Day At The Track

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice-but try telling that to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga! Vallelonga, from Bolinda, 50 kilometres north of Melbourne, is one of the most experienced horsemen going around but is laid up again following his second serious stable accident in 18 months. "You wouldn't believe it-I've broken the same bone in my right leg again, but this time it's in a different spot," a dejected Vallelonga said. "My doctors have told me I'll be out of action for at least six months, so we've decided to shut down our stable operations until I'm up and about again," he said. "It was pointless struggling along doing the job half-hearted." The first occasion Vallelonga was injured was in a freak accident on July 17, 2018. "I'd just washed a horse and was towelling it off when a gust of wind whipped up out of nowhere and blew a bucket over. The horse took fright and knocked me over," he said. "I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip. That still hasn't healed properly and now I'm nursing a break to the same bone, just above the knee. "This time I was putting a rug on a horse and it lashed out and got me." After being rushed by ambulance to hospital, Vallelonga had an 18-inch plate inserted, along with pins and screws and 54 staples. After a fortnight in hospital he is now home and able to use walking aids but spends the majority of his time in a wheelchair. "It's very painful 24/7, but it's also just so frustrating sitting around. There's only so much television you can watch, and I have to rely on my partner Elizabeth or other family to get me outside into the sunshine and take me to appointments," he said. Vallelonga had a team of 12 in work at the time of the accident, but most have now been placed with other trainers. "It's going to be a long road ahead, but I'll get there," he said. Vallelonga said incident had come "out of the blue". "That particular horse has never been like that," he said. "Not that I take any chances with any of them anyway, we all learn that pretty much early days, but it does go to show that something like that only takes a second." "I'll be back, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on recovery."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Change is a constant, in racing as in life, and the time-honoured Tontine Championships have undergone plenty since the lightly raced five-year-old gelding Kiwi Conference and his trainer/driver Peter Rothacker took out the inaugural title at Ararat back in March 1981. Kiwi Conference raced four times in 12 days to earn the Tontine crown in a last-man-standing series of heats, semis and final - the brainchild of John Fladgate, then President of the Hamilton HRC, and staged jointly by the original members of the south-west zone (Ararat, Hamilton, Horsham, Stawell and Ararat). Changes since include a switch for the pacers from standing starts to the mobile, introduction of a handicap series for squaregaiters, a $10,000 clean sweep bonus, brief inclusion of Geelong and Ballarat clubs into the mix, stakemoney parity for both gaits, separate venues for pacers and trotters series, a flirtation final at Melton (Charlie Machsheen, 2013, pictured) and more recently the Tontine as a one-off feature event. Some things haven't changed during the nearly 40-year history of the Tontine - the winning connections collect a decent stakemoney cheque and the race is often a springboard to bigger and better things, for example past winners Kentucky George (33 wins), Noopy Kiosk (34), Lombo Rapida (27), Acacia Ridge (22), Flaming Flutter (24,) Supersonic Miss (17) and Deltasun (17). The 2020 editions of the Tontine pacing and trotting championships will be hosted by the Stawell Harness Racing Club at Laidlaw Park on Monday, January 27. The $25,000 Trackside Bar & Bistro Tontine Championship for Pacers (ms) and Trotters (ss) carry a trophy and inscribed rug for the winning owner(s) and trophies for the winning trainer and driver. Nominations for all events on the holiday Monday program close at noon, Wednesday January 22. Hoofnote: A noted absentee from the 2020 Tontine action will be legendary reinsman Gavin Lang, who with 10 mentions on the championship honour roll is unquestionably its ruling monarch. As Gavin continues his battle with a rare form of lymphoma, the thoughts of harness followers throughout the nation remain firmly with him and his family. Lang first took out the pacing series in 1985 when he saluted with Our Noble Rex NZ at Terang - strangely it's only win from 13 starts in Australia. Further Tontine success came in 1992 with Nunkie at Horsham, at Stawell in 1997 with Black Duke, and his amazing hat-trick in 2009, '10 and '11 aboard Jaccka Sandy at Geelong, Atlas Alliance at Terang and Seeful Pocket at Ararat. Lang's latest victory in the pacing section was in 2018 with Rishi at Geelong. Lang's trio of trotting Tontine titles were in 2004 Master Maori (Ararat), 2016 Tryncatchme (Horsham) and 2018 Deltasun (Geelong). CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THE TONTINE CHAMPIONS IN THETROTS.COM.AU'S HONOUR ROLLS   Tony Logan

Astute trainer Joe Petricevich, a leading light in harness racing in Western Australia in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, died last Friday night at the age of 97. Phil Petricevich, the youngest of his ten children, said it was quite moving that his father died just moments before the 12 runners got under way for the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park. It was on January 1, 1962 that Joe Petricevich achieved his most important success as an owner and trainer when Beau Travis, driven by Fred Kersley jnr and six days before his 23rd birthday, finished brilliantly and won by almost three lengths from the pacemaker Peppercorn in the 2450 pound ($4900) WA Trotting Cup over two miles, witnessed by an enthusiastic crowd of 16,000. A great conditioner of pacers and an excellent judge of a young horse, Joe Petricevich purchased Beau Travis as a yearling for 36 pounds ($72) and the gelding earned more than $20,000 in a wonderful career, which included a victory over Gay Society and Copper Chief in the 1958 WA Derby. Petricevich also won the 1964 WA Derby with the brilliant Rising Scott beating Good Grattan and Tugman. The distinctive Petricevich livery of red and gold horseshoes was also carried to victory by top-flight pacers Beau Corse (purchased for 80 pounds), Shagrim and Coneeda. Beau Corse notched his 16th win when Kersley drove him to victory over Defiance and Leuros in the 1961 Winter Cup; Kersley was also in the sulky when Shagrim won the 1967 Navy Cup and when Coneeda won the 1967 Fremantle Cup --- shortly after starting at 33/1 and finishing second to Binshaw in the 1967 Interdominion championship final. Petricevich also enjoyed considerable success in the 1990s with Picture Son (16 wins) and Theresa Franco (seven wins).    Ken Casellas

Just four days after the TABtouch-WA Pacing Cup, attention has now turned towards the WA Derby and WA Oaks in the autumn with some of the key three-year-olds to step out this week. Bettors Delight colt Howard Hughes kept his unbeaten record in Perth intact with a comfortable 4.8m win in the Hygain Recuperate Pace (2185m) at Pinjarra. The Greg and Skye Bond-trained pacer showed a dazzling burst of speed in the home straight to run down race leader Tyron Terranova. Prior to the race, co-trainer Skye Bond told TABradio Howard Hughes was “relatively inexperienced” but hoped to have the colt ready for the WA Derby later this year. Earlier in the day, consistent filly Blockjorg produced a game performance first-up to take out the Fiber Fresh Feeds Equine Stakes 3YO Fillies Pace (2185m), her first career win in nine starts. The Hes Watching filly, who was placed in the Group 1 Diamond Classic last year, led all the way in 1.59.9 and held off Run For Mercy over the concluding stages. Meanwhile, tonight sees a small but select field set to do battle in the Etch Coatings 3YO Pace (2130m). Valentines Brook (barrier one), Awaiting Instructions (two), Gardys Legacy (five) and Alta Engen (six) are all last start winners and will be looking to push their claims for feature races. Matthew Scott trains Awaiting Instructions and said he was confident the gelding could make it four wins in a row against a high quality field. “He’s a pretty exciting type of horse,” he told TABradio. “He obviously went to Busselton to teach him a little bit. “A couple of races we had him in were falling over and the owner Mr Blee, being a country guy down in Manjimup, was pretty keen to run him down there. “This is a really good race for a Tuesday night. “Half of these horses could end up in a Derby without anyone being shocked. “Whether we lead or not, it depends on how much speed Valentines Brook shows.” Elsewhere, Friday night’s three-year-old event is poised to be one of the highlights at Gloucester Park. Double Expresso, Jaspervellabeach, Tiffany Rose, Manning and Howard Hughes are among the 13 nominations for the event.   Tim Walker

At the Hamilton and Alexandra College in Victoria’s Western District, staff encourage students to follow their passions while excelling in their studies. Year 12 student Olivia Biggs has done both since joining the school as a boarder in 2018. The young woman from Bendigo loves retraining harness racing horses, so having the school’s Equestrian Centre on the same site as the boarding house was a huge drawcard. “Working with horses that have been retired from harness racing gives them a second chance and living at the boarding house allows me to ride my horse, Grace, every day,” Olivia said. “During the week it is always busy with different sports and activities and on the weekends, I attend equestrian competitions and enjoy going on trail rides and relaxing with other boarders.” Principal Dr Andrew Hirst said Olivia’s experience was an example of how the school encouraged students to explore personal interests and make connections. “At The Hamilton and Alexandra College, we seek the best for and from every student and we remain determined that every student develops a strong appreciation for the importance of respect, gratitude, compassion, resilience and optimism,” Dr Hirst said. “Learning remains our core focus and centres us on achieving high academic performance while providing boys and girls with connectedness in life. “So, while I celebrate our impressive 2019 VCE results, l also promote our Year 9 China Experience and Year 10 Central Australia expedition. These pilgrimages provide significant rites of passage and enable direct experiences where we put the children into unpredictable situations and challenge them.” Olivia was the recipient of the college’s R.M. Ansett Scholarship. She said attending the school opened up opportunities beyond her equestrian pursuits. “As well as having Grace close by, I also take aviation lessons, sing in the choir and love basketball,” she said. “When I finish school, I hope to become a commercial pilot and I have chosen my VCE subjects with this pathway in mind.” Dr Hirst believes the school’s small enrolment of just 500 students is another one of its advantages. “Every student is known by their name and their interests,” Dr Hirst said. “It also provides an accessible platform for students to try new and different pursuits. “If students feel fulfilled in their areas of interest, they are more focused in the classroom and on their studies.” Applications are open for academic, general excellence, boarding and Old Collegian scholarships. Academic excellence deadline is February 7, with all other scholarships open until March 27. To find out more, visit: hamiltoncollege.vic.edu.au/scholarships. Reprinted with permission of The Weekly Times

The Cameron Davies trained Battle Chimes will commence from the one barrier in the running of the $50,000 Group 2 Multiquip Golden Guitar final on Thursday evening at the Tamworth Paceway. In taking out the fourth heat of the series last Sunday at Tamworth, the Sawyers Gully trained pacer was under the hands of Sydney reinsman Josh Gallagher. "The horse has got plenty of ability and hopefully he can go all the way in the final," Gallagher said after the victory. After enduring a four-wide run around the final bend with Battle Chimes, Gallagher pressed forward with the Tell All gelding after race leader Court On The Edge, from the Kerry McDowell stables at Mulgoa, broke stride. "We got a bit of luck coming around the final bend - it was a bit unfortunate for the McDowell stables," Gallagher said. To watch this race click here. Battle Chimes is raced by Maitland owners Vicki Kirkwood and her daughter Jess. "Hopefully we can get a good draw and be up there at the finish," Gallagher said. In his heat, Battle Chimes commenced from the three barrier and after the four-wide run around the field, went on for an 8.6 metre win over Majordoit (Tim Gillespie) and Court On The Edge (Madi Young) 3.7 metres away in third and a mile rate of 1.58.5. Battle Chimes recently contested the Maitland Inter City Pace, finishing third to Benalong Valley (Cameron Hart). The Hunter Valley also featured in the final heat, with the Maitland brother and sister combination of Brad Elder driving Ashark to a win in the Multiquip Poultry Golden Guitar Heat 5 for his sister Melanie who trains the Four Starzzz Shark gelding. "When the fields came out for the heat, we drew seven and we thought we couldn't have drawn any worse but it turned out a blessing," Brad Elder said after the win. "He trialled pretty good last week, so we thought we were some sort of hope in the heats. "He is a pretty good horse and just getting to where he needs to be now. and will be a good horse in the final." Sydney pacer Letterkenny Boy (Jarrod Alchin) led the field while Ashark was locked three back on the inside running line until 400 metres from home. Elder took a chance on the final turn when a split in running evolved to go on for a 2.3 metre win over, He Bettor Step Aside (Blake Fitzpatrick) and Gotta Moment 1.4 metres away third. Ashark held a mile rate of 1.58.0 for the entire 1980 metre journey. Brad Elder, along with his father Darren, won the 2019 Tamworth Harness Racing Club Golden Guitar Consolation with Dawn Magic, with Brad Elder now looking for the top prize. "I won the consolation last year and it's good to be in the big one this time," Elder said. Ashark has drawn barrier seven in the Multiquip Golden Guitar Final. Thursday's nine-race card begins with the first race from 5.33pm. The Golden Guitar final will be the sixth race of the evening and will begin at 8.06pm. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

The Steve Dolan trained Atomic Blast will now do his harness racing, and one would think winning, in the Northern Hemisphere after being exported this week. The son of Auckland Reactor had just three starts on New Zealand soil managing an impressive winning turn at Rangiora on the 3rd of January when fighting off the effort of JR Bromac throughout the length of the home straight. The winning effort came in just his second start with a gallop on debut at Banks Peninsula and a 7th at Timaru after mid-race work being his only other race day appearances. Atomic Blast’s sole win could be largely attributed to the strength of his dam Caroline’s Cullen. Caroline’s Cullen, by Christian Cullen out of a Holmes Hanover mare, amassed a small fortune in stakes after racing successfully throughout both Australasia and North America. While group wins remained elusive in New Zealand Caroline’s Cullen was competitive in top company particularly at age group level and raced with distinction in both the Jewels behind Beaudiene Bad Babe and Sires Stakes Fillies Championship Final behind Joyfulljoy. Her combined North American and Down Under record makes for terrific reading with 27 wins 28 seconds and 26 thirds for $346,049 in earnings. Gavin Smith and Caroline's Cullen A half sister to Atomic Blast is being offered at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Lot 88, named Bettor Blast, is a Bay Filly by sire of sires Bettor’s Delight and is the second foal out of Caroline’s Cullen. Caroline’s Cullen The wider maternal line has produced Cee New York (24 wins) and the Soky Atom mare Warm Soak whose progeny have been most impressive and include Hudy Haxwell (10 wins, 83K) and Hot Mach (6 wins, 50k)  Ben McMillan    

New South Wales harness racing has been rocked with the revelation the State's top training partnership is relocating to the United States. Record-breaking husband and wife partnership Shane and Lauren Tritton have decided to pursue their future careers in the New York region - a choice they say is prompted, in part, by the state of the industry in Australia. The couple shared their decision with family and friends this week and have advised key owners of their plans. "This decision has been made for many reasons, both business and personal, and to leave such a successful stable located in the world class facility (Menangle) is not without hesitation," Team Tritton said. "We would love to be staying in Australia for the rest of our careers, but the reality is the viability of a trainer and driver in harness racing in Australia is too volatile," they said. "We believe that in life we should always strive to reach our full ability, and the challenges of reinventing our stable in America will allow our techniques and understanding of this sport we both love to grow and prosper." Shane Tritton's father Peter has been operating successfully in the USA for many years. A number of the couple's key owners have elected to follow the stable and send their horses to the USA. "We're very grateful and proud they are willing to take this leap with us," the couple said. Team Tritton Stable at Menangle Park will continue with business as usual as the team prepares for the relocation. But the couple also sounded a clear "call to action" for the sport's governing bodies. "On a final note, we hope that those in control of harness racing can see they need to do more to make this great sport of harness racing bigger and better," they said. "In the past decade (it) has lost its viability to support participants who rely on it. "We have tried to stress this to those in charge without any reaction or concern for the issues that every trainer or driver in the country faces every week. "Please take notice those in charge need to do better for everyone in this industry who rely on it to survive. This is a sport and it should be fun - surviving isn't fun."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

ONE of Australia’s strongest and most successful stables is shutting up shop and moving to North America. In shock news today, Shane and Lauren Tritton announced it would be packing-up in NSW and moving to the US from May. “There’s still lots of work to be done, but I’m glad we’ve now finally made the decision,” Shane Tritton said. “It’s not an easy decision, of course, but we believe it’s the right one for us professionally and personally. It has to be said, leaving a world-class facility like we have at Menangle is a big decision “But believe in life we should strive to reach our full ability and the challenge of reinventing our stable in America will allow our techniques and understanding of the sport we both love to grow and prosper. “Most of our owners have chosen to follow our stable to the USA with their horses which we are very grateful and proud they are willing to take this leap with us. “The stable at Menangle will continue with business as usual as we work through the departure date in May.” Some of Team Tritton’s top performers over the years at Menangle include: Arms Of An Angel, Muscle Factory, Mach Beauty, Yayas Hot Spot, Franco Nelson and Suave Stuey Lombo. In breaking news of their moves through a media release, the Trittons also called for change in Australia harness racing. “We hope those in control of harness racing can see they need to do more to make this great sport bigger and better, as what it has become in the past decade has lost its viability to support the participants who rely on it,” the release said.   Adam Hamilton

Having paid $30 on the tote for his Downbytheseaside Victoria Derby heat win, Line Up has rocketed into series favourite for Saturday night's $200,000 classic after a favorable draw, which was broadcast live on Sky Racing 1 this morning. The Anthony Butt trained and driven three-year-old produced an eye-catching all-the-way win at Ballarat in Saturday night's heat, winning in a quicker time than the PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup. The TAB.com.au installed him as $2.40 favourite for the final after he drew gate three, directly inside fellow heat winner and Queensland entrant Governor Jujon ($2.80). "Everything says (Line Up) is in the zone," TAB.com.au's Adam Hamilton told the broadcast. "No horse has probably had a more solid preparation, he's going to be rock hard fit. I don't see Governor Jujon having the gate speed to challenge (for the lead). "He's going to need a lot to go right, there's not a hope he can sit outside Line Up and beat him on what we saw last week." Of the contenders, the emergency Be Happy Mach (gate 11) is next shortest, while fellow Victorians Soho Hamilton (gate 1) and heat winner Pacifico Dream (gate 9) were both listed as $9 chances. "Pacifico Dream had the run of all runs last week," Hamilton said. "He's got to be respected if they go hard up front." Good Form analyst Blake Redden has broken down the Derby hopes runner-by-runner: 1: Soho Hamilton ($9 with TAB.com.au) The draw gives him options but looks the perfect opportunity to sit on Line Up and take his chance via the sprint lane. 2: Hesty ($81 with TAB.com.au) Acquitting himself well to this level but unlikely to burn the gate and he’ll need luck. 3: Line Up ($2.40 with TAB.com.au) Looks like firing forward early and if he finds the pegs as expected he’ll give a mighty sight. 4: Governor Jujon ($2.80 with TAB.com.au) On paper a lovely draw, but when you consider the horse inside is the likely leader and won’t be handing over that advantage, it could get a bit tricky in transit. 5: Youaremy Sunshine ($26 with TAB.com.au) Tough customer so expect him to drift back early and work around if the speed slackens at any stage. 6: Mach Dan ($41 with TAB.com.au) Somewhat of an unknown commodity off the gate but he’s drawn very wide so unlikely to have been done many favours. 7: Virgil ($101 with TAB.com.au) He’ll be going back to the rear and looking for luck. 8: Bad To The Bone ($26 with TAB.com.au) Likely to end up three poles early and his best option looks to be playing for luck and looking for late gaps. 9: Pacifico Dream ($9 with TAB.com.au) Strong heat winner who draws the running line but he’ll need to improve out of his qualifier to be winning. 10: Perfect Stride ($11 with TAB.com.au) Hasn’t drawn particularly well but he might be suited to letting it all unfold early and then using his speed late. 11: Be Happy Mach (emg) ($4.50 with TAB.com.au) Poor in his heat and even if he gets a run he’ll need to turn it around pretty quickly. 12: Mirragon ($11 with TAB.com.au) Solid in his heat but the barrier draw has cruelled any hope he had. 13: Mach Da Vinci ($15 with TAB.com.au) Excellent in his heat but from outside of the second row he’s going to need everything to go right.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Not a day goes by when popular Adelaide horseman Paul Cavallaro isn't reminded of the serious injuries he copped in a sickening harness racing crash nearly 12 months ago. "I've certainly got aches and pains that I didn't have-but I'm still alive and our good horse (Culture King) come through it all okay," he said. And Culture King's runaway performance at his NSW debut at Goulburn on Sunday would have been just the tonic for the recovering Cavallaro. Culture King was sent north by Cavallaro and his owners (the Ready to Run Syndicate) to chase the riches on offer in that State over the next few months, in particular, the inaugural NSW $1 million pace at the end of May. Culture King is now under the care of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy at Cobbitty. "He's a lovely horse - he went super in winning at Goulburn," McCarthy said. "They went 1.57 but he did it so easy - and there's been a bit of a change of plans for him as a result. He'll now be aimed at the Chariots of Fire next month at Menangle," he said. The emerging potential of Culture King has no doubt given Cavallaro a kick along in his return to training after the injury. "I'm at the stables most days. However, I'm more or less just doing light duties. I don't know if I'll ever return to race driving, but I'm not really fussed if I do or I don't," he said. The race accident happened on Group 3 South Australian Pacing Derby night of February 9 last year. I'm Sir Blake, driven by star reinswoman Danielle Hill veered out sharply in the straight with a lap to go after it choked down and crashed into Major Exclusive (Darby McGuigan). Cavallaro, driving Culture King, was left with nowhere to go, resulting in a horrific pile-up. He was catapulted into the air before landing heavily on the track. Cavallaro was rushed to hospital with a fractured vertebra in his back, broken wrist and severe facial injuries, including a broken nose and lacerations. McGuigan was fortunate to escape injury, but Hill was also admitted to hospital with a badly fractured tibia. Remarkably, she returned to race driving in July and has been consistently in the winner's circle ever since, despite on occasions still feeling the injury to her knee and leg. Paul Cavallaro on HRSA’s Mobile Rolling recently (Watch the interview below) Cavallaro said that in the past nine months, he had been operated on six times. "I had a gaping hole in my face. My mouth was ripped halfway across my cheek in the fall. The first lot of face surgery just before Christmas didn't go all that well," he said. "The stitches dissolved early after just a few days, so I had to have more surgery, which was under local anaesthetic this time. "I felt fine afterwards when I was loaded with pain-killers. But when they wore off, I have never felt so much pain in my whole life." Cavallaro said that while his back was on the mend, he couldn't say the same about his wrist. "I don't think it will ever be the same again. It becomes quite painful because it's sort of bone on bone," he said. Watch an interview with Paul Cavallaro on HRSA's Mobile Rolling program. Cavallaro trains a small team with a number of helpers. "I've got Culture King's full brother, who is two, and he's in work and goes along okay. There's another two-year-old here, sired by Art Major, and a racehorse in Miss Iconic who is only lightly raced, but has a win and a few placings," he said. "Mark Billinger is doing the driving for me at the moment and he does a top job." Cavallaro is a member of a strong harness racing family, with his father Neil being most successful over many years. His sister Angela (Chapman) is also involved and recently won at Kapunda with brown mare Sally MacLennane, prepared by her father.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Oaks has been thrown wide open after pre-draw favourite Stylish Memphis drew outside the back row, which has meant opportunity knocks for her rivals in the $150,000 classic. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's talented raider was impressive in winning her heat but the fellow Kiwi who pushed her all the way, Dr Susan, has rocketed into favourite for Saturday night's 2760-metre Group 1 after drawing gate 5. "First money that came in was for Dr Susan," TAB's Adam Hamilton told this morning's live Sky Racing broadcast. "I expect her to lead." Dr Susan shortened from $3 into $2.50 post-draw, while Stylish Memphis eased from $2.70 to $2.80 and Victoria's leading hope Maajida, who drew gate 9, eased from $3 to $3.20. "It looks a match in two and a half," Hamilton said. "I thought Maajida was just OK winning her heat. She will be a lot fitter for the run. "There's almost no scenario in which Stylish Memphis isn't sitting outside the leader with a lap to go. I think she's faster than she is strong, it might not be down her alley. Maajida looks probably our only hope of fending off the Kiwis." Good Form analyst Blake Redden has broken down the Oaks hopes runner-by-runner: 1: Jenden Strike ($14 with TAB.com.au) Perfect draw after an excellent heat performance. She comes in as a serious winning chance now. 2: Amelia Rose ($17 with TAB.com.au) Was less than spectacular in her heat and would have to jump out of the ground to be a factor even from the nice gate. 3: Rockingwithsierra ($31 with TAB.com.au) Draws handily but probably can’t cross the polemarker and she may be a half level below the better fillies. 4: Good Faith ($51 with TAB.com.au) One of the eye catchers out of the heats and she draws to lob somewhere handy to the speed, which makes her the best roughie in the race. 5: Dr Susan ($2.50 with TAB.com.au) This draw may look OK on paper but when you consider where her major dangers have drawn, it’s bordering on spectacular. Favourite now? 6: Its Ebonynivory ($201 with TAB.com.au) She’ll be going back and look to run on late. 7: Itz Longtall Sally ($101 with TAB.com.au) Similar story to the above and she’s unlikely to feature but has a bright future. 8: Soho Gloria Jane ($41 with TAB.com.au) This girl doesn’t have many options but she can follow through early and hope to end up no worse than three pegs. If she lobs behind the leader then she’s a solid place hope. 9: Maajida ($3.20 with TAB.com.au) This filly is no one-trick pony so the draw doesn’t cruel her and from the running line Amelia Rose uses her gate speed, she may be able to get in front of her major dangers. 10: Dasha The Great (emg) ($201 with TAB.com.au) She’ll be looking for a quiet run if she gets into the field. 11: Alice Kay ($26 with TAB.com.au) Sit/sprint filly who will need luck but the draw may not be as bad as it first looks on paper. 12: Its Beaujolais ($151 with TAB.com.au) Nice filly who will look for the pegline early and hope to be running on. 13: Stylish Memphis ($2.80 with TAB.com.au) Truly horrible draw for what could have been the odds-on favourite. She comes right back to the field now and while she can clearly still win, her job has been made incredibly difficult.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

A STUD career is being considered for injury-plagued pacer The Storm Inside. Set to contest last Saturday night’s Ballarat Cup, The Storm Inside was scratched from the Group One after breaking his near-hind sesamoid. Having rushed the stallion to the veterinary hospital, trainer Emma Stewart stated the priority is to save The Storm Inside’s life. “Having him stabilised and saved was all we were concerned about,” Stewart said. “He is a wonderful horse to be around and keeping him around longer is all that matters. “Even when he is back to full strength his racing are over and he will more than likely stand at stud. “We’ve recently purchase the property next to ours and may even look at standing him there.” Unbeaten from six two-year-old starts – including the Group One Australian Pacing Gold Final – The Storm Inside had his season, and almost his life, cut short. After being rushed to the vet with a severe throat infection, the son of Rocknroll Hanover was found to have an absence in his lung. “It was pretty scary at the time,” Stewart recalled. “We weren’t sure how things were going to end up with him. “He was given a good break to make sure he was fully over it.” To Stewart’s dismay, The Storm Inside’s return to racing was short-lived as the colt managed one three-year-old start – which he won – before suffering a leg injury. Found to have fractured a cannon bone, The Storm Inside was again placed in a paddock to recover. Fast forward 18 months and The Storm Inside was successful in four of his five comeback outings before again fracturing his cannon bone. Sidelined for 13 months, the six-year-old had seven starts for five wins and a second leading up to his latest injury. “As an early two-year-old we declared he was one out of the box and he could have been anything if it wasn’t for injury,” Stewart said. “He had it all, speed, stamina and temperament…we just never got to see the best of him. “Maybe one day will see his best come out in one of his foals.” The Storm Inside is retired with 16 wins and two seconds from 19 starts for earnings of $311,125.   APG Media

Emma Stewart looks to have a stranglehold on the final of the Mercury80 after scoring a third win in the four-heat series at Tabcorp Park Melton. And the Cardigan-based trainer also appears well placed to secure the lucrative bonus for connections of Fourbigmen, who set a new benchmark time of 82.1 seconds on Friday night. The fastest winner in the series snares an extra $20,000, half of which is collected by owners and the other half split by the trainer and driver. Chris Alford drove the first heat winner Liftntorque on New Year’s Eve and was at the controls on Friday night as Fourbigmen darted through along the sprint lane to land a convincing five-metre victory. “He had a nice run in there behind the leader and the pace was on sort of all the way. He felt really good and once the run came, he just powered through then,” Alford said. The champion reinsman said he wasn’t bothered if he drove Liftntorque or Fourbigmen in the final. “They’re both nice horses… whichever one they put me on I’ll be happy with,” Alford said. Michael Stanley’s Soho Nolita came home strongly to pip leader Major Exclusive for second, therefore booking a place in the $50,000 final next Saturday night. The qualifiers for the feature from the first three heats include: Liftntorque (Emma Stewart), Van Mara (Andy Gath), Always Fast (Emma Stewart), Gilty Hanover (Kari Males), Off The Radar (Richie Caruana) and Call Me Hector (Matthew Cooper). While his father Ted missed out on reaching the Mercury80 final with Major Exclusive, who is the final's emergency, young trainer Blake Caruana scored his second career win as a trainer at Melton on Friday when Better Exclusive produced a long-odds victory in the Allied Express Pace Final (2240m, NR 56-66). Caruana was ill and unable to make the track on Friday night, but would have had something to smile about as the horse dug deep to hold off runner-up Dan Fernando by a head on the line. “Blake would have been jumping up and down in the bed, that’s for sure,” young driver Connor Ronan said. “It was a big step up in class tonight. Three starts ago he won the equivalent to a C1 and then to win a race like this, where there are some very nice horses in it, it’s a credit to the team and the horse.” HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Harness racing superstar Greg Sugars has had a whirlwind week in the sulky - but he saved the sweetest moment for last, with his unashamed stable "favorite" Little Peanut. The undisputed highlight of the week was Sugars' victory in the $110,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup on Saturday night with rising New Zealand star A Gs White Socks for Greg and Nina Hope. But it was the more modest $14,500 Wedderburn cup victory on Sunday, with former brilliant juvenile Little Peanut (Blissfull Hall-Janbob (Speedking) that was perhaps the emotional high point for Sugars and his partner Jess Tubbs. A memorable week began when Tubbs and Sugars took out a double at Warragul last Sunday with Little Peanut and Robert The Bruce (McCardle-Bumble Bee). The latter then followed up by winning again at Melton on Friday night and the dream run continued with the Ballarat Cup victory, and with Sugars also qualifying the brilliant Emma Stewart-trained filly Maajida (Somebeachsomewhere-Arterial Way (Art Major) for the final of the Victoria Oaks. Then on Sunday Sugars made it a weekend cups double with Little Peanut. Little Peanut “tastes” success in the Wedderburn Pacing Cup (Wedderburn HRC Photo) "You don't get weeks like that too often - and I took a short break in New Zealand to catch up with some friends during the week, so maybe I should do that more often!" Sugars joked. "It's been a long road with Little Peanut - but that's the most satisfying thing. Firstly, that he's back on track, but also that he's racing so well," he said. Little Peanut is pint-sized, but the handsome chestnut has personality plus and he quickly endeared himself as a stable favorite when arriving at the Tubbs-Sugars establishment Larajay Park as a yearling. He was a terrific youngster, taking out a heat of the NSW Breeders 2yo Challenge and finishing second in the final, before winning the Mildura Guineas and the Central Victorian Pacing Championship in his three-year-old season. As a four-year-old, he was Chariots of Fire bound when he went amiss early last year, suffering a sesamoid injury. "He had an operation and the recovery is always a slow one, but for a while it didn't look too good for him," Sugars said. "But credit to Brian Anderson and the team at Ballarat Equine Clinic that we were able to overcome the issues and get him sound and eventually back in work," he said. "Jess and I did most of the work at home with him and he's a real character and he loves attention, so that was probably a plus in his recovery. But it also did make it extra special just to be able to get him back to the track - to win at his second start, then the Wedderburn Cup. We are just so proud of him." Sugars said he didn't expect the pacer would ever be "100 percent back to what he was". "But he's a little favorite, and always has been, so it's just great that he's been able to get this far." The Wedderburn Cup win made it back-to-back in the Central Victorian feature for Sugars after taking out the race last year with Emain Macha. Not so, regarding the Ballarat Cup, which Sugars has finished runner up in twice on Sushi Sushi in 2012 and 2013. "Sushi Sushi is another of my all-time favorite horses, so it was satisfying to win it this time on A Gs White Socks - a great thrill," Sugars said.                                                                                                            --Ballarat HRC photo "It was my first time sitting behind this horse, but he's such an easy going free-roller. He was just cruising, I was very confident a long way out." A Gs White Socks' Ballarat Cup win was a more than impressive warm up to the pacer's main mission on this campaign - the AG Hunter Cup in two weeks.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Club Menangle has moved to ensure that harness racing owners and trainers have every opportunity to provide their three-year old fillies with appropriate lead-in races into the John Gibson Memorial Oaks. The John Gibson Memorial Oaks will be held on 29 February, on Ladies Night of the 2020 Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles, at Club Menangle. Ladies Night, in the middle of the Sky Racing Carnival of Miracles, will showcase the best of Australasia’s fillies and mares with the Group 2 Allied Express Pink Bonnet for two-year old flies, the Group 1 Bodens Projects Ladyship Mile for the mares and – of course – the time-honoured race for three-year-old fillies, the John Gibson Memorial Oaks. Club Menangle Racing Manager, David Wonson has highlighted the racing program developed by Club Menangle to provide the appropriate lead-in during February into the Oaks. David said that Club Menangle is conscious of the need to provide opportunities for owners and trainers to condition their horses for what is the premier event on the New South Wales three-year old fillies racing calendar. The John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks will showcase some of the best fillies in Australasia. However, a race over the Oaks distance of 2400m requires suitable lead-in opportunity and Club Menangle recognises that need. In keeping with Club Menangle’s commitment to filly and mare racing, the John Gibson Memorial Oaks program includes every opportunity for the successful finalists to position themselves for glory. David asked all owners and trainers to note the following race program developed for the three-year old fillies: 8 February – $14,280 Three-year old fillies’ race over 2300m 22 February – $20,000 Heats of the John Gibson Memorial Oaks over 2400m 29 February – $200,000 The John Gibson Memorial Oaks over 2400m Club Menangle Director, Daniel Cordina echoed David’s comments and emphasised the Board was conscious that for the three-year old fillies to peak on Oaks Night, they needed opportunity to race over the longer distances, prior to the race. The John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks recognises the dedication of John Gibson, a NSW standardbred breeding legend who, with wife Mary, made a significant contribution to juvenile harness racing in this state. Club Menangle believes John would have welcomed the 2020 NSW Oaks program. Daniel said this program, developed by David for the Club Menangle Board, needed to be on the radar of all trainers who have a NSW Oaks campaign mapped out for their horses. Club Menangle