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The harness racing Traralgon Pacing Cup will be run for record prizemoney this year. Scheduled for the next harness race meeting at Warragul, on Sunday, June 24, the 2018 edition of the event will be run for $10,000 in prizemoney, a substantial increase on the $7000 stake provided for last year's event. Warragul Harness Racing Club officials expect a strong field of pacers to contest this years event, especially given the increase in prizemoney. The increase has come about because of Harness Racing Victoria's improved financial position, enabling the controlling body to add extra stakes to races statewide in May and June. First staged as the Latrobe Valley Pacing Cup in 1976, the race recognises two decades of trotting at the Glenview Park Racecourse in Traralgon, from 1975 to 1995. The event was reintroduced to the local racing calendar by the Warragul Harness Racing Club in 2006. The previous record stake for the race was $7500, when the race was last staged at Traralgon at the final trots meeting there in November 1995. This year's event will be for two to three win pacers, and should attract strong local entries as several trainers across the region have horses eligible for this class of event. Harness Racing Victoria officials have also seen fit to allocate a $10,000 stake to the Ken Miller Memorial event, to be staged on the same day as the Traralgon Pacing Cup. Three races programmed with $5000 prizemoney on the day will also carry a further $1000 bonus to the winning connections as part of another initiative by Harness Racing Victoria to increase returns to participants during the months of May and June. In a further boost to the sport locally, all remaining meetings at Warragul this year will be staged on Sunday afternoons, in an effort to increase attendances trackside. Further Sunday meetings are planned for July, August and December this year. Harness Racing Victoria officials have adjusted funding arrangements for country trots clubs conducting Sunday afternoon meetings, to help offset the increased cost of casual wages at these events.   Anthony Logan  

Queensland harness racing reinsman Pete McMullen added his name to the time honoured “Noel Smith Memorial” honour roll when he narrowly took out the 2018 edition of the Decron Horse Care Horsham Invitation Drivers Championship on Monday afternoon. McMullen started the day aboard the Alan Donohoe trained Gunnrneedabigerboat which battled on gamely for sixth place after being posted three wide for the entire journey. Young NSW driver Chris Geary took out the race with the very smart, Emma Stewart trained, 3yo colt Liftntorque ($1.40 fav.) which led all the way over the 1700 metre sprint trip to score by 8 metres in a rate of 1:54.5. The Queenslander gained maximum points in the second leg of the championship with the Jeff Tarbone trained, 4yo gelding Bettor Than That (NZ) which led from go to whoa in C0 class 2200 metre contest. McMullen piled on the points again in round three, when the Barry Finnis trained, 4yo gelding Bee Gees Bandit ($1.70 fav.) led all the way to capture the C1 race by 10 metres in a rate of 1:57.7. As the starters lined up behind the Pryde’s EasiFeed mobile for the last heat of the Invitation, it was a duel in two between McMullen and Victorian veteran Gavin Lang who had finished third, second and second with his three drives, to decide who would take out the Horsham crown. Chris Geary won the C2/3 event as expected with $1.50 fav. Emain Macha for Naracoorte owner-trainer Greg Scholfield but all eyes  eyes were on Yankee C J (Lang) and The Big Show (McMullen) to see who would be first to cross the finish line. Lang looked to have his 5th Horsham title in the bag, until Yankee C J  ducked in badly when the plugs were pulled allowing McMullen and The Big Show to pass them by. It was McMullens second time as a competitor in the “Noel Smith Memorial” - in the three race series of 2010 he notched up a trio of fourth placings to finish in third position behind the NSW winner Jim Douglass. While the glory went to Pete McMullen there were a host of winners on the day, thanks to the generosity of  Decron Horse Care, Carbine Chemicals, Pryde’s Easifeed, Finn Tack, Hyland Racing Colours, Zilco, Bertocchi Smallgoods, Oringi Protection Wear, Mustad Australia, Fly Veils by Design, GrafxInc., Roma Pocock, Harness Breeders Victoria, Tabcorp Park Melton, Victorian Trainers & Drivers Association, Albenz Park, Claire Weston Photography and Riverspa Apartments Moama. Hoofnote: Western Australian horseman Ryan Warwick who was a last minute withdrawal from the 2017 Horsham Invitation, had one of those days it’s best to forget. Warrick took the dreaded wooden spoon back to Western Australia after his first drive galloped wildly in the scoreup, finished near the tail with a couple of roughies in the second and third rounds, then had to pull out of the contest with broken gear on his best chance of the day. Anthony Logan

Veteran McKenzie Creek (Horsham District) harness racing horseman Ken Exell passed away peacefully last week. Ken's time in harness spanned more than 60 years. He drove his first winner under the lights at the Horsham Showgrounds in February 1954, with his father Arthur's pacer, Just Andy. The Exell family lived in the Goroke district at Karnak and campaigned their small team throughout the Wimmera and Western District. They enjoyed success with Captain Flare, Flash Durenda and General Flare in what is now regarded as the halcyon era of "the trots." Ken won Horsham Trainer of the Year Awards in both 1965 and 1970 - a period somewhat dominated by the legendary Hughie Jardine. In all Exell drove 26 winners on the tight showground circuit, a tally shared with his friendly rivals Graeme Lang, Trevor Martin and the late Stan Anyon. In later years when the family moved closer to Horsham, Ken also trained thoroughbreds and acted as a barrier attendant for both the Horsham Racing & Harness Racing Clubs. In more recent times the quietly spoken Exell gained enormous satisfaction with the trotter Allawart Ugo which debuted as a 6yo gelding at Charlton in January 2012. Under the patient trainer's guidance, "Ugo" slowly learned to be a racehorse. After ten starts the trotter recorded four consecutive minor placings then scored a well deserved home track victory in the Moore Bulk Haulage Trotters Handicap on July 2012. Exell's one horse team earned the Horsham Horse of the Year Award in 2013 and also gave his proud owner, consecutive Local Trainer Strike Rate Awards. Six of Allawart Ugo's eight career victories came on the spacious Horsham circuit and the trotter was to be Ken's final runner when unplaced at Mt Gambier recently. Our sincere sympathies are extended to the Exell family. Anthony Logan  

Smart 3yo filly Alessa proved much too tough for her rivals with a slashing harness racing victory in the Morley Park Princess of the Wimmera at the Horsham Racing Centre yesterday afternoon. The beautifully bred daughter of Art Major USA sat outside the leader Jilliby Jitterbug (Jason Lee) for the majority of the 2200 metre race and cleared away from the pack over the final stages to score by 17 metres in the ultra slick mile rate of 1:56.8, just 0.3 seconds outside Spokeswoman’s Horsham track record. Trainer/driver Michael Stanley dictated the tempo of the contest, particularly over the final 1609 metres, when posting four solid quarters of 29.7, 30.6, 27.4, and 28.3 seconds. It was a case of third time lucky in the Princess of the Wimmera for owner Harvey Delmenico, who bred Alessa from his former talented racemare, No More Trouble (16 wins $133k) which was beaten a half-neck by Deanna Troy in the 2007 edition of the feature event. No More Trouble, by Troublemaker USA, is a half-sister to Mendelico (17 wins, $188k) which finished in third place for Delmenico, behind Ay Tee Em and Queen Of Fire in the 2009 Princess. Mendelico is the dam of the classy colt Heaven Rocks, winner of 5 races from 8 starts, including the Group 1 $150,000 Woodlands Emerald at Waikato in June this year. Local hope Bo Chard came from the rear of the field to pick up second money for trainer Rod Carberry and owner Robbie Connelly with the Great Western filly Plain Baby a further 5 metres away in third place, for the Peter & Kerryn Manning combo. Both the result and the tempo of The Alabar Horsham Guineas were in complete contrast to The Morely Park Princess with former Kiwi pacer Stuover (Greg Sugars) staving off a late lunge on the line from Truth And Courage (Jason Lee) to get the judge’s nod in  atight finish. Sugars had taken Stuover straight to the lead with two laps to travel and those who’d taken the $1.40 on offer would have been counting their winnings early, when the gelded son of Changeover NZ dawdled through a middle half in a pedestrian like, 62.9 seconds. The race developed into just a final quick dash up the home straight with Stuover lasting to beat a very brave Truth And Courage in a final split of 27.3 and a mile rate of 1:59.4 for the 2200 metre trip. Stuover was having his fourth start since crossing the ditch to join the Dean Braun stables at Lara. After consecutive victories at Cranbourne the bay finished a close-up second to Spiritwriter in the recent $20k VHRSC The Graduate at Meton and should go to bigger and better things for owner Tony Coniglio. Franco Jameson battled on soundly 5.5 metres away in third place for trainer Adam Kelly and driver Michael Bellman.   Anthony Logan    

Champion  Australian reinsman Gavin Lang captured his fourth Noel Smith Memorial Invitation Drivers Championship, in a tight three race series at the Horsham Racing Centre on Monday afternoon. Lang was making his 20th appearance in the prestigious contest and posted early points on the tally board, when he piloted the 5yo mare, Mintropolitan to an all-the-way victory in the opening heat, for SA trainer Jake Webster. Tasmanian driver Gareth Rattray put himself into the contest, courtesy of a tough staying effort by David Van Ryn’s smart 3YO gelding Time Capsule in the 2nd heat.  Lang maintained his position at the top of the table, with a close up third on Ideal Majority for Bannockburn trainer Geoff Webster. Youthful SA horseman Ryan Hryhorec captured the final round with the Kerryn Manning trained pacer Itz Dreamin Jonesy. Lang came in midfield with Big Gorilla but maintained a slight margin to take out the 24th Horsham title. At the other end of the points table, a countback saw former Horsham Club President Garry Chequer present the dreaded Wooden Spoon to Queensland reinsman Grant Dixon, with Daryl Douglas breathing a sigh of relief. Lang, aged 53, is almost in the veteran category, but the winner of 5000+  races is still driving in red-hot form. His Horsham Invitation crown comes right on the back of two recent Group 1 victories at Menangle and 4 wins from 5 drives at Devonport for trainer Adam Kelly, just the night before heading to Horsham. Monday must have been a long day for the Harness Hall Of Famer. After catching a 6am flight out of Devonport to Tullamarine, it was an hour’s drive home to Bacchus Marsh and nearly 3 hours more, along the Western Highway to Horsham. Four drives later and with a new Challenger sulky on board, it was off again in the truck heading for home. Finally around 10.00pm, it was time to put the feet up before enjoying a well deserved, good night’s sleep. Gavin Lang. Mr. 5000. Harness Racing Legend. Congratulations.  By Anthony Logan

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