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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

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

It didn't take champion reinsman Luke McCarthy long to get back into the harness racing spotlight at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight. McCarthy picked up the plum drive on four-year-old Victorian mare Carlas Pixel from ace Victorian trainer Emma Stewart a couple of weeks ago. Carlas Pixel qualified for the Ladyship Mile at Menangle two weeks ago when successful in the Canadian Club Sprint and it paid dividends tonight when McCarthy brought the daughter of Courage Under Fire with a flashing finish from well back in the field for an impressive victory - breaking the magical 1:50 mile rate in the process, rating 1:49.5 to score a one a quarter metre win over Delishka (Blake Fitzpatrick) with Rocker Band (Ash Grives) five and a half metres further back in third place. The stunning time was made possible by bold front-runner My Rona Gold (Lauren Tritton) who surged out of the gate in a slashing 25.5 seconds for the opening quarter. The flashy grey then ran them along in fine style with a 28.1 second split before fading in the straight the finish fifth as the pace began to tell and the first two placegetters emerged from well back in the field. Stewart later paid tribute to the McCarthys - Luke and Belinda for making Cobbity a home away from home for them when they come to Sydney. "I was quite nervous when I got her because she's a super mare and you never know how you are going to go when you get a good horse like that," said Stewart. "But full marks to Luke, he drove her superbly tonight." Luke added: I've been lucky enough to win this twice and its a huge thrill. She went so well last week we had a lot of confidence going into tonight's race. "Dean Braun picked this horse from the yearling sales and deserves some of the credit to as he did a great job with her."   Carlas Pixel       4 7:46pm MACARTHUR SQUARE LADYSHIP MILE (GROUP 1) 1609M $200,000 Mares. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 CARLAS PIXEL      Fr5 6 Emma Stewart Luke McCarthy   $ 7.20       BAY MARE 4 by COURAGE UNDER FIRE NZ out of PIXEL PERFECT (ART MAJOR USA)  Owner(s): S J Nixon, M E Denyer  Breeder(s): R J (Robert) Watson 2 DELISHKA NZ      Fr9 11 Brad Mowbray Blake Fitzpatrick 1.3m $ 23.80     3 ROCKER BAND NZ      Fr1 1 Mark Jones Ashlee Grives 6.7m $ 14.70     4 A PICCADILLY PRINCESS NZ      Fr8 9 Mark Purdon Natalie Rasmussen 11.2m $ 8.70     5 MY RONA GOLD NZ      Fr7 8 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 11.2m $ 24.50     6 IMA MYSTERY GIRL      Fr4 5 Jarrod Alchin Jarrod Alchin 11.8m $ 71.00     7 SHAKAHARI      Fr10 12 Stephen O'Donoghue Rebecca Bartley 13.4m $ 139.30     8 AMERETTO      Fr2 2 Kerryn Manning Kerryn Manning 14.8m $ 1.80 fav    9 MISS RIVIERA BELLE NZ      Fr6 7 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Chris Geary 16.8m $ 69.10     10 OUR GOLDEN GODDESS      Fr3 4 Kerryn Manning James Rattray 21.6m $ 5.40     Scratchings   PARTYON NZ 3 BERISARI 10 Track Rating:   Gross Time: 1:49:5 Mile Rate: 1:49:5 First Quarter: 25.5 Second Quarter: 28.1 Third Quarter: 28 Fourth Quarter: 27.9 Margins: 1.3m x 5.4m     Sean Vella    

A three-time Group 1 winner, Inter Dominion finalist and a harness racing career that’s hauled in $1.6 million in prizemoney. It’s fair to say that Bling It On brings an intimidating record into Tuesday night’s Group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial (2,970 metres) at Bathurst Paceway. Bling It On is set to start a red hot favourite for a race he won two years ago in dominant fashion. Even a start from widest on the second row will be unlikely to deter many punters from backing the Craig Cross-trained horse, who ran a career best mile rate of 1:50.8 in his latest run at Menangle. Bling It On’s driver Luke McCarthy is no stranger to success in the $50,000 event, winning two of the last three editions. This year the race has been bumped up over 700 metres in distance to add a new level of endurance and tactical variety. The race has once again brought a classy field to Bathurst, but the big question is whether any challengers can hunt down Cross’ champion runner. “It’s been a race that Luke McCarthy has always aimed to get a drive in, given the family’s close friendship with the Turnbulls. He always ensures he’ll be there,” Bathurst Harness Racing CEO Danny Dwyer said. “From what I’ve heard the Shirley Turnbull Memorial was always on the cards for Bling It On. He’s coming into this with impressive form too. He’s won his last three starts in quick times at Menangle. “I think he’d be hard pressed to come into this race with better form than what he’s showing right now. It’s a really great field he’s coming up against, but he’s going to be hard to beat.” Among the impressive list of challengers is former Breeders Challenge champion Charlaval (Robbie Morris), Treuer Memorial winner My General Lee (Josh Willick) plus Bling It On’s in-form stablemate Admiral Bronski (Todd McCarthy). Charlaval has the opportunity to take control of the race out of gate one, with trainer KerryAnn Turner aiming to defend her Shirley Turnbull Memorial crown she won last year with Aztec Bromac. Turner’s win denied Luke McCarthy, driving favourite Allblack Stride, the chance to win his third straight memorial. Charlaval finished just a short half head away from Bling It On last start. My General Lee showed his credentials in a strong Treuer Memorial victory, leading from start to finish. Like Bling It On, stablemate Admiral Bronski comes to Bathurst with three straight wins to his name. His success in the recent Group 3 Christmas Gift makes him an enticing each-way hope for punters. Dwyer said the step up to 2,970m will add plenty of intrigue to the event. “The club made the decision to increase the race length from 2,260m just to change things up, and perhaps give an opportunity for more mid-race moves to happen,” he said. “From the draw I think Charlaval will get a nice run and go close to the lead. Then you’ve got a horse like Blazin N Cullen who might not be in the best of form at the moment, but he’s had some strong results at Menangle.” The Shirley Turnbull Memorial is the sixth race on the program, with the feature to start at 9.10pm. By Alexander Grant Reprinted with permission of The Daily Liberal

THE margin wasn’t great, but the win certainly was. Comeback star Bling It On made it three wins from as many starts this campaign, but had to show a different side to land his latest win at Menangle last Saturday night, And he did so in a blazing 1min50.8sec mile. Luke McCarthy dragged him back from an outside draw as the leaders blazed a 25.8sec opening quarter. With nobody making a move, McCarthy had to swoop around the field himself from the 650m on Bling It On and he looked in stride halfway down the home straight. He pulled out everything to grab Eh Ef El, then had to stave-off a late dive from talented sit-sprinter Charlaval to win by a nose. Bling It On now heads to the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on Boxing night before McCarthy and co-trainer Craig Cross finalise plans towards the Hunter Cup. “It could include the Ballarat Cup, but we’re not sure yet,” McCarthy said. It was a big night for McCarthy with four driving wins. The others came with the emerging Admiral Bronski as well as speedy Birdy Mach and trotter War Dan Destroyer. _____________________________________________________________________________________ THE “find” of the Perth Inter Dominion, Vultan Tin, franked the form with an impressive Gloucester Park win last Friday night. Just seven days after an eye-catching and luckless fourth to Lazarus in the Inter Dominion final, Vultan Tin proved too strong for a good field despite sitting parked in a 1min56.1sec mile rate for 2130m. It’s been a hell of a ride for trainer Phil Costello and driver Chris Voak with the locally-bred gelding. “He thrived through the Inter Dominion and did us proud in the final,” Voak said. “It was such a great couple of weeks to be part of.” The form from Inter Dominion final night proved the key across the whole Gloucester Park meeting last Friday, including wins from stablemates Rock Diamonds and Vampiro, who both contested the Group 1 Golden Nugget won by Ultimate Machete. The Skye Bond-trained Rock Diamonds dominantly won race eight in a 1min58.2sec mile rate for 2130m, while Vampiro narrowly but impressively won a stirring battle with Runrunjimmydunn in the second event. _____________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER glamour Kiwi filly Our Golden Goddess kick-started the chapter of her career in stunning fashion. Back from six months out and now with Kerryn Manning, Our Golden Goddess won by almost 15m and smashed the Ballarat 2200m track record with a scorching 1min54.4sec mile rate last Friday night. It was her first start since running way below her best when 10th to The Orange Agent in the Angelique Club Cup at Melton on May 12. She’s now raced 19 times for nine wins, seven placings and almost $300,000 in earnings for Merv and Meg Butterworth. Manning now has the luxury of working Our Golden Goddess through her classes before targeting the lead-up races for the Ladyship Mile at Menangle in February/March. _____________________________________________________________________________________ THE wait is almost over. Australia’s most exciting young pacer, the unbeaten Lumineer, is headed back to the races. Trainer Ange McDowall made the call after Lumineer won his second trial back by 35.5m in a 1min58sec mile rate at Melton last Tuesday. Lumineer hasn’t raced since winning the Australian Gold final in effortless style at Menangle in April. “He’s tightened-up since the trial. He’s ready to go now,” McDowall said. “I entered him for a Geelong race, but it didn’t stand-up. “I’m hoping he gets a run at Maryborough this Friday and he’ll run at Ballarat on Boxing night as well.” Lumineer’s first major target is the Victoria Derby which fans hope will mean a mouth-watering showdown with the All Stars’ unbeaten three-year-old Chase Auckland. _____________________________________________________________________________________ FORMER Kiwi pacer Moonrock just keeps getting better in Australia. Trainer Sonya Smith has done a fantastic job since taking over the gelding and he produced a new high with his breathtaking Melton last Saturday night. While hot favorite Major Secret dictated terms in front, Moonrock somehow unleashed a withering sprint around the field from near last to snatch the win. He was clocked to run his last half in a staggering 54.8, including a 26.9sec final quarter. The mile rate was a slick 1min54.6sec for 2240m. In 11 starts for Smith and Anthony Butt, Moonrock has posted seven wins, three seconds and a sixth. The result wasn’t as good for Butt and his brother Tim with buzz former Kiwi trotter Gentleman Sir later in the night. Sent out a $1.80 favourite, Gentleman Sir made and early mistake and lost all chance in the race won by in-form mare Sky Petite. _____________________________________________________________________________________ HUSBAND and wife Greg Sugars and Jess Tubbs have serious three-year-old on their hands in Little Peanut. The son of Blissfull Hall showed plenty at two, but has come back looking bigger and better judging by his two wins from as many starts. The latest came when he won as he liked in a 1min54.9sec mile rate over 1730m in the 3YO final at Melton last night (Saturday). The bar is set high with the likes of Chase Auckland and Lumineer headlining this three-year-old crop, but Little Peanut is headed in the right direction to be a Derby player. _____________________________________________________________________________________ WHAT an inspired move it was by KerryAnn Turner and Robbie Morris to take stable star Aztec Bromac for a Queensland raid. His three starts netted two wins and a third with the big win coming in last Saturday night’s $60,540 Group 2 Queensland Cup (2138m). Most expected amazing local veteran Avonnova to lead and win from gate two. He led and went extremely well, but was unable to stave-off the big finish of Aztec Bromac from midfield in a 1min54.2sec mile rate. The night capped a fantastic Queensland raid for Turner and Morris, who snared a treble with Mojo Major and Come Cullect also saluting.   Adam Hamilton

Aussie harness fans are looking to comeback superstar Bling It On to help ease their Perth Inter Dominion hangover. The sport peaked with that magnificent win by Lazarus at Gloucester Park last Friday night. It’s natural to fall a little flat afterwards. The Kiwis have the huge Auckland Cup Carnival to keep them pumped, but Aussies have to wait until races like the WA, Fremantle, SA and Ballarat Cups next month for another “spike.” Step-in Bling It On, the reigning Hunter Cup champ who has so magnificently returned from career-threatening injuries to win both starts this season. He hasn’t just won them – he’s humiliated his rivals and run slick times. Barring a major upset, Bling It On should make it three wins on end in the fifth race at Menangle on Saturday night. Driver and co-trainer Luke McCarthy can’t hide his excitement at how well Bling It On has turned from nasty knees injuries sustained in a horror race fall at Albion Park in July. “Just getting him back racing at all was a bonus, but everything says he’s as good as ever. He just feels so sharp,” McCarthy said. Bling It On swooped from back in the field to thrash a handy field first-up, then worked to the front and won as he liked last time. He’s drawn the outside (gate 11) this week, but simply looks a class above his rivals. If there are any dangers, they could be Shane Tritton’s enigmatic Eh Ef El (gate seven), the emerging Charlaval (eight) and talented Spare Me Days (nine). This week is another important stepping-stone towards Bling It On’s Hunter Cup defence. “After this we’ll go to the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst on Boxing night. It’s an ideal race because it’s over distance and he’ll need it before going to Victoria,” McCarthy said. “I’d say we’ll head down there for the Ballarat and Hunter Cups.” Adam Hamilton

Harness racing driver Luke McCarthy doesn’t get back to his old hometown nearly as often as he would like but those infrequent visits usually involve success on the track as well as catching up with his extensive family. So last Wednesday’s trip over the mountains to Bathurst, which resulted in a double from three drives for the Craig Cross stable, was pretty much stock standard stuff. Both winners maintained impressive strike-rates, Blackened NZ taking his record to four from fiv  in an R1 sprint and Rocknroll Dude remaining undefeated in two career starts after taking out the second division of this class three races later. Blackened rated 1:55.1 in his front-running effort, but what was particularly noteworthy was his 27.1 seconds closing quarter which gave Mackeral, El Gran Señor and the rest of the pack no chance at all. McCarthy rates the three-year-old very highly, and expects him to step up to some better-class races as the season unfolds. His dam, The Blue Lotus, is a half-sister to champion juvenile and now promising sire Tintin In America, a close relation of Elsu, so the Shadow Play colt looks to have inherited some of that family’s exceptional ability. Rocknroll Dude’s win was contrasting but equally meritorious. The Rock N Roll Heaven four-year-old, drawn on his own on the second line, settled towards the tail before trekking three-wide from the 700 metres point and displayed both high speed and a measure of toughness to score strongly from Studleigh Kristen and Walk On Kimmy. He, too, boasts a strong maternal family. His dam Dream Royale NZ was a prolific racewinner for the McCarthy family when they were based at Albion Park, and they rated her highly enough to take her to Melbourne for a tilt at the Queen Of The Pacific open-class mares classic. Luke McCarthy spoke of his intention to bring stable star Bling It On - whose brilliant return to racing after career-threatening injuries earlier in the year “meant more to me than his Hunter Cup win”- to Bathurst for the $50,000 Group 2 Shirley Turnbull Memorial, the feature of the Carnival of Cups meeting on Boxing Night. It’s quite possible that he’ll line up Blackened in the night’s other feature, the Ray and Olive McCarthy Memorial, a prestigious three-year-old race which honours his late, much-loved grandparents. Luke has been a huge fan of the new Bathurst track since its inception in 2014, rating it again last week as “the best 1000 metre track in Australia” but when he returns on Boxing Night he, like the rest of us, will have to become accustomed to its new name and signage, as “Bathurst Gold Crown Paceway”, a natural fit for the home of the long-running juvenile classic. In the meantime, focus will be on the Bathurst RSL- sponsored Soldiers Saddle Series for C1/C2 emerging talent, with heats this week leading into next Wednesday’s semi-finals and a $15,900 final on Friday December 15. And then to that enormously popular Boxing Night celebration. As Luke himself might say, “Bling It On!” Terry Neil

Luke McCarthy said it’s his best moment yet Bling It On’s breathtaking win first-up from injuries most thought would end his career was one of the best stories our great sport has produced. It was June 17, this year when Bling It On crashed to the track at Albion Park and so badly mangled his knees, the first focus was on just saving the reigning Hunter Cup winner. Weeks later, when the superstar pacer was out of the woods, McCarthy showed me the graphic photos of Bling It On’s front knees. “You saw the photos … how bad the knees were … I didn’t think he’d race again,” McCarthy said. Imagine his emotion when Bling It On, first-up since the fall, unleashed a withering finishing burst from back near last to blow his rivals away in a scorching 1min50.8sec mile at Menangle last night. “It was such a thrill just to get him back to the races. I was quietly confident he could regain his best form in time … his work had been really encouraging at home,” McCarthy said. “I told the owners he’d need a few runs after his time out and that he was carrying a bit too much weight, but then he comes out and does that. You can only shake your head. “Given he’s done that, and felt so sharp doing it, there’s no reason he can’t get back to his Hunter Cup form. He felt like he already was and I know there is a lot of improvement to come.” A defence of his Hunter Cup crown at Melton in early February is the first major target. “He’ll go to another Menangle free-for-all in two weeks, then to the Shirley Turnbull Memorial (Boxing Day) because it’s 2700m and I want to get a staying run into him before going to Melbourne,” McCarthy said. “Then he’ll have another free-for-all run at Menangle in mid-January. He’ll go Melbourne, possibly even for the Ballarat Cup before the Hunter Cup as well.” The extra layer to the Bling It On story is the fact he’s already served or booked to serve over 100 mares this season. “He’s been popular,” McCarthy said. “As Dad (John) said, he’ll probably get another 30 bookings off the back of this comeback win.” McCarthy said Bling It On’s recovery and successful comeback had been a huge team effort. “So many people have played a role,” he said. “I’ve got to give special mentions to Mark McGarry, the Albion Park vet who cleaned him up so well on the night of the fall then the team at Gatton University, who did the most amazing job,” he said. Adam Hamilton

Shane Tritton’s been trying to get his speedstar Yayas Hot Spot to the Perth Inter Dominion for three years. And now he’s sure he will finally get there. “I feel like it’s unfinished business,” Tritton said. “He’s finally ranked high enough and we’re going across. “First it’s down to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup.” Yayas Hot Spot confirmed a two-race Melbourne raid after Yayas Hot Spot smashed the clock in a solo workout at Penrith. He ran a 1.53.6 mile, which was 1.4sec inside the official track record. “He won’t run before Melbourne. He’ll go first-up into the Smoken Up on October 6 at Melton,” Tritton said. Then comes the $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup at Melton eight days later. In other stable news, Shane and Lauren Tritton combined with their classy six-year-old mare Miss Riviera Belle to win the $30,600 Group Three Piccadilly Princess in a 1.53 mile at Menangle last Saturday night. _______________________________________________________________________________________ When Hunter Cup winner Bling It On crashed to the track a few months back and was ruled-out of the Victoria Cup and Perth Inter Dominion, Luke McCarthy’s hopes of competing in those races looked slim. Maybe Mach Doro or Allblack Stride could step-up, but instead it has been new stable addition Galactic Star who emerged. The former WA-trained five-year-old has looked terrific winning both starts for Craig Cross with McCarthy in the bike. Galactic Star won narrowly but impressively after sitting parked for much of the race in a 1.55.9 mile rate for 2300m at Menangle last Saturday night. It was enough for connections to label the Victoria Cup (Melton, October 14) a target. Galactic Star was bought from NZ by Greg and Skye Bond and won 13 of his 19 WA starts for them before being sent to NSW. Adam Hamilton

Star Kiwi pacer My Field Marshal lost no fans in defeat when he resumed from a freshen-up at Menangle last Saturday night. Tim Butt’s stable star came from the extreme outside draw, punched the breeze from the middle half and went down fighting in slick time by a half-head to another former Kiwi, Little Rascal, who had a cosy trip. Just when it seemed My Field Marshal was sent for victory, driver Luke McCarthy extricated Little Rascal from a peg run to the running line, the three-wide to launch a late challenge and snatch the win. My Field Marshal couldn’t much more considering the closing splits of 54.7 and 27.3sec at the end of a 1min51.8sec mile. Butt’s plan is to give the classy pacer at least two more Menangle runs before heading south to chase the $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 14. The win was Little Rascal’s biggest since making NSW home. He managed just three wins from 22 starts last term. ___________________________________________________________________________________ THE new season started just as the old one did for Chris Alford. Alford, who topped 6000 career wins and snatched a string of major races last season, bagged four wins at Melton last Saturday night. It took him a few races to hit top gear, but Alford won the last four races on the card, starting with the charming story of Emma Stewart’s comeback 11-year-old stayer Mister Onetwo. Alford’s other wins came aboard Maree Caldow’s trotting mare Miss Noelle, Dean Braun’s claimer Beach Boy Adios and Emma Stewart’s four-year-old mara A Victor. The other star of the opening Melton meeting of the season was Greg Sugars with three wins. He partnered claimers Washmepockets and Saint Flash to win heats of the Battle of the Claimers as well as veteran free-for-aller Flaming Flutter. Flaming Flutter showed a hint of his vintage best when he sustained a strong three-wide run to win in a slick 1min53sec mile rate in the My Lightning Blue free-for-all (1720m). ___________________________________________________________________________________ VETERAN Queenslander Avonnova continues to amaze. Trainer Ian Gurney retired him after a feature win at Albion Park late last year, but opted to bring him back because he “simply too unhappy in hid paddock.” Avonnova won two of five comeback runs between April and July, then had a let-up. The 11-year-old opened this season with a scorching Albion Park win last Saturday night, beating the classy Ultimate Art in a 1min51.5sec mile rate for 1660m. It was his 52nd win with another 49 placings from 160 starts and took his earnings to a thumping $913,769. ___________________________________________________________________________________ CLASSY former Kiwi pacer Shandale continues to make his mark in Western Australia. Now with the Mike Reed stable, Shandale won impressively when second-up from a spell in a 1min55.8sec mile rate for 2130m at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The five-year-old son of Art Major has raced six times for Reed for four wins, a second a seventh. The test will come over the next few weeks when he steps into open grade against the likes of Chicago Bull, Ohoka Punter, Beaudiene Boaz, Run Oneover  and others. Adam Hamilton

New Zealand faltering challenge for the Breeders Crown roared back into life yesterday. Because three wins in as many races for the Kiwi-trained pacers at Menangle have boosted chances of a serious New Zealand team at the rich Crown finals day at Melton in Victoria next month. For much of the last decade New Zealand horses --- both pacers and trotters --- have dominated Breeders Crown day, with the added bonus of Kiwi horses who travelled to the meeting extending their season by a month because of the late finish to the Australian harness racing season. That has often promoted the crazy situation of horses turning four in New Zealand on August 1, yet reverting to racing as three-year-olds when they cross the Tasman for the Crown a few weeks later. But while the Breeders Crown, with its two-year-old pacing finals worth money than A$300,000, has been enormously lucrative for New Zealand horses, this year’s representation was looking shaky. Already the biggest names from the two and three-year-old pacing ranks have pulled out, their trainers instead preferring to spell horses like Vincent, Ultimate Machete and Spankem after long seasons rather than press to until last August, meaning they would probably not race again until after Christmas. So the all-conquering Purdon-Rasmussen stable won’t have their absolute superstars at the Breeders Crown and Mark Purdon even expressed doubts over whether he would have any reps at the meeting unless they could win their heats in impressive fashion yesterday. That box was ticked on three separate occasions as first juvenile Sicario, then group-one winning filly Partyon and Queensland Derby winner The More The Better also easily won their heats at Menangle.  None of them were asked for their best by catch driver Luke McCarthy but Partyon still paced her last 400m in a sizzling 25.9 to confirm she will be returning to Melton to defend the title she won as a two-year-old last season. The More The Better won even easier and in a similar final sectional with a 26.1 last 400m while Sicario’s win was mere trackwork so the All Stars will have three major players for the Crown semi finals on August 19, followed by the finals on August 27. But they will be readied for the series without the Purdon-Rasmussen polish, with Purdon leaving yesterday for a holiday before representing New Zealand at the World Drivers Champs, with Rasmussen also holidaying before supporting her partner at the series.  “We are lucky we have good staff but it still makes it tricky getting them ready for the Crown with both of us being in Canada,” admitted Purdon. Top horseman Cran Dalgety is also taking three reps to the Breeders Crown, even after two of them, Bettor Joy and Master Moonlite, were beaten in their non-tote heats at Addington last Friday. Bettor Joy was clearly outpointed by Angel Of Harlem, who trainer Barry Ward is likely to send to Anthony Butt to train and drive for the Crown. But with those defeats for Dalgety’s big name pacers and Purdon-Rasmussen not sending their top guns, the New Zealand team for the Crown is in the usually unthinkable position of not having any dominant favourites for the pacing series. Northern pacers King Of Swing and Big Mach are also likely starters but Alexandra Park heat winner Utmost Delight is out of the series and heading to the paddock. New Zealand’s trotting team for the Crown is also lighter than usual but does boost the shining light of three-year-old star Enghien, who will be red hot to win his division as well as the Victoria Trotting Derby in two weeks on the way through. Michael Guerin

Having conquered Queensland, the All Stars’ juggernaut moves to Menangle this week.  Luke McCarthy is down to drive Mark Purdon’s three Breeders Crown heat runners on Tuesday. All will be commanding favourites.  First out is talented two-year-old gelding Sicario, who should make it five wins from eight starts, now he’s drawn gate two in race three.  NSW Oaks winner Partyon has the right draw (gate four), but faces the biggest challenge against Queensland Derby placegetter My Casino Belle (gate seven) and Shezallapples (five).  Brad Hewitt’s My Casino Belle ran third to Partyon in Queensland’s Provincial Oaks, then turned the tables when second to Shartin in the actual Queensland Oaks. Partyon ran third.  But, My Casino Belle, lifted to another level to sit parked and run a monstrous third to The More The Better and Shartin in the Queensland Derby last Saturday week.  The More The Better, who smashed the clock winning the Queensland Derby, looks a league above his rivals in his Crown heat (race five) at Menangle.    Still on the Crown heats at Menangle, and another highlight will be the return of unbeaten juvenile filly My Sweetchilliphilly.  It’s a while since we’ve seen the daughter of Betterthancheddar with trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton, sending her for a spell after a sparkling Pink Bonnet win at Menangle on April 8.  But it was her previous win, when My Sweetchilliphilly sat parked in a 1.54.7 mile rate for 1730m to win the Group One Bathurst Gold Tiara final, which showed her potential greatness.  She wasn’t eligible for the NSW Breeders Challenge, so the Trittons gave her a break with a view to a late season surge towards the Breeders Crown.  My Sweetchilliphilly has sharpened-up for her return to Menangle trial wins on June 20 and July 4.  She looked simply stunning on July 4, when she toyed with older rivals to win by 6.4m in a 1.53.6 mile and closed in a 27.7 split.  My Sweetchilliphilly has gate five in the first Menangle Crown heat and should be untroubled to stretch her unbeaten record to five wins.    Champion driver Chris Alford must have known he was in trouble, on the home bend with buzz juvenile filly Molly Kelly in the Tatlow Stakes at Melton last Saturday night.  Alford surprised many when he opted to drive Molly Kelly instead of the unbeaten stablemate Nostra Villa. He was the regular driver on both.  Molly Kelly led and had a cosy trip, but when Alford tried to pinch a break on Nostra Villa turning for home, he couldn’t shake her off. And then came Peter Manning’s filly, Amelias Courage, along the sprint lane.  In an absolute slugfest to the wire, Nostra Villa found a way to win again, making six wins from as many starts for Emma Stewart.  She beat Amelias Courage by a nose with Molly Kelly another half-head away in third spot. The mile rate was a steady 1.58.7 for 2240m, but they zipped home in 56.2 and 27.4.  Stewart’s dominance in Victoria’s juvenile races continued later in the night when nominal Breeders Crown favourite Poster Boy snared the Tatlow Stakes for colts and geldings with Alford aboard.  The race provided a trifecta for Stewart with Poster Boy working to the front earlier, and easily beating Tam Major and Big Bad Bruce with a 26.5 last quarter.  Poster Boy ran sixth on debut at Menangle in February, but was spelled straight after and has returned with six impressive wins from as many starts.    Chicago Bull is out having a rest, but trainer Gary Hall Sr still found a way to win the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Classy mare Ideal Alice made the most of gate one to lead throughout in a 1.57 mile rate for the 2536m.  It was only her second run back from a spell, following a successful summer campaign where even beat star Kiwi mare, Piccadilly Princess in the Parliamentarians Cup at Gloucester Park.  The other highlight of the night was popular trainer Gary Elson’s double with his classy four-year-olds Ideal Tyson and Sprinter.  Ideal Tyson, with Aiden De Campo aboard, toyed with his rivals in the opening race by 7.7m in a 1.57.5 mile rate for 2536m.  Sprinter took on a stronger field and won even more impressively for driver Gary Hall Jr by 9.3m in a 1.55.6 mile rate for 2130m.    Classy mare Bettorthanspecial snared the last feature of the hugely successful Queensland Winter Carnival.  The Shannon Price-trained five-year-old caused a minor upset, beating hot favourite Major Cam by a half-head in the Patrons Purse (2280m) at Redcliffe last Friday night.  It took her record to an impressive 51 starts for 25 wins, 18 placings and almost $330,000 in stakemoney.    With some of the big guns away, classy NZ-bred free-for-aller Allblack Stride returned to winning form at Menangle last Saturday night.  But it wasn’t easy going for the Craig Cross six-year-old, who led staved-off a rejuvenated Major Star, to win by a whisker in a 1.52.4 mile.    When Andy Gath took Burnaholeinmypocket home from the 2015 Harness Jewels he thought he had his next stable star.  And anyone who saw the son of Bettor's Delight charged home late for fourth to subsequent Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me, in his Jewels final would have said the same thing.  Instead, Gath’s had a largely frustrating two years.  But, Burnaholeinmypocket is now starting to at least show glimpses of that potential from 2015.  The five-year-old has now won four of his past six starts, including his first in genuine open-class in the Our Maestro free-for-all (2240m) at Melton last Friday night.  “It was the first time he’d drawn the front row in eight starts, and we thought he was a great chance of leading, which he did. It was great to get a draw to use his gate speed again,” Gath said.  It was his 17th win from just 42 starts and took him past $200,000 in earnings.    Fresh from his triumphant Group One Blacks A Fake win on Hectorjayjay a week earlier, young gun driver Josh Aiken snared another feature at Melton last Saturday night.  Aiken teamed with top trotting trainer Anton Golino and the huge Yabby Dams operation to win the Group Three Sumthingaboutmaori free-for-all (2240m) aboard Glenferrie Burn.   Adam Hamilton

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