Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 24

A Pacer with strong Bendigo connections has emerged as one of the harness racing stars of regional racing in the North West. Bernie Winkle, formerly a Glenn Douglas stable favourite, has strung together a trio of emphatic victories at Mildura since his transfer to Sunraysia trainer Geoff Lucas. The seven-year-old gelding sounded his arrival in the region with a brilliant 9.1 metre win at the City Oval Paceway on April 24. He has since been able to repeat the dose with a 5.4m victory, before making it a perfect three out of three with another 9.1m win last Friday. While all three triumphs have been nothing short of imposing, the first was simply breathtaking, with Bernie Winkle entering the final lap in second last, about 20m off the leaders. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven rapidly made up ground from the 700m to the 200m, before whisking by two of the undoubted stars of the Sunraysia racing scene in Augustus Jack and Murranji Track in the straight, to record an eye-catching win at a surprising 20-1. There were no such generous odds the second time around with Bernie Winkle paying $2.90. He started a mere $1.80 last Friday and will likely be even shorter at his next outing. His streak has prompted plenty of banter between great mates Douglas and Lucas. "After he won the first week, Glenn rang me and said you know the (previous trainer's) magic lasts a week," Lucas said with a laugh. "Then when he won the second week he told me it lasts two weeks. "Now he's telling me it lasts three weeks, so he's taking all the credit." Normally based just across the border from Mildura at Gol Gol in New South Wales, Lucas has been training his two horses (Bernie Winkle and Without Hesitation) on the Merbein South property of Andrew Stenhouse and Dwayne Locke. He credited the pair's 'soft' sand-based track and a change in racing tactics as key factors in the veteran pacer's return to form. "Their training track is unbelievable - it's the best training track up here by a mile and I'm sure it's helping him," he said. "And we are driving him a lot quieter too. We don't spend any money out of the gate. I reckon he goes better that way rather than being burned out of the gate. "(His driver) Shane Smith, who I didn't even know before this, has done a great job. "I had to find a driver, and Andrew Stenhouse knew Shane when he was in Broken Hill, and convinced me that he went alright. I'd never really taken much notice. "So I put him on and now he won't get off. He said to me he's never driven a horse like this. "He has won a quarter of million (dollars) but had been battling a bit the last few months. "I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg." A veteran of 179 race starts, Bernie Winkle has boosted his record to 25 wins and 40 placings since his move north. Nine of those wins have been at Tabcorp Park Melton.  Bernie Winkle, driven by Glenn Douglas, wins at Tabcorp Park Melton in September last year. Picture: STUART McCORMICK   The gelding had raced 13 times at Mildura before his past three starts, for three wins and two placings. A pair of runs in the Central region before his departure to Mildura, produced a seventh behind Hashtag and a fourth behind his stablemate Vandanta. I'm not sure anyone expected him to come out like he did the first run and win at 20-1, but he has just grown a leg. Geoff Lucas Douglas, whose training treble at Lord's Raceway on Monday included a win with Diesel Don, another horse to have recently swapped stables, said he was absolutely thrilled with Lucas' run of success with Bernie Winkle. "Bernie was having to race horses down here that were perhaps a touch better than him, " he said. "There's no better horse that I love than Bernie Winkle, he's a great horse to have around the stable. "I'm great mates with Geoff Lucas, he's been a close and dear friend of mine for a while now. "(Owner) Eric Anderson and I spoke to him and posed the question whether he would look after Bernie and he accepted. "I don't think there's anybody more excited than Geoff, and myself for Geoff - he loves winning races. "I'm sure he's getting as much fun out of it as we are." THIS WEEK IN HARNESS RACING: Douglas going from strength to strength Rigondeaux goes back-to-back Shane Organ drives his first winner Two step plan unveiled for the return to normal racing Flushed breaks through for Mark Boyle By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The BEndigo Advertiser

There are few harness racing people more passionate about their sport than Sunraysia trainer Noel "Lucky" Cameron and his wife Midge. In more than 50 years in the sport, only once has the couple from Gol Gol, near Mildura, missed being on track to race their horses. So, you can imagine the tension was high when COVID-19 restrictions meant they had to watch their nine-year-old mare, Bella Cullen (P Forty Seven-Victoria Bound (Christian Cullen) make history at Mildura recently. To watch the video replay click here The durable veteran pacer cracked the $100,000 mark in stakes - but what made the milestone unique is that she's the only pacer ever to have achieved it without venturing outside Victoria's Northern Region. In her 167 starts, Bella Cullen has raced only at Mildura, Ouyen and Swan Hill, winning 13 races and stacking up more than 50 placings. "It wasn't that she was a bad traveller or anything. We just never got around to taking her to race anywhere else," Cameron said. "We just love the horses and love racing and Bella's been a bit special because she's just been so honest and with us so long," he said. "All our horses we just raced ourselves and the only other time we've missed being on track was one night a few years back when I was taken off to hospital! "So I have to say it was absolutely terrible watching at home! We were so thrilled she won but watching on the TV, once it was over, it was all over red rover - we just sat there like stunned mullets!" When Victoria introduced Regional Racing as part of coronavirus management measures, the Camerons were locked out and no longer able to race, because their stable is on their fruit growing property on the NSW side of Sunraysia (less than four kilometres, as the crow flies, from the Mildura track). But with Bella Cullen only $1100 short of $100,000 career earnings her regular driver Dwayne Locke, and his partner Andrew Stenhouse couldn't stand to see "Bella" potentially retire without a chance to reach the milestone. "She's been racing well, her last four or five starts had been good runs without winning, so we were just so happy that Andrew and Dwayne took her on to give her a chance to get to that milestone," Cameron said. "It's not usually her thing, but she was able to lead from barrier two and Dwayne was able to get away with I think the slowest ever lead time at Mildura for the 1720 trip - so she actually broke two records!" he laughed. Cameron said Bella Cullen arrived at their stable as a foal at foot when Midge purchased her dam, Victoria Bound. "She would get around the paddock okay, but she was just a scruffy little club-footed thing when she was weaned and as a yearling. You would never have dreamed she would be anything at all, but she did grow into quite a nice-looking mare in the end," he said. "She was a bit of a hard case to break in. She'd kick pretty viciously and at the races she'd double-barrel the back of the stables and hated being put in the cart. "But after four or five starts she seemed to settle down, and from then on, she has just been a lovely horse to have and to race." Lucky and Midge have been involved in harness racing together for 52 years. Lucky's dad was a gallops jockey, but when Lucky was a teenager, he became more interested in harness racing, working with former Sunraysia trainer, the late Vic Berryman. "But it was Midge who really pushed me over the line into the sport, I suppose. Her dad had pacers, and before we were even married, without telling me, she leased a horse for us," he said. "I think we gave him three starts and he ran last in every one, but we were hooked and it became the thing we loved to do. So since then, we've always had one or two in work, and these days we breed a few as well." Cameron said Bella Cullen was not the most capable horse the couple had raced - naming Kidlin and Grand Hand as their best ability wise, but who had their racing careers cut short by injury. "But Bella's definitely been the most successful and she's the most docile lovely horse you could ever want, so she's probably our favorite," he said. "We've got her booked into Sweet Lou this season, but Dwayne looks after her in her races, and we'll just keep watching from the couch for a bit longer yet, because she's probably, in all honesty, racing as well as she ever has!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Energetic Mildura equine dentist and harness racing trainer Kate Attard is facing months of rehabilitation after a seemingly-innocuous post-race scramble at her home track at Thursday night’s meeting. The skilled horsewoman trains a team of around 10 horses with her father Pat and her teenage daughter Charli at Cardross, near Mildura, and jumps in the race-sulky only rarely these days. But under the COVID-19 regional racing protocols, which prevents drivers from elsewhere in the State travelling to Mildura meetings, Kate elected to get back in the spider. Her horse in the second race, Heza Western, went across the line sixth, but a number of runners spread across the track tightened after the line, and Kate tumbled from the cart. “I was excited to be back driving last night and was just getting back in the swing of it in race two!” Kate laughed. “All I remember is going across the line, then another horse coming at me sideways – I pulled back and across to avoid it and thought I did. But its legs hit my cart and just flipped it fast,” she said. “I hit the ground so hard and then log rolled over and over again. I was awake the whole time. It was hurting, but I didn’t think it was that bad.” Kate suffered three fractures and multiple hairline fractures to her pelvis and injuries to her spine in the incident, which happened in front of the float parking area, and help was on the scene immediately. “(Trainer) Luke Watson was right where I fell – he was the first one there telling me to stay still and that I would be OK, then Charli and Dad and all the track guys and another trainer Andrew Stenhouse were all there,” Kate said. “I thought I was OK, and tried to get up – I even took a few steps!  I really didn’t want to go to the hospital! When they did take me in the ambulance, I really thought it would just be bruising and I didn’t even take my phone with me!” Kate was flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne later in the night, where the surgeons from the trauma team are still deciding on her treatment plan, including surgery probably later today. “It’s probably going to be five months before I will be back on my feet again, and it’s hard to think that my hospital stay will be mostly without too many visitors, because of the COVID-19 restrictions,” Kate said. “I’m lucky to have an amazing family and my partner Matt to support me and help me, because I’ll be needing it for a while!” she said. “I also have some lovely owners and they are letting us keep the horses going, which hopefully Dad and Charli will be able to do.” Kate Attard and her daughter Charli Heza Western suffered only a minor cut to the leg in the scrimmage. Kate is known across a wide area of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria for her passionate practice in equine bodywork and dentistry, as well as through her training.  “I’ve had so many messages of support and care – everyone has been amazing, including the HRV Stewards Wayne Smith and Nick Murray, HRV and Michelle McGinty from Mildura Harness Racing Club,” she said. “I’ll be OK, I always pull through and will be back doing the horses and the work I love as soon as I can,” she said. Which, knowing Kate, will be sooner, rather than later! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises this week’s Mildura Cup has been postponed. The decision was made to discourage participant travel throughout Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic.   The Mildura meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday night has now been cancelled. Thursday’s Bendigo meeting has been moved to Tuesday night. Trainers are reminded that those nominated at Bendigo not wishing to accept have the option to scratch by 8.30am tomorrow morning. Wednesday’s meetings at Stawell and Shepparton will go ahead as scheduled. HRV will tomorrow morning provide a more detailed view of how the racing calendar will look from Thursday onward. HRV's Trots Media

There's no questioning the work ethic of Great Western harness racing couple Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell. The husband and wife team made the four-and half-hour trek to Mildura, in Victoria's far north west on Friday night, picking up three stable winners (and Manning four as a driver), including the coveted Italian Cup with the consistent Stroke of Luck (Major in Art-Bonton Lady (Armbro Operative). Less than 24 hours later they put an awesome win on the board at the other end of the State at "headquarters", Tabcorp Park Melton, with their rising star Pat Stanley (Western Ideal-Jaz Tanner (Artiscape), who, at just his fifth run for the stable, took out the Markovina Free For All. Then on Monday, Manning was her usual chipper self, picking up two winners just down the road at Horsham and taking her place in the Horsham Norm Smith Memorial Invitation Driver's Championship - won by Kate Gath. Close to 1500 kilometres for the weekend, but Manning and Campbell are expert at placing their select 11-horse team to advantage and rarely miss when they make the long trip to Mildura. "You've really just got to be able to place your horses and that's what we try to do," Manning said. "Sometimes that means a trip to Mildura or Shepparton, but if the race suits then you've got to be prepared to do it," she said. "It was really Stroke of Luck we were taking up this time, for the Italian Cup, because it was a race we thought was conditioned to suit him and he's been finding it a bit hard to win. But it was nice to pick up the other two wins as well." Stroke of Luck is raced by the stable's loyal clients, Merv and Meg Butterworth and just held on to take the feature, ahead of local star Murranji Track, who's returning to his best ahead of the home town Mildura Pacing Cup carnival, starting March 31. "Stroke of Luck's been racing well against strong opposition and we just thought the Italian Cup suited," Manning said. "But that said, it's definitely not as easy to win at Mildura as it used to be, either." Someone forgot to tell that to the super impressive Major Assassin (Art Major-Princess Cassi (Armbro Operative), though. The pacer, trained by Campbell, scored with ease for Manning by 34 metres in the Varapodio Estate Italian Pace, in a tidy 1:58.1. "It just shows you what he can do when things work out for him," Manning laughed. "He is quite smart, but he tends to get a bit fired up. He'd definitely be much more popular at home if he was a little bit easier to get on with!" The stable's other winner at Mildura was promising filly, Bettor Romance (Bettors Delight-Chemical Romance (Northern Luck), by virtue of a successful protest in the Three-Year-Old Pace against Sassys a Terror, trained by Jess Tubbs and driven by Alex Ashwood. Manning also scored for Mildura trainer Scott Garraway with Bettor B Nice (Bettors Delight-Alohomora (Badlands Hanover). The Manning and Campbell team will continue clocking up the miles in coming weeks, with Boort Cup winner Pay Rise and Stroke of Luck likely to be aimed at coming Pacing Cup features at Charlton and Ouyen, while Stroke of Luck and possibly even Pat Stanley are under consideration for the Mildura carnival. "I don't think two runs in the five days at Mildura would really be a problem for either of them," Manning said. "All of our horses do heat work every three days, and those two handle it very well, so I think they'd be suited to the carnival format. We'll just see how things pan out in the next few weeks."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Brilliant Victorian reinsman Greg "Candyman" Sugars brushed aside sweltering hot conditions for the long trip to the most recent Mildura harness racing meeting and stamped his authority at the far north west Victorian circuit. Sugars, based at Larajay Farm, Myrniong, with his wife Jess Tubbs, made the gruelling six hour trip with a team of five pacers. It was a near perfect result trainer Tubbs going home with four wins - Sugars handling three and rising star Michelle Phillips, now based at Romsey, getting the gig on the other one. Sugars also landed the money on two catch drives -- Soho Crucio (Matt Maguire) and Tale Of The Dragon (Laurie Callick) giving him a "fab five" - and actually weighed in on each of the eight charges he handled throughout the fixture.   Click on this link for a video replay of Soho Crucio   Click on this link for a video replay of Tale Of The Dragon It was only the fourth time in an awesome career that Sugars has achieved five winners. He did it at Maryborough on January 23, 2013, then repeated the dose three months later at a Melton metropolitan meeting. His other bag of five winners was at Shepparton on July 23 late last season. Sugars comes from a strong harness racing family--his father Ross was a household name in South Australian harness racing circles for many years before shifting to Victoria, while Grandfather Len was a legend in the early days on the Adelaide city circuit at Wayville. Ross Sugars landed five winners on two occasions--the first at Gawler on August 12, 1980, and then the following year on June 27 at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park.   The Mildura victories for the Sugars/Tubbs team were Hector Macray (Shadow Play-Schonbrunn (Albert Albert); The Hervey Bay (Somebeachsomewhere-Bold Opera (Armbro Operative); and Joe Nien (Shadow Play-Riverside Oakes (Art Major). Michelle Phillips landed Lenard Ess (Village Jolt-Kano Phoebe (Troublemaker) for Tubbs.   Click on this link for a video replay of Hector Macray   Click on this link for a video replay of The Hervey Bay   Click on this link for a video replay of Joe Nien   Click on this link for a video replay of Lenard Ess   Five-year-old gelding Lenard Ess continues a fairytale return to racing for the stable. "Len" sliced his tendon running around a paddock in what could have been a career-ending injury. However, thanks to the Ballarat Equine Clinic and stable staff, who were "guided through an often- tedious rehab process", the horse is back and winning. The Mildura success was his third since returning. He ran fifth at Ballarat on October 4--390 days after suffering the tendon injury--and has continued to show improvement, winning at his next start at Echuca and then later at Stawell. But the Tubbs stable makes no secret that if "Len" shows any signs of lameness, that will be it. Sugars, who booted home 262 winners and 398 placegetters for $2.3 million last season, continues to be up there with the best again, while Tubbs, with 70 last season, is already close to half that tally with just four months into the current calendar.   Hoofnote: Bolinda-based champion Chris Alford put his foot on the accelerator at the Cranbourne meeting on Sunday afternoon. Alford had five wins and two placings at the seven-event fixture. His winners were Lady Majestic, Amazing Daisy, Madena Bay, Misschanel and Heavens Showgirl. Terry Gange

All 10 winners at Mildura last night were either trained, driven or trained and driven by women. It has many times been documented that women are at the very least on a level playing field in harness racing and just about gone completely are the days of references to female drivers as “lady drivers”. As one of the industry’s leading drivers Kate Gath said in the Herald Sun last year: “I’m just a driver, I’m not a lady driver, I’m just like anyone else in the industry and that’s how it’s always been for me in my 18 years involved.” At Mildura Jill Neilson, Jackie Barker, Claire Goble and Kate Attard all either trained or drove one winner, Danielle Hill, Michelle Phillips (pictured) and Kate Hargreaves all had two winners and Sandra O’Connor trained three winners. Meanwhile, Kylie Bevington trained a runner-up and Denbeigh Wade and Ellen Tormey both drove horses into second place on the 10-race card. Currently in Victoria Emma Stewart is on top of the Renown Silverware State Trainers Premiership with Jess Tubbs fourth, Kate Gath leads the Schweppes Metropolitan Drivers Premiership, with Kima Frenning third, and Stewart is second on the Taylors Metropolitan Trainers Premiership with Margaret Lee in fifth.  In the Alabar Concession Drivers Premiership five of the top 10 young drivers are women, with Kima leading overall on 35 wins, Michelle Phillips in sixth, Jackie Barker in seventh, Tayla French in eighth and Abbey Turnbull in 10th.    HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

The biggest sponsorship signing in the Mildura Harness Racing Club’s history has the vibrant club looking positively to the future. The club secured a lucrative one-year deal with the Euston Club and Resort, a bowling and recreation club midway between Mildura and Swan Hill, with the agreement sweetened by the option to extend to three years. Harness racing is thriving in Mildura with up to 110 horses engaged at recent meetings and some of the State’s most competitive racing. The club is renowned for its annual three-year carnival and Chief Executive Officer Michelle McGinty-Wilson said the new sponsorship arrangement underlines the strong growth occurring at the north-west Victorian club. “The Euston Club will have naming rights to the first race of every Mildura Harness meeting, including over the Cup Carnival, beginning with Race 1 the Euston Club Pace at tonight’s Sunraysia Cup meeting,” Ms McGinty-Wilson said. “The Euston Club and Resort will also have the naming rights to the 2019 Sunraysia Cup tonight,” she said. “It’s a great vote of confidence that we’re able to get big new sponsors on board because they’re noticing how healthy the sport of harness racing is in our region, and they want to get involved.” The Euston Club’s Chief Executive Officer Ray Jones said it was a good business decision for the club to team up with harness racing in Mildura. “We’re a strongly growing business and it is imperative for us to be steering our sponsorship dollars into areas where exposure will be growing,” he said. “As a result, it was an easy decision for us to partner with Mildura Harness Racing Club and we’re pleased to be part of the future growth of the sport in the region.” Ms McGinty-Wilson said the club was also working on additional sponsorship partnerships, as it worked to leverage the sport’s vitality in Mildura. “We’re in a unique situation where we have one of the strongest local horse populations in regional Victoria, but we’re also attracting large numbers of horses from South Australia and southern Victoria to race here,” Ms McGinty-Wilson said. “The industry is strong, and the racing is exciting, and that gives us a great opportunity to reach out to our local community and get more engagement from sponsors,” she said. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to bring people back to the track so they can enjoy the unique racing experience we offer at every meeting here at Mildura.”   HRV Trots Media

Journeyman harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga isn't afraid to head five or six hours down the highway if he thinks he has a winner. Vallelonga, based at Bolinda, 60 kilometres north of Melbourne, has been a frequent-and successful-competitor in the far north west of the State, particularly over the past month. "I grew up in the Mildura area and have some great memories from there - besides, my parents Joe and Anne still live up there so it's nice to catch up with them," he said. Vallelonga and his foreman and reinsman Ross Payne have been in sensational form landing seven winners and a few placegetters at the last four Mildura meetings. The most recent fixture last Friday was by far their best with three wins apiece. Vallelonga was successful with Melinka (Shadow Play-Luva Rum Ball (Presidential Ball); Fire Safe (Courage Under Fire-Talk Safely (Safely Kept) and Staley (Bettors Delight-Left In Paris (Life Sign). Payne partnered the first two for his boss but opted for race favorite Gobsmacked in the 3yo event. He's sure to cop some ribbing this week as while Gobsmacked was not on his best behavior and broke in the score-up, Staley was always well positioned by catch driver Boris Devcic and "got the chocolates" in fine style for Vallelonga at 20/1. But Payne picked up an outside drive earlier and was victorious with Coolncalm (Changeover-Mini Bonus (Armbro Operative) in the Park Douglas Printing Pace for Ouyen trainer Malcolm Retallick. Much of the Vallelonga stable success at Mildura has been due to the efforts of Melinka and Fire Safe with six wins and two minor placings between them. "I just can't heap enough praise on Fire Safe who has been a life saver for us. She has kept the ship afloat since I had my accident when I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip," Vallelonga said. "My partner Elizabeth Ferrinda and I paid $12,000 for the horse at the Sydney sales, which has proved to be a bargain buy. But Fire Safe does owe me as she was the one that knocked me over causing my injuries on July 17 last year! "Without the support of Elizabeth, Ross and a few others, I doubt that the stable would be operating." Vallelonga grew up with two sisters and a brother at his parents' vineyard on the outskirts of Mildura. When he was a teenager, every school holidays would be spent mainly at Rochester, where his two uncles, astute trainers Neil and Frank Cavallaro were then based. "I learnt so much during those early days and I still remember the first horse they put me on to jog. It was named Egyptian Byrd," he said. "I got a trainer's licence when I was 16 or 17 and a neighbor of my parents' property let me put a track on his land. It just went from there." Apart from a brief stint in his early 20s when Vince ran a pizza shop with his brother Mario, he's always been involved with the horses. "When I was cooking pizzas, the late Vin Knight had one of my horses in Don't Bug Me. He told me to take the next day off and get to Maryborough trots. The horse won and I didn't get home for two days! There were some good times back then. "But looking back it has been fun. I had time at Mildura and Euston with Eric Anderson, then I was out on my own at Hattah and Yaapeet, the latter pottering around with just a few horses while I was growing pigs. I later spent 18 months with Peter Tonkin at Ballarat and over three years with Lance Justice, so I have some outstanding mentors." Vallelonga enjoyed success with a good bunch of owners at Sam Godino's property at Riddells Creek, before taking his biggest step up six year ago. He joined forces with Archie Anastasiou and the pair transformed a 130-acre sheep property at Bolinda into a picturesque training complex featuring an 1100m sand track and a 1200m track for fast work. "There's 18 in work at present, but we can always find room for more." Vallelonga said he was fortunate to have the expertise of ex-Kiwi horseman Ross Payne. "He's a true professional and he's got a wealth of experience having worked for the Purdon stables in New Zealand," he said. "I saw Ross's work ethic first-hand because he was at our place when he was the Purdons' travelling foreman at one stage. "He stayed for a month and drove a few winners for me too, so when I heard he was keen to call Australia home, I wanted to have him here. "But it wasn't that easy - I reckon he ignored my calls for more than six months! But I finally got him on board and we're lucky to have a tremendous working relationship."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Young Armstrong harness racing trainer Leroy O’Brien is the first to admit that a small amount of luck has gone a long way. But whether it’s been good fortune, hard work or perhaps an eye for detail, 27 year old O’Brien and his father and co-trainer Danny have been certainly reaping the rewards. Their latest success was courtesy of super-impressive Im Sir Blake (Alta Christiano NZ-Jupiters Darling (Dream Away) in the $25,000 Mitavite Northern Region Championship at Mildura last Thursday. The pacer, driven by Kerryn Manning (her second success in the feature event) was awesome in winning by 20 metres in 1.58-3. Click here for the race replay of the Northern Region Championship  “It’s a five-hour road trip to Mildura, but we’re not complaining because we’ve gone up there three times and come home with three winners,” O’Brien said. Im Sir Blake was a touch unlucky not to go through the Championship series undefeated. He was awesome in winning his first heat at Swan Hill late last month, and then galloped across the line at the next round of heats at Ouyen, only to be relegated from first to second. O’Brien paid the bargain price of $4000 for Im Sir Blake as a yearling at a Shepparton All-aged mixed sale – the same sale where two years earlier he snapped up a then-unraced Imprincessgemma for a rock-bottom “$900 plus GST”. “The filly caught my eye just in the way she carried herself and Im Sir Blake looked like a well-gaited type,” Leroy said. “We are very lucky to have some horses with so much ability.” Imprincessgemma (Village Jolt-Melody Strike (In The Pocket), raced by Leroy and his mum Sharryn, has won 11 from 25 starts for $107,000. Im Sir Blake, owned by Leroy and his dad Danny, has won seven for $58,000. Their other stable racehorse is Michelle Wonson-owned 2yo trotter Molly’s Purse, a recent winner of the $30,000 Group Two NSW trot final at Menangle. “I have to be honest and say we’ve had some nice offers to buy Im Sir Blake, but it’s sort of a lifetime thing with him,” O’Brien said. “My dad deserves the horse and does most of the work with him. Im Sir Blake waits at the gate for him – they’re really the best of mates,” he said. “I’d probably rate the horse as the best I’ve ever had although a trotter we had, Suave Jay, equalled the Mildura track record a couple of years ago and he went okay. “But Im Sir Blake is super quick and can do a bit of work. He’s a lovely little fella and I think we’ll now aim him at the upcoming Sires.” O’Brien said the horse was named after his sister Kirsty’s oldest child, Blake, while her daughter Gemma comes into play in Imprincessgemma. The father and son training partnership has been “on fire” this season with 15 wins and nine placings from 29 starts, for $106,000 in stakes. It’s a real family affair as Danny, a mental health nurse, and Leroy, a plumber, do as much as possible at the stables before heading off to work. Mum Sharryn, a disability support worker, is, according to Leroy, the backbone. “Mum feeds up and helps out wherever she can, and my fiancée Kristy also does a great job. You just need that massive support to keep ticking along,” he said. Leroy and Kristy recently became engaged and nine weeks ago welcomed son Tommy into their lives. “You could say that it’s all happening,” Leroy said laughing. “I suppose we’ve fallen on our feet with a lot of good luck, but you still have to put in the work for the success to keep coming,” he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Passionate St Kilda AFL football club fan Noel Watson, of Swan Hill, is hoping his four-year-old harness racing pacer Artistic Saint will kick a winning goal in the $25,000 Northern Region Championship final at Mildura on Thursday. And Artistic Saint (Art Official-Anna Rachelle NZ (In The Pocket USA) is sure to be prominent following impressive qualifying heat wins recently at Swan Hill and Ouyen. "I have never had a horse good enough to be in this feature event over the years so it's quite a thrill," Watson said. "Artistic Saint was a replacement horse from Alabar Farms. When one of my foals died they offered to help us out which was nice," he said. "I got a list to choose from and I can't remember what I paid, but it wasn't much. I opted for him because the dam had left some speedy types, rather than strength. "But the funny part is that Artistic Saint races totally different to that as he showed at Ouyen on Sunday. It was a grinding, never-say-die victory so it was really pleasing." Watson is well-known in the far north-west region of Victoria. He is a keen harness racing breeder-owner-trainer and joint vice-president of the Swan Hill Trotting Club as well as dabbling in thoroughbred training. In addition, he takes on many media duties, with perhaps his most recognized being a local football broadcaster, a job he's done now for 33 years. And somewhere in between all of that, Watson conducts a successful business in his hometown, Watson Real Estate. As well as those eye-catching colors, resplendent with Saints logo, many of Watson's horses over the years have also carried the 'Saint' prefix with notable performers including Saint Flash (27 wins 43 placings $285,000), Saint Stormy (11 wins 45 placings $88,000) and Saint Babe (9 wins 17 placings $38,000. There's also been Saints Blaze, Bee, Grace, Breeny, Belle, Lisa, Zeus, Win, Tiny, Phoebe and Theory. "I think I've been a mad St Kilda footy fan for as long as I can remember. Even back at Primary School when I was the captain, I was fanatical about the Saints," Watson said. "No-one in my family was football-orientated, but you have got to stick with them. I try and get down to Melbourne to watch them early in the season before my football-calling duties begin at home." Watson said one of his favorite memories footy-wise was being allowed into the St Kilda footy rooms on match day. "My daughter Alexandra was at Uni studying myotherapy and doing some work for the club, so I was able to get in and that was exciting. She later did nursing and has gone on to be a doctor," he said. Artistic Saint has now had just three starts back from a long spell, and the let-up appears to be paying dividends thanks to the patience of trainer Glenn Douglas, of Bendigo. "The horse developed a nasty habit of galloping, sometimes sadly when he was in a position to win! He got stood down by stewards for his behavior in November and I suggested to Glenn that we give him a short spell," he said. "Glenn was admanant that we should give him a bit of extra time off and he's come back flying with a third and two wins. There's no doubt we will need an ounce of luck in the final coming from the back row, but you've got to be in it to win it!" Watson will also be cheering for Torrid Saint (Shadow Play-Torridon (Safely Kept) who has drawn the five alley in the Ray and Grace Hepworth Memorial 3YO Pace Final. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Several in-form stables are targeting one of country Victoria's richest harness racing series for lowly-assessed pacers. The 2019 Mitavite Northern Region Championship, hosted by far north-west sister clubs Swan Hill, Ouyen and Mildura, gets underway tonight (Wednesday May 22) for C1 to C2 horses. The first round of qualifying heats at Swan Hill boasts representatives from the Shepparton-based stables of Laura Crossland-David Moran and Amanda Turnbull, as well as Glenn Douglas and Chris Svanosio of Bendigo; Leroy and Danny O'Brien of Armstrong; and Melton-based Rob O'Connell. Link: Swan Hill Fields The spotlight then moves to Ouyen on June 2 with a second round of heats, going into a $25,000 final at Mildura on June 6. Douglas, who has won the championship several times in the past, said he always hopes to have an ideal runner up and going for the series each year. "You really don't get these sorts of races for this class of horse - they just don't come along very often," he said. "There's terrific stakemoney up for offer right through the three meetings and the big bonus is the final is worth $25,000 but the winner takes only a country penalty," he said. "The first three heats have attracted some nice horses, who are sure to go onto bigger things. The Swan Hill track is big and spacious so I think there could be some quick times recorded there." Douglas always enjoys heading north from his central Victorian base because he spent four years in the Northern Region in the late 1990s. His career was kick-started training horses for Eric and Heather Anderson, the parents of his wife Julie, who were at the time based in the Robinvale-Euston district. "We had some good times up there before we all up and moved to our present training complex at Bendigo. It just made sense to come down here because there's less travel and we're much closer to many more tracks," he said. Douglas has former Kiwi pacer Dublin Street in the first heat. He said while the mare was honest, she was going to have to produce her very best as The Brooklyn Brawler (David Moran) and Think About Me (Brad Chisholm) were full of class. "This will be a measuring stick for our horse, that's for sure," Douglas said. His next runner is Artistic Saint in the second qualifying heat, owned by enthusiastic Swan Hill horseman and club vice-President Noel Watson. "I'd love to get the money for Noel because he'd be over the moon with a hometown victory. I'll be wearing Noel's race colors, the colors of his beloved St Kilda Football Club, so that would be another reason for him to get excited," Douglas said. "I've actually got a bit of an opinion about this horse. His first start back after five or six months off when he finished third was enormous. "It was a super run because they went quick. He had a few things go wrong in his previous preparation, but they appear to be behind him now, thankfully." The third heat should see smart youngster Im Sir Blake continue on his winning way. World champion reinswoman Kerryn Manning has big wraps on the O'Brien-trained horse, who was sensational in winning during the recent Mildura Pacing Cup carnival. "He's just below the very best going around in Victoria - he's a lovely little fella and I thoroughly enjoy driving him," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Bendigo harness racing horseman Gary Donaldson will never forget a dramatic incident 12 months ago when one of his horses bolted onto a busy highway and was hit by a car. “It might be a year ago, but I can recall every bit of it like it was yesterday, and when I look back on it, I still don’t know how she survived,” Donaldson said. Not only did five-year-old mare Live Like A Royal (Stonebridge Regal USA-Live Your Life (Life Sign USA) survive and get back to racing, but she’s incredibly won four of her past 14 starts. “She is a great little horse who gets out onto the track and tries her heart out. Remarkably she hasn’t put in a bad run since that horrible accident,” Donaldson said. On that fateful day of April 26 last year, Donaldson had been galloping Live Like A Royal at Bendigo’s Lord’s Raceway. “A sulky shaft snapped, and I got tipped out of the cart. The mare took off in fright and headed back to the stables on the McIvor Highway,” Donaldson said. “It was about 8.45am which is peak-hour traffic and she went straight across the highway where a guy hit her travelling at about 70 kilometres an hour. “When I got there, the poor guy driving the car was more concerned about the horse than his vehicle. She flipped up in the air when he hit her and landed on the bonnet. “I can honestly say I expected the worst when I saw the damaged car and the horse lying in the gutter with some of her stomach hanging out. A lot of people had gathered about to try and help, which was nice.” Donaldson said he was surprised when Live Like A Royal “jumped up to her feet after giving her head stall a bit of a tug”. “I was sure she’d have a broken leg or something, but she seemed sound and walked off. She was bleeding heavily, but wasn’t distressed at all,” he said. After a short walk back to his Junortoun stables, Donaldson put the horse in a float and drove to the Bendigo Equine Hospital at nearby White Hills.  The mare was given pain killers immediately and went into surgery within 45 minutes. “The vet said it was critical to carry out the operation as quickly as possible because the longer it’s left, the skin becomes less supple,” he said. “I think they ended up putting in 80 stitches and staples later. They were just awesome at the Equine Hospital. “We then had her home in a stable for six weeks to treat her and keep an eye on her wounds then we let her out to graze in one of our paddocks, before putting her out on agistment.” Donaldson said all the owners checked often on the horse and were elated that she was saved. “They were hoping she still might be a breeding proposition, but all that changed when the lady from the agistment farm rang and told us she was running around in a full gallop with not a worry in the world,” he said. “I told the owners I’d give the horse another chance at the races, but if I wasn’t happy, then that was it and she’d be retired. But Donaldson always had one issue in the back of his mind – would the sight of cars prove the mare’s nemesis? “For a few weeks we tried her out by jogging her around the stables with cars parked everywhere. We even drove them near her and past her to test her out and they just didn’t seem to worry her at all, which was incredible, really,” he said. “From then on we really didn’t take any short cuts and just trained her like one of the others. It amazed me that she just went on like she had previously. There was no lameness, she steered well and was eating up.” On her racetrack return, Live Like A Royal took just four starts to get the winning feeling back – at the Bendigo track where the unfortunate sequence of events unfolded five months prior. She’s since scored another win at Bendigo, and was an impressive Mildura winner on Friday, making it two-on-the-trot in the northern region having scored eight days earlier at Swan Hill. After mustering speed from the pole and holding the lead at Mildura, punters who took the short odds would have been very happy with themselves. Live Like A Royal, sent out a $1.70 favorite, posted splits of 31, 32, 30 and 29.4 to cruise to an easy 7m win in the C1 class event. To watch a video replay of this race click on this link For Donaldson, a trip to Mildura is always somewhat of a “home coming” after doing a 12-month stint working at a bank in the city back in the late 1970s. “I began in Charlton and then got transferred to Mildura. I remember helping the late Fred Peterson with his team of horses when I was in Sunraysia and he had a few that went okay,” he said. Since leaving the bank, Donaldson has operated businesses in Central Victoria in addition to training a team of horses. He currently has nine in work – although that’s likely to be reduced in future, with the pending sale of his property. Donaldson said the Live Like A Royal story was one of the most emotional, but also the most satisfying, in his time in the sport. “It was a long road in nursing her back to good health, but she has certainly repaid us now,” he said. “Since the day of the accident, I have had people coming up to me all the time, in the shopping centre or anywhere, to ask how ‘the horse that got hit by the car’ is going? “It got plenty of media coverage at the time and Live Like A Royal now has her own band of supporters which is great.” Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After two-and-a-half years at the helm of Mildura Harness Racing Club, popular chief executive Tim Scala has handed over the reins. When Scala arrived from Perth, he brought a host of new ideas with him and this vision has further cemented the far north west Victorian club as one of the best around. Scala has put his stamp on one of Victoria’s most progressive clubs, and the wider industry during his time.  But there’s every reason to expect the club will continue on its innovative pathway, with his former understudy Michelle McGinty-Wilson stepping up to the CEO’s post. McGinty-Wilson, an experienced administrator and passionate harness racing participant, describes the role, without hesitation, as her “dream job”. “I am just so excited – it feels like the perfect fit because I’ve been on the other side of the fence, as an owner, a trainer, a stablehand, and it’s a lot different to being in here in the administrative side,” she said. “I’m in the lucky position of having a life-time involvement in the sport, but also having spent 22 years in the insurance industry, which has given me the administrative skills I need for this role.” McGinty-Wilson’s family has strong connection to the Sunraysia area.  Her father Tom McGinty was a trainer in Mildura in the 1960s, before moving across the State to Shepparton, then the Yarra Valley to pursue cattle farming. Tom’s brothers Brian, Gary and Bob McGinty followed him into the sport, and Brian’s son Jason, who Michelle describes as “like a brother”, is a well-known Mildura trainer. “I always loved the horses and I worked part-time as a vet nurse while I was still at school,” McGinty Wilson said. “Even when Dad wasn’t training horses, we would still go to Moonee Valley most weekends to watch the horses. Then 15 or 16 years ago Uncle Brian and I bought a handful of New Zealand horses and raced them together,” she said. “I had wanted to be a vet nurse, but there weren’t too many job opportunities, and I found myself in insurance, first in reception, then working my way up,” she said. From then on it was insurance for 22 years in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, with Michelle eventually reaching the position of Senior Account Executive and Risk Manager.  “But mum and dad moved back up to Mildura three years ago, and the time was right for Ian and I and our children and we followed,” she said. Her “apprenticeship” as the club’s promotions and marketing manager has seen her working alongside Scala for the past two years, and Scala says that will have provided his successor with a clear insight into the demands of the job. “I thoroughly enjoyed the job – and it is a big job - but Michelle has all the skills she needs and great insight into the big picture,” Scala said. “For me, it’s been a fantastic experience, and we’ve achieved a lot, but I had the backing of a very good committee,” Scala said. “Without that support and of course the valued assistance from a willing band of volunteers, we wouldn’t have been able to do anywhere near what we have done. “The club is in a great position where people want to join and importantly, want to be involved. And that all means a healthy environment for a club and a sport to prosper.” Scala, himself, had returned to his home-region to take up the role at Mildura.  His wife, Isabel, grew up in Murrayville and met Tim, a Swan Hill lad who was working in the local bank and playing football for Murrayville (including in two Murrayville Premiership sides). A promotion in Isabel’s work resulted in the couple again relocating, this time to Melbourne, immediately after completion of the recent annual three-night Mildura Pacing Cup. The continued success of the carnival is understandably a highlight for Scala, but it’s the innovations the club has introduced in the past two years that give him most satisfaction. “The double-seated sulky racing was one of our committee’s ideas.  It had been around as a concept, but involving members of the public under actual race conditions, has been just so successful and a great experience and talking point for people,” he said. “It gives people a first-hand chance to feel what it’s like to sit behind a pacer – it’s a ‘tick off the bucket list’.  They go behind the mobile, there are three other horses in the race and they get a video to remember. “We were the founder of what is probably a unique novelty event, but now South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are also right into it. We also loan the carts to our sister clubs at Swan Hill and Ouyen to conduct the races. “The driver’s invitational series where they drive and then dress up in a Fashions on the Field contest for an overseas holiday, was a great innovation. The crowd really get into it. “Then there’s the State of Origin night, involving past greats from the AFL, which looks certain to be an annual event, and the Italian night was another success story.” Scala said he believed changing the trials from a weeknight to Sunday mornings had brought racing people together and participants back to the club. “It’s a social get-together and more and more new faces have turned up. They watch the trials and enjoy a cooked breakfast and it’s turned what was a bit of a drag for people into a social event,” he said. Scala, along with club president Alan Lister, took part in a fight Motor Neurone Disease event last October, a charity drive for Neale Daniher, something that was close to Scala’s heart. “I lost my father to that horrible disease. It was also a bit personal because I went to Trinity College with Neale,” Scala said. “The charity drive, which we did in the club mobile barrier vehicle, was an inspirational few days for everyone involved.” The former Mildura trots boss labelled the Ian Watson-trained pacer Flo Jos Gold as his favorite local horse, while SA reinsman Wayne Hill is his most admired driver. “Wayne is always prepared.  You never see him when he’s not studying the form guide or reading over a racebook.” Asked if there was one thing he could change, what would it be? Scala didn’t hesitate and said a perfect world would be Mildura programming its own races with greater input from trainers. While Scala has moved on from his Mildura post, he won’t be lost to harness racing, retaining his executive role at Country Trots Victoria, where he’s treasurer. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Young Bendigo harness racing reinswoman Michelle Phillips landed her maiden double at the Mildura Pacing Cup Carnival last week -but had to wait two nights to celebrate.   Phillips and her partner, talented horseman Shaun McNaulty, got home from Mildura to their stables at Marong at 3am after the second night of the carnival on Thursday, and, not surprisingly, weren’t in the mood to put their party pants on!   “It sounds crazy, but I suggested to Michelle that we could head back to Mildura for the Cup final on the Saturday night and do some celebrating then!” McNaulty said.   “Michelle decided it was a perfect idea so that’s what we did – and it was a huge night, combined with a few drinks, of course, and the karaoke at the track after the last,” he said.   “We have already booked our accommodation and stabling for the three-night carnival next year!”   The stable double was also momentous for McNaulty, as it was the first time he’d brought his own team to race at Mildura.   “I’d been to the trots there years ago with my brother, and I’d always had an ambition to race during the carnival,” he said.   The McNaulty-Phillips combination landed their winning double in consecutive races, with Gobsmacked (Auckland Reactor-Respected (Art Major) and It’s All Business (Sportswriter USA-In The White House NZ (Presidential Ball USA).   They also ran third in the Mildura Trotters Cup with their consistent square gaiter Fratellino (Monarchy USA-Solar Fire NZ (Yankee Reb USA), the winner being Endsin A Party, driven by Phillips’ boss Chris Svanosio for trainer Brad Stevens.   McNaulty said three-year-old gelding Gobsmacked always had ability, but just wasn’t putting it together.   “He may have just turned the corner now because that’s two wins in his past three starts,” he said.   “I thought the drive was brilliant by Michelle - I’m very proud.”   Phillips comes from a family background with horses, with her grandfather, Max, a Clerk of the Course in Gippsland for many years.   She is a graduate of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul and was awarded the inaugural HRV-Community College Gippsland Trots Internship in 2016. The internship gave Phillips 12 months of experience across the industry and in leading stables, which she is now putting into practice.   The runaway win by Its All Business in the 3YO Pace was reward for patience for McNaulty.   “We’ve had our share of problems with him lately, but I have to admit that I’ve got a lot of time for the colt,” he said.   “He showed exceptional ability from day one when he got beaten last season at Bendigo in a 2YO race running a tick over 1.54.   “I would have loved to have contested the Sydney derby with the horse, simply to gain some experience. In hindsight he probably would have been lucky to qualify, but it would have done him the world of good.   “Anyway the timing wasn’t right as he had a bit of a bunged-up knee and I’ve really only just got the swelling down.”   McNaulty has his pair of in-form runners competing at Kilmore on Thursday, while trotter Fratellino will contest the $14,500 Eddie Edison Memorial Trotters Cup at Warragul on Sunday.   “Fratellino is the leader by eight points on the Country Cup Trotters Championship so that’s a big bonus if he could hang and grab that,” McNaulty said.   “We’ll be out there trying our best, that’s for sure!” he said.   But if Fratellino does get the job done, hopefully the pair can find somewhere a little closer to home to celebrate!     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Victoria’s premier female drivers appear to hold the keys to this Saturday night’s $60,000 Mildura Pacing Cup Final after dominating last night’s heats.   The Mildura Pacing Cup is the only event on Victoria’s country cups circuit to be run in a carnival format, with Tuesday night’s heats over 2600 metres, followed by a Saturday night final over the same distance.   Great Western pacer Reciprocity (Panspacificflight-Weka Lass (Badlands Hanover), driven by Kerryn Manning for her father Peter, scored an emphatic win in the first heat, over Perspective and South Australian Bulletproof Boy.   In the second, Shepparton pacer San Carlo (Mach Three-Bridge Player (Classic Garry), for driver Bec Bartley, ground out a narrow death-seat victory over leader Brallos Pass, driven by Ellen Tormey, with the pair 28 metres clear of their nearest rival, Emain Macha.   Barring accident or incident, Saturday night’s final is effectively at the mercy of the three accomplished reinswomen – and it’s shaping as an intriguing battle.   Reciprocity’s victory was comprehensive – and dispelled any doubts astute mentor Peter Manning had about the mare’s ability to handle the 805-metre Mildura circuit.   The five-year-old sat back in the early stages from her barrier eight draw. She was then sent three wide by Kerryn at the bell, then careered around the final turn at Mildura four and five wide, with all the confidence in the world, posting 2:00.4 for the journey.   “That was going to be the test – whether she would handle the track or not. We’ve found she does,so that’s all we needed to know,” Manning said.   With only five days between heats and finals, and with another night of racing on Thursday night, trainers often relocate to the remote Sunraysia region for the week, but Kerryn Manning said   Reciprocity would be home in her paddock by the early hours of Wednesday morning.   “She travelled up really well on her own, and we thought it’d be best to get her home again,” Manning said.   “She did an awesome job for us tonight, everything we wanted, so we’ll just hope for one better on Saturday.” Kerryn Manning and her father Peter with Reciprocity, winner of the first heat Reciprocity is owned by Henry Campbell and came to the Manning stable from the Tamworth region. Since arriving late last year, she’s chalked up seven wins, including an MO and the Group 3 VHRSC Metro Pace Final, in Victoria. But the Group 2 Mildura Pacing Cup would be her biggest win. “I’d trained a couple of horses for a fellow up at Tamworth and he was the one who recommended to Henry that he send the horse down,” Peter Manning said. “We’re pretty glad he did. She has improved in leaps and bounds, particularly in the past couple of months. “She used to hop along a bit and we’ve done some work on her feet and let her hopples out and she’s just thrived on the sandy track at our place. “She’s a very smart horse.” In the second heat, Shepparton pair Brallos Pass (trained by Mark Watson) and San Carlo (trained by Stephen O’Donoghue) always looked the key chances on paper, and that proved to be the case, with only a head margin separating the pair at the post. Brallos Pass was sent forward by Ellen Tormey from his extreme outside (barrier six) draw, and early leader Lucky Lombo (Zac Phillips) was content to hand up. As Tormey crossed to the lead, Bartley, who had come from barrier eight, made a forward move to “death seat” outside Brallos Pass. With a lap to go, San Carlo strode up alongside Brallos Pass, and the two went to war down the back straight. "I wanted to be alongside Ellen as we got around the final corner, because I thought if she pinched a break on me, I might not be able to get it back – but I thought San Carlo would be tough enough if we were on terms,” Bartley said. She was right – but only just. San Carlo raised a final effort on the line to score narrowly from a gallant Brallos Pass.   An elated Bec Bartley after Heat Two of the Mildura Pacing Cup   Bartley and San Carlo are spending the Cup week in Mildura, with Bartley super-keen to go one better this year, after finishing runner up last year to Im the Boss (with Shakahari).   “San Carlo has pulled up really well after the race, and he’s settled in nicely where we are staying,” Bartley said.   “He’ll have a day off tomorrow and then he’ll just have a jog leading up to the final. I’ve got no doubt he’ll handle the two close runs.   “We don’t have too many problems with him these days. He’s such a seasoned horse now. He eats everything you put in front of him and come Saturday I think he’ll be jumping out of his skin.”   The full list of 11 qualifiers includes one local horse, Brocks Territory trained by Luke Watson. Other qualifiers are Assassinator, Lucky Lombo, Bulletproof Boy, Ideal World, Perspective, Brallos Pass, Resurgent Spirit, Emain Macha, Reciprocity and San Carlo.   San Carlo looks likely to draw the extreme outside of the back row for Saturday night’s final, with Reciprocity right next door on his inside. Brallos Pass may face a tricky assignment, with an inside back row barrier draw if all qualifiers accept.     Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

1 to 16 of 24