Day At The Track
Search Results
33 to 48 of 226

IT was a rare Miracle Mile night without much All Stars “flavour”, but they still found a way to snare a win. The emerging Im Anothermasterpiece, who had no luck in a Miracle Mile qualifier the week before, did a power of work and was simply too strong and classy in a free-for-all. And the time was brilliant, a 1min53.3sec mile rate for the long 2400m trip. “It was a really good effort because I had to make my run a long way from home and the leader was going quick, but his owners are over here and it’s great to win for them on a night like this,” co-trainer and driver Mark Purdon said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ BARRY Purdon won the feature mares’ race on Miracle Mile night, but just not with the mare most expected. Havtime, regarded as a stable second-stringer to glamour mare Belle Of Montana, produced a career-best 1min50sec flat mile to upstage a crack field. It was a confident front-running drive from Robbie Morris, copping pressure through a 54.2sec first half, but pinching a break on his key rivals around the home bend. Our Princess Tiffany, who did some early and mid-race work, ran on strongly along with Belle Of Montana, but they never looked like catching the leader. Havtime won by 4.4.m over Our Princess Tiffany with Belle Of Montana another metre away in third spor. “I wanted to hold the front provided they didn’t go crazy. She’s been going so well and it’s great to get this win for Barry,” Morris said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S amazing to think Our Uncle Sam cost just $3000 at the Bathurst yearling sales. The Frisby family’s pride and joy surged passed $600,000 in career earnings when he successfully defended the Group 1 free-for-all title he won last year at Menangle on Saturday night. It was a fitting reward after an NZ campaign last year which was littered with bad luck, poor draws and a dislike for the reverse way of going in Auckland. Driver and co-trainer Anthony Frisby won the race when he attacked successfully for the lead from Galactic Star mid-race then dictated terms with splits of 29.2 (1200-800m) and 29.1 (800-400m). Our Uncle Sam ripped home in 26.1sec and fought-off a challenge from The Black Prince by 1.4m with Kiwi pacer Mach Shard making late ground from three pegs for third. “We never have much luck with draws, but we did this time and made the most of it,” Frisby said. “We were a bit lucky because we got things our own way once we got to the front, but he still sprinted home really well.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________ BIG Jack Hammer joined Our Uncle Sam as a back-to-back winner with his victory in the Group 1 Aquagait Trotters’ Mile at Menangle. It was a fantastic trainer performance from David Aiken to rebuild Big Jack Hammer’s confidence and target the race after an Auckland Inter Dominion campaign where he was never comfortable the other direction of racing. And Josh Aiken, David’s son, kept it in the family with a superb drive, summing it up well early by dropping in behind the leader, Tough Monarch, “Gee I was confident in the run. It was the perfect trip for him and he felt so good,” Josh said. “It’s extra special to win this one tonight because it’s Dad’s birthday too.” Big Jack Hammer headed a Victorian trifecta, holding-off the late swooping Red Hot Tooth to win by half a neck with the emerging Sammy Showdown getting in third spot in a 1min54.7sec mile. The two Kiwi runners, Temporale and Massive Metro, were below their best in eighth and sixth spots respectively. Hot favourite Dance Craze, lethal with a sit, had to sit parked and never look comfortable before tiring late for ninth. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ BRIAN Portelli had a Miracle Mile night to remember. His Bettors Delight gelding Tasty Delight won the Group 2 Sapling Stakes in upset style. “That’s my first Group win as a trainer or driver,” Portelli beamed. Tasty Delight had the last sit on stablemates and favourites Lochinvar Chief and Patsbeachstorm and finished over the top of them in a 1min52.4sec mile. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ THE powerhouse Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin barn is starting to unleash their latest juvenile crop. The pair snared the quinella in the Sapling Stakes at Melton on Saturday night with Ideal Dan, raced and bred by Danny Zavitsanos, beating stablemate Idyllic in a 1min55.1sec mile rate for 1720m. Mick Stanley’s highly-rated Drain The Swamp was a good third after doing the work outside the leader. Over in Adelaide, he Stewart-trained Treachery thrashed her rivals by a thumping 24.8m winning a heat of the Allwood series with Kima Frenning in the sulky. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ THERE is something exciting about watching breakaway leaders, whether it’s in the gallops or harness. And that’s what Perth has now with Talktomeurmattjesty. The headstrong former Kiwi gelding ran his rivals ragged again, in stunning at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Driver Kyle Harper let him stride in front, opening up a huge lead on the bulk of the field with only his main danger, Chiaroscuro sticking on his back. Talktomeurmattjesty broke their hearts with splits over the last mile of the 2130m of 27.6, 28.2, 28.7 and 29.9sec. Chairoscuro couldn’t stay in touch from the 400m, dropping away to finish 24.5m away in second spot. The 1min52.9sec mile rate equalled Beaudiene Boaz’s track record. On the same card, exciting three-year-olds Double Expresso and Major Martini won their respective $50,000 Sales Series’ finals. Double Expresso, who may tackle the boys in the WA Derby on April, cruised to an all-the-way win in a 1 min56.1sec mile rate for 2130m. Major Martini was stunning, sitting parked and roaring away to win by 15.3m in a 1min56.6sec mile rate, capped by closing splits of 27 flat and 27.7sec. Another WA Derby hopeful, Franco Ecuador, made it three wins from just four starts in the last race on the card.   By Adam Hamilton

EVERYTHING points to Chariots Of Fire Lochinvar Art running a mighty race in Saturday night’s $1 million Miracle Mile, except the wide barrier. In the four years since the Chariots Of Fire was run before the Miracle Mile and became a “feeder” race for it, every Chariots winner has finished top three. It started with the All Stars’ Have Faith In Me who won the big double 2016. Then followed: Lazarus (third to Lennytheshark in 2017); Jilliby Kung Fu (second to My Field Marshal in 2018) and Poster Boy (third to Spankem last year). Trainer-driver David Moran insists he’s got Lochinvar Art “as good as ever”, but, like everyone, he’s worried about the wide draw (he’ll start from gate seven). “I’ve got a few days for it to sink in … it certainly doesn’t look any better than it did when they drew it (last) Saturday night,” Moran said. “I’ve tossed a lot of options around in my head, but I don’t think I can go forward early. I can’t see gaps appearing when you’ve got so many quick beginners like King Of Swing, Alta Orlando, Majordan and others. “I’m pretty much resigned to settling back in the last couple and then you’re in the hands of others … I’ll need them to go really hard up front to have any chance of getting into it. “He’s versatile, but there’s only so much you can do from a draw like that in a sprint race.” Moran said Lochinvar Art has thrived through his first few months in the big league, which included a Hunter Cup run. “He’s loving it. He’s one of those horses who loves the hard racing and gets better for it,” he said. “He’s as good as I can have him going into this week and he’ll need to be from the draw.” Lochinvar Art has been the biggest drifter on the Aussie TAB since markets re-opened after the barrier draw. He’s out from $3.80 to $5. AG’s White Socks (gate one) has also eased from $5 to $6 and even the favourite, King Of Swing (four) is out from $2.80 to $3.10. Alta Orlando ($21 into $9.50), Code Bailey ($6.50 into $5.50) and even Newcastle Mile winner Majordan ($14 to $11) have been the firmers.   Adam Hamilton

TALK continues to bubble away around a possible Swedish trip for star trotting mare Dance Craze. And it gained more momentum when she snared her third Group 1 win and downed Australasia’s best trotter, Tornado Valley, in the $100,000 Australian Trotting Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton on Saturday night. Once again it was Dance Craze’s sparkling speed, combined with a glorious Glen Craven drive, which won the race. An early move to sit parked turned into the coveted one-one trail for Craven when Tornado Valley ran to the lead and Wobelee came around to sit outside him. Tornado Valley spent plenty of petrol to find the top after Temporale initially held him out, but Tough Monarch then made a line of three and the leader surrendered after a lap. Dance Craze always looked dangerous and as hard as Tornado Valley tried, he couldn’t hold off the mare in a 1min58.2sec mile rate. “She’s a fantastic mare and has overcome so much to get the three Group 1’s,” trainer Anton Golino said. “She’s been so close in a few other Group 1’s as well, including this race last year.” Dance Craze joined her mother, former champion trotter La Coocaracha, on the Grand Prix honour roll. Temporale’s early burn hurt, but he held on well for third, while his stablemate, Massive Metro, ran sixth, Dance Craze, Temporale and Massive Metro are among those expected to back-up in the Group 1 trot at Menangle next Saturday night. Tornado Valley is staying home. Golino and the Yabby Dams team had a huge night with three-year-old filly Im Ready Jet thrashing her rivals in the Group 1 Need For Speed Princess final. The daughter of Quaker Jet cleared out by 23.8m in a 1min55.6sec mile rate for 1720m. _________________________________________________________________________________________ ANTHONY Butt simply couldn’t be in two places at once. As much as he wanted to be at Melton with buzz young trotter Elite Stride, he had to stay at Menangle for a string of key drives, including winning a NSW Derby heat on Perfect Stride. So Chris Alford jagged the drive on Elite Stride for Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati. Even by Alford’s standards, it was a drive he won’t forget in a long time. It may have well have been the first real sign of the greatness which awaits Elite Stride, who the Rosati’s bred (by Muscle Hill) out of their former US trotting mare Real Babe. Elite Stride, having just his fourth start, sat parked and roared away to win by a staggering 23.5m in the Group 1 Need For Speed Prince final. For a three-year-old trotter doing that sort of work, his 1min55.8sec mile rate for 1720m was amazing. “He’s got amazing talent and he’s learning all the time. He’s so exciting,” Butt said. Alford won another of the Group 1’s on the big Melton card when four-year-old mare I Am Pegsus just held-on in the $50,000 Breed For Speed Gold final. _________________________________________________________________________________________ YOUNG trainer-driver David Moran may already have found his heir apparent to stable star and Miracle Mile favourite Lochinvar Art. The buzz around Moran’s two-year-old gelding Patsbeachstorm was massive going into his debut run at Menangle last Tuesday. Although they didn’t smash the clock and the winning margin wasn’t great, the son of Somebeachsomewhere oozed speed and excitement. He appeared to be nursed through most of the last quarter in 26.1sec when he beat stablemate, Lochinvar Chief, by 2.8m in a 1min56.4sec mile. _________________________________________________________________________________________ MUCH-TRAVELLED trainer-driver Darren McCall added some genuine international flavour to the stellar Menangle meeting on Saturday night. McCall’s juvenile filly Girl From Oz is part-owned in North America, and caused a big upset as a $31 shot winning the $50,000 Group 2 Pink Bonnet Stakes in a 1min55.6sec mile. Many of the owners watched the race via Australia’s Sky Racing Active app in Canada. The race changed complexion big time soon after the start when hot favourite Soho Almasi was unable to lead then galloped herself out of contention. Girl From Oz is a daughter of out Heston Blue Chip out of Sportswriter mare Girls Go Racing. _________________________________________________________________________________________ YOUNG driver Stephanie Lippiatt had one of the biggest thrills of her career when victorious aboard Catch A Moment at Menangle on Saturday night. Lippiatt drew the plumb drive on the Amanda Turnbull-trained four-year-old in the Schweppes Lady Drivers Invitational and made the most of it. Catch A Moment ran a 26.9sec split to hold the front and kept bowling to win impressively in a 1min50.6sec mile. _________________________________________________________________________________________ THE connections of Bright Energy were left wondering what might have been after his sparkling Menangle win on Saturday night. The gelding was one of the Craig Cross runners controversially scratched for arriving late at the Newcastle Mile meeting. A win in the Newcastle Mile would have jagged Bright Energy a Miracle Mile berth. Instead, he dropped back in grade for a barnstorming win from off the speed in a 1min49.8sec mile in the opening race at Menangle. He’s set to back-up next week in the Group 1 Bohemia Crystal. _________________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER star Kiwi pacer Tintin In America landed a siring quinella in one of the feature races at Gloucester Park last Friday night. It was also a quinella for popular trainer Annie Belton when Lady Jadore beat stablemate Adore Me Some More in the $100,000 WA 2YO Fillies’ Sales Classic final (1730m) at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Lady Jadore, the $1.34 favourite, did some early work to find the front then took charge for a 3.4m win over Adore Me Some More in a 1min57.1sec mile rate. Lady Jadore is unbeaten in three runs. The colts and geldings version of the race went to the exciting Talks Up A Storm, a son of Artspeak, trained by Murray Lindau and driven by Dylan Egerton-Green. The gelding did plenty of work, but still cleared out to win by seven metres in a 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1730m. The Gloucester Park free-for-all went to Greg and Skye Bond’s emerging former Kiwi gelding Ocean Ridge   by Adam Hamilton

JOHN Dunn had one of his most rewarding nights at the track at Menangle last night. Not only did he drive giant-killer mare Bettors Heart to win the Group 1 Ladyship Mile for his uncle, Peter Bagrie, but Alta Orlando burst his way into the Miracle Mile as well. Just to round it out, Dunn soon learned Bettors Heart had landed a Miracle Mile berth as well. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” Dunn said late in the night. “That was so special to win with the mare. There were quite a few times along the way when we wondered whether or not we should take her across.” After so many minor placings behind the Kiwi glamour mares, Bettors Heart found her moment, and in stunning style, in Australia’s biggest mares race. She beat Our Princess Tiffany and Belle Of Montana on their merits and went a 1min49.7sec mile. But it came after a shock start where all the big guns were headed-off by outsiders Takara Truffle and then Hows The Memory. Dunn thought he could hold the front from the pole, but instead was buried three pegs soon after the start. “I thought it was all for me after 100m,” he said. “Luckily I was able to get some room and keep pushing away from the inside rounding the home bend until she got right to the outside. “It was a huge effort to give those mares a start and run them down.” Most trackside thought much-improved local Bettor Enforce, who burned midrace to take the lead in a 54sec first half, had held-on to win, but the photo showed a nose margin for Bettors Heart on the outside. Our Princess Tiffany was a terrific third after having to come four-wide around a struggling and rough going Belle On Montana on the final bend. Miracle Mile selectors were so impressed with Bettors Heart, they gave her a spot in next week’s big dance, ahead of the likes of Sicario, The Black Prince and HaiL Christian. “I guess I’ll be back here to drive again next week now,” Dunn grinned. _________________________________________________________________________________________ YOU could see the relief on Mark Purdon’s face. After a wretched week with injuries to Self Assured and Chase Auckland and overall frustrating Aussie raid so far this year, Purdon jagged a big one when Stylish Memphis bravely won the NSW Oaks. Purdon even drove a like a frustrated man, not leaving anything to chase after being crossed at the start and quickly regrouping to launch and re-take the lead. Stylish Memphis, who has shown a tendency to overrace, actually relaxed well once she found the lead and was able slow to a 31.1sec opening quarter of the last mile after a scorching 53.5sec lead time over the 2400m. Dr Susan, who burned the lead time from an outside draw to get to the front, simply couldn’t afford to lock horns again and try band keep out Stylish Memphis. Stylish Memphis quickened with a 27.6sec split from the 800-400m and then dug deep late to hold-off Its Beaujolais in a 28.8sec closing quarter. “I was really proud of her tonight,” Purdon said. “She had to go that hard early and then again to go around the take the lead, but the most pleasing part was how well she settled once I got the front.” Stylish Memphis blazed a 1min54sec mile rate for the 2400m. Maajida ran a terrific race for third after being such a big part of the early burn, while Dr Susan was a close fourth. _________________________________________________________________________________________ SMOOTH Deal’s frustrating Aussie trip took another twist when he missed qualifying for the NSW Derby. The All Stars’ three-year-old, who has struggled for his best form in this Aussie raid, ran fourth in his Derby heat (missing third by 0.2 of a metre) and is first emergency for next week’s Derby final. Anthony Butt qualified his star pair with Perfect Stride leading, dictating and winning the heat Smooth Deal was in, while Victoria Derby winner Line Up was second to Emma Stewart’s Pacifico Dream in his heat. The third heat went to Queenslander and Victoria Derby runner-up Governor Jujon. NSW DERBY FIELD (not in barrier order): Mach Dan, Line Up, Pradason, Percy Bailey, Sonny Weaver, Zeuss Bromac, Perfect Stride, Pacifico Dream, Governor Jujon. Smooth Deal (1st emerg), Rockin With Elvis (2nd emerg).   by Adam Hamilton

KIWI young gun Self Assured faces another horror draw again this week in his quest for a Miracle Mile berth. Rather than take the risk on his close second in the Chariots Of Fire getting him into the Mile field, co-trainer Mark Purdon opted to run Self Assured in $100,000 Group 1 Schweppes Sprint. And he drew wide again in gate 10, but will start from eight if emergencies Atomic Red (gate two) and Conviction (four) don’t gain runs. The key runners draw inside Self Assured include: My Field Marshal (gate one), Colt Thirty One (two), Mach Shard (three), Alta Orlando (five) and Hail Christian (seven). There’s also a big task ahead for the two draw outside Self Assured: Bling It On (11) and Our Uncle Sam (12). Hunter Cup winner King Of Swing gets his chance to snare a Miracle Mile spot after drawing to lead from gate three in the other sprint, the $100,000 Group 1 Allied Express Sprint. He’ll cross those inside him and it’s hard to see anything outside having enough early “ping” to head him off. The other key runners are: Chase Auckland (gate five), Cash N Flow (six), AG’s White Socks (seven), Im Anothermasterpiece (nine) and Code Bailey (11). _________________________________________________________________________________________ STYLISH Memphis has the draw in the NSW Oaks to turn the tables on Dr Susan from last month’s Victoria Oaks. Stylish Memphis snagged the pole and opened a $1.60 favourite on the Aussie TAB, while Dr Susan is way out in gate 11 and is a $4 shot. Star Victorian Maajida, who showed something like her best winning the other NSW Oaks heat last Saturday night, is a $4.50 shot from gate five. If there’s a query for Stylish Memphis is whether she has the gate speed to hold the front from the pole and, if so, whether she will settle if buzzed off the gate by driver Mark Purdon. _________________________________________________________________________________________ THE stirring rivalry between glamour Kiwi mares Belle Of Montana and Our Princess Tiffany looks set for another superb chapter on Saturday night. They dominate early betting for the Group 1 Ladyship Mile are both drawing well. Belle Of Montana has a slight advantage in gate two and is $2.40 favourite, but Our Princess Tiffany is right next door (gate three) and is $2.70 on the Aussie TAB. Last week’s eye-catcher, another Kiwi Bettors Heart, landed the pole and should get a lovely trip. She’s on the third line of betting at $5.50. The X-factor is Craig Cross’ mare Bettor Enforce, who has explosive gate speed and could challenge for the front early from gate four. She’s also at $5.50. The other Kiwi in the race, Barry Purdon’s second-stringer Havtime, drew the extreme outside and is a $31 shot. _________________________________________________________________________________________ LUCK could finally be turning Smooth Deal’s way. The star Kiwi three-year-old’s Aussie campaign has been below par so far, but he looked good winning a weaker Menangle race last week and has snared gate three in the third of the NSW Derby heats on Saturday night. He’s sure to be favourite from ideal alley, especially with major rivals drawn outside him in Perfect Stride (gate seven), Zeuss Bromac (eight) and Mach Da Vinci (nine). The first Derby heat looks ideal for young Queensland star Governor Jujon, who has gate speed and the pole. His only serious rivals looks to be Youaremy Sunshine from gate five. Victoria Derby winner and prepost NSW Derby favourite Line Up has struck a strong heat and a slightly tricky draw. Anthony Butt has some thinking to do from gate four, especially with quick beginner and SA Derby Mach Dan in gate two and the untapped Pacific Dream, who also has good early speed, in gate three.   By Adam Hamilton

THERE is just something exciting about Kevin Pizzuto being back in the biggest races. It wasn’t long ago he retired his champ Tiger Tara and now he’s back in the biggest of big Australian dances, the $1 million Miracle Mile on March 7. Pizzuto’s always rated his speedster Majordan a Miracle Mile horse, but everything went wrong this time last year, it’s a much better story this time. Majordan guaranteed himself a Miracle Mile berth – the first horse to do that – when he led throughout and broke the track record winning the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile last night. His 1min50.7sec mile sliced 0.2sec off Balraj’s track record. Although the doubters pointed to Majordan’s soft 30.3sec second split, the son of Art Major did burn through a 26.9sec leading quarter then went 26.5sec from the 800-400m before still finishing-off in 27sec. That’s a 53.5sec last half around Newcastle. Paul Court’s Kiwi pacer Hail Christian grabbed the eye, flying home from three pegs right along the inside to get within a head of Majordan in second spot. The Black Prince was sound in third spot after trailing the leader, while four-year-old Balraj closed well late after coming wide and ran a mighty fourth. Let It Ride was beaten for early speed from the pole, came and sat parked and held-on well for a seven-metre fifth. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ THE Newcastle Mile was marred by pre-race controversy when the three Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy runners were scratched for late arrival. McCarthy pleaded for leniency after presenting the horses – Bright Energy, Little Rascal and Wrangler - to stewards just six minutes after the two-hour cut-off. “The stewards tweeted at 2.09pm there was a fallen tree causing traffic delays, so we got the horses off the walker, loaded them and were on the road by 2.50pm. We’d normally allow three hours tops for the drive, but we left as soon as we could and that was four hours and 10mins before the cut-off,” McCarthy said. “We kept in touch with the stewards and actually drove through the gates of the track one-minute before the cut-off, but the traffic was so busy on a big night it took us another seven minutes to get through, unload the horses and see the stewards. “It was six minutes after the cut-off and it’s usual practice at a regular meeting for stewards to give 15mins of leeway, but not last night.” Obvious comparisons were drawn in the different approach Queensland thoroughbred stewards adopted just last month when traffic chaos delayed the arrival of buzz galloper Alligator Blood for the Magic Millions raceday. They put all races back one slot and the horse received a police escort to the track. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ CO-TRAINER Clayton Tonkin insisted the best was still yet to come for his star pacer Centenario, who had to be euthanized last Thursday night. The former Australian 2YO of the Year, who won 11 of his 17 starts and $332,520, broke a shoulder in trackwork and had emergency surgery. Sadly, the operation was unsuccessful and Centenario could not carry his weight on the shoulder. “We’re all devastated,” Tonkin said. “He was a real favourite, like part of the family, and he still had it all ahead of him. He was the best of our fantastic batch of four-year-olds.” In the past couple of months alone, Tonkin and co-trainer Emma Stewart have had major setbacks with stars like Be Happy Mach, The Storm Inside and Ride High, let alone previous setback with last year’s Chariots of Fire winner Poster Boy. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ VICTORIAN trainer Mick Stanley has started the juvenile season in stunning style. First came Soho Lanikai’s (Somebeachsomewhere-Obahma Joy) breathtaking 65.2m debut win in the Premiere Stakes at Melton on February 8 in a 1min54sec mile rate for 1720m. Last night (Saturday) Soho Almasi (Mach Three-Fususi) was never out of second gear leading throughout to win her first start by 16.4m in a 1min56.3sec at Melton. Both are raced by leviathan owner-breeder Rob Watson, hence the “Soho” tag. “We’re off to Sydney next week, Almasi for the Pink Bonnet and Lanikai for the Sapling Stakes,” Watson said. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ IT is so rare to see a filly beat the boys in a feature race, but that’s what exciting WA filly Double Expresso did at Gloucester Park last night. Ross Olivieri’s daughter of Sweet Lou beat buzz pacer Major Martini by a nose in a hotly-contested $40,000 Caduceus Club Classic and they went a slick 1min55.4sec for 2130m. Double Expresso, who won seven of her nine juvenile runs, was beaten first-up third campaign, but has since won three on end. The free-for-all was easy work for Aiden De Campo’s Handsandwheels, especially after the scratchings of key rivals Galactic Star, Bill Haley and El Jacko. Handsandwheels continued his fantastic season when he led throughout, dictated terms and zipped home in 27.4sec to beat Rock Me Over in a cosy 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2130m. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ ONE of Victoria’s most-improved pacers Deedenuto won an action-packed Group 3 Ararat Cup last night. Top young driver Jackie Barker teamed with leading trainer Emma Stewart for Deedenuto’s all-the-way win in a brisk 1min57.9sec mile rate for 2195m around the old-school Ararat track. The race changed dramatically on the home bend when Deedenuto’s stablemate, Our Millionaire, galloped outside the leader and effectively wiped-out the favourite and buzz runner General Dodge and he was looming strongly. Auckland Inter Dominion finalists Sicario continued his good recent form by finishing second. The Ararat Trotters’ Cup went to in-form trainer-driver Chris Svanosio with his son of Skyvalley, Kyvalley Finn. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ THE excitement continues to grow around regally-bred three-year-old trotter Elite Stride. Owner-breeder Emilio Rosati has been buzzing about the colt, by Muscle Hill out of his former US trotting mare Real Babe, since mid-last year. And Elite Stride’s two wins and a second from just three starts underline his potential. Trained and driven by Anthony Butt, Elite Stride booked his spot in next Saturday night’s Group 1 Need For Speed final by impressively winning a heat at Bendigo last Thursday night. He was helped by favourite Powderkeg breaking and losing all chance at the start, but Elite Stride did his share of work and won well in a 1min57.7sec mile rate for 1650m. His main danger in the final will be Maree Caldow’s Andover Sun, who won the other heat in a 1min57.8sec mile rate.   Adam Hamilton

YOUNG gun Self Assured will have to create history to overcome a horror draw and win Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire (1609m) at Menangle. The All Stars’ young star drew the dreaded outside alley (gate 12, will start from 10). No horse has won the Chariots Of Fire from the outside draw at Menangle. And Harness Racing NSW figures show only seven per cent of Menangle winners over the past 12 months (27 of 379 races) have come from the outside and that includes all distances, not just mile racing. Drawing the outside saw Self Assured’s odds soar on the Aussie TAB from $1.75 pre-draw to $2.80. In contrast, the money has poured in for Lochinvar Art, the horse who upstaged Self Assured in track record time in the 4YO Bonanza at Melton last month. Lochinvar Art has drawn gate five, but if the emergencies drawn inside him (Supreme Dominator three and Catch A Moment four) come out, he will start from barrier three. He was $4.50 pre-draw, firmed $3.80 after the draw and has since been backed into $3.20. He looks certain to challenge for favouritism. The other big winners from the draw were Demon Delight (gate one, $5), who was big behind Self Assured at Menangle last Saturday week, and likely early leader Max Delight (two, $5.50). __________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S great Princess Tiffany is headed to Sydney, but a huge task awaits her on Saturday night. Fresh from fibrillating at Addington last week, the megastar mare will start from the second outside draw (gate nine) in the last qualifier for the Ladyship Mile, the $50,000 Group 2 Robin Dundee (1609m). Peter Bagrie’s mare Bettors Heart drew gate seven and Steve Telfer’s Step Up has gate five, while Barry Purdon’s Havtime snared the pole, but will need to improve on her Sibelia Stakes run last week. WA’s best mare Our Alfie Romeo has also come across for the race, but drew the extreme outside. __________________________________________________________________________________ STYLISH Memphis has gate five in the first of the NSW Oaks heats on Saturday night. Her major rivals look to be Victorian trio Amelia Rose (three), Alice Kay (seven) and Its Ebonynivory (nine). Victoria Oaks winner Dr Susan should make light work of wide draw (gate eight) in the second heat with major rival Jenden Stride drawn even worse (10). The third heat should be the most competitive with leading contenders Vincenzina (three), Maajida (six), Our Antonio Rose (eigtht) and Its Beaujolais (nine). __________________________________________________________________________________ THERE is a Miracle Mile berth up for grabs in Friday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile. It’s a good field, but not as much star factor as expected with most of the biggest names waiting for the qualifying sprints at Menangle on Saturday week. Renowned speedster Majordan looks the leader and one to beat from gate eight, but other key runners include: Let it Ride (one), Hail Christian (two) and The Black Prince (three).   Adam Hamilton

ANTHONY Butt was the star of Victoria’s Summer Of Glory and looks a key player again heading into Sydney’s Carnival of Miracles. Butt’s two major Victorian winners, Dr Susan and Line Up, shape as the ones to beat against in the NSW Oaks and NSW Derby respectively. And he’s got Perfect Stride for support in the Derby, along with the consistent Make Way pushing for a Chariots Of Fire berth. Line Up, Perfect Stride and Make Way all step-out at Menangle on Saturday night. “Line Up and Perfect Stride go round in just a normal three-year-old race, but they needed the run otherwise it would’ve been five weeks between runs from the Victoria Derby to the Derby heats here,” Butt said. “It’s turned into a really strong race because horses like Governor Jujon and Youaremy Sunshine are using it for a lead-up as well.” Smooth Deal would’ve been there as well, but he was balloted out and will go around next Tuesday at Menangle instead. The heats of the Derby are at Menangle on February 29 and the final a week later on the Miracle Mile card. “Line Up and Perfect Stride are really well going into this week. They’ve come through Melbourne very well,” Butt said. “I’m driving Line Up and young Cam Hart, who drives a fair bit for Emilio (Rosati, owner), will be on Perfect Stride. “I actually don’t think there is much between them. Line Up had more lead-up racing and was primed for Melbourne, while Perfect Stride will have really benefitted a lot from those couple of hard runs down there.” Butt said the Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon-trained Dr Susan’s Menangle win last Saturday showed she was right on song for the NSW Oaks heats on Saturday week. “She did that well. She’s absolutely flying and her gate speed, combined with the fact she can switch off after burning early, is such an asset,” he said. Butt’s also hopeful Make Way, trained by his fiancé Sonya Smith, can secure a Chariots Of Fire start with another bold run in Saturday night’s Group 2 Paleface Adios. “He’s just that bit below the absolute best ones, but the top four from last week are gone. Yes, a few new ones come in, but he’s drawn ok (gate six) and a top five run this week should be enough to get him in,” he said. Butt foray into training, most specifically the private gig for Rosati and his wife, Mary, continues to go. He confirmed he was taking over Shane and Lauren Tritton’s huge double barn at Menangle when they leave at the end of March. “It’s perfect. It’ll give us 40 boxes and plus room for another five or so who prefer to be in yards,” he said. “We’ve already got 30 or so in work and the set-up Shane and Lauren have will be ideal to move into,” he said.   STAR Kiwi pacer AG’s White Socks headlines the field for Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 2 Terang Cup (2680m). Greg and Nina Hope’s stable star will chase a second Victorian country cup after his Ballarat success last month. Punters have already stepped-in to AG’s White Socks backing him from $3.50 into $2.80 with the Aussie TAB, despite drawing the back row (gate nine). In-form local Code Bailey, who ran fourth in the Hunter Cup compared to AG’s White Socks’ fifth placing, has the advantage of the front row (gate six) and is $2.40 favourite. On the same card, former Kiwi Ronald J has been backed from $2.15 into $2 to make a winning Aussie debut for Kate and Andy Gath in the Group 3 Terang Trotters’ Cup.   Adam Hamilton

THE countdown to the Miracle Mile really hots up at Menangle on Saturday night. The All Stars’ Chase Auckland (gate 11) clashes with former Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal (nine), the flying Alta Orlando (10), brilliant miler Majordan (eight) and classy Ignatius (seven) in the mile free-for-all. While it’s not a Miracle Mile qualifier, it could certainly help reshape betting on Australasia’s premier sprint race on March 7. It’s got all the potential for a blistering time with Majordan appearing a certain leader, but others realising they can’t leave him along as happened when he won easily last Saturday night. The Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy team settled on Alta Orlando as their runner this week out of their team of Miracle Mile contenders. “Alta Orlando’s had a frustrating time with missing the trip to Perth and then being scratched with something minor from the Hunter Cup. He’s raring to go,” McCarthy said. “King Of Swing will go straight to the qualifying sprints (February 29) and we’re still tossing-up where Bling It On and Cash N Flow will have their next runs.” __________________________________________________________________________________________ SUDDENLY buzz NSW pacer Balraj is under the pump. The former Kiwi created a huge stir winning his first eight NSW runs, but had to work hard in slick time to lead last week’s Paleface Adios Sprint then tired to finish ninth. He’s on the quick back-up in this Saturday night’s Paleface Adios just to try and make the Chariots Of Fire field, but has the outside draw (gate 12) to overcome. Sure there’s no Self Assured this week, but it’s still a high-class field of Chariots hopefuls including Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin trio Hurricane Harley (three), Fourbigmen (two) and Out To Play (eight). Other key players include Make Way (gate five), Grant Dixon’s former Kiwi Henry Hu (four) and polemarker Culture King. __________________________________________________________________________________________ THE three placegetters from the Victoria Derby clash again at Menangle on Saturday night. Anthony Butt’s winner Line Up and third placegetter Perfect Stride (seven) are their along with Grant Dixon’s Governor Jujon, who ran second in Victoria. Under the preferential draw, Line Up has gate 10, Governor Jujon 11 and Perfect Stride a slight advantage in seven. In an interesting move, tough Victorian Youaremy Sunshine, who ran fourth in the Victoria Derby, has moved to the Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy barn and has gate eight. It’s a ripper race and thankfully over 2300m ahead of the heats of the Derby in a couple of weeks. Another star three-year-old, Stylish Memphis, also steps out at the meeting after being a late scratching last weekend. The prepost NSW Oaks favourite has drawn the pole against older, but largely inferior rivals in the third race over a mile. __________________________________________________________________________________________ BARRY Purdon already has prepost favourite Belle On Montana on target for the Ladyship Mile and unleashes his second-stringer, Havtime, at Menangle this week. Havtime has drawn wide (gate nine) in the $50,000 Group 2 Sibelia Stakes (1609m) in a talent-packed field. The one to beat is definitely Craig Cross’ much-improved Bettor Enforce (gate 11), who went so close to upsetting Belle Of Montana in the Ladyship Cup at Melton on Hunter Cup night.    Adam Hamilton

THE All Stars barn will be looking to bounce-back from a very rare disappointing Aussie Carnival when they launch their Menangle assault on Saturday night. It was a Summer of Glory to forget for Australasia’s most powerful barn, who didn’t snare a major despite attacking with stars like Self Assured, Oscar Bonavena, Chase Auckland and Smooth Deal. Self Assured had to be content with two Group 1 seconds, but both were monstrous runs in the Ballarat Cup and 4YO Bonanza at Melton. Australasia’s most exciting pacer and prepost favourite for the Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile is looking to return to winning form in the $50,000 Group 2 Hondo Grattan (1609m) at Menangle this week. He’s there because the second to Lochinvar Art in the Bonanza didn’t qualify Self Assured for a Chariots Of Fire birth. The Aussie TAB opened Self Assured a $1.55 favourite and he quickly firmed to $1.45 from gate nine this week with his main rival being the untapped and explosive Balraj, who is a $3.20 shot from gate 10. Balraj, who is unbeaten in eight Aussie starts since coming from NZ, has brilliant early speed and will almost certainly pushed forward in search of the lead. This will be Balraj’s first run for new trainer KerryAnn Morris, who took over from Anthony Simiana. Morris’ husband, Robbie, takes the reins and has been the pacer’s regular driver. Classy Victorians Demon Delight (gate 11, $12) and Max Delight (12, $18) will also make their presence felt. _________________________________________________________________________________________ A ho-hum support race at Menangle on Saturday night could totally reshape the NSW Oaks. In an exciting twist for the already stellar card, Kiwi stars and the first two home in Victoria Oaks – Dr Susan and Stylish Memphis – will clash in a $14,280 fillies’ race over 2300m. It’s an ideal race to sharpen them-up for the NSW Oaks heats two weeks later. Under the preferential draw conditions this week, Stylish Memphis has drawn gate 10. Dr Susan is out of the draw after causing the false start in Victoria Oaks so she will start from the outside (gate 11). If there’s a blowout it could be emerging local Vincenzina, who stormed home from last to be beaten just half-a-metre by Dr Susan when they clashed in the Raith Memorial over a mile at Menangle on January 11. Vincenzina has since scored two impressive wins at Menangle, the latest in a blistering 1min51.8sec mile on January 25. _________________________________________________________________________________________ JIMMY Rattray’s decision to skip the Hunter Cup with Ignatius and stay home to build-up to the Miracle Mile could get a reward Saturday night. Ignatius has drawn gate two and will come into the pole if emergency Wrangler doesn’t get a run in the 1609m free-for-all. Star speedstar Majordan will likely burn forward and take the lead from gate eight, but Ignatius will be on his back or very handy. Paul Court’s Hail Christian, who went back and never got into a 2300m free-for-all when he resumed at Menangle last week, is sure to be fitter, but will need luck from the outside draw (gate 10).   Adam Hamilton

TRAINER Andy Gath has dismissed suggestions his star trotter Tornado Valley is past his best. In fact, Gath thinks the former Inter Dominion champion is “as well as we’ve ever had him” and the one to beat in a crackerjack $250,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star at Melton on Saturday night. Gath’s confidence was naturally boosted by drawing gate three, which gives Tornado Valley the chance to bustle out and, most likely, get the leader from Red Hot Tooth (gate one). Remembering Tornado Valley is unbeaten when he’s led in races during the two years he’s been in Gath’s stable. “I’m not sure what they base it on, if they say he’s not as good as he was,” Gath said. “He won the Maori Mile well and had to chase really hard to catch them up after he galloped in the score-up at Ballarat and still nearly won the race. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but everything tells us he’s as well as we’ve ever had him and he’s got the opportunity to lead from that draw. “There’s no doubt this is by far the hardest field he’s met, but we couldn’t be happier with him going into it. If he gets beaten, he’s just not good enough.” Gath is also expecting improvement from stablemate McLovin, who will be driven by Josh Dickie. “On face value his past two runs haven’t quite been as good as we’d have liked, but he worked well this week. In fact, it’s the best he’s worked since before he went to NZ,” he said. “I’m sure he’s good enough at his best, but he’ll need the race run to suit from the back row. “It’s a strange, but good situation to be in. If the race is run to suit Tornado Valley, then it won’t help McLovin and vice-versa. Hopefully the draws mean we’ve got both bases covered.” Gath remains wary of Oscar Bonavena, despite describing his run as “plain” in the Dullard Cup last week. “In 12 months he could be one of the best trotters we’ve ever seen, but people are forgetting he’s only four and hasn’t had many starts,” he said. “He’s taking on older horses, who have been racing at this level for two or three years. “There’s no doubt he was plain last week, but he’s much better than that. And you have full respect for Mark and Nat’s ability to turn him around in the space of a week. “He’s got such terrific speed, you have to respect him, especially if he can get the right sort of run.” Oscar Bonavena has firmed slightly from $2.80 to $2.70 favourite on the Aussie TAB, but Tornado Valley is challenging at $3. Temporale ($7.50) and Red Hot Tooth ($8) are next in the market.   Adam Hamilton

LAST-START Ballarat Cup winner AG’s White Socks heads four Kiwi runners in Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup (2760m) at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. The other Kiwis make the cut in the stellar field are: Chase Auckland, Triple Eight and Mach Shard. The barrier draw for the Hunter Cup and Group 1 Great Southern Star are being conducted at 10.45pm (NZ time) at a Caduceus Club function at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. As expected, emerging star Lochinvar Art adds some real X-factor to the Cup after his blazing Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton last Saturday night. “Bugger it, we’ve got nothing to lose,” Lochinvar Art’s trainer-driver David Moran said. “He’s off his head at the moment and the world is his oyster. He doesn’t have to be driven tough if the draw doesn’t go his way, but if he’s anywhere thereabouts he will be extremely dangerous. They’ll want to be on their game.” NSW trainer-driver Jimmy Rattray decided to stay home and focus on the Miracle Mile with Ignatius, but it still wasn’t enough for last Saturday night’s sparkling 1min48.8sec Menangle winner, King Of Swing, to make the field. He’s first emergency. King Of Swing’s co-trainers Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy still have three Hunter Cup runners with Bling It On, Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow. McCarthy will drive Bling It On, while his brother, Todd, will have the pick of Alta Orlando and Cash N Flow after the draws. WA star Gary Hall Jr is on standby in case King Of Swing gains a start. Kiwi pair AG’s White Socks and Chase Auckland share pre-draw favouritism at $3.50 on the Aussie TAB. HUNTER CUP FIELD (pre-draw): Bling It On, Lochinvar Art, Chase Auckland, AG’s White Socks, Alta Orlando, Code Bailey, Triple Eight, Mach Shard, Our Uncle Sam, Cash N Flow, My Kiwi Mate, San Carlo, King Of Swing (emergency).   by Adam Hamilton

JOSH Dickie’s Melbourne holiday just got a more exciting. Dickie came to Melbourne with partner, Sammy Kilgour, to watch her star pacer Bling It On chase the Hunter Cup. But now Dickie has picked-up a Group 1 drive himself, aboard the Andy and Kate Gath-trained McLovin in Saturday night’s $250,000 Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton. Kate Gath was expected to wait until tomorrow night’s (Tuesday) barrier draw to choose her drive, but has already committed to former Inter Dominion champion Tornado Valley. “Kate’s definitely driving Tornado so we offered Josh (Dickie) the drive on McLovin,” Andy Gath said. “Josh helped look after McLovin for us when he was in NZ and the Dickie’s also gave Kate a drive on Speeding Spur during one of his trips to Melbourne.” McLovin led and was rundown late when third to Temporale in the Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton last Saturday night. “We expected him to go a little better, but the lead time was quick and he had to really sprint-up down the back when Oscar Bonavena made his run at us,” Andy Gath said. “Maybe we’d also been a bit kind on him going into it, so hopefully he’ll be better for the run. I’m sure he’s right up to the best ones if he’s right at his top.”  Tornado Valley skipped the Dullard Cup after galloping the in the score-up, losing valuable ground and finishing second in the Cochran Cup behind Dance Craze on Ballarat Cup tonight. That gallop in the score-up caused more of a headache that just the Ballarat defeat for the Gaths with Tornado Valley placed out of the draw and requiring two trials to be re-included. “He’s had the first trial and will have the second at Melton tomorrow (Tuesday),” Andy Gath said. “Providing he does everything right in the trial, he’ll be back in the draw for this week, which is obviously crucial to his chances.” A front row draw is vital for Tornado Valley, who is unbeaten in Australia when leading since he moved here two years ago. The draws for the Great Southern Star and Hunter Cup are later than usual, being held as part of a Caduceus Club function at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow (Tuesday night).   By Adam Hamilton

SUDDENLY this Chariots Of Fire has a serious pulse. Just when most had conceded Australia’s biggest 4YO race to young Kiwi star Self Assured, things changed and in a big way last night. In one of the biggest shocks for a long time, Self Assured was beaten, and seemingly on his merits, in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton. And former Kiwi pacer Balraj not only stretched his unbeaten Aussie record to eight wins, but smashed the clock with a blazing 1min49.9sec mile at Menangle last night doing so. Balral led, cruised through a 56.5sec opening half then showed all his speed with closing splits of 53.4 and 26.2sec. He won by 21.8m. But let’s get back to the Bonanza where Self Assured did have to do the work outside Lochinvar Art, but never really looked like beating him. It’s understandable why when you see the time … a 1min48.5sec mile rate for 1720m. It’s the first time 1min50sec has been broken at Melton and took a staggering 2.2sec off Cruz Bromac’s track record. It was a bold, daring and confident drive from Lochinvar Art’s trainer David Moran, especially when he went for home with a big lead at the 400m. Self Assured chased hard, but Lochinvar Art was strong to the line and won very impressively with Moran giving a big very salute “He’s a legend, a champion this horse. I’m so chuffed I’m a bit lost for words,” Moran said. “We had a little issue with him before the Shepparton Cup, but he was fantastic this week and now it’s onto the Chariots.” While Lochinvar Art is now qualified for the Chariots, Self Assured will have to head to Menangle to try and qualify through the Hondo Grattan or Paleface Adios. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ MACH Shard capped his Hunter Cup preparation when he scored in a brutally run Group 2 Casey Classic (2240m) at Melton last night Driver Zachary Butcher’s patience was rewarded when he sat back while others went hard early or midrace and Mach Shard overhauled them late in a slick 1min52.7sec mile rate – just 1.2sec outside the track record set by Bling It On in the Victoria Cup last October. NSW raider Cash N Flow looked the winner when he swooped coming to the last bend, but was just nabbed late in a massive run. Triple Eight was far from disgraced in fourth spot after doing the work outside the leader and eventually working to the front in a 27sec second quarter. Thefixer tried to make a midrace move, but was trapped deep in that 27sec split and just battled into fifth spot. Mark Purdon was open before the race, saying Thefixer needed the run to top him off for the Hunter Cup so he still looks a major force next week. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ STILL on the Hunter Cup and could former NZ and WA pacer King Of Swing be a surprise starter? He brilliantly won just his second run for the Craig Cross barn in a scorching 1min48.8sec mile at Menangle last night.King Of Swing began well, sat behind Majordan and dug deep to get past the leader and then hold-off Ignatius in a stirring battle. Co-trainer and driver Luke McCarthy believes King Of Swing would certainly acquit himself well if they give the Hunter Cup a crack. Ignatius ran a terrific race for second in a performance which will surely entice trainer-driver Jimmy Rattray to tackle the Hunter Cup as well. __________________________________________________________________________________________ A KIWI brilliantly won last night’s Group 1 Dullard Cup, but it was veteran not the young gun most expected. Oscar Bonavena was all the rage, but had to burn to make a midrace move to sit outside the leader and then weakened alarmingly late to beat just a few rivals home. It was Temporale, so superbly rejuvenated by Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, who stormed home over the top a hot field to win easily. Talented local mare Red Hot Tooth led, sat on McLovin (who was rundown late for third) and ran a slashing race for second. The other classy Kiwi runner, Massive Metro, galloped down the back straight the last time, losing all chance. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ SYDNEY plans have been shelved for emerging WA pacing star Shockwave. The Golden Nugget winner, who locked wheels when looming as the winner in last Friday week’s Group 1 WA Pacing Cup, suffered some minor bruising in a hind fetlock in the incident. “It’s nothing serious at all, but Kevin (Jeavons, owner) and I agreed he had to be 100 per cent spot-on to go to Sydney, so we’ll stay home and give him a little freshen-up now,” trainer Ryan Bell said. “He’s not the sort of horse who enjoys spelling in winter, so he’ll have a winter racing campaign with a view to building him towards a crack at the Inter Dominion in Sydney at the end of the year.” ___________________________________________________________________________________________ JUST a week after winning their first WA Pacing Cup, Team Bond snared the feature race again at Gloucester Park. Former Kiwi gelding Ocean Ridge led throughout in slick time to thrash his rivals in the $50,000 Group 2 Nights Of Thunder (1720m) last Friday night. Ryan Warwick took the reins and just kept rolling with splits of the last mile in 29.2, 28.2, 27.4 and 28.3sec for a 1min52.6sec mile rate. “He hasn’t been the most tractable horse, but it’s coming together now and I think he can go on and win better races,” Warwick said. The other feature, the $30,000 Im Themightyquinn final, provided a narrow farewell win for Its Rock And Roll and trainer-driver Colin Brown. The talented four-year-old was sold before the race and, like so many others, is USA-bound. Another highlight of the night was the powerhouse front-running win of Barry Howlett’s Talktomeurmattjesty in the free-for-all. The big, bold gelding blazed over the long 2536m trip in a 1min54.9sec mile rate, just 0.7sec outside the new track record set just two weeks earlier by Caviar Star in the Group 1 Fremantle Cup. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ ANTHONY Butt is confident big-spending owners Emilio Rosati have found another major race player. Superbly-bred young trotter Elite Stride – by Muscle Hill out of their former talented US mare Real Babe – finally made it the races the first time and won by 50.5 metres at Melton last week. “I first drove him nine months ago when Noel Daley had him and he was getting ready for the two-year-old races, but he had a little setback and went out for a break again. Everyone felt then he could be a bit special,” Butt said. “We’ve been very, very patient with him, but it was good to get to the races and win that one the other day. I think Emilio and Mary were an anxious and interested in that as they were Line Up in the Derby. He’s their baby, they bred him. “This colt has the talent and potential and now it’s about bringing everything together and hoping he’s got the manners, etc. “I’ll give him a couple of runs through the Foundation series at Menangle now and the first real target for him is the Need For Speed back down here (Melton) at the end of February.” ___________________________________________________________________________________________ TOP trainer Emma Stewart snared the quirky and inaugural $50,000 Group 2 Mercury80 final at Melton last night. It was the final of a series of races over the 1200m scamper and Always Fast survived an early fight for the lead then easily won the final. He paced the 1200m in 81.5sec, missing a big bonus for breaking 80sec, but did it in fantastic style winning by seven metres.   By Adam Hamilton

AS is so often the case, Mark Purdon is the key player heading into tonight's huge Melton meeting. Purdon co-trains and/or drives favourites in four of the five major races on the night, including the All Stars’ two most exciting horses Self Assured and Oscar Bonavena. Self Assured has firmed from $1.50 into $1.30 with the Aussie TAB for the Group 1 4YO Bonanza, while Oscar Bonavena has been $1.85 into $1.65 for the Group 1 Dullard Trotters’ Cup. His other key players are: Stylish Memphis ($2.50 favourite in the Victoria Oaks) and Thefixer ($1.65 favourite in the Casey Classic). It looks a dominant hand, but but none of the four races are straight-forward on paper. “Self Assured has come through that huge run at Ballarat really well, but it looks like he’ll have to sit outside Lochinvar Art. He’ll still be very hard to beat,” Purdon said. “It’s hard to see how Oscar’s race will play out because there’s six off the front and six off the back, but he’s very well going into it. I think he’s also learnt a lot from the National Trot defeat and will be a better horse for it.” And barrier 13 has certainly presented a big challenge for Stylish Memphis, who Purdon has been caretaker trainer of and will drive in the Oaks. “It looks like Dr Susan will go straight to the front and if she gets it easy, she’ll be hard to run down,” he said. “Ideally I’d like to drive my filly to come with one run because she’s so fast, but that will depend on the tempo. I don’t want to have to put her into the race too early because she can get keen outside them, as she showed last week,” Purdon said. Even Thefixer has drawn the back row (gate nine) and although he has class over most of his rivals, it won’t be easy against fellow Kiwis Triple Eight (gate seven), Mach Shard (10) and locals like the luckless Ballarat Cup runner Rackemup Tigerpie (two), My Kiwi Mate (six) and in-form NSW visitor Cash N Flow (eight).   By Adam Hamilton

FORMER champion Kiwi driver Anthony Butt is genuinely buzzing heading towards Melton’s huge meeting on Saturday night. Despite his stellar record in some of Australia’s biggest races, headlined by seven Hunter Cup wins, Butt’s record in the Victoria Derby and Oaks has been bleak. Remarkably, he hasn’t won a Derby and has only jagged the one Oaks title, aboard Geoff Small’s brilliant Pullover Brown way back in 2003. “My one chance of winning the Derby was Lavros Star (1997). I won the heat on him, but got suspended and Ricky May won the final on him,” Butt recalled. The now NSW-based Butt is confident of turning it all around at Melton this week. And the punters have thrown their support behind him. Butt trains and drives heavily-backed Derby favourite, Line Up, who ran blistering time leading throughout in his heat at Ballarat last week and is drawn to lead again from gate three. He’s been $2.40 into $2.25 on the Aussie TAB since drawing gate three. “It’s a fantastic draw, especially being inside Governor Jujon, who looks the main danger,” Butt said. “Line Up really impressed me last week. He only came to us a couple of weeks before the heat, but obviously I’d driven him in those big races over in NZ. “He’d been working well and I was keen to hold the front. He did a terrific job in quick time after having to sprint three times. “He’s a great chance of leading again and has come through the heat win really well.” Butt’s hopes of winning a second Oaks sit with Cran Dalgety’s speedy and improving filly, Dr Susan, who led, then took a trail on Stylish Memphis and got clear too late when second in her heat at Ballarat. “She was only starting to wind-up on the line last week. I was keen to hold the front, but Mark (Purdon, driving Stylish Memphis) had one crack at me and then his filly started to pulling hard, so when he came again I took the trail knowing it was a heat,” Butt said. “There will be no handing-up this week, that’s for sure. We’ve drawn really again (gate five) and can hopefully find the front, while Stylish Memphis is outside the back and will have to work hard to get around the field and outside of us. “Maybe she will just be too good Stylish Memphis, but Dr Susan is one of those fillies who has just absolutely thrived on the trip away. She’s getting better and better.” Dr Susan has been backed from $3 into $2.50 and is now equal favourite with Stylish Memphis on the Aussie TAB.   Adam Hamilton

33 to 48 of 226