200,000 Listed NZB Standardbred Harness Million final. Courtesy of a perfectly timed drive by Tim Williams, Aladdin sprinted up the inside to beat his stablemate Shan Noble in an exciting finish to the rich listed race. (At the time, both horses were prepared by champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, who then changed the course of their careers by stepping away from the sport). "The boys bought him on the Wednesday and he won on the Saturday, so he's been a good buy already," Norman said. "He had a few runs since then before he came over here, but the pressure is on me now!" Aladdin arrived at Charlton with a record of four wins and seven placings from his 17 New Zealand starts for prize money of $155,789. Before being bought by the Cormacks, the pacer had been raced by prominent Melbourne owners Jean and Bill Feiss, who bought him for $140,000 from the Woodlands Stud draft at the 2019 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. "I've only had him a couple of weeks, but everything he's done so far does indicate that he's a nice little horse, intelligent, well-mannered and keen," Norman said. "He's only a little fellow, but he can obviously run a bit! On paper he looks good, but we still have to win here in Australia, and we still have to win at Mildura," he said. Aladdin comes with a big reputation and is blessed with plenty of early speed, which he may need from his extreme outside draw in barrier six in the Mildura Guineas. Norman said while he was quietly confident in his new charge's ability, there were still question marks over the Guineas. "It's a good money race, a field of handy horses and a tight little track," he said. "He's done all his racing on the big, spacious New Zealand tracks, so getting around Mildura will obviously be the key. "We have been working him on a half-mile track here at Charlton, though, and he seems to handle it alright." Norman, who moved from South Australia to Charlton in 2019, heads to Mildura with a handy team of five for cup night. Apieceoflou has qualified for the $10,000 Euston Club Pace Final, Cee Cee in America is a starter in the $25,000 Tenderprint Australia Cup Final and fast-class performer Zadaka narrowly missed qualifying for the Mildura Pacing Cup final, and will start in the $10,000 Wilkie Building Contractors Free For All. "It's always a fantastic night of racing and we had a good night on Tuesday, so we just hope it continues," he said. View the Mildura fields click here!   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing This Week: Blue Chip Matchmaker and MGM Borgata Pacing series fifth legs, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Yonkers features two $35,000 divisions on Friday (April 9) in the fifth round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series for open pacing mares. The Monday (April 12) card at Yonkers will see three $40,000 divisions in the fifth round of the MGM Borgata Pacing series for open pacers. Each series offers five preliminary rounds leading to the finales, both set for Monday (April 19). Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last Time: This Is The Plan, Western Joe, and Leonidas A scored victories in the trio of $40,000 divisions of the fourth leg of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series on Monday night (April 5) at Yonkers Raceway. This Is The Plan broke through for the first time in style, taking the opening split in 1:51.1. Chris Brokate photo. After finishing second in all three of his appearances in the series coming into this leg, This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) broke through for the first time in style, taking the opening split in 1:51.1. Gingras fired This Is The Plan to the top from post four and he would put up fractions of :27.2, :56.1, and 1:23.3 before he closed in :27.3 to win by three lengths over pocket-sitter Raukapuka Ruler N (Jordan Stratton). Mach N Cheese (Joe Bongiorno) held third over Let It Ride N (Dexter Dunn). Ron Burke trains This Is The Plan, a 6-year-old gelding by Somebeachsomewhere, for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. This Is The Plan is now a 15-time winner in his career and he pushed his earnings to $1,806,700. Blue Ivy didn't get all of the respect on the toteboard, but the 5-year-old mare had her say in a powerhouse performance, capturing the first of two $35,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker divisions on Friday (April 2) at Yonkers Raceway. Sent off as the surprising 7-5 second choice, Tyler Buter put Blue Ivy into the three-hole entering the first turn as 3-5 favorite Keep Rockin A made the lead easily for Tim Tetrick and marched to the quarter in :27.4. With just five in the field, Tetrick was able to back down the pace with the Jim King Jr.-trained import. The slow half didn't shake Buter in the least as he waited until midway down the backstretch to energize Blue Ivy. It didn't take more than 50 yards for Blue Ivy to engulf and dispose of Keep Rockin A, as that mare slowed markedly into the final turn. After three-quarters in 1:25, Blue Ivy kicked home in :28 and scored by open lengths in a 1:53 mile. Monica Gallagher (Jason Bartlett) was able to come up the pylons late to secure the place spot, with Caviart Cherie (Matt Kakaley) third in the mile. It was Blue Ivy's second win in the series, to go along with two second-place finishes, for trainer Todd Buter. Owned by Renee Bercury, Blue Ivy, a daughter of Captaintreacherous, paid $4.80 for the victory. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2021 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders (through the races on 4-5-21): Drivers: 1. Todd McCarthy - 50; 2t. Andrew McCarthy - 47; 2t. George Brennan - 47; 4. Austin Siegelman - 44; 5. Tyler Buter - 34. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 92; 2t. Jeff Cullipher - 30; 2t. Mike Deters - 30; 2t. Todd Buter - 30; 2t. Sheena McElhiney - 30. Owners: 1t. Jesmeral Stable - 30; 1t. Renee Bercury - 30; 3. Eric Prevost - 28; 4t. Burke Racing Stable - 26.8; 4t. Weaver Bruscemi - 26.8. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will continue at Yonkers with the finals of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and MGM Borgata on April 19. by Paul Ramlow, for The Grand Circuit  

Harness racing trainer Robert Dunn was presented with the ideal opportunity at the Banks Penninsula Trotting Clubs meeting at Motukarara Monday ( April 5 ), to farewell stable employee Devon Van Til on the highest of notes behind stable runner High Flying Harry in race nine on the program.   The talented young reinswomen failed to spoil her leaving party as she expertly steered the three year old son of Bettor's Delight to a three quarter length victory over the economically driven Caesars Quest, and the fast finishing Duffy Hollow in the McMillan Feed Barn-Trainer Of The Year Mobile Pace.   For the 29 year old the victory was bittersweet, being her last drive under the guidance of the country's leading stable. "I've learnt so much over the past two and a half years for from Robert and all the team, and in particular Johnny (Dunn). I can't thank them enough for their guidance, but it's time to move on and learn more from someone else now," van Til said.   The smile on her face after the line was hard to disguise for the former top equestrian rider, who's naturally competitive streak gives her the perfect platform to launch a career as a harness racing driver. "I've always strived to win, and yesterday was such a good feeling, I want more of it. I know it won't be easy, but I'm determined to succeed, or at least give it my best shot," she said.     While van Til had previously enjoyed a successful career in show jumping, representing the South Island and winning numerous Champion Hunter titles, harness racing offered the perfect challenge to further her career and continue her love of horses. "I was managing the Birchbrook Equestrian Centre for Dave and Cath Butt and got to know the harness racing crew through them. I've always loved sport and competition. I had one drive in the sulky down at the beach behind a horse called Letspendanitetogetha, and I was hooked."    For the Breckon Racing Syndicate owned High Flying Harry, his most recent win should have come as no surprise to punters following a string of minor placings and a consistent formline. Although at odds of 12-1, it seemed to surprise a few. After drawing wide behind the gate, van Til elected to go forward rather than fight the big gelding, a decision which proved to be the winning of the race for the pair. "I didn't want to fight him, so I just let him do his thing. I was lucky enough to get cover into the strong wind down the back, and getting the run late worked out perfect for him. He's a much better horse chasing them, then being left in front on his own," she said.   So where to now for Devon van Til?   "I'm keen to stay in harness racing, and learn from as many people as I can. For now I'll take a short break, help my partner Steve (Dolan) with his horses, and hopefully squeeze in a few hunts before I take on another full time role."   Devon van Til has had 14 drives to date, with a win and six minor placings for a UDR of .2619.   Harnesslink Media

Get Legs entered last week's opening round of John Brennan Trotting Series at Yonkers Raceway with eight wins in nine starts at the Meadowlands, but miscued over the sloppy going and had to settle for rallying for third. He made no such miscues this Wednesday, though, cruising to a 1:55 2/5 harness racing victory. Driver Andy Miller didn't hustle Get Legs away from post two in Wednesday's final $20,000 division, but he didn't tuck on the inside, either, letting his horse move steadily up on the rim to get the lead from Lady Jeter (Scott Zeron) after the 28.4 opening quarter. From there, Get Legs put up the half in 57.2 and the three-quarters in 1:26.2, navigated the far turn without any issue, and pulled away impressively in the lane on his way to defeating Lady Jeter by 5 1/2 lengths. P L Notsonice (Renaldo Morales III) came in third after a first-over try. Julie Miller trains Get Legs, a 4-year-old son of Muscle Hill, for owners Andy Miller Stable Inc. and Michael Anderson. Get Legs has earned $76,010 to go with his 9-0-2 record from 11 starts, and he paid $2.10 across the board. The exacta returned $4.70 and the trifecta was worth $14.00. GET LEGS REPLAY   In other John Brennan Trotting Series action, Tyler Buter had a pair of winners in Stinglike A B K and Timon AS. Competing in the night's first split, Stinglike A B K raced in third through opening half fractions of 28.1 and 57.3, then made a first-over move past the half that carried him into second behind leader Swiss House Onfire (Austin Siegelman) at the 1:26.4 three-quarters. Stinglike A B K and Swiss House Onfire battled around the final bend and into the lane, but Stinglike A B K gained a narrow advantage and was able to hold sway to the wire, downing a gaining Lifetime Royalty (Dan Dube) by a neck in 1:56.3. Swiss House Onfire wound up third. STINGLIKE A B K REPLAY   Stinglike A B K is a 5-year-old Andover Hall stallion owned and trained by Nicole Dicostanzo. Stinglike A B K is now a nine-time winner in his career, and he has banked $97,054. Stinglike A B K, the 2-1 second choice, returned $6.00 to win and was atop a $45.40 exacta and a $112.50 trifecta. Two races later, Buter guided Timon AS to a 1:57 decision. Timon AS pocketed up behind Look In My Eyes (Jordan Stratton) and stalked that foe through a 29.1 opening quarter and a 58.1 half, then pulled out of the two-hole as they trotted to the 1:27.2 three-quarters. Timon AS wore down Look In My Eyes coming into the stretch, then drew clear, prevailing by a length and three-quarters. Look In My Eyes held second over Blue And Bold (Brent Holland). TIMON AS REPLAY   A 5-year-old Lionhunter gelding, Timon AS is trained by Melanie Wrenn for owner Michael Guest. Timon AS now has a record of 20-3-1 from 55 attempts, and he has put away $111,280. Timon AS was the 3-2 second choice and paid $5.10 to win. The exacta kicked back $59.00 and the trifecta was worth $728.00. Buter nearly nabbed another win with first-over attacker Grinder in the second section, but Windsong Pioneer (Holland), who put up stations of 27.3, 57.1, and 1:25.3, kept Grinder at bay in game fashion, hitting the wire a nose to the good in a 1:56.1 mile. Guilty Desire (Stratton) got third after a second-over journey. The victorious 5-year-old E L Titan gelding is trained by Paul Stafford for owner Thomas Ceraso Jr. Windsong Pioneer picked up his 14th career win, and he boosted his bankroll to $110,932. Windsong Pioneer, dispatched at 7-2, returned $9.00 to win and led a $24.40 exacta and a $66.50 trifecta. The John Brennan Trotting Series has one preliminary leg remaining next Wednesday, April 14, before the final on Wednesday, April 21. Stakes action continues at Yonkers on Friday (April 9) and Monday (April 12) as the final preliminary rounds of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series and MGM Borgata Pacing Series are held. There are two $35,000 divisions in the Blue Chip Matchmaker, one a non-wagering affair and the other race two on the pari-mutuel program, and a trio of $40,000 splits of the MGM Borgata are slated as races four, five, and six. For full race results, click here. From Yonkers Raceway

When Tom Burdett and his dad Jack decided to give horse training a go, the local Horsham Harness Racing Club, in the Victorian Wimmera, found one of its most loyal volunteers. “That was 42 years ago. We didn’t have any background in training trotters, but I was young and keen, and we decided to give it a try,” Tom said. “Dad was the trainer and I was the owner, and it’s fair to say we didn’t have a lot of success – but I did find that I loved working with horses.  You either love them or hate them, they say, and I came down on the right side!” Tom jumped the fence to hold a horse on the track one day, and someone at the club seized the chance to sign him up as a volunteer track attendant – and Tom was recently presented with an award by the club for his 40 years’ continuous service. “We gave the training away, because we were just finding it was too expensive, and I still wanted to learn more, so I started working for a local trainer here (the late) Clive Rees.  And I’ve also loved being a barrier attendant for the trots and the gallops ever since,” Tom said. “As well as the horses, it’s the people.  I’ve got to know a lot of the trainers and drivers, as well as the stewards and I’ve met a lot of lovely people through the years – they do appreciate the job you do.” When it comes to volunteers, the Horsham Club breeds a loyal bunch.  The president Terry Lewis said Tom was the third club volunteer to be recognised for long service (more than 40 years), along with Kevin Pymer and Kevin and Lesley Lane. “Tom began as a barrier attendant back when our club was racing at the Horsham Showgrounds at night, so his role worked well around his full time job, working for the local council,” Lewis said. “But once we moved to the racing club site, and day meetings, Tom made sure his days off were always rostered around his ‘trots days’, which is a fairly big commitment.  All the drivers love him and I don’t think he’s ever missed a meeting, come rain, hail or shine,” he said. “Like all clubs, we struggle a little bit to attract younger volunteers, so we well and truly value the fact that we have long-serving people who are so dedicated. The volunteers bring a different degree of connection and commitment to the sport.  They have a real affiliation for harness racing, but from a different perspective.” Lewis said the club had been on a strong growth trajectory since making the move to the gallops track and was eagerly awaiting the expected opening of an expanded Tabaret and trackside hospitality facility in August. “We wouldn’t be running $60,000 Pacing Cups, $25,000 Trotters Cups and our big National and NZ Drivers Invitational if it wasn’t for the Tabaret we opened here back in 1996,” he said. “It has given us so much extra discretionary funding and allowed us to do things around the club and with our racing, that wouldn’t have been possible without that revenue.  “So we’re pretty excited about the expansion.  It’s nearly $3 million dollars’ worth of work, but it will make the world of difference to our facilities with a new bistro overlooking the track and bringing a whole new dining and entertainment experience to the area and our meetings.”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Standardbred owner and breeder Don Tiger knows where Charlie May's 3-year-old harness racing season will begin. Where the pacer goes from there will be decided as his campaign unfolds, but the owner knows where he would like to see his horse. All around the Grand Circuit. Charlie May, who was voted Ohio's best 2-year-old male pacer in 2020, makes his seasonal debut Saturday in a $15,000 elimination of the James K. Hackett Memorial for 3-year-old male pacers at Miami Valley Raceway. Charlie May, trained by Steve Carter, will start from post seven in a seven-horse field with driver Brett Miller. Last year, Tiger's homebred gelding won seven of nine starts and finished second in both defeats. Charlie May earned $328,627 to rank sixth among all 2-year-old male pacers in North America and his best win time of 1:50.2, established in a track-record Ohio Sire Stakes championship performance at Scioto Downs, tied for fifth. Charlie May will be pointed toward events for Ohio-sired horses to begin the season, but Tiger has paid the horse into numerous open stakes for 3-year-old male pacers including the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, and Breeders Crown. He is not eligible to the Little Brown Jug but can be supplemented if he wins one of the following races: North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Messenger Stakes, or Cane Pace. "We've got four weeks here (in Ohio) to find out where we're at," Tiger said. "The goal is to get better each week, and then at the beginning of May we'll have decisions to make as far as where we're going. I paid the money for everywhere. He's staked until the end of November. I did my part. Now it's going to be up to the horse. "I'm real excited. You never know what is going to happen between (ages) 2 and 3, but I think the good thing for me is I've been playing with house money, so I'm calm and relaxed and excited and happy. I wouldn't trade places with anybody." Charlie May is by McArdle out of Stipple Hanover. He is the first horse Tiger ever bred. "I just took a leap of faith," Tiger said. "This is for the little guys. This isn't supposed to happen to Steve Carter and Don Tiger. It's a feel-good story. I own the horse, but he's not my horse. It's those guys at the barn -- Steve Carter and his staff. They've told me he's a one-in-a-million horse. "I'd love for those local guys to get the chance (on the Grand Circuit). It would be great for them and great for Ohio racing." Tiger plans to bring a realistic approach to determining Charlie May's stakes schedule. "I want to make a stamp on the national scene, but I'm not going to go through it just to do it," he said. "I'm not going to go to the Meadowlands Pace to be 30-1 and hope I'm fifth. If we're going to those kinds of races we're going to go because we're bringing a howitzer. We're not going with a squirt gun. "We'll see how it shakes out. I just want him to be healthy. If he's healthy and gets beat, I'm great with that. I just don't ever want to play the 'what if' game. If he's healthy, then it's just up to the racing gods and whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen." Charlie May's opening assignment will not be easy. Among his Hackett rivals is Heart Of Chewbacca, who handed Charlie May a setback in a preliminary round of the Ohio Sire Stakes last year and was second in the final. Heart Of Chewbacca, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Dan Noble, also is staked to numerous Grand Circuit races. He was one of last season's fastest 2-year-olds on both a five-eighths and half-mile track. "Ohio has gotten tougher," Burke said. "I think you'll see that maybe those colts can step and go with the other ones. They're breeding a lot of horses; they're breeding way more quality. Things are heading in the right direction there." Laughagain Hanover, who was third in the Ohio Sire Stakes championship, leads the first Hackett elimination. He is trained by Christi Noble and driven by Dan Noble. The first-four finishers from each elimination will advance to the $40,000 final April 17. They will be joined by the fifth-place horse with the fastest time. Racing begins at 4:05 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Miami Valley. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

I suddenly have the urge to go to Mildura. That is not to say I haven’t had the urge to go to Mildura before. I am told it is a lovely spot inhabited by friendly people. And I have even been invited there by the Mildura club for Cup week before, which shows either they have never met me or they are far too silly. To clarify, I won’t actually be attending Mildura Cup week 2021 because the Trans Tasman bubble thing doesn’t kick in for another week. But the key thing is part of me wants to be there. Just like part of me wanted to be in Bathurst two weeks ago. Hell, I even had some regrets I wasn’t at Wagga last Sunday and I don’t know where Wagga is. (It is in NSW, right?) And that is one of the strengths of the bigger harness racing carnivals in the more remote areas. They even get people in OTHER countries watching these regions and wanting to go there. Consider this: You ever watched Kaikoura Cup day on Sky and thought, well, that is on the bucket list? And I know people who have flown from Australia to go to the Jewels in Ashburton and Cambridge even though they couldn’t find either on a map. Just outside the town I grew up in is a place called Kumara, population 400 that can swell to 10,000 for their one annual race meeting. It's worth it, just don’t plan anything the few days after. These wonderful remote places with their funny tracks and the small country stables defending their honour against the invading big city bullies are the stuff local legends are made of. For racing (think the 'Bool) and harness racing they are a strength to be embraced and promoted, as SENTrack's Trots Life is doing this week. I have been to Royal Ascot, the Kentucky Derby, the Arc, Sha Tin and the Melbourne Cup and they are all wonderful experiences, racing moments of awe. But the carnivals in the small town are where you feel you can reach out and touch the horses, because some times you actually can. You find yourself in bars and restaurants with the owners but also trainers and drivers, the heroes of the industry, and you might even find yourselves wanting, not for financial reasons, to win that local Cup, Crown or Nuggets (that is Kumara). Harness racing can sell that. In these days when people can’t go to Ascot or Longchamp, we can tell them how special Mildura can be. The clubs can back that with the most loved of Down Under traits, local hospitality. We can rally the local bars and ask them to adopt the visitors as these carnivals can be an escape from life because Mildura isn’t Melbourne or Melton and that is good for the soul. We should lace it into our radio and television coverage, reminding people these are places they can drive to for a holiday sometimes without leaving their state, because smaller centres feel a bit like the good old days. And if you back a winner, money won on holiday is just about the best currency in the world. So let's sell our regional carnivals. Let us remind people racing isn’t just numbers, speed maps and betting restrictions. Remind them it can still be fun, a break from normal life. Just tell them to bring the Panadol. by Michael Guerin