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LUKE McCarthy expects his drive Mach Doro to pounce on the early lead in the Victoria Cup and thinks he can give the Group 1 race a big shake. Mach Doro is renowned for his blazing gate speed and his best hope on Saturday night is to cross them from gate five then take a sit on one of the big guns and try for a sprint lane win. “That’s his go for sure. I think I can cross, he’s very, very quick off the arm,” McCarthy said. “If we get across, then I’ll take the sit on the first of the good horses to get to us. We’ll need to sit behind the leader to have a winning chance. “If we get across, I’m not sure who will get to us first … whether Tiger Tara can keep Chicago Bull on his outside, then burrow through and get to us or whether even a horse like Franco Nelson might be cut loose from his wide draw and just keep charging forward. “Whatever happens, if we get the front and sit on one of the better horses, we should get our chance. “I’m not absolutely sure he’s good enough, but he’s getting better all the time and he surprised me how  easily he won last time when I was sure he might have been a run short.” It’s worth noting Mach Doro led, took a trail on Tiger Tara and comfortably ran past him when they met at Menangle two weeks ago. The Craig Cross-trained Mach Doro has firmed from $26 to $16 on the Aussie TAB since the draw. Favourites Chicago Bull ($2.20 to $2.25) and Tiger Tara ($4.80 to $5) have both eased, while Shadow Sax has been the other firmer in from $6.50 to $5.50. “Chicago Bull is the best horse in the race for sure, but a lot will depend on where he ends up from the draw,” McCarthy said. “He’s got the form in the best races, but it’ll be hard if he got to do all the work.” Beyond Saturday night, McCarthy is looking forward to the Melbourne Inter Dominion with Mach Doro. “We’ve looked after him and he’s kept improving. This is his chance this season to show if he’s right up to them or not,” he said. “He’s such a lovely race horse and with his early speed he can put himself into his races.” Adam Hamilton

THEY have all had a taste of winning a premiership before and drivers Luke McCarthy, Todd McCarthy and Lauren Tritton are all going head-to-head at Menangle on Saturday night to try and claim another. The trio have dominated the metropolitan driving ranks for the past six seasons and this term is no different. With only one win separating the three of them and Saturday night marking the last metropolitan meeting for the season, any win will be vital for the top drivers to claim New South Wales’ Metropolitan Drivers’ Premiership for 2017/18. Seasoned reinsman Luke McCarthy is leading the charge on 40 wins while Todd McCarthy and Lauren Tritton are close behind in equal second with 39 wins each. “It’s pretty good that it’s still so close considering we’ve all had some time away this season,” said Luke. “It certainly makes it interesting.” Having won this Premiership twice before and tied with his younger brother Todd in the 2014/15 season, Luke knows what it takes to lead the charge. The 35-year-old reinsman has seven drives on Saturday night and so does Todd while Lauren, the 2013/14 Metropolitan Drivers’ Premiership winner, has five. And one of the best chances he believes he has this Saturday night is War Dan Destroyer in Race Nine. Luke has driven the trotter 14 times to nine victories and three placings. “War Dan Destroyer is going well and does well in these sorts of races,” said Luke. “This race suits his style of racing.” Luke has also been assigned the drive on War Dan Destroyer’s stablemate Mister Brazil in Race Two. “Mister Brazil has been racing well and has a good chance,” said Luke. “Out of my other drives, Epaulette (Race One) drops back from free-for-all class and with scratching of Shannonsablast he should go close. “Also I’m driving Izzy Dagg for Tim But in the two-year-old (Race Eight) and on paper looks reasonably good.” The Garrards Ready2Run Stakes (1609m) is one of the main features on Saturday night and Lauren will drive the favourite Petes Big Jim. The gelding is resuming from his third-placed effort in the Vicbred Super Series Final last month and recently won a trial at Menangle in 1:53.2 – almost four seconds faster than any winning time he has rated before. Meanwhile, the other feature is the Group 3 Vic Frost Cup where Todd’s drive, Tiger Tara, is the $2.60 TAB Fixed Odds favourite. Lauren will drive My Alpha Rock ($4.80) in that event while Luke is assigned to Cash N Flow ($4.80).   Amanda Rando

VICTORIAN filly For All We Know is in a solid position to register an overdue Group One triumph at Albion Park on Saturday night. Winner of her heat last weekend, For All We Know is engaged in the Australian Pacing Gold Brisbane Sale Final where she has drawn barrier two for trainer Brett Bunfield. Triumphant in the nation-wide APG Consolation last April, the daughter of Art Major went into the series fresh from her second in the Qbred Triad Final. “She has done a top job since making her debut and deserves to add a major to her name,” Bunfield said. “Drawing two is great, but there is a lot of speed outside her. “I will have a discussion with Luke (McCarthy, driver) later in the week and decide what’s the best way to go. “Brad’s (Chisholm) been up there looking after her and is very happy with her condition, so it’s full steam ahead.” Selecting Muscle Factory as the one to beat, Bunfield admits the task ahead is a daunting one, but isn’t prepared to concede defeat. Also successful in his qualifier, Muscle Factory is a short-priced favourite despite drawing the outside of the front row. “Muscle Factory will work his way forward I would imagine, which will make him very hard to beat,” Bunfield said. “He’s been the favourite all along, and deserves to be, but favourites do get beaten. “It’s fair to say whoever beats him will be the winner and hopefully it’ll be us.”   APG Media

HAVING covered more ground than early settlers in recent weeks, Victorian horseman Brett Bunfield hopes the travels will continue to pay dividends at Albion Park tonight. Last weekend Bunfield was in South Australia with top filly Saphirique, which successfully defended her Southern Cross title at Globe Derby. This time around Bunfield will contest a heat of the Australian Pacing Gold Brisbane Sale series with For All We Know. Winner of the nation-wide APG Consolation last April, For All We Know will begin from barrier three with Luke McCarthy to take the reins. For All We Know will head into the qualifier fresh a second in the Group One Qbred Triad Final a fortnight ago. “It’s been a busy few weeks for the stable,” Bunfield said. “When she was runner-up in the Final my wife Janelle made the trip to Queensland. “We had Saphirique in a Southern Cross heat the same night in Adelaide. “Brad Chisholm has spent the past three weeks in Queensland taking care of For All We Know and he said she is training as well, if not better, than she ever has.” Confident For All We Know can capture the heat, Bunfield believes next week’s $100,000 decider will be a massive test for the daughter of Art Major. “It’s a heat she can quite easily win,” Bunfield said. “She has drawn well enough and we intend to use it. “The Final could be a different story. Without seeing the draw, or the field at this stage, it’s hard to imagine any of them beating Muscle Factory.” Prepared by Lauren and Shane Tritton, Muscle Factory will begin from seven in the second heat. APG Media

THE biggest challenge for spectators and especially the breeding buffs among them at Wednesday’s Breeders Challenge Regional semi-finals at Gold Crown Paceway was deciding just which horses to keep their eyes on. Depth in the form lines, and absolute quality of the bloodlines, made for an engrossing night, and the qualifiers that made it through have ensured that Sunday afternoon’s Breeders Challenge Regional Finals - six $30,000 (Group 3) races for two, three and four-year-olds - will be the richest, and best, meeting at the track outside the iconic Gold Crown. A bumper crowd, from right across the state, is expected. Luke McCarthy was faced with a decision - difficult, but no doubt enjoyable- after driving all three winners of the Three-Year-Old Fillies semi-finals. Island Banner, a Rock N Roll Heaven daughter of N.Z. Cup-winning Mainland Banner, looked sharp in leading most of the journey in semi one; Love My Sister, the Art Major daughter of millionaire Fleur De Lil, was perfectly positioned before gaining the upper hand over a gallant Prophesy; and Dixirosalie, a Heaven daughter of Blacks A Fake’s half-sister, maintained a picket fence formline in taking out the third. The first two are from the Craig Cross- McCarthy stable (and sported the new Cobbitty Equine Farm blue, white and black livery), while Dixirosalie came north from the Shaun McNaulty stable at Kennington, in northern Victoria, to take in the series. Other leading stables were represented among Wednesday’s semi-final winners, and despite varying draws on Sunday, look to have very strong prospects of taking out a Group Three. Qualifiers for the three-year-old males were taken out by Premier Joy (the Somebeach half-brother to Australian 2YO of the Year Captain Joy), Michael Towers for Michael Doltoff’s Sloys team, and by Bracken Sky, for Sydney visitor Blake Fitzpatrick, no stranger to Group glory at Bathurst. Prominent owner John Starr backed up from Bracken Sky for a second win, in the Four-Year-Old male division, with Joes Star Of Mia, for Amanda and Steve Turnbull, the night’s slickest trip in 1:53.9, and the other semi saw an all-the-way win for grandfather-grandson combination Jim and Jake Bates. It was career win 15 for a delighted driver, and earned him racecaller Craig Easey’s Drive of the Night award. Make Mine Heaven, from champion racemare Make Mine Cullen, made a perfect start in the Bernie Hewitt stable by reeling in runaway leader Im All Courage in the first Four-Year-Old Mares qualifier (Bernie getting his double with a 2YO win by We Salute You in the last), with the second one going to Yourblueyescrying, Todd McCarthy for Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey, which came with a rush. A wonderful 10-race card at Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway on Sunday gets underway at 12.16 p.m. with the first of six successive Group Threes speeding away from the gate at 1:52 . Terry Neil

Talent comes in many forms. And in many shapes and sizes. But for Luke McCarthy, as a kid growing up in Bathurst, all he wanted to do was horses, or harness racing to be more precise. He would shadow his father John with the family horses, always keen and eager to learn as much as possible.  The young country kid dreamed big. And when the family packed up their home and headed to the ‘big smoke’ of Brisbane, young McCarthy put plans in place. As a fresh-faced teenager, he captured much of the public imagination with his precocious talent and his unparalleled skillset in the sulky which netted many features in a short space of time. Owners and trainers alike were flocking to utilize his services on race day. It was all but impossible not to fall for him, so splendid were his gifts, so endearing his personality. From a very young age, he was destined to become a big time harness racing driver. And he can drive fast. Never fussed on achieving high academic grades, he watched time tick by at school until the bell sounded so he could get home and grade his equine students on the family property. He would mark his calendar and counted the days down until the next set of school holidays so he could spend time with the likes of famous Turnbull clan at The Lagoon and the legendary Brian Hancock. His thirst for knowledge was unwavering. He would ply his trade at every available opportunity, always looking to hone his style after watching as much vision as possible. His first drive resulted in success, steering Castle Belles to victory at Redcliffe on March 5, 1999. Now boasting over 2200 lifetime victories, McCarthy has firmly established himself as one of the best big race drivers in the sport. His winning drive behind Muscle Hill (widely regarded as the greatest trotter of all-time) in the 2009 World Trotting Derby at DuQuoin, Illinois is a clear illustration of his talent. He has 55 Gr.1 victories while 12 have come via the Grand Circuit. And 8 of those Grand Circuit triumphs have come at his favourite track – Albion Park. This weekend, he can add to that tally. McCarthy will partner star mare Carlas Pixel in the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Dean Braun trained mare must overcome gate 13, the outside of the second-line in the 2680m mobile feature. Gambling giant UBET has listed Carlas Pixel as a $10 chance. “We’ve got a good shot; I know the draw looks bad on paper but I still think she’s good enough to win, she felt so strong last week and should improve a little further with the extra week up here. We just need a strong first lap which will bring us right into it.” McCarthy said. Carlas Pixel thrashed her rivals in her Queensland debut when brilliantly winning the Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes against her own sex. History is against the fairer sex in this event, first staged in 1969, only one mare has proven successful, champion mare Tailamade Lombo scored back in 2000. McCarthy guided Cobbity Classic to victory in 2004 followed by Slipnslide (2005/06), Mr Feelgood (2010/11), Washakie (2012), Ideal Scott (2013) and For A Reason (2014). During a decade long reign, only Blacks A Fake (2008/09) stopped a McCarthy family clean sweep of the Sunshine State feature. Now based in Sydney near Menangle, McCarthy has only scored one Grand Circuit victory in his home state, he took the winning drive behind Washakie in the 2010 Treuer Memorial when defeating Blacks A Fake while other Grand Circuit triumphs have come via Melbourne with For A Reason and Mr Feelgood (Victoria Cup) while Bling It On (Hunter Cup - 2017) is his most recent winner. And while he craves more success on the Grand Circuit, he’s chuffed with what he’s got and where he’s got it. “Make no mistake, I love driving at Albion Park and enjoy getting back there as often as I can. I suppose because we had so much family success at the track and because it provided a perfect spring board to where we are now, it makes it a special place and we all have so many great memories. “While I’ve been lucky enough to drive on so many great tracks around the world, I still rate Albion Park as my favourite venue to drive at. All of us (Luke, Andy & Toddy) boys kicked off our careers here in Brisbane and we’ve all won big races here too along with dad. “I don’t take these victories for granted, it’s hard to get horses good enough for this grade let alone winning them. I can vividly remember all of my big race triumphs at this track and hopefully there’s another one just around the corner.” Judging by his recent efforts over the past three Saturday nights, his form is as good as ever. From 23 drives, McCarthy has landed 12 winners including his quintet last weekend. Interestingly, with all the glory he has achieved in Queensland, McCarthy has never won a state drivers premiership. However, he has dominated the metropolitan drivers’ premiership. McCarthy secured the Albion Park premierships during the 2001/02, 02/03, 03/04, 04/05, 05/06, 06/07 and 2009/10 seasons. His strike rate this season currently sits at 1 win in every 4 drives. His biggest season came via the 2006/07 term when he landed 164 winners. And only once during the past 17 seasons has McCarthy missed the century mark (2008/09 – 90 wins). Another feature McCarthy is chasing this weekend is the Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Derby. He will partner boom pacer and race favourite Duplicated who starts from the coveted inside draw. Like Carlas Pixel, Duplicated hails from the stables of Braun. “This is a very serious prospect; he surprised me in a very good way last week when taking my first drive behind him. He was sharp and will improve plenty from the run; he’s got great stamina and a very high cruising pace. “I’m really looking forward to driving him again, he’ll be spot on and he’s the horse to beat. Dean’s a great trainer and a pleasure to drive for; I know he’s excited about the weekend too.” Duplicated is rated as a $1.40 elect with UBET. The McCarthy/Braun combination struck last year when they combined to win the Queensland Oaks with Shartin, now considered the best pacing mare in the world following a spate of big race victories in North America and Canada this year. Luke McCarthy Rates His Top 5: Muscle Hill ("and by a fair margin") Be Good Johnny Mr Feelgood Slipnslide Bling It On Special mentions – Famous Forever and All Speed Hanover. McCarthy will turn 36 in November this year. Chris Barsby

The middle night of the 2018 Brisbane winter carnival belonged to the interstate visitors. On the opening night last weekend, the local stables of Grant Dixon stood tall and claimed the bulk of the features but tonight (Saturday), the riches headed over the state border. And even across the Tasman Sea. The Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Oaks was taken out by New Zealand filly Sociable who finished strongly defeating Major Occasion and Miss Hooligan in the 2138m feature. Prepared by Rangiora horseman Andrew Stuart, the Buy Kiwi Made filly was expertly handled by champion reinsman Luke McCarthy after sitting three backs on the pegs throughout. Working clear at the top of the straight, the filly charged to the line to beat the game Major Occasion. The victory provided McCarthy with back to back triumphs in the Oaks after scoring last year with Shartin. New Zealand bred fillies have won the past seven editions of the Oaks classic. In the Gr.2 $50,540 Garrards Sunshine Sprint, speedy Bathurst trained pacer Tact Tate surged to victory along the passing lane to beat Celestial Arden and Ohoka Punter in a time of 1:53.0. Trained and driven by Amanda Turnbull, the McArdle gelding led from the outside post before taking cover on Ohoka Punter by the end of the opening split. While heavy favourite Soho Tribeca got caught in bad traffic, Tact Tate was ready to pounce and shot through along the inside for a deserving victory. Soho Tribeca finished 10th while My Field Marshal finished at the rear of the field after racing three-wide throughout. Tact Tate has provided his connections a chance of picking up a $50,000 cash bonus if successful in next week’s UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. The Gr.2 $30,540 Seelite Windows & Doors Queensland Trotters Cup went to Victorian performer Our Dreamlover who finished best to win the 2647m standing start feature. Trained and driven by Mattie Craven, the Love You gelding worked home from a long way back to defeat Gee Up Neddy and Our Overanova in a time of 2:02.2. Starting at massive odds, Our Dreamlover scored his first victory in over twelve months. The Gr.3 $30,540 Egmont Park Stud South East Derby went the way of the Victorian trained Duplicated who led throughout and sprinted well clear of local star Colt Thirty One and The Bus to claim an easy victory in the 2138m feature. Unbeaten in five starts for Dean Braun, Duplicated stamped himself as the horse to beat in next week’s Queensland Derby. The Somebeachsomewhere gelding rated a stunning 1:54.6 while covering his final half in 54.6 seconds. Trainer Dean Braun snared himself a feature race double after scoring in the Listed $25,540 Egmont Park Stud Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes with Carlas Pixel scoring in emphatic style defeating Come Cullect and Elle Yeah in a time of 1:53.5 for the 1660m feature. Having her first local start, the Ladyship Mile scored easily despite racing over the concluding stages. Connections will now focus on next week’s UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship. Next Saturday night, the final night of the Albion Park winter carnival, features will include the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship, the Gr.1 $100,540 QBRED Triad Finals for 2yo pacers, the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Derby, the Gr.3 $30,540 4yo Championship and the Gr.3 $20,630 Trotters Marathon.   Racing Queensland

New Zealand filly Sociable is chasing back to back feature race victories. Fresh from her success last start in the Redcliffe Oaks on June 8, the Andrew Stuart trained three-year-old is the favourite to win Saturday night’s Gr.3 $30,540 Egmont Park Stud South East Oaks at Albion Park. The fillies feature is the final lead-up to next week’s classic, the Gr.2 $75,540 AQWA Constructions Queensland Oaks. Sociable will start from gate two this weekend and Stuart is confident of another forward showing but is mindful she will be at her absolute peak the following week. “We’ve had a month between runs and I haven’t given her a trial but the draw is a major plus, so far so good with draws in Brisbane and it makes a big difference. After Redcliffe, she got a little sick but has bounced back well in the past fortnight and her work this week has been solid.” Stuart said. While punters could walk with caution given the break between runs and a slight setback, it hasn’t dinted their confidence given the good draw. Sociable is listed as the punters elect at $2.10 with UBET. Ace reinsman Luke McCarthy replaces regular pilot John Caldow owing to the rich Vicbred Finals in Melbourne this weekend and Stuart believes his filly is the horse to beat. “When John advised he was staying in Melbourne this weekend, I jumped at the opportunity to engage Luke and I’m confident she can repeat what she did at Redcliffe. Being on the fresh side doesn’t concern me because she’s a naturally athletic filly who takes good care of herself. “The barrier is a massive win because she looks the leader and she’s capable of running a good final half so that it makes it tough for her rivals, the Grant Dixon trained fillies loom as the biggest threat, they’re all classy types with great records. “Whatever my filly does this weekend, I know there is more improvement to come for next week and this run will top her off nicely. Our plan all along was to win an Oaks feature and gain some black type, so far so good but the job is not complete yet.” Last season, the New Zealand trained Partyon proved successful in the South East Provincial Oaks. Since 2010, New Zealand bred fillies have won this feature. And the last six Queensland Oaks winners have been New Zealand bred fillies. Chris Barsby

THEY'RE the superstars of Victorian harness racing at the moment. And it didn't take the powerful Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin stable long to leave their mark on today's Breeders Challenge finals with a lightning visit to Tabcorp Park Menangle. Beautifully-bred colt Hardhitter (Chris Alford) found the front and showed a tonne of courage to hold off his rivals and score the gutsiest of wins, scoring by two and a half metres from the unlucky Lochinvar Art (Luke McCarthy) with Muscle Factory (Lauren Tritton) a neck back in third place. Chris Alford doesn't know how to drive a bad race and had little hesitation working his youngster early to find the lead with a 28s first split of the mile. He then expertly backed off the speed with a 29.7 second split which left enough petrol in the tank for a sprint home in a last half of 53.9s (26.8 and 27.1s) for an impressive victory in the $100,000 Group One for two-year-old colts and geldings. Hardhitter (Mach Three-Grace Robinson) is owned by a big group of enthusiastic partners including former HR Victoria CEO John Anderson, who explained it was a special thrill to race a horse with such a fabulous group of owners. "There are so many people to thank, right from when Tanya and Ian Wood broke this horse in, Jacky Gibson and his mother Mary and the late John Gibson who bred this youngster and Peter Tonkin who put his hand up to buy him and keep all the other potential buyers at bay," grinned Anderson. "Actually I'm told this was the last horse that John Gibson bred before he sadly passed away. "Chris Alford, as usual, drove the perfect race and this was a special thrill to win on a day like this. "The Breeders Challenge and our own Breeders Crown day in Victoria are great days for the industry and success like this makes it ever more special."   Mandy Madern            

The first of Albion Park’s winter feature races got underway last Saturday and the night was owned by the Frisby stable celebrating a winning treble. Our Uncle Sam driven by Anthony Frisby listed an outstanding victory in the 2018 Oakwood Capital Lucky Creed Open Pace for trainer Chris Frisby. He lines up again in this week’s listed event the Oakwood Capital Wondais Mate Open Pace. The feature race is named in honour of the legendary pacer, Wondais Mate who dominated the racetrack in the mid 1980’s. Trained by Merv Reinke and driven by Daryl Reinke, the pacer had an amazing record of in 121 race starts for 73 wins and 34 placings for $456,536 in prizemoney. He won many feature races at Albion Park including the 1986 Sunshine Sprint and Winter Cup (now known as the Blacks A Fake). This week Our Uncle Sam will be up against talented types including Hughie Green who posted an exciting victory last week being first up in almost a year owing to an injury. Others that look to be in the money include Mattgregor, Glenferrie Hood and Frankie Rocks. The Frisby stable were successful in both band 5 class races last week with Our Wall Street Wolf NZ and Holy Camp Clive. Both of these pacers get another shot at the same class, drawn into separate races, with concession driver Amy Rees on board. While Rees is situated in Bathurst and makes a special trip up for the Winter Carnival she’s a born and bred Queenslander that has driven multiple winners at Albion Park. Likewise, talented New South Wales horseman, Luke McCarthy, makes the trip north this weekend for almost a full book of drives. McCarthy is no stranger to Albion Park having begun his career in the sunshine state in 1999 and right through until his move south in 2010.  McCarthy’s standout drives for the meeting include Miss Graceland and Effronte for the Craig Cross stable. For the meetings full form analysis and selections refer to Racing Queensland harness racing specialist Darren Clayton’s deliberations on the meeting: http://www.harness.org.au/punting/punters-corner/form-analysis/?keyNum=219618 The race meeting has a number of exquisite betting propositions courtesy of wagering service provider UBET. Headlining these offers is a $25K First 4 jackpot Pool on race 1 scheduled for 4:58pm EST. Additionally, a $2.5K Quadrella jackpot is listed for races 2 to 5 with the first leg due at 5:32pm EST which is complimented by $2K jackpot Trifectas on races 3, 4 and 5. For further information contact the Club on 07 3262 2577 or info@aphrc.com.au  

Queensland holds fond memories for star reinsman Luke McCarthy. The New South Wales born horseman gained his brief in the Sunshine State back in the 1998/99 season and he hasn’t looked back since. His first drive resulted in success, steering Castle Belles to victory at Redcliffe on March 5, 1999. When his parents John and Narelle decided to sell their Bathurst property and try their luck in Brisbane, many wouldn’t have predicted what was to follow. Between 2001 and 2010, the McCarthy family reshaped and revolutionised the art form of training and driving elite standardbred performers. Big name pacers included Trois Frere, Be Good Johnny, Slipnslide, Cobbity Classic, Fleur De Lil, Washakie, For A Reason and Mr Feelgood among many others during their dominant decade long reign. And Luke was a pivotal part of the family success. As a driver he was without peer and claimed most, if not all, feature events on the calendar while also securing the Albion Park Drivers Premiership (2006/07). When he relocated back to Sydney in 2010, the success continued and so have the raids back to Brisbane. And most times, he’s not leaving empty handed. This Saturday night, McCarthy jets back to Albion Park to take a strong book of drives before flying back the following day in readiness for the ‘Super Sunday’ meeting at TABCORP Park, Menangle where he has many key drives. “It’s a great opportunity with Menangle racing this Sunday to head north and partner with Craig’s (Cross - trainer) team. He’s got about 12 or 13 horses up there and many have good chances this weekend including Miss Graceland.” McCarthy said. The former Victoria Oaks winner (2017) joins the Cross barn from the leading stables of Victorian based trainer Emma Stewart and connections are looking at the mares feature during the winter carnival, fittingly, the Listed $25,540 Fleur De Lil Ladyship Stakes on July 14. The Rocknroll Hanover mare has not raced since finishing fifth at Cranbourne on April 19 but will start a clear favourite in her local debut. Miss Graceland will start from gate seven in the Gotta Go Cullect @ Egmont Park Stud Pace Over the 1660m sprint distance. “She’s obviously very classy with a record like she has but she’s only knew to the stable and hasn’t been to the trials. The draw doesn’t look good on paper but class will carry her a long way. “The Fleur De Lil looks a suitable target and this should have her going in the right direction for that in two weeks, I’m looking forward to driving and she looks my best hope of the night. “The plan is to be here driving on each of the three big nights of the carnival, this week was a bonus given the Sunday time slot for Menangle. I’ve got a lot of special memories from previous winter carnivals and this is still one of my favourite tracks.” Other key drives on Saturday’s program include Effronte (Race 1), Hashtag (Race 2) and Admiral Bronski (Race 3). In the main event, the Listed $25,540 Oakwood Capital Wondais Mate, leading trainer Grant Dixon has booked him to partner talented pacer Frankie Rocks. McCarthy has driven 55 Gr.1 winners during his career plus the 2009 World Trotting Derby with champion performer Muscle Hill at DuQuoin, Illinois. Only Gavin Lang (91) and Chris Alford (81) have driven more Gr.1 winners. Chris Barsby

You can put the pen through Australia’s most exciting pacer Jilliby Kung Fu for the Len Smith and Queensland Winter Carnival. Trainer Marg Lee is only focused on the Vicbred 4YO series now with the Chariots Of Fire winner and Miracle Mile runner-up. Jilliby Kung Fu, who sadly missed the Harness Jewels after a minor hiccup, returned from a spell with a narrow but ultra-impressive Shepparton win last Friday night. Forced to sit parked at his first run since the Miracle Mile, Jilliby Kung Fu kept lifting under pressure for driver Glen Craven and snatched a neck win over the underrated and emerging leader, Wrappers Delight. They paced a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2190m on a cold wet night, which was just 1.1sec outside the track record. “I doubt he’ll travel in the short term, we’re only thinking about the Vicbred for now,” Marg Lee’s son, Jason, said. “The long term plan is the (Melbourne) Inter Dominion because we think he’ll love the long trip.” Jason confirmed his cousin Glen Craven would drive Jilliby Kung Fu through the Vicbred series and he would partner another of the family’s promising pacers, Jilliby Chevy. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Leviathan owner-breeder Rob Watson has found his next star. Kiwi-bred American Ideal colt Franco Edward oozes X-factor. Trained and driven by Kyle Harper, Franco Edward made it three wins from four starts when he arrogantly thrashed a crack field in the $100,000 Pearl Classic final (1730m) at Gloucester Park on Friday night. In contrast to his heat win when he raced greenly and did plenty wrong, Franco Edward looked a real professional in the final, zooming out to lead from the pole and winning as he liked in a 1min56.4sec mile rate. “He’s really exciting. It looks like we’ve got another really nice one,” Watson said. The run of second-placed Shockwave was also fantastic considering he came wide and made-up plenty of ground and the last three quarters were paced in 28.3, 28.8 and 28.0sec. The disappointment was Bling It On’s baby brother, Bletchely Park, who blazed a 1min53.6sec mile rate for the same trip a week ago, but weakened after sitting parked last Friday and ran seventh. Back to Harper and it both ends of the spectrum for him last Friday with baby Franco Edward winning and stable veteran and stalwart Bettors Fire also saluting. It was the nine-year-old’s 39th win from 100 starts and edged him very close to $800,000 in earnings. _______________________________________________________________________________________ The news is a lot better than first feared with high-class former Kiwi pacer Shandale. Now based in WA with Mike Reed, Shandale seemed to trip and crash heavily to the track in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. He was tended to for a long time on the track, but a relieved Reed later said Shandale had cuts, abrasions and would require some time off, but seemed to have escaped really serious injury. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Champion driver Luke McCarthy had a night to remember at Menangle last night. McCarthy drove both semi-final winners of the rich NSW Breeders Challenge series for two-year-old colts and geldings with Victorian raiders Lochinvar Art and Hardhitter. The Laura Crossland-trained Lochinvar Art toyed with his rivals in the first semi, sitting off the pace then blowing them away to win by 8.8m in a 1min55.4sec mile. Hardhitter showed he was yet another Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin juvenile star when he blasted to the front and smashed the clock to beat buzz baby Muscle Factory in the second semi. Despite the fact he went a 1min52.7sec mile – much quicker than Lochinvar Art – McCarthy confirmed he would drive Lochinvar Art in the July 1 final. It’s expected Chris Alford will take the reins on Hardhitter. McCarthy also partnered the Darren Reay-trained Rollin With Holly for a dominant win in the first semi of the Challenge for two-year-old fillies in a 1min54.3sec mile. That series was thrown wide-open when nominal final favourite Miss Halfpenny was narrowly upset by Cee Cee Armbro in the second semi in a 1min54.9sec mile. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Leviathan NSW-based owner Emilio Stride has found his next star. Improving mare Cherry Stride sparkled winning the first semi-final of the NSW Breeders Challenge for flour0-year-old mares and looks to have a mortgage on the July 1 final. Trained by KerryAnn Turner, it was her husband Robbie Morris who worked forward to find the lead after the start on Cherry Stride and played with their rivals. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover opened right up to win by 21.4m in a sizzling 1min51.4sec mile signailing she is a bit special. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Another Victorian trotting feature and another win for Andy Gath’s former Kiwi gelding Tornado Valley. Owned by Norm Jenkin of Flashing Red fame, Tornado Valley was blasted to the lead from outside draw (gate seven) by Kate Gath and always looked in control. He cruised around in a 1min59.5sec mile rate for 2240m to post his ninth win from just 12 starts since crossing the Tasman to join the Gaths’ stable. _______________________________________________________________________________________ The buzz around WA three-year-old Jack Mac hit a slight snag when he beaten but certainly not disgraced at Gloucester Park last Friday night. On face value, he seemed to be beaten by a very smart former Kiwi gelding in Bettor Aim, who has sparkled winning all three WA runs for Greg and Skye Bond. Driver Ryan Warwick drew six and inside Jack Mac (eight) and used that advantage to work to the front and park Jack Mac. They blazed a 1min55sec mile rate for 2230m, including a 27.4sec split down the back straight, but Bettor Aim found plenty to beat Jack Mac by 3.9m. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Brilliant former Kiwi mare Reaza Grunter continues to zoom through the grades for Shane and Lauren Tritton. The four-year-old daughter of Christian Cullen led and thrashed a handy field in her most impressive Aussie win yet at Menangle last night. She ran the mile in a slick 1min51.5sec, won by almost 11m and posted her 10th win from just 15 starts since crossing the Tasman.   Adam Hamilton

Luke McCarthy knew the time had come.  As he drove Bling It On back off the Menangle track last night (Saturday), he knew it was the last time the superstar pacer would contest a race.  It was Bling It On’s 86th and final race start. A staggering 49 of them were at Group level.  He retires with 45 wins, 20 placings and earnings of $1,656,656.  “He went to this race as a D-day. He needed to go really well to continue on and he didn’t,” McCarthy said. “We made excuses for him first-up and then trialled quite well, but he didn’t do enough last time. It’s the right time to retire him.  “The timing works well actually. The breeding season isn’t far away. He served 130 mares when he was at stud recovering from his injuries last year and hopefully he can get another 100 mares or so this year to give him a chance to make an impact as a stallion.”  McCarthy quickly declared the 2017 Hunter Cup as Bling It On’s greatest moment on the track.  “That was the most special to me, but there were so many others. His Queensland Derby win, that Breeders Crown win as a two-year-old and that Gold Coast Cup where he won and smashed the track record,” he said.  “He was such a great horse from day one and just about all of his runs were against top opposition.”  McCarthy was proudest of how Bling It On recovered from horrific injuries sustained in a fall at Albion Park on June 17, 2017.  “I still look back at the photos of the injuries to his knees and wonder how he made it back to the races,” McCarthy said.  “To think he came back and won his first three starts and went 1min50.8sec in one of them, which was his career-best.  “You can only marvel when a horse can comeback from that and still be so good.  “I’m really looking forward to seeing the impact he make at stud. He’s from such a great family with Baby Bling and now Bletchley Park along as a few others. He’s got everything going for him.”   Adam Hamilton

Normal programming resumes. Millionaire pacer Bling It On bounced back with an important victory in a public at TABCORP Park, Menangle yesterday (Tuesday). Doubts lingered over the star pacer following his dismal first-up effort on May 19 when a tiring 6th behind Match In Heaven after leading. Exhaustive tests were carried out but could find no abnormalities so connections decided a trial would determine his plans this campaign and beyond. Bling It On rated 1:52.1 defeating quality performers Rocker Band and Charlaval. Splits of 28.3, 28.5, 28.4 and 26.9 seconds. “It must’ve been an off day for him when he failed first-up because he was back to his old ways in the trial; he felt like himself and went accordingly. We’ll be pushing on after that hit-out today.” Regular reinsman Luke McCarthy said. The Craig Cross trained American Ideal will be considered for the Gr.1 $100,000 Len Smith Mile at Menangle on July 1 while the Brisbane winter carnival features are the main target. The Gr.2 $50,540 Garrards Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park on July 14 followed by the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship the following week. With the stable already based in Brisbane with several runners, more classy types are expected in the coming weeks with the likes of yesterday’s Menangle winner Effronte and promising rookie First String also being considered for winter carnival features in July.   Chris Barsby

THE record-breaking Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal may not even start favourite in a ho-hum Menangle free-for-all on Saturday night. That’s because he is locking horns with NSW’s buzz pacer of the moment, Majordan, and the new kid on the block has a better draw and looks the leader. Majordan, who has gate 10 compared to My Field Marshal’s barrier 11, could not have been more impressive winning his past three starts for new trainer Kevin Pizzuto. The five-year-old followed 1min48.9sec and 1min49.4sec mile wins at Menangle with a demolition job in last Saturday night’s Newcastle Mile. Majordan won by 20m in a scorching 1min51.4sec mile, which took 0.8sec off Avonnova’s race and track record from two years earlier. “And think about the fact he ran that time on a cold night compared to the Newcastle Mile usually being run in summer as a lead-up to the Miracle Mile,” driver Luke McCarthy said. “I can assure you he had plenty left. He could’ve gone quicker, much quicker if I’d asked him.” With McCarthy committed to his own horse Mach Doro (gate nine) this week and his brother, Andy, still away in Europe, Pizzuto has opted for Mat Rue to drive Majordan on Saturday night. Rue, 28, is best known for driving the then Belinda and Luke McCarthy-trained Baby Bling to win the 2013 Miracle Mile. Anthony Butt takes the reins on My Field Marshal, who is sure to be fitter and sharper for a workmanlike first-up Menangle win against a moderate bunch last Saturday night in a relatively cosy 1min52.4sec mile. My Field Marshal has the class and form at the top level, but Majordan has stirred huge excitement and Pizzuto has declared him serious Miracle Mile material. Throw in a handy support crew with the in-form Mach Doro and Match In Heaven and this should be a fascinating pointer to the $100,000 Group 1 Len Smith Mile at Menangle on June 24. Adam Hamitlon

A mid-week trial could determine future plans for Bling It On. The millionaire pacer will venture to TABCORP Park, Menangle next Tuesday and be given a “race” like hit-out which will ultimately paint a clearer picture for his connections. Bling It On disappointed badly in his return to racing last weekend when a fading sixth behind Match In Heaven after gaining an easy lead. It was a long way from his best. And left his biggest supporter a little perplexed. “I can’t explain it; I’ve gone over the race a million times and can’t come up with an excuse. I was more than happy with his trial leading into the event but he just wasn’t himself the other night.” Regular driver Luke McCarthy said. A series of exhaustive and thorough tests were carried out earlier this week and couldn’t shed any light on the situation. The mystery deepens. The public trial next week is likely to confirm future plans for the popular entire. The son of American Ideal covered over 80 mares during the recent breeding season while still performing on the race track. “It will be a very strong trial; I want to drive him like it is race conditions just to make sure he still has it. I thought the tests would provide some answers but it didn’t so we’re back to square one again. “We won’t be racing him for the sake of it so retirement is being considered; he’s been a great horse from the very beginning of his career and doesn’t need to prove anything. After all, he does have a stallion career in front of him. “But no decision will be made until after the trial, if he bounces back and shows his best we will push on with our original plans.” The main focus this campaign has been centered on the Brisbane winter carnival at Albion Park in July, the main aim is the Gr.1 $200,540 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship on July 21. The 15 time Group winner possesses an excellent record at the Brisbane oval and relishes the staying trips hence why the Blacks A Fake is the primary target. Last season, many thought his career was over after suffering major injuries following a race fall in the Lucky Creed on June 17. After several months of extensive rehabilitation, Bling It On made a successful comeback when triumphant at Menangle on November 18. The Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy stable are represented at Albion Park this weekend with a trio of runners engaged. Living Again (Race 6), Hashtag (Race 7) and Admiral Bronski (Race 9) all step out and look hard to beat in their respective events. Local reinsmen Chris Petroff (Living Again), Grant Dixon (Hashtag) and Pete McMullen (Admiral Bronski) will take the drives. Talented filly Darkershadeofpale is also part of the Brisbane based team and will start in the $20,540 Redcliffe Oaks on June 8. The Changeover filly scored an impressive victory at Penrith last start on April 12 while looking sharp in a recent trial at Menangle.   Chris Barsby

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