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It should be a wonderful night for punters at Gloucester Park on Friday night - if the best bets from the members of the WA Trotting Media Guild all salute. Seven Guild members have settled on seven different star bets for the 10-event card at Australia’s best harness racing venue. Longshot guru Pat Harding is, uncharacteristically, playing it safer than most by declaring odds-on favourite Wildwest. “Notwithstanding the rain, we can expect another sizzling performance from Wildwest in race three,” Harding said. “I have made him my best bet again and barrier 11 is not likely to be a problem over the 2536 metre journey. This is a most exciting horse with a brilliant future.” The West Australian’s Ernie Manning is keen on Handsandwheels from the Andrew De Campo yard. “Handsandwheels, nearing a $500,000 stake-earnings milestone, gets his chance to complete a winning hat-trick,” Manning said. “The five-year-old, part-owned by Perth Cup winning jockey Kyra Yuill, is racing better than ever after a slight lull which followed his 2017 WA Derby win. Trainer Andrew De Campo has him on target for the Fremantle Pacing Cup and WA Pacing Cup at Perth’s summer carnival. He has the impressive tally of 14 Gloucester Park wins.” RWWA’s racing communications co-ordinator Tim Walker has made the consistent Eloquent Mach his best. “You have to respect Major Trojan in this race, but I think his stablemate Eloquent Mach can find the front here and be super hard to beat,” Walker said. On-course announcer Ken Casellas believes The War Nurse can bounce back to winning form. “The Debra Lewis stable continues to shine and The War Nurse has bright prospects of giving the Hopeland trainer her 52nd winner of the season on Friday night,” Casellas said. “The four-year-old mare is versatile and driver Jocelyn Young will have options from the No. 5 barrier - either to make use of her sparkling gate speed or to restrain her and rely on a strong finishing burst. Punters should forgive The War Nurse’s fading eighth behind Carter Micheal over 1730m last Friday night on a rain-soaked track.” TABradio racecaller Hayden King is a fan of Mister Ardee, especially after drawing the pole for his assignment. “Mister Ardee gets his best chance to break through here,” King said. “He has drawn the pole and should lead throughout for a deserved win.” The West Australian’s racing co-ordinator Ryan Havercroft believes Just Rockon Bye can win first-up from a spell. “Just Rockon Bye didn’t fire in her first preparation for Gary Hall, but her 19 career wins suggest she has ability,” Havercroft said. “There isn’t a lot drawn to her inside and her main rivals will have to get around her to win.” Guild president Wayne Currall rounds out the seven individual star bets by opting for Beltane in race nine. “Beltane has returned to somewhere near his best with two wins and two placings from his last four starts,” Currall said. “Trainer/driver Nathan Turvey has options from his backline draw and should be able to position his charge in a prominent position to strike when the whips are cracking.” VALUE BETS PAT: I think the Justin Prentice-trained Aristocratic Star with Gary Hall Jr aboard can bring home the bacon. It's only a small field and he should give punters some joy at the end of the night. ERNIE: Rock Me Over has  not won in his past 22 starts, but looks ready to break the drought. He has impressed when a Gloucester Park placegetter at his past four starts for trainer Matthew Scott, who took over the gelding’s preparation early this year. TIM: Smoldering Ashes is working up to a win. Whether he has the pace to match The War Nurse time will tell, but I think he’s ready to win. KEN: The redoubtable Im Soxy in race six, in which he is favourably drawn at barrier two, is nearing another win. He continues to race with commendable zest and is sure to fight out the finish. HAYDEN: Looks Official has been most impressive at her last two appearances. She is capable of causing a real blowout against these top fillies. RYAN: Vincenzo Perrugia caught the eye last time out and is drawn to lead. That was Emily Suvaljko’s first drive on him and she stays on this week. WAYNE: Most punters will be looking to what horse can run second behind Wildwest. I think that horse could be Presidentmach from his favourable draw in gate two. To view all of the Media Guild tips click here. Good Punting   Wayne Currall

Sky Racing Active will be unleashed for its first trots takeover at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday as the TAB Breeders Crown is given the royal treatment. Adam Hamilton and Jason Bonnington will co-host from the on-course studio while Brittany Graham will canvas the track and stables for the first and last word, giving trots fans unprecedented coverage via their phone or tablet. “Sky Racing Active is a game-changing innovation,” said Hamilton, the TAB’s head of media and communication. “It answers the call of racing fans and our customers to have control of what they want to watch and when. It makes the user the producer. “In my seven years working at Sky and TAB this is by far the biggest innovation I’ve been part of. It’s the future of racing coverage.” Launched on August 8, Saturday night marks the first trots takeover, with the on-course team embracing the Breeders Crown’s eight Group 1s to give fans a showcase night. “Even though it’s only week three of Sky Racing Active the team has worked incredibly hard behind the scenes to make sure we can really showcase Breeders Crown finals night like never before,” Hamilton said. “There will be uninterrupted live coverage from Melton from 15 minutes before the first race until 10 minutes after the last. It gives us the chance to take all the action and atmosphere of a really special race night to all those fans who can’t be trackside. “We’re incredibly lucky to have two very passionate and talented people in Jason Bonnington and Brittany Graham to head the coverage. “This is the first of many opportunities to showcase harness racing’s biggest events through Sky Racing Active. “ Hamilton said Breeders Crown was “up with any of the sport’s biggest events” and he couldn’t wait to get trackside. “Part of the Breeders Crown's essence is how it brings together horses from right around Australia and New Zealand, and I’m especially pleased to see a really strong New Zealand influence this year that goes wider than just the All Stars runners of Mark Purdon’s and Natalie Rasmussen’s,” he said. “A lot of horses have stamped their credentials in one domain and now they are coming together. The two-year-olds is the best example. Be Happy Mach is almost certainly the Australian two-year-old of the year, but is he good enough to beat New Zealand’s best? “The three-year-old colts and geldings is always the race I looked forward to the most. They are virtually four (years old) and are our next generation of open class stars in the making. Demon Delight, off the back of what he did in the semi, if he can win the final he will be one of the hottest horses in Australasia.” The action will unfold from 5.15pm on Saturday night. Be sure to download the Sky Racing Active app on to your phone or laptop to savour every minute.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

A change in a training routine has helped to revitalise Crystal Sparkles, who has charged home to win at her past two starts after a lean spell and a losing sequence of eight. Eight-time premiership trainer in WA, Ross Olivieri said that racing the five-year-old mare three times in eight days early this month had been a factor in her return to top form. “But I also consider that a change in training at home has helped,” he said. “I’m not hoppling her now, and she just gallops. She’s a lot sharper now since we’ve started galloping her. And she should be capable of contesting feature races for mares, particularly if local good mares continue to be sold to America.” Crystal Sparkles surged home from sixth (three wide) at the bell to win from Amelias Courage over 2130m in a group 3 event for mares last Friday night a week after she went five wide on the home turn and flashed home from eighth at the 100m to get up and win from Rock Me Over over 2130m. “She is a strong well-bred mare and I’m sure that she’ll be there at the finish of this week’s race,” Olivieri said. Crystal Sparkles will start from barrier eight with Chris Voak in the sulky and her chief rivals could be the Mike Reed-trained Maczaffair and Just Rockon Bye, who will be resuming after a five-month absence for champion trainer Gary Hall Snr.       Maczaffair is the class runner of the field and has the ability to overcome the disadvantage of the outside barrier (No. 9). The five-year-old has a losing sequence of 11 and although she has been placed at her past three outings (second to Purest Silk, third to Come Dance With Me) and second to Parisian Partygirl) those efforts have been disappointing. “She has been disappointing at her past few starts,” Reed admitted. “But this is a massive drop in class for her, and she’ll be running on at the finish. She’s had a few problems, and hopefully, we’ve ironed them out. She must be a big chance, considering she ran third in the last Pacing Cup.”  Serpentine trainer Matt Scott advised punters to overlook Cut Above’s 11th behind Crystal Sparkles last Friday night and they should consider the four-year as a sound place prospect as the only runner on the back line. “On paper, he run last week looks terrible,” Scott said. “Shannon (Suvaljko) didn’t pull the ear plugs or blinds because Cut Above did not handle the mud. Two weeks again Cut Above beat Clarenden Hustler by three lengths on the track. They went 3min. 2sec. at Jandakot which is a pretty good time for there at this time of the year. No. 10 is a good draw and she is an opportunist.”   Ken Casellas

Astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is confident that New Zealand-bred two-year-old Pocket The Cash is poised to end a sequence of five minor placings by winning the final event, the Chevron City To Surf For Activ Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Pocket The Cash, to be driven by Reed’s son Mark, will start from the No. 2 barrier in the 2130m event and the plan would be to make use of the gelding’s good gate speed.  “We will be going forward,” Mike Reed said. “I think that we’ve got to go forward to keep the main dangers outside of us or behind us.” “I was very impressed with Pocket The Cash’s run last Friday night (when a fast-finishing third to smart fillies Remit Me Whitby and Star Fromthepalace). He went to the line really good and if he had been able to get clear earlier I think he would have won. But I’m not taking anything away from the winner, who was very good. “I think that Pocket The Cash can turn the tables on the fillies. He has pulled up well and I expect him to run a good race. He’s just got better and better and better.” In last week’s race Pocket The Cash raced in fifth position, three back on the pegs. He was badly blocked for a clear passage until the final 120m and was still hampered for room in the late stages. The Debra Lewis-trained Remit Me Whitby (Jocelyn Young) impressed with her stylish all-the-way win and should fight out the finish this week after starting from barrier four. The Peter Anderson-trained Star Fromthepalace (Deni Roberts) cannot be underestimated and is poised for a strong showing, even from barrier six. She charged home from last when second to Remit Me Whitby last week. Dissertation, a Well Said gelding trained by Craig Abercromby, will start from barrier five with Chris Lewis in the sulky and will be attempting to stretch his winning sequence to four after easy victories at Northam and Pinjarra (twice). Adding considerable interest to the race will be the debut of the Alta Engen, an Alta Christiano gelding trained at Capel by Andrew de Campo. Alta Engen is out of the Million To One mare Its Karma, who won six times from 46 starts and is a half-brother to Baylan Jett, who has raced 74 times for 11 wins, 24 placings and $103,676 in prizemoney. Reinsman Aiden de Campo is upbeat about the prospects of Alta Engen, who finished a good second to the smart youngster Longreach Bay (a half-brother to the brilliant Cott Beach) in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. The winner rated 1.57.8, with final quarters in 28.5sec. and 28.9sec. “We sat three back on the pegs in the trial,” de Campo said. “I pulled him out at the 500m and he ran the leader (Longreach Bay) to about a half-length. “Alta Engen is quite a big horse who has taken time to mature. He’s quite docile and every time we take him to the track he keeps improving. He’s got gate speed and from barrier one I’ll be trying to hold the front with him.” The father-son de Campo combination also has good winning prospects with American Delight (race one) and Handsandwheels (race 6). American Delight, a winner at five of her 11 starts, is awkwardly drawn at barrier six in the 2130m event but has the ability to overcome that disadvantage. She has won at her past two outings, scoring by two lengths over 2130m at Gloucester Park and then finishing solidly from sixth at the bell to win narrowly from While They Pray over 2100m at Bunbury last Saturday week. “Her form is really good,” said Aiden de Campo. “From barrier six we’ll probably have to press forward with her and if she happens to find the front, she’ll take a fair bit of beating. However, she’s versatile and can do a few different things.” Countess Grace and Mandy Joan are two of American Delight’s main dangers. But they have drawn out wide, at barriers seven and eight, respectively. Countess Grace set the pace and was an easy winner for the Reed stable at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night. Handsandwheels is in top form and has won narrowly, but impressively at his past two starts at Gloucester Park, over 1730m at a 1.53.9 rate and 2130m (1.55.6). He will start from barrier four over 2130m on Friday night and his clash with Im Soxy, Vampiro, El Jacko, King of Swing and Vultan Tin will be a highlight of the ten-event program. Fast beginners Im Soxy (barrier two) and Thereugo (three) have drawn inside of Handsandwheels and the battle for early supremacy will be most interesting. The Brian Clemens-trained Im Soxy will be handled by Shannon Suvaljko and Mark Reed has been engaged to drive the Sue Wiscombe-trained Thereugo for the first time. The speedy Thereugo last appeared three weeks ago when he led from barrier seven and finished a close third behind Handsandwheels and Im Soxy at a 1.53.9 rate over 1730m.  “It will be interesting to see what Thereugo does,” said de Campo. “They might cross to the front and take a trail. Handsandwheels sat outside Thereugo and beat him last start over a mile (1730m) and you would think that he couldn’t lead over 2130m and beat us. I’ll play it by ear. In an ideal world Thereugo crosses to the front and hands up to us. But it’s never that easy; we’ve got to come out and find a forward position and play it by ear.”   Ken Casellas

Serpentine trainer Matt Scott was thrilled with Clarenden Hustler’s first-up effort last week and is setting the chestnut the task of scoring an all-the-way victory in the 1730m On Track With Enda Brady Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Clarenden Hustler will start from the No. 6 barrier on the front line and Scott declared: “We’ll be looking to go handlebars down this week. He’s got good gate speed and our aim will be to go forward, definitely. He will come out hard, he races well in front and 1730m is his pet distance.” Champion reinsman Gary Hall Jnr handled the South Australian-bred Clarenden Hustler for the first time when the gelding resumed after a spell in a 1730m event last Friday night. Clarenden Hustler started from the outside of the back line and raced in ninth position before starting a three-wide move 650m from home. He sustained a strong burst to finish fifth behind Carter Micheal. “We were rapt with the run,” said Scott who is enjoying a successful season with 62 winners and 103 placegetters. “He will be improved by the run.” In what should prove to be a keen betting race, One Off Delight, Waimac Attack, Michael Joseph and Roman Aviator are sure to be strongly supported. One Off Delight, trained by Debra Lewis, is a smart frontrunner and Chris Lewis is sure to attempt to make every post a winner from the No. 3 barrier. One Off Delight was an easy all-the-way winner over 2130m two starts ago before he galloped in a stand, raced at the rear and finished tenth behind Eloquent Mach last Friday night. Waimac Attack bounced back to his best form last Friday night when he worked hard in the breeze before getting to the front 250m from home and winning from Rock Me Over over 1730m last week. Michael Joseph is awkwardly drawn at barrier seven but has the ability to overcome this disadvantage. Her fought on from eighth at the bell to finish fifth behind Convert Denario last Friday night. Four-year-old Roman Aviator raced in the one-out, one-back position when a solid fourth in that event.   Ken Casellas

Victorian harness racing trainer Gary Merkel has tried taking extended breaks from the sport over the years, but each time finds himself back at it again. Merkel is in his early 70s and trains in the Goulburn Valley at Tongala, 50 kms north-west of Shepparton and said he couldn't put a number on the times he has thought the time had come to pull the pin. "I did give it up on two or three occasions and honestly believed that was the end," he said. "We were breeding up to a few years ago and we quit on that - but we kept three racehorses to try and sell, so after around 50 years, here I am, still at it! "But we've made some great friends and the industry has so many lovely people, you get so much enjoyment out of it, so I guess that's what keeps us coming back." But, with a touch of irony, Merkel and his wife Kathy are highly enjoying their involvement at the moment. Bay mare Roslyn Gaye (Artistic Fella-Madam Narryna (Fake Left) has posted impressive wins at Shepparton on August 7 and 18 and this afternoon competes in the $7000 Betta Home Living Pace Final at Cobram. "We've drawn nicely in barrier two and she has led-up in her last five starts so I would think Chris Svanosio, our driver, will adopt the same tactics. If we don't get early pressure, we should be right in the fight," Merkel said. "Last season she had four placings from 14 outings and looked a long way from a win. I decided to try to do what suited her the best in the way of training, so between races she gets interval training - some sprints up the straight, but with not a lot of work. "It seems to be working with her. This season she's had 22 runs for four wins, five seconds and two third placings." The Merkels named the pacer after their daughter Roslyn Gaye, who lives in Brisbane. "Roslyn has been on the sick list in recent times, so her namesake pacer has been giving her a bit of a lift. The other kids up there have also got right behind the horse which is great," Merkel said. Madam Narryna, the dam of Roslyn Gaye, was an outstanding performer winning 12 races (Merkel drove her to eight of these) with 21 placings for nearly $50,000. "She had a whirlwind sprint. Many times, she would come from the back and just overhaul them," Merkel said. As well as Roslyn Gaye, Madam Narryna has left two other winners from four foals - Superband (three wins) and Narryna Jetstar (two). Madam Narryna was the best-performed of nine foals produced by the Merkels' Hilarious Way-sired mare Narryna Way with other winners including Narryna Guy (seven), Narryna Scotch (two) and Narryna Fella (one). "We've had our ups and downs on the farm with breeding horses. We've bred many over the years and you take the good with the bad, but most of the ones we sold ended up winning races," he said. "Back in the day we would also buy some older horses and fiddle around with them and try to improve them, and we had a lot of fun in the 2000s with a Village Jasper mare in Global Village. "She won 10 at tracks like Shepparton, Cobram, and Echuca and had 36 placings. And it's most satisfying when you get a win and people come up and congratulate you. That's one of the best parts." Merkel said his interest in harness racing went back to many years ago when he attended Technical School. "The school was not far from the old Shepparton showgrounds and I used to watch the pacers being trained. Then later my brother left me a horse because he had nowhere to put it," he said. "I was a builder by trade and owned two acres at Kialla where I made a little jog track. I got a copy of 'the green book' on how to train standardbreds, asked friends and listened to others. "We later moved to Tongala on 40 acres, where we are now, and have our own 650m track. I still get up at daylight and if I need to do some fast work, sometimes I will head into the Kyabram track." And as for a retirement date? Merkel said he really hadn't given it much thought lately. "We are equal first with Roslyn Gaye in a Horse of the Year award up here so to clinch that would be nice and I also want to race at Albury again because we have fond memories from years ago when we competed there with a horse named Bill Hickock."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Two well-bred winning Love You mares, Silicon Valley, (who has not been to stud) and Glenferrie Sunbird, (who has only been bred once, producing a colt to Andover Hall), are the latest additions to Yabby Dam Farms Annual Broodmare reduction sale. The lightly raced Glenferrie Sunbird is a half to the good winner The Foot Tapper and from champion Lyell Creek’s family which has been firing on all cylinders in recent years. Out of Pine Chip mare Blue Jacket, Glenferrie Sunbird is closely related to Group winners Marcoola, Armaretto Sun, Arboe, Ima Bourbon Girl, Kincaslough and Kahdon plus the group placed Le Reveur, Ballyronan and Ronald J, making her an outstanding broodmare proposition. Five-win mare Silicon Valley took a record of 1.58.9 in amassing earnings of $27,820. From the Pine Chip mare Micro Chip, she is a half to the group placed Cyberspace and two other winners. Her grand dam is the Group winner Inda Bank (t, 1.58.9, $138,660) who is a close relation to good winner The Almighty Johnson (t1.58.9m $199,169). Tricia Powell, the dam of recent 3YO winner Travel Bug, who is the only progeny of racing age, is among mares still available in the first annual broodmare reduction sale with an adjusted price. These include New Zealand champion Enghien’s half sister The Pink Diamond who won nine races in New Zealand and Australia, multiple Group one placed Amarula, Group one placed Moyabamba, NZ Trotting Oaks winner Commander Jewel and Group one winning Sundon mare Fiery Mountain Girl who is in foal to Love You. This is a genuine broodmare reduction sale, due to an influx of retiring mares from Yabby Dam Farms’ racing arm, and a change of direction, meaning a number of beautifully bred mares from its broodmare band are available for sale online on its website, on a first come first served basis. Yabby Dam Farms is offering a wide mix of mares, unproven, proven, young and old broodmares to suit all clients, from established breeders to new breeders wanting to get in-to the game, or those trying to get into that special family through an older mare. So here is a great chance to supplement your broodmare band from some of the southern hemisphere’s best families. Please call Dave on +64 21 245 2584 or email dave@harasdestrotteurs.com.au   Dave Sanders

The HERO Program, in partnership with the Victorian Harness Racing Club, has invested in the future of standardbred life after racing by developing a Youth Rider Cadetship. The cadetship provides an opportunity for the recipient to develop and grow their horse skills under the guidance of the HERO retraining team. The project, led by HERO Contracted Retrainers Cobe Lodge Limited and Moro Equine Services, aims to nurture and support individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to and interest in educating off-the-track standardbreds for recreational and/or competition riding. HERO Manager Tanya McDermott said the Youth Rider Cadetship was an important initiative, made possible through the generous sponsorship support of the VHRC. “We are indebted to the very progressive VHRC Committee who recognised the value of the project and put their hand up to be involved without hesitation," she said. “The concept has been a work in progress for some time and we’re delighted to now have the financial backing to make it a reality.” The inaugural recipient of the HERO Youth Rider Cadetship is Olivia Biggs, a 17-year-old Bendigo horsewoman who attends boarding school at The Hamilton and Alexandra College. Olivia has ridden for the past eight years and has a keen interest in showjumping and one-day eventing. She is undertaking her Certificate II in Equine Studies and previously completed her Certificate I Stablehand Certificate at the Bendigo Harness Racing Training Centre. In addition, Olivia is excelling in pursuits outside of horses, specifically athletics and learning to fly a plane. Her first love, however, is equestrian and she has already proven to be a dedicated advocate and ambassador for the HERO brand. She campaigned two HERO graduate horses at this year’s Rochester Agricultural Show, securing the Standardbred High Point Award and multiple blue ribbons. Olivia has volunteered many hours to assist in the day-to-day care and training of standardbreds at Moro Equine Services, including school holidays for the past 12 months. Her endless commitment and enthusiasm has been noted and commended by both her mentor and members of the wider HERO team. She has also developed a unique bond with HERO horse Courageous Spirit, aka Taj, and the cadetship will allow her to continue educating and training the former pacer on campus while studying. A 12-year-old gelding by Courage Under Fire who won seven of his 56 starts and $32,000 in prizemoney, Courageous Spirit has progressed in leaps and bounds under Olivia’s guidance after initially struggling to adapt to his new life. “Taj commenced his HERO retraining with me and also had a stint at Cobe Lodge,” Elle Moro of Moro Equine Services revealed. “He is a very attractive horse with a quirky personality, which is not entirely suited to the program’s primary clientele, but he has always produced his best work and been happiest when trained and ridden by Olivia. “They have a deep emotional connection, which is incredibly special and something we’ve rarely witnessed. “The HERO team recognized the connection instantly and knew it needed to be explored. We are looking forward to cultivating and further developing it under the auspices of the cadetship.” VHRC President Emmy Mazzetti is enthusiastic about the project and proud to be a founding patron. “VHRC are delighted to partner HERO in this new youth rider initiative and to support standardbred life after racing. We look forward to seeing Olivia and Taj’s progress throughout the year,” he said. The 10-week HRV HERO Youth Rider Cadetship covers the current school term initially and includes both financial and mentoring support.   HRV Trots Media

Smart pacer Liam Neil has ended a frustrating run of defeats, taking out last night’s Cowden Insurance Brokers Pace (2130m) at Gloucester Park. The four-year-old was winless from his past six starts, but capitalised on a class drop to return to the winners circle. Driver Emily Suvaljko found the front comfortably from barrier two with Liam Neil and dictated the race from there. It got quite tight for the David Thompson-trained Liam Neil over the concluding stages as Free To Air emerged from the chasing pack, but he held on to win by a half-head and ran home in 56.9. Thompson will be hoping for another strong showing from three-year-old Mandy Joan when she lines up in the 3YO Fillies Pace (2130m) at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The Art Major filly will line up from barrier eight on Friday night, as she looks to continue her solid winter campaign. Thompson said he was confident Mandy Joan would bounce back to her best form, after she was unplaced as favourite at her most recent start. “She’s going really well,” Thompson told GPTV Powered By RWWA. “Things didn’t go right (last start) and she only went okay, but hopefully we can get a bit more luck this time. “Normally we have been going back, then going forward. “Having a look here, maybe we might just work forward straight away. “That’s what first came to mind because she will probably only go around this week, maybe next week, then she will be going to the paddock.” Last start winners American Delight and Countess Grace look set to provide strong opposition for Mandy Joan on Friday night. Meanwhile, Eloquent Mach and Major Trojan are set for an enthralling battle once again in Friday night’s $50,000 Binshaw Pace (2130m). Eloquent Mach defeated Major Trojan three times in the autumn, before Major Trojan turned the tables in the WA Derby. Stuart McDonald teams up with Eloquent Mach from barrier two, while Major Trojan will be driven by Gary Hall Jnr from barrier 10.   Tim Walker

Former AFL sharpshooter Rick McLean was regarded as one of the toughest players ever to pull on a guernsey - but fortunately there was a soft side to him when it came to his harness racing horses. Had McLean not gone against advice from veterinary surgeons and saved a horse he bred at his then Toolern Vale property many years ago, his sensational "Broadway" dynasty may never have materialized. "I think it would have been in the early 1990s when dad was faced with the dilemma of what to do with Broadway Gal," Rick's son and harness racing trainer Shannon said. "She was a handy horse he had bred by Muckalee Strike out of a mare he purchased called Neshia, but she went through a fence and ripped arteries in the lower part of one of her legs. The vets suggested she be put down, but dad said 'No way' and that was that," he said. "After being nursed back to health, she returned to the track and won a heap of races. I think it was 15. "Dad has owned horses for a long time. He had them with a number of trainers when he was playing footy (for Carlton and later Richmond), and loved a bet," Shannon said. Rick McLean, a powerfully built 185cm, 92kg full forward, joined Richmond at the end of 1971, after being cleared from Carlton, where he'd been starved of opportunities (with just 19 games). Rick McLean in his AFL heyday After joining the Tigers, McLean finished 1972 with a career-high 55 goals, with a best return of eight against St Kilda at the MCG. He left Tigerland in '74 to play for Burnie, in Tassie, before returning two years later for three more senior games. He averaged nearly three goals per game in his 39 appearances at Richmond, providing a strong and aggressive focal point. What would become McLean's foundation mare, the rejuvenated Broadway Gal finished her career with 20 wins and 15 placings for stakes of $100,000. But as good as she was at the racetrack, the mare, owned by Rick and sons Christian and Shannon, has proved to be a marvel in the breeding barn. From eight foals, Broadway Gal has left seven winners with combined success of 110 victories and 157 placings for more than $1.2 million. "Over the years he's spent a lot of time and money on them, but he always tried to have well-bred stock. While he has been getting the rewards for the last 20 years, it's been particularly satisfying in the last 10 years," Shannon said. Undoubtedly heading the list of the McLean breed, courtesy of Broadway Gal, was Broadways Best (29 wins, 29 places for $643,000). Then there was also Broadway Playboy (30w, 40 p $215,000); Broadway Play (20w, 32 p $173,000); Another Broadway (19 w, 18 p $106,000); Fifth And Broadway (9 w, 17 p $49,000); Spirit Of Broadway (5w, 14 p $28,000); and Just Tommy (3w, 7p $13,000). The daughter of Broadway Gal, the Safely Kept-sired Broadway Play is now also showing her talents as a broodmare. She is the dam of bay gelding Live On Broadway (By Art Major), bred by Christian, owned by Rick and trained at South Gisborne by Shannon. The five-year-old has had seven starts for six wins - the past five this season. "We are all certainly enjoying the ride with him. But it hasn't all been plain sailing because he had an enforced spell for over 18 months," Shannon said. After winning a 3YO Vicbred event at Maryborough in August 2017 Live on Broadway pulled up lame. "We thought it was an abscess," Shannon said. "This went on for five or six weeks so then we got an x-ray done and the vet found he had ringbone." (*Ringbone is a bone growth in the pastern or coffin joint. In severe cases, the growth can encircle the bones, giving ringbone its name.) Shannon said as a young horse, Live On Broadway tore half of his hoof off. "It was built up with Equilox, an adhesive hoof repair resin. We often wonder if his problems started from there," he said. "We were aware he had ability, so he got thrown out into the paddock for a long spell. He's not showing any signs of discomfort so hopefully it's behind him." Live On Broadway, with Chris Alford driving, was forced to race outside the leader at Yarra Valley on Monday and had enough in reserve to hold off a fast-finishing Machs Gold (Kate Gath). The pacer may have his next start at Cranbourne on Sunday. Shannon, who has been training for about 20 years, is nearing the 100 mark with 93 wins and 124 placings (over $1M in stakes) from 420 starters. "We're very family-orientated. My wife Jess is always there to lend a hand and our boys Jensen (4) and Hunter (6) love the horses. In fact Hunter's been at all of Live on Broadway's five races this season, so we think he's our lucky charm!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Australian Pacing Gold purchases are expected to dominate Saturday night’s Breeders’ Crown program in Melton. Six pacing majors are on the stellar card with APG graduates at the top of the market in five of the features. Rackemup Tigerpie is a $2.25 TAB Fixed Odds favourite in the Four-Year-Old Championship for entires and geldings, while Nostra Villa is a $1.70 shot in the mares’ division. Dual Derby winner Max Delight is at $2.60 in his bid to add another Group One to his tally. Prepared by David Aiken, Max Delight will begin from barrier two in the Three-Year-Old Final for colts and geldings. Then there is the Emma Stewart-trained stablemates Maajida and Be Happy Mach. Runner-up upon debut, Maajida has won her six subsequent outings, including her semi last weekend when she led throughout from barrier two. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere will begin from gate three in the Two-Year-Old Fillies’ Final, which has seen her posted as a $1.25 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds. “Maajida is in great form and I like her draw,” Stewart said. “She is the one to beat.” Regarded as the nation’s premier two-year-old, Be Happy Mach is at $2 despite his outside of the second row draw. The son of Mach Three boasts the impeccable record of nine wins and a third from 10 starts. “I couldn’t be happier with him going into the race,” Stewart said. “The draw on the other hand could have been better! “We have four in the race and three have drawn the back row, so luck avoided us in the barriers. “Hopefully that luck will be reversed in the run.”   APG Media

Haras des Trotteurs-bound Sweden Cup winner Volstead leaves for Australia tomorrow after spending his two week post-arrival quarantine at IRT’s Karaka (Auckland) facilities in New Zealand. The first son of Cantab Hall to stand at stud in the southern hemisphere looked relaxed and in wonderful condition as he nibbled on a carrot offered by IRT handler David Cudden who accompanied him from his new permanent residence in America after a stellar racing career in Sweden. New Zealand and Australian breeders will be the first to welcome Volstead foals for the US-bred stallion who raced out of top Swedish trainer Stephan Melander’s stable winning 23 of his 72 race starts. A very sound, versatile and exceptionally fast horse, Volstead won races in each year from age 3 until 7 and from distances ranging from a mile (where he took a record of 1.51.5 on a 1000m track) to 2640m competing  against some of the very best horses in the world. He won some of Sweden’s most prestigious races including the 4YO classic Group 1 King’s Cup and as a 6YO, the international Sweden Cup, and during his stellar career also competed in the famous Elitloppet against the likes of world superstars Timoko and Propulsion. Standing at Haras des Trotteurs at Cardigan (Ballarat), Victoria, Volstead’s chilled semen will be available throughout New Zealand and Australia with $500 discounts available to Victorian Square Trotters Association and New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association members. Enquiries to Dave Sanders, dave@harasdestrotteurs.com.au. TEL +64 212 452 584.

Trainer Ross Olivieri will give improving mare Crystal Sparkles a chance in mares Free-For-All company at Gloucester Park this Friday night, following her win in the WASBA Four and Five-Year-Old Pace (2130m) last Friday. The Rocknroll Hanover mare scored a dominant 4m win in the $30,000 event, overpowering Amelias Courage in the concluding stages. It was Crystal Sparkles best win in WA, having come across from South Australia in May. Since that time, she has gone on to score three wins from 12 starts for Olivieri. Olivieri said the five-year-old, a winner at 20 of 51 career starts, was starting to show her best in WA. “She had a very good record when she came over,” he told TABradio. “She showed a little glimpse of it when she got here.” Olivieri said Crystal Sparkles did have to overcome a few setbacks to recapture her winning form. “In hindsight she might have got a virus and we didn’t recognise it,” he said. “She was unhappy and didn’t want to work or didn’t want to do anything. “Now she’s a happy camper. “Time has helped her and it looks like she’s back to her very best.” Olivieri has nominated her for a fillies and mares Free-For-All this Friday night, which also features Maczaffair and Infinite Symbol. Olivieri said he expected Crystal Sparkles to be competitive in stepping up in grade and would find out if she could make the grade going towards the summer carnival. “Our open mares class have been decimated by sales to America,” he said. “Some of the good mares have been retired, turned out or sold. “It leaves that class a little short on class but that’s of advantage to her. “I’m looking forward to Friday night as a bit of a test for her.” Olivieri also said tough two-year-old Double Expresso was four weeks away from returning to work, having spent the past six weeks in the paddock.   Tim Walker

Kate Gath already boasts her best season, but hopes to take it another level on Breeders Crown night at Melton.  Gath has smashed her PB with 152 wins and there’s been plenty of quality amongst them, most notably an Inter Dominion and string of other Group 1’s aboard Tornado Valley.  But the extra dimension of this season has come as a bit of a surprise to Gath.  “It’s been the outside driving opportunities which have been the pleasant surprise,” she said. “It’s been great to get drives for a few different stables, obviously Emma (Stewart) and Clayton (Tonkin) being on some fantastic horses.  “That’s been a big part of what’s certainly been my best season. Not only have I driven more winners than ever before, but I’ve been in more big races as well.  “I think that says some great things about our sport … that at 36 years of age I’m having by far my best season and getting more opportunities than ever. In so many other fields, it gets harder for women as they get older.”  Gath has drives in three of the Group 1 Breeders Crown finals on Saturday night: Majestuoso (Race 6, 3YO colts and geldings trot); Demon Delight (Race 7, 3YO colts and geldings pacing final) and Pacifico Dream (Race 8, 2YO colts and geldings pacing final). She’s also down to drive Jo Dina in the 2YO pacing fillies’ final if the first emergency gains a start.  Gath will also take the reins on major players Maraetai in the Group 2 4YO entires and geldings final as well as Nostra Beach in the Group 2 4YO mares’ final.  In a sign of the career shift for Gath, only Majestuoso is trained by her and her husband, Andy.  “It’s a great book of drives on a fantastic night of racing,” Gath. “It’s terrific to be part of it, especially with so many good drives.”  Majestuoso gave Gath her latest Group 1 win in the Victoria Trotters’ Derby at Maryborough last month and is a $2.20 favourite to win his Crown final.  “I was probably a tad easy on him after the Derby win because he’s had to the two staying races back-to-back. Even though he was beaten, he still got very close and fought it out well,” Gath said.  “It’s a good field, but thankfully most of our main dangers, including All Cashed Up who beat him in the heat, are drawn the back row with us.  “The shorter 2240m trip compared to the Derby distance is a bit of a leveller, but he’s so fast this guy. He’ll be very hard to beat.”  Gath can’t wait to drive Demon Delight for Stewart and Tonkin again.  “He’s got everything this horse. He’s so versatile. We knew he was tough and then he comes out and shows that sort of speed to win from back in the field last week,” she said.  “He never seems to draw well for me, but it’s great to have options and be able to drive him according to how the race is run. He’s such an exciting horse.”   Adam Hamilton

Much-loved Sydney harness racing icon Harry Martin will celebrate his 79th birthday shortly, but he has the drive and energy of a man half his years. "Yes I can say that I'm still as enthusiastic as ever. I'm still up and about between 5 and 5.30am - a routine I've had forever," Harry said with a laugh. Martin, who's trained out of Menangle Park for over 60 years has a team of four in his stable at the moment. And two of these have certainly hit a purple patch of form in recent weeks. Half-brothers in Double Encounter and Double Bliss are both in line for a hat-trick of wins following two victories apiece this month, with in-form reinsman David Morris at the helm. Double Encounter (Village Jasper-Lombo La Shelly (Pacific Fella) took out the $22,400 Seppelt One Mile Drive Pace on August 3, then a fortnight later claimed the Group Three $30,600 Campbelltown Catholic Club Pace, both at Menangle. "He is a very nice horse who can sprint quickly," Martin said. "He's now a winner of 15 races, 10 of these at Menangle, and is nearing $150,000 in stakemoney so he has been very good for his owners." Double Bliss (Blissfull Hall-Lombo La Shelly (Pacific Fella) is a lightly raced chestnut gelding with six wins and 12 placings from only 27 career starts. The pacer has been successful at his latest outings at Bankstown on August 9 and then six days later at Penrith. Martin said while he preferred to race at Menangle, he also enjoyed competing at other tracks near Sydney. And while he's currently enjoying another nice run of success, it would be unforgivable to write a story and not wind back the clock to the spine-tingling days of the champion pacer that made Harry Martin a household name. Double Identity (Embrace Me-Mercy Lyn (Southern Gentleman), who raced from August, 1999 to October 2006, had a rockstar-like cult following in that era, with fans embracing the gelding for his dogmatic will-to-win. "Gee I'd love to have one like him again-it probably won't ever happen, but I'll keep looking and hoping. I won't ever give up," he said. Double Identity had his first two dozen starts for trainer Colin Grimson, who won nine races with him. When Grimson decided to move to the country, the owners offered the gelding to Martin. The pacer took Martin on the ride of a lifetime during one particular campaign when he won eight of 10, culminating in the rich Group Two Winter Cup at Brisbane's Albion Park. But the gifted, gritty pacer wasn't without his challenges. "He was a chronic knee-knocker. I was never able to get him off his knee completely, and the old plastic-type knee boots that were around back then would be totally destroyed in about two or three weeks - he would just put a hole in them," Martin said. "But by using spreaders, and I would pull them up really tight, I was able to reduce the impact and get it as good as I could." The astute horseman, who remarkably still shoes all his horses to this day, found a square-toed aluminum shoe the best for Double Identity. The inimitable Double Identity driven by Harry Martin in his heyday   --Gary Wild photo With scalps in the Gold Coast Cup and the Queensland Pacing Championship, along with a close second in the Newcastle Mile, the target then became the 2002 Miracle Mile at Harold Park. In a brilliant display and aged 62 years, Martin would, at the time, become the oldest driver to win the feature race. He lobbed in the one-one from the wide six alley, pulled three wide on the home turn and held off a late run by Smooth Satin to win by half a head. Further wins came in the SA Cup at Globe Derby, a second Queensland Pacing Championship and a comfortable Truer Memorial victory. Then came success in the Victoria Cup - a win Martin believes was the finest ever recorded by Double Identity during his sensational career. "I remember I'd given up going down the back for the last time. They kept the speed on and I was struggling," he said. But the mighty horse dug deep from the 600metre mark and overhauled some classy rivals to post a winning time of 1.58-2 for the 2570m trip. The combination won another nine races to take his lifetime record to an amazing 51 wins and 39 placings from 146 starts and more than $1.2 million in stakes. Martin said after being retired, the life of Double Identity came to a sad end. "He was 10 years old and hit a corner post in a paddock. He wasn't in a good way and suffered a heart attack later," Martin said. Although Double Identity was clearly Martin's best-ever horse, he is rarely without a handy conveyance or two in the stable. "Double Event has been one of the nicer ones lately. He's just recently retired (after 17 wins and $188,000 in stakes) and he's landed on his feet. He's taken to riding under saddle really well, so that's always good to see," Martin said, with obvious pleasure. But the search goes on for another Double Identity, and if there's one within reach of wily veteran trainer Harry Martin, he'll unearth it. And he's got some faith in a rising two-year-old by Heston Blue Chip, purchased at the sales this year. "We keep looking! While you are keen and willing, you never think about stopping. That's the way I look at it anyway. Besides I don't know anything else - horses have been my life."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Sassafras trainer Shelley Barnes took two horses to Hobart on Sunday night, and she went home with a training double. Her first winner of the night was Shadow Play gelding Yatsenyuk Leis who was first up since running third to Izaha in the Group 2 Raider Stakes in Devonport. Racing three-wide and two-back for the final 1300 metres of the race, Yatsenyuk Leis proved too strong for Artiflash to score by a neck in the 2090-metre event. “I was expecting him to go good as his work during the week was brilliant, the draw was a bit of a concern but it all worked out ok,” said his trainer Shelley Barnes. Despite being driven for his toughness Barnes wasn’t too worried in the run. “I wasn’t too worried as he is pretty tough, he is not a horse that can sit there and pull out the last hundred metres and sprint past them,” said the winning trainer. “He is a lot better horse than it looks watching on the sidelines cause he is just really lazy, when Rohan (Hadley) comes back in after driving him he is more buggered than the horse,” Barnes added. The next winner for the Shelley Barnes stable was with five-year-old Bettors Delight mare Volkova Leis who recorded her second win of the season. After attempting to make a run around the field at the mile mark, Volkova Leis was unsuccessful in looking for the spot outside the leader and was forced to race three-wide. “I was really pleased with her, I didn’t expect her to win after the run she had,” said Barnes. “I don’t want to be too disrespectful for the other runners but it was a drop-in class to what she had been racing against,” explained the winning trainer. Both pacers were driven by Rohan Hadley and are owned and bred by Trevor and Marjorie Leis. Ben Yole was once again the standout trainer with a training quartet, taking him past 180 Australian wins for the season. His winners included Heza Rummage, Somedan, Hear The Call and Stuey D. Samantha Gangell drove Hear To Call to victory to put her one win behind Conor Crook with two meetings of the season remaining. Mark Yole partnered Stuey D to a long-shot win in the trot which completed a double for Mark who won the opening race with Karalta Courage. Many people expected Juanita McKenzie to take out the Cascade Draught Pace with the race favourite Inner Light, but it was her $9.00 chance Remember Joe scoring a 5.2-metre win. Former New Zealand pacer Prosecution Witness was able to win at his Australian debut for trainer-driver Rohan Hillier. The gelded son of Well Said scored by 11.9-meres in a mile rate of 1m 59.6s.   Duncan Dornauf

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