Day At The Track

May 22, 2020 - Two Groupe level events graced the Vincennes at Mauquenchy harness racing program on Friday. The Prix du Crepuscule (Gr. III, purse 70,000€, 2150 meters autostart, European eligibles) saw Dorgos de Guez (7g Romcok de Guez-Landy Fromentro) score in 1.11.8kr with Alexandre Abrivard at the lines. Jean Michel Bazire trains this winner for Ecurie Vautors. Dorgos recorded his 22nd career victory now for 605,680€ earned. The classy mare Chica de Joudes (8f Jag de Bellouet-Queschua Love) was second for owner/trainer/driver Alain Laurent. Third went to Detroit Castelets (7m Neoh Jiel) handled by David Thomain for trainer J.L. Dersoir. Dorgos de Guez The Gr. II Prix Ozo (purse 85,000€, 2850 meters, 10 starters all three year olds) went to a game 5/10 favorite Havana d’Aurcy (3f Royal Dream-Avila) timed in 1.17.5kr with Alexandre Abrivard up for trainer Jean Michel Bazire and breeder/owner Cyril Lelarge. 9/2 odds Havanaise (3f Ricimer-Version Philo) took second with F.P. Bossuet the trainer/driver. Third was 15/1 Hirondelle Sibey (3f Gazouillis) for Eric Raffin. Havana d’Aurcy The day before turf action for the trotteurs was at Avignon-Le Pontet at Nimes. There, the Prix de la Ville du Pontet (purse 11,000€, 2850 meters distance handicap, three-year olds on the turf) went to Hede Wood (3f Niky-Care Mia Wood) in her first career victory, with David Bekaert aboard. She was timed in 1.24.3kr for breeder/owner Jean Pierre Dubois. Stablemate and 25 meter handicapped Horchestro (3g Sam Bourbon-Alismada Corta) was second for trainer Kevin Vanderschelden and of course breeder/owner JPD. The 25-meter penalized High Machine (3f Goetmals Wood) was third for Y.A. Briand and breeder/owner Ecurie des Charmes. Hede Wood (inside) Thomas H. Hicks  

EMERGING star Wolf Stride continued a fairy tale first season for the Anthony Butt/Emilio Rosati partnership with a sparkling win in last night’s $100,000 Group 1 TAB Metropolitan Region Championship final. It comes after Rosati, Butt and Butt’s finance, Sonya Smith, have already enjoyed phenomenal success in their first season as a team, largely through the likes of superstar three-year-olds Line Up and Elite Stride. But Wolf Stride looks every bit as exciting as that pair. The four-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven has really grown on Butt, who said his opinion of Wolf Stride has “gone to the next level in the past six weeks or so.” Butt declared Wolf Stride a “Grand Circuit horse in the making” headed into last night’s final, which he worked to the front in and never looked troubled. Butt put the foot down with a 27.5sec split from 1200-800m and Wolf Stride still ran his closing splits in 54.9 and 27.9sec to win by nine metres in a slick 1min53.9sec mile rate for 2300m. “He felt fantastic. He’s very exciting. The more we’ve asked of him, especially in the past six weeks or so, the more he’s kept improving,” Butt said. A thrilled Rosati heaped praise on Butt. “He’s been my missing link, he’s a terrific trainer and a champion driver,” he said. “This horse has always had ability, but we’ve been patient and Anthony’s starting to get the best out of him now.” Craig Cross qualified five of the 10 finalists, but had to be content with a brave second from Culture King and third spot with Bettor Robyn. Wolf Stride broke the run of major upsets in the Regional Championship finals after being crunched from $3.50 into $2.60 favourite. Earlier in the night, 18-year-old driver Jack Callaghan and popular Newcastle trainer Clayton Harmey both their first Group 1 when Kayne Crusader led throughout and dug-deep to win the $100,000 Hunter Region final at Newcastle. Kayne Crusader, also a son of Rock N Roll Heaven, was a $17 shot. The first two Regional finals also provided maiden Group 1 wins and wonderful stories. It started with Terryrama for father-and-son Malcolm and Brett Hutchings in the Western final at Bathurst on Wednesday night. Then came trainer Chris McPherson and driver Thomas Gilligan who landed the Riverina final at Wagga prize with Rocky Creed. Those first three results will surely give Harness Racing NSW food for thought about sticking with a regional format, which they were forced to revert to because of COVID-19.   By Adam Hamilton

There was no room for sentiment when driving young gun Jack Callaghan scored his first group one win in the $100,000 TAB Hunter Regional Final in NSW on Saturday night. The 18-year-old showed composure beyond his years after Kanye Crusader broke a hopple soon after the start, an incident which would have proved disastrous. But the four-year-old pacer overcame the setback to give Callaghan the final of the Hunter regional series and in doing so he beat out his father Mark, who drove runner-up Master Catch, by a half neck. “That just made it better,” laughed Jack. Mark, as you might imagine, has been Jack’s greatest supporter since he started race driving 23 months ago and the youngster still works for his father. “He has been a great help but at the top of the straight last night I thought he was going to beat me,” says Jack. “But my horse tries really hard and after the line Dad said to me: ‘well one of us has got it, I think it is you. “So he was stoked for me as well.” Kanye Crusader is trained by Clayton Harmey, who has also been a big supporter of Callaghan but the drive could so easily have gone to fellow young driving star Blake Hughes. Hughes won the qualifying heat on Kayne Crusader but was ineligible for the group one drive as he doesn’t have his A-grade licence yet. “The same thing happened to me last year in a group two at Wagga, I had a horse for the final but couldn’t drive it because I didn’t have my A licence,” said Callaghan. Callaghan and Hughes are two of the exciting young drivers starring in the Hunter region, along with others like Tom Ison, with all having recorded five-win bags at single meetings recently. But last night’s final got almost more exciting than Callaghan could have wished for after Kanye Crusader’s early mishap which left one of his front hopples flapping around his leg, not only useless but potentially dangerous. “When it broke I just closed my eyes and hoped he wouldn’t fall,” says Callaghan. “But after that it didn’t seem to bother him which is pretty incredible.” Callaghan is hoping to bring his skills to Menangle more often once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and that will mean teaming up with Dad rather than beating him. “Dad has some Menangle type horses and I want to drive there as often as I can when I get the chance.”   Michael Guerin

The regional city of Albury in the NSW Riverina region will become party central after two significant harness racing victories within three days. "There's no doubt going to be a fair bit of celebrating going on this week, that's for sure," happy-go-lucky reinsman Thomas Gilligan said. "It's just been a purple patch to remember forever-we all do it on a hobby basis and to have success like this is just so rewarding. It's just unreal," he said. Gilligan of Table Top, an outer suburb of Albury, landed the biggest win of his career when successful on 40/1 shot Rocky Creed (Pet Rock-Miss Toolern Vale (Bettors Delight) in the TAB Riverina Region G1 $100,000 Championship Final at Wagga on Friday. To watch the video replay click on this link And just two days later at the same track, his fiancée Brooke McPherson was the winning owner/trainer of Rusty Crackers (Dawn Ofa New Day-Dilingers Comment (D M Dilinger) in the $9690 Iron Jack Wagga Pacers Cup. To watch the video replay click on this link Gilligan said the victories were real family affairs with Brooke's uncle Chris being the trainer of Rocky Creed, while her brother James was the winning driver of Rusty Crackers. "It was probably a once in a lifetime thing for me. I was just so fortunate to pick up the drive because James wasn't eligible to compete in a Group One-but it all worked out well because he snagged the Wagga Cup!" Gilligan said. An elated Thomas Gilligan after scoring his first Group One success and biggest win on Rocky Creed  (Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser Photo) "It was my first-ever Group one success and yeah I've heard that I'm now known as Group One Gilligan," he said. "I had a nice run and when I hit the front, I was just going for home. The second horse went well too - it kept kicking and was hanging in there. "And Rusty Crackers has been great this season. We've won 12 races with him since he joined our stable, including the Temora and Christmas Cups and runner-up in the Griffith Cup." Brooke said the "musical chairs" on driving engagements was an odd turn of events. "James was replaced by Thomas in the Group One, but then James came out and won the Wagga Cup for us. It probably shows it's a good thing to have more than one driver in the family!" Gilligan is a third-generation horseman in the sport, following in the footsteps of his father Shane, and his late grandfather Ron. "I got my licence when I was 17 and after about 14 drives, I had a break. I went off playing football and doing some other sports," he said. "I came back and decided over the last nine years to have a real go at it. As well as helping out Brooke, I'm also a farrier by trade now. We all train out of a nice complex where we lease the front stables and paddocks and use the 700m jog track. We do our fastwork in at Albury." Gilligan said all the McPhersons combined training and racing the horses with full-time employment including nursing, retail, logging and a car rental business. "Chris has seven in work, while Brooke is doing three or four at the moment. Nearly all of them do shift work, but the horses always get done properly," he said. "I must be honest and say I'm sort of glad I didn't have a drive at the Wagga Cup meeting because my Group One celebrations started the previous night and we did give it a bit of a nudge, but it was fantastic night. "We all enjoy doing it and family wins like these are great, but on the back of each other they're pretty special- both horses went super. They've done a top job with them." Hoofnote: The running of the recent three TAB regional championship finals proved to be a graveyard for punters. The Western Region final at Bathurst on Wednesday saw Terryrama win at 81/1. Three nights later Newcastle hosted the Hunter Region final with 17/1 chance Kanye Crusader land first prize. Then it was Rocky Creeds turn to shine at Wagga at 40/1. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

May 24, 2020  The 2020 Elitloppet draw is complete with its two harness racing elimination heats set for next Sunday. The first blue division includes Elian Web, Cokstile and Propulsion (from post eight). Billie de Montfort drew post two and is reunited with her pilot Gabriele Gelormini. The second green elimination includes probable favorite Vivid Wise As along with Missile Hill and Earl Simon (from post eight). Vivid Wise As was a recent transfer from Alessandro Gocciadoro to the Goop training stable. Thomas H. Hicks  

May 23, 2020 - Racing Mange (7m Orlando Vici-Kara Kickan-Alf Palema) held the front gamely to win the harness racing featured Gr. II STL Gold – Vagen till Elitloppet (purse to winner 300,000SEK, 1609 meters autostart, 10 starters) and earn an Elite Race ticket. Joakim Lovgren reined and trains the now 11th career winner that has earned 4,388,942SEK. It was his first 2020 victory in four outings, this timed in 1.09.7kr. He was off at 5.22/1 odds and trainer Lovgren previously handled an Elitloppet winner, Brioni. The blanket finish had Conrads Rodluva (5f SJs Caviar-Moviestar-Juliano Star) second for Orjan Kihlstrom and third went to Billie de Montfort with Bjorn Goop aboard. Billie was away from post one and settled briefly in third before vacating for a second over position. Past the thee quarter park she attacked but ended three wide as Conrads Rodluva pulled the pocked between horses. Racing Magne  Racing Mange accepted his winning auto invite to the Elite Race and now the field of 16 is set as he joined late invitees Milliondollarrhyme, Disco Volante, Billie de Montfort and Propulsion. They joined Earl Simon. Sorbet, Cokstile, Makethemark, Looking Superb, Missile Hill, Tae Kwon Deo, Attraversiamo, Elian Web, Chief Orlando and Vivid Wise As to form the group that will draw to compose two elimination dashes.   Elite Race oddsboard The Gavle undercard this day saw the STL Silver (purse 125,000SEK to the winner, 2640 meters autostart, 12 starters) go to 1.12.5kr timed Heading Reference (6g Scarlet Knight-Vista d’Eronville-Offshore Dream) reined by Daniel Wajersten. He was off at 67.9/1 odds in winning for the second time in five 2020 appearances, and defeated Viking Brodde (5g Muscle Hill-Vasterbo My Melody-Super Arnie) with Jorma Kontio up. Third was From The Mine (8g From Above-Kalmans Tap Girl-Tap In) with Magnus Djuse up. Heading Reference Earlier the STK Bronze (110,000SEK to the winner, 2140 meters voltstart, 12 starters) went to 1.87/1 favorite Vikens High Yield (6m Love You-Primadonna Tuna-Viking Kronos) with Per Lennartsson up for trainer Robert Bergh. Race time was 1.13.1kr and the winner took his fifth 2020 victory in six starts, this his fourth straight score. Ribaude (7g Conny Nobell) and Concrete Dee (5g Donato Hanover) trailed the winner. Vikens High Yield Mixed in between these events was the coldblood featured Gunnar Walbergs DubbelCupen (200,000SEK to the winner, 2140 meters voltstart distance handicap, 14 starters). 7.58/1 odds Gott Klirr (5m Asajerven) scored for teamster Mats E. Djuse and trainer Jan-Olov Persson, he of Jarvsofaks fame. Of note, this winner is part owned by Ake Svanstedt Inc. Thomas H. Hicks    

May 23, 2020 - Saturday harness racing action in France was at Laval, the card moved from Enghien due to shutdown of the populated Red areas. Here, the Quinte+ Prix de l’Obelisque (purse 56,000€, 2050 meters, 16 starters) went to 6.9/1 Dostoievski (7g Ganymede) clocked in 1.11.6kr. Eric Raffin drove this Jean Michel Bazire trainee for Ecurie des Charmes. This was his ninth career victory in 46 starts now for 325,980€. 5.2/1 Dream de Lasserie (7g Orlando Vici) was second for trainer/driver Romain Derieux and third went to 9/1 Cyriel d’Atom (8g Otello Pierji) for Franck Nivard. 36/1 Cash du Rib and 1.2/1 Dayana Berry completed the top five leading to a Q+ exact order payoff of 35,537.40€ Dostoievski On the undercard was the Prix du Rhone (purse 50,000€, 2050 meters autostart, 15 starters) with the 1.12.1kr timed victory to 16/1 Equinoxe Jiel (6m Rancho Gede-Themis Jiel) for pilot Gabriele Gelormini. Ecurie Luck owns the winner that is conditioned by J.L. Dersoir. 57/1 Eliseo (6g Timoko) and 61/1 El Diablo d’Aut (6m Saxo de Vandel) completed the top three. Equinoxe Jiel Ahead on May 26 is the Prix Victory Cavey (Gr. II monte, 2950 meters, purse 85,000€, five-year olds) to be raced at Mans due to Red area shutdown. This great field includes Fleche Bourbon, Flicka de Blary and Fidele Royal. It should be a super event. Thomas H. Hicks  

May 24, 2020 - Astor de Rozoy (10m Ready Cash-Natacha de Rozoy) overcame a 25-meter handicap to win today’s fifth leg of the harness racing Trophee Vert series raced at Villeneuve Sur Lot as the Prix de l’Agglameration du Grand Villere (purse 40,000€, 2600 meters distance handicap). The winner scored in a quick 1.14.7kr over the turf with L.J. Legros teaming for owner J.P. Lemelletier and trainer J. M. Legros to record his 19th career victory. Astor’s life earnings reached 256,570€ with the victory. The 25-meter handicapped Derby du Dollar (7m Rodrigo Jet) was second for pilot Cedric Terry and trainer Sylvain Roger with Darse Melody (7f Niky) third with Guillaume Martin at the lines. 50-meter penalized Aribo Mix was fourth followed by Calvia, both of these conditioned by Dominik Cordeau. Astor de Rozoy   Thomas H. Hicks  

Thirty years ago, Southlander Denice Swain was a pioneer for women in a harness racing industry that was dominated by males. From her Ashburton base in the nineties she stood tall, gained respect, and fashioned a very good training record. Being the first woman to enter a horse in the New Zealand Cup is one of her many achievements. Denice was born the oldest of seven children, to parents Ray and Rhona Swain who lived at Lumsden. “Unlike other girls of my age I didn’t have a pony in the paddock at home. It was an expense we couldn’t afford so we used to break in and ride wild ponies instead,” Denice said. Her love of horses began as a ten year old when using binder twine for reins, she rode a pacemaker bareback along a railway track with her father in the cart. “Dad used to get me to ride the pacemaker bareback while he would follow with a colt in the cart. It got quite scary at times because we’d be going really fast.” The family also enjoyed the success of racing horses, and Auto Tryax was their best. Owned by her mother Rhona, Auto Tryax won seven races, his first at Wyndham in November 1961, trained and driven by Stewie Sutherland of Duntroon. Auto Tryax’s sister Beautilima won twice and left a string of winners for the Swain family in Honest John (8), Johnny’s Brother (8), Sam’s Smile (6) and Minilima (5). From an early age Denice built a wealth of knowledge about horses, skills she would use later. In the early seventies she moved to Australia with her partner Jo E King, whom she had met when he was working at a sawmill in Balclutha. “He was an entertainer and wanted to try his luck over there.” They lived in Melbourne for eighteen months followed by twelve years in Sydney. While there, Denice started going to race meetings, but she could never afford to train horses across the Tasman. “I would have liked to (train there) but getting a piece of land to train from would have been too expensive so I waited until I came home to Invercargill before I took out a licence.” Denise began her training career in Invercargill in 1984, holding a probationary licence and training out of stables just off Findlay Road once used by galloping trainer Ray Pankhurst. “I started breaking in horses for other trainers but was constantly asked to train them.” The demands for her to train became more constant, so she took out a professional licence. Her first winner was Sweet Song at Forbury Park in April 1986. The win was a family affair with Denice’s brother Robin driving the mare she part owned with Neville Ross. Denice though, was feeling the effects of the Southland weather which was markedly different to Sydney’s. “I was working horses in the mud, rain and hail one day and local vet Dick Hopkirk who had a few horse there as well, said I should think about moving to Ashburton where it was warmer. He got hold of a good friend Graham Sherman, another vet, to help.” The Ashburton Trotting Club was very proactive in helping with the move and Swain, with the help of Hopkirk and Sherman moved north to become the first trainer in the Club’s newly erected barn at the racecourse. “They redid the track, it was a lovely place to train. You could get your horses up a fair way before you took them to the races.” However Swain said that initially she found the move hard. “I called back home often because I got lonely at times.” Her first winner from the new stable was Congo Magic driven by Ricky May at Methven, in December 1988. During this time Swain continued to break in horses, and one that came through her hands was the smart colt Clever Dillion which had been sent north by Bud Baynes.  “It helped build my reputation.” In those early days she broke in horses for some big name owners and trainers including John Seaton, Kevin Townley and Bud Baynes. “I loved the babies because there’s a lot of TLC. At the end you could walk that horse anywhere and it would come with you because it had so much confidence in you.” Denice started creating an impressive record and 1991 was the memorable year that she became the first ever female trainer to have a runner in the New Zealand Cup when she produced Clancy, raced by Colin Baynes and his family to finish a gallant second to Christopher Vance. Clancy had been sent to her by Baynes and training partner Robin Swain in May 1991 after winning eight races for the partnership. “I noticed he wasn’t finishing his races off the way he should so I got him scoped when he got here and found that he had an infection.” At the beginning of the 1991 season Swain had Clancy primed to go and he won at Addington twice before running third in the Ashburton Flying Stakes – beaten by Blossom Lady and Inky Lord. At his next start he won the Hannon Memorial in a record time and he graduated to Cup class.  Swain said the road to the Hannon and New Zealand Cup wasn’t an easy one with Clancy. “He’d jumped on himself while he was jogging one day and got an infection in the hoof.” Part of the healing regime were regular visits to the beach, and bathing in salt water. “I thought I had it right.” Owner Colin Baynes was prepared to head north from Knapdale to see Clancy run in the Hannon. “I said to Colin that the horse would probably need the run so he didn’t come. He won, but yuck came out of his foot again.” Mike De Filippi and Denice Swain after the Hannon Memorial Swain says if Clancy hadn’t had the foot problem he would have been more competitive in the Cup. “The horse’s second (in the Cup) gave me a real boost in confidence that my training method worked.” Clancy running second to Christopher Vance in the New Zealand Cup. Clancy won four races for Swain and $162,850. Four years later she was to line up her second New Zealand Cup runner Just Royce, owned by Noel Morrison of Christchurch. He too had to settle for second, beaten by a neck by Il Vicolo. “John (driver John Hay) just told me the other night that Master Musician interfered with him at the 200. I wasn’t confident. I was standing by the tree at the top of the straight. Then I heard his name being called and I thought oh my god. I couldn’t have got to the birdcage if he’d won (laughter).” Just Royce winning at Addington 7th March 1995 Saturday February 11th 1995 was another special day in Swain’s career when she won three feature races at two venues. The Orator started the successful run, winning the Southern Supremacy Stakes by six and a half lengths. In the next race Just Royce won a heat of the Four Year Old Classic. Both were driven by Denice’s brother Robin. At Addington a few hours later Oneinamillion, bred by Robin and Mandy Swain and trained by Denice, won the two year old feature. “I didn’t like the next morning. I had a cold cloth over my head.” Another fond memory is winning the 1993 Victoria Trotters Derby at Moonee Valley with Top Evander. He won three races under Swain’s guidance before he was transferred to Roy and Barry Purdon with an eye on heading to Australia. Denice retained a half share in the ownership. “It was the first time I’d been to Australia. (with a horse). I’d sent a tape over to Gavin Lang to see whether my horse would be competitive and he thought he would.” Top Evander ran second to Melpark Maid beaten by a head in the Derby prelude. “After the race I couldn’t believe how much pressure he (Gavin Lang) put on himself for not moving at the right time. I said that didn’t matter, it wasn’t the main race (goal).” Top Evander came out a week later and beat Melpark Maid in the Derby. He came home and won two more races for Swain. Gavin and Graeme Lang with Top Evander Swain didn’t train many trotters but had a nice two year called Chicotee which was by Chiola Hanover out of Picotee. He won at his first start at Ashburton in February 1991 and was then taken to Auckland, running second to Call Me Chiola in the $90,000 International Classic Series Final. Over the years Denice formed a close bond with Southland brothers Colin and Bud Baynes. “Bud always had lovely colts. You could walk anything past them, they weren’t squealers. He was a great stockman and he just knew what to buy. He’d never pay more than about five thousand. I remember one year he bought about five. Every one of them won a race and a couple were real nice horses.” Swain says she’ll always be indebted to the brothers. “If it wasn’t for Colin and Bud I wouldn’t have had the good horses I had. You’ve got to have a good horse to show you up and when you’re winning races everyone wants to join the ride. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have done it.” Swain remembers receiving a letter from Colin. It said he was enclosing a cheque for five hundred dollars that he’d intended to use for sponsorship, but that he’d appreciated her going to visit him while he was in hospital, and also knew from his wife Nellie that Denice was working in the cold at Oreti Beach. He hoped the cheque would help with a few bills. Throughout the Ashburton years Swain always seemed to have a good horse in her stable. Vera’s Dream was her first stakes winning filly, and she won the 1996 Nevele R Stakes by five lengths. “Mike De Filippi drove her for me. I told him to go at the 400. He said ‘that’s a bit soon.’ I said no, just go because she’s a great stayer. She just ran away (winning by five lengths). She was a lovely mare but had trouble with her fetlocks. We never saw the best of her.” She only had nine starts, winning twice, and she was placed four times. Vera’s Dream after winning the 1996 Nevele R Stakes Chiavelli was another good mare. “I bought her for an Australian owner out of the calendar. I asked Kerry O’Reilly who was my blacksmith at the time, whether she was worth buying. He said yes because he had driven the mother Assisi.  I bought Chiavelli to be a broodmare. I actually time trialed her (1-55.6). In her races she had to be locked away because she was a nervous type and pulled. He wanted to take her over for the fillies’ races in Brisbane so we went. While she was over there a yearling ran into her on the Albion Park track. She got away and onto the main highway and was killed. The worst thing ever.” Chiavelli won six races for Swain. Her dam Assisi won four races for Paul Newton and also left Scorching (11 wins) and Roman Gladiator which won nineteen races for Robin Swain. Chiavelli winning at Addington Smart two year old Oneinamillion bred by Robin and Mandy was another horse Denice enjoyed success with. “Robin said ‘I’ve got a nice two year old here and can you sell him for me because Mandy wants a new kitchen’ (laughter). He ran a good time with Bob Beck driving and I didn’t know what price to put on him. Any rate I put seventy on him. I told Robin and he couldn’t believe it. I sold him for seventy to an Aussie guy.” Oneinamillion won his first two starts as a two year old, and subsequently went to Australia where he won another thirty four races. Oneinamillion winning his first start at Addington Swain developed The Orator, a Talk About Class gelding out of broodmare gem Sakuntala. “People said I was wasting my time with him. He was erratic but turned into a successful racehorse.” He won five races including the Supremacy Stakes and Four Year Old Superstars Championship. That was my favourite win. He beat some nice horses (OK Tiger, Vanderel and Il Vicolo).” Swain believed the Holmes Hanover gelding Out Of Africa was going to be a topliner. “I thought that was going to be my next cup horse. He started to blow a bit so I turned him out for a spell. They rang me up and said he was going backwards. It turned out he had blimmin cancer all through him.” Out Of Africa was out of Rhodesian Lilly and a half-brother to the John Lischner trained Tartan Clansman which won nine races. The Vance Hanover gelding Milton Vance unfortunately never reached his potential either. “He won at Cup time after breaking at the start and losing a heap (of ground) but he still won. He was a top wee horse but the next year when I brought him in he wasn’t himself and I think he bled.” Milton Vance winning on cup day. He won his first five starts but never recaptured winning form in his subsequent starts and was exported to America where he paced a mile in 1-52.8.  “He was my favourite horse.” Swain also remembers breaking in quality gelding Bogan Fella owned by Ashburton businessman Peter Cates. “I was breaking him in and I remember Peter saying that he needed to pay up for the Sires Stakes. I said ‘oh god I haven’t got that far with the horse yet.’ I said to him that I’d run him over a mile which he ran in 2-04 so I rang Peter and he went and paid up. Then Mark Purdon came down and took the horse off me (laughter).” Bogan Fella went on to win sixteen races and $691,518. Swain also broke in Desperate Comment who proved to be a bit of a problem child. “He was the worst one I ever broke in. He booted in the cart for two weeks.” In the end Swain called on the services of another Southlander Bob Beck who was also training at Ashburton at the time. “I decided I needed a heavy cart so I borrowed one off Bob. The cart had car tyres. I was on the tractor and Bob was in the cart and it (Desperate Comment) just kept on booting. It took another two weeks before it stopped. He turned out to be a top horse.” Desperate Comment went on to win twenty races (his first three for Robert Cameron) and $788,617. While in Ashburton Swain was surrounded by horsemen with a wealth of knowledge, and over the years she listened and learned. “Old fellas used to tell me that if you see a horse all muscled up and looking great don’t go to the races because it’s double the time for the ligaments and tendons to strengthen. It’s the things you can’t see.” And a lot of that wisdom has been passed on to the next generation. “I tell my young relations ‘make sure you’ve got your horse healthy, learn to read them and go with your gut feeling.” Denice usually limited her team to about a dozen so she could give each horse plenty of attention. “I had twenty two once which was far too many. I don’t like horses becoming numbers. I liked to treat them one on one so you could read them properly.” Denice was a real pioneer in the harness industry but it wasn’t an easy road in the male dominated industry. “I was pretty quiet and wouldn’t say too much. I had to harden up or wouldn’t have made it. I learned to stick up for myself.” She said it was the love of horses that kept her going through those tough times. Of the 124 winners Denice Swain trained in her career, 54 were driven by Ashburton reinsman John Hay. The pair formed a formidable combination in the mid and late 1990s. Hay says of Swain’s training approach, “Very thorough. The horses didn’t go without anything and she had them very healthy. She could have them pretty ready on race day and they could win at Addington without a trial.” And he was impressed with her attention to detail. “When you went to her place everything was immaculate – the stables, smoko room. There wasn’t a bit of dirt on the gear or the horses.” Hay said Denice also liked to celebrate the many wins she had in Mid-Canterbury, and that she enjoyed the odd rum. Denice says she had a great respect for Hay and his driving skills. “Old Hay boy. What can I say about him? I used to get him to drive at workouts and trials and I liked to keep him on for race day because he knew your horse. He was a very good driver then and still is because there was no pushout rule and nine times out of ten he would get out. He was very good at reading a race.” There was the odd time when a few tricks were pulled between the pair. Hay says “We rang her up at 3am one morning and said ‘the cars in the ditch’ and asked if she could bring a rope and come down and pull us out. She came down in her nightie. We were having her on, we didn’t think she’d turn up. That’s the sort of person she was. She’d come to your aid.” Swain remembers the incident. “Him, Brian O’Meara and someone else. They were all full as I recall,” she said. Swain remembers a particular game of golf at Methven with her sister Dianne, John Hay and the farrier Lin Trotter (Trot). “Hay boy was the first to tee off. The green keeper came out of his shed and Hay Boy’s ball took a right turn, he hooked it, it went straight over the fairway and just about took the Greenkeeper out. Trot was on a four handicap. He did the big back swing which looked beautiful but it plopped three feet in front of the tee. It was meant to be a drive not a chip.” Swain said progress was slow after that and some foreign golfers were hard on their heels.“I said we better move over and let them through and Hay Boy said no. He was like a horse with a bad attitude. You can’t bloody shift him once he’s got a bee in his bonnet. Those two were my partners in crime most of the time. I think I ended up winning the match (laughter). I had a good swing and could whack it a fair way because I played hockey. It was a slow game but it was a crack up.” “She calls a spade a spade. It was never the horse’s fault. It was either the blacksmith or the driver (laughter),” said Hay. Denice’s Diary: First season: 1986 First winner: Sweet Song at Forbury Park in April 1986 Final training season: 2012 Last winner: Don’t Be Cruel at Ascot Park 25th January 2010 Group One placings: Clancy (1991), Just Royce (twice in 1995). Group Two winners: Vera’s Dream (1996), The Orator (twice in 1995). Group Three winners: Tricky Bachelor (1992), Clancy (twice in 1991) and Tricky Bachelor (1991). Leading man: (driver) John Hay (54) Groomsmen: Mike De Filippi (11) and Robin Swain (10). Total stats: 736-124-100-69 UDR .2752 Best season 1992 89-17-5-3 UDR .2335, 1995 65-12-11-8 UDR .3197 and 2000 66-12-6-7 UDR .2677. The last word is given to John Hay. “She was a very good horsewoman,” he said.   Bruce Stewart

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    The colours of South Auckland trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett are set to feature prominently amongst the northern trotting ranks when racing resumes next week. The South Auckland couple were able to utilise their 20-acre private training property over the COVID-19 enforced lockdown period and kept much of their 18-strong race team in work. “It wasn’t a problem for us really,” Hackett said. “We have got two tracks and a straight-line bungy pool, it was just a matter of carrying on. “We couldn’t go anywhere, so we just carried on working.” The benefits of being able to keep their team in-work over COVID-19 Alert Level 4 were seen at the Pukekohe workouts on Friday where they were represented by their 15-strong team of trotters. Half a dozen of their team featured in the opening heat over 2500m, which was taken out by Our Spitfire, a half-sister to Group Three winner Mum’s Pride. The Wallis-Hackett team was also to the fore two heats later taking out the quinella in the R57 & faster 2500m trot with Vatican Hill and Red Castleton. “Vatican Hill was good, Michelle was really happy with him. He has come through his run well, so onwards and upwards,” Hackett said. Recent stable addition One Over Da Son finished unplaced in that heat, but Hackett said he is looking forward to the son of Group One-winning mare One Over Kenny making his northern debut. “He is a nice little horse and he will race at Auckland (in two weeks),” Hackett said. Hackett was pleased with his team’s hit-out on Friday and is excited about returning to the races next week. “They are all nice horses to get back racing,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the stake money up to make it worthwhile.” Hackett has been pleased with the way his stable has been tracking this season, with nine wins and 34 placings, but said the lockdown came at an inopportune time. “I am happy enough,” he said. “I was just a bit annoyed that we had to go into lockdown. We had a lot of placings, but that is just the way it goes.” Hackett’s barn consists entirely of trotters and he said he enjoys the challenge the squaregaiters can bring. “It’s good when you can shoe them yourself and get them trotting good, it is really rewarding,” he said. 

Timaru horseman Alan Clark has forged a solid pathway for himself out of educating young trotters and selling them as going racehorses. He has been responsible for the breaking and educating of many talented trotters behind the scenes, but in the last 15 years has also raced some standouts of his own. In 2006 he let rip with the talented juvenile, Constar. She set a New Zealand record as the fastest 2YO trotting filly recorded over 2400m. There have not been many meet the starter over that distance as a two-year-old, but do not let that detract from the performance. While the 2400m distance is predominantly run at Winton or Ashburton, no three-year-old filly had ever gone faster over the trip until Jen Jacka in 2015. While she won six races at two and ran third in the 2006 Group Two Sires Stakes Trotters Champs, later that year Clark purchased a foal from out of a paddock that would take the self-taught horseman on the ride of a lifetime. The Fiery Ginga contributed to nearly half of Clark’s 60 training wins (28) and for several years was the iron horse of the trotting ranks, racing 134 times from two through to eight. While he never won a Group One, he was not far away and his run on Cup Day in 2013 sitting outside Peak encapsulated everything about him. Tough as nails, and when it looked like he was on the canvas, he would find again for Clark. Finding one as good has been challenging for Clark but with eight broodmares and plenty of sales purchases since, it has not been for a lack of trying. “With the number Fiona and I are breeding from, it’s important we turn them over with the costs involved - that is why we are offering some in the Mixed Sale,” he said. The road to the Gavelhouse All Age Sale has been a bit like sitting behind The Ginga as a juvenile for Clark who initially purchased three of his current entries from last year’s All Age Sale at a time when a Ready To Run Sale was still on the cards. With that concept falling by the wayside, Clark entered them into the Christchurch Mixed Sale which was cancelled due to a lack of numbers. “I then arranged to have all five of my draft shipped to Auckland at quite an expense,” he said, only for Covid19 to rear its head and now see Clark and his stock sell from the comfort of his own living room. With no official Ready to Run platform available to him, Clark is using the online All Age Sale as an opportunity to present a Ready to Run type offering to the public. “I find that with taking a horse to the trials, the agents are only after the very good ones. At least with a sale of this capacity, there is a market for every horse and that is what I am offering,” he said. Clark is not shy about working his horses from a young age, but there is a method to the madness, and it is a framework that has afforded Clark a lot of success as a horseman. “A lot of my horses get a lot of groundwork as weanlings and yearlings, they get a lot of mileage,” he said. “From what I have read, working them when they are young makes their bones denser and ligament attachments stronger. I never have any leg problems with my horses, they never have any bowed tendons or anything like that. “I’ve got yearlings that are in the sale that have had a lot of background conditioning and I think it’s important to get that education and conditioning into them when they are young so you have something to draw on. “I’ve got an 800m track and my bottom bend is quite tight. Initially you have to keep nursing them round the bends until they get their trotting action up and right. But once they are up and running, if they can get round my bottom bend, they can get round any bend in the country,” said Clark. All his offerings can be seen working on the tight 800m track by clicking on the video tab which can be found above the pedigree of each horse on the auction listing. “These are all ready-made racehorses and they are all a delight to drive and to handle,” he said. Clark has two two-year-olds in the sale. The first is a homebred and has a bit of breeding about him. Lot 133 goes by the name Muscle Power and is a gelded son of Peak out of the Muscles Yankee mare Lady Muscles. “His dam is a half-sister to The Fiery Ginga and she leaves very good muscled horses. “I don’t know whether it is the fillies in the family, or the way it worked out, but she was a very aggressive mare when she didn’t get her own way. I decided early on it would be best she was tipped out to be a broodmare. “The Ginga was a lovely horse and so was his brother Latheronwheel who I educated and sold to clients of Nathan Williamson,” said Clark. “Muscle Power is a nice horse and a very willing horse, he wants to go all the time,” said Clark. Being by the European bred Peak, you would imagine this is a trotter that will get better with age and time. Looking past the fact he has not won a race in his first 12 starts, he is a horse that is highly experienced and will make a nice purchase for someone. Just because Clark has his horses at the races early does not mean they are always screwed down. The Fiery Ginga did not win a race until his 9th start, he then peeled off seven in a row. Constar did not win until her fifth start before gobbling up six wins in seven starts. More recent examples of Clark two-year-old’s with plenty of experience, that have gone on and done adecent job, are Imperial Whiz and Regal Assassin, both foals of 2014. Imperial Whiz could hold the unofficial record for most starts for a two-year-old trotter in a season with 28. The son of Imperial Count is still going strong picking up two wins at Melton in April to take his career tally to 15 wins and 22 placings from 109 starts with $131,000 in stakes. Not bad for a horse that took 23 starts to clear maidens. Regal Assassin had not filled a drum in 10 starts before being purchased late in his two-year-old year where he ran second and picked up a win before being sold again to Australian interests. He would run 2nd in the Group 1 Redwood Classic at his second start. This could bode well for the new owners of Muscle Power. The motor is there, the manners are developing, and now it is a case of it all coming together. “With the practice and the going to the trials and workouts, he has learnt to step away. I took him to a couple of workouts at Methven against maiden trotters and he stepped away off the unruly and was in front. He also can come off the gate reasonably well. “He’s not up with the top half-dozen or so two-yearolds but will make a nice horse. With a couple months work, you could have him back at the races and being Sires Stakes eligible, you could possibly get him into the two-year-old race rescheduled for early next season,” he said. Lot 134 is T K Nihilator who is a son of Bacardi Lindy out of the unraced Monkey Bones mare Eyesagrey. Clark purchased this horse as a yearling from the All Age Sale at Karaka last year. Lot 134 is T K Nihilator (Bacardi Lindy - Eyesagrey) “He was probably nine months behind my young ones which is why he hasn’t raced as a two-year-old. He is a nice horse and is very willing, but he is trying to go faster than he is capable of at this stage. “I’m sort of just holding on to him and getting him to learn how to trot the bends at this stage,” said Clark. The first of the yearlings on offer is a blue-blooded filly that was bred by the Clark’s after being given the mother in the twilight of her broodmare career. “I used to have Paris Metro here and wean the foals and then they get sent off. Some of them I broke in the past including Commander Paris and Musculature Metro. “They have a Father Patrick up with Michelle Wallis who I believed was the best foal she had left. He just looked like a real athlete which you would expect given how the sire has shown up. I was given the mare after we weaned him,” said Clark. Clark bred the mare to Wishing Stone and three weeks after the resulting filly was born, Massive Metro emulated his mother by winning the National Trot on New Year’s Eve. I think you call that serendipity? Lot 128 Metro Swish (Wishing Stone - Paris Metro) “She is a really delightful filly with a fantastic gait, if you have a look at the videos at all she sort of flies around the bends and she will definitely make a two-year-old.” “If she had been a bit bigger at yearling sales time she might have got a good price there, but she has grown over the last four or five months where she is a real nice sized yearling now. I have a good reserve on her, and it won’t bother me if I get her back,” he said. Another filly in the Clark draft with a pedigree is Sweet Lady Jane. The daughter of Peak is out of a two-win Majestic Son mare whose her third dam was the 1994 Three-Year-Old Trotter of the Year, Inda Bank. LOT 129 Sweet Lady Jane (Peak - Lady J) “She is a nice-bodied filly who is like a pet, she will be up over your shoulder and is great in the cart and wants to be there. Anyone could drive her, but she is a filly I think that needs six months in the cart to get her trotting right. Some horses have a sort of natural instant speed as a youngster. She does not quite have that yet and while she may not race as a two-year-old, she will make a nice three-year-old in my opinion,” he said. The last of his yearlings is a son of Pegasus Spur out of a lightly-raced half-sister to former Open Class trotter, Musgrove. Lot 130 Take Flight (Pegasus Spur - Miss Continental) “Take Flight is another one I bought up at the Mixed Sale in Auckland last year. He is a nice boy who is sort of just average size however and needs to grow a bit more. He is nicely gaited and a very willing wee horse. He does not give me the impression he is going to make a two-year-old. He’s going to take a wee bit longer to get a bit of size about him and develop into it.” You have to love the refreshing honesty of Clark and he is looking forward to seeing how the sale progresses. “This online sale has had the greatest exposure of any online sale I have ever come across. The number of people hitting the site has been enormous, particularly for the Wishing Stone filly. “There is an awareness out there in the industry that has never been generated for any previous online sale, and because of that the prices may be better than we think, particularly for the better bred horses,” he said.   By Brad Reid | NZ Standardbred Breeders Association

When the three-year-old filly Blockjorg divebombed her rivals in the Group 2 harness racing $50,000 Diamond Classic at Gloucester Park on Friday night (May 22) she credited her sire He’s Watching with his first Group winner from his first crop, now just three-year-olds, in Australia.  Blockjorg, who finished an unlucky second in the Diamond Classic as a two-year-old, has shown up as a very smart filly winning the fastest heat 10 days earlier, and it was a strong field she beat at Gloucester Park. She has now won five races with eight placings from 24 starts for $78,621 in stakes. To watch the video replay click on this link Blockjorg, who was bred and is raced by the Clarina Racing Syndicate, is the third foal of Toobee Three, a lightly raced daughter of the No Nukes sire Legacy Of Power. He’s Watching 1:46.8 ($1.1 million), a world champion two-year-old and Meadowlands Pace winner, has left 13 individual three-year-old winners from his first crop this season. Besides Blockjorg, he is also the sire of the George Croxford Tribute winner Private Eye (1:54.6), the Melton winner Born To Be Watched (1:54.6), Raksjameson NZ, who is unbeaten in WA, and the Menangle winner Experia (1:54.4). From his second Australian crop He’s Watching is the sire of the brilliant youngster Watchmedazzle, who has won twice at Shepparton, as well as several metropolitan placegetters. In North America, He’s Watching was one of the leading two-year-old sires in last year’s rich Ontario Sires Stake program, siring the quinella pair Tattoo Artist and Examiner Hanover in the $225,000 OSS Super Final at Woodbine Mohawk Park. This was also the first and oldest crop by He's Watching in Canada. He’s Watching is now standing at the Tipperary Equine stud, Young, of one of NSW’s leading studmasters Luke Primmer. Now is your chance to buy a He's Watching weanling at the NZB Standardbred All Age Sale currently running and ending in three days at the  Auction. There are eight weanlings for sale and here they are; Lot 15 - He's Watching / Millview Sarah Lot 41 - He's Watching / Samantha Chloe Lot 55 - He's Watching / Tempest Bromac Lot 76 - He's Watching / Alta Michaela Lot 92 - He's Watching / Chevelle Star Lot 100 - He's Watching / Darkofthemoon Lot 116 - He's Watching / Georgia's Belle Lot 120 - He's Watching / Hip Pocket Peter Wharton  

Columbus, OH — After a week of qualifiers, heavy rain, and anticipation Scioto Downs kicked off their 2020 live harness racing meet on Friday (May 22). “Six days after qualifiers, we were able to start racing thanks to our amazing team,” said Joe Morris, the Senior Vice President of Racing at Eldorado Resorts. Scioto started things off in a big way with just over $127,000 wagered in the first race. The guaranteed Pick-5 was a big hit with horseplayers, surpassing the guarantee with more than $22,000 wagered. Total handle on the 12-race program was $1,054,294.15, the second highest handle in history at Scioto Downs, a number that hasn’t been seen at the five-eighths-mile oval in more than 20 years. “I have to thank our team and the horsemen for helping put on the show,” said Morris. “The horsemen are rugged, it’s been a long week and I’m proud of everyone on a job well done.” Scioto wasted no time getting back to racing on Friday, following the Ohio State Racing Commission in conjunction with Governor Mike DeWine’s office coming up with protocols to race without fans safely. The Commission passed a resolution allowing racing to return at their May 14 meeting. “For three weeks in a row, I thought racing was going to get rolling,” said Morris. “We’re glad to have been given this opportunity by the Commission and Governor’s office to start racing.” The road to the start of racing kicked off on Saturday (May 16), as 16 qualifiers went to the track, followed by four more days in preparation for the opening night card. “Our Race Secretary, Jason Roth, had a great idea to write the condition sheet for qualifiers like he would a race card,” said Morris. “His great idea ensured that we would have the right horses to fill Friday’s card.” “It’s been a busy week with all of the qualifiers,” said Roth. “Everyone has been very receptive to the protocols that have been put into place.” The first program of the year featured a pair of Open races, one for Filly and Mare pacers (race six) and one for trotters (race eight). Rosemary Rose (inside) held off a hard charging Sally Fletcher A to win the $18,000 Filly and Mare Open. Conrad photo. A compact field of six went to the gate in the distaff Open and St Lads Gidget (Aaron Merriman) wasted no time leaving the gate, looking to control the fractions. After a strong first-quarter of :26.4, Merriman was able to ration out the speed with a :28.3 second panel, but he was forced to step on the gas dealing with pressure from Golden Paradise moving up the backstretch. Rosemary Rose (Chris Page) was patient through the mile, riding second over cover to three-quarters before firing down the stretch. After putting away St Lads Gidget she dealt with a late charge from Sally Fletcher A (Brett Miller), but was able to hold on by a nose in 1:51.2. For Rosemary Rose, it was her third victory of the year in 10 starts for owners Burke Racing Stable, Jason Melillo, and Weaver Bruscemi and trainer Ron Burke. The 6-year-old, who has shown no signs of slowing down, has bankrolled $567,207 in her career. Rosemary Rose was one of six victories on the card for driver Chris Page. The photo finish camera couldn’t separate the Open Trot competitors as Peggy Sue (Brady Galliers) and Eye Ofa Tiger AS (Elliott Deaton) hit the wire together in a strong stretch battle. The photo finish camera could not separate Peggy Sue (inside) and Eye Ofa Tiger AS (outside) in the co-featured $18,000 Open Trot. Conrad photo. There were fireworks early on as heavy favorite Workinitonbroadway (Page) made a costly miscue at the start allowing Wildfire Seelster (Tyler Smith) to get to the front through the first quarter in :28.1. Wildfire Seelster was able to get a breather in the second quarter (:58) before having to sprint up the backstretch. Eye Ofa Tiger AS pulled first up heading to the three-quarter pole, forcing the hand of Peggy Sue and Galliers to make a first-over grind. After hitting three-quarters in 1:26.3, Wildfire Seelster fought gamely through the stretch, but was collared late by Peggy Sue and a hard charging Eye Ofa Tiger AS in 1:55.1. Peggy Sue was able to lock up her third victory of the year, moving her earnings to $48,230 for owner Galliers Racing and trainer Brady Galliers. Eye Ofa Tiger AS scored his first victory of the season for trainer Anette Lorentzon and owners ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson. His career earnings now stack up at $577,768. Live racing at Scioto Downs returns on Saturday night (May 23) with a 6:30 p.m. first post. The card features a $10,000 guaranteed Pick-5 in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering Program. Past performances provided by TrackMaster can be found by clicking here.    by Michael Carter, USTA Social Media and Publicity Coordinator

Tonight Saturday May 23, 2020 at 7:00PM (EST) - Winners Circle Racing (Charlie Longo & Matt Zuccarello) along with Freddie Hudson, of The Harness Racing Alumni Show will Remember Roosevelt Raceway on Trot Talk Saturday at 7pm.   Come join us for a trip down memory lane to hear former drivers and trainers tell the tales that made this iconic track memorable.   Guests include Jimmy Marohn, Sr., Billy Popfinger (Showbiz), John Kopas, Mike Forte, Billy Haughton , CeCe Levy, Joe Ricco, John Patterson Jr., Bobby Heil, Robbie Siegelmn, Dennis Laterza, Don Sider, Bobby Vitrano, Jon Paton, Jocelyn Tremblay, Alan Alkes and many others.   It's a Roosevelt Raceway Reunion on Zoom   Contact for the zoom meeting link    

May 23, 2020 -- The return of live harness racing in Ontario will be the topic of discussion during this Sunday night's Facebook Live edition of COSA TV. Grand River Raceway's Director of Operations Jamie Martin will be part of the lineup as well as Clinton Raceway's GM Ian Fleming who also serves as race secretary for several provincial racetracks from Clinton's centralized race office. Rounding out the guests will be Mark Horner who operates one of the largest stables in Southwestern Ontario and is a past chair of Standardbred Canada. The trio will join host Greg Blanchard beginning at 7:30 p.m. As always, questions can be submitted ahead of time or during the show by visiting the COSA TV Facebook Page. The show will also be aired on the Standardbred Canada website. Greg Blanchard Central Ontario Standardbred Association

Andy Gath is blessed with a couple of the sport's star squaregaiters in his stable and is ready to welcome one of those back to the races tonight, the last of the scheduled morning and night dual meetings at Tabcorp Park Melton. Group 1-winning trotter McLovin will make his first appearance at the track since February and, while he hasn't been sent to the trials to prepare for the first-up assignment, there's plenty of confidence from connections that he can return in winning fashion. The Long Forest-based horseman has opted for the fresh approach with the seven-year-old, who last competed in the Great Southern Star when well beaten by champion stablemate Tornado Valley. "His work has been really strong the last two weeks and I've been really happy with him," Gath told "We could have trialled him but then our theory was that last time we raced him first-up he virtually sat three-wide the whole way and won a Group 1 race (2019 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint). So he does go pretty well fresh and he has had a fair bit of work. "He is well advanced in his preparation. I would expect that he would (win). I know you never just turn up and win - you have still got to earn it - but there is no doubt he is the best performed horse in the race and he can make his own luck. "He is in really good order and we expect a really good performance will be there (tonight)." McLovin was sent to New Zealand for a tilt at the Inter Dominion series late last year, but a mystery illness saw him never compete in the heats. He returned to Australia and had three runs through the early part of the year before being sent out for a break. "He had about two or three weeks off in New Zealand and then I got him back here and had the three runs," Gath said. "He's had six weeks off and now he's back. He never had any injuries, he just got quite sick." McLovin will go around as a short-priced favourite in the Alderbaran Park Trot (2240m, NR 70-120), which comes up during Saturday's evening card at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Gath stable also has Moonlight Dream engaged in the race, while other threats might come from first-up pair Doug and Egee Money for Jess Tubbs and Anton Golino respectively. Saturday will see the third installment of the Melton double-header, with the early morning card kicking off from 8.55am before the second program fires up from 4.49pm. While Gath felt McLovin was clearly his best winning chance on the night, he said Hit The Sky was probably his next best chance at more generous odds in the Benstud Standardbreds Pace (1720m, NR 50-59). TALKING TROTS ON SENTRACK: Hosts Jason Bonnington and Blake Redden have another big line-up for today's Talking Trots on SENTrack, which runs weekdays from 11am-1pm on 1377AM in Melbourne, 657AM in Perth and 1575AM in Wollongong. Click here to listen live and for links to download the SEN app.   The good oil from the Vic trials circuit BLACKBOOKER: Tabcorp Park Melton (morning), R1 N6, SOUNDSOFCASH Has galloped at her two starts to date but she is very handy when she puts it altogether. She settled four back on the inside, moved into the death seat at the bell and put a large gap on the field at the end to win impressively. REPORT & REPLAY BLACKBOOKER: Tabcorp Park Melton (night), R2 N3, FISCAL FANTASY Dropped back to last, was held up badly for a run and when she gained a clear passage DAWNS PEACH was already away for the prize. She came out very wide on the home turn and finished quickly, without being pushed out to the line, for an eye-catching second. REPORT & REPLAY     HRV - Tim O'Connor