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Astute young Sydney harness racing trainer Rickie Alchin can't wait to showcase his exciting trotter in New Zealand - but he has the utmost respect for his rivals. Eight-year-old Tough Monarch (Monarch USA-Tough Tussle NZ (Wrestle NZ) will step out today (Tuesday) at Addington in the $100,000 Group One NZ Trotting FFA over the 1980m trip. It will be run at 2.47pm NZ (12.47pm Australian) time. "He is right where I wanted him to be-he's settled in well, but these types of races are hard to win," Alchin said. "We ended up with a nice barrier draw in gate five, with a chance we will move in one closer if the emergency doesn't get a start, so we'll be looking for the top," he said. "But I have a lot of respect for a few of our rivals. McLovin, from the Andy and Kate Gath barn hasn't put a foot wrong and Winterfell (Mark Purdon) was eye-catching at the trials recently. "And there's some others as well including Sundees Son from the Dunn stable. From what I've seen of this horse, potentially he could be anything. If he turns up on the day, we could all have our work cut out." Alchin, who drove Tough Monarch to win at Menangle on October 19 in his most recent victory, said he was elated to have the services of master driver Anthony Butt. "I enjoy driving, but it just made sense to put 'Ants' on. He's an ex-Kiwi and over here he knows a bit more than me about the tracks, the other horses and their drivers," Alchin said. Butt and Tough Monarch combined last week to post an impressive two length trial win, seemingly in cruise mode. The mile rate was a tick over two minutes for 1980m and they ran to the line in 28.8 secs. Alchin, who flew out with Tough Monarch on October 29, is stabled with renowned NZ trainer Cran Dalgety, of Kentuckiana Lodge, West Melton, Canterbury. The 32-year-old admits that he sometimes has to stop and pinch himself in what has so far been a marvellous ride. After learning the basics of harness racing growing up in the strong harness racing town of Temora, in the NSW Riverina, he left for the city to better himself aged just 18. "My pop Russell Harpley was a hobby trainer and was a big influence, along with Nanna Pam. They are so proud and are now my number one fans," he said. "I also worked full-time for Ray Walker, who is an amazing horseman. So I certainly did get a good head start." Alchin said Tough Monarch, who is chasing his first Group One success, had benefitted greatly by competing in his first Inter Dominion in Melbourne late last year. "I guess I could say the same thing about myself - it certainly was a big learning curve," he said. "So hopefully with two Inters under our belts come Sydney next year, we both should be pretty seasoned," Alchin laughed. Shepparton co-trainers Steve O'Donoghue and Bec Bartley will also compete with their nine-year-old 'war horse' San Carlo at the same meeting in the $750,000 G1 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup at 5.12pm NZ (3.12 pm Australian) time. San Carlo, known around the stables as Murray, has drawn the pole. He comes up against some hot opposition in the Purdon-Rasmussen quartet of Spankem, Thefixer, Chase Auckland and Cruz Bromac. Bathurst pacer Our Uncle Sam (trained by Chris Frisby) will join San Carlo in trying to fly the Australian flag for honors.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

IT WAS ‘crunch time’ in more ways than one at Tabcorp Park Menangle yesterday. With heats of the rich Australian Pacing Gold series being conducted, only the winners are guaranteed a berth in the Group One Final. The $350,000 decider is scheduled to be conducted at Albion Park on May 11. To trainer Rickie Alchin’s delight his representative - Crunch Time – was triumphant in his qualifier. “He went well…I’m very happy with him,” Alchin said. “I’ve always had a bit of an opinion of him, but he just hasn’t been performing as he should. “He’s been working like nice horse, but at Bathurst he didn’t race to his work. “I gave him a couple weeks off and changed work a bit and he put the right foot forward yesterday.” Driven by Alchin, Crunch Tim began quickly to lead from barrier four before being eased to take a trail behind the previously unbeaten Star Hunter during the middle stages. Gaining an opening along the pegs at the top of the home straight, the son of Somebeachsomewhere reclaimed the front in the shadows of the post to score by a neck from Star Hunter. Smooth Bath was two-and-a-half metres away third. Causing a major upset at $51 to register his second win from six starts, Crunch Time covered the mile in 1:53.3 with his time almost five seconds quicker than Spy Major in the following qualifier. Trained by John McCarthy and driven by his son Todd, Spy Major also registered a narrow victory over Ilikemebettor and Fifteen Aces.   APG Media

CHRISTIANO Rose has sent out the first signs to Gold Crown candidates with a brave win in the Harness Racing NSW Pace at the Gold Crown Paceway at Bathurst on Wednesday. Bouncing off the arm over 1730m for the two-year-olds, Christiano Rose on the back of strong trials surged to the early lead challenged by Crunch Time and the pair made the running at a solid tempo. Trainer-driver Rickie Alchin soon had his talented Crunch Time pushing quickly to the lead with Chrisitiano Rose in hot pursuit. The sprint to the finish was enough for Christiano Rose to bravely get the lead and go on and win by five metres. Crunch Time stuck on gamely for secodn with Lord Heston finishing off well for third in a mile rate of 1.58.1 and the final quarter in 27.8 seconds. Reinsman Mat Rue said he was pleased with the Alta Christiano – Miss Aqua Blue filly. Zanadu produced a good front running exhibition in the three-year-old  again using good gate speed. Driver Colin McDowel piloting a victory in 28 seconds last quarters. "She’s going well and we’ll be looking at the NSW Oaks," he said. Eccentric hit the line well seven metres from the winner, Whata Reactor filling the minor prize . Rockin Marty rated a strong last quarter for Brad Hewitt in the other three-year-old pace making it back-to-back wins. Meanwhile, Lettucefirestar and Life Lavros couldn’t be split in the Group 10 Rugby League Pace, sparking a dead heat. Farren Hotham

The likes of Tornado Valley, Speeding Spur and Kyvalley Blur may have ruled the TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Championship so far but the trainer-driver of NSW raider Tough Monarch says his horse has the ability to knock them off the throne. Rickie Alchin said he believed the seven-year-old gelding, outright sixth in the rankings on 20 points after the first two rounds of heats, was capable of winning the final on December 15. He said Tough Monarch’s first two ID18 runs – a third and fourth to Tornado Valley – had been “really good”. “Night one was probably the ideal draw (2) but I didn’t push him early just because I was happy to keep him trotting and keep him happy,” he said. “He probably got a little further back than I would have liked to have had him early but I think his run had a whole lot of merit in it, to sit outside Tornado Valley in the quick third quarter and still not get beat by too far.” Alchin said the run was even more impressive given it was Tough Monarch’s first race for almost a month. “He has come into the series reasonably fresh and his run (at Ballarat on Tuesday) night was terrific; he has never been in a race when they have gone a sub-27 (quarter); he did it and was still strong on the line. “I honestly think, on ability, he is as good as any trotter in the series; it is just (that) Tornado Valley has got such good point-to-point tactical speed that can get him into a position early whereas I haven’t actually pushed my fella out of the gate yet. “But when the time comes I will – he has got gate speed.” Tough Monarch is owned by a syndicate of six – Alex and Ryan Kay, Peter Gadsby (all from NSW), Charlie Montebello and Vincent McDonald (both Queenslanders) and the late Michael Van Rens from Western Australia – who have owned several top-tier horses over the decades, most notably Smoken Up and The Falcon Strike. They also raced the Monarchy gelding’s dam, Tough Tussle, who won more than $100,000 and raced at Harold Park, Globe Derby and Moonee Valley between 2005 and 2008. “I was fortunate enough to get (Tough Monarch); he was unbroken and quite a handful and a bloke in NSW called Dennis Wilson recommended me to (the owners to) try and break him in,” Alchin said. “It has taken him a long time to mature and do things right but he has always shown tons and tons of ability and he seems to be putting it all together a bit later in his career. “(His dam) has just had another little filly foal by Love You that the studs tell me is a really good sort of a foal so I am looking forward to getting her in a couple of years.” Today Alchin is looking a couple of days ahead to tomorrow's final round of heats, where Tough Monarch will again be pitted against Tornado Valley – and the second time from the back row. “It is going to be really tough but barrier 9 is not the end of the world; I would probably prefer him to draw there than 7 or 6,” he said. “At least he is in the running line (and over 2500m) he will be running home. As the series goes and the distance grows, he should only be better again.” Shaun Campbell Trots Media

Sydney filly Miss Hooligan stamped herself as a Redcliffe Oaks contender following her impressive Queensland debut yesterday (Tuesday) at Albion Park. Prepared by Menangle based Rickie Alchin, the Bettors Delight filly started in the Lunchbox Lodge Spelling Farm Pace and took control of the 2138m event early and never gave her rivals a chance. Miss Hooligan raced clear coming off the back straight and scored a commanding victory defeating Vintage Dream and Paternity Suit in a time of 1:58.4. The final half was covered in 57.4 seconds. The $20,450 Redcliffe Oaks is scheduled for Friday week (June 8) and that will be the filly’s next start. “That’s the plan, we’ll look at all of the Oaks features coming up throughout the carnival and we’ll start with Redcliffe next week. It was good effort and she felt strong all the way so hopefully there’s a little more improvement still to come.” Alchin said. Miss Hooligan is raced by John Hurley. Currently based at Redcliffe, Alchin is hoping to pick-up this week’s feature, the Gr.1 $100,450 Garrards Redcliffe Yearling Sale Series No.10 Final with Regulus. But the regally bred rookie drew shockingly, the outside of the second line (gate 11) in the 1780m feature. In the heats last week, Regulus scored by the biggest margin (46.5m) and rated the quickest time of the three heats staged (2:00.4). “I was thrilled with him last week in the heat but I knew he would be better, his effort in the Breeders Classic was on me and this series has been the main focus. He raced really well and proved he has the class to win it. “But the draw is not ideal but I think he’s good enough to overcome it. I would have much preferred to have drawn to be in front of Minted Montana though.” Regulus, a gelding by Christian Cullen has won two of his six starts to date for his owner/breeder Alf La Spina. The Donny Smith trained Minted Montana has drawn gate five. Chris Barsby

Popular harness racing horseman Chris Robinson made a surprise return to the sulky at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Tuesday afternoon when he drove the Rickie Alchin trained Decapria to victory in a heat of the Alabar Breeders Challenge. Prior to last Tuesday, Robinson's last drive in a race was on January 11, 2014 when Major Post finished seventh behind Lettucefib. It was 1165 days between race wins for Robinson with Major Post's win at Menangle on March 23, 2013 his last. "I was pumped, it was great to be back driving in a race and it was great for Decapria to win as well," Robinson said. "I have known her owner Jamie (Durnberger-Smith) for years, he actually travelled up with us when White Thunder won the Australian Pacing Gold in 2004 and he rang me on Saturday night to see if I was interested in taking the drive on Decapria." The two year old filly needed a driver with trainer and regular driver Rickie Alchin suspended. "I told Jamie I would have a think about it and get back to him. I went to the gallops the next day at Moruya and had a chat to my brother and sister and asked them what they thought. "My first inclination was to tell Jamie to use one of the regular drivers who compete at Menangle every week but after I had a chat to the family, I thought why not have a drive." While Robinson has kept his training and driving licences in recent years, he has been enjoying life away from fulltime involvement in the sport. "I like to pre-train one or two so I have always kept my licence but in terms of being fulltime in the industry I have 'been there done that'. I work for a plumbing business and I know there will be a wage for me at the end of every week and I have been enjoying more time with the family. "It has also given me time to go to the football or have a holiday without the pressure of knowing the horses are at home and need to be worked." Robinson admitted he still has a passion for the sport and still bought his National Trotguide every week. "I still follow the sport, I like to keep a close eye on what is making news and I get the Trotguide each weekend to catch up with stories from across the country. "Being a fulltime trainer is a grinding job, stables and trainers that can stay at the top for years do a great job. I don't think people realise how hard trainers like Steve Turnbull work. It is a 24 hour, seven day a week job every month of the year." After Tuesday's victory Robinson was buoyed by the number of mates who had contacted him to congratulate him on the win. "Even before the race when people saw I was having a drive I heard from people like Dennis Wilson, Darren Binskin, David Aiken, even Blake Fitzpatrick texted me." Alchin has announced Robinson will retain the drive in the semi finals of the Alabar Breeders Challenge and will also be given the option of driving her in the final should she qualify. "At this stage the plan is for Chris to take the drive in the semi final on Saturday week and if he does qualify Decapria for the final it would be very hard to take him off for the Group 1, so yes at this stage Chris will drive her," Alchin said. "I'll see how she gets through the series but I'm considering having a shot at the Breeders Crown as well but I'll just let her tell me if she is ready for that." Greg Hayes

Parkes trainer Ricky Hunt is hoping Mossdale Bill can send him off a winner at Cowra on Sunday as the talented harness racing horseman is set to move to Sydney. Hunt has previously worked for trainers Shane Tritton and Michael Formosa in the Hunter Valley but will make a leap to life in Sydney as he takes up a role with the Rickie Alchin stable. Hunt has been back in Parkes for the past seven months and while he hasn't had a lot of runners in that time, he has been working up a lot of horses for other trainers in the area. It will be a big change for Hunt as he freely admits he hasn't worked with young horses a lot in the past, something that Alchin excels in. "I am looking forward to the move, it is definitely going to be something different for me because working for Shane and Mick I have worked mostly with horses already at the races," Hunt said. "Rickie breaks in a lot of young horses and I'm looking forward to learning that side of things, he also has some young trotters and I haven't worked a lot with trotters either so it will be a good learning experience." Hunt is hoping Mossdale Bill can give him the best farewell present on Sunday afternoon when the six year old gelding lines up in the feature event, the Jack Honan Memorial. "He has drawn barrier six which is going to make things tough and it means I will have to go back and hope for some luck but I was really happy with his run last start. "He was a very handy three year old but he got very sick and he lost all form for the best part of two years, he is just starting to show something again so if they go hard on Sunday he should be hitting the line well." Mossdale Bill last won a race in September 2014 when he proved too strong in a C0/C1 event when driven by Jack Trainor. "I thought he was going to be a pretty handy horse so it was disappointing when he got so sick and lost all form. "I'm not sure whether I will take him to Sydney with me or not, it will probably depend a lot on how he performs at Cowra because the competition in Sydney is pretty tough." Greg Hayes

Talented trotter Rainbow Jay Jay ran one of the quickest last halves seen at Tabcorp Park Menangle for his gait when winning there earlier today but that might not be enough to secure a Glenferrie Farm Challenge invite.   It is what the Rickie Alchin-trained gelding did at that beginning of the race that may cost him a start in the $200,000 Group One on Inter Dominion Grand Final Day on March 2.   After galloping at the start and losing plenty of ground, Rainbow Jay Jay made amends circling the field to beat Neville Vaughan and overcoming the last two quarters of 27.6 and 28.3 seconds. However, stewards saw this through different eyes and stood down the son of Yankee Paco one trial.   Subsequently, Rainbow Jay Jay might be overlooked by selectors who are looking to fill the final two spots of the Australian Team for the Glenferrie Farm Challenge.   The three already confirmed for Team Australia are My High Expectations, Blitzthemcalder and defending champion Keystone Del.   Others in contention of earning an invite include Cold Sister, Elegant Image and Kyvalley Blur.   The Australian Team will be finalised this Saturday night.   Harness Racing New Souh Wales

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