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A monster weekend awaits that could reshape the lucrative Trots Country Cups Championship, with Shepparton and Hamilton harness racing clubs taking their moment in the spotlight. While championship leaders Shadow Sax and Messini pursuit Group 1 acclaim across the border in the $100,000 South Australian Cup, quality runners will attempt to score valuable championship in this weekend’s Victorian cups double-header. The Mathews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup has presented an even field with Keayang Kallisto, Keep On Rocking, Bad Billy, Berisari and It Is Billy in single figures with TAB.com.au amid a Sunday race card that also features a keenly contested Porthaul Hamilton Trotters Cup. But before the dust is disturbed at Hamilton some of the summer’s most promising pacers will battle for the $50,000 Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup, which takes centre stage at 9.20pm on Saturday. Among that number is San Carlo, fresh from his breakthrough Inter Dominion heat win, dual Tasmanian cups winner Major Secret and trainer Sonya Smith’s promising pacer Moonrock. The latter made a bold play for the PETstock Bendigo Pacing Cup lead last Saturday, challenging Ideal For Real before driver Anthony Butt had to relent and then struggled for a run in the dying stages. “On paper it looked as though we might get to the front, we had a crack and it wasn’t to be,” Butt told the Trots Talk radio show. “Ideal For Real raced outside his normal pattern and he wanted to hold the front too. That’s racing and we’ll turn the page and get on with it.” Moonrock has drawn gate seven for Saturday night’s Shepparton Cup and Butt said they would use the front line draw to stay ahead of major back row threats. “With the two good ones, San Carlo and Major Secret, drawn the second row, we’ll try and keep ahead of them and go from there,” Butt said. “(San Carlo’s) a great horse, one of the up and comers and raced really well in the Inter Dominion in Perth so he’s obviously the class horse in the race.” It could be a lucrative night for team Smith and Butt, who also team with Hey Yo in Group 3 race The George Gath, the former Kiwi whose been impressive in her first Victorian season. She will start from gate two, inside fellow mare and favourite Red Hot Tooth. “(Hey Yo’s) been fantastic since she come over from New Zealand,” Butt said. “She raced at a pretty good level over there but couldn’t quite compete with the very best ones. “Three starts for two wins and a second, and a big run last week behind Sparkling Success (at Bendigo). (Shepparton’s) probably a little bit easier field, but in saying that Red Hot Tooth’s been in her best form and probably should be hard to beat along with a few of the others.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Albany trainer Charlie Draper has shot to the top of the Albany Harness Racing Club’s trainer standings after Jasper Casper and Crimson Floyd both scored victories at Harold Reid Paceway last Saturday night. The third meeting held at ARHC this season attracted strong fields in the nine races and Draper continued his strong start with a double to take his tally to 19 points in the Trainers’ Premiership. Draper sits one point ahead of Matthew Saw, who also had a double on Saturday’s program, with Beaus Mystery and Chevrons Champion saluting, while Albany-based trainer Peter Fairless is third with 17 points. Jasper Casper began a $3.70 favourite in the Wilson Brewing Pace (2258m) to start the night fixture, and was driven patiently by Jack Just-ins from the second row to sprint home to win by 9.4m. Crimson Floyd also began from the back line in the Rough Seas Pace (2258m) for reinsman Tim Stone and came with a strong run on the final lap to edge out Im Zuleika by a head, with favourite Wabi Sabi back in third place. Trainer-driver Nathan Turvey enjoyed success as well, driving Chevrons Champion to victory in race five for Saw while also training two winners himself. Heavily backed $1.40 favourite Simba Bromac downed Lord Willoughby by 1.8m in the Figurehead Pace (2258m), with Turvey also in the sulky, before he later tastedsuccess with $1.90 chance Carter Michael. Impressive mare Ladys Are Ideal won aqualifying heat in the mares series for trainer-driver Clinton Hall, with the final to be held later this season. The five-year-old started a short-price favourite and proved too strong for Four Legged Frenzy at the line to win her sixth career race. Reinsman Shannon Suvaljko holds a 10-point lead over Corey Peterson and Madeleine Young in the AHRC Drivers’ Premiership after three meetings. Albany’s next meeting will be on Saturday, January 20 and is again a night fixture. Cameron Newbold Reprinted with permission of The West Australian

Queensland trainer and reinsman Jamie Donovan has been attending the Tamworth Harness Racing Club January race carnival for 14 years. This year he is on a mission – a winning mission - in the hope of returning home with a feature race trophy. “It would be nice to take home a trophy. I have only missed three years since 2004 so it would be good to get a feature.” Donovan, who is based at Taigum, has been settled in Tamworth for the past three weeks, letting his horses become accustomed to the racing here as well as the climate. “I am staying out with Michael and Paul Grima at their property. It’s great. They can’t do enough for you. They are a great family,” he said. Donovan enjoyed success with Bella Rippin last Sunday night at Tamworth when the five-year-old mare took the Bearing Accessories Tamworth Pace by 1.6 metres over race favourite Jax Tellar (Courtney Sutherland). Readily (Stacey Weidemann) was another two metres away in third. “We will aim her for the Nugget next Wednesday night [in Tamworth],” said Donovan. “And if she comes through that, we will then aim her for the Cup race.” The Garrard’s Tamworth City Cup will be raced on Thursday, January 25 with $12,000 prizemoney on offer. “They are both good races within themselves,” said Donovan. “That was her [Bella Rippin] first win at Tamworth. She did it pretty easy.”  Bella Rippin had the run of the race on the back of the race leader, Irish Town Babe (Julie Weidemann). “It was just a case of getting out but she came home easy – she had her ears pricked and off the bit going to the line,” said Donovan. Prior to the 2016 carnival, Bella Ripp won three races on the trot at Albion Park. The mare now has the benefit of Sunday’s win behind her before contesting the $10,000 Pub Group Gold Nugget, which has a gold nugget trophy, on Wednesday night. “She came down here two years ago to contest the Starmaker and then had a shot at the Golden Guitar last year and had no luck,” said Donovan. “But she did run a good second in another race on finals night.”  Stablemate Seven Rippin Aces – who collected the cash for Donovan at the December 27 Tamworth meeting – will contest the heats of the TAB Starmaker Three Year Old on Sunday, January 21, after finishing fourth to All About Alice (Brad Elder) last Sunday at Tamworth. “He got a win first up here at Tamworth,” said Donovan.  “He is going as good as gold. I was happy with his run and how he pulled up [on Sunday]. He copped interference and then locked wheels with another runner in the race. “He came through that alright so we will look at the Starmaker for him now. It’s not bad money for a three-year-old race and it’s a good stepping stone for the horse if he wins. I made the final one year with another horse.” The $15,000 TAB Starmaker Final will be conducted on January 25. Fields for Wednesday night will be released at 4.30pm on Friday.  Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

Northern Tasmania will host a harness racing double-header this weekend with Sunday’s $12,000 Burnie Cup the feature event. The Todd Rattray-trained Full Speed Ahead will be trying to make it a hat-trick of country feature wins after taking out the cups at St Marys and Scottsdale. Rattray landed a similar treble this time last year when Fortino won the Scottsdale, Burnie and New Norfolk cups. Full Speed Ahead faces a tougher task this week off a 20-metre handicap but has 2789m to make up the leeway. His main danger looks to be up-and-coming Smilin Geoff who, despite being six years of age, has had only 17 starts for six wins. Smilin Geoff was unplaced at his only previous run in a stand but was severely checked on that occasion. Standing start specialist Laughyaheadoff, a winner of five races at Burnie, should also be hard to beat if she can step to the front from barrier two. Meanwhile, remarkable 14-year-old Destreos looks well placed to win his 99th race at Mowbray on Friday night. He will have only five rivals in the Free For All and should edge a step closer to his elusive century. The Ken Rattray-trained gelding was a beaten favourite at Carrick 12 days ago but had to come off 30 metres and wasn’t helped by very windy conditions. His last run in a free-for-all was in Hobart three starts ago when he beat Mister Lennox who enhanced the form when he won last Sunday’s $25,000 Hobart Pacing Cup. Destreos is opposed to recent winners Queens Advocate and Remember Joe while Fernco Bobby G has been freshened since his last run and should be very competitive.  Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Advocate

Australian Pacing Gold graduate Messini will have a new driver as he aims for another harness racing Group One victory on Saturday night. No stranger to top-shelf success, having won two Vicbred Super Series Finals, Messini is poised to contest the South Australia Cup for Victorian trainer Brent Lilley. With regular reinsmen Anthony Butt and Chris Alford committing to drives at Shepparton, Lilley has called up on leading local, Ryan Hryhorec, to partner the son of Art Major. “Being asked to drive such a nice horse in the Cup was a pleasant surprise that’s for sure,” Hryhorec said. “It’s the first time I’ve been down to drive a horse in a $100,000 race which is a descent chance of winning. “Like I said, to get the call up from Brent (Lilley, trainer) was a great surprise and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.” A Group Two winner last weekend when partnered by Alford, Messini will begin barrier 11, which should see the stallion finishing strongly during the latter stages according to Hryhorec. Messini began from the same barrier in last season’s Cup when an eye-catching fourth behind fellow Australian Pacing Gold purchase, Smolda, in track record time. “I’m hoping there will be a fair bit of action on during the run and then we can get the right trip into it,” Hryhorec said. “He is in good form and there is no doubt he’s a serious chance...it’ll just come down to what kind of luck he gets.” Messini is one of three APG ‘family members’ in the Cup, with Sams The Master drawn barrier three and Tee Ce Bee Macray to come from six. Sams The Master, which has won three of his last four starts, and Tee Ce Bee Macray are Jess Tubbs-trained stablemates. APG Media  

Star four-year-old Mach Three pacer Our Little General almost claimed the Warragul harness racing club track record when winning the $25,000 Eastern Challenge at Logan Park today. First up since winning the three-year-old division of the Breeders' Crown in August, connections used Thursday's race as a stepping stone to the upcoming Chariots Of Fire event in Sydney. Driver Chris Alford dictated terms to suit in front with Our Little General, who went within two one hundredths of a second of breaking the 2210 metre track record in defeating Beach Surge and Waimac Attack. Our Little General went past the $500,000 in stakes earnings mark with victory on Thursday, and is trained at Cardigan by Emma Stewart for a large group of owners, some of which were trackside to witness the victory. Both Alford and Stewart have now won the Eastern Challenge race twice. It was the first race win at Warragul for Stewart, despite her stables dominant success over a number of seasons. Elsewhere on the day there were mainly small fields, in particular the opening race which was reduced from six runners to four after scratchings, and became a two horse race as the field was well strung out after some mid race interference. Weight of punters support was with local Penny Bobbins, however All Major ran straight past that pacer once the two settled down to fight out the finish. All Major scored by over six metres, and is trained at Cranbourne by Michael Hughes. Oakleigh trainer Janine Stewart and her horse Glam Rock love the Warragul Pacing Bowl. Both horse and trainer have only won two races in their careers, both at Warragul. Glam Rock, driven by Greg Sugars, proved too strong for Melchoir and Rapacious. Stewart was the 2016 Graduate of the Year from the Gippsland Harness Training Centre. Eight-year-old gelding Uetliberg is another horse which likes Warragul, having recorded two wins and three placings on the circuit from eight starts. The Frank Offer trained horse overcame a 40 metre handicap to win the Windra Gidgea Memorial Trotters event, beating locals Omy Son and Just Hold On. Swedish born horsewoman Kima Frenning had her first drive at Warragul in the fourth event, and led throughout with gelding Sir Briggen. The underrated Frenning drove a perfect race behind Sir Briggen, which denied locals Mygoldengrinner and Courageous Desire victory. Warragul harness racing returns on Monday, February 11. Kyle Galley

Franco Nelson and Yayas Hot Spot will spearhead the Victorian TAB.com.au Summer of Glory raid by New South Wales harness racing trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton. The pair will target the $500,000 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup on February 3, a race in which Yayas Hot Spot finished runner-up to Bling It On last year. “Yaya has come through the Perth trip extremely well and will line up for another crack at the Hunter Cup to go one better,” Shane Tritton said. In Perth last month, Yayas Hot Spot ran second in a Bunbury Inter Dominion heat behind Galactic Star and defeated Lennytheshark. He went on to run seventh in the Inter Dominion Consolation. Franco Nelson, a $743,093 stakemoney winner with 18 wins from 65 starts, hasn’t raced since May last year when second to Heaven Rocks in New Zealand. He recently won a Menangle trial. “Nelson will look at the Goulburn Cup and then the Hunter Cup if he comes through that well,” Tritton said. Of note, the Goulburn Cup path is the exact journey trekked by Yayas Hot Spot before his runner-up effort in last year’s Hunter Cup. Meanwhile, Tritton said precocious three-year-old Divine State was potentially a VHRSC Victoria Derby contender, however the son of Tintin In America is no guarantee to make the trip. This year’s TAB.com.au Summer of Glory will feature the inaugural Summer of Glory Breakfast with the Stars on Wednesday January 31, which will follow the annual Caduceus Club Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup Official Barrier Draw the night before at the MCG Members Dining Room on Level 2 (Ted Webster taking bookings on 0417 327 636). Details for the Summer of Glory Breakfast will be announced next week. This Saturday night features the Neatline Homes Shepparton Gold Cup and Summer of Glory contenders San Carlo, Moonrock and Major Secret will lock horns. In South Australia the annual Group 1 SA Cup will feature gun Victorian Shadow Sax on Saturday night, along with fellow Victorians Messini, Sams The Master, Tee Cee Bee Macray and recent former Victorian Major Crocker.  Then on Sunday the weekend Victorian country cups’ double-header heads south-west to Hamilton for the Matthews Petroleum Hamilton Pacing Cup featuring Keayang Kallisto, Bad Billy, It Is Billy and returning top-line mare Berisari. The summer spotlight shines on Ballarat next Saturday night when the big guns step out in the $100,000 PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup at Bray Raceway. Heats of the VHRSC Victoria Derby and the Group 2 E.B. Cochran Trotters Cup will make for an action-packed night. Then, seven days later, the Tabcorp Park Melton fireworks sparkle as we launch the 2018 TAB.com.au Summer of Glory with the $300,000 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star the highlight on a night of stars. The Group 1 $200,000 VHRSC Victoria Derby Final, $100,000 4YO Bonanza, $100,000 Alabar Ladyship Cup, $50,000 Group 2 Casey Classic and $30,000 Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Trotting Mares Sprint Championship Final will all be contested. Visit www.summerofglory.com.au for more information. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Classy youngster Yankee Roller is primed and ready to maintain his undefeated status according to harness racing trainer Emma Stewart. Engaged in Saturday night’s South Australian Derby at Globe Derby, Yankee Roller has two obstacles to overcome. Firstly, the son of Rock N Roll Heaven is returning from a four-month break, and secondly, he has drawn the middle of the back row. Despite the awkward starting position and lack of recent racing, Stewart stated the Australian Pacing Gold purchase should have no trouble stretching his perfect record to five. “He’s a very nice type,” Stewart said. “His work has been great, and even though he hasn’t raced for a few months, he is forward enough to win. “The draw isn’t ideal, but he is certainly good enough to overcome it. “I’ve got a reasonable opinion of him and expect him to improve with racing throughout the season. “He can certainly make his way through the grades and the Derby looks like a good starting point.” Yankee Roller is one of four APG graduates in the Blue Riband, with No Alabi faring best in barrier three for Aussie Mifsud. The son of Betterthancheddar has two wins and a second from his last three starts. Local hope Culzean Castle will begin from five for local horseman Greg Norman, with Muscle Up Major to come from the outside of the front line for Rodney Petroff. APG Media

It has been a big 2018 in Tasmanian Harness Racing, none more so for the Todd Rattray-trained and driven pacer Full Speed Ahead. The gelded son of Art Major dead-heated for first in the St Marys Pacing Cup on New Years Day, he was then sold to new connections last Wednesday week, and on Friday, Full Speed Ahead capped off a busy week by winning the $12,000 North Eastern Pacing Cup at Scottsdale's annual race meeting. At Hobart on Sunday, Hall of fame reinsman Ricky Duggan added one race that was missing off his resume when the master reinsman was able to taste his first success in the Hobart Pacing Cup aboard Mister Lennox. This week the Launceston Pacing Club will stage Australia's first two-year-old race for the season with the $15,000 Keith Stanley Debutante Stakes, while the Cup theme continues on the north-west coast with the running of the $12,000 Burnie Harness Racing Cup. The Stars Juanita Mckenzie - added another Hobart Pacing Cup to her resume when she prepared Mister Lennox to victory in Sunday's 3060-metre event. It was the first win in five starts this season for the Changeover gelding. Mckenzie's previous win in the race was in 2006 when she trained Remember Joe to victory. Matthew Dwyer - has his small team going well of late and was rewarded with another win when smart mare Queens Advocate recorded her first win since February 2016. Three-year-old crop of pacers - it was great to watch two nice three-year-olds in Feelin Dusty and Bettabrown Tiger put up a great display in the Talbot Hotel Pace on Sunday with Feelin Dusty doing enough to score. Izaha and Invest also recorded nice wins across the two meetings. Michael Alexander, Wayne Campbell, Rohan Hadley - all ensured the locals had something to cheer about at Scottsdale on Friday with the North-eastern based participants being involved in four of the seven winners. Multiple winners Scottsdale - Friday Rohan Hadley - Driving double; Diddley Bow and Jeans Mattjesty. Todd Rattray - Training and driving double; Invest and Full Speed Ahead. Hobart - Sunday Ben Yole - Training double; Chilla Breeze and Long Ago. Gareth Rattray - Driving double; Queens Advocate and Levi Jimmy. Calculated Sectional Standouts Quickest last halves (800m) from last week’s action in Hobart on Sunday.Queens Advocate 56.98, Lockaway Kacie 57.28, Padabing Stride 57.80, Inner Light 57.98 and Resurgent Dream 58.01. View all Tasmanian sectional data here. Tasracing Official Price Scottsdale Hit: Full Speed Ahead $2.60 into $2.20 Defied The Drift: Mon Poppy Polly $15 out to $17 Missed: Rocknrollhighlight $26 into $16 Hobart Hit: Izaha $1.95 into $1.75 Defied The Drift: Lynniemach $3.50 out to $4.60 Missed: Resurgent Dream $7.00 into $5.50 Black Booker Yodellin Cowgirl This Marc Butler trained mare had her first start in the state at Scottsdale on Friday. Driver Kristy Grant got Yodellin Cowgirl away slowly but safely at the pacers first standing start race. Setting in the back half of the field, Grant eased the mare three wide down the back straight where she started to make up ground but when entering the home straight Yodellin Cowgirl hit the line better than any other runner in the race to only be defeated a head on the line. Watch the replay here. Trial File Carrick Park on Saturday Last season's star two-year-old Ignatius showed he is close to a race track return when he won his second trial back this preparation. Starting off the second line Ignatius was able to win his trial by 20 metres in a mile rate of 2:07.4 with the final quarter being recorded in 28.6. Other winners at the session were; Fernco Bobby G (2:06.4), Berty Mack (2:10.5), Cardinal Ringo (2:06.5), Safari Rose (2:09.3) and Karpenkova Leis (2:07.1). Hobart on Monday Six trials were staged at the Elwick Racing Complex where the Doug Nettlefold trained Sardonic Grin recorded the quickest mile rate of the night of 2:05.6 when winning a two and three-year-old trial over the 1609 metre journey. Other winners on the night included; Isaac (2:04.2), Falcon Harry (2:07.6), Rock The Casbolt (2:07.7), Finn Mac Kee (2:07.5) and Usain Jolt (2:08.2). Burnie on Monday Three trials were staged on Monday evening with the winners being Devil Of Tyne (2:04.4), Pliskova Leis (No Time Taken) and Jeanette Barry (2:09.1) Week Ahead The $15,000 Keith Stanley Debutante Stakes is not only the first race in Launceston on Friday afternoon, it is also the first two-year-old race in Australia for the 2017/18 season. The Rohan Hillier-trained and driven Dusty Martini, who was a $32,500 APG Yearling Sale purchase from last year's Melbourne sale, has drawn outside the front row and has had two trials in preparation for his first racetrack appearance. He won by a half head defeating Sunny Sanz and Karalta Moondance on December 11 at Carrick Park before being defeated by Sunny Sanz on December 23. On that occasion, Jardee and Karalta Moondance finished over 40-metres behind the winner. The only horse to not trial in the state is Cool Water Paddy who qualified at Rangiora (New Zealand) in late November when running last in a four-horse trial which has already produced one winner. Watch the trial here. The action then swings to Burnie on Sunday for the $12,000 Burnie Harness Racing Club Cup. The 30-metre backmarker in the 2789 metre feature is the Shelley Barnes trained Chief Destroyer. The It Is I gelding finished 3rd in last year's cup when he also started off a 30-metre handicap behind Fortino and was defeated 3-metres when running fourth in the 2016 edition of the race The Burnie Cup will feature a hosted live stream coverage on tasracing.com.au with an in-depth coverage of each race commencing 15-minutes prior to scheduled start time. Duncan Dornauf

Harness racing duo Jess Tubbs and husband Greg Sugars will map out a plan to bring down red hot favourite Shadow Sax in Saturday night’s $100,000 UBET SA Pacing Cup (2645m) at Globe Derby. Tubbs, 30, has had just 20 runners since securing her training licence in early December and has already produced seven winners (and three placings) from just 20 starters. The Emma Stewart-trained Shadow Sax dominated betting as a $1.30 UBET favourite with Tubbs having the second and third favourites in the Group 1 feature. Sugars will drive $5.50 second favourite Tee Cee Bee Macray who was previously trained by Jess’ late father Alan Tubbs. Tee Cee Bee Macray hasn’t won since August and Sugars said the horse was more than capable of overcoming a tricky wide barrier. Sugars is chasing his second SA Pacing Cup win. Having started his career in Adelaide, Sugars made the move to Melbourne in 2004 and partnered former superstar Smoken Up to victory in the 2012 SA Cup for Lance Justice. Stablemate Sams The Master, marked a $6.50 elect with UBET, has drawn perfectly in barrier three with Matthew Craven booked to drive. A former talented New South Wales youngster, Sams The Master has won 16 of 33 starts including his first three for Tubbs and Sugars before doing a few things wrong last outing at Bendigo. Top South Australian driver Ryan Hyrhorec will be chasing his first SA Cup having picked up the drive on talented Victoria Messini for the Brent Lilley stable. A former New Zealand youngster, Messini bounced back to his best form coming from off the speed to win the Bendigo Cup last weekend.   Lincoln Moore   Reprinted with permission of The Advertiser

Members of the WA Trotting Media Guild have pinpointed champion New Zealand pacer Lazarus, classy mare Maczaffair and leading harness racing trainer Gary Hall’s latest edition to his stable, Wardan Express, as star bets for Friday night’s Fremantle Pacing Cup meeting at Gloucester Park. All three pacers will be sent out as hot favourites and, barring accidents, should prove the testing material in their respective races. Guild president Wayne Currall spoke for his colleagues when he said Lazarus was on track to overtake Monkey King ($3,332,513) as the fourth richest pacer in the southern hemisphere. “Blacks A Fake with earnings of $4,575,456 is the richest standardbred in the southern hemisphere, but Lazarus is looming large,” Currall said. “The word champion is bandied about too much, but it’s deserved in the case of Lazarus. “Victory on Friday night and again in next week’s WA Pacing Cup would see Lazarus surpass the third richest pacer in Australasia, Smoken Up ($3,607,985). “Trainer/driver Mark Purdon has also pencilled in the Hunter Cup and the Miracle Mile for the best pacer he’s ever trained. Wins in either, or both, would put Lazarus within touch of Im Themightyquinn, the second richest with stakes of $4,567,456. “Lazarus deserves to be talked about in the same breath as the above champions he’s the real deal and will prove it again in the Fremantle Cup.” Leading tipster Stuart Lowe, TABradio’s Matt Young and The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft believe Wardan Express will make a winning debut for the Hall camp. Lowe spoke for his two comrades when he said Wardan Express had his hoof on the till. “My best bet is Wardan Express who has finished down the track at three WA runs,” Lowe said. “However, he faces a big drop in class here and has his best draw in WA in barrier three.” GPTV’s Ken Casellas has opted for Dredlock Rockstar as his star bet. “Veteran pacer Dredlock Rockstar bounced back to his best with an impressive victory at Bunbury last Sunday week and he should maintain that form by winning on Friday night,” Casellas said. “He is ideally drawn at the No. 2 barrier and is my star bet on the splendid 10-event program.” The West Australian’s Ernie Manning is a fan of Ima Rocknroll Legend. “Ima Rocknroll Legend is not in the elite bracket of Gary Hall’s stable, but he has become established as one of the most consistent pacers competing at Gloucester Park and he appears to have hit top form,” Manning said. “He should be able to overcome an outside gate, judging by his win after racing three-wide last Friday. His GP tally is three wins and six places from 12 starts.” Veteran tipster Bill Brindley has earmarked Maczaffair as his best bet. “Maczaffair has to be my best bet despite a wide barrier,” Brindley said. “She is low flying and can make it a hat-trick of victories. The classy Idealndiamonds is my other best bet.” Longshot king Pat Harding believes the Fremantle Pacing Cup will be fought out between the two Purdon horses, Lazarus and Ultimate Machete. “I think Lazarus and Ultimate Machete will fight out the finish of the Fremantle Pacing Cup with the WA horses Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca filling third and fourth,” Harding said. VALUE BETS Wayne: Collie pacer Mighty Flying Deal has been racing in career-best form and looks a great each-way chance in the second event. Stuart: Bronze Seeker had a great run behind the leader when second last week. Likely to get a similar run here from the pole. Matt: De La Tourbie in the first race needs a touch of luck, but A C Lewis is in form and she should run well on her latest effort. Ryan: Devendra is drawn to surprise in what could be a high-speed Fremantle Cup. If the leaders burn early, look for Chris Voak to be extricating him in the late stages. Ken: American Boy is capable of leading from the No. 4 barrier and beating quality performers, including Our Jimmy Johnstone, A Piccadilly Princess and Delightful Offer. Ernie: Red Salute has slipped down in class and the veteran gets his chance for another victory after striking interference and then being slow away at his past two appearances. Bill: Red Salute and Glenferrie Rustler are my value bets. Both horses should go out at good each-way prices and can win with the right runs. Pat: Idealindiamonds won’t be sent out at any fancy prices but should be a good thing for punters.         To view all of the Media Guild Tips for this week click here. Good punting. Wayne Currall

Harness racing driver Shannon Suvaljko, leading the West Australian drivers’ premiership table, has labelled Maczaffair as the best of his seven drives at Gloucester Park on Friday night. He firmly believes that the New Zealand-bred four-year-old has the class to overcome the disadvantage of starting from the outside barrier (No. 9) in the Retravision Your Air Conditioning Specialist Pace, a 2536m event for mares. Maczaffair, trained by Mike Reed and the winner at 15 of her 33 starts, has had the luxury of leading from favourable barriers (two and three) and winning comfortably over 2130m at her past two starts. “You would think that Friday night’s race is a drop in grade compared to the Fremantle Cup, a race she was aiming at,” Suvaljko said. “The 2536m is her cup of tea and she will run a great race. The distance won’t worry her. She has won over 2536 in the WA Oaks last May and finished a half-head second to Mitch Maguire in the 2536m Western Gateway two months before that and last month she finished second to Ultimate Machete in the 2536m Golden Nugget. “On Friday night she can either go forward or go back at the start. I’ll listen to Mike and see what he wants me to do. Last Friday night she did it easily and went to the line powerfully.” Maczaffair should be able to prove too good for Nathan Turvey’s smart mare Bettor Boa, Sarah Suvaljko’s evergreen eight-year-old Auctioneers Elsu and Clint Hall’s promising Ladys Are Ideal. Bettor Boa led when a wilting third to Glow Bright and Handsandwheels over 2130m last Friday night and she may be better suited when held up for a late burst. Auctioneers Elsu, a veteran of 190 starts, trailed the pacemaking Maczaffair and fought on gamely when second to that mare over 2130m last Friday week. Ladys Are Ideal should be handy throughout after starting from the inside of the back line. She covered a good deal of extra ground and showed a good turn of foot in the last lap when an easy winner over Four Legged Frenzy at Albany last Saturday night. Shannon Suvaljko is also enthusiastic about the prospects of the Matt Scott-trained nine-year-old Another Arjay in the Retravision Joondalup Superstore Handicap, a stand over 2503m. Another Arjay, an all-the-way winner in a stand over 2030m at Busselton two starts ago, will start from the inside barrier on the front line and Suvajko plans to set the pace. “He’ll lead and will be hard to beat,” Suvaljko said. “He’s had four country runs after a resuming from a spell and is ready to win in town. “He would have won easily at Busselton last week, but I couldn’t get out. He won well at his previous start. “Always Arjay is a really fast beginner and Idealindiamonds probably will have to sit outside of him. Idealindiamonds sat outside of Assassinator and couldn’t get over him, and I think that Always Arjay is as good as Assassinator. Idealindiamonds is racing keenly for leading trainer Skye Bond and looks set to fight out the finish. The six-year-old who has won at five of his seven starts this season will begin from the 10m mark and Ryan Warwick will be anxious to keep him in front of Assassinator, who also will begin off 10m. Chris Voak gave punters a good lead by opting to drive the Ross Olivieri-trained Assassinator in preference to talented four-year-old Im Rockaria. Im Rockaria will be handled by Michael Grantham at his first appearance in a stand and trainer Michael Brennan is confident the gelding will prove hard to beat. “He performed well when he qualified at trials to run in a stand,” Brennan said. “Nothing seems to bother him and I expect him to run a very good race.” Brennan also has high hopes for Sangrial in the Retravision Pace for three-year-old fillies. She is favourably drawn at barrier two on the front line. Grantham returns after serving a suspension and Grantham advised punters to give the filly another chance after she had disappointed as favourite at her past two starts. Little went right when Miss Sangrial finished third behind Cott Beach and sixth behind Marquisard. “Last week she didn’t get out of the gate all that good and subsequently probably choked down a little bit,” Brennan said. “I trialled her again on Sunday and she felt absolutely amazing when she crossed from seven in a stride. I think from No. 2 she can cross Cimorene but it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t find the front she’s got a wonderful sit and sprint capacity.” Brennan said that Grantham had a special affinity with Miss Sangrial. He has driven the filly ten times for all her six wins in Western Australia, as well as finishing seconds in the Group 2 Champagne Classic and Group 1 Diamond Classic. Ken Casellas

For the fifth time in her career, The Lagoon’s Amanda Turnbull has notched up five winning drives in a meeting when dominating the Parkes Harness Racing Club’s Wednesday night program. Though she did not win the feature Elvis Championship Final as she had done 12 months earlier – the honours this year going to Monique Parsons (Its A Shakedown, $19.60) – the evening still belonged to Turnbull. She took out the first four races of the meeting, steering members of her own team Moon Ovr Manhattan ($1.40 favourite), What A Curtainraiser ($1.60 favourite) and Crafty Cullen ($1.20 favourite) to victory as well as Conviction ($1.20 favourite), who is trained by her father Steve Turnbull. Amanda Turnbull then made it five wins in a single meeting at Parkes for the third time in her career when guiding the Darryl Fliedner, Cowra trained Molly Dolly Diva ($13.70) to an upset victory. “It’s a pretty good feeling to do that,” Turnbull said. “I knew I was in for a pretty good night because I had a couple of good ones in with a couple of good draws, but I never thought I’d get that many. “It was good to get on a bit of a roll too.” While Turnbull, who sits on top of the Harness Racing NSW drivers’ premiership, was unable to nominate one run as more impressive that the others on Wednesday, she is excited to see what is to come from Conviction. His win came in a Club Menangle Country Series Heat (1,660 metres), which qualifies him for the final at Menangle. “The ones I trained I was really pleased to win with, it rewards that hard work you put in, Conviction was a good one too, he’s a good horse, it’s good to see him back and doing well,” she said. “He was a bit wayward, he didn’t love it, but he ran a good time and got up. “He’ll race in the final at Menangle and if he goes good in that, we’ll probably look at some of the four-year-old feature races with him.” A four-year-old by For A Reason out of Safely Grattan, Conviction was second up at Parkes on Wednesday after saluting at Bathurst’s Carnival of Cups meeting on December 26 in a 1:53.3 mile rate. As Turnbull indicated, Conviction did not do it all easy on the smaller Parkes track after going from barrier two. Still, he showed good gate speed before settling one out and one back. Turnbull began her move after a 28.3 seconds third sectional, moving up to eye-ball stablemate Belligerence ($13.20) through the bend. Conviction took the lead down the straight and while Belligerence kicked again, the favourite held on to win by a head in a 1:56.8 mile rate. Hez All Courage ($8.40) placed third. As for Turnbull’s own team, she has not targeted any specific races. She just hopes to build on the 58 winners she had for the season as of the end of the Parkes meeting. “It’s going pretty good so far this season,” Turnbull said.  “Mrs Browns Boy is nearly back ready to race. I’m not really targeting anything, I’ll just see who it goes.” Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

Shane Tritton has never been one to take a backward step. And it’s no different as he heads towards a clash with the all-conquering All Stars barn at Menangle on Saturday night. It’s the comeback race for Tritton’s buzz filly My Sweetchilliphilly, but she has the Purdon/Rasmussen-trained Our Bare Knuckle along with some exciting talented fillies to contend with. “I don’t know much about Mark and Nat’s filly, but she doesn’t have the form of a superstar. That said. You’ve got to respect anything they bring across,” Tritton said. “All I can do is have my filly primed and, after the way she worked last Sunday, I think she is. “She only ran one bad race last season and she was sick. “She trialled OK without Lauren asking too much of her, then her work last Sunday convinced us she was ready to go. “I’ll be disappointed if she doesn’t win. She’s ready to go a 1min51sec mile if that’s what it takes.” My Sweetchillyphilly has gate seven, but comes into six after the scratching of emergency Lisa Lincoln. Our Bare Knuckle will start from gate three. The other key runners are: Ideal Pleasure (five), Arts Treasure (six), Lady Chatto (10) and Macey Jayde (11). Tritton said his stable was about to fire right up again after a lull caused by the time he and wife, Lauren, spent at the Perth Inter Dominion. Here are some of the horses has high hopes for and his comments: REAZA GRUNTER: “She could be up with any we’ve had. There’s been something about her since we first got her. Although very different to Arms Of An Angel, she’s as good. She went a 1min50.8sec mile last Tuesday at Menangle without Lauren asking much at all of her. I think we’ll keep her here to build-up to the Ladyship Mile.” FRANCO NELSON: “He’s back on Sunday and could go to the Hunter Cup. It all depends how he goes first-up. We’re happy with him and know how good he is when he’s right.” YAYAS HOT SPOT: “He’s freshened-up well after Perth and won a Menangle trial on Tuesday. He could also go to the Hunter Cup.” CHEVRONS REWARD: “Really like her. She ran a close fourth in the Jewels final and I liked her trial win Tuesday. She’s one of a group of serious Oaks’ fillies we’ve got.” REAL SOCIAL: “He’s an X-factor horse. Good trial alongside Yayas Hot Spot on Tuesday and we’re excited to get him back racing. Could be in for a big campaign.” MY RONA GOLD: “Nice mare. Nothing went right in Perth. Look for her to get back to her best over the next few weeks.” ANYTHING FOR LOVE: “He’s shown quite a few glimpses of how good he can be. Brilliant trial win in 1min51.3sec mile on Tuesday. He’s set to go again.” GOTTA GO YA HU: “Good run behind Let It Ride and I think he’s as good as the winner. Won’t be far behind the best 4yos, but Vincent has set the bar pretty high.” ALPHA ROCK: “He’s exciting. Looked one of NZ’s best 3yos a couple of years back. A 5yo now and he’s showing us plenty.” DIVINE STATE: “A possible for the Victoria Derby. Good run last Saturday in quick time at Menangle and we’ll decide plans with him after he runs at Menangle next Tuesday.”   Adam Hamilton

Remarkable high-achieving horsewoman Natalie Rasmussen makes a nostalgic return to Perth this week determined to add another chapter to her illustrious career as a harness racing driver of the highest quality. She will drive one of her favourite pacers, Ultimate Machete, in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park when she hopes to land her second winner in Western Australia. Keen harness racing fans will remember her as an 18-year-old who represented Queensland in the Australasian Young Drivers Championship series at Harvey, Pinjarra and Gloucester Park in March 1996. She did not fare very well in the ballot for drives and did well to finish fifth behind WA’s Craig Goldfinch in the field of ten drivers. She finished third with Just A Joker (8/1) and fifth behind Son of Song (10/1) at Harvey, fourth with Blake Apollo (33/1) and fifth with Confide In Me (14/1) at Pinjarra and had sixth placings with Be Be Brosnik (16/1) and Bessarlie (11/2) at Gloucester Park. Then on her second and most recent visit to Perth she was successful in a $10,500 invitation 1740m event for mares and restricted to female drivers at Gloucester Park in May 2004. She drove the David Pyburne-trained five-year-old Whitehouse Whisper, the solitary runner on the back line in a field of ten.  Whitehouse Whisper, second favourite at 5/2, raced without cover in the first circuit before gaining an ideal passage and then finishing strongly to defeat Cee Jay Blaze (Emma Turnbull) by a neck. Rasmussen has an outstanding record in the sulky behind four-year-old Ultimate Machete, having driven him 14 times for nine wins and five seconds. Ultimate Machete, a powerfully-built stallion and unbeaten in three starts at Gloucester Park, is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier on the front line and is generally considered one of the main dangers to his champion stablemate Lazarus. Rasmussen, the co-trainer with Mark Purdon at the All Stars establishment in Christchurch, has an outstanding record in the sulky in New Zealand where she has had 547 drives for 204 wins, 103 seconds and 69 thirds for $6,286,467 in prizemoney. Born in Townsville in 1977, she is best known as the trainer and driver of Blacks A Fake, the winner of four Interdominion pacing championships in Hobart (2006), Globe Derby Park (2007), Moonee Valley (2008) and Menangle (2010). Rasmussen also trained and drove Blacks A Fake when he finished a close second to Mr Feelgood in the 2009 Inters on the Gold Coast. Blacks A Fake, the winner of eleven Group 1 and ten Group 2 and 3 feature events for Rasmussen, retired with earnings of $4,575,438 from 72 wins, 19 seconds and five thirds from 105 starts. New Zealand-bred pacers have dominated the Fremantle Cup in recent years and nine of the 12 runners in Friday night’s race were bred in New Zealand, the exceptions being the WA-bred Vultan Tin and Soho Tribeca and the Tasmania-bred Devendra. The past 12 Fremantle Cup winners were bred in New Zealand. Sandy Bay, bred in New South Wales, won the Cup in 2005 and the most recent WA-bred winners have been Golden Gears (2000) and Smooth Business (1994). WA businessman Rob Watson bred and owns Soho Tribeca, who faces a stern test from the outside (No. 9) on the front line. Watson paid $20,000 for Pixel Perfect as a yearling in Tasmania. Pixel Perfect did not race, but Soho Tribeca has shone on the racetrack, earning $588,609 from 18 wins and 21 placings from 48 starts. Kim Prentice, who drives Soho Tribeca, said that the five-year-old had worked superbly on Tuesday morning. He hinted strongly that he was unlikely to charge forward from the outside barrier with the stallion. “In saying that, it could still happen,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.” Coolup trainer Phil Costello bred Vultan Tin, who will start from barrier three with Chris Voak in the sulky. “I think he has the job ahead of him, but I’m hoping he will land in a good position in the running line, either one-out and one-back or one-out and two-back.” Champion WA reinsman Chris Lewis, fresh from four winners at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening and a treble at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon, has won the Fremantle Cup six times but he faces an extremely difficult assignment with Motu Premier, who will start from the outside of the back line. Michael Brennan, who prepared Im Victorious for his Fremantle Cup victory in 2014, said that The Bucket List had a perfect draw at No. 2 on the back line. “I’m really happy with him and he should be able to lob three back on the pegs and do no work before being a sniper,” he said. “I’m pretty confident of a top-six finish.”     Ken Casellas

“He’s in the zone and at the top of his game and I don’t think that any horse can beat him,” declared a supremely confident New Zealand trainer-reinsman Mark Purdon when assessing the prospects of harness racing superstar five-year-old Lazarus in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. “You have always got to respect the opposition, but with everything being equal, I don’t think that he can be beaten.” Purdon, New Zealand’s champion trainer and driver, is also looking forward keenly to the clash between Lazarus and his outstanding four-year-old stablemate Ultimate Machete, who will be handled by star driver Natalie Rasmussen. “They have never met in a race, but I don’t expect Ultimate Machete to be able to beat Lazarus,” said Purdon. Ultimate Machete and Lazarus are by super sire Bettors Delight, who is also the sire of six of the other ten Cup runners Chicago Bull, Bettors Fire, Ohoka Punter, Devendra, Galactic Star and Motu Premier. “I’m happy with both Lazarus and Ultimate Machete,” Purdon said. “They had a quiet hoppled run on Monday and all is well. I don’t expect either of them to have the gate speed to get to the front in the early stages. I expect Ultimate Machete to take up a forward position, while I’ll drive Lazarus like a normally do by giving him time to settle and then work him forward.” Ultimate Machete is the youngest and least experienced runner in the race, with 12 wins and ten placings from 24 starts. He has won at ten of his past 13 starts, including stylish victories at his three appearances at Gloucester Park. Between them, the 12 Cup runners have won 270 races and been placed 240 times for combined earnings of $10,380,689. Lazarus shows the way with 34 wins and seven placings for stakes of $3,330,438 from 41 starts. He won the TABtouch Inter Dominion final five Fridays ago when he settled in fifth place and then was sent forward, three wide, after a lap to race in the breeze outside Tiger Tara before surging to the front at the 100m and winning easily from Chicago Bull at a 1.57.6 rate over 2936m. At his previous outing, a week earlier, he smashed Im Themightyquinn’s track record, rating 1.54.5 over 2536m, when he settled in eighth place and made a fast three-wide move into the breeze before getting to the front with 1450m to travel on his way to victory over stablemate Have Faith In Me. Then last Friday night he was not extended in winning at a 1.55.9 rate over 2536m (the distance of the Fremantle Cup) and scoring by four lengths over the fast-finishing Motu Premier. Trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper is hoping that it will be a case of fifth time lucky for Bettors Fire on Friday night. The nine-year-old Bettors Fire greatly enhanced his prospects when he drew the prized No. 1 barrier on the front line. Harper said that Bettors Fire was in peak condition and was ready to run a big race. “I intend to take advantage of his gate speed and aim to set the pace,” Harper said. “He’s got the right barrier and I expect him to run a bold race out in front.” Bettors Fire warmed up for Friday night’s assignment with a dashing all-the-way victory over Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull, rating 1.52.6 in the 1730m Village Kid Sprint last Friday week when he revealed sparkling early speed to burst straight to the front from barrier seven. A winner of 33 races, Bettors Fire is the only pacer to have run in the past four Fremantle Cups for a second to Im Victorious in 2014, fourth to David Hercules (2015), third to Beaudiene Boaz (2016) and an eye-catching fourth behind Chicago Bull last year when he charged home from 11th at the bell. Ken Casellas

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