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ON the weekend Tiger Tara was crowned NSW Horse of the Year for the second successive year, his career looked at the crossroads. But there was two ways of looking at Tiger Tara’s latest defeat – his third from as many runs this campaign -  which came at Menangle last Friday night. On face value, the superstar found the front without much fuss over a suitable 2300m trip and could only labour into a well-held fourth placing behind former Kiwi pacer Alta Orlando. But, on the other hand, trainer Kevin Pizzuto was remarkably frank before the race, declaring Tiger Tara “way underdone” and very vulnerable. “Knowing where he’s at, I was happy with the run. He’s well short of peak fitness and I wasn’t able to fast work him during the week because of all the rain (in Sydney),” Pizzuto said. “I considered scratching him, but he needs racing. He needs to get fitter. He blew up badly over the back after it. He’s still got a way to go.” Pizzuto said he would “use the next few days” to plot Tiger Tara’s pathway towards the NZ Cup, which could include a Victoria Cup start on October 12. While Tiger Tara was the talking point, Alta Orlando built on some good placings since crossing the Tasman to post his first win in the Craig Cross stable. Luke McCarthy buzzed him out from a wide draw, took a sit on Tiger Tara and zipped through along the inside to win in a slick 1min54.3sec mile rate for 2300m. It was Alta Orlando’s first win since scoring at Addington on May 18, last year. _____________________________________________________________________________________ THE much-travelled Cruz Bromac is close to a racetrack return. Now back being trained in Victoria by Amanda Grieve, the high-class pacer popped-up at the Melton trials last week. He won a solo trial in slow time, but zipped home in 55.9 and 26.6sec. A winner of 20 of his 44 starts, Cruz Bromac hasn’t raced since finishing third in the Canadian Club Sprint, a Miracle Mile qualifier, at Menangle on February 23. It was his last run in a very fruitful stint where he earned almost $300,000 with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. ____________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER Kiwi trotter Miss Blissful looks like continuing a winning formula for Andy and Kate Gath. She’s their latest trotter bought out of NZ for major owner Norm Jenkin, who also races Tornado Valley and McLovin. And Miss Blissful made quite the statement winning on debut for the Gaths at Melton last night. Despite drawing the back row and then making an early move to sit parked, the daughter of Pegasus Spur had the race won on the home turn and cruised away with a 12.4m victory in a 1min58.2sec mile rate for 1720m. She won just three of her 27 runs in NZ and was sold after a second at Alexandra Park on June 14. _____________________________________________________________________________________ WESTERN Australia’s most-improved pacer Our Corelli is no one-trick pony. Most of his wins since switching to Debbie Lewis’ stable sand roaring through the grades have come in front or right on the speed. Last Friday night he drew wide, sat midfield and snatch a nose win over many of WA’s best open-class pacers, including favourite El Jacko. Our Corelli, a five-year-old son of Bettors Delight, has won eight of his 12 runs since being sold and switching stables. Father and son, Mike and Mark Reed teamed for a couple of wins of note on the same Gloucester Park card. The exciting Bletchley Park, a four-year-old brother to Bling It On, thrashed a handy field and looks a serious horse in the making. He made it nine wins from just 17 starts, winning by almost 12m in a 1min56.4sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. He’s sure to be a major player in the Golden Nugget late this year. And stablemate Arma Indie,a former Kiwi four-year-old mare led throughout to stretch her winning streak to four wins from as many starts this campaign in the ninth race. _____________________________________________________________________________________ FILLING the void left by the retirement of a megastar like Lennytheshark is a tough ask. But David Aiken’s stable, including his open ranks, are still ticking along nicely. Not only did Aiken quinella the fast-class race at Melton last night with Audi Hare leading and holding-off stablemate Higherthananeagle along the sprint lane, but he also won again with the very exciting Raptors Flight. Kima Frenning drove both Audi Hare and Raptors Flight. Raptors Flight has been a revelation since coming to Australia. He’s now unbeaten seven runs. Last night he drew wide and jumped in grade, but blasted to the front and, despite pulling very hard at times, ripped home in 56 and 28.3sec to win very impressively again. He looks every bit a serious country cups horse and maybe more. _____________________________________________________________________________________ UNHERALDED Victorian horseman Chris Svanosio snared a well deserved feature win of his own last night. It was just a couple of weeks ago where Svanosio played caretaker trainer with star NSW trotter Tough Monarch for Rickie Alchin and won two features at Melton. This time it was all in Svanosio’s name as he trained and drove Magicool to lead throughout and cause an upset in the Group 3 True Roman trot (2240m) at Melton. In a tactical affair, Svanosio pinched a 62.2sec middle half and sprinted home in 57.6 and 28.7sec to easily beat My Skypocket with multiple Group 1 winner Big Jack Hammer flying home from last to third. On the same card, it was fantastic to see former pin-up juvenile trotter Wobelee win so impressively. The five-year-old was outstanding, sustaining a long run around the field and surging clear to win in a brisk 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1720m.   by Adam Hamilton

Bling It On’s comeback gathered some serious momentum at Menangle yesterday (Monday). The former superstar pacer and Hunter Cup winner flew around in a 1min51.1sec mile to win the trial. It was just 0.3sec outside his career best mile. “Luke told us he felt as good as ever, was only just outside his PB and was jogging. He said he couldn’t be happier with him,” senior part-owner Peter O’Shea said. Bling It On was retired with injury and sent to stud after finishing ninth at Menangle on June 9, last year. “We decided to give him another crack. It’s early days, but it’s certainly encouraging for him to come and go so quick at his first trial back,” O’Shea said. Birdy Mach led the trial with Bling It On camped on his back and they opened a huge gap on their rivals. Bling It On peeled out at the top of the straight and cruised to the line under restraint despite the times. They went splits of 26.8, 28.7, 27.9 and 27.7sec.  With a distinct shortage of star open-class pacers in Australia right now, Bling It On’s comeback is both well time and potentially and inspired move.   by Adam Hamilton

Former star pacer Bling It On is launching a comeback. The Hunter Cup winner and one-time juvenile pin-up takes his first official step in a Menangle trial tomorrow (Monday). It comes after a couple of seasons at stud where he has been well-supported by breeders, serving over 200 mares. "I've driven him in fast work and in a couple of private trials around Menangle and he feels as good as he ever has," driver and co-trainer Luke McCarthy told harness.org.au. "I'm pretty confident he will make a strong return based on the way his work has been." The now nine-year-old has not raced since finishing ninth at Menangle on June 9, last year. His biggest win came in the 2017 Hunter Cup, which followed a desperately unlucky fourth in the Perth Inter Dominion final two months earlier. McCarthy said the comeback was sparked because Bling It On was "doing too well" during a winter spell and they decided to start jogging him. "He was sound and felt so good, they decided to press on with him and now he is trialling," he said. "If connections thought he couldn't get back to racing at the top level they wouldn't entertain the idea of bringing him back in work but his work has been so strong. "He will keep doing stud work and if we are happy with him on Monday we'll keep going with him." Bling It On's record stands at 86 starts for 45 wins, 20 placings and $1,656,656 in earnings. _______________________________________________________________________________ BUSTER Brady is building nicely. The star former Kiwi stayer had no luck in two runs back from a spell then turned it around with a trademark fighting win in the VHRC Classic at Melton last night. He paced a slick 1min54.3sec for 2240m. Trainer-driver Kima Frenning won the race with an early move around the field from the back row to take the lead from eventual runner-up Cant Refuse. Buster Brady steps back into Victoria's country cup circuit, which he dominated last year, when he runs next in the $70,000 Kilmore Cup on September 27. Then comes the Group 1 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 12. Another key Melton winner was the regally-bred Soho Hamilton - a brother to Soho Tribeca - who snared his biggest win so far in the $50,000 Group 2 Home Grown Vicbred final. He's won three of five runs and oozes potential for trainer-driver Mick Stanley. _______________________________________________________________________________ IT'S a long way back to the top for former juvenile star Lumineer, but the early signs are good. The son of Sportswriter won his first eight starts for hobby trainer Ange McDowall, including the Group 1 Australian Gold 2YO final, then went amiss after tasting defeat for the first time when sixth in the 2018 Victoria Derby final. He retuned for his first run in almost 20 months with a runaway Terang win last Wednesday night. Lumineer won by 24m in a cosy 2min0.4sec mile rate for 2180m, including closing splits of 56.7 and 28 flat. "It was such a relief he did it with such ease," McDowall said. "And the next morning he was floating around Lady Bay (a beach in Warrnambool) like the race never happened." _______________________________________________________________________________ VETERAN former Kiwi pacer Our Jimmy Johnstone wound back the clock at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The 11-year-old used a gun draw in the pole to lead throughout and easily beat some of WA's best open-class pacers in the $50,0000 Group 2 James Brennan Memorial (2536m). It was one of the most rewarding wins for co trainers Greg and Skye Bond, who has nursed the gelding through a fantastic WA career and deep into his twilight. And it was a career-best win for driver Bailey McDonough. "I was pretty nervous before the race and pretty excited after it," McDonough said. "He felt super in the run and at about the 800m I started to get very confident." And the old boy ran some time too, a 1min55.9sec mile rate for the staying trip, closing in 55.6 and 28.1sec. It was Our Jimmy Johnstone's first victory since scoring at Gloucester Park on June 1, last year. It took his record to 118 starts for 28 wins, 43 placings and almost $670,000 in earnings. _______________________________________________________________________________ TEAM Tritton has found another good one. The improving gelding Cocosfella snared the win of the night at Menangle last night. In a hotly contested mile, Cocosfella did most of the work outside the leader and just kept coming in a 1min50.8sec mile in the $30,600 Group 3 Lazarus New Season Gift final.   By Adam Hamilton

TOP Aussie trainer David Aiken has lots of thinking to do. Aiken boasts one of the strongest barns of open-class horses – pacers and trotters – and no doubt Auckland officials would love him at Alexandra Park late this year for the Inter Dominion. But he’s yet to sit down with key owner, Dom Martello, to nut-out plans for key horses Wrappers Delight and Big Jack Hammer. “The first thing was to see how well both horses came back after their spells and those signs are good,” Aiken said. “Wrappers Delight had no luck first-up, then won really well in fantastic time last run. That Inter Dominion series knocked him around last year, in retrospect he just wasn’t quite ready for it. “I left us wondering if he’d come back as well after a break, but I’m pretty confident now he’s as good if not better than ever.” Big Jack Hammer, who has a breakthrough first season in the big league with three Group 1 wins, has shown encouraging form with six runs this campaign netting two wins and two seconds in good company. “I’m realistic with him. He’s a nice trotter, but not a star. Things went right for him last season, but still did a mighty job to go through the grades and win three Group 1’s,” Aiken said. “He’s going to need luck and the right sorts of draws now in these better races. He can’t make his own luck, at least not at this stage.” Wrappers Delight looks the one to beat again despite a back row (gate 10) in the VHRC Classic (2240m) at Melton on Saturday night. “He’s headed to the Kilmore Cup at the end of this month and then the Victoria Cup on October 12,” Aiken said. “That’s as far as we’ve got in planning so far. We’ve got Auckland to consider and those two big races in Perth in January would be in the mix as well. “The main thing is he’s come back in terrific form and we’ve got plenty of options.” Adam Hamilton

Late-blooming Aussie trotter Tough Monarch is bound for New Zealand. Delighted trainer Rickie Alchin said he had weighed everything up after the eight-year-old’s sparkling Melton win last Saturday night. “I’ve had Cup Week over there in the back of my mind for a while, but I used those 10 days and two good races down in Melbourne as a real test for him,” he said. “He won them both so well, so he sort of made the decision for me. “The Dominion will be his main target, but he’ll run in that good trot on NZ Cup Day as well. And what about the Auckland Inter Dominion? “That’s an option, but it’s run the in the other direction so I need to test him out. I’ll speak to Menangle about organizing a trial the Auckland way of going to help me make that decision,” Alchin said. Tough Monarch has always promised to make a top flight trotter, but needed time. “We’ve needed to be patient” Alchin said. “Last campaign was the first one he’s got all the way through with some issues. He went out for a spell feeling great. “He went really well for us during that Melbourne Inter Dominion, but I think I got more out of it than the horse did. He was out on his feet by the final, I think I needed to be easier on him between runs. “But he’s come back and gone to that next level this campaign. “I might never get another opportunity with a horse as good as him to go to NZ, so I really should take it now.” Alchin’s challenge now is mapping out the path towards Addington. “There’s not a lot of races because I’ll keep him here (Sydney) and won’t go back to Melbourne before NZ,” he said. “He may just have the one run, but he’ll have a few trials as well.  “I just need to be able to keep right where he’s at now and I’m sure he’ll be very competitive over there.”   Adam Hamilton

THE spotlight is suddenly on superstar pacer Tiger Tara for the wrong reason. After the most magnificent of seasons last term, the mighty horse’s past two Menangle runs have been well below his best. You could make some arguments for his second Islandspecialmajor last week, albeit he did have a good run and the whole home straight to run that vastly inferior horse down. But he looked a shadow of himself beating just one rival home in last night’s Group 3 Vic Frost Cup over a mile at Menangle. Tiger Tara was ninth, almost 17m behind the impressive winner The Blacks Prince in a 1min51sec mile. Sure it’s just turned Spring and the big races a long way off, but now Tiger Tara has turned nine years old, every defeat will spark scrutiny. One thing for sure, trainer Kevin Pizzuto will have issues finding suitable races because just about every Menangle free-for-all is a preferential draw and most are over a mile. Both those factors really hurt Tiger Tara. You should never write-off a champion, but there will be plenty watching and wondering when he steps out next time. And he will need to improve enormously to justify a trip to NZ for the Cup and/or Auckland Inter Dominion. The winner, The Black Prince, certainly deserves a mention after posting some explosive sectional times without winning of late. And the story around him was even better given his driver, Tom Ison, only posted his first Menangle win 90 minutes earlier aboard The Black Prince’s stablemate, Pitch Perfect. ___________________________________________________________________________________ TOUGH Monarch has been threatening to this. And last night he did do it, blow away a good field and smash the clock. Just a week after a powerhouse win in a 2760m standing-start race, Tough Monarch showed fantastic gate speed to lead and win the Group 3 Maori’s Idol Trotters’ free-for-all at Melton. He ran splits of the last mile in 28 flat, 29.4, 28.3 and 29.7sec. His 1min54.4sec mile rate was just 0.7sec outside the track record. The record is held  by former great Keystone Del, set back on March 12, 2016. Reigning Inter Dominion champ Tornado Valley had to do the work outside Tough Monarch in those blazing times and wilted to finish 25m from the winner in sixth spot. Trainer Rickie Alchin took on last year’s Melbourne Inter Dominion with high hopes for Tough Monarch, but he was still a work in progress. Now he looks close to the complete package. Given his form this season, especially those past two wins, he will surely tackle the Auckland Inter Dominion and make his presence felt. ______________________________________________________________________________________ STABLE star Tornado Valley ran well below his best at Melton last night, but Andy and Kate Gath still jagged a feature with Star Of Memphis in The Gammalite. In a race of cat-and-mouse tactics from back in the field, Kate Gath showed great poise to wait and swoop late with the Norm Jenkin-owned gelding. He snatched a head win over Franco Tristan in a 1min56sec mile rate for 2240m. Gath made it a double when she teamed with her father, trainer Peter Thompson, to win the seventh race with big and improving trotter Ymbro Wasted. “He’s gone to another level this time in work. He won that really well after coming three-wide without cover after the leaders didn’t go very hard,” Gath said. Another female to star on the night was Kima Frenning, who spoke highly of Kiwi import Raptors Delight after he won yet again. The gelding won just five of 34 Kiwi runs, but is now unbeaten in six starts since crossing the Tasman to join David Aiken’s stable. “He’s a lovely horse. He had to burn early and was crossed, but then relaxed well behind the leader and really sprinted quickly again when the sprint lane run came. He did it so well,” Frenning said. The mile rate was a sharp 1min53.7sec for 1720m. ______________________________________________________________________________________ IT took a few runs, but the class of former North American mare Blue Moon Stride is starting to shine through. The Emilio Rosati-owned mare won over $1.2 million in the US before being flown across to join Noel Daley’s barn in Sydney. She’s been posting some eye-catching sectional times and broke through for her first Down Under win in fine style and a quick 1min52.3sec mile last night (Saturday). ______________________________________________________________________________________ THE rise and rise of WA’s most-improved pacer Our Corelli continues. For the second time in as many weeks, the Debbie Lewis-trained gelding toyed with his rivals to win the free-for-all, albeit after using the pole draw to lead and dictate. Our Corelli has won seven of his 10 starts since switching to Lewis’ stable. With the future of Chicago Bull in limbo and Soho Tribeca under such a cloud, the door is open for an emerging horse like Our Corelli to be a major player in the Fremantle and WA Cups in January. ______________________________________________________________________________________ NSW husband-and-wife Robbie and KerryAnn Morris are lethal when they raid Queensland. And the strike rate continued when they won the first three races at Albion Park last night with Squire, Pembrooks Passion and Prophesy. Morris made it a quartet of wins with pick-up drive Mister Hart for trainer Melissa Kendall in the last race. “We usually pop-up here with a team during the Carnivals, but had a batch of horses better suited to this time of year,” Robbie Morris said.   by Adam Hamilton

THIS is a big week for top Aussie trainer Andy Gath. Not only does his stable star Tornado Valley step-out at Melton, but McLovin starts to get serious in his preparation for an NZ raid later this year. McLovin graduates from jogging to fast work, but it still “about six weeks away” from a racetrack return. “He seems well and it’s time to get a bit more serious,” Gath said. “His whole preparation has been based around being spot-on for a crack at the Dominion. Then, if he’s going well, a trip up to Auckland for the Inter Dominion after that.” McLovin hasn’t raced since winning at Melton on July 5. It took his record with Gath to nine wins and four placings from just 14 starts. Gath genuinely thinks there is very little between McLovin and reigning Inter Dominion champion Tornado Valley, hence the strategic timing of their racing in the back half of this year. “You want to keep them apart as much as possible and we’ve got the chance to do that with McLovin being the better suited of the two to those races in NZ,” he said. “Aside from the travel issues with Tornado Valley, I think McLovin is a better stayer and the NZ races are more to his strength.” Tornado Valley, an impressive winner of both runs this campaign, returns from an unintended freshen-up in the Group 3 Maori’s Idol free-for-all at Melton on Saturday night. “There just hasn’t been a race for him with the focus being on Breeders Crown over here for the past month or so,” Gath said. “This is a good race for him on paper, but it won’t be easy drawn the outside (gate seven) against some nice trotters and with plenty of early speed draw inside him. Save Our Pennys (gate three) is quick out, so is Big Jack Hammer (six). “He’ll just go through the free-for-alls here until the first of the features, the Bill Collins Mile, in late October.”   Adam Hamilton

TRAINER Gary Hall Sr is not sure whether Chicago Bull will race again. And plans for a tilt at the Fremantle and WA Cups in January have already been aborted. “To be honest, he just hasn’t been right since the accident in Auckland,” Hall Sr said. “Even though he came back and went quite well in a few races, he’d changed his action and he didn’t feel the same. “Long story short, they think he’s strained a suspensory, certainly not torn it, but they advised some time out. They said six to eight weeks, but I could only have given him six weeks to have a crack at the Cups here and I didn’t want to rush him. “So we’ve decided to abort those races and given him three months rest.”  Hall Sr admitted he was concerned about the scans. “I just don’t like what we’ve seen. Aside from the suspensory, there’s some grey areas in the sesamoids as well. “I’d say it’s a 50-50 whether he’ll make it back to the races. “It’s such a shame because there’s just nothing around over here at the moment. I think he’d have won the WA Cup for fun if anywhere near his best.”   Adam Hamilton

CHAMPION driver Chris Alford just keeps racking-up the milestones. The latest came last Friday night when No City Chick’s Bendigo win taking him to a mind-blowing 7000 career wins. “I'm having a great run. It doesn’t seem that long ago I reached 6000 wins,” he said. “I’ve got so much great support from owners and trainers.” Alford, 51, now surely ranks up with all the greatest drivers we’ve had in this part of the world. “It’s been another big season and I’ve got some nice horses to look forward to in the new season as well, especially Be Happy Mach, who is the equal of any two-year-old I’ve driven.” ** ** ** ** TIGER Tara was beaten at his own game in a massive upset at Menangle last night. In a rare sight, the Inter Dominion champion was simply outstayed by the much-improved Islandspecialmajor, a $26 outsider for trainer-driver Jason Grimson. Tiger Tara burned early with main danger Joes Star Of Mia, then sat behind that horse, while the former Victorian pacer Islandspecialmajor sat parked and dug deep to fend-off the favourite, who had the whole straight to run him down. They went a 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2300m. No doubt Tiger Tara isn’t fully wound-up with his major targets still a long way off, but he has just turned nine and any defeats like last night will raise queries over whether he is still as good. ** ** ** ** THE winning streak is now seven. Buzz former Kiwi pacer Balraj thrashed his rivals again at Menangle last Tuesday, just days after it was reported connections had turned down a $500,000 offer. Balraj won races at Forbury on February 21 and March 7 and was then sold to Australia where he’s won five on end. His past four Aussie wins have been by an aggregate of 128.4 metres. Last Tuesday he was led and was driven more conservatively by Robbie Morris, but still roared clear to win by 24.4m in a 1min51.9sec mile. He ran home in 54.2sec, but it was the 25.6sec last quarter which set tongues wagging this time. “You’ve got to have more string to your bow, so I wanted to drive him more conservatively and just let him sprint home. I was really pleased with the way he settled for, then he was electric when I said go and just took off,” Morris said. “He’s learning with every run and looks exceptional. “He’s having a let-up now, maybe a month off, and then it’s back to target the Chariots Of Fire.” ** ** ** ** A TRIP down to Melbourne paid dividends with one of Australia’s best trotters last night. Rickie Alchin’s classy stayer Tough Monarch was simply too good for his rivals despite a 10m handicap and doing most of the work in the Group 3 Coulter Crown (2760m). The son of former star Kiwi mare Tussle enjoyed another strong season, mostly racing against the best company, for six wins and five placings from 20 starts. He’s now earned almost $180,000 and looks to still be on the improve. ** ** ** ** IT was a winning reunion for Kima Frenning and one of her favourite pacers at Melton last night. Frenning was back aboard Wrappers Delight for the first time this campaign and then duly saluted despite a back row draw in the My Lightning Blue free-for-all. “He’s been such a great horse to me and I’d love to drive him all the time, but it’s hard now I train Buster Brady and they clash a bit,” Frenning said. Wrappers Delight finished strongly to win in a scorching 1min51.sec mile rate for 1720m, just 0.4sec outside Cruz Bromac’s track record. ** ** ** ** TRAINER Debbie Lewis has certainly unlocked the key to Our Corelli. The Bettor's Delight gelding built a solid record in Justin Prentice’s stable, but has gone to a whole new level since switching to Lewis’ care in June. Nine runs for Lewis have netted six wins, a second and a tag as one of WA’s most exciting open-class pacers. The buzz grew last Friday at Gloucester Park when Chris Lewis used gate one to lead and gave nothing else a chance in blistering times to win the free-for-all. The 1720m mile rate was a scorching 1min52.7sec, just 1.1sec outside of Chicago Bull’s track record. ** ** ** ** BREEDERS Crown champ Be Happy Mach is a look in for Aussie 2YO of the Year. But the depth behind him paves the way for some mouth-watering Derby clashes in this new season. Jilliby Nitro is a star and hopefully recovers from injury in time for races like the Victoria and NSW Derbys. And there’s the late juvenile season find, NSW-trained Expensive Ego. The son of Rocknroll Heaven stretched his unbeaten record to six races for trainer David Thorn when he easily won another feature, the Group 2 Australian Gold NSW final, at Menangle last night. It followed a pair of Group 1 wins in Queensland. Expensive Ego matched his Menangle mile personal best with a 1min52.9sec dash last night.   Adam Hamilton

BREEDERS Crown heroine Emma Stewart doesn’t have time to reflect. After winning three of the eight Group 1 finals at Melton last Saturday night, Stewart has switched her focus to the first big Group 1 of the new season, the $200,000 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 12. And she’s not mucking around. “We’re setting six or seven horses for the race,” she said. “There’s the horses like Born To Rocknroll, Rocknroll Icon, Tam Major and Maraetai, who went through the Breeders Crown and then a few others we’ve got close to racing again. “Shadow Sax is only a week away from a trial and The Storm Inside is pretty much on the same timeline as him. We’ve got some really good open-class horses to work with. “Ride High is another, but he won’t be ready for the Victoria Cup. The good races early next year are his go.” Stewart wasn’t as upbeat about Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy, who narrowly cheated death only a few months ago, ‘He got through it and he’s healthy again, but we’ve got him to the fast work stage again and we’re just not as happy as we’d like to be with him. We’ve got a few things to work through there,” she said. Both of Stewart’s Breeders Crown 2YO final winners – Be Happy Mach and Maajida – have gone for breaks. “Be Happy Mach is up with the best two-year-old’s we’ve ever had and I’m sure he’ll come back really well,” she said. “And even though Maajida had some good draws in the big races, I’m sure she’s top shelf as well.” Stewart joined the chorus of trainers, drivers and owners pushing for a review of what time in the season the Breeders Crown is run. “Absolutely we need to move it. It’s one of the biggest meetings in this part of the world and we need in summer when more people will come to the track to watch the great horses,” she said.   Adam Hamilton

WHEN managing owner Michael Guerin pushed for a Breeders Crown raid with Kratos a couple of months back, trainer John Dickie had mixed emotions. Firstly he wasn’t sure the young Kiwi trotter was quite good enough and then came some pride from Dickie around protecting his “perfect” Breeders Crown record. That’s why Dickie pointed all the credit Guerin’s way after Kratos won last night’s $80,000 Group 1 Crown final for three-year-old trotters, albeit on controversial protest circumstances. It was Dickie’s fifth Breeders Crown final win from just the five finalists.  “I won two with Paramount Gem, one with Flying Isa, another with Speeding Spur and now this one,” he said. “I joked when Mick said about bringing this guy across that I had a perfect record to protect. “I have to say it was Mick’s idea to come. We know he’s not the best back home, but Mick said the best Kiwis weren’t going to Australia and we should give it a shot.” Guerin watched the race on his phone in the USA where he’s away on business. And it was a dramatic watch with Kratos being second across the line but gaining the race on protest when the stewards deemed the leader All Cashed Up should be demoted to second for galloping in the last two or three strides. Opinions were certainly divided on the protest with varying outcomes from similar scenarios over the past two years in Victoria. As an aside issue, it’s now crucial for the sport to remove any “greyness” around the situation and set a firm and clear rule when horses gallop late in races. HRV chief steward Brett Day said of last night’s protest: “It was a very difficult decision. It happened so close to the line and even though Glen (Craven, driver of All Cashed Up) restrained his horse, we felt All Cashed Up did maintain his position and it warranted reversing the result.” Guerin tweeted: “Really feel for the connections of All Cashed Up, that’s a bloody tough way to lose a Group One. But we are thrilled for little Kratos to win a Breeders Crown and pay back all the hard work from John and Josh Dickie along with Sammy Kilgour, who looked after him so well … “ Things panned out superbly for Kratos early when Hatchback galloped behind the leader and driver Josh Dickie was able to drop to the marker pegs and trail All Cashed Up, which left hot favourite Majestuoso – known for his speed not stamina – in the worst possible spot for him outside the leader. “He got the perfect trip, but when he came to hook around Majestuoso, that horse drifted up the track and probably cost him getting past All Cashed Up and winning the race without needing a protest,” Josh Dickie said. All Cashed Up team of Yabby Days, trainer Anton Golino and driver Glen Craven were privately seething after the protest result. They had some well-deserved compensation later in the night when untapped juvenile trotter Im Ready Jet won his Group 1 Crown final by a big space. “This one feels good after what happened earlier,” Craven said. “This filly went awesome. She jogged it in. It was just a matter of trotting all the way, because she had it won at the 400m. She’s something special.” Craven then capped the night by winning the last race, the Group 2 4YO Mares’ final, with the Courtney Slater-trained Goodtime Heaven in strong all-the-way style. “Courtney’s done a great job to get her back from a year out. Things went her way when she led tonight and she won it really well after getting some pressure in front,” Craven said.   Adam Hamilton

THE similarities are remarkable. Just as the All Stars barn continued dominates so many of the juvenile features in NZ, Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin do the same in Australia. It was underlined again when Stewart and Tonkin snared the two richest Breeders Crown finals at Melton last night with Be Happy Mach winning the $300,000 Group 1 2YO colts and geldings pacing final and Maajida winning the fillies’ equivalent. Winning drivers Chris Alford (Be Happy Mach) and Greg Sugars (Maajida) both heaped praise on the genius of Stewart and Tonkin. “This guy’s had a long season and done plenty of travelling, but kept getting better through it all. He hit a new peak in his last run of a long season. That takes some doing as a trainer,” Alford said. Sugars added: “It’s just been a pleasure to be part of the season with this filly. The thing people don’t probably see is how well-mannered Emma and Clayton’s horses are. You very rarely see one of theirs without great manners.” Be Happy Mach matched young Kiwi trotter Ultimate Stride for “win of the night” honours. Alford launched him early from an outside back row draw, burned through a 27.7sec opening quarter to bludgeon his way to the front from heavily-backed Kiwi raider Zeuss Bromac and then win as he liked. “He’s a really special young horse and just such a professional. To sprint as quickly as he did at two different parts of the race, but relax in between … that’s real maturity for a young horse,” Alford said. Be Happy Mach’s win cemented him Aussie 2YO of the Year honours with 10 wins and third from just 11 starts and $344,215 in earnings. Kiwis Perfect Stride (third) and Zeuss Bromac (fourth) ran good races, but were simply outlassed by Be Happy Mach. Perfect Stride stays in Australia and goes to Anthony Butt and Sonya Smith in NSW, while Zeuss Bromac will also continue his career in NSW. Maajida led and made a one-act affair of her 2YO fillies final, finishing the season with eight starts for seven wins, a second and $271,800. Stewart and Tonkin also landed the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final with the much-improved Tam Major, who came around to sit parked early and won like a horse headed to the Grand Circuit. “He’s racing like a killing machine,” driver Chris Alford said. “He wanted to get going at the 600m, so I just cut him loose and away he went. “He’s gone from just behind the best ones the past couple of years to winning the Vicbred and Breeders Crown this season.” _____________________________________________________________________________ CHAMPION driver Luke McCarthy was still smarting hours after superstar Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany’s shock loss in her Breeders Crown final. And that’s despite the fact McCarthy is a part of the team who trains the filly who beat her, the massively improved No Win No Feed. “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong there,” McCarthy said. “Tiffany should’ve won easily.” Our Princess Tiffany had to sit parked outside Miss Streisand, but McCarthy knew he had her beaten down the back straight and went for home. “I was just about around the leader and I’d have been off and gone and the race was over, but Miss Streisand veered up the track, took me out and the winner got the run through,” he said. “She kept coming, but that burn the back straight and being pushed out like that, it really cost her.” You could still argue the very best version of Our Princess Tiffany this season would’ve picked herself up again and still won. But maybe that’s disrespectful to No Win No Feed, a former battling Victorian filly who has now won three Group 1 races this season. “She’s been super consistent this filly and just kept stepping-up. Things obviously worked out well for us in the run, but she was still good enough to take advantage of it,” driver Todd McCarthy said. _____________________________________________________________________________ MAX Delight surely locked away Australian 3YO of the Year honours and added some Tasmanian flavour to Crown night with his win in the $200,000 3YO colts and geldings final. Driver Todd McCarthy made the most of the good draw (gate two) to lead, pinched a soft lead time and Max Delight scorched home in 54.6 and 27.8sec to beat a fast-finishing Out To Play. It followed wins in the NSW and Tasmanian Derbys earlier in the season. Max Delight is owned in Tasmanian by big spending owner Michael Maxfield. “I was able to get a bit of breather in front while they sorted themselves out early and then he was so brave in that slick last half,” McCarthy said. It was McCarthy’s second Group 1 win on the night after he teamed with No Win No Feed to cause a huge upset in the 3YO fillies’ pacing final. “It caps a great season, especially down here at Melton,” McCarthy said. Most notably, McCarthy won the Victoria and Hunter Cups as well as the Inter Dominion at Melton this season aboard Tiger Tara.   Adam Hamilton

Kate Gath already boasts her best season, but hopes to take it another level on Breeders Crown night at Melton.  Gath has smashed her PB with 152 wins and there’s been plenty of quality amongst them, most notably an Inter Dominion and string of other Group 1’s aboard Tornado Valley.  But the extra dimension of this season has come as a bit of a surprise to Gath.  “It’s been the outside driving opportunities which have been the pleasant surprise,” she said. “It’s been great to get drives for a few different stables, obviously Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) being on some fantastic horses.  “That’s been a big part of what’s certainly been my best season. Not only have I driven more winners than ever before, but I’ve been in more big races as well.  “I think that says some great things about our sport … that at 36 years of age I’m having by far my best season and getting more opportunities than ever. In so many other fields, it gets harder for women as they get older.”  Gath has drives in three of the Group 1 Breeders Crown finals on Saturday night: Majestuoso (Race 6, 3YO colts and geldings trot); Demon Delight (Race 7, 3YO colts and geldings pacing final) and Pacifico Dream (Race 8, 2YO colts and geldings pacing final). She’s also down to drive Jo Dina in the 2YO pacing fillies’ final if the first emergency gains a start.  Gath will also take the reins on major players Maraetai in the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final as well as Nostra Beach in the Group 2 4YO mares’ final.  In a sign of the career shift for Gath, only Majestuoso is trained by her and her husband, Andy.  “It’s a great book of drives on a fantastic night of racing,” Gath. “It’s terrific to be part of it, especially with so many good drives.”  Majestuoso gave Gath her latest Group 1 win in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough last month and is a $2.20 favourite to win his Crown final.  “I was probably a tad easy on him after the Derby win because he’s had to the two staying races back-to-back. Even though he was beaten, he still got very close and fought it out well,” Gath said.  “It’s a good field, but thankfully most of our main dangers, including All Cashed Up who beat him in the heat, are drawn the back row with us.  “The shorter 2240m trip compared to the Derby distance is a bit of a leveller, but he’s so fast this guy. He’ll be very hard to beat.”  Gath can’t wait to drive Demon Delight for Stewart and Tonkin again.  “He’s got everything this horse. He’s so versatile. We knew he was tough and then he comes out and shows that sort of speed to win from back in the field last week,” she said.  “He never seems to draw well for me, but it’s great to have options and be able to drive him according to how the race is run. He’s such an exciting horse.”   Adam Hamilton

A RETURN to winning form and gun barrier draw has restored Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany as a dominant favourite for next Saturday night's Breeders Crown 3YO fillies' pacing final. Punters were very wary of the All Stars filly after an inglorious unplaced heat run and she eased from $1.30 to $1.80 favourite in last night's semi, but stand-in driver Luke McCarthy weaved his magic. McCarthy surged through from the back row and took Our Princess Tiffany to the front after 500m then dictated terms before ripping home in 55.3 and 27 flat to beat No Win No Feed and another Kiwi raider, Best Western, in a slick 1min54.8sec mile rate for 2150m at Bendigo. The other fillies' semi was much weaker and won in considerably slower time (1min56.3sec mile rate) by Our Road To Mecca, beating former Kiwi Buzinga. The biggest shock of the semis came when Emma Stewart's star, Two Times Bettor, flopped badly behind Our Princess Tiffany and didn't qualify for the final. Our Princess Tiffany has gate three in the final at Melton and has already firmed from $1.20 to $1.15 on the Aussie TAB. Buzinga is $9 second elect from gate two. The other Kiwi winner on semis' night at Bendigo was Ray Green's Perfect Stride, who led throughout and just held-on by a head over Star Hunter in by far the weakest of the two semis for two-year-old colts and geldings. "That's sort of what he's like. He just does what he has to," Green said. Perfect Stride's final hopes were boosted with the prized pole draw for the final, but he will need to step-up again to beat Emma Stewart's young star Be Happy Mach ($1.70) despite drawing outside the back row (gate 13). Be Happy Mach was dominant in the stronger semi, even though he was able to wok around and final the lead from stablemate Mirragon (who ran second) in his semi. Be Happy Mach won easily in a 1min55.8sec mile rate, while another Kiwi visitor, Zachary Butcher's Zeuss Bromac, grabbed the eye in third spot. Zeuss Bromac drew gate four in the final and has already been backed from $11 into $6.50. The best of the pacing finals will be the 3YO colts and geldings pacing division after two stirring semis last night. The final will be without nominal favourite Hurricane Harley after he mysteriously flopped and missed qualifying. But Emma Stewart still holds the key with the emerging Demon Delight, who produced a monstrous run from last to win the stronger of the two semis in a scorching 1min53.8sec mile rate for 2150m. Emerging stablemate Brevity led, copped plenty of pressure from NSW Derby winner Max Delight (fourth) and ran the race of his career for a fantastic second. The other semi won strongly in all-the-way fashion by David Aiken's improving Malcolms Rhythm, who beat a brave and seemingly always luckless Lochinvar Art after blazing home in 26.2sec and the end of a cosy 1min56.2sec mile rate. The All Stars' runner Jesse Duke couldn't lift of a poor heat run and missed making the final after battling into eighth in his semi. Max Delight drew best of the big guns in the final and is a $2.60 favourite from gate four, while Demon Delight (gate 10, $3.60) and Lochinvar Art (gate 11, $3.80) look the other key players despite back row draws.   Adam Hamilton

YOUNG Kiwi trotter Ultimate Stride has another Group 1 at his mercy. Off the back of his dominant Group 1 Redwood win, Phil Williamson’s colt strolled home in his Breeders Crown qualifier at Maryborough last Thursday. And, most significantly, he thrashed Powderkeg, the trotter considered his main threat in next Saturday night’s final at Melton. Ultimate Stride is a $1.65 Aussie TAB favourite from outside the front row (gate seven) in Saturday night's Melton final. In the qualifier, Powderkeg whizzed to the front, but in an obvious show of respect for Ultimate Stride’s talent, trainer-driver Lisa Miles was content to surrender the front to Anthony Butt when he challenged at the 1600m with Ultimate Stride. Instead of it being a contest, Ultimate Stride surged clear without being extended in the run home to win by 11.1m in a slick 2min0.5sec mile rate for the 2190m. The other heat when to emerging local Is That A Bid. Although he won by a big space, his time was a much slower 2min3.8sec mile rate. Is That A Bid has the pole in the final and is $3.20 second elect. Powederkeg is a $8.50 shot from gate three. Williamson’s other raider, Liberty Stride, ran a terrific second in quick time (1min59.9sec for 2190m) in her three-year-old trotting fillies’ heat behind Brent Lilley’s former Kiwi, Sunnys Little Jestic. Despite being out of the draw (so starting from outside the back row), Liberty Stride is still $2.80 Aussie TAB favourite for the final. I Am Pegasus is $3.40 from gate nine, while Emerald Stride is next at $6.50 from barrier 10. The highlight of the trotting heats was a star-studded first heat of the 3YO colts and geldings division. Breathtaking Victoria Trotters’ Derby winner Majestuoso was beaten but still went like a jet when a head second to speedy All Cashed Up, who led throughout for trainer Anton Golino and driver Glen Craven. All Cashed Up zipped home in 57.2 and 28.5sec, while Majestuoso came from near last and clocked to run a 56.1sec last half. But his chances for the final were hurt when he caused a false start in the heat and was placed out of the draw. Kiwi raider Kratos had to do the work outside All Cashed Up, but they didn’t go hard and he disappointed slightly by tiring for an 11.9m fifth. Majestouso starts from outside the back in the final, but has already firmed from $2.50 to $2.20. Xebec drew the pole and is $4 as likely leader, while Kratos' final hopes were boosted by gate eight, meaning he should trail Xebec. He's also $4. _______________________________________________________________________________ THE buzz continues to build around Gary Hall Sr’s latest young Kiwi import Wildwest. He’s raw and green, but boy he’s got some talent. Wildwest toyed with a moderate field and didn’t run much time, but it was more the arrogant way he did it again at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The son of Raging Bull is unbeaten in three runs and ranked right up with stablemate and WA Derby winner Major Trojan as Hall Sr’s best Golden Nugget hope for later this year. It was also great to see potential Grand Circuit player Vampiro returned to form with a win in the August Cup at the Gloucester Park meeting. The five-year-old, having his third run this campaign, did a terrific job to sit outside and snatch victory from favourite and leader Our Corelli in a slick 1min58.8sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. _______________________________________________________________________________ HOW often to touted “match races” unfolded very differently? That was the case at Melton last Friday night in the Minuteman free-for-all where proven topliner Buster Brady and emerging star Born ToRocknroll were tipped to fight it out. Instead, both missed a place and the race was won narrowly but impressively by the underrated Jilliby Bandit in a slick 1min54.5sec mile rate for 2240m. There was plenty to like about the runs of classy Berisari, who was beaten a nose into second spot, and the promising Rackemup Tigerpie, who was another a neck away third. Born To Rocknroll and Buster Brady both burned out of wide gates and set-up a blistering 42.1sec which left them vulnerable late. While Born To Rocknroll held on quite well for a close fifth, Buster Brady was spent before the home bend and dropped right out to be 25m away in last spot. The run was too bad to be true, albeit Buster Brady was first-up, and stewards ordered vet tests be taken.   Adam Hamilton

Star pacer Soho Tribeca has returned to Perth in a quest to resurrect his career. And today he was back with Kim Prentice, the man who took him through the grades to become arguably the best pacer in Australia. “I didn’t expect to see him again, I’m very, very excited,” Prentice said. Soho Tribeca won a Golden Nugget and Vicbred 4YO final at Group 1 level for Prentice, but their biggest win together came in the 2018 Group 1 WA Pacing Cup. A year earlier Soho Tribeca ran second in the Fremantle Cup and third in the WA Cup. Owner Rob Watson transferred him to Mick Stanley in Victoria to chase the eastern states major races like the Hunter Cup (he ran 2nd to Lazarus in 2018) and Miracle Mile (he ran third to My Field Marshal last year) before a Queensland campaign was derailed by a broken leg just over 12 months ago. Stanley nursed Soho Tribeca back to the races, but his first run in 11 months was an inglorious seventh at Melton on June 15 when found to have had a virus. He hasn’t raced since. Prentice said the plan was to have Soho Tribeca back racing by early December with a view to chasing the Fremantle and WA Cups again at Gloucester Park in January.  The timing and move back to Perth obviously rules out any chance of an Auckland Inter Dominion tilt.   Adam Hamilton

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