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Harness racing’s greatest trainer Mark Purdon has sacked himself off champion pacer Lazarus for Saturday’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. And he says putting partner Natalie Rasmussen on the Mile favourite gives all involved their best chance. “It wasn’t a hard choice to make,” said Purdon, who has driven Lazarus to win two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, as well as the Hunter Cup earlier this month. “Obviously our team had a little bug through them last week and they didn’t race up to our expectations, and with that in mind, I want to concentrate on getting the best out of them this week. “That means me doing my job as a trainer to 100 per cent and I think if I am busy doing that then I might only do an 85 per cent job on the driving front. “This way Natalie can concentrate on the driving and make those decisions and I will handle the training details.” Rasmussen is best-known as the former trainer-driver of Blacks A Fake, who won almost every major race in Australia, except the Miracle Mile. But she finally snared the Miracle win two years ago with an inch-perfect drive on Have Faith In Me, who she co-trained with Purdon, who nosed out Lennytheshark in an Australasian record 1:47.5. Rasmussen owns the two fastest winning miles in Australasian history, having also driven Adore Me when she paced 1:47.7 winning the Ladyship Mile a year earlier. Champion pacer Lazarus will be aiming to bounce back from a shock defeat at Menangle last weekend. Picture: Ashlea Brennan. Her aggressive style, which often sees her launch between the 1200m and 800m poles and keep running hard is perfectly suited to Menangle’s big miles, not that Purdon thinks she drives there better than anywhere else. “She is a great driver on any track, simple as that,” he said. Exactly what version of Lazarus Purdon hands over to Rasmussen on Saturday night is hard to predict after his brave but well-beaten third behind Tiger Tara last Saturday. He was feeling the lingering effects of a virus which a blood report on Tuesday suggests is now gone, but Purdon is cautious. “The best thing I can go on is his blood report and it was a lot better so we should be able to get a good week into him,” Purdon said. “And the rain we had overnight on Monday helped settle the dust, which will also help. “But I will know more after he fast works on Thursday. I am confident he will be close to his peak on Saturday night but there is no money-back guarantees.” MIRACLE MILE Menangle, Saturday night 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

Harness racing participants in New South Wales will be the recipients of a $2.8million injection in prizemoney initiatives commencing from July 1 as announced by HRNSW Chairman Mr Rod Smith today. The raft of initiatives cover the broader industry as the HRNSW Board, working collaboratively with the Club Menangle Directors and respective executive managements on funding aspects, also took into consideration the needs of all stakeholder groups. These prizemoney increases should encourage existing and potential owners to invest in yearlings at the Australian Pacing Gold and Bathurst yearling sales in February and March respectively, particularly yearlings eligible for the 2019 Alabar Breeders Challenge and Bathurst Gold Crown Series. "Breeders can now look to the future and ensure all foals are paid up for the various NSW futurity series, as no doubt buyers will be very interested in eligible yearlings with the half-a-million dollar combined increase for the Breeders Challenge and Gold Crown," said Mr Smith. In partnership with Club Menangle midweek prizemoney will increase to $9,000 per race. "My Board Members are extremely appreciative of the Club Menangle team led by Ray Sharman and Bruce Christison for working with John (Dumesny - HRNSW chief executive) towards a more productive racing calendar for the Sydney area but more so for the Club's on-top contribution to the standard $6,500 per race funding for the Tuesday meetings," said Mr Smith. Whilst there are increases to the Alabar Breeders Challenge and Bathurst Gold Crown series, owners and trainers have not been forgotten especially owners who may not have horses in the top category with the introduction of a new 'Reward Series' with regional and provincial heats and finals ($10,000) as a reward for continuing to be involved in the industry. "The Reward Series will allow owners of Australian bred and NSW trained horses to compete at the lowest entry level for better prizemoney but to also earn $6,000 in Owners and Breeders Bonuses," explained Mr Smith. The funding injection will benefit breeders, owners, trainers and drivers with the further contribution of Clubs which are willing to add value to base prizemoney offered at non-feature race meetings. "Where a Club is to conduct a standard race meeting, eight races at $6,000 per race, HRNSW will offer additional monies to be matched by the Club for a single race on that programme," said Mr Smith. In making the announcement Mr Smith stated HRNSW is confident the injection of funding will continue into the future whilst wagering revenue through Tabcorp, corporate operators and tax parity streams remain consistent. "The HRNSW Board and management will continue to monitor wagering revenue streams and provided future financial commitments which can be adequately accommodated through surplus funds that are returned to the industry stakeholders in various forms be that through administrative assistance, infrastructure improvements or prizemoney," concluded Mr Smith. The $2.8 million funding is provided through: $600,000 Club Menangle funding of M1 races and increased prizemoney for Tuesday meetings to $9,000 per race in partnership with HRNSW. $600,000 Convert all $3,500 (R penalty) race meetings to minimum $5,000 (C penalty) race meetings and increase the allocation of $6,000 (C penalty) race meetings. Note: There will still be some individual "R" races for $3500 as Heats into Finals and as lead up races to support the likes of the Canola Cup. $300,000 Three-Year-Old Fillies and Mares funding for dedicated racing calendar. (Similar to the Two-Year-Old Calendar with guaranteed races if six original nominations are received) $300,000 Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge funding increase from 2019 in consultation with the Harness Breeders NSW and the NSW Standardbred Owners Associations. $200,000 Bathurst Golds Crown Carnival funding increase from 2019 in consultation with the Bathurst Harness Racing Club and industry stakeholders. $100,000 Group 2 funding increases for Pink Bonnet, Sapling Stakes, Rod Fitzpatrick, Raith Memorial and the Simpson, Paleface Adios and Hondo Grattan Sprints. $200,000 Regional Rewards Series of Heats and Finals to accommodate four-year-old and upwards C0 horses which are Australian bred and physically trained in NSW by HRNSW licenced trainers. (Heats $3,500 and Finals $10,000) $300,000 Non feature race meetings prizemoney boost in conjunction with Clubs. $200,000 Cups Series in Metropolitan and Country Regions incorporating established and new feature races. For example the Shirley Turnbull Memorial, Renshaw Cup, Treuer Memorial, Newcastle Mile and Riverina Cups (Goulburn, Young, Wagga). AMANDA RANDO

Popular South Australian harness racing trainer-driver Scott Pascoe landed his first winner in more than 10 years when Samalise scored a thrilling win in the PFD Food Services Pace (1800m) at Globe Derby Park. A $10.50 chance, Samalise recorded her first win leading throughout scoring a half-head win in a photo-finish that had only half a metre between the first four horses past the post. After receiving pressure for much of the race, the four-year-old mare responded to Pascoe’s urgings to defeat the fast-finishing Clarenden Valour ($4.50) while Fine Artist ($33.10) was a short half head away third and Eyes For You ($9.70), a half neck away fourth. A delighted Pascoe was relieved to finally have his first winner after returning to the sport in November last year. “I’ve had a few placings, but it is great to finally land a winner, and she did a great job,” Pascoe said. “Even though it has taken a while, I’m loving being back in harness racing, it is really enjoyable.” Pascoe’s previous winner was La Bella Mafia which scored at Globe Derby Park on October 27, 2007. “I gave it away soon after that but made a short comeback in 2014 before stopping again. I’ve been working in the Northern Territory but am back home in Birdwood again so have the chance to train a few.” Pascoe said he had purchased Samalise from the stable of champion Victorian trainer-driver Brian Gath. “I had been watching her for a while and when I saw her listed on the Trading Ring, just had to buy her.” Saturday was the mare’s 19th race start, and she had recorded five seconds and a third before the win. “I thought she ran really well at Kapunda on the previous Monday running home strongly to finish second. “Tonight, from gate one, I was determined to push through and hold the lead. “I wasn’t too happy when there was mid-race pressure from Peter (Borrelli on Fine Artist) but Samalise responded and really battled on strongly up the home straight.” Samalise and Fine Artist went head-for-head for the last 400 metres and Clarenden Valour, which had had an easy run back in the field, loomed up wide out in the home straight but just could not catch the mare which refused to give in. Fine Artist held on well while Eyes For You came on strongly along the sprint lane. Samalise is owned by Pascoe’s Ningana Park, managed by his wife Mandy, along with Mount Gambier committeeman Anthony Rice and his partner, and the Pascoe’s daughter Samantha. Graham Fischer

The result of every harness race run in Bendigo from 1855 to 1954 will soon be available at the click of a finger. It follows months of pain-staking research from passionate Melbourne-based harness racing historian John Peck. His 304-page Trotting Annals Bendigo and Environs 1855 – 1954 is expected to be available online at the Bendigo Library within weeks. Peck, who was last year inducted into the Victorian Harness Racing Media Association Hall of Fame, has spent countless hours delving into the records and old newspapers at the State Library over the last 12 months to compile his research. He describes it as a labour of love. “Dad and granddad always went to the races – they never owned a horse, but they always went to the races at the Showgrounds,” he said. It is not the first time Peck, who previously worked for the former Australian Trotting Record publication, has compiled in-depth works for Victorian harness racing clubs. His previous research works include histories of the Ballarat and Horsham clubs, with plans to eventually add Geelong. He says his motivation for compiling the history was simple. “Trotting just doesn’t get the coverage it deserves,” Peck said. “There’s no officials results pre-1954. I have just done Bendigo, there’s a file I work on twice a week which is now up to 3400 pages. That’s every trotting race in Victoria since 1838. “And it’s still being added to because I have done everything on Trove on all the metropolitan newspapers and now I’m going through all the country ones. “I’m doing Kyneton at the moment.” The annals record Bendigo’s first trotting race as taking place at Myers Flat on November 22, 1855, when the Tennant family-owned Bobby defeated a Mr Brown’s horse in a match-race for 20 pounds over a distance of one-and-a-half miles. Among the more popular match-race courses in the 1850s and 60s were from the former Glasgow Arms in Kangaroo Flat, to the Victoria Hotel in Pall Mall, Black Swan Hotel and Victoria Hotel, many of them starting at 5am. Peck’s research also includes an extensive list of trotting results from Bendigo Agriculture Society Sports meetings conducted at Bendigo Showgrounds and long-since disappeared tracks like Axedale, Eaglehawk, Goornong, Marong, Myers Creek, Raywood, Sebastian and Toolleen. Trotting just doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. John Peck Bendigo Harness Racing Club historian Noel Ridge said the research shed plenty of light on the history of the sport in Bendigo and dispelled a few myths. “A lot of people think trotting started with the opening of Lords Raceway in 1954, but in actual fact it’s been going for more than 100 years,” he said. “This research is not all about the horses, but it’s the people and the places and the whole social aspect that was going on at the time. “In the (gold) boom, they had some serious horses – the wealthy people engaged in horse racing big-time, so it’s a big part of Bendigo history.” Ridge said the club was indebted to Peck for his tireless work and looked forward to it being made available to the public.  Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

At an age when most horses are heading into retirement, Brettoneux has only just begun his harness racing career. Now 11, Brettoneux won at Kapunda on Monday, February 12, at just his third race start – and all have been this year. Globe Derby Park trainer Vaughn Newman takes up the story. “I’ve trained a few horses for a Victorian owner John Kennedy and he said a relative, Murray Goates from Werribee, had a trotter he wanted to send to South Australia. “I’ve trained horses for more than 40 years, and always pacers, never a trotter,” Newman said. “When John said the horse was 11 and had never raced I turned him down but said I would try to place him. “A few trainers showed interest but quickly dropped off because of his age, so finally, I said okay. Newman found out Brettoneux had actually qualified to race for Victorian trainer Amy Tubbs back in 2012. “He then suffered tendon injuries in both legs and spent 4-1/2 years in a paddock before being brought back into training. “I think John (Kennedy) worked him up before he came across to South Australia.” Newman gave the gelding his first start at Kapunda on January 5. “I had no idea what to expect and I don’t think Wayne (reinsman Wayne Hill) did either. “The horse trotted safely, but slowly, before Wayne shook him up during the last lap and he made up good ground. “Next start at Globe Derby (on January 15) I had something on him because I thought he had improved but he broke and lost a lot of ground before again trotting home strongly. “He had never broke for me so I was shocked and mucked around with his headgear for last Monday’s race.” Backed from $31 into $17.90, Brettoneux began quickly off his front mark and Hill found himself left 40 metres in front of the body of the field. With the knowledge of the horse, Hill kept him trotting strongly running 30.1, 30.2 and 30.0 quarters making it basically impossible for anything to catch him. Brettoneux scored a 12 metre win from Truscott Hall ($1.50 fav) with No Renege ($7.10), 16 metres away third. “He did get tired running a 33.5 final quarter,” Hill said, “but he also knocked off a bit when I didn’t keep at him.” Newman said the gelding had had 27 weeks of training for his races, so it was fair to assume, after such a long break, he would continue to get fitter. Brettoneux’s next run will be in the $7000 Legends Trotters Final (2220m) at Kapunda on Monday, February 26. Incredibly, even though he will be in his first full year of racing, when Brettoneux turns 12 on September 1, he will have to undergo a veterinary inspection each time he heads to the races. Graham Fischer  

The race to the top is on. And while the mighty champion Lazarus leads the way, it is not a given that he takes the harness racing title. Entering Saturday night’s Gr.1 $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at TABCORP Park, Menangle, the Mark Purdon prepared equine freak leads the way in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit race, sitting at the top of the leaderboard with 300 points. Victories in the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion and the Hunter Cup have him as the chosen one but as the season gets deeper, the challengers are coming. Only two legs remain in the current Grand Circuit season, the Miracle Mile and the Blacks A Fake in Brisbane in July and that only adds to the pressure Lazarus is facing this weekend. Lazarus is facing many adversities as he looks to rebound following his shock loss last week in the qualifying race while also looking to break a major hoodoo. On Sunday, the Bettors Delight entire was slammed with the outside barrier in the 1609m feature; he now needs to rewrite the record books. As it stands, no horse has overcome the outside gate since the race was moved from Harold Park to the spacious surroundings of Menangle back in 2009. Even more worrying, no horse has even placed from the extreme outside post position! But as we know, Lazarus is no normal horse. Yet to miss a place in 44 career starts to date, the winner of 35 races (15 at Gr.1 level) will need to bring his absolute best to establish a new and exclusive club. If successful, Lazarus will become the only pacer to win the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile (and all in the same season!). Purdon is no stranger to success in the Miracle Mile; he prepared the 2016 winner and race record holder Have Faith In Me (1:47.5) Lazarus may need to eclipse that mark to win this weekend. As good as Lazarus has been this season, his rivals aren’t backing away and the current logjam behind him on the Grand Circuit leaderboard is ready to take their shots again. If Soho Tribeca (165 points), Tiger Tara (125) or Lennytheshark (124) prove victorious and Lazarus can’t overcome his wide draw, the race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion could take an interesting twist. Lazarus won’t make the trip to Brisbane for the final Grand Circuit event while his three rivals could easily venture north in July and snatch victory. Both Tiger Tara and Lennytheshark contested the Blacks A Fake last season while Soho Tribeca was being considered before a late change in plans. For the third time this season in a Grand Circuit event, Tiger Tara has drawn the inside gate and will prove very hard to beat following his Gr.1 triumph last week in the Canadian Club Classic in a time of 1:51.5. Prepared by Kevin Pizzuto and to be driven by Todd McCarthy, the Bettors Delight entire will again prove a worthy rival. Allied Express Sprint winner Anything For Love rated a scintillating 1:48.7 last week and will also prove hard to catch after landing saddlecloth number three. Prepared by Shane Tritton, his wife Lauren will take the drive and look to join Kellie Kersley, Jodi Quinlan and Natalie Rasmussen as winning female drivers of the Miracle Mile. Classy pacer My Field Marshal sports saddlecloth number four and shapes as a legitimate threat following his booming effort last week when runner-up behind Tiger Tara. The ultra-consistent performer is looking to provide Tim and Anthony Butt with their maiden Miracle Mile success. Last start Chariots of Fire winner Jilliby Kung Fu will represent Victoria and the speedy four-year-old looms as the ‘wild card’ runner for Marg and Jason Lee. Fresh from his success two weeks ago when he equaled the race record of the Chariots with his 1:48.8 clocking, the emerging force looms as a genuine threat. The last four-year-old to claim the Chariots/Miracle Mile double was Have Faith In Me two years ago. Another Victorian trained pacer boasting outstanding credentials is the Michael Stanley trained and Greg Sugars driven Soho Tribeca, the classy five-year-old was beaten narrowly last week as favourite when second behind Anything For Love in 1:48.7. The WA Pacing Cup winner will carry saddlecloth number six. Defending champion Lennytheshark creates plenty of intrigue despite being safely held last week in the Allied Express Sprint, the 1:49.2 performer finished fifth behind Anything For Love and Soho Tribeca after enjoying a good trip throughout. The David Aiken prepared $2.9 million earner will be handled by champion reinsman Chris Alford and carry saddlecloth number seven. The veteran of the field is looking to become the first eight-year-old to win the Miracle Mile since the mighty Smoken Up back in 2010. Locally prepared star Charlaval finished an eye-catching third last week behind Anything For Love and Soho Tribeca in 1:48.7. Prepared by leading trainer Kerryann Turner, the five-year-old gelding will be handled by Turner’s husband, Robbie Morris. The two emergency runners are Let It Ride (saddlecloth number nine) and Atomic Red (saddlecloth number two). No mares are starting in this year’s event. The Ainsworth Miracle Mile is scheduled to start at 9.32pm local time. As always, the race time will be a fascinating aspect but the race to be crowned Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion could be decided after this weekend. Again, time will tell. Chris Barsby Hoofnote: Only Westburn Grant is even with Lazarus with Gr.1 victories.

A Miracle Mile that Lazarus couldn't lose is starting to look like one the champion pacer will struggle to win. The Kiwi pacing hero struck not one but two judder bars over the weekend on the road to the only great Australasian race to have eluded him and is set to be a huge drifter in the market. The first signs of trouble for Lazarus, and punters, came when the Inter Dominion champ was a brave but battling third in his $100,000 prelude to the Mile at Menangle on Saturday night. That was still enough to earn him an invitation to the A$750,000 super sprint this Saturday but Lazarus clearly wasn't at his best, only clawing his way into third on heart after looking beaten at the 500m mark.   He appeared still drained by the effects of a virus trainer-driver Mark Purdon had expected to be out of his system but dogged the entire Purdon-Rasmussen stable on a dreadful night at the office. "We had a bug through the team during the week but we thought they were over it," said Purdon. "They had good blood reports and we even had Laz scoped on the morning of the race so we could keep the stewards up to date but clearly he was still below his best. "So while I was disappointed in him because he tried so hard, it was hardly ideal." Purdon said Lazarus appeared to come through the hard run behind long-time rival Tiger Tara well and looked fresh yesterday, and he expects to know more about his well-being after fast work on Tuesday. But that isn't the only problem facing Lazarus as he drew the outside of the front line at yesterday's barrier draw, meaning he will start from barrier eight. Since the Miracle Mile moved to Menangle a decade ago no horse has even placed in the race from barrier eight. That saw him move from $1.70 on Saturday morning to $2.20 with the NZ TAB last night but he could stretch out to $3 with some bookies before race start time, especially depending on how Purdon assesses his bounce back to peak fitness. The big winner in the draw was the faster of Saturday's two prelude winners in Anything For Love, who has barrier three for the Mile while Tiger Tara's unbelievable run of ace barrier draws continued. He has now drawn the ace in the Inter Dominion Final, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile and whether he can hold Anything For Love at the start will be a crucial factor in the race. A$750k Miracle Mile The field for the A$750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night is: 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red.   Michael Guerin

Racing Queensland’s commercial strategy to convert non-TAB to TAB race meetings where possible has resulted in two TAB meetings being allocated to the Marburg Pacing Association for the first time in the club’s history. Marburg’s Easter Sunday meeting (1 April 2018) will be a TAB meeting broadcast live on Sky Racing, with the Labour Day Public Holiday meeting (7 May 2018) also allocated TAB status. It comes after the hard-working MPA committee secured a major sponsor to bankroll an exciting new series culminating in a $25,000 final. Oakwood Capital – a commercial finance brokerage company – has partnered with the club to help with a goal of assisting the sport at the grassroots level.    Director Craig Whiteoak said: “Oakwood Capital is thrilled to partner the Marburg Pacing Association to present the inaugural running of the standing start series, which represents a significant boost to harness racing in Queensland at a grass roots club”. Excited Marburg Club President Scott Neaves said the MPA was hugely appreciative of the support of Oakwood Capital and Mr Whiteoak. “We are really looking forward to putting on a massive series of racing, with the final being our first occasion of TAB coverage and Sky Channel broadcasting,” he said.   The Oakwood Capital Goldstrike Series will be conducted under standing-start conditions for horses assessed R0 or better, but no better than C5. Heats, scheduled for March 24, are to be split by class with all horses starting from the front. However, if some classes have to be combined the barrier draw will be drawn on “C” or Career class. Five Heats are intended to be conducted with first and second qualifying for the rich $25,000 Final on Sunday April 1. The handicaps for the Final will be 10 metres for each Career class and the winner will take a Career and Graduation Penalty only. This new series is based on the former Rocklea Pot Of Gold Series. Several standing start races have been added to the program at Redcliffe and another at Marburg in February to provide suitable lead-ins to this fantastic new Series. Mr Whiteoak said his company looked forward to sponsoring a great day of racing and entertainment, referring to the various plans for what has long been a family fun day at the Marburg Showgrounds and the committee’s plans to make this the biggest yet. The MPA and Oakwood Capital are optimistic that this series can encourage growth of industry participants and the interest of the public generally in the entertainment and enjoyment that harness racing has to offer. The new series complements other participation initiatives such as the Aspiration races, hobbyist only races and Marburg to Metro races recently introduced by Racing Queensland and its Clubs to increase racing and winning opportunities particularly at the grass roots level.  Racing Queensland

Grant Dixon might have one hand on the 2018 NSW Derby with the exciting Colt Thirty One, but the champion Queensland trainer knows his opponents will be lining up to loosen the grip in Saturday night’s harness racing final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Dixon had a night to remember in Sydney after he booked his chance at a second derby victory with Colt Thirty one in the space of a month, before earning a spot in the NSW Oaks with Fame Assured. Colt Thirty One was rated a $1.90 with UBET after he drew barrier one at Monday’s draw, which following a stunning all-the-way win in Heat 3 at the weekend. There, he was able to hold off the Jess Tubbs-prepared Little Peanut and odds-on pop The Devils Own (NZ) to record a seemingly comfortable 2.8m win. “He knew he’d been around but he hit the line really nicely,” Dixon said. “He has always been a good eater and he has pulled up well.” Double Derby glory now seems well within reach for the Kevin and Kay Seymour-owned pacer, after he claimed a thrilling come-from-behind win in January’s $200,000 Victoria Derby at Melton. “Derbies are particularly hard to win,” Dixon said. “He had a bad draw (in Melbourne) but they went hard early and he was able to finish over the top. This weekend (from barrier 1) the shoe will be on the other foot.” The three-year-old by Mach Three out of the once-raced mare Charm Personified has built an ultra-impressive record since his last-to-first debut win at Albion Park in February 2017. In 17 starts the colt has been unplaced just twice. However, it was his 20m demolition job of some smart rivals in the Group 1 QBRED Triad at Albion Park in July last year that really got tongues wagging. “Even when he was being broken in they had a massive opinion of him,” Dixon said. Dixon said Fame Assured, currently rated a $4 chance to win the Oaks with UBET, had really pleased him this time in. “She’s really stepped up since her two-year-old campaign,” he said. Fame Assured has seven wins and one placing from nine starts and will be out to secure her first Group 1 victory after running a narrow second to Arts Treasure in the QBRED 2YO Triad (Fillies) in July. “I think we have two genuine chances going into this weekend,” Dixon said.  Alex Nolan

These are the barrier draws for the Big 4 harness racing Group One races at Club Menangle on Saturday night, 24th February. $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile 1: Tiger Tara by Bettor's Delight 2: Atomic Red (2Em) by Rocknroll Hanover 3: Anything For Love by Rock N Roll Heaven 4: My Field Marshal by Art Major 5: Jilliby Kung Fu by Four Stazzz Shark 6: Soho Tribeca by American Ideal 7: Lennytheshark by Four Starzzz Shark 8: Charlaval by Four Starzzz Shark 9: Let It Ride (1Em) by Rock N Roll Heaven 10: Lazarus by Bettor's Delight   Macarthur Square Ladyship Mile 1: Rocker Band by Rocknroll Hanover 2: Ameretto by Million Dollar Cam 3: Partyon by Bettor's Delight 4: Our Golden Goddess by Art Major 5: Ima Mystery Girl (1Em) by Village Jasper 6: Carlas Pixel by Courage Under Fire 7: Miss Riviera Belle by Bettor's Delight 8: My Rona Gold by Klondike Kid 9: A Piccadilly Princess by Bettor's Delight 10: Berisari (2Em) by Safari 11: Delishka by Bettor's Delight 12: Shakahari by Courage Under Fire   John Gibson Memorial NSW Oaks 1: Redbank Addi (1Em) by Rock N Roll Heaven 2: Imprincessgemma by Village Jolt 3: Ideal Pleasure by Bettor's Delight 4: Fame Assured by Mach Three 5: Shez All Rock by Rock N Roll Heaven 6: War Dan Bad Girl by Bettor's Delight 7: My Sweetchilliphilly by Betterthancheddar 8: Nostra Villa by Art Major 9: Callmequeenbee by Shadow Play 10: Macey jayde by Shadow Play 11: Soho Burning Love by Auckland Reactor 12: Prophesy (2Em) by Somebeachsomewhere   APG NSW Derby 1: Colt Thirty One by Mach Three 2: Major Times by Art Major 3: Divine State (1Em) by Tintin In America 4: Poster Boy by Somebeachsomewhere 5: Maraetai by Somebeachsomewhere 6: Higherthananeagle by Mach Three 7: All U Need Is Faith (2Em) by Art Major 8: The Black Prince by Bettor's Delight 9: Code Bailey by Christian Cullen 10: Tam Major by Art Major 11: The Devils Own by Art Major 12: Little Peanut by Blissfull Hall For further information contact Club Menangle Racing Manager David Wonson (02) 4645 2200 *Em = Emergency Mandy Madern

Harness racing and rugby league lost one of its favourite sons last Tuesday with the passing of former trainer-driver and rugby league stalwart John McMartin, aged 73, after a long battle with cancer. Well known amongst his peers as 'Macka', the former Cronulla Sharks and Parramatta Eels hooker played 92 games for Cronulla (1976-79) after having previously racked up 167 appearances for the Eels (1967-75). He also played one game for New South Wales in 1975 and was an integral member of the Cronulla team that made its way through to the Grand Final in 1978. Following the drawn Grand Final, he was ruled out by injury in the midweek replay loss to Manly. He was a Life Member of the NSWRL. John's other great passion was harness racing. A successful trainer and driver and breeder, John had a lot of enjoyment racing his beloved pacer 'Lenny', better known as Gotashotaway who won 22 races and earned just shy of $160,000 in prizemoney. Gotashotaway, a sire of one winner before being gelded, was John's last winner as a trainer-driver on October 6, 2011. John had success with many other horses having trained 70 winners including the trotter Krysta who won the Franco/Australian Trotters Final at Harold Park in 2005 with John in the sulky. A funeral for John will be held on Wednesday (February 21) at the Allan Drew Heritage Chapel, Castle Hill, commencing at 10.00am. Harness Racing New South Wales extends sincere condolences to John's wife Kathy, family and friends. AMANDA RANDO

Harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is confident he can turn champion pacer Lazarus around in time to win Saturday's Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But he knows it won't be easy. The great Kiwi pacer's campaign hit a judder bar at Menangle on Saturday night when he was brave but battling third in his Mile prelude won by Tiger Tara. Beaten off the gate from the ace draw he was then forced to sit parked and it was obvious 500m from home he wasn't going to win, only his huge heart allowing him to claw his way back to third. That still earned him his invite to the Mile but he had clearly been feeling the effects of a slight virus that had gone through the Purdon-Rasmussen stable last week. "We had a few horses get crook but we thought that were well over it," explained trainer-driver Mark Purdon. "We had our vet inform the stewards and take blood tests which came back suggesting he was fine to race and then we even had him scoped him on Saturday morning, and it was fine too. "So I was surprised he raced so flat, as did the rest of the team. He was brave and was running on heart up the home straight but I am glad to get through this and now we have a week to get him back to his best." While that was less than ideal for Purdon and an army of punters, the real blow to Lazarus's Mile hopes came at Sunday's barrier draw where he was saddled with the outside of the front line. Since the Miracle Mile move to Menangle a decade ago no horse has even placed from barrier eight. That saw him drift from $2 to $2.25 with the TAB but he looks certain to get longer as the enormity of the task he faces hits home to punters. The big winners in the draw were Saturday night's two prelude winners Tiger Tara (1) and Anything For Love, who has drawn barrier three but will start from two if the emergencies don't get a start. The field for the A$750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night is: 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. For Further information contact Club Menangle Racing Manager David Wonson (02) 4645 2200  

Emily Suvaljko will be the toast of Byford Secondary College tomorrow after she drove her first winner at last night’s Northam harness racing meeting. Emily was having just her second race drive behind the Eric Chabros trained mare Undercover Art when she manoeuvred the mare off the fence turning for home and went to the line clear of Win And Grin and Tahara’s Desire. As a full-time student Emily, who turned 17 last October, is only able to compete on weekends and she had her first race-drive the week before behind Erskine Range which came from a 70 metre handicap mark to finish fifth at Bunbury on February 10th. Emily has been helping Banjup trainer Colin Brown on weekends for the past 12 months to satisfy her passion for horses while completing her studies. Also based at Brown’s stables is Dylan Egerton-Green who drove last night’s runner-up Win And Grin. Egerton-Green has spent considerable time teaching Emily the finer points of race-driving and he can expect some banter in the coming week for getting beaten by his student. Emily’s father Shannon Suvaljko drove his 1500th winner last night behind the Kat Warwick trained Princess Major which brought up a winning treble for Suvaljko at the meeting. Emily’s uncles Callan and Joe Suvaljko also drove at the meeting. Alan Parker

Aa a long term harness racing buff, Geelong-based John Wilkinson has trekked down the Princes Highway more times than he can remember. He’s followed every step of Messini – a seven-year-old trotter of which’s he’s managing owner – across two countries and several states – but the thrill of lifting the Terang Pacing Cup ranks among the best. Wilkinson’s Messini, driven by Gavin Lang, overcame the odds to salute in the $30,000 race from the outside second row. Despite the awkward draw, Wilkinson said his syndicate was proud of the pacer. “I lived in Colac for 30 years and very much enjoyed coming back to the meetings in Terang,” he said. “To come back now I live in Geelong and to win the Terang cup is a real thrill. We’re very happy to win with such a special horse like Messini.” Wilkinson said Messini showed glimpses of brilliance as a young horse and had delivered more than 26 victories for the eight-person syndicate. “As a young horse, he was special. He won the sire stakes championships as a three and four-year-old,” Wilkinson said. “He’s been in numerous cups. He’s raced in the New Zealand cup twice, and he’s raced in all the best races here in Victoria and interstate as well. “He’s up there with the very best and is still going particularly well at seven. He’s been trained very well by Brent Lilley.” Messini was one of two triumphs for Lilley, who also scored with Any Old Way. The managing owner revealed the syndicate was confident about Messini’s prospects prior to the race. “We always thought he was the best horse in the race – it’s just when you’re drawn outside on the second row you need a little bit of luck in running,” Wilkinson said. “With a special drive by Gavin Lang, he was able to overcome those obstacles and get to the front. From there, he did a great job.” Ecklin South trainer Marg Lee scored two triumphs, with Jilliby Chevy and Jilliby Madonna both scoring. Both victories were driven by her son, Jason, with Jilliby Chevy a short-priced favourite. Terang-district trainer Matthew Craven saluted in the last race of the night with Miss Fisher taking out the $3,900 prize.  By Nick Ansell Reprinted with permission of The Standard

Sydney's greatest harness racing spectacle was thrown wide open by a crazy qualifying night at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday, leaving plenty of questions over next Saturday's $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. Both Australasia's best pacer Lazarus and defending Mile champion Lennytheshark were beaten in their $100,000 preludes, needing the discretion of the New South Wales Harness Racing Club committee to secure their Mile invites. The early second favourite for Mile in Heaven Rocks didn't qualify at all while Hunter Cup runner-up Soho Tribeca was beaten by Anything For Love in the 1:48.7 first prelude. The intrigue started when Anything For Love led as Team Tritton suggested he would and held out Soho Tribeca by a nose, with bolter Charlaval third in the first prelude, the $100,000 Allied Express Transport Sprint. All three got invites to the Miracle Mile, as did Lennytheshark who finished fifth, with club officials saying the champion pacer's career record as well as his status as defending champion aiding his cause. But the biggest shock of the night came when Lazarus struggled bravely into third in the $100,000 Canadian Club Sprint won by local hero Tiger Tara over My Field Marshal. Tiger Tara was expertly driven by Todd McCarthy early to keep Lazarus in a pocket and press on to the lead and he was never extended to win in a far slower 1:51.5, with My Field Marshal storming home from the tail of the field for second. Lazarus was clearly below his best and looked gone at the 400m mark but picked himself up to finish third, giving a huge scare to one TAB punter who had bet $50,000 a place on him at $1.04. His trainer-driver Mark Purdon said the Inter Dominion champion was below his best after a slight blood complaint during the week, which his vet had informed stewards of. "I thought he was over it but the way the race panned out and him having to race parked after being crossed it affected him," said Purdon. "So we have a week to get him right and I am just glad he gets into the Mile." The NSWHRC directors said they found the final field decision relatively straight forward, with the first three home in both preludes joined by the defending champion and last Saturday's Chariots Of Fire winner Jilliby Kung Fu. The all-important draw for the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be held at Club Menangle around 1.30pm on Sunday. The field field for the great race is.-- Anything For Love, Soho Tribeca, Charlaval, Tiger Tara, My Field Marshal, Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Jilliby Kung Fu. Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. Anything For Love Tiger Tara Mandy Madern

Harness racing trainer Emma Stewart is set to dominate the $200,000 APG New South Wales Derby after qualifying four for next Saturday's classic at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The Victorian trainer won two of the heats on Saturday night with Maraetai in the opening heat and hot favourite Poster Boy in the second, the latter beating his own stablemate Major Times. Stewart snuck her fourth contender into the classic when Tam Major was the fastest fourth placegetter of the three heats, joining the nine automatic qualifiers who finished placed in the three heats. He was fourth to Victoria Derby winner Colt Thirty One, who led throughout in the final heat. "It is a special thrill to qualify four for the Derby, it is the race the owners want to be in," said Stewart. Stewart says while Poster Boy is her personal favourite, that won't affect champion driver Chris Alford's choice of who he partners in the final after he reined both of Stewart's heat winners. "I don't need to make a decision now so I will probably wait until after the barrier draw," says Alford. The barrier draw for the Derby will be held on Monday morning, with two emergencies to be drawn in the field. The acceptors for the Derby are: Code Bailey, Colt Thirty One, Higherthananeagle, Little Peanut, Major Times, Maraetai, Poster Boy, Tam Major, The Black Prince, The Devils Own. Emergencies: Divine State, All U Need Is Faith. Derby Heat 1 Derby Heat 2 Derby Heat 3 Mandy Madern

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