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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

Majestuoso let down with a freakish burst to not only capture the much coveted Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby but declare himself a star on the rise. A thrilled trainer Andy Gath spoke glowingly after his three-year-old swept home in blistering style to claim the richest race on the all-trotting card as plenty piled in to Maryborough to soak up Redwood Day. “It’s been a bit of a hoodoo race for me this race. It’s a great thrill to win it. I’m a little bit emotional actually, I don’t generally get emotional winning big races, but winning this race is a great thrill,” Gath told Trots Vision post-race. “I just love this little horse. He’s got freakish ability and this is the race we’ve been waiting for. We’ve looked after him all season, just kept him against his own age group. To win this race is quite special, he’ll race in the Breeders Crown and then go for a good spell. The future looks good for him and in 12 months’ time, 18 months’ time he might be challenging Tornado Valley for the best horse in Australia.” The lofty assessment was shared by reinswoman Kate Gath, who had a brilliant day in the sulky, winning four including a patient drive in the Derby when she and Majestuso overcame losing stride down the back straight to leave all in their wake in the run to the line. “Up the back straight he galloped for a stride because the one I was tracking up, Sidney (Van Den Brande on Xebec), he got pushed out and they come back in my face and I was like ‘oh no’, but he got down really quick,” Kate said. “Once that happened we got through the middle and got between them I was confident that he had a pretty quick finishing burst and that they would want to be pretty quick for him not to get them. He just picks them up in a stride. Just rapt.” The success is reward for the stable’s patience with the talented but troublesome two-year-old, who Kate said had overcome his early cheek. “He’s just got better with age. He came back as a three-year-old and just put it together,” she said. “He’s matured a little bit, learned how to race a little bit and relax a little bit, I’m just not surprised that he did that today. He is that good and I can’t wait for the future with him as well because, I don’t get excited about too many horses, I’ve been pretty spoilt and got to drive some pretty good ones, but this horse, he’s got everything. He’s just got the biggest motor. He doesn’t get tired and I’m just over the moon.” The win capped a golden day for Kate, who earlier steered Inter Dominion trotting champion Tornado Valley to victory in the Peter Egan Bi-Rite Electrical Trotters Free For All, Moonlight Dream to victory in the Majestic Son Matchmaker Mile and Magic Owens to a win in the Carisbrook Reserve Trot Final for trainer Norm McVitty.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media 

Star Victorian pacer San Carlo deserves to win a Group 1 race and is set to be given another three chances to do over the next few months. Trainer Steve O’Donoghue said it was “very likely” his classy veteran would chase the Len Smith Mile at the end of June and then the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake during Albion Park’s Winter Carnival. San Carlo followed a dominant Mildura Cup win with a comfortable Warragul Cup victory last Sunday. It was a one-act affair with driver Bec Bartley working to the front, rolling along and ripping home in 55.6 and 27.4sec to win by 3.2m in a 1min58.3sec mile rate for the long 2627m trip. The slow-maturing eight-year-old boasts 28 wins from just 48 starts along with nine placings and almost $500,000 in earnings. Buzz former Kiwi four-year-old Ana Malak looked San Carlo’s only real danger on paper at Warragul, but found the task of sitting outside him for the last 1400m simply too much. He tired late for fourth. It was the Golden Nugget winner’s  second run for caretaker trainer Dean Braun after he dropped back staggeringly in grade to win first-up from a spell at Stawell six days earlier. Ana Malak is sure to keep improving, having just raced twice for Braun since the Group 1 Golden Nugget for part-owners and trainers Greg and Skye Bond last December. “We’ll see how he goes in Victoria with Dean (Braun, trainer) for a while then bring him back home,” part-owner Rob Gartrell said. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ For the umpteenth time in his stellar career, Gavin Lang’s drive made all the different in a feature. Lang, recently sidelined with a bout of shingles, was at his aggressive and tactical best in a desperate first 100m of the $75,000 Group 2 Tasmanian Easter Cup (2698m). Ultimately, somehow staying in front of major rival Ryley Major won Lang and his former Kiwi pacer Franco Tristan the race. Lang went on to find the lead, dictate the terms and win by 1.1m over a gallant Scooterwillrev, who sat parked. But Ryley Major should’ve won. He was buried four pegs, got clear too late and stormed home for a close third. If not for Lang’s genius early, Ryley Major’s trainer-driver Rohan Hillier would almost certainly have found the lead and won as he liked. Franco Tristan has been ultra-consistent since coming to Lang’s barn from NZ with 16 starts netting si wins, seven seconds, two thirds and now almost $90,000 in stakemoney. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Trainer Andy Gath said some the practice at home the Alexandra Park direction of racing ended a planned Anzac and Rowe Cup raid. “He just wasn’t comfortable going that way, certainly not enough for take him overseas,” Gath said. “We’d love to have gone, you know I love chasing the big races when we’ve got the right horse.” McLovin was beaten but far from disgraced after striking early trouble in the Uncle Petrika Sprint (1720m) at Melton on Saturday night. He gave the leaders almost 50m start once they’d settled and ran on well for third behind rejuvenated and very much in-form Savannah Jay Jay, who ran down classy mare Red Hot Tooth in a slick 1min55sec mile rate. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Emerging NSW stayer Ellmers Image had to be content with winning the consolation of last year’s Melbourne Inter Dominion. But he’s gone to another level since and will surely tackle the Auckland series late this year. Amanda Turnbull’s gelding sat parked and beat Majordan in a 1min49.6sec mile at Menangle then out-stayed a hot field in last Thursday night’s $50,000 Group 2 Renshaw Cup at Penrith. The mile rate was a blazing 1min56.7sec for 2565m around the tight, old-school circuit. Buzz pacer Ignatius ran a close and excellent second at his first run back from a let-up, while classy recent Kiwi import Sicario was third. The trio look set to meet again in this week’s Group 2 Treuer Memorial – a former Grand Circuit race – at Bankstown. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Trevor Casey’s former Kiwi filly Dracarys looks a standout for the Group 1 WA Oaks. Champion driver Gary Hall Jr has been talking her up for many weeks and she again showed why be thrashing a good field in a prelude of the Oaks at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Hall Jr worked around the field from a back row draw to find the lead midrace and kept rolling. Dracarys won as she liked in a brisk 1min55.5sec mile rate for 2138m, capped by closing splits of 56.6 and 28.5sec. The daughter of Bettors Delight won one of her three NZ starts before Casey sent her to Justin Prentice in WA and she’s posted another 10 wins and two placings in her 13 starts in WA. On the same card last Friday, American Ideal gelding Mighty Conqueror underlined his potential with a narrow but big win in the $50,000 Group 2 Easter Cup. Greg and Skye Bond’s four-year-old came from a 20m handicap, worked around to lead and just staved-off a big late surge from As Happy As Larry to win by a nose. “We think he’s got so much potential,” part-owner Rob Gartrell said. “If you talk to Ryan (Warwick, driver), he just loves the horse and thinks he’s still developing with every run. “He’s had a big campaign so he’s out a spell now with the hope he’ll come back and take the next step.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________ One of Australia’s most exciting mares Share The Road died suddenly in trackwork last Tuesday. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Tintin In America, who boasted nine wins and 11 placings from just 28 starts, was due to resume for new trainer Matty Craven at Melton last night (Saturday). “We assume it was a heart attack. She went onto the track, went 100m, collapsed and died,” owner Zac Cornell said. “It’s devastating because she had so much potential and we just switched her to Matty for a change-up to try and get a bit more speed back into her.” _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Could Majestuoso be the trotter to test the freakish Alpha Male in the major Aussie three-year-old trotting features? There’s no doubt the speedy son of Majestic Son has the talent, as evidenced by his five wins from just six starts this season. The latest came after a massive scare when Majestuoso was cruising to an easy Ballarat win last Tuesday night before galloping at the 400m, but getting going again in time to win easily. Majestuoso showed talent but galloped so often last season, but, generally his manners have been much better this campaign. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Queensland veteran Glenferrie Hood deserves a mention for topping $100,000 in earnings in free-for-all ranks so far this season. The much-travelled nine-year-old made it nine wins from just 19 starts for the term – his best strike rate of any season in his career – when he overcame a wide draw and stormed around the field to win at Albion Park on Saturday night. The Wayne Graham-trained gelding has won 42 races and is closing in on $500,000 in career earnings.   Adam Hamilton

The champ's raring to go but the spotlight remains on McLovin in Andy Gath's camp after the stable's latest star added another Tabcorp Park Melton win. Kate Gath told Trots Vision that TAB Inter Dominion winner Tornado Valley was raring to get back into work but the reigning Victorian trotter of the year would continue to rest his heels while stablemate McLovin goes from strength-to-strength. "He was just out in front by himself and pretty laid back the big fella," Gath said of McLovin's win in Saturday night's Niota Bloodstock Sundons Gift Trotters Free For All. "He probably just needs one up there really pushing him to see what he can do. He's pretty nice and these races each week have been kind to him." Gath was pleased with McLovin's ability to easily shoot to the front from gate three, which could prove a valuable weapon down the track. "His gate speed was really good. He's getting faster and faster out of the gate. It's going to be a big bonus. "When (Tornado Valley and McLovin) clash it will be interesting if they are both going as good as they can at the same time. "Tornado Valley is still out in the paddock, but every time we go there he wants to come home. He can stay out there a little bit longer, he's a bit of a workhorse Tornado Valley and he doesn't like not doing much. We will give him a good spell, six weeks or something, and he will come back soon."   HRV Trots Media

THE two biggest names in Aussie pacing are close to comeback races. This season’s open-class ranks were cruelled when firstly Soho Tribeca and then Chicago Bull were sidelined with serious injuries. But the pair are at the same stage of comeback preparations and only three to four weeks away from the racetrack. “All is going well at this stage. He’s about a month away, so the Len Smith is a big chance. We’d love to get there,” Soho Tribeca’s trainer-driver Stanley said. Hall Sr said: “Chicago Bull sounds like he’s at about the same stage as Soho Tribeca. He’ll be ready for a trial in three weeks or so.” There is talk about a possible Gloucester Park match race, but Stanley said his sole target for now was the Group 1 Len Smith Mile on June 30. That said, owner Rob Watson is a big picture man and will ultimately call the shots on where Soho Tribeca heads. “There’s a lot to consider and get through, but it would be amazing for the sport if a match-race happened,” Watson said. “I’d love to see and would certainly throw some money behind it.” _____________________________________________________________________________ EXCITING former Kiwi trotter McLovin capped his preparation for a return “home” with an easy Melton win last night. The Andy and Kate Gath-trained six-year-old will now head to Auckland for the Anzac and Rowe Cups. McLovin worked to the front, dictated terms and won the $24,000 Group 3 Sundons Gift Trotters’ free-for-all (2240m). He’s won six of seven starts since being bought by Norm Jenkin and joining the Gaths. _____________________________________________________________________________ FORMER young Kiwi star Ana Malak is seeing plenty of Australia. The four-year-old made a huge splash, including winning the Group 1 Golden Nugget, in his first Aussie campaign in WA for trainers Greg and Skye Bond. Worried by his handicap status in WA, the Bonds negotiated with Victorian trainer Dean Braun to take Ana Malak for a stint in Victoria. Braun has set his sights on more travel, this time to Tasmania for the $75,000 Easter Cup at Launceston on April 20. As soon as word got out Ana Malak was being set for the race, he was installed a $3 favourite. It promises to be a strong race with other mainlanders like Kerryn Manning’s exciting four-year-old Duke Of Wellington and recent Charlton Cup winner Cant Refuse are others being set for a Tassie raid. Ana Malak won four of six NZ starts before being unbeaten in three runs for the Bonds. The son of Bettors Delight hasn’t raced since winning the Nugget at Gloucester Park on December 14. _____________________________________________________________________________ COULD exciting juvenile colt Pandering be a “sneaky” for the Harness Jewels? The son of Courage Under Fire won on debut for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin by 35.5m at Ballarat last Friday and is raced by Justin Baker, the managing owner of brilliant three-year-old trotter Alpha Male. Stewart is on record as saying if, as expected, Alpha Male heads to the Jewels she would like to take one or two juvenile pacers with the trotter to Addington. Stewart also has Victoria’s best juvenile so far this season, Be Happy Mach. Another Ballarat winner going places after a sparkling win last Friday is Andy and Kate Gath’s three-year-old trotter Majestuoso. It’s clear he’s in the top few trotters of his age in Australia after posting his fourth win of the season and scoring by 20.3m. _____________________________________________________________________________ ELLMERS Image showed he has the potential to take the next step with a gritty win in blazing time at Menangle last night. Trainer-driver Amanda Turnbull gave him a crack at the Melbourne Inter Dominion last year, but he just battled through the heats before brilliantly winning the consolation. Ellmers Image also ran a strong second to the classy Our Uncle Sam in the Group 1 Bohemia Crystal on Miracle Mile night. Last night he made a midrace move to sit parked outside the speedy Majordan, who did work hard in a 26.1sec opening quarter from a wide draw. The pair hit the line together with the photo showing a nostril margin to Ellmers Image in a 1min49.6sec mile. Former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow was third. The win was Ellmers Image’s 14th from 52 starts and edged him close to $170,000 in earnings. Another winner of note at Menangle was former Great Southern Star winner Glenferrie Typhoon, who won his first race since being bought from Western Australia. Glenferrie Typhoon reached the top for Andy and Kate Gath before connections took him to WA for a stint. Now a nine-year-old with trainer Roy Roots Jr, Glenferrie Typhoon posted his 32nd win in a 1min59sec mile rate for 2300m. It was his first win since last October.   by Adam Hamilton

A WORKOUT the Auckland-way of going is all that stands between former Kiwi trotter McLovin and an Anzac/Rowe Cup raid. Trainer Andy Gath admitted a mix of relief and excitement when McLovin bounced-back to winning form and smashed the clock at Melton last Saturday night. It made a lie of his flop seven days earlier and took his Aussie record with Gath to three wins from four starts. “He beat a good field and ran time. He’s very smart,” Gath said. “We’d almost shelved Auckland after the previous run, but he’s put his hand up again for sure. “He’s certainly good enough to take. We know he’ll be competitive. One of the races is a mobile, the other a stand. He’s now won two of each for us.” Gath said McLovin had come through Saturday’s win well. “We’ve got the time to give him another run here,” he said. “As far as a decision on Auckland goes, that hinges on when we try working him that direction at home. If he handles it, we’ll head across.” Interestingly, McLovin tends to hang out a little in his Aussie races so he could actually be even more comfortable going the opposite direction. The other upside of an Auckland trip now is the experience ahead of heading back for the Inter Dominion series at the end of the year. Meanwhile, the reigning Inter Dominion winner and stablemate Tornado Valley is out spelling. Team Gath’s huge recent success with trotters looks set to continue with them adding another former Kiwi, Il Pirata, to the stable. The eight-year-old son of Love You only won seven races from 75 NZ starts, but did run another 31 placings and – in recent times – has been up against hot opposition. Il Pirata’s last-start run was a close second to emerging star Sundees Son on March 3. “His form certainly reads well. Yes he’s a veteran and hasn’t actually won that many races, but he’s run lots of placings. I guess what we’ll find out is how genuine he is once he starts racing over here,” Gath said.   Adam Hamilton

Andy Gath is hoping promising trotter McLovin can bounce back from his first defeat in Australia last week and use Saturday night’s North West Ag Services 2019 Charlton Trotters Cup as a springboard to the top. Gath said McLovin, who has drawn the pole in the Group 3 race over 2760m, run in the Group 1 Hygain Australian Trotting Grand Prix was “totally out of character”. “He went awful really, compared to what he can go like,” Gath said. “But he has pulled up well; we have had him checked out and his work has been good. We just have to put it down to one of those things, he just put in a shocker. It was pretty average for his standards. “You don’t go to the races with a lot of confidence after a poor performance but we can only go on by what he has done here at home and his work has been as good as it was with his previous races so we expect him to go pretty well.” McLovin did a power of work before fading as Big Jack Hammer stormed home to salute in the Grand Prix. But the six-year-old’s prior Australian form – which included a commanding win in the Group 2 Lion Pty Ltd South Australian Trotters Cup and a South West Conveyancing Terang Trotters Cup victory – was faultless. McLovin won’t have everything his own way as he faces a talented field headed by the ultra-consistent group performer Deltasun. But Gath said he felt the six-year-old had a promising future regardless of the result. “His three runs prior to last week have been top class, in our opinion, against quality opposition,” he said. “Obviously we got a dent in our confidence last week but we can see him competing in all the big races next season.” The Gaths, who will also be taking November Guy (DNR Logistics Trot) to Melton, are hoping for a better run of luck than last week, when Tornado Valley’s incredible nine-race winning streak – which netted four Group 1s, five Group 3s and $229,500 in prizemoney – ended in the Grand Prix. He said the superstar was now enjoying a spell. “The writing was probably on the wall a little bit at his previous start, when he won but he didn’t go as good,” Gath said. “(But) he has done more than we thought he would able to do - I would have bought him myself if I knew. He will have about six weeks off – it will be his first decent spell since I have had him.” The North West Ag Services Charlton Trotters Cup shares top billing with the Group 3 Charlton & District Community Bank Charlton Pacing Cup, with both races held at Melton this year as construction continues on the Charlton Harness Racing Club’s revamped home, part of the town’s $4.2 million community hub. Shaun Campbell for Trots Media

ANDY Gath openly admits this is by far Tornado Valley’s biggest test. There’s no question the line-up Tornado Valley faces in Saturday night’s $250,000 Group 1 Great Southern Star is significantly strongly than the rivals he beat to snare the Inter Dominion crown last month at Melton. And that’s largely because of the presence of NZ’s best trotters, Marcoola. “Marcoola may simply be a better horse than Tornado Valley, at the very least I’d have to say he’s on par on what I’ve seen him do in NZ,” a frank Gath admitted. “He’s a seriously good trotter and when you throw in Temporale along with Speeding Spur, Tough Monarch and others, this is certainly the biggest test Tornado Valley’s had. “But we’re looking forward to it, especially now he’s drawn well. “I think he’ll lead, but we’re expecting pressure and I think he’s up to it. “We think he’s clearly better than Glenferrie Typhoon, who copped pressure all the way and still won a Great Southern Star. Tornado Valley is stronger and a much better racehorse.” But Gath admits to being surprised at how short Tornado Valley is in Aussie TAB markets at $1.50. “It’s hard to see why he should be shorter than the Inter Dominion when he’s only won his past two starts by a metre and this is such a stronger field,” he said. “If the best Marcoola turns up, I’m sure the fans are in for a fantastic contest and there’s certainly enough other really good horses in the race to come and beat us both if the race is run to suit them.” Gath sharpened-up Tornado Valley with a Melton trial on Tuesday. “We skipped the race at Ballarat last week and decided to go to the trial instead. He hit the line well and it’s right where we want him,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

This is it….this is what we’ve been waiting for! The two best  trotters from either side of the ditch are coming head to head for the first time this season. Tornado Valley vs Marcoola. And the battle ground is TABCORP Park, Melton this Saturday night. Its leg three of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and as it stands, they sit equal at the top of the leaderboard following their respective victories in the Inter Dominion Grand Final and the Dominion. Both have collected 100 points to date. So the winner walks away with more than bragging rights. Who will take the Gr.1 $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star? Will it be Tornado Valley and his relentless hard running or will the sublime speed of Marcoola be on full display? And they will have a great view of each other early after drawing ideally off the front-line; they will start side by side in the 2760m mobile start event. The Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley has landed gate two while the Ken and Clint Ford conditioned Marcoola starts to his immediate outside in gate three. The Gath’s combined with Glenferrie Typhoon who proved triumphant in 2017. Speedy Sydney prepared performer Tough Monarch has landed the coveted inside gate and looms as the knockout runner following his effortless last start victory at TABCORP Park, Menangle. Inter Dominion runner-up Sky Petite will start from gate four for trainer Mick Stanley and young driver Ryan Duffy; the speedy mare will carry plenty of support yet again. Outstanding young horseman Anton Golino prepares both Pizza Queen (gate 5) and Dance Craze (gate 13) and both will also have plenty of support owing to their consistent form. New Zealand stars Speeding Spur (gate 7) and Temporale (gate 12) are no strangers to success on Australian soil and both return with brilliant recent form, while the barrier draws aren’t kind they will certainly make their presence felt. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star back in 2016. Last start E B Cochran Cup winner Save Our Pennys (gate 8) represents father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang and commands respects given his ultra-consistent form surge of late. Classy mare Red Hot Tooth (gate 9), a last start winner of the George Gath at Shepparton can only improve on effort from last season when finishing at the rear of the field, the Kari Males prepared mare is more seasoned and mature commodity and appeals as a knockout hope. Veteran performer Kyvalley Blur (gate 10) is also looking to improve on last year’s effort (10th behind Sparkling Success) and is drawn to follow out behind Marcoola, the Brent Lilley prepared gelding performed well at his most recent start in the George Gath behind Red Hot Tooth. Emerging talent Big Jack Hammer (gate 11) continues to thrive on racing in the elite company this season and although the draw is unkind, the David Aiken prepared gelding can’t be completely overlooked. With defending champion Sparkling Success absent owing to injury, the depth in the field this year is outstanding with total class spread across the field. Since conditions changed in 2017, Australian trained trotters have proved victorious but will that trend continue this year? What a contest…what a race! The Great Southern Star is scheduled as race six and listed to start at 9.00pm local time.   Chris Barsby  

INTER Dominion winner Tiger Tara again showed his vulnerability in sprint racing despite winning the Group 3 Brian Hancock Cup over a mile at Menangle last Saturday night. Dropped back from an easy 2300m Menangle win a week earlier, Tiger Tara worked to the front, dictated the terms and just scrambled home by a half-head. Fellow Inter Dominion finalist Maximan returned from a freshen-up with a ripping second where he was timed to run a 25.8sec last quarter. Tiger Tara’s splits for the mile were 26.9, 30.3, 29.4 and 26.1sec, which showed turning it into a sprint home probably didn’t suit him ideally. Now it’s back to the staying distance for the $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton on February 2 then a Miracle Mile quest. Earlier in the night at Menangle, another two Inter Dominion contestants – My Alpha Rock and Village Witch – ran the quinella in a 1min51.4sec mile. While Paul Court’s Kiwi raider, Hail Christian, made it four wins from just five NSW starts winning in a 1min51.1sec mile in the third event. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ INTER Dominion finalist Spankem sharpened-up for his Chariots Of Fire quest with a slick Ballarat win last Saturday night. Staggeringly, the gelding was able to drop back to race C3/4 class and won accordingly  by 4.3m in a slick 1min53.8sec mile rate for 1710m with Natalie Rasmussen aboard. He goes straight into next Saturday night’s Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton against the likes of Im Pats Delight, Ride High and Poster Boy where only the winner gets a Chariots Of Fire invite. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ NSW star trotter Tough Monarch booked a trip back to Melbourne and more Group 1 racing with a sparkling first-up win at Menangle last Saturday night. Rickie Alchin’s gelding, who ran so well through the Inter Dominion series, will head back to Melton to tackle Tornado Valley, Marcoola, Speeding Spur and others in the Group 1 Great Southern Star next Saturday night. He thrashed his rivals when first-up from a short break at Menangle where he trotted 1min58.2sec for 2300m and won by 21.5m. Another major Inter Dominion player, Save Our Pennys, showed he too would be a key Great Southern Star player with an easy Group 2 Cochran Trotters’ Cup win at Bendigo last Saturday night. Making the most of Tornado’s Valley’s absence, Save Our Pennys led throughout for trainer Graeme Lang and driver Gavin Lang to win easily by 5.2m over a gallant Dance Craze, who ran second after being parked, in a 1min59.8sec mile rate for 2200m. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ LEADING Chariots Of Fire contender Ignatius has made the trip from Tasmania to NSW, is back with Jimmy Rattray and will trial at Menangle on Tuesday. Regular trainer Todd Rattray had planned to give the four-year-old a race in his home state before returning to NSW, but a minor “bug” prompted his scratching two weeks ago. Ignatius, who boasts 16 wins from 19 starts, has not raced since a luckless but still slightly disappointing seventh in the Breeders Crown 3YO final at Melton on August 25, last year. “He seems well. We will get through the trial then decide whether he goes to the Hondo Grattan or we wait a week later for the Paleface Adios,” Jimmy Rattray said. The countdown to the $200,000 Group 1 Chariots of Fire at Menangle on February 15 really hots up with the Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton next Saturday night. The field will be headed by star Kiwi pair Spankem and Im Pats Delight taking on Emma Stewart’s glamour duo of Ride High and Poster Boy. Crucially, only the winner of the 4YO Bonanza gets a ticket into the Chariots, meaning the others will have to tackle one of the Menangle qualifiers – Hondo Grattan (February 2) or Paleface Adios (February 9). ___________________________________________________________________________________________ ONE of Team Bond’s stellar four-year-old Bettor Aim looks to have Perth’s Nights of Thunder final at his mercy. The former Kiwi son of Bettors Delight smashed the clock with a 1min52.4sec heat win at Gloucester Park last Friday and looks a league above his rivals. Greg Bond thinks Bettor Aim is right up there with his other top four-year-olds, Ana Malak and Mighty Conqueror, and we saw why last Friday. Bettor Aim finished behind Ana Malak in the Golden Nugget. Mighty Conqueror is about to race again and Bond is considering a Sydney raid to try and qualify for the Chariots Of Fire. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ SOUTH Australian pin-up pacer Email Macha scored one of the most important wins of his career when he snared the Wedderburn Cup yesterday (Sunday). The five-year-old gelding worked around to the front and found plenty to post his 26th win from just 29 starts. He’s won six of his eight runs this season. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ ANDY Gath hoped an Inter Dominion campaign would take his former Kiwi trotter Kingdom Come to the next level and it seems to have done just that. Kingdom Come ran a string of good races through the series won by stablemate Tornado Valley. Dropping back big time in class at Melton last Friday, Kingdom Come came from a back row draw, sat parked and thrashed his rivals by 19.4m in a 2min0.1sec mile rate for 2240m.     Adam Hamilton

Big dreams are bubbling in Andy Gath’s harness racing stable as Tornado Valley’s Victorian domination lays the groundwork for a European tilt. The seven-year-old Skyvalley gelding continued his winning ways with victory at Tabcorp Park Melton in Saturday night’s Aldebaran Park 2019 Maori Mile, stopping the clock in a 1:54.1 mile rate, just 0.2 of a second outside the record set by Sparkling Success last year. Comparisons are noteworthy given Sparkling Success was set for a Yonkers campaign before injury cruelled John Meade’s trotter only days before he was about to head to New York, and now the international spotlight has fixed firmly on Tornado Valley. The former Kiwi trotter has been linked with the May 26 Elitloppet in Sweden, contested last year by fellow Victorian Maori Time, and interest is building as briskly as the Group 1 wins are being notched. Andy Gath told trots interviewer Paul Campbell he and Tornado Valley’s owner Norm Jenkin met with Harness Racing Australia chair Michael Taranto in the wake of Tornado Valley’s TAB Inter Dominion win. “Probably before then we didn’t have a lot of interest, but since we sat down, spoke to Michael we are pretty keen,” Gath said. “The timing of it’s perfect for him, because he’s not missing out on anything on this side of the world. We will get a few more big races and then sit down and work out which way we are going to go with him. “If he comes through it good, we’d love to go. There’s no doubt about that. It’s a great opportunity.” Principle among those “big races” is the January 26 Whatthehill Great Southern Star, the $250,000 trot that’s part of night one of the TAB Summer Of Glory. It will be an opportunity for Tornado Valley to add to his four Group 1 wins since joining Gath’s stable in February, success that has continued with his present eight-race winning streak. “He’s 18 out of 22 since we got him in Australia and a couple of times he got beat we had a few excuses for,” Gath said. “To keep getting the job done against quality opposition, it’s a great thrill to have a horse like him.” Those qualities were on display Saturday night when he found the front with ease and controlled proceedings, winning by 1.3m from Gavin Lang’s Save Our Pennys. “Obviously his gate speed’s such a great weapon and he used it again tonight. Such a beautifully gaited horse, he’s a pleasure to train, keeps winning these Group 1s and it’s lucky for us to have him.” Tornado Valley’s potential European bid is music to the ears of Aldebaran Park principal Duncan McPherson, whose stud sponsored Bendigo’s showcase trot. “A horse such as Tornado Valley can put Southern Hemispherical racing on the map around the world and follow in the footsteps of Maori Time and the opportunities offered to Sparkling Success,” Mr McPherson said. “To think that in the space of 12 months potentially there are three international invitations to our trotters. They are starting to take our product down here as a serious threat on a global scale and I think it’s just absolutely wonderful. “I’d love to see Tornado Valley take them on overseas, he’s got blinding gate speed and we saw that again tonight. That’s a weapon we should be able to use. The rest of the world was watching tonight and they were watching after the Inter Dominion. There are invitations there.” Trots Media - Michael Howard

A blistering beginning and brave finish saw Tornado Valley capture the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship in the hands of reinswoman Kate Gath, who became the first female to salute in the great race. Long Forrest trainer Andy Gath and Kate, his wife, again proved a formidable force in Australasian racing with a thrilling victory by a neck from surprise packet Sky Petite, saluting in front of packed stands at Tabcorp Park Melton. “To win the Inter Dominion tonight blows my mind. It’s the race everyone wants to win and I’ve won one,” Kate said. “I can’t believe how lucky I am in my career to win the races I’ve won. It’s astonishing.” Andy said the pair had “been fortunate to have a lot of good horses win a lot of big races but to win an Inter Dominion is the ultimate”. “We just love this horse, he just knows how to win and we are very fortunate to have him in our stable.” Kate flew the gates from her widest front row draw and found the front after 300m, pocketing the second favourite and well-fancied Kiwi Speeding Spur. It would be the critical move, with Tornado Valley in control out in front as they notched a moderate lead time into a 30.2 first quarter. The challenges threatened in the running line, first Save Our Pennys, then Tough Monarch, but Tornado Valley saw them all off. At the turn it was Sky Petite who emerged from three-wide and loomed next to Tornado Valley, fighting on brilliantly before losing by only a neck in the hands of talented young reinsman Ryan Duffy for trainer Michael Stanley. But it was to be Tornado Valley and Kate Gath’s night. “Leading early was that little bit of luck we needed to be hard to beat and once we led I was happy, but I burned really hard to lead,” Kate said. “I came out pretty aggressively to get him across. Everything fell into place and I’m pretty lucky.”     Michael Howard Trots Media     7 9:08pm TAB INTER DOMINION TROTTING CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND FINAL (GROUP 1) 2760M $150,000 TM0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 TORNADO VALLEY NZ      Fr6 6 Andy Gath Kate Gath   $ 1.70 fav  PRS GS L 1 PH SWAB ST HT   BAY GELDING 7 by SKYVALLEY NZ out of BEGIN (NZ) ()  Owner(s): N R (Norm) Jenkin  Breeder(s): P L Gaugler, T M McMillan 2 SKY PETITE      Fr7 7 Michael Stanley Ryan Duffy NK $ 104.00   PRS T/F RAS 12 3WL SWAB ST HT D/S D/F 3 SPEEDING SPUR NZ      Fr1 1 J W Dickie, J I Dickie Josh Dickie 9.60 $ 3.00   PRS GS 3 SWAB ST HT 4 MONTY PYTHON NZ      Fr2 2 Phil Williamson Anthony Butt 9.80 $ 46.70   PRS PRU 5 5 SAVE OUR PENNYS      Fr3 3 Graeme Lang Gavin Lang 10.20 $ 14.30   PRS GS 3WE 4 6 WILMAS MATE NZ      Sr4 12 Tim Butt John Caldow 15.50 $ 140.00   PRS 10 7 ROMPERS MONARCHY NZ      Fr4 4 J A Rando, M J Rando David Morris 15.90 $ 201.00   PRS 7 HI CMP 8 KYVALLEY BLUR USA      Sr3 11 Brent Lilley Chris Alford 16.60 $ 13.00   PRS PRU 8 QUER VXAR SCOPE 9 RED HOT TOOTH      Sr5 13 Kari Males Zac Phillips 21.70 $ 121.00   PRS PRU RES 11 10 BIG JACK HAMMER      Fr5 5 David Aiken Kima Frenning 24.60 $ 34.80   PRS PRU GS 6 11 KINGDOM COME NZ      Sr2 10 Andy Gath Alex Ashwood 24.80 $ 166.00   PRS 9 12 TOUGH MONARCH      Sr1 9 Rickie Alchin Rickie Alchin 29.50 $ 19.80   PRS 3WM 2 QUER VXAR SCOPE Scratchings   ILLAWONG ARMSTRONG 8 Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 3:24:9 Mile Rate: 1:59:5 Lead Time: 87.6 First Quarter: 30.3 Second Quarter: 29.5 Third Quarter: 29.1 Fourth Quarter: 28.4 Margins: 1.0m x 8.6m  

NOT even a bad barrier could be enough to stop home town star Tornado Valley from winning the Inter Dominion trotting final. While his key rivals have been falling by the wayside of mixing form through the heats, Tornado Valley looks in the zone and on the up. The only scare Andy Gath’s former Kiwi trotter had at Cranbourne last night was when a rear bandage unravelled in the home straight and fans watched, grimacing in the hope he didn’t step on it. Crisis averted, Tornado Valley cruised to his third win from as many heats and firmed from $2 to $1.60 to win the final ahead of tomorrow’s barrier draw. If he draws to lead easily he will be $1.30 or so. And even from the worst draw – say inside back row (eight) our outside the back (12) – it’s hard to see him starting longer than $2-2.20ish. There’s no doubt classy Kiwi Speeding Spur is his major rival, but there is a doubt whether he’s thriving through the gruelling series like Tornado Valley. Speeding Spur was arrogant winning on night one, brave running third to Tornado Valley at Ballarat then workmanlike winning in the weaker heat at Cranbourne last night. Driver Josh Dickie nursed Speeding Spur as much and as long as he could for a 1.6m win over the emerging Big Jack Hammer. It was considerably slower time than Tornado Valley’s win and looked much harder work. Speeding Spur will need to draw well and Tornado Valley poorly for the Kiwi to have a realistic chance of upsetting the local in the final. Outside the star pair, veteran Kyvalley Blur was sound again last night, Save Our Pennys used another gun draw and soft trip to chase home Tornado Valley and Tough Monarch ran his third brave race in the heats. But is either of that trio good enough to beat Tornado Valley? Only if plenty goes wrong for the favourite it would seem. Kiwi pair Monty Python and Wilmas Mate also made the final, but look out of their depth on what we’ve seen in the heats. INTER DOMINION TROTTING FINAL FIELD AND MARKET $1.60 TORNADO VALLEY, $3.60 Speeding Spur, $10 Kyvalley Blur, $14 Save Our Pennys, $16 Tough Monarch, $31 Big Jack Hammer, $61 Kingdom Come, Red Hot Tooth, Sky Petite, $71 Monty Python, $81 Wilmas Mate, $101 Illawong Armstrong (1stemerg), $151 Rompers Monarchy, $201 Enrolled (2nd emerg). Adam Hamilton

The form guide held true with Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur reinforcing their reputations with opening night wins in the TAB Inter Dominion trotting championship. While Victorian hopes Save Our Pennys and Maori Law would have only gained admirers, the big two retained that title with the pre-series favourites, who are both stabled at Andy Gath’s Long Forrest property, amassing complete performances. Speeding Spur, for New Zealand father-and-son team Josh and John Dickie, skipped to the front and after a pedestrian 32.2-second first quarter was untroubled, his 56.2-second last half putting 8.5m between himself and second placegetter Maori Law. “He’s very good,” trainer John Dickie said post-race of Speeding Spur. Tornado Valley’s wide draw meant reinswoman Kate Gath would have to work harder to find the front and, once she did, Save Our Pennys, in trainer-driver Gavin Lang’s hands, was menacing on the leader’s back. After a 27.7-second third quarter they got home in 29.2 and stopped the clock at a 1:57.0 mile rate, only a second outside Keystone Del’s track record, with Save Our Pennys 1.4m off Tornado Valley while Tough Monarch, who did plenty of bullying work, was a further 14.7m back in third. It was a satisfied Andy Gath post-race, who said it was nice to have Tornado Valley “show a bit of a statement”. “We came here knowing that he was in good order and it’s always nice to come to the first heat and show what you can do,” Gath said. “We were pretty pleased, he had to work hard to get the lead and then he got mid-race pressure and challenged by Save Our Pennys and was still really strong on the line. He’s just got a great knack for winning.” Gath was confident the tough run did his trotter no harm. “He’s pulled up really good. I’ve already taken him home and he’s good as gold, jumping out of his skin. I don’t think it will hurt him or affect him, it will probably just make him better if anything,” Gath said. “He’s a horse we think will thrive through this series, he can cop racing, can cop work and always pulls up really good.” Speeding Spur winning his heat on night one.          - Stuart McCormick photo And so the focus turns to Tuesday night’s second lot of heats at Ballarat, when the Tornado Valley-Speeding Spur rivalry will only be magnified after they were drawn in the same heat. Both are outside the front row, with Tornado Valley (gate seven) outside his rival (gate five) and Save Our Pennys looming ominously in gate two. “We know he’s drawn wide and we have Speeding Spur and Save Our Pennys drawn inside us, and they were really good performers as well,” Gath said. “You expect both of those (Save Our Pennys and Speeding Spur) to be going forward and we’ll be going forward as well. “It’s a really strong heat. Realistically we probably can’t lead from there, but he’s a really good short-course horse. He’s going to have his work cut out but he’s a good horse. “We always try and win every race we are in and it won’t be any different Tuesday night.” Click here for Videos and results for first night of Inter Dominions   Michael Howard Trots Media  

SHANE Tritton is someone who walks it like he talks it. Tritton is often outspoken about pre-race tactics and delivers on what he says. That’s why he giggled to himself when some doubted his vow “300 per cent My Alpha Rock will be holding the lead if he can” in the opening heat of the Inter Dominion pacing series at Melton on Saturday night. “Of course we want to lead. He’s won all his races leading or sitting parked. Why wouldn’t anyone think we would want to look for a soft option after drawing barrier one. We’re there to win, not run second or third,” Tritton said. “Not only will he hold the lead if we can, but we will bowl along. That’s his style, he’s a free-runner this horse. It’s how he goes best. “I think he’s the one to beat if he leads. I can’t see how they’ll get past him.” By “they”, Tritton is referring to two of the big guns of the series in Tiger Tara (gate four) and Wrappers Delight (two) in the strongest of the opening round pacing heats. If My Alpha Rock holds the front, this heat as all the ingredients of a seriously heated contest. Wrappers Delight is sure to try for the front and can get fired-up, while Tiger Tara only knows one way and he’s sure to be right up in the firing line. It could bring zippy Kiwi four-year-old Im Pats Delight ($7.50) into the mix from a good trailing draw (gate nine) with Gavin Lang aboard. Punters, buoyed by Tritton’s confidence, have backed My Alpha Rock from from $4.40 into $3.40. Tiger Tara has eased from $2.60 to $3.10, while Wrappers Delight has been $2.90 to $3.20. Tritton also holds the key to the second pacing heat with Franco Nelson (gate two), who has eased from a crazy $2.30 opening price to $2.60. “This is his chance with such a great draw to compared to his main dangers. I’m as keen as anyone to see how he measures up. He’ll be very hard to beat if he can find the front,” Tritton said. The support has been for star Victorian pair San Carlo (gate 10, $5 to $4.20) and Shadow Sax (gate 10, $7 to $6) despite their back row draws. Mach Doro has also firmed from $7 to $6 from the pole. Other chances in that strong second heat include WA raider Galactic Star (gate four, $9.50) and emerging NSW talent Ellmers Image (gate three, $10). The third pacing heat is a all about Cruz Bromac as far as betting goes with the All Stars’ NZ free-for-all winner firming from, $1.50 to $1.28 given he looks the leader from gate four. Plenty of eyes will be on Let It Ride as well, but he will need from lots of luck from an inside back row draw (gate eight). _________________________________________________________________________________ AUSSIE punters have unleashed on the two big guns of the trotting series to win their heats. In the opening heat, Australia’s best hope Tornado Valley – the $2.60 favourite for the final – has been crunched from $1.70 into $1.45. Kiwi star Speeding Spur is even shorter at $1.28 (in from $1.35) in the second heat after drawing to find the lead in the weakest of the heats from gate two. Tornado Valley’s trainer Andy Gath found himself having to dismiss “rumours” the star trotter was under an injury cloud. “Not sure where the rumours originate from that Tornado Valley is under an ‘injury cloud’. I can assure you that I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment. Admittedly he had a foot abscess some weeks ago, but (he’s) good as gold now,” Gath tweeted. Tornado Valley is drawn wide on the front row (gate six), but has plenty of gate speed and and is sure to press for the front from the likes of Wilmas Mate (one), Tough Monarch (two) and Alderbeck (four). Speeding Spur’s heat lacks depth, he possesses early speed and gate two give him every chance to lead, control the race and win as he likes. Adam Hamilton

KIWI trainers can breath a little easier with Australia’s top trotter Tornado Valley staying home instead of raiding Cup Week in Christchurch. Trainer Andy Gath and owner Norm Jenkin tossed the decision around for two days after Tornado Valley’s stunning Cranbourne win last Saturday night. “In the end, we’ve decided to stay home,” Gath said. “The two major reasons are he’s not a good traveller and it’s a big trip from Melbourne to Sydney by road then fly to Christchurch. And we’ve also got an Inter Dominion and the Great Southern Star still to come in our own backyard. “He travelled a better to Cranbourne (about two hours from Gath’s Long Forest stable last weekend), but it’s a lot bigger ask getting him across Christchurch. “You know me, I love to tackle the best races anywhere when we’ve got the right horse, but this time we’re better staying home and focusing on the Inter Dominion given it’s just around the corner.” Tornado Valley made it 12 wins from just 16 Aussie starts for Gath when he produced a career-best performance in the Group 3 Chris Howe Trotters’ Cup (2555m) at Cranbourne last Saturday night. Best known as a front-of-the-field horse, the gelding showed his versatility by sitting back and coming with a big, sustained run in the last lap to blow away many of Victoria’s best trotters. His speed blitz including a privately-time 26.9sec split from the 800-400m and powered clear to win by 13.5m over talented mare Sky Petite and top class veteran Kyvalley Blur. “We were thrilled with him. He’s come back really well. He had to do plenty of work in the last lap, but he ran away from them in the end. And that’s saying something given how well Kyvalley Blur has been going,” Gath said. Kyvalley Blur ran another solid race for third and his Christchurch raid remains on target. Adam Hamilton

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