Day At The Track

Better things to come for young team

04:00 PM 13 Sep 2019 NZST
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Blake Jones Driver of the Year,Harness racing
Blake Jones Driver of the Year and being presented with his trophy by Albury Harness Racing Club President Sue van de Ven and major sponsor Graeme Edgar, president of the Commercial Club Albury Limited
Albury HRC photo

Formidable young Riverina harness racing team Blake Jones and Ellen Bartley are already setting their sights higher-despite taking home a swag of seasonal trophies for 2018-19.

"We probably did okay and there were a few memorable nice milestones along the way," Jones said.

"Ellen trained her 100th winner in her career and we had a few city winners, including So Kool Master who won at Menangle at 30/1," he said.

The bay gelding So Kool Master (Passmaster Hanover-Set To Shine (Fake Left) proved too good for his rivals at Menangle's final meeting for the season on August 31 with victory in the $20,400 Australume Pace.

And while 2018-19 was undoubtedly a successful year, Jones and Bartley have wasted no time in kicking off the new season with a double at Wagga Wagga's Riverina Paceway.

Hunza Valley (Betterthancheddar-Havana Franco (Christian Cullen) and Mammals Prince (Rock N Roll Heaven-Mammals Rocket (Pacific Rocket) both scored impressive wins at the opening meeting.

The young couple is based at Coleambally, and although there's no local track, there's a strong program of Riverina racing at Wagga Wagga, Leeton, Young and Albury.

"Where we live is terrific for being able to race in both States. If we happen to come across a horse that's good enough, we can race at either Menangle or Melton because it's around a six-hour drive to either one," Jones said.

Jones scored a back-to-back win in the leading driver premiership at Albury. He was also the top driver at Wagga and these two titles helped him in taking the Riverina Reinsmen's Crown, judged on performances at tracks across the affiliated clubs.

"I finished with 86 wins, which was a bit down on the previous season when I drove 108 winners in the Riverina and another eleven in Victoria," Jones said (his 2017-18 tally was a district record).

"I try and compete at most of the meetings around here. It's a two-and-a-half hour trip to Wagga, but I didn't miss too many. It's awesome with the new 1000 metre track," he said.

"Apart from our own team, which is always near eight to 10, I get drives from a lot of other stables. You certainly appreciate and need this support."

Jones has been driving for 12 years after honing his skills with the help of his grandfather Joe Painting.

"When I was still at High School I would be around at his place nearly every night. He only trained a few as a hobby, but I learnt so much," Jones said.

Bartley, who has been training for only five seasons, combines stable duties with an Equine Sports Therapist business. She is often seen in the Riverina as well as surrounding areas such as the Victorian Goulburn Valley working as a massage therapist.

Other Albury seasonal awards were announced at a special presentation night recently.

Premier trainer was Hellen Scott, a former leading Melbourne basketballer in the 80s, who enjoyed another stellar season at the racetrack. Equal runners-up were Ellen Bartley and Lyn Hancock.


Hellen Scott, Trainer of the Year                                    (photo courtesy Cobram HRC)

Horse of the Year was Bater House, a grand campaigner for the McPherson family.


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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