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This is no pipedream.  Victorian dairy farmers John and Mary Meade are poised to snap-up an invitation to tackle the world’s best trotters in New York later this year with stable star Sparkling Success.  Harness Racing Australia’s CEO Andrew Kelly delivered the invitation for the $1.3 million Yonkers International Trot on behalf of the New York track this week.  Most thought it would be a bridge too far for the Meade’s, but no so.  “We want to go. And we are going at this stage,” Mary Meade said. “As John said, we’ll never get another chance like this.  “And we have family in the US. Our son and his family live in Virginia and are so excited about us having our horse racing over there.”  Sparkling Success, winner of the Great Southern Star three starts back, has one more target this campaign before sights are set on the US trip.  That’s tomorrow (Saturday) night’s $100,000 Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton.  Sparkling Success will need to show better manners than when he broke early as a hot favourite, but recovered remarkably well for a huge third in last week’s Knight Pistol Trot at Cranbourne.  “It was his first run at Cranbourne and people told us that corner he broke on is a bit notorious,” Mary said. “We thought his run was fantastic after the break and he seems very well this week.”  Sparkling Success is a $1.70 favourite on the Aussie TAB despite drawing outside the front (gate seven). “After this he’s out for a break and then comes back to prepare for the US trip,” Mary said.  Anthony Butt, who boasts plenty of US experience through the likes of Lyell Creek and Under Cover Lover, has spoken in-depth with the Meades about the trip.  “Anthony has been great. He thinks we need at least a couple of lead-up runs here and we must get to the US at least a month before the race to acclimatise, so that’s the plan,” Mary said.  “We aren’t allowed to race there before the big race, but we can afterwards if we choose.  “So we’ll get across early to settle in and maybe trial him.”   Adam Hamilton

Armidale will showcase a nine-race harness racing program this Sunday with three features – the $10,000 Armidale Cup, the $10,000 Golden Horse Shoe for three-year-olds and the Bill Barraclough Memorial. The latter will have a Missile Gig as the trophy. Ultimate Art – a 2016 Inter-Dominion contender – is returning to Armidale from the Michael Formosa stables after a winning effort last year, as is Strathlachlan Andy from the Geoff Harding stables. Both have scored the visitors draw in the $10,000 Roberts and Morrow Chartered Accountants Armidale Cup. The Ducats Earthmoving Armidale Golden Horse Shoe Three-Year-old will once again see quality, with Queensland pacer Courageous Leo looking for five wins on the trot, while Hunter Valley pacer Rocknlachlan will look for back-to-back wins. Or we will we see the local pacer Shadow Dealer from the Wayne Gray stables at Moonbi take home the title in the $10,000 race? NATHAN Dawson starred at last week’s Inverell meeting when the Queensland reinsman drove four winners  – giving him a total of seven winning drives for the week. Dawson is about to travel to Armidale to contest the Paceway for the first time when he takes five drives. So can he emulate his Inverell success?  The first race at Armidale on Sunday is 12.55pm.   BATHURST Harness Racing Club are gearing up for their big Gold Crown Carnival. It is nice to see that Peter and Marie Neil have been announced as the Gold Crown Honourees for 2018. You have seen many of their horses racing around the North West, with the name of Shannon appearing in each of their racehorse’s names. THE Teal Appeal wraps up this Sunday, with the Armidale meeting being the last event we will see teal trousers worn by the reinswomen for another year. It has been a great fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, with $30,000 raised in NSW. Every winning reinswomen donated $200 donated from Harness Racing NSW to the cause. There will be plenty of teal at the Armidale meeting, with teal trousers to appear in 24 drives.  At Inverell, Sarah Rushbrook had her second win in teal trousers, while Sydney-based reinswoman Maddi Young gained her first win in teal at Inverell. Up until last Tuesday, there had been 74 wins by the ladies, including 10 on North West tracks – including one at Tamworth where the ladies finished 1,2,3. Harness racing at Narrabri on March 18.  By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

The Bathurst Harness Racing Club has named Marie and Peter Neil as this year’s Gold Crown Carnival honourees. The Neils join a long list of highly respected and influential harness racing figures on the honourees list, and they too have made a substantial impact on the industry. The couple run a successful breeding establishment and have forged a strong training partnership with Bathurst’s Peter Bullock. “Peter and Marie have had a long association with not only the Bathurst Gold Crown but harness racing in general.” Bathurst Harness Racing Club president Wayne Barker said.  “Both, Peter and Marie have successfully operated a breeding establishment at Goulburn, for a number of years with a band of 25 broodmares. “Adding to this, Peter and Marie also run a very successful training operation of 30 horses based near Bathurst, under the watch full eye of long time trainer Peter Bullock. “Peter and Marie would one day love to win a Gold Crown or a Gold Tiara and I am sure that win is not too far away, after being runner up on three previous occasions. “You can only keep breeding quality horses, which Peter and Marie do to give yourself a chance, so you would like to think a Crown or Tiara win is just around the corner.” Bathurst Harness Racing Club CEO Danny Dwyer said selecting Peter and Marie Neil for the honour was a quick and easy decision for the board. “Each year we have a list of the people put forward to consideration and you often see some of the same names coming up each year. Peter and Marie, I believe, were nominated for the first time though,” he said. “On the back of not just their contributions to harness racing here in Bathurst but in the broader community of harness racing they were an easy choice. “You only have to look at the quality of the broodmares they have … and the foals that are reared at Goulburn. They’re broken in by Peter Bullock and it’s an operation that has worked very well for them.” The Neils join the likes of Chris Alford, the McCarthy Family and Kevin Thompson, who were the three most recent honourees on a distinguished list. “It’s a very special list of people who have contributed a lot to harness racing,” Dwyer said. “They have both been continually involved with the industry for such a long time and their breeding operation has helped ensure our quality of racing stays high.  “Their work means we can continue to have strong numbers at race meetings.” Peter and Marie Neil will be welcomed into the list of Gold Crown Honourees at the Honouree Dinner on March 27 at the Bathurst RSL Club. By Alexander Grant Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

There is so much at stake for harness racing star Victorian trotter Sparkling Success this weekend. The John Meade prepared six-year-old lines up in the third leg of the 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters, the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Obviously the rich prizemoney is a key focus but an outright lead in the Trotting Masters is another attraction, Sparkling Success shares the lead with New Zealand trotter Amaretto Sun following his longshot triumph in the opening leg of the series, the Dominion at Addington back in November. The Grand Prix was first staged back in 2001 and won by La Coocaracha, it features a great honour roll including former champion Sundons Gift who won the event four years in succession (2007-10). Other great names include Take A Moment, Sumthingaboutmaori, Vulcan, Stent and last year’s winner On Thunder Road. The five leg Trotting Masters takes in the Dominion, Great Southern Star, Grand Prix, ANZAC Cup and the Rowe Cup. And with Amaretto Sun remaining in Christchurch, Sparkling Success has the perfect opportunity to add to his Great Southern Star triumph. Regarded as the best trotter in Australia, Sparkling Success must overcome gate seven, the outside of the front-line, in Saturday’s 2240m mobile start feature. Last week, in the Knight Pistol at Cranbourne, he finished a gallant third behind Red Hot Tooth and Tornado Valley after making an early break. Despite the wide draw, punters will rally around their star performer. And with a possible trip to New York for the $1.3 million International Trot at the end of the year looming, victory will only enhance his burgeoning reputation. But rivals will come thick and fast. New Australasian record holder Maori Time looms as a legitimate threat despite her tricky draw, the inside of the second-line. Maori Time rated 1:51.5 when successful in the Gr.1 $50,000 Trotters Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle on February 24. Prepared by master conditioner Brent Lilley, the former New Zealand horseman shoots for his second victory in the Grand Prix following his triumph two years ago with millionaire performer Keystone Del. Courageous performer Kyvalley Blur also represents the Lilley stable, the veteran gelding continues to race in excellent form highlighted by his victory three starts ago in the Dullard Cup. Kyvalley Blur has drawn the outside of the second-line, gate 10. Gun young trainer Anton Golino is represented by both My Tribeca and Vincennes, both unplaced behind Maori Time in Sydney last start. My Tribeca has drawn ideally in gate two while Vincennes draws directly behind his stable in gate nine. Former Kiwi trotter Tornado Valley showcased his immense talent last week when finishing gamely behind Red Hot Tooth at Cranbourne after proving costly in his Australian debut on February 23. Prepared by Andy and Kate Gath, the Skyvalley gelding has drawn nicely in gate four. In-form mare Regal Pepperell tackles her biggest challenge to date but boasts outstanding recent winning form. A winner at 5 of her past 6 starts, the Michael Barby trained mare has claimed both the Hamilton and Wedderburn Cups during her recent form burst. Regal Pepperel will start from the coveted inside gate. Another classy mare in Sky Petite will prove competitive despite drawing awkwardly in gate 6 for trainer Dean Pattison. Unplaced last week at Cranbourne behind Red Hot Tooth, the Skyvalley mare scored three starts ago in the Crystal Bucket at Echuca. Savannah Jay Jay aims for his biggest victory and draws handily in gate three for trainer Stan Cameron, but the Armbro Invasion gelding is winless this season in eight starts. The Boss Man (gate 5) is an early scratching. The Grand Prix is listed as race 7 and scheduled to start at 9.30pm local time. The two remaining legs of the APG Trotting Masters will be staged at Alexandra Park in Auckland next month. Chris Barsby

Members of the WA Trotting Media Guild have labelled Chok Chai and Lady De La Renta as star bets on Friday night’s 10-event harness racing card at Gloucester Park. The West Australian’s Ernie Manning and longshot king Pat Harding believe punters can get off to a good start with the Gary Hall-trained Chok Chai in the opening event. “Chok Chai looks set for a triumphant return to Friday night racing after winning in midweek company at each of his three starts since an injury-enforced spell,” Manning said. “He has set the pace in his comeback races and barrier one gives him the chance for another all-the-way victory. Possesses an impressive career tally of nine wins and two places from 12 starts.” Harding agrees with his colleague. “Punters should get off to a great start in the first with Chok Chai,” Harding said. “The horse had a very impressive win during the week and coming out of barrier one should give Gary Hall Jr a great start to the night.” Veteran tipster Bill Brindley and last season’s leading tipster Stuart Lowe are in the Lady De La Renta camp. “Lady De La Renta is a standout in the third, going on her recent wins, and Rock Me Over appears to have too much class for the opposition in race seven,” Brindley said. Lowe is in agreement with Brindley. “Lady De La Renta has performed well against the State’s best three-year-old fillies, as evidenced by her last-start win,” Lowe said. “Will appreciate the class drop here and should win.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft is keen on Rockin The Boys. “Rockin The Boys was gallant in defeat when collared by Hot Fraternity in the shadows of the post last week,” Havercroft said. “From a similar draw he should again be on the pace and will take beating if he can reproduce that effort.” But TABradio’s Matt Young disagrees with Havercroft and has made One For Sassy, in the same event, his best for the night. “My best bet is One For Sassy,” Young said. “He is a very good frontrunner and is racing super for Dean Miller. He gets the chance to lead throughout here.” GPTV’s Ken Casellas has opted for one of his favourite horses, Major Catastrophe, as his star bet. “Redoubtable stayer Major Catastrophe should appreciate a massive drop in class and win the second event on Friday night,” Casellas said. “The powerful nine-year-old was far from disgraced in finishing eighth in the Pinjarra Cup on Monday when he clashed with superstars Chicago Bull and My Hard Copy and is my best bet on an interesting program.” Guild president Wayne Currall is keen on Rock Me Over. “This Kat Warwick-trained colt drops in class in the $25,000 Milford Homes Roofline Series 3YO Colts and Geldings Sales Classic Final,” Currall said. “With Junior in the bike and from gate three he should prove too strong for his nine rivals.” VALUE BETS Ernie: Stuart McDonald's re-instatement as Ooshtaa's reinsman is a key driving engagement. McDonald drove him to win and run second at consecutive starts last month. Overlook an unplaced run last Monday, when he was set a tough task. Pat: Lady De La Renta should come up trumps for punters. She has some excellent form and with Chris Voak aboard should prove to be a good investment for punters. Bill: My value bets are One For Sassy and Alfs Odyssey. They both line up from barrier one in the final two races and can lead throughout.    Stuart: Mister Tom Dooley has been racing well and loves the stand. Being the only runner off the front gives him each-way claims. Ryan: Trustytrev has had five runs back and made late ground when fourth to Bettor Not Knowing last Saturday at Northam. I liked how he got home on that occasion and this field lacks brilliance. Matt: Gotta Go Yanky turned in a solid performance two starts ago. C D Brown jumps back aboard and looks a chance at big odds. Ken: Nothingbutadream caught the eye when he finished boldly from last at the bell to be third behind Hot Fraternity and Rockin The Boys last Friday night. Wayne: Soho Eastwood is drawn to get a soft trip in the last race. Forget he ever went around last week as he was held up and never got clear. Is an each-way chance. To view all of the Media Guild Tips for this week click here. Good Punting.  Wayne Currall

Star reinsman Chris Lewis is happy with the progress being made by Rockin The Boys and predicted the harness racing four-year-old mare would be hard to beat in the $18,000 Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Rockin The Boys, bred, part-owned and trained by Lewis’ wife Debra, will be having her third start after a spell and is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier on the front line in the 2130m event. The daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven put in a strong performance last Friday night when she raced three wide early in an unsuccessful bid from barrier three to take an early lead in the 1730m event. She then worked hard in the breeze before getting to the front 350m from home and being overhauled in the final 15m to finish a half-length second to the fast-finishing Hot Fraternity, who rated 1.56.6. At her first-up appearance a fortnight earlier, Rockin The Boys set the pace from barrier two before wilting to finish sixth behind Gotta Go Gabbana over 2130m. Lewis has put up a strong case for Rockin The Boys this week, saying: “Her first run after a spell was average, but then she worked hard and breezed at her next outing and was a good second. She is a nice horse on the improve. It would be handy to get to the front.” Rockin The Boys, whose 34 starts have produced nine wins, seven seconds and three thirds, meets moderate opposition on Friday night, including six-year-old mare Nothingbutadream, who is trained by Sarah Dacey and will be having her 99th start. Nothingbutadream is awkwardly drawn at barrier six but she put the writing on the wall last Friday night when she was a distinct last at the bell in a field of ten before charging home with a spirited burst to finish third behind Hot Fraternity and Rockin The Boys. She will be driven by Corey Peterson. Jailbreak, Sheez Edgy and Raffaello have been racing in good style and cannot be overlooked. One of the best bets on the ten-event program should be the evergreen nine-year-old Major Catastrophe, who will be driven by Dean Miller from the outside (No. 9) on the front line in the 2536m Milford Homes Pace. Major Catastropohe, trained at Pinjarra by his breeder-owner David Young, is sure to appreciate a considerable drop in class after contesting the $50,000 Pinjarra Cup on Monday afternoon when he was far from disgraced in finishing a game eighth behind star pacers My Hard Copy, Chicago Bull and Our Jimmy Johnstone. Ken Casellas

Hall of Fame harness racing trainer Gary Hall Snr was in grave doubt that New Zealand-bred gelding Chok Chai would be able to race again a couple of years ago after the gelding was laid low by a hairline fracture of a sesamoid. But patience and plenty of rest eventually cured the problem and Chok Chai, now a five-year-old, is showing considerable promise and should get punters off to a flying start at Gloucester Park on Friday night by setting the pace and winning the opening event, the PPC Pace over 2130m. The gelding by Washington VC warmed up for this assignment by scoring an easy all-the-way victory over 2130m, rating 1.57.6 on Tuesday night. This took his record to nine wins and two seconds from only 12 starts. His only unplaced effort was when he met with severe interference and was distanced, finishing 246 metres behind the winner Te Rauparaha at Pinjarra in May of last year. “He’s had a lot of problems, mainly the fracture to his sesamoid, and I felt that he would be unable to overcome his injuries,” Hall said. “All’s well now and from barrier one on Friday night he should lead and win. He’s a strong horse and it will take a good horse to beat him.” Reinsman Gary Hall Jnr agreed, saying: “He felt good tonight (Tuesday). He’s a big horse who should get better and better, hopefully.” Chok Chai is likely to be challenged strongly by in-form pacers in the Ross Olivieri-trained pair of Military Master and Lord Willoughby and Skye Bond’s smart four-year-old Mighty Mr Sharkey. Chris Lewis, who will drive Military Master from barrier No. 7 in a field of eight, praised the six-year-old’s outstanding first-up performance when he led from barrier four and sped over the final 400m in a sizzling 26.9sec. to win by six lengths from Real Zeal over 2100m at a 1.57.6 rate at Bunbury last Saturday week. That was a wonderful effort at his first outing for six months and Lewis said: “He won really well. Obviously, it’s a worse draw this week, but he’s still in the mix of things from the wide draw. He’s going well enough to give a forward showing.”        That performance improved Military Master’s record to 11 wins, nine seconds and two thirds from 38 starts. Shannon Suvaljko, who will drive Lord Willoughby from barrier three, declared that the four-year-old was flying and predicted the gelding would be prominent. This season Lord Willoughby has raced ten times for four wins, five seconds and one third. The Skye Bond-trained Mighty Mr Sharkey will start from the outside (No. 8) with Ryan Warwick in the sulky. The four-year-old has had 29 starts for ten wins and nine placings. He had a tough run in the breeze before winning in fine style over 2130m at Gloucester Park two starts ago. Ken Casellas

Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr was impressed with Rock Me Over’s fast-finishing third to Speed Man and Golden State at Gloucester Park last Friday night and he is confident the smart colt will break through for his first success as a three-year-old when he contests the $25,000 Milford Homes Roofline Series Sales Classic for harness racing  colts and geldings on Friday night. Rock Me Over by Rock N Roll Heaven, prepared at Byford by Katja Warwick, has finished third in four of his five starts this season and looks on target to prove hard to beat this week, particularly from his handy draw at No. 3 on the front line. Hall drove Speed Man for his win last Friday night and said: “I was impressed with the way Rock Me Over came home (from last at the bell in a field of seven). He’s got a few strings to his bow and he just needs to put them all together.” Hall drove Rock Me Over in all of his nine starts as a two-year-old for three wins, three seconds and a third. He was prominent in feature events, finishing a half-head second to Play The Boys in the Sales Classic, second to the brilliant Jack Mac in the Pearl Classic and third to Cott Beach and Miss Sangrial in the Champagne Classic. “I had big wraps on him, early on,” said Hall. “But he hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations at this stage. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn the corner at any stage. “He’s a funny horse; sat up, he’s quick, but once you make your run with him you’ve got to keep going because he’s a little bull and if you stop-start with him he’ll just pull up. We’ll have a crack for the front, but if he can’t get to the lead he should sit somewhere handy.” One of Rock Me Over’s most serious rivals is sure to be the Bryan Cousins-trained Kohli, who is favourably drawn at the No. 2 barrier. A fast-finishing winner over Ella Gant Player at Pinjarra five starts ago, Kohli’s recent form on South-West tracks has been quite sound. Chris Voak, who will drive Kohli, said: “Take Rock Me Over out, and I’d give Kohli a really solid chance of winning. When I drove him at Pinjarra a couple of starts ago we went only slowly, but he sprinted home very well.” Harry Haich, a last-start all-the-way winner at Northam for part-owner and trainer Vicki Lea, has claims. He is the solitary runner on the back line and Shannon Suvaljko will have plenty of options. Ooshta and Nuclear Poker are recent Pinjarra winners and will have admirers from unfavourable barriers. Chris Voak has declared the Annie Belton-trained Lady De La Renta a ‘good thing’ in the Total Home Frames Sales Classic for three-year-old fillies, a 2130m event in which she will start from the No. 5 barrier. “I tracked her this morning (Tuesday) and said to Annie that the only draws I didn’t want were one and ten. I said she would win from any other draw. I think that only bad luck will get her beaten. I think she is a standout on the card. “Ideally, I’d like to be in front. She’s got toughness and speed, and is the full package. The only plan I’ve got is to keep out of trouble. Her ability will get the rest done.” Lady De la Renta’s recent form is outstanding and she looks the winner from last-start winners Princess Major and Somersby. Ken Casellas

Better B Chevron has a remarkable record as a frontrunner. She boasts a perfect tally of her nine harness racing victories in Western Australia all being achieved when she has set the pace. And she has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier in the $50,000 Perth Plasterboard Centre Empress Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night, leaving reinsman Ryan Warwick with the task of giving the New Zealand-bred four-year-old the job of leading all the way in the group 2 2536m classic for mares. Trained at Forrestdale by Skye Bond, who races Better B Chevron in partnership with Rob and Anne Gartrell, the daughter of Bettors Delight has won at 12 of her past 20 starts. A winner at three of her seven starts in New Zealand, Better B Chevron arrived in Australia 11 months ago and has raced 14 times in WA for nine wins and three placings. She was not suited at her most recent outing when she started from the outside of the back line and settled in eighth position before moving to seventh (three wide) at the bell in the Lewis final last Friday week. She paced roughly for a while 600m from home before recovering and fighting on gamely to finish fourth, just over a length behind the winner, the pacemaking Madame Meilland. An important query about Better B Chevron’s ability to win on Friday night is the fact that she has raced only once in an event longer than 2240m. That was in the 2536m WA Oaks last May when she raced wide early and then in the breeze before gaining an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, and battling on into a well-beaten fifth placing behind Maczaffair. Better B Chevron is an M1-class performer and is sure to be tested by the two quality mares in the field, Major Reality (an M7-class mare who will start from barrier six on the front line) and Sheer Rocknroll (an M5-class mare who will start from barrier No. 7).  Better B Chevron is a half-brother to 2011 Easter Cup winner Anvils Big Punt and the highly-promising three-year-old Speed Man, who notched his fourth win from eight starts when he finished powerfully to beat Golden State last Friday night. Warwick was successful with the Grant Williams-trained Asian Paradise in the 2005 Empress Stakes and he was in the sulky when Jungle Jewel, prepared by Greg and Skye Bond, finished solidly to be second to The Parade in last season’s Empress Stakes. Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice is aiming to win Friday night’s classic for the third year in a row --- after Brayden Green drove Major Reality (7/1) from the No. 1 barrier to an all-the-way victory over Tricky Styx and Quite A Delight (also trained by Prentice) in 2016 and when Gary Hall Jnr brought 7/1 chance The Parade home with a strong burst from sixth at the bell to beat Jungle Jewel. Prentice drove Major Reality, the 5/1 on favourite from barrier 1 in last year’s Empress Stakes when the mare raced without cover and wilted to finish sixth. Prentice was suspended for 18 days for causing interference in an event for trotters at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon and he has engaged Hall to drive Major Reality, who will be making her first appearance for 91 days. Major Reality last raced when she was a fading eighth behind Ideal Alice in the $125,000 Mares Classic on December 8. Hall is looking forward to driving Major Reality and keeping his 100 per cent record with the mare. He has happy memories of winning the 2015 WA Oaks with Major Reality, who beat stablemate Quite A Delight by a half-head. His only other drive behind Major Reality was at Bunbury in June 2015 when she dead-heated for first with Baileys Gold. “She is a quality mare and should prove hard to beat,” said Hall, who won the Empress Stakes for the first time when Aussie Made Lombo was successful at her final start, beating Live High and Famous Alchemist in 2013. Champion reinsman Chris Lewis, who has won the Empress Stakes a record eight times with Candy Nacray (1988), Armbro Lucy (1992), Meggie Dear (2001), Classical Mover (2002), Shes Royalty (2007), Ima Spicey Lombo (2011) and Sensational Gabby (2014 and 2015) had the choice of four drives in this year’s classic. He has given punters a strong lead by choosing to drive the Ross Olivieri-trained Sheer Rocknroll ahead of stablemate Madame Meilland, Bettor Be Supreme and Sea Me Smile. “Sheer Rocknroll has got a bit of class,” said Lewis, who was impressed when Dean Miller drove the five-year-old first-up for nine weeks when she had a tough run, three wide and then in the breeze before finishing a close second to Dana Duke over 2130m last Friday week. “It’s always hard first-up,” Lewis said. Sheer Rocknroll warmed up for Friday night’s race with a stylish victory in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. She was untroubled to dash over the final quarters in 28.5sec. and 28.2sec., with reinsman Tommy Sheehy saying that it was a delight to handle such a quality pacer. “Acting on instructions I didn’t let her go until the final 400m and she certainly sprinted most impressively,” Sheehy said. Lewis drove Madame Meilland at her most recent outing when she set the pace from the No. 1 barrier and held on to win from Gotta Go Gabbana over 2130m last Friday week. Olivieri has engaged Shannon Suvaljko to handle the mare, who is favourably drawn at No. 2 on the front line on Friday night. Busselton trainer Barry Howlett has engaged Morgan Woodley to drive Bettor Be Supreme, who faces a stern test from the No. 8 barrier. Lewis was in the sulky when Bettor Be Supreme raced three wide early and then in the breeze before finishing a good third behind Chok Chai over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night. Chris Voak, who will drive Gotta Go Gabbana for Banjup trainer Annie Belton, said that he had no doubt that the lightly-raced four-year-old was capable of matching strides for the better-performed mares in the race. “However, from barrier five she is most likely to have to do things tough in the breeze again, he said. “She is improving all the time and you can certainly make a case for her.” Ken Casellas

The quality of drivers competing in this Sunday’s inaugural Australian Female Drivers Championship in Launceston would be a good fit for any world-class harness racing event. Having the talents of Kerryn Manning, Kate Gath and Amanda Turnbull at the same meeting should be enough to draw a big crowd but when added is a sprinkling of rising stars, the stage is set for a hot competition. The star of the show is Victorian Kerryn Manning who up until last week had driven over 3700 winners and placed over 4300 times for prizemoney of in excess of almost $26 million. No other female driver has accrued more Group 1 victories, which is why she is regarded as one of the best in the business. Manning is a superstar of harness racing and her presence in any line-up usually encourages strong betting turnover and coupled with her congenial personality makes her one of the most valuable commodities in the game. Kate Gath, also from Victoria, has driven over 1200 winners and is close to topping $10 million in stake earnings so she too will have her share of followers on Sunday night. New South Wales is well represented with Amanda Turnbull one of the most successful female drivers in the country having amassed 1600 wins and 2000 placings for over $10 million in stakes. Then there is teenager Ellen Rixon who is just starting her journey but has already notched 100 winners from only 900 drives and it won’t be long before she cracks the $1 million stake barrier. Rixon represented NSW in the Australian Drivers Championship against the male drivers in Tasmania last year and she more than held her own. South Australia’s Danielle Hill is another gun driver who has represented her state at national team events mixing it with the male drivers and more than holding her own and her record of over 1300 winners for over $4 million in stakes speaks for itself. South Australia also will be represented by Lisa Ryan who has driven almost 140 winners and placed over 400 times from only 1500 drives. Western Australia will be represented by Jocelyn Young and Deni Roberts and while they are less experienced than most of the aforementioned, they are talented drivers in their own right. Tasmania will be represented by Natalee Emery and Kristy Grant and both are talented drivers. Emery has amassed 358 wins for stakes of over $2.2 million of which much was accrued in Victoria where she drove under her maiden name of Westendorf. Grant is an up and coming talent who is the granddaughter of astute horseman Dick Eaves. Grant has notched almost 30 winners from limited opportunities but her acumen in the sulky has gone to a new level in recent times. The winner of the AFDC will be determined on a point score basis and held over four races. In a 12-horse field the winner will earn 19 points with 14 for second, 11 for third and nine for fourth reducing by one through to last place which earns one point. Peter Staples

New Zealand and Hunter Cup winner Arden Rooney has been retired.  Another setback with a tendon injury which has plagued him for two years was enough for owner Merv Butterworth to retire the great stayer.  “After two years of operations, intensive rehabilitation and TLC, we came to the realisation that once we got him 99 per cent, he may have injured his tendon again,” Butterworth said.  “The top horses like ‘Rooney’ over-exert themselves hence their injuries and short life on the track.  “He is now in retirement as a fully fit $1 million-plus stake-earner and winner of many Cups in NZ and Australia.  “He is at home where he will be loved and well cared for.”  Arden Rooney, who started his career with the All Stars’ in NZ before switching to Kerryn Manning, raced 50 times for 21 wins, 15 placings and earnings of $1,070,230.  He won the 2015 Hunter Cup and the NZ Cup on November 10 of the same year.  Arden Rooney hasn’t raced since a 10th in the NZ free-for-all just three days after his NZ Cup win   Adam Hamilton

THE month of March is welcomed for those cooler autumn temperatures but it also announces that the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival, with its highly popular mix of racing and social activities, is upon us again. Two-year-olds have been strutting their stuff at most Gold Crown Paceway meetings since the New Year, and two “baby races” at last Wednesday’s fixture provided something of a warm-up act for the full program of two-year-old racing in late March. First String (Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy) justified the wraps on him by leading throughout in the first  of these races, gradually increasing the tempo to closing quarters of 28 seconds for a commendable 1:57.8 mile rate, at his racing debut. The Roll With Joe colt, a $43,000 purchase  at the Sydney APG Sale for some of the Fleur De Lil connections, is Gold Crown bound, with Luke McCarthy commenting that it was a sensible option to bring him up to Bathurst for a run on the track before the Crown heats. Runner-up Shoobee Doo (Steve/Mitch Turnbull), a $16,500 buy from last year’s Gold Crown Sale, ran on strongly for a promising second to confirm good trial form, and Chris Be Quick (Gemma/ Mat Rue), a $32,500 purchase at Sydney last year, trailed the leader throughout to hold down third, for his second successive placing. In the second two-year-old race Caribbean Jack (Gemma/Mat Rue) enjoyed a nice trail behind the lead and showed good race sense to go through on the inside in scoring a last-stride win, home in 57.8s for a 1:58.7 mile rate. He’d been a touch unlucky when third on debut, and with further improvement should acquit himself well during the carnival. The Caribbean Blaster son was a $5,500 buy at the Bathurst Sale last year, runner-up Our Uncle Jim (Chris/Anthony Frisby) is a homebred, and Firestorm Red (Steve Turnbull), which held on well for third after a tough run outside the lead, was a $60,000 purchase at the Melbourne APG Sale for the “Red Man” Rob Davis. Caribbean Jack’s win completed a double for the Rues, after the all-the-way win in C2 grade by Trilight Brigade NZ, the Bettors mare scoring her sixth win from her last 9 starts, dashing home in 27.6s to street her rivals. Most impressive performance of the meeting was clearly that of Parramatta NZ, which led for most of the fast-class sprint, home in 55.9s to complete the 1730 metres in a 1:53.8 rate, just over a second off the track record set by Better Than Max during last year’s carnival. Off the track, the highlight of the evening was the draw for naming rights for the carnival’s  Group One feature races, the Gold Tiara and Gold Crown, for 24 local and national sponsors who had signed up for sponsorship packages at this year’s carnival. This year’s features will be known as the Mitavite Gold Tiara, and the Kings Hotel Bathurst Gold Crown. They will be the first 2YO Group One races of the Australian season, and the highlights of a magnificent night’s racing on Easter Saturday, March 31.   TERRY NEIL

Queens Advocate scored one of the most courageous victories of her outstanding career on Sunday night in the Plunkett Family Ascot Gold Cup. The eight-year-old Mcardle-Genes West mare, owned by Lauren Dwyer and trained by Matthew Dwyer, was the first to take the race on thanks to the mercurial touch of Todd Rattray and the gamble paid off. As the class field of 13 runners made their way past the 1200-metre pole Todd decided it was now or never and moved the mare out three-wide to make her bold move. Dylan Ford wasted no time on the 20-metre backmarker Star Chamber and quickly hitched his wagon to the back of Queens Advocate in the run to the judge's box with the bell sounding. Gareth Rattray was dictating the terms on the Steven Davis prepared Black Centurian while The Majority toiled away in the death chair. At the 400-metre mark Todd sensed a chink in the armour of The Majority and he surged forward on Queens Advocate and the sprint to the post was on. Black Centurian and Queen's Advocate and the brothers-Rattray settled down for a ding-dong struggle as the chasing pack was left flat-footed. Black Centurian was still in front 50-metres off the line but Queens Advocate was not to be denied grabbing the lead near the post and staving off the barnstorming late challenge of the Easter Cup runner-up Isaac and Star Chamber which warmed up late to grab fourth just 2.7-metres from the winner. Queens Advocate has been in the Matty Dwyer stable for just one season and has been a model of consistency winning the Launceston Mile and the Toreace Flying Mile in Hobart. "She has had a year off which appears to have done her the world of good, Queens Advocate has had 12 runs for us for three wins and five placings," said Matthew. "She galloped out in the Devonport Cup and lost 60-metres and was beaten only 10, so she just had to go away cleanly to be a super chance, I told Todd to drive her like she was the best horse in the race and he drove her a treat." "We will give her another run Sunday in Launceston and then all going well we will head to the Easter Cup Series." Todd Rattray dominated the nine race-card greeting the judge on four occasions, as well as Queen's Advocate ($6.50) he steered home Goggo Gee Gee ($5.00), Kvitova Leis ($2.30) and Cardinal Art ($13.00). The Paul Hill-trained Ideal Bliss further enhanced her status as the state's top filly with a fighting win in the Triple M Hobart Three-Year-Old Fillies Championship over interstate invader Ghadastar. Master reinsman Gavin Lang shot last year's Evicus winner Ideal Bliss to the early lead and held the opposition at bay up the home stretch to take a further step toward a tilt at the Tasmanian Oaks. Shane Yates

It's got a bit of Crocodile Dundee about it - the dairy farmer from Victoria's south-west heading to the biggest smoke of them all, the Big Apple - New York City, for a $1.3 million horse race. Mick Dundee isn't a dairy farmer and as far as we know didn't train horses, but there are plenty of parallels between the man who hunts crocodiles and the dairy farmer who hunts race wins. John Meade says he is stoked to be invited to contest the $1.3 million Yonkers International Trot in New York in October with his champion trotter Sparkling Success. "I would say at this stage we'll be making the trip but there's a bit of water to go under the bridge yet," the affable trainer whose race-night hat is not dissimilar to Croc Dundee's told the Warrnambool Standard's Tim Auld. Read the full story at   Cody Winnell

Warragul trotter Miss Intense is chasing a feature race win this Saturday night. The seven-year-old mare, having just her tenth race start, will compete in the $20,000 Breed For Speed Silver Series Final at Melton for trainer Jenni Lewis and driver Greg Sugars. Miss Intense has stuck a rich vein of form since returning to racing in November. After successive wins at Geelong and Melton, Miss Intense produced an eye catching second in a heat of the Silver Series at Bendigo recently, and is sure to give her supporters a sight in Saturday night's race. In many ways the story of Miss Intense is similar to that of Lewis' former top trotter of a decade ago, Billy Royle. Both horses are out of the mare Ivy Jean, and both suddenly found considerable racetrack success as older horses - Billy Royle won one race from his first 26 starts but ended up going on to win several feature races, and compete in an InterDominion series, as an older horse. While this weekend's race is the biggest test to date for Miss Intense, she is in the best form of her career at the right time, and has earned an opportunity in the feature event. Saturday's meeting is a major fundraiser for the Women's Cancer foundation.   Kyle Galley  

“He is our little favourite and he has done the job today,” Moonbi reinsman and trainer Dean Chapple remarked after the pertinently-named Right On With It took out the feature race at the Sunday’s Inverell harness racing meeting – the $10,000 TABCorp Inverell Cup. Known around the stable as “Shorty”, the six-year-old Real Desire gelding notched up career win number 10 from 60 race starts. “We brought him for not much money and the old owners have come back into the game and we have done it,” Chapple said. “It was a good run and it was good to win the race – we got the big one.” Commencing from the six barrier, off the second line, Right On With It landed three back on the inside running line while stablemate Certainlywillbe (Brad Elder) led the field. Last start winner Condafew (Stacey Weidemann) was poised in on the leaders back. Chapple spoke of racing three back on the inside running line and of his chances in gaining a way out. “I was worried as I knew Reciprocity would come around and put a bit of pepper into the race. “When Condafew got in front of him (Reciprocity) it panned out good for us and it went our way,” he said. Reciprocity (Mitch Faulkner), who commenced as race favourite, raced around the field from last to then to sit up outside race leader, Certainlywillbe, before leading the field into the home straight on the final occasion. Right On With It gained a split before racing three wide down the home straight to come away for a 2.4 metre win over Condafew with Reciprocity 1.9 metres away third. “He’s fast but he is weak at the same time and when it’s over its over,” Chapple said.  “I was just waiting for that winning post to come up.” “But it panned it our great” Chapple celebrated both a training and driving double after opening his account in the first race with Esspe Supreme who had an all the way win in the Inverell Vet Clinic Pace. “I think he is a class horse and I think he is better with a sit but it panned out well today and he got the win,” he said. “His owners have been patient as he is a nightmare horse but he got the win today.”   He will now head to the Armidale harness meeting on Sunday looking for a few more feature race wins. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

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