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OH WHAT a night - a great result for A-P-G… With six Group races for pacers conducted in Melton during the weekend, Australian Pacing Gold purchases dominated proceedings in emphatic style. The home of harness racing in Victoria hosted another marvelous Breeders’ Crown night which saw four Group Ones and a pair of Group Twos contested. APG Sales graduates captured each of the Group One Finals, while Goodtime Heaven was triumphant at Group Two level. A Sydney buy, Goodtime Heaven rounded out her four-year-old season by leading throughout for trainer Courtney Slater. Part-owned by the Slater family, Goodtime Heaven boasts 12 wins and three placings from 18 starts for a bankroll of $224,017. Earlier on the card record-breaking horsewoman Emma Stewart made a clean sweep of the two-year-old division when Be Happy Mach and Maajida turned their Finals into one-act affairs. Confirming his status as the nation’s premier freshman, Be Happy Mach stretched his record to an impeccable 10 wins and a third from 11 starts by rating 1:56.2 over 2240 metres, with his time nine-tenths of a second quicker than Maajida. With Greg Sugars holding the reins, Maajida led throughout to extend her record to seven wins and a second from eight starts for earnings of $271,800. As for the three-year-olds, Max Delight and No Win No Feed confirmed their position at the head of their crop by adding another top shelf win to their ever-growing tallies. Having already secured the New South Wales and Tasmania Derbys, Max Delight has won nine of his 16 starts for the season, with three placings and $299,310 also to his credit. No Win No Feed annexed her third Group One of the term, following wins in the Bathurst Gold Bracelet and New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge Final.   APG Media

On a star-studded night featuring some of harness racing's most prestigious Group One and Group Two futurities, for pure emotion, it was hard to go past the performance of seven-year-old gelding Tee Cee Bee Macray at Melton on Saturday night. The gifted but trouble-prone pacer scored his first win for more than two years in the only non-listed race on the program, the Always B Miki Breeders Crown Graduate Cup of $24,000 - but the sentiment could scarcely have been more poignant. Tee Cee Bee Macray (Ponder-Wya Mya Macray (Pacific Fella) was "one of the favorites" of respected trainer the late Alan Tubbs and it's been the mission of his daughter Jess and son-in-law Greg Sugars to nurture the pacer back to winning form since Alan Tubbs' death. "It's just amazing and it's one for dad!" a tearful Jess Tubbs, Tee Cee Bee Macray's trainer, said in a post-race interview. "It's been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues but we've worked through them. The horse is a bit one-dimensional, but it all just worked out so well tonight," she said. Tee Cee Bee Macray burst onto the scene as a three-year-old in the hands of Alan Tubbs, then won 12 of his first 20 starts, including a Vicbred Platinum final, and amassed career earnings of more than $200,000. But the pacer was beset by health issues including a throat condition requiring surgery and a litany of ongoing unrelated infections. He was a constant challenge for the astute trainer, who died in October 2017 after enduring many years of kidney-related ill-health. Jess Tubbs took over the training of the pacer, but admitted the challenge, at times, almost became too much. "He had raw ability and he was dad's follow on horse from Melpark Major, so it always meant a lot to dad to get the best out of him, and so it became that way for us as well," she said "By all rights the horse shouldn't really be here. It's been a long road but it's two years and 20 days exactly since his last win. That was one of dad's last wins, so this means a lot." She said the pacer's nature was something of a double-edged sword. "Dad spent an incredible amount of time with him. He walked him and spent a lot of time with him and probably spoiled him a bit. He is a bit of a brat and he's definitely a handful to deal with, but we just love him," she said. "There's no nastiness about him, but he has brute strength, he's big and he doesn't care for opinions he doesn't agree with - like last night when we arrived at the track and went to get him out of the float, he just barged out backwards before we had a chance to get him undone and broke the new tie-ups. "That's the kind of fellow he is. But to come back from what he's had to, that's how he's had to be. "We've been so pleased with how he's been lately - so well in himself, so to have him win this race has just been a tremendous thrill." Sugars drove the pacer to a nicety, sitting in the one-out, one-back position, then launching with a withering sprint in the straight. The usually-composed reinsman saluted in jubilation crossing the line, reflecting the depth of emotion attached to the victory. Sugars said although the pacer had looked promising as a young horse, he was perhaps a victim of his early success, and his imposing presence on the track. "He looked very promising, but he's never really been void of issues and to be fair, Tubbsy and I really didn't buy into the hype. We didn't think that he would carry (his form) against the very best in the country. He got pressure that he didn't really deserve and I think a lot of unfair criticism," he said. "This mightn't be the biggest race in the world, but tonight it certainly feels like it! "I would have given up just about every win this season just to get this one over the line." Sugars said the new National Ratings system was serving horses such as Tee Cee Bee Macray well. "He was just battling away against the top end horses and not only finding it hard to win but hard to earn - keeping him alive in the system was a bit of a challenge," he said. "Without the change to the system, most likely this horse wouldn't be here this season and would have been retired." Jess said retirement now seems a lot further off for Tee Cee Bee Macray, now that he's found form against a more suitable class of horse. "But because of the way he is and looks, there's a line up of people who've put their hands up for him when he does finish racing," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR

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

Phil Williamson’s trotting genius helped the New Zealand flag fly proudly on Australasian Breeders Crown Finals night at Melton on Saturday. Williamson led the charge for the kiwi contingent by producing blueblood trotters Liberty Stride and Ultimate Stride for emphatic victories. Liberty Stride set the tone for a great night out for the New Zealanders when powering away from her opposition to win the group 1 3yr-old fillies final. Williamson’s renown trotting skill shone through when the filly, who had galloped in two of her three Victorian starts, put in a faultless display to win by almost 20 metres for driver Anthony Butt.  “It is a big thrill for us – massive,” Williamson said.  “We are just so thrilled to come here and win nice races, it is not easy.” “You do have to bring the right horses and if you have a nice horse this is what you can achieve.” Williamson had put the finals night polish on his daughter of Muscle Hill and Jasmyns Gift at the Victorian stable of Brent Lilley and his partner Tracey Cullen. Williamson revealed his Victorian venture had become far more than just a business trip.  “I have been here for six weeks with [Brent], he has been a sensational host.” “His partner Tracy is up at 4.15am feeding the horses and their little son Jack has allowed me in to their family.” “I have just had a fantastic stay.” Little more half an hour after Liberty Stride’s demolition job, Williamson produced Ultimate Stride for an even more emphatic group 1 victory. The son of Love You and millionaire mare One Over Kenny embarrassed his Australian opposition when he ran away with the 2yr-old trotting colt’s and gelding’s final by nearly 40 metres.  Ultimate Stride powered through tough conditions as rain and wind pelted the Melton track during the group 1 event. And though his Australian opposition could not match him, Anthony Butt revealed that he could not get his charge to go any slower.  “The conditions weren’t ideal.” “He was getting pretty keen that first lap – I couldn’t get him going any slower. “ “He just wanted to get on with it, but he was very good, he smashed them.”  The New Zealand contingent added a third Breeders Crown title to their haul in dramatic circumstances when Kratos was crowned the 3yr-old trotting colts and geldings winner in the enquiry room. The John and Joshua Dickie trained squaregaiter was second past the post in a thrilling three-way finish with the winner, All Cashed Up, and third placegetter Majestuoso.  All Cashed Up galloped late in the run home, but it was not just a case of waiting for the horse to be automatically relegated like he would have been under New Zealand rules for breaking over the line. An enquiry was held to decide whether All Cashed Up had either had not gained an advantage or at least was unable to maintain his momentum when galloping. Stewards ruled All Cashed Up had not complied with Australia’s breaking rules and Kratos was crowned the group 1 Breeders Crown champion.  Earlier on the Melton card, star filly Princess Tiffany was defeated in a shock result in 3yr-old pacing fillies final. Sitting parked throughout, and copping some minor interference before the home turn, took its toll on the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 3yr-old when she was beaten in to third behind upset winner No Win No Feed. Princess Tiffany was caught late by fellow New Zealander, Best Western, who continued her superbly consistent Breeders Crown campaign by finishing second.  The New Zealand pairing of Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac could not match brilliant Australian colt Be Happy Mach in the 2yr-old pacing colt’s and gelding’s final. But, the pair still performed admirably and completed a brilliant night for the New Zealand contingent by finishing third and fourth respectively.    By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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

Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson had one of those dream nights in Australia last night, winning two Group One races at the Melton track, and both trotters were very impressive. “It’s getting up there. To win two Group One races in one night and three Group One races with two horses in six weeks is a pretty good effort I’d say,” said Williamson, rating last night’s achievement. Three year old trotting filly Liberty Stride got the ball rolling, winning her Breeders Crown Final by 19.4 metres in the hands of former New Zealand reinsman Anthony Butt. One race later Ultimate Stride continued on his winning way by taking out the two year old section of the Breeders Crown. Having completed his Australian trip unbeaten – he’s won all of his four starts and has banked $87,490 for owners Emilio and Mary Rosati. Williamson who’s no stranger to taking horses to Australia says both horses were eligible for the rich series, so a trip to Australia was always a possibility. “We just had to make sure their form was right. Liberty Stride won at Forbury and went super. Ultimate Stride had a couple of wee issues at the Jewels so I had to get on top of that. He’s a very soft skinned horse and was having trouble with cracking his heels and bleeding. Once that happens they’re not happy. We gave him a wee bit of time off.” Normally members of the Williamson family drive Phil’s horses on both sides of the Tasman but not this time, with Williamson hiring expat Anthony Butt. “He’s a big race driver and that showed in Liberty Stride’s race. He probably outdrove the others. I used him when I came over for the Interdominions. With the boys (Nathan and Brad) having their own busy lifestyles with their own teams and Matty having just been away to the World Drivers Championships it made more sense to use Anthony.” Ultimate Stride’s dam One Over Kenny won six races in Australia including the Group One Australasian Trotting Championship and the EB Cochran Trotters Cup in 2007, and a semi-final of the 2009 Interdominions. Jasmyn’s Gift, the dam of Liberty Stride also raced in Australia but without much luck. Williamson says Ultimate Stride will return home on Wednesday but Liberty Stride will stay in Australia to be trained by Brent Lilley.  “As a four year old mare there’s not a lot of opportunity in New Zealand. She’s up to it but it would be harder. If she gets a nomination for the Harness Jewels she’ll come back to me for that. Brent’s been a wonderful host and has looked after me really well.” Ultimate Stride, after a busy juvenile season will now have time off. “He’ll have six to eight weeks off and we’ll look towards racing him after Christmas. All going well we’ll head back to Australia for the Three Year Old Breeders Crown and we’ll have another crack at the Victoria Derby. It was the only one that got away from us on the trip.” Springbank Richard won the Group One Victoria Derby for Williamson and son Nathan in 2007.   Bruce Stewart

Challenging conditions saw the toughest emerge and reinforce their dominance on TAB Breeders Crown night, when eight Group 1s were captured amid some unforgettable triumphs. Emma Stewart's two-year-old pair Maajida and Be Happy Mach only added to their lofty reputations, Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson produced a trotting double from his only two contestants, Yabby Dam Farms lost one on a protest but captured another and there was even an upset or two. Relive all the winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Breeders Crown night with this rolling blog. TEE CEE BEE MACRAY WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI BREEDERS CROWN GRADUATE CUP An extraordinary start to the night as Tee Cee Bee Macray, the horse who means so much to trainer Jess Tubbs and reinsman/husband Greg Sugars, salutes in the Graduate Cup. Having been trained to great heights by Tubbs's late father, Alan, Tee Cee Bee Macray's victory tonight was his first since Alan's passing, some 37 starts ago. "That's just amazing, that's one for Dad," Tubbs said. "Been a long time coming and what we've all been working for. He's had so many issues, we've all just worked through them and he's been really well lately. "It just worked out so well tonight, I'm just so proud for Dad. (Tee Cee Bee Macray) by all rights shouldn't really be here, he's ovecome a lot of health issues, a few surgeries along the way, it's been a long way back. Dad was so patient with him and spoiled him, he's a bit of a brat and a handful to deal with but we just love him." Sugars has enjoyed plenty of big wins, but few have meant more than this. "I would have given up just about every win this season to get this one over the line. There's been a lot of downs, a few ups along the way and a lot of criticism and a lot of weight on our shoulders from everyone but it just means the world to us."   LIBERTY STRIDE WINS THE FATHER PATRICK @ NEVELE R STUD 3YO TROTTING FILLES FINAL: A perfect Anthony Butt drive and a very good horse in Liberty Stride, trained by Phil Williamson, kicked off the night's TAB Breeders Crown Group 1s with a dominant victory. There was plenty of heat on early in the three-year-old trotting fillies final but every move played more in the hands of Liberty Stride, the well-back favourite, and when the moment came Butt streaked clear to win for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati. "We had high expectations but you never know with these young trotters. Got a really good run and it worked out beautifully," Butt told Sky Racing Active. "I wanted to be a little bit aggressive but take my time as well and nurse her, got into a good spot down the back, I was lucky to drop in and then Johnny pulled in front of me getting to the back and got a beautiful dragged into it and she jogged it. Won really easily." Butt gave much credit to Williamson and his owners, with the Rosati's producing not only the winner but also second placed Emerald Stride. "Emilio and Mary have been really good lately supporting me and given me some really good drives so, long may it continue. Also Phil Williamson, great mate from New Zealand. We've been mates a long time and he's got some great boys who drive at home so very lucky to get a call up."   ULTIMATE STRIDE WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS FINAL: Ultimate Stride was spectacular in winning by almost 40 metres in the two-year-old trotting boys' final to leave no doubt who was the best horse in the class. It was a second consecutive Group 1 win for trainer Phil Williamson, reinsman Anthony Butt and owners Emilio and Mary Rosati, with Ultimate Stride unbeaten in his Victorian campaign and capping it with a Crown. "He is a nice horse, very nice horse," Williamson told Sky Racing Active. "He showed that he was a wee bit dominant on them, without stating the obvious he is a wee bit smart isn't he? "His mother (One Over Kenny), she won a million, (his sire) Love You was pretty good too, so it's a bit of a combination made in heaven you might say. When you hit the jackpot you've got yourself a good horse." Williamson said they knew Ultimate Stride was a very good horse from "the very first day". "Day one I said we have got a very special horse here," he said. "He just oozed class right from when we bought him at the sale. He's just a quality horse." It's great reward for the Rosatis, who Williamson said had "put a lot into the game". "He's had probably his fair share of disappointments so it's great to give him some upside. It's what we do it for."   NO WIN NO FEED WINS THE WOODLANDS STUD 3YO FILLIES FINAL Opportunity knocked and Todd McCarthy burst through to produce a boilover with $43-shot No Win No Feed saluting in the three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown final. All the drama again surrounded Our Princess Tiffany, the brilliant All Stars three-year-old who looked lacklustre in her heat, improved in her semi-final but ultimately outpointed in tonight's Group 1 after a testing run punching a stiff breeze. Instead it was No Win No Feed, trainer Craig Cross and reinsman McCarthy who pinched the headline, with McCarthy steering his filly to the front from gate six, getting cover from Miss Streisand and then stealing a march on the field when the latter hung wide and enabled him to gain the front again at the final bend. That set up a 3.5-metre win ahead of Jeremy Young's Best Western, with Our Princess Tiffany a close third. "She's been a terrific filly," McCarthy said. "She's been super consistent all season, she's really come a long way, she's done a great job. "I probably would have liked to have held the front but Chris (Geary) come at me pretty hard and I was happy to take the sit at that time. I know that filly (Miss Streisand). I've driven her before and she can get up the track. I never thought it would be at that point in the race, but it worked out good for us."   TAM MAJOR WINS THE HYGAIN BREEDERS CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO ENTIRES & GELDINGS Tam Major's advancement this season was capped with a powerful victory in the four-year-old Breeders Crown Championship, a title to add to his Vicbred Super Series success for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart. Alford couldn't have been more glowing in his praise when speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "There was good speed early and we were able to get around at the right time," Alford said. "He's just racing like a killing machine at the moment. "He got a good breather there for a little bit, about the 600 he wanted to get on with the job, so I said let's go racing." Seated in the breeze for much of the race, Tam Major wore down leader Rackemup Tigerpie and held off sprint lane stablemate second-placed Major Times to reinforce that he's a Grand Circuit contender of the future.   KRATOS WINS THE WHAT THE HILL 3YO TROTTING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was a drama-fuelled finish to the TAB Breeders Crown final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings, with a first-past-the-post All Cashed Up galloping in the closing stages and prompting a protest from second-placed Kratos. Only a nose separated Anton Golino's trotter from the Kiwi challenger, trained by John and Josh Dickie, with Majestuoso just a head back in third. HRV Chairman of Stewards explained their decision to Brittany Graham on Sky Racing Active. "They are always so difficult to do when they are so close to the line," Mr Day said. "The relevant rule requires that when a horse does break gait that either it doesn't gain ground or, importantly, doesn't maintain ground. When they gallop so close to the line it's very hard for them to lose ground, or alternatively not maintain their ground, and we were satisfied that when All Cashed Up broke in the final 50 metres, initially while in a gallop, it did maintain its position. "Mindful of the very small margin between the two of a nose, we were satisfied the protest ought to be upheld and we amended the placings."   MAX DELIGHT WINS THE IRT 3YO PACING COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL It was an impressive and clinical performance by Max Delight as the David Aiken trained horse was placed in front by Todd McCarthy out of the gates and controlled a class field to win another Group 1. The front row draw proved beneficial and while a strong clan of Emma Stewart runners and highly-rated Lochinvar Art had to shuffle and work to gain their best chance, Max Delight was always in control and with 26.8-second and 27.8-second third and fourth quarters had enough in reserve to hold off Out To Play. "He was super," McCarthy told Sky Racing Active. "We got out of the gate quick, once he held up easy enough I think everyone knew he was going to be there. I was able to a bit of a breather while everyone sorted themselves out and he was just so brave in that slick last half." McCarthy gave great credit to trainer Aiken, whose confidence was rock solid despite the semi-final fourth placing. "David's so good with these horses and he said after that run (in the semi-final) last week 'don't worry, he will be better next week'. Full credit to David, he had him spot on. "I've been very fortunate to be able to drive some great horses throughout the season and I can't thank the owners and trainers I've been involved with enough for that. I've had a pretty good season here at Melton, it's a pretty good place to me."   BE HAPPY MACH WINS THE DOWNBYTHESEASIDE 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS' FINAL Chris Alford drove Be Happy Mach like he was the best horse in the race and he only served to further prove that reputation in the run with a commanding Breeders Crown Group 1 victory. A significant exclamation was put on the talented Mach Three colt's season for trainer Emma Stewart, with Be Happy Mach coming from the back of the field to tackle Zuess Bromac for the lead. While trainer-driver Zach Butcher initially responded, Alford wouldn't be denied, muscling to the front and despite that early work blazing away on the final bend to set up a seven-metre win from an impressive second-placed Youaremy Sunshine. Alford had plenty of praise for the champion when talking to Sky Racing Active post-race. "He had a bit of a chequered passage early," Alford said. "Two galloped in front of him, he hit one wheel and it didn't even faze him, he just rolled around and had to put it to the leader to wrestle the front off him. "Once you buzz him up then he'll drop the bit and go 31 and a half and just walk along, let another one head him and when it's time to go he goes. "(At the final turn) it was just like he hit the turbo button and his arse just dropped and off he went." It's been a significant two-year-old season and the champion reinsman's confident much more is to come. "You look at the size of him now, he's only going to get bigger and stronger and that's a bit scary."   MAAJIDA WINS THE ALWAYS B MIKI 2YO FILLIES' FINAL The professionalism of Emma Stewart's runners was to the fore for a second successive TAB Breeders Crown final with, like Be Happy Mach before her, Maajida capping a dominant season with a royal performance. Greg Sugars easily held the front from his advantageous draw and while those behind him shuffled for a good sit, Maajida was clinical in careering away to a 12-metre win ahead of a valiant Iolanta for Mick Stanley. Sugars, speaking to Sky Racing Active post-race, gave plenty of credit to the Stewart stable. "Not only do they get the best out of them ability-wise but their manners are first class," Sugars said. "It's very rare for them to have an unruly horse in their stable, especially their youngsters, they do a terrific job. "She's relatively lightly raced this one but she's got a lot of runs on the board. It's just been a pleasure to be a part of it. "She was fortunate enough to have good draws right through this series, which have helped. She's got better and better as the races have gone on. Very happy with her, she felt very sharp tonight and did leave the gate a lot better, which made it a lot easier."   IM READY JET WINS THE ALDEBARAN PARK 2YO TROTTING FILLIES' FINAL A difficult night for Yabby Dam Farms gained a significant silver lining as Anton Golino and Glen Craven captured their Group 1 when Im Ready Jet put in a scintillating finish to win her TAB Breeders Crown final. Having lost a protest in the three-year-old boys class after All Cashed Up galloped in the closing stages, there was no question as to the winner in the fillies' final with Im Ready Jet careering away for a 20-metre win from Jaxnme and Illawong Stardust. "She was just jogging at the 400 and it was just a matter of trotting to the line," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "I was quite surprised on her last start how quick she can run a last quarter. I knew if the pace was on and she was thereabouts in the run she would be hard to hold out." Craven was particularly pleased for Golino and Yabby Dam Farms owner Pat Driscoll. "They put so much into the sport. Unfortunately that poor bloke (All Cashed Up)'s run three seconds in Group 1s now, but that's how it's going to be. This filly, she's something special."   GOODTIME HEAVEN WINS THE VINCENT @ ALABAR CHAMPIONSHIP FOR 4YO MARES The pressure came but you wouldn't have known it as reinsman Glen Craven and mare Goodtime Heaven sat cool as a cucumber in front and then when it came time to win the night's final title they put paid to all comers. The Courtney Slater-trained leader held the front and withstood pressure from $2.70 chance Art Series in the breeze, with the latter's reinswoman Amanda Turnbull attempting to hold at bay favourite Nostra Villa's three-wide advance. Craven and Goodtime Heaven answered the challenge with a 28.5-second first quarter and then had enough to get home in 57.7 seconds for the final 800 metres to take the Crown with a nine-metre win from Major Sea. "It's been a nice night after all, a second and two wins, I'll take that," Craven told Sky Racing Active. "She didn't get it all her own way tonight, she's such a good little racehorse, she's so quick off the arm and was able to settle and let the horse outside the leader sit in front of her the whole way. When I asked her to go she went good."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Traveling 2624kms is a long way to go to drag race your stablemate up a short straight in search of group one glory.  But that is the unusual situation Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride find themselves in in the A$300,000 Breeders Crown juvenile boy’s final at Melton on Saturday night.  Of course Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride aren’t technically stablemates. The former is the first horse trained by young gun driver Zac Butcher while Perfect Stride is trained by Ray Green.  But Butcher actually works for Green and his Lincoln Farm’s bosses so Zeuss Bromac is trained at the same stable, eats the same food and basically lives the same stable life. Butcher, as the stable driver, has even driven Perfect Stride in his ealry races.  And yet here they are two unlikely favourites in one of the richest juvenile pacing races in the world.  Perfect Stride only ended up at the Crown after a mid-season lull that saw him left with petrol in the tank to race into August and is owned by huge-spending NSW couple Emilio and Mary Rosati, who are never scared to travel their horses to the best races.  Zeuss Bromac is an even more unlikely Crown story, being a maiden in June and Butcher’s first horse.  But since arriving in Australia, together naturally, they have both been very good in their heats and semi finals of the Crown and then their chances got massive boosts at Saturday night’s barrier draw where Perfect Stride drew the ace and Zeuss Bromac barrier four.  That suits both as Perfect Stride, even though he led to win his semi final, is a better follower and Zeuss Bromac is the stronger horse better suited to leading and rolling.   So there is a very real chance the two South Auckland babies could end up lead-trail in the group one and while they will still have to stave off high-class local Be Happy Mach, he has the handicap of starting from the outside of the second line. “I think if they lead and trail, which would probably be ideal, then they are going to give the locals a good go,” said Green, who won the Crown two years ago with King Of Swing.  “I’d love to win it again and it would be great for Emilio and Mary because they put so much money into the game.  “But I honestly think our best chance is trailing because he loafs a bit when he leads but he sprints very sharply coming off another horse’s back.  “Would we beat Zac’s horse coming off his back up the sprint lane at Melton? I think we would go close. I’d love to think so. “But if we had to get beat, and I don’t want to, there is nobody I’d rather lose to,” laughs Green.  Bookie have already taken money for Zeuss Bromac as the possible lead-trail scenario became more evident and while Be Happy Mach is enormously better performed than the Kiwis, Breeders Crown are notoriously hard to win sitting parked when the other favourites lead and trail.  So the two South Auckland unofficial stablemates could be each others greatest ally on Saturday night. Right up until they become each others greatest rival.   Michael Guerin

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

Haras des Trotteurs and their line of French trotting sires won half the Breeders Crown heats at Maryborough this week. Leading the way was debutant sire Quaker Jet who set the ball rolling with an amazing trifecta in the opening race of the day. Despite a relatively small crop of just 24 2YOs, the son of Love You saw his daughters Im Ready Jet, Imamaorijet and Dizzysjet kick clear of the pack at the 400m mark and finish, one, two, three in the ABC 2YO Trotting Fillies First Heat. To watch this race click here. Two races later Love You’s latest star colt Ultimate Stride, a sale topper in New Zealand last year, carried the colours of Emilio and Mary Rosati to victory in the first of the ABC 2YO Colts and Geldings heat. The Redwood Classic winner made light work of his wide draw, sitting three wide early before taking over down the back straight. Given a breather by Anthony Butt, Ultimate Stride then turned up the wick at the 400m and proved far too strong for his rivals, clearing away for a most impressive win. To watch this race click here. All Cashed Up, by the leading French sire Ready Cash, was back to his best in the Breeders Crown 3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings first heat. All Cashed Up used his gate speed to lead from the gate, and set a quick tempo, kicking in the straight to hold off a fast finishing Victoria Trotting Derby winner Majestuoso to create a 3YO trotting record and the second fastest ever time (to Tornado Valley the week before), at the Maryborough track. To watch this race click here. His stablemate Xebec, by Orlando Vici, the fourth French sire to record a winner on the day, was then a convincing winner in the second heat, after making his bid 400m from home and staying on strongly to the line to win by 3,3m with 33m back to the third horse. To watch this race click here. Xebec was one of Orlando Vici’s first crop of 11 3YOs which has produced an astounding 9 winners, and which has the stallion placed second on the Australian 3YO Trotting rankings. His 3YO filly Orlando Storm also qualified for the finals with an eye-catching run for second behind Emerald Stride in the first 3YO fillies heat. Dave Sanders

The stage has been set for a thrilling TAB Breeders Crown finals night at Tabcorp Park Melton on August 24, with the field narrowing tonight at Bendigo and some new contenders emerging. It was all action at Lord's Raceway with not only the two and three-year-old pacing heats, but the draws for the pacing and trotting finals to keep tongues wagging. Here's how all the action unfolded on one of the great night's on the Victorian trots calendar. Amelia Rose wins the Always B Miki 2YO fillies first semi-final The punters take the honours in race one as Amelia Rose, who opened at $13 and was backed into $3.80, swept to the front to win for trainer Emma Stewart and reinswoman Amanda Turnbull. The victory came despite plan A having been thrown out early in the race when Rockingwithsierra was able to initially hold out Amelia Rose before taking the prized leader's back position when frontrunner Jemstone emerged. But sit-sprinter Amelia Rose soon found cover in the running line behind Michael Stanley's Iolanta and then emerged at the top of the final straight to show her customary high speed, winning by a neck from second-placed Alice Kay with Stewart stablemates Treasure and Jemstone filling out the first four in a very even division. Joining that quartet in the final will be Rockingwithsierra (fifth) and Jo Dina (sixth).   Our Road To Mecca wins the Woodlands Stud 3YO fillies' first semi-final David Moran slid Ahmed Taiba's Our Road To Mecca to the front and controlled proceedings, copping little heat before a 27.2 final quarter secured the semi-final win. "She was a bit funny last week," Moran said in regards to Our Road To Mecca failing to score up at the gates in her heat. "He put the plugs in her for the first time and she just tended to go to sleep a bit too much going up to the gates. Freddy and the boys left them out tonight and she was a lot sharper and she run a pretty good race." Tonight Our Road To Mecca comfortably crossed to the front and got a breather with a 32-second first quarter. "She's got that good early gate speed," Moran said. "Generally the mile seemed to be her go, but she seems to toughened up a bit more now and she's adjusting to that racing going around against those better fillies through some of them classic races. It's probably done her the world of good. "She's shown she's right up to them, just reliant on that little bit of luck. Tonight with the draw she was able to get the lead early and dictate from there." She was unchallenged in the straight, with Buzinga (leader's back) finishing second, 2.3 metres in arrears, and Enchanted Stride just pipping Looking Fabulous for third. They advance to the final along with Myra Dawn (fifth) and Millah Joy (sixth).   Perfect Stride wins the Downbytheseaside 2YO colts and geldings' first semi-final There was perhaps a little heart flutter late when Star Hunter threatened, but Perfect Stride got the job done having cruised to the front and swept his way into the TAB Breeders Crown finals. A $190,000 sales topper for owners Emilio and Maria Rosati, the little full-brother to Chicago Bull confirmed his favourite status in the run when he strode to the front for reinsman Anthony Butt and then did just enough late to register victory by a head. "He's a pretty casual little guy," Butt told TrotsVision. "Lovely horse to drive, but the boys did say he can wait for them a bit in front. That's what he did, he felt good turning for home and then he thought it was all over. He's learning all the time and I'm sure next week will be a different story. "He's been well trained by Ray (Green) and well educated, he's just like an old horse to drive. He come off the gate fast and just relaxed and dropped the bit and goes as fast as you want him to go. For a two-year-old he's got beautiful manners. I'm sure next week with a decent draw he won't be out of it." Green told TrotsVision that even better was yet to come from the beautifully bred two-year-old. "He's much better coming off the pace. He's probably better than (those times), had he been coming from off the pace he would have finished a lot better. He's a loafer." Joining the winner and second-placed Star Hunter in advancing to the final were Do Not Surrender (third), Focus Stride (fourth), Saint Emillion (fifth) and Santa Casa Beach (sixth).   Maajida wins the Always B Miki 2YO fillies' second semi-final She was a $1.04 job and she looked every bit of it throughout as Maajida dominated her two-year-old fillies' heat for trainer Emma Stewart and reinsman Greg Sugars, who showed patience in working to the front and then cruised to a five-metre win. "It's one thing about her, she gives you a lot of confidence as a driver this little horse because she's certainly not one dimensional by any stretch of the imagination," Sugars told TrotsVision. "She's shown her last two runs that off steady sectionals she can dash up a pretty sharp quarter if need be, like she showed in the Vicbred final when she drew an outside back row gate, circled the field and was too strong. "She's got plenty of courage about her as well. Just lovely to drive. She's quite casual in front, but it doesn't take much to wake her up and ask her to go and she responds for you. Just a pleasure to drive and I'm the lucky one who gets to sit behind her at the moment." Having initially crossed to the front, Michelle Lee Mac ran into second place with Starsbythebeach filling out the placings. Top six runners Askmeilltellya, The Pantheist and Final Peace, who did plenty of work in the breeze, also advanced to the August 24 final at Tabcorp Park Melton.   Be Happy Mach wins the Downbytheseaside 2YO colts and geldings' second semi-final It was a good race and it was won by a very good horse as Be Happy Mach notched up victory number nine from 10 starts for reinsman Chris Alford and trainer Emma Stewart, despite having to again advance from the second row. There was plenty of work early as a number of horses shuffled forward in the running line to be near the front of affairs including Youaremy Sunshine, who was four-wide for some time before settling in the breeze. Be Happy Mach cruised on by to move straight to the front ahead of Mirragon and Zeuss Bromac who were one, two and three on the pegs and that was how they'd finish, with talented types Youaremy Sunshine, Sahara Sirocco and Pacifico Dream finishing fourth, fifth and sixth to keep their TAB Breeders Crown dreams alive. Be Happy Mach rolled home in 26.9 seconds to finish 1.6 metres clear of his stablemate and to reaffirm his almost iron clad favourtism for the final, with the draw to take place after tonight's seventh race. Stay tuned.   Demon Delight wins the IRT three-year-old colts and geldings' final "How good was it - he's so fast," said reinswoman Kate Gath of Demon Delight after the Emma Stewart trained three-year-old put in a pulsating performance in the showcase race of the night, which lived up to high expectations. There was plenty going on, with Brevity surprising in holding out Max Delight early, Hurricane Harley lobbing to one-out one-back and then Jesse Duke taking the breeze as the big guns settled on the running line. A 37.8-second lead time preceded 29.5 and 29.6-second quarters at which stage Gath guided Demon Delight three-wide from the back of the field, advancing until Hurricane Harley popped into her path and provided cover. But last week's brilliant heat winner didn't have it in him tonight and at the turn Demon Delight peeled four-wide while well fancied Hurricane Harley and All Stars entrant Jesse Duke faded out of contention. Despite doing his fair share of work Demon Delight mowed down all comers to win by 1.7 metres from stablemate Brevity amid a 55.1-second last 800m, with Catch A Moment and Crime Writer hitting the line well to run third and fourth. Max Delight (fifth) and Always Fast (sixth) also qualified for the final.   Malcolms Rhythm wins the IRT three-year-old pacing colts and geldings' second semi-final Malcolms Rhythm shows he's got a few strings to his bow, grabbing and holding the lead before going all-the-way for reinswoman Kima Frenning and trainer David Aiken. The NSW Derby placegetter has mixed it with the best for much of his young career and tonight he showed he could sit inside one of the three-year-old class's toughest competitors, Lochinvar Art, take a few punches and still have plenty left in the finish. Malcolms Rhythm got home in a brisk 26.8-second final quarter off a 28.6-second third quarter to win by 2.6 metres from Lochinvar Art, who placed for a staggering 27th time from as many starts, including a sixth successive second placing. Pitch Perfect ran third with Out To Play (fourth), Fides (fifth) and Revolt (sixth) also advancing to the final.   Our Princess Tiffany wins the Woodlands Stud three-year-old fillies' second semi-final The hiccups of Kilmore's heat failure are now firmly in the rear-view for Our Princess Tiffany, who edged closer to the brilliance for which she's renowned in winning her semi-final. Reinsman Luke McCarthy, who's guiding the All Stars filly until Mark Purdon lobs across the Tasman next week, said "she didn't handle the track, it was really wet" at Kilmore and was rapt to see her return to something like her best. "Mark put in the media that they had done blood tests and were happy with her, so we were able to drive her confident and she felt super tonight," McCarthy said. "I thought if I could get in front of Kate (Gath on Two Times Bettor) early that would be the best tactic and got a good run through and sort of was able to control the tempo and she ran super." She advanced three wide early and got home in quarters of 28.3 and 27 seconds to win by three metres ahead of No Win No Feed, with third-placed Best Western 5.4 metres back. Victoria Brew (fourth), Miss Streisand (fifth) and Miss McGonagal (sixth) also advanced to the final. "She's a champion filly and had an outstanding season and it was just good to see her bounce back to her best tonight."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media  

There's a genuine air of confidence coming from David Miles ahead of Saturday's big night of racing in Bendigo. On the back of today's trotting heat win with Emerald Stride at Maryborough, the Monegeetta trainer-driver has four runners engaged in TAB Breeders Crown pacing semi-finals and is pretty keen on at least a couple of his chances. Miles' night kicks off in race two when Enchanted Stride takes her place in the first semi-final for three-year-old fillies. "We had a little set-back with her through the (Vicbred) series and she probably didn't race as well as she could have," he said. "But her run last week (fifth in a heat at Kilmore) was really encouraging. She's starting to get back to where we hope she needs to be. "She's got a beautiful draw (barrier two) this week and I'll be bitterly disappointed if she is not running in the first three on Saturday night. I think she has got a really, really good each-way chance." The daughter of Bettors Delight was a $26 chance with the TAB.com.au at time of going to print. Stablemate Focus Stride has already been well supported in the first semi for the two-year-old colts and geldings. After opening at $9, the TAB has trimmed him into $5.50. And if you've had a bet, Miles' comments will sit well with you. "He's probably the unluckiest horse in my stable. He has been showing enormous amounts of ability all season and he has been tightened up and knocked over a couple of times. And a couple of times he has made mistakes himself when in good positions," Miles said. "He has run some amazing sectionals. In the (Vicbred) final his sectionals after galloping early had to be seen to be believed. They'd be as quick as any horse in the state for the season, but he has got to put it all together. He gets the barrier draw (one) this week to do it. "We're very, very happy with him, he'll get gelded at the end of the season and he'll be a really, really nice horse next year. "Getting towards the end of the season where a few of them are getting tired, I think he has got a really good each-way chance." Miles was unsure what the meaning of The Pantheist was, but gave her a glowing report ahead of the second semi for the two-year-old fillies. "She's a really nice filly this one," he said. "Probably races better in the better class of racing because she loves the speed on. "Her run in the (Vicbred) semi was absolutely first rate where she nearly ran down Jemstone. She just got beat where the speed was on." Miles said The Pantheist's sixth placing in a heat of the Breeders Crown Series needed to be forgiven and was a little unsure how Saturday night's race would pan out from gate four. "I don't know where Johnny (Caldow) is going to finish up from the draw, but the harder they go, the better she likes it. So I'm thinking if she can get through to the final - and these Breeders Crown finals are generally run at break-neck speeds - I think she is going to be a really nice filly in the making." Miles' final runner on the program is Puntarno Stride, which lines up in the second semi for the three-year-old colts and geldings. Described as a "frustrating customer", Miles said the horse had plenty of ability. "He is going to find it hard from the draw (six) obviously and he will be a long price, but frustratingly he will probably run a really good race. "If he makes the final, he will keep up with them. Hopefully one day the penny drops and he'll turn into a lovely horse." Miles, who will drive the three Stride horses, is looking forward to being well represented come Breeders Crown finals night at Tabcorp Park Melton on August 24. "I'll be disappointed if I don't have three of the four make the finals and then once the barrier draws comes out for the finals, it's just a little bit of luck," he said.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

Don’t bother asking Mark Purdon why group one stars Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke flopped so badly at the start of their Breeders Crown campaigns.  Because the champion trainer admits he doesn’t know. And he will be as interested as anybody to see how they bounce back in the semi-finals of the rich Victorian series at Bendigo on Saturday. Both Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke were were beaten as short-priced favourites in their heats of the Breeders Crown in Victoria late last week, Princess Tiffany unable show any acceleration as a $1.04 chance after having the perfect trip.  “She should have won by three or four lengths so she was very disappointing,” says Purdon.  “Her work before the race had been really good and her blood report since doesn’t show any problems.  “So we have no excuses. The only thing we can put it down to is the very wet track.  “But she will need to go better this week.”  Princess Tiffany, who has won three Oaks and is the defending Breeders Crown champion, has drawn the second line in a very strong semi final and while she has the luxury of only needing to finish in the first half of the field to make the final, that hardly helps punters.  Both horses will again be driven by Luke McCarthy, with Purdon staying home then going across to train the pair for their finals next week. Jesse Duke only battled to the line when well-beaten fourth in his heat last Friday and has draw the outside of the front line in his semi final on Saturday night which contains all three of last week’s heat winners. “He was disappointing too and didn’t have the wet track as an excuse so we went to see better from him this week too.”
The other Kiwi pacers in the ABC have had mixed luck in the draws, with Best Western facing a tricky marble in the Princess Tiffany heat. But juvenile pacers Perfect Stride (three front line) and Zeuss Bromac have drawn well, the latter starting from one on the second line but behind a horse who should give him a great trail into the race. While the pacers will try and earn their finals spots this Saturday, the three New Zealand-trained trotters in the Crown have straight heats into the final at Maryborough today. And trainer Phil Williamson believes to can win two of them. Williamson couldn’t be happier with Redwood winner Ultimate Stride heading into his juvenile boys trot heat and he would only need to behave and produce his best to win while the Oamaru trainer is confident placing Liberty Stride on the unruly will aid her in her three-year-old fillies heat. “I trailed her on Sunday and she really pleased me,” says Williamson. “She should follow them out more relaxed from the unruly and the reason she has galloped the last start two starts was because she didn’t know what to do when the pressure went on early and tried to race them. “So I think she will be fine this week.” The other Kiwi in the series Kratos would do well to run a place in his three-year-old boys trot heat as he is up against Derby-winning star Majestuoso and runner-up All Cashed Up.   Michael Guerin

An enormous day awaits for Anton Golino at Maryborough tomorrow, one which offers great hope but the ever-present threat of trotting heartbreak, with his Yabby Dam Racing stable presenting 15 in TAB Breeders Crown heats. While safe progression through to the August 24 finals at Tabcorp Park Melton is the primary aim, Golino is hopeful a few of his well-bred Pat Driscoll-owned trotters will confirm their contender status. And the Ballarat trainer said there was also opportunity for some, like Aldebaran Park two-year-old colts and geldings' contestant Avimore, to finally show their true colours. "To be honest, (Avimore's) probably one of the better ones of mine on ability," Golino told the Inside Word podcast. But owing to manners ability hadn't yet transformed into race performance, having finished seventh or eighth in his four starts when he's either broken gait, started poorly or tailed off. "I think he will be OK," Golino said. "We have changed a few little things on him and I had a look at the gate the other day with him and he seemed to be quite good. Just get him out the gate and after that he should be fine." Avimore is one of three runners Golino has in the class, sharing the second heat with stablemate Gun Slinger, who will start from inside the back row in and "will need luck" but is "a nice colt". "Hopefully we can get no bad luck and he can get through and qualified and draw a bit better in the final," Golino said. Avimore is listed a $41 chance with TAB.com.au and Gun Slinger at $6. The other Yabby Dam runner, Quake Proof, is in the first heat, where he's listed a $41 shot in a market dominated by Redwood Classic winner Ultimate Stride. "He was a little bit of a handful there early and we had to drive him (so) he wouldn't get too revvy, a couple of times he showed us that he could get home real good," Golino said. "If he's handy enough, he will be there amongst them. He's a pretty nice horse, that said, I think next season he will be a real good horse."   HRV Trots Media

Excitement has replaced nerves for superstar reinsman Zachary Butcher as he looks forward to the biggest fortnight of his racing life. Butcher heads to Victoria on Saturday to prepare the first horse he has ever trained, Zeuss Bromac, for the Breeders Crown, which culminates in a A$300,000 final at Melton on August 24. That is huge money by harness racing standards, even more so for a young horseman whose first representative has only had three career starts. Butcher is usually unflappable for one so young and twice this year he has dared to hand up to favoured rivals on exceptional filly Belle Of Montana well into group one races and backed himself to get his passing lane timing right. In both the Victoria Oaks and Harness Jewels, he was right. Then again, nobody should be surprised. This is the same youngster who a few years ago extravagantly jumped up out of the sulky seat and stood upright on the sulky shafts at full speed at the end of at Alexandra Park race to celebrate beating his father David home in the national premiership for the first time. So confidence isn’t an issue, even though Butcher admits he was nervous when Zeuss Bromac gave him his first win as a trainer last month. “Your first win is something special and even though it was only a maiden I was really nervous going out for that,” he says. “But I’m not about going to Australia. It is exciting and a great opportunity so I am going to go enjoy it. “The bottom line is I have a good horse who is getting better all the time and we get to race for big money without having to take on Mark’s (Purdon) best horses. “I know the Aussies won’t be easy to beat but for that sort of money you wouldn’t think they should be.” Zeuss Bromac suffered a minor setback with a bad blood report that cost him a lead-up race three weeks ago but his work this week has been very strong. “He is jumping out of his skin and with his heat next week I think that will bring him on heaps.” Butcher will also partner Perfect Stride, trained by his boss Ray Green, in his heat next week but before he heads to Victoria he has a couple of winning chances at  Cambridge’s season-opener tonight. His best hope is former southern trotter One Over Da Skye (race seven) who has joined the John and Josh Dickie stable but the latter isn’t driving tonight as he is already in Victoria preparing for Sunday’s Trotting Derby. “The way she trialled last week she will be very hard to beat if she trots all the way,” says Butcher. “She galloped early last Saturday but trotted her last mile in 2:4 and she is apparently better left-handed. So she might have too much speed for most of her rivals,” says Butcher, who has driven several of the other favoured runners in the race. Butcher also rates another Dickie newcomer in Breaking Bad (race three) as an each way chance but says in race four his drive Im A Denny Too might struggle to beat debutante Hampton Banner, who horse he knows well since it is trained by Green.   Michael Guerin

AUSSIE punters expect Kiwi trainer Phil Williamson to steal the show at Australia’s biggest trotting meeting on Sunday.  Williamson’s exciting pair Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride dominate opening betting markets in their respective Group 1 assignments.  Ultimate Stride, who looked so good winning his only Aussie run, is a $2.10 favourite in the $50,000 Group 1 Volstead Redwood Classic for baby trotters.  Ultimate Stride has barrier nine – two-out on the back row – in the standing start feature.  And filly Liberty Stride, who stunned locals with a monstrous first Aussie wins, is $2.15 against the boys after drawing gate four in the $75,000 Group 1 Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters’ Derby.  Williamson has booked former Kiwi driver Anthony Butt for both races.  Butt replaced Chris Alford on Ultimate Stride as Alford is committed to his own family runner, Dreamee, from gate six.  Ultimate Stride’s main danger looks to be local Powerkeg, who he did beat easily last outing.  In the Derby, another Kiwi Kratos from the John and Josh Dickie barn is a clear $3.60 second elect despite the back row (gate 10).  The other highlight of the massive day is the return to racing of Inter Dominion trotting champion Tornado Valley in a free-for-all (race seven).  Tornado Valley missed a planned return race a couple weeks back with a minor setback.  Despite being first-up for almost five months and drawing the back row (gate nine), Tornado Valley is still a $1.90 favourite.  Main dangers will be fellow Inter Dominion finalists Big Jack Hammer (gate six, $3.50) and Save Our Pennys (gate seven, $6).   Adam Hamilton

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