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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

FOR everything top WA trainers Greg and Skye Bond have achieved, they are yet to win their biggest home town race. But they certainly have numbers on their side with seven of the 12 runners in tonight’s $450,000 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup (2936m) at Gloucester Park. Team Bond had six of the 12 runners last year when El Jacko was their first home with a second to Rocknroll Lincoln. Their runners tomorrow night are: Our Jimmy Johnstone (gate 1, $21 into $7.50), Our Alfie Romeo (three, $81), El Jacko (four, $81), Mighty Conqueror (five, $5.50 to $3.80), Ana Malak (seven, $15 to $41), Vampiro (nine, $9 to $11) and Galactic Star (10, $7.50 to $3.70). Stable driver Ryan Warwick has opted to stick with the proven Galactic Star, from inside the back row. Their “fresh” runners, who didn’t contest last week’s Fremantle Cup won by Caviar Star, are the talented Mighty Conqueror and exciting former Kiwi mare Our Alfie Romeo. Mighty Conqueror missed the Fremantle Cup due to deep-seated hoof bruising and a final decision on his spot in the WA Cup won’t be made until race morning. “He seems really well, but the RWWA vets will have a look at home and it’ll be their call tomorrow morning. That’s fairest for everyone,” Greg Bond said. “It’s great to have such a strong hand in the race, we’ve got nice horses racing really well. “Galactic Star was stiff last week. He was coming into really strongly along the inside when he clipped the wheel and galloped. It didn’t surprise me Ryan stuck with him. “I think the mare will run a big race, too. It’s obviously a step-up, but I know on her work at home she’s up with our best horses.” Bond is eyeing-off a Sydney raid with Our Alfie Romeo for the Ladyship Mile. “I’m sure she’s up to it. I looked at Melbourne, but it’s too soon. She can have a quiet week after this then wind-up again for Sydney, everything going well,” he said. “If she goes to Sydney, we’ll take at least another one along with her. Whether it’s Galactic Star, Vampiro or maybe even both of them for the lead-up sprints to the Miracle Mile.”   Adam Hamilton

.MARK Purdon has plenty of thinking to do. Emerging star Self Assured is the best horse in Saturday night’s Group 1 Ballarat Cup, but he’s drawn the trickiest barrier – inside the back row (gate eight). He’s already drifted from $2.50 opening price to $2.60 with the Aussie TAB. Self Assured is one of two runners Purdon and Rasmussen have in their quest for a fifth successive Ballarat Cup win. Smolda won in 2016 &17, Heaven Rocks in 2018 and Thefixer last year. Purdon will drive Self Assured with Rasmussen aboard last-start brilliant Cambridge winner Chase Auckland (gate five, $5). Purdon’s big decision is whether to stay on the inside and risk being pocketed, or snag right back at the start and give away a huge head start to his rivals. The other Kiwi raider, dual Auckland Inter Dominion heat winner AG’s White Socks, is drawn to use his gate speed and possibly lead from gate four. He’s firmed from $5 to $4.60. Australia’s top trainer Emma Stewart has four of the 12 runners – Tam Major (gate one, $15), The Storm Inside (two, $6), Demon Delight (six, $18) and Phoenix Prince (nine, $13) – as well as the emergency, Somewhere Secret (gate three, $71). “It’s great to have such a strong hand in our hometown Cup and all of them are at the top of their game,” Stewart said. “Put a line through The Storm Inside’s Bendigo Cup run. He’s raring to go again, and Phoenix Prince is flying.” Tim Butt’s former Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal is a surprise Ballarat Cup runner after WA Cup plans were shelved because of ongoing plane issues. He’s a $21 shot from a horror outside back row draw (13).   BALLARAT CUP DRAW Front row Tam Major $15 The Storm Inside $6 Somewhere Secret (emerg, $71) AG’s White Socks $4.60 Chase Auckland $5 Demon Delight $18 Idealsomemagic $101 Back row Self Assured $2.60 Phoenix Prince $13 Code Bailey $11 Our Uncle Sam $21 Rackemup Tigerpie $151 My Field Marshal $21   By Adam Hamilton

STEWIE McDonald left New Zealand for Australia just hoping to drive some winners and now he's jagged a Group 1. And not just any Group 1, but the second biggest race in Western Australia, the $300,000 Fremantle Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park last night. The effervescent McDonald teamed with WA's champion trainer Gary Hall Sr and the improving Caviar Star to win a Cup stripped of its two stars, My Field Marshal and Alta Orlando, who were stranded in Melbourne by flight cancellations to Perth. Both are still set to fly to Perth this week for Friday WA Pacing Cup. "It would be easier for me if they didn't get here for next week, but that's not what I want. We need the best possible field," McDonld said. Back to last night and McDonald drove superbly, crossing two key rivals before sitting behind the surprise leader, Vampiro, and nabbing him late to win. Remarkably, they smashed Lazarus' track record by 0.3sec with a scorching 1min54.2sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. It continued his Hall Sr's dominance of the Fremantle Cup. It was his ninth win in just 19 years and he's won seven of the past 11. "He's no star this horse, but he's improving all the time and he tries so hard," Hall Sr said. Watch the video here. McDonald, who works for Hall Sr and is second string stable driver behind Gary Hall Jr, was a relatively late-comer to harness. "I only starting to get into it when I was 14 or 15 back home and moved to WA for more opportunities, starting out with Ross Olivieri, who was terrific to me early," he said. "I had that five months or so in Sydney, which didn't go as well as I'd hoped, then came back here to work for 'Senior'. We have our differences, but he's a marvel and I've got so much to thank him for. "Originally Gaz (Gary Jr) was going to drive Rocknroll Lincoln, but that didn't work out and he switched to Shockwave so it I stayed with Caviar Star. I really though we could give this a shake after he went the best race of his career the week before. "Give him a decent draw and he'll be right there again next week, he'll love the longer trip as he's such a great stayer." Vampiro was outstanding in second after blasting across from rhe outside, gate nine, to lead and setting the record times in front. The emerging Bill Haley had a checkered passage and ran on well late for third at his first try in the big league. The hardluck story was Galactic Star, who was charging into the action along rhe inside rounding the final bend before clipping Bill Haley's wheel and galloping. He's right on target for next Friday with a good draw.   Adam Hamilton

IGNATIUS’ return to form meant a lot more than just a win for Jimmy Rattray and his team. It was a real morale boost after a seriously scary and hectic week at his property near Exeter in the NSW Southern Highlands, deep in one of the many regions ravaged by bushfires. “It came within four kilometres of our place,” Rattray said. “Last Saturday (week) was the scariest. We didn’t get any of the horses out, so we had 35 of them huddled around the main barn as ash was dropping from the sky and the smoke was so thick it was really hard to breath. “We got them all out the next day, but the conditions improved and we were able to bring them back Monday night and Tuesday. “They’d only be back a few days when things flared again so badly they issued another warning Friday and we got 25 of the horses out. We kept 10 here because we knew could get them out really quickly if we had to.” Ignatius was one of the 10 to stay because racing at Menangle last night (Saturday) was vital for him to gain fitness and prove he was worth chasing the $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup with. And he did just that, working to the front and winning emphatically. “That’s the best he’s felt in ages,” Rattray said. “He really needed the racing this time to get fit, but last night he travelled well and hit the line feeling very strong. “The Hunter Cup looks a goer now, I just have to work out whether to give him another lead-up run here or go to Melbourne for a race the week before the Hunter Cup (the Casey Classic, January 25 at Melton).” While Ignatius is back on song, Rattray the bushfires are still presenting a challenge with his other Hunter Cup hopeful, Harjeet. “Like Ignatius, he needs racing. He was to race at Goulburn today, but the smoke from the fires rolled-in really thick again and they had to call the meeting off,” he said. “Hopefully that Goulburn Cup meeting goes ahead next week so he can race there and then we can make the decision on Melbourne.”   Adam Hamilton

KATE Gath’s golden run continued when she won both features at Saturday’s Shepparton Cup meeting. Gath teamed with trainer Emma Stewart and Victoria’s most improved pacer, Phoenix Prince, to snare the $60,000 Group 2 Shepparton Gold Cup and earlier with her husband Andy andMcLovin in the Group 3 George Gath Trot. Phoenix Prince is clearly Victoria’s country cups star right now with the latest win following victories in the Geelong and Cranbourne Cups as well as second in the Bendigo Cup and third in the Stawell Cup. Gath has been aboard in four of those runs, including the Geelong Cup win, while Jodi Quinlan partnered Phoenix Prince to win at Cranbourne. The Shepparton Cup was Phoenix Prince’s most important win yet, beating all of Australia’s three Auckland Inter Dominion finalists – Sicario (fourth), My Kiwi Mate (sixth) and San Carlo (seventh) – along with emerging star Lochinvar Art (fifth) and Our Uncle Sam (second). Our Uncle Sam found the front and copped some midrace pressure from San Carlo, who weakened, while Our Uncle Sam was only beaten a head. Lochinvar Art was thehardluck runner, being shuffled to four-back on the inside and storming home late when he saw some daylight from a hopeless position. McLovin has bounced-back to winning form at his first run since illness derailed his Auckland Inter Dominion campaign. The former Kiwi gelding got the job done – only just – but did show plenty of fight to lift after looking in strife on the last bend to snatch a head overSundons Courage in the Group 3 George Gath Trot at Shepparton on Saturday night. While it was great to see him back in winning form, he did have a lovely one-one trail and was entitled to win and win with more ease given the closing splits of 58.0 and 29.4sec at the end of a 2min0.7sec mile rate for 2190m. He’s sure to be fitter for the run, but will need to lift plenty for his date with the likes of OscarBonavena, etc in the Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton on January 25 and the Group 1 Great Southern Star a week after that. The win certainly meant plenty to trainer Andy Gath. “It’s a great thrill to win this race again in honour of my legendary grandfather,” he said. __________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S great to haveCran Dalgety back in the Aussie feature race mix. His emerging filly Dr Susan capped her Victoria Oaks preparation with a very impressive win in the $50,000 Group 2Raith Memorial at Menangle on Saturday night. Fresh from a well-held third in the Sires Stake final at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve, Dr Susan underlined the depth of talent on this year’s Kiwi crop. Anthony Butt bustled her out of gate five and had a crack for the lead from local KeepRockin through a brisk 26sec opening quarter, but then had to grab hold and drop in behind the leader. Rather than risk being pocketed, Butt came off the leader’s back at the 500m and zoomed away with a big lead, until local outsiderVincenzina emerged from the back and roared home to miss causing an upset by just a head. Although the margin wasn’t great, Dr Susan did the do the early work and paced an impressive 1min52.1sec mile. The heats of the Oaks are at Ballarat next Saturday night. Dr Susan’s win underlines why another Kiwi, Stylish Memphis, is clear favourite to win the Oaks given she did more work and easily beat home Dr Susan on New Year’s Eve in Auckland. __________________________________________________________________________________ ONE horse with enough sheer speed to at least test Self Assured in Saturday week’s 4YO Bonanza is Hurricane Harley. Emma Stewart’s pacer simply packed too much speed for his older rivals despite sitting parked in yesterday’s Hamilton Cup. Although sitting parked is not his go, it was only 1660m and turned into an 800m dash with a 54.3sec last half. Hurricane Harley had too much sheer brilliance for the leader and main rival Duke Of Wellington to win by a neck. The race was robbed of much interest with the scratching of buzz pacer Lumineer, who was shooting for his 16th win from just 18 starts. “He has a float mishap. It’s nothing major, just some superficial stuff, but we’d never take any risk with him after the problems he’s had,” trainer Ange McDowall said. __________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER Kiwi Our Alfie Romeo isn't just the best mare in WA, she looks one of the best in Australia. Greg and Skye Bond's five-year-old thrashed a good field at Gloucester Park last Friday night, leafing throughout to win unextended by 8.1m and dashing home in 55.6 and 27.4sec. The daughter of Washington VC won 12 of her 20 runs in WA last season and has raced eight times this term for four wins, two seconds and a third. __________________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING former Kiwi filly Tiffany Rose looks right on target for a NSW Oaks raid despite suffering her first WA defeat at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere had eight starts at two in NZ for seven placings, some in the top races, and then won her first five starts in WA for trainer Mike Reed. She drew the outside, gate nine, drifted back to last and stormed home for a close third to WA's other top filly, Double Expresso, last Friday night. Driver Chris Lewis won the race when he mad a mid race move to sit parked on Double Expresso and dug deep to win in 1min57.4sec mile rate for 2130m. __________________________________________________________________________________ ONE of Australia’s most loved and popular pacers,Emain Macha, added to his fantastic record with an easy win in the Italian Cup at Globe Derby on Saturday. The six-year-old fifth win from nine starts this campaign took his record to 32 wins from 54 starts with another 13 placings and over $270,000 in earnings.   Adam Hamilton

IT is looking likely the two stars of tomorrow’s (Friday) Group 1 Fremantle Cup won’t make the race. NSW-trained pair My Field Marshal, the defending champion, and in-form Alta Orlando are still stranded in Victoria. A string of planned flights have been scrapped and the last hope is a midnight flight tonight (Thursday) from Melbourne to Perth, but that’s far from a lock. “I’m told it’s 50/50, but I think that’s even being optimistic,” Alta Orlando’s co-trainer and driver Luke McCarthy said. “They were supposed to go across Monday and they’re still here. I think it’s had something to do with the smoke and the fires.” Both McCarthy and My Field Marshal’s trainer Tim Butt aren’t fussed by such a late flight, if it eventuates. But, if they don’t get across tonight, it’s likely only My Field Marshal will still go to Perth for next week’s Group 1 WA Pacing Cup. “Tim’s still going if we don’t get to the Freo Cup, but I’m leaning towards staying here and taking him (Alta Orlando) to the Ballarat Cup on his way to the Hunter Cup,” McCarthy said. “The problem is if we nominated for the WA Cup and don’t get there for some reason, we can’t run at Ballarat instead. We have to make a choice.” Making matters worse is good barriers for the star pair has them heading the market. My Field Marshal is $2.80 favourite from gate four with Alta Orlando at $4.40 second elect from gate five. ________________________________________________________________________________ VICTORIA Cup winner Bling It On is back on song after his failed Auckland Inter Dominion raid. Luke McCarthy said his stable star worked superbly in a private hitout at Menangle during the week. “He’s flying and could’ve run at Menangle this weekend, but I’ll take him to the Goulburn Cup (Sunday week) instead because it’s a random draw,” he said. “It’s then two week’s from that straight into the Hunter Cup.” McCarthy said he could have as many as three Hunter Cup runners. “Bling and Alta (Orlando) are headed there and if King Of Swing wins well for us at his first run for us (Menangle, Saturday night), then we’d consider taking him down as well,” he said. “Cash N Flow is another good enough, but the 2760m doesn’t suit him as well, so we’ll keep him at home for the mile racing at Menangle.”   Adam Hamilton

KIWI raider Smooth Deal has another serious Aussie rival to contend with in the Victoria Derby. Queenslander Governor Jujon blitzed a strong field in the rescheduled $50,000 Group 2 Simpson Memorial at Menangle yesterday, pacing a 1min52.8sec mile and ripping home in 54.3 and 26.2sec. He won without being asked for any real effort by stand-in driver Robbie Morris, while Paul Court’s Kiwi pacer Mach Da Vinci flashed home from well back for a ripper second. Governor Jujon’s win was his seventh from just nine starts and he’s run second in the other two. He’s trained by Grant Dixon, making him a stablemate to 2018 Victoria Derby winner Colt Thirty One. The exciting son of Cammibest now heads straight to the Derby heats at Ballarat on Saturday week. Australia’s other top Derby contender, last season’s 2YO of the Year Be Happy Mach, only had his first public trial this campaign at Geelong last night. He looks certain to head into the Derby heats first-up, which is a daring move given the jump from 2240m to 2760m for this year’s Derby final at Melton on January 25. Smooth Deal is $2.60 Derby prepost favourite with the Aussie TAB from Be Happy Mach at $2.80 and Governor Jujon seemingly the value at $9. Governor Jujon winning at Menangle ___________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to see Let it Ride return with a Menangle win yesterday. Tim Butt’s gelding failed in two runs in early winter and was sent straight for a spell. The 2018 Group 1 Blacks A Fake winner was given a lovely trip in the one-one by Anthony Butt, grabbed the front turning for home and held-on by 3.9m over favourite Little Rascal in a 1min52.4sec mile, capped by closing splits of 55.3 and 27.3sec. The opposition will certainly get much harder in coming weeks, but at least there were signs of the old Let It Ride. The Butts combined for another impressive win at the rescheduled Menangle meeting when Ideal Star led throughout and bolted in by 12.9m in a career-best 1min51.3sec mile. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ TRAINER Shane Tritton is regrouping after losing his two best horses. Last year’s Victoria Derby winner Muscle Factory has re-injured a tendon, ruling out the Chariots Of Fire and casting doubts over whether he will race again. While recent Kiwi import Funatthebeach, who Tritton felt could be a Grand Circuit player, has been sent to the USA by connections. He raced just twice for Tritton after leaving the All Stars barn for a win and a third at Menangle.   Adam Hamilton

Punters expect emerging star The Storm Inside to announce himself as a major Hunter Cup player with victory at his first serious open-class test tomorrow night. Emma Stewart’s injury-plagued former gun juvenile boasts 16 wins and two seconds from just 18 starts. But he faces by far his biggest test, albeit from a good draw, in tomorrow night’s $70,000 Group 2 Bendigo Cup (2650m). It’s not just the strongest race he’s tackled, but also the longest. He’s never been stretched beyond Melton’s 2240m trip. Punters quickly snapped-up the $2.70 he opened on the Aussie TAB and he’s now into $1.95. That’s despite the fact he’s taking on three-time Inter Dominion finalist, San Carlo, and three of his talented and in-form stablemates, Phoenix Prince, Tam Major and Code Black. Chris Alford takes the reins and most expect he’ll bustle out from gate five and find the lead. The logical next step is another rise in grade to take-on the likes of defending champ Thefixer, Cruz Bromac and others in the Group 1 Ballarat Cup on January 18. On the same card, star trotter Tornado Valley should dash to the front from gate three and return to winning form in the $50,000 Group 1 Maori Mile. Main rival Dance Craze, who beat Tornado Valley, will need luck to overcome the back row (gate 10). ** ** ** ** AUSTRALIA’s top Victoria Derby hopeful Be Happy Mach still hasn’t raced this campaign. Many expected him to resume in Saturday night’s VHRC 3YO Classic at Melton, but, instead, is expected to trial at Maryborough early next week. It now seems likely he will go into the January 18 Derby heats without a lead-up race. Given the Derby final is now out to 2760m from 2240m, it will take all of Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s training nous to have him primed for the gruelling test. In contrast, the All Stars’ Derby player, Smooth Deal, has had a strong preparation through major races in NZ, most recently his luckless and huge run in the Sales Series final at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve. Another of Australia’s top Derby hopes, Expensive Ego, is out of both the Victoria and NSW Derbys with a minor but untimely setback. The Derby build-up also continues at Menangle tomorrow night where former Kiwi, Virgil, and his exciting Grant Dixon-trained stablemate Governor Jujon headline the field in the $50,000 Group 2 Simpson Memorial (1609m). Virgil led and beat Governor Jujon at Albion Park last time, but the latter was a bigger run and he draws the pole this time. ** ** ** ** ONE of the mouth-watering clashes of the weekend is between the untapped comeback pacer Lumineer and potential Hunter Cup player Demon Delight. They meet in a small field at Melton on Saturday night, where Lumineer has the pole and will lead, while Demon Delight has the outside draw (gate seven). Courtesy of HRNZ

By Adam Hamilton JUST days after Tiger Tara’s retirement, the curtain has come down on the career of another of Australia’s biggest and most recent pacing stars. Owner-breeder Rob Watson has confirmed Soho Tribeca has run his last race. Sadly and in contrast to Tiger Tara, Soho Tribeca was cut down by injury in his absolute prime. He still managed 21 wins and 24 placings from his 59 starts and earned $1,103,854 in stakemoney. Most felt he was on the verge of something special when struck down by the first of recurring injuries in the Sunshine Sprint of July 1, 2018. He didn’t fire in one comeback run, a seventh at Melton when in the care of Mick Stanley on June 15, 2019. Soho Tribeca’s biggest win came in the Group 1 WA Cup on January 19, 2018. He also won the Group 1 4YO Golden Nugget, Group 1 Vicbred 4YO final and Group 2 Kilmore Cup. 2018 TabTouch WA Pacing Cup - Soho Tribeca But most felt his greatest run came in defeat when he sat parked, made the record-breaking 1 min 46.9 sec mile time and still finished a close third in the 2018 Miracle Mile behind My Field Marshal and Jilliby Kung Fu. Watson sent him back to WA trainer Kim Prentice for another comeback bid a few months back. “We’ve decided to retire him and focus on sending him to stud next year. We just didn’t want to push the envelope any more and risk further injuries. We thought it was our best option,” he said. “The horse himself is well and he’ll enjoy retirement.” Ask about the frustration of what may have been, a philosophical Watson said: “Absolutely, but that’s racing isn’t it.” ** ** ** ** TIGER Tara’s connections have already knocked back a “massive” offer to sell him as a stallion. Former trainer and part-owner Kevin Pizzuto said they were offered “really serious money”, but the ownership group has decided to keep him. “We don’t have to rush into anything,” he said. “We’ve got a few months before we need to think about the next breeding season. “The plan is to start negotiating with some of the bigger barns we’re sure he’ll be in demand. “He’s already got some yearlings, even more weanlings and 25 of our mares lined-up. “We’re talking about a horse who did everything, from a youngster to an eight-year-old in the biggest races. “Let’s not forget he smashed Lazarus’ track record at Melton, too.”

Dominant Queensland trainer Grant Dixon has quickly turned the page on the disappointment of the Auckland Inter Dominion is planning to hit the road again. But his stable star, Colt Thirty One, won’t be part of the next “excursion.” Dixon is eyeing-off the Victoria Derby, which starts with heats at Ballarat on January 18, with his two top three-year-olds, recent Kiwi import Virgil and the exciting Governor Jujon. They ran the quinella in the inaugural Bill Dixon – a race named after Dixon’s father - at Albion Park last Saturday night. Virgil led throughout and won in quick time, but Governor Jujon’s effort to get within a nose was massive, suggesting he’s the pick of the pair heading towards the Derby. Dixon knows what it takes to win the Victoria Derby, doing so with Colt Thirty One just two years ago. Colt Thirty One, who made a lie of his luckless and still below-par Auckland form, with a fantastic victory in last Saturday night’s Group 2 Queensland Cup. “He’s having a week or so off now to find his feet again,” Dixon said. “The Miracle Mile is his next target.” ________________________________________________________________________________ Perth raids for two of Australia’s top pacers hinge on how they go at Bathurst on Boxing night. Tiger Tara and My Field Marshal clash for the second time in as many runs this campaign in the $50,000 Group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial (2790m). They finished second and third respectively behind Alta Orlando at their latest runs at Menangle last Saturday week. Alta Orlando is among their rivals again at Bathurst and has the advantage of the front row (gate seven), while Tiger Tara (nine, inside back) and My Field Marshal (11) are off the back row. The other key runners include Harjeet (four) and Make Way (one). Tiger Tara’s trainer Kevin Pizzuto said his star has “come on very well” since a first-up third and was definitely on target for Perth. While Tim Butt said My Field Marshal was “90 per cent likely” for Perth, presuming he runs up to expectations at Bathurst. Adding further depth to the Bathurst card is the return “home” of Our Uncle Sam after his disappointing Auckland Inter Dominion campaign. Surprisingly, he’s not in the Shirley Turnbull, but rather he meets another talented open class player, Ellmers Image, in a 2790m free-for-all. ________________________________________________________________________________ The cream of the locals aiming for the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups lock horns at Gloucester Park on Friday night.  The $50,000 Group 2 Village Kid (1730m) has drawn a fantastic field, headed by: Herrick Roosevelt (one), El Jacko (two), Ana Malak (three), Vampiro (four), Rocknroll Lincoln (seven), Handsandwheels (eight), Vultan Tin (nine), Mighty Conqueror (11) and Galactic Star (12). ________________________________________________________________________________ Buzz Victorian pacer The Storm Inside should make is 16 wins (and two seconds) from just 18 starts when he tackles the $20,000 Lightning Sprint (1710m) at Ballarat on Boxing night. He looks a class above his rivals as he builds towards races like the Ballarat Cup (January 18) and Hunter Cup (February 1).   Adam Hamilton

WHAT a shame Kiwis never got to see the “real” Colt Thirty One during the Inter Dominion in Auckland. Never really being comfortable on the track, luckless early runs, especially that gut-buster in the second round of heats all conspired to ruin his Auckland raid. But, remarkably, he returned home to win a Group 2 feature just a week after the last run of his Kiwi campaign. Despite having to fly back to Sydney then face a 10-hour road trip up to Brisbane, Colt Thirty One successfully defended the Group 2 Queensland Cup crown he won last year. He only arrived back at trainer-driver Grant Dixon’s stable on Thursday. Not only did he do it the hard way getting home, but also in the race last night (Saturday). Colt Thirty One, the $1.60 favourite, sat outside third favourite Glenferrie Hood with second elect Bad Billy stalking behind the leader. They went a 1min 54.7sec mile rate for the 2138m and zipped down the back in 28.1 sec, but Colt Thirty One was still able to zoom past the leader then hold-off Bad Billy, who had every possible chance, to win by a half-head. It was a mighty win on every level. “I’m super proud of the horse, it’s more about him than anything else, along with Dale (Hogan), who’s been with him every step of the way,” Dixon said. “He’ll have a week off now and then we’ll work out what’s next.” And it will now be interesting to see whether Dixon travels again for a race like the Hunter Cup on February 1 at Melton or waits for the Miracle Mile qualifiers at Menangle a few weeks later. Earlier in the night, Dixon also snared the quinella in another feature, one named after his father “The Bill Dixon”, with former All Stars’ three-year-old Virgil and the very exciting Governor Jujon. Dixon’s wife Trista, back driving just over three weeks after having their third child, Cooper, drove Virgil, who led throughout from the pole and just held-on by a nose in a blistering 1 min 52.3 sec mile rate for 1660m. The run of Governor Jujon to get so close from the back row was monstrous. Dixon will surely be tempted to tackle the Victoria Derby heats at Ballarat on January 18 with both of them. To cap the massive night, he Dixon-trained Kiwi import Wee Man Trouble, won the race he was specifically bought to chase, the Group 1 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trot. It gave Adam Sanderson his first Group 1 driving success. ______________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING four-year-old Patrickthepiranha is just the ideal Gloucester Park horse. His blazing gate speed and tractability are made for Perth’s tight circuit. Just a week after leading, copping pressure and running a fantastic second in WA’s biggest four-year-old race, the Group 1 Golden Nugget, the gelding landed a feature of his own. Trained and driven by veteran Colin Brown, Patrickthepiranha drew the pole, led easily and just held-on to win the $50,000 Group 2 Christmas Gift final. It was Brown’s sixth driving win in the feature, following Russley Rascal (2011) and Motu Treasure (2010) for trainer Greg Bond, Has The Answers (2002) for trainer Les Coulson, Julian Doe (1991) for trainer Suzanne Tolcon and his own horse, Simeon Bay (1988). Brown has been happy to watch from the sidelines with Dylan Egerton-Green doing the driving on Patrickthepiranha, but that changed last Friday because Egerton-Green had to drive his own horse Tyler Brett (seventh). ______________________________________________________________________________ IT was two years ago when Vultan Tin ran the race of his life for fourth in the Perth Inter Dominion final. He chased home Lazarus, Chicago Bull and Tiger Tara and beat home the likes of Lennytheshark, Soho Tribeca, San Carlo, Have Faith In Me and Galactic Star. Now you could argue he’s back to that sort of form, even in the twilight of his career as eight-year-old. “I don’t know if he’s ever raced better,” driver and unashamed fan Chris Voak said. “Last week he came and sat parked and won in 1 min 54 sec and change, so it gave me the confidence to put him straight into the race again (last Friday).” Despite being three-wide early and around to sit parked outside favourite Herrick Roosevelt, Vultan Tin was too strong, winning by 1.3m in a 1 min 57.2 sec for 2130m. It was an inspired drive, daring to “crush” the leader with a 27.2 sec third split and still holding-off noted sit-sprinter El Jacko to in a 28.5 sec closing split. There’s no doubt Vultan Tin will be a major player in the big Fremantle (January 10) and WA Pacing Cup (January 17) double. It will be interesting to see if trainer Phil Costello backs him up quickly again for next Friday’s Village Kid Sprint. Last Friday’s other free-for-all went to evergreen 11-year-old Our Jimmy Johnstone for Team Bond in a scorching 1min53.5sec mile rate for 1730m. Team Bond also won the mares’ feature on the night with the classy former Kiwi Our Alfie Romeo, who boasts a fantastic record since coming to WA of 26 starts for 15 wins, seven placings and earnings over $220,000. ______________________________________________________________________________ REIGNING Great Southern Star champion Dance Craze showed she was on target for a title defence with an impressive Melton win last night (Saturday). Anton Golino’s six-year-old was superbly driven by Glen Craven to beat a good field, including Tornado Valley, in the Group 3 Freestone Trotters Cup in a 1 min 59.4 sec mile rate for 2240m. As good as Dance Craze was, nothing went right for Tornado Valley, who settled near last, was held-up behind tiring horses at a crucial stage and then charged home from an impossible to finish just five metres from the winner in fifth spot. On the same card, Victoria Oaks hopeful Rockingwithsierra landed a plunge ($16 into $6) when she upset hot favoirite Iolanta in the Group 3 Gold Chalice. And excitement continues to build around unbeaten three-year-old trotter Keayang Ignite, who won his fourth race and his first at Group 1 level in the Vicbred Platinum Home Grown final. Trained by Paddy Lee and driven by his brother, Jason, the son of Angus Hall gaped his rivals by 17.3m in a  1 min 59.6 sec mile rate for 1720m, capped by a 27.9 sec closing quarter. ______________________________________________________________________________ JUST a few years back Tasmania’s Beautide won back-to-back Inter Dominions. Now Tassie has another buzz pacer, Ryley Major, but fans will have to wait a little longer to see him chasing big races on the mainland. The six-year-old son of Art Major took his record to 23 wins (and nine placings) from just 33 starts with an epic win off a 30m backmark and after looking spent on the home turn at Launceston last night (Saturday). He still paced a 1 min 57.6 sec mile rate in arguably his best win yet. Trainer-driver Rohan Hadley said he would stay at home for the Devonport Cup on February 2 rather than chase some country cups in Victoria in the short term.   Adam Hamilton

NEXT year’s Inter Dominion will have a very different look to Auckland this year. The new rotation sees the sport’s marquee event go to NSW in 2020, but just two of the four nights of racing will be at Menangle’s Tabcorp Park. Although yet to be formalized, it is understood regional centres Newcastle and Bathurst will both host rounds of qualifying heats. It expected the series will open at Menangle with heats on Saturday, November 28. Newcastle is set to host the midweek heats on Wednesday, December 2, then it’s off to Bathurst for the final round of qualifiers on Saturday, December 5. The Inter Dominion pacing and trotting finals will be back at Menangle on Saturday, December 12. NSW has conducted regional heats the past two times it has hosted a traditional Inter Dominion format, both times at Newcastle in 2002 and 2010. The exceptions were the controversial three years NSW hosted the Inter Dominion between 2013-15 when heats were held at a variety of tracks across Australia and NZ.   By Adam Hamilton

Two of Australia’s most decorated pacers – Tiger Tara and My Field Marshal – are right on target for Perth raids next month. The star pair returned from spells in the free-for-all at Menangle last night (Saturday) and thrilled connections. My Field Marshal, first-up off a long break, especially delighted trainer Tim Butt when he stormed home from near last to finish second to Alta Orlando in a 1min54.2sec mile rate for 2300m. The winner ran a 54.6sec last half and My Field Marshal was timed to run his in 53.8sec. “He’s such a special horse to me and to have him back and go like that is so exciting,” Butt said. “We’re very keen on Perth, I’d say he’s 90 per cent going now. He thrived over there last year. “He’ll go to the Shirley Turnbull at Bathurst on the 26th (of December), then we’ll make the final decision on Perth.” Tiger Tara blasted off the gate from an outside draw to lead, dictated terms and seemed to just run out of condition late when overrun and a finishing third, 5.3m from the winner. “He needed that. He’ll come on a lot from it,” trainer Kevin Pizzuto said. “We’re very keen on Perth.” Alta Orlando continued his excellent form since coming across from NZ by leading, sitting on Tiger Tara and popping out a the top of the straight to win well. _________________________________________________________________________________________ REVENGE is sweet, just ask the Shockwave team. It was only two weeks ago when the son of Mach Three “won” the Group 1 4YO Championship at Gloucester Park, but was stripped of it by a protest from Sangue Reale. But, last Friday night, it was pay-back time. Shockwave won WA’s biggest four-year-old race, the Group 1 $200,000 Golden Nugget, in narrow but powerhouse style for trainer Ryan Bell and driver Aiken De Campo. And, for just a moment at the top of the home straight, Shockwave and Sangue Reale were alongside each other, but this time there was no dramatic twist. Despite having to come from well back and three and four wide, Shockwave ran his own last half in 55.6sec to gun down leader Patrickthepiranha in a slick 1min56.3sec mile rate for 2536m. Sangue Reale trailed the leader, didn’t have much room when it mattered, and ran another top race for third. The way Shockwave has gone to another level this campaign, Bell will surely give serious thought to stepping him up to big stage for the Fremantle (January 10) and WA Pacing Cups (January 17). _________________________________________________________________________________________ POPULAR veteran Vultan Tin is right back to his very best as WA’s biggest races loom. The Phil Costello-trained eight-year-old was superbly and confidently driven by Chris Voak to impressively win a free-for-all in slick time at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Last year’s WA Pacing Cup winner Rocknroll Lincoln resumed from injury and a long spell and found the lead, but Voak very quickly made a move around to sit parked and apply pressure. “I knew my horse was rock hard fit and here had to be a query on the leader’s fitness,” Voak said. Voak’s pressure meant a 28.3sec split from the 1200-800m, but was still good enough to rip home in 55.7 and 27.9sec to beat the fast-finishing Handsandwheels by 3.3m in a 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2130m. The other free-for-all produced a monstrous upset when Talktomeurmattjesty led, overraced through the middle stages, looked in strife at the 300m, but just kept rallying to win in a blistering 1min53.7sec mile rate for 2130m. Buzz pacer and leading WA Cup contender Mighty Conqueror loomed as the winner on he home bend, but went into a gallop for no reason and lost all hope. The five-year-old oozes talent, but never really looks fully comfortable around the tight Gloucester Park track. _________________________________________________________________________________________ TWO of Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin’s brightest stars, Ride High and The Storm Inside, added to their stunning records with wins at Melton last night (Saturday). The immensely talented Ride High made it 10 wins (and a third) from just 11 starts when he survived a late scare to win the Westburn Grant free-for-all in a 1min55.3sec mile rate for 2240m. He’s building nicely towards races like the Ballarat and Hunter Cups as well as the Miracle Mile. While the injury-plagued The Storm Inside had to pull out everything in scorching time to post his 15th win (and two seconds) from just 17 starts. The six-year-old won by a whisker from Reigning Pepper and they went a 1min52sec mile rate for 1720m. The margin was small, but the times, especially the 54.4sec last half, underlined he enormity of the win. _________________________________________________________________________________________ IT was great to see racing back at the historic Wayville track in Adelaide again last Friday night. It was the second “retro” meeting at the tiny track which was the home of SA’s harness racing for so long before Globe Derby. And Lance Justice, who rarely drives in Victoria these days, loved getting back to Wayville, winning the first two of the six races on the night. He also finished second in another two.   Adam Hamilton

It has been a bleak Inter Dominion for the Aussies, but our Australian correspondent Adam Hamilton gives us his thoughts on Grand Final night. THE BEST AUSSIE HOPE Despite his poor draw, it still has to be TOUGH MONARCH (R6, n11) in the Trotting final. He’s got the class, has hit the line strongly past two runs and could run into a place if everything panned out. Next best would be MY KIWI MATE (R8, n1) because he’s drawn the pole, will get a cosy run and is right back to his very best form. Also a sneaky place hope. BEST BET Well, it’s a more a multi-builder because $1.35 is skinny, but the buzz around OSCAR BONAVENA (R3, n8) and the way he worked Wednesday morning says he’ll win for fun and continue on the pathway to greatness. VALUE BET Speed is a wicked weapon and MAJESTIC MAN (R6, n1) has plenty of it. Expect him to zip to the front then trail favourite Winterfell. If it’s genuinely run, he should give it a serious crack along the sprint lane when it matters. BEST ROUGHIE He’ll be double-figure odds and OUR UNCLE SAM (R7, n6) certainly drops in grade in the virtual consolation. Went for home far too early last week and certainly wasn’t disgraced. Not ma many winning chances here and he’s definitely one of them.   By Adam Hamilton for HRNZ

Just hours after this year’s Inter Dominion pacing champion is crowned at Alexandra Park, last year’s winner will return to racing in Australia. Mighty warhorse Tiger Tara steps out in Menangle’s Group 3 Alf Phillis free-for-all (2300m) at 10.58pm NZ time Saturday night. It will be he $2.37 million-earner’s first start since finishing fourth at Menangle on September 20. And, just for good measure, his rivals include another proven superstar, former Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal. Tim Butt’s star hasn’t raced since being retired from this year’s Miracle Mile back on March 2 with cardiac arrythmia. Butt has been open in saying this race will go a long way to deciding whether My Field Marshal heads to Perth for next month’s big Group 1 double – the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups. My Field Marshal won the Fremantle Cup last year then ran a fantastic race for fourth in the WA Pacing Cup. In contrast, Tiger Tara is definitely WA-bound, according to trainer Kevin Pizzuto. The last time Tiger Tara was in Perth was for the 2017 Inter Dominion series where he won a heat, finished second in his other two heats then led and ran third to the amazing Lazarus in the Grand Final. While Tiger Tara (gate 10) and My Field Marshal (gate 11) have class on their rivals this week, lack of racing and their wide draws won’t make life easy against some classy rivals. The emerging Ignatius will be fitter for one run back from a spell and gets gate three, while speedy beginner Alta Orlando may be the leader and take catching from barrier two.   Adam Hamilton

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