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Eight-year-old Fake Smile produced a thunderous finish to capture the Evolve Stone Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Craig Demmler-trained gelding was lining up for just his third run back from a three-and-a-half-year injury layoff, but he was able to sprint past rising superstar Lumineer at the end of the 1720-metre Group 3 sprint in a slick 1:52.3. “This horse has been an amazing story what he’s come back from. Craig deserves all the credit because it’s been a long road back and a lot of hard work,” winning driver Jackie Barker said. “I think he’s done his tendon three times, so to get him back to the races is an enormous effort. Craig and the team have done an amazing job.”                                                                                    --Photo by Stuart McCormick Barker, who is making a bit of a habit of producing barnstorming-finish wins at HQ, bided her time from the back-row gate 11 draw tonight as others set a brisk tempo at the front. Pick Up Line led from the pole but eventually handed up to Deedenuto after 600m and a lead time of 6.9secs followed by a 27.4 opening split, with Lumineer working around to the breeze for the last lap. They kept moving with a 57secs middle half-mile and Fake Smile was on the move wide from the back. With Barker throwing everything at Fake Smile the son of Grinfromeartoear (out of Fake Left mare Counterfeit Girl) pounced on his rivals in the straight for a 1.3m win over a brave Lumineer, who had to lose no admirers after his tough effort in defeat, with Pick Up Line third just ahead of Brackenreid, Smart Little Shard and Blingittothemax. “When you draw the second row over the sprint it’s never going to be easy but this horse really flew home,” Barker said. “If he can stay sound and keep going I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.” Barker said she was “grateful for the opportunity to drive Fake Smile”, adding “I think you have got to be 100 per cent dedicated if you want to try and make it. And I do want to make it, so I’m grateful for the opportunities and I’ll go anywhere to get them.”   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Michelle Eastman is thriving in her new role with the Maryborough Harness Racing Club, but hasn’t let the job get in the way of her passion for training. Eastman, who took over as secretary of the club just a couple of months ago, will prepare Aleppo Murphy for his second start back from a long spell at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. The son of Sundon has endured a string of issues that have seen him only race once since late May, having produced a solid fifth in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup last week. “We were happy with that because he was first-up for six or seven months and he’d never been over that distance (2650m) before,” Eastman said. “He only just got pipped by Tornado Valley, Save Our Pennys and Magicool and they are all good horses. We are hoping for a lot of improvement this week.” Aleppo Murphy, a winner of eight races, will start off the 10-metre mark in Friday night’s DNR Logistics Trotters Handicap (2240m, NR 70-120) for in-form driver James Herbertson. “We have changed a few things with him. We don’t have a headcheck on him anymore, which he used to really resent. We felt that it made him trot better, so this time in we have taken the headcheck off and he has been putting his head down and doesn’t seem to be so fractious before the start,” said Eastman, who trains from Shelbourne. “If James can get him away well - he is going to be out on his own because he is out of the draw - and baring incidents, he should not be far away.” Eastman said she was “absolutely loving” her new full-time position with Maryborough, which she took over from club stalwart Les Chapman. “It’s such a different role to what I’ve ever had. I’m just enjoying the real change (from) being in the finance sector most of my life,” she said. “It’s really good. I’m always surrounded by people, got a great team of volunteers and really starting to make some changes.” While Eastman’s focus will be on the opening race on Friday, many punters will be looking to the feature events on the card. Two heats of the Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship (1720m, NR 70-79) have drawn good fields, with runners vying for a place in the $30,000 final at Melton on November 22. There is also two Group 3 events - the Garrards Popular Alm Free For All (2240m, NR 90-120) and the Alderbaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All (2240m, NR 80-120). The nine-race card kicks off from 6.18pm. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR MORE FROM MICHELLE EASTMAN:   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

The rise and rise of Magicool will be put under the griller at Tabcorp Park Melton this Friday night when Chris Svanosio's stable star takes on some of Victoria's best in the Aldebaran Park Lenin Trotters Free For All. Fresh off superb victories punching the breeze at Melton at Melton on November 2 and then in the Yarra Valley Trotters Cup the following Thursday, Magicool opened a $1.80 favourite with TAB.com.au for Friday's feature despite his outside-the-front-row draw. He's since eased to $2.25, with Jilliby Babavska shortening from from $3.80 to $2.40, a movement that won't surprise trainer-driver Svanosio. "It will be pretty tough just looking at it quickly from the draw," Svanosio told the Trots Talk radio show. "He's drawn barrier seven, he's done it pretty tough his last couple of starts, but I will still probably end up back closer to the tail of the field against some pretty good horses, so he will have to step up again to be in the finish I'd say. "You've got to have a few things go right when you are drawn out there, it will be tough, he's well, but it will be tough for him." Having said that, the lightly-raced six-year-old has shown the ability to surprise even his trainer, including with his Trots Country Cup Championship victory at his last start. "He's old enough, but he hasn't done a lot of racing. To have those two runs five days a part, sit in the chair both times and the way he finished off at Yarra Valley I was very impressed with how he handled everything," Svanosio said. "He surprised me at Yarra Valley, I didn't think he should have been able to do that - to sit there over 2600 and sprint home like he did on a pretty ordinary day. He was fantastic." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO TUNE IN TO TROTS TALK   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Ride High allayed any fears his trainer Clayton Tonkin had following a potentially taxing trial performance with an impressive return to racing on Saturday night. In his first run back from more than a year on the sidelines, the ultra-talented four-year-old made it nine wins from 10 career starts by taking out the Group 2 COGS 4YO & 5YO Championship (2240m) at Tabcorp Park Melton. After zipping out of barrier two, Ride High ($1.50) was given an easy time in the lead by Greg Sugars and then scorched home in a 53.7-second last half to just hold off the fast-finishing Hurricane Harley. Tonkin, the partner of Emma Stewart who was having the first runner in his name since July 2004, said he thought Ride High might have worked too hard in a recent trial, where he and Tam Major equalled Lennytheshark’s 2040-metre Melton record. “I thought they probably did a bit too much last week, but the money was sort of good and there wasn’t a heap of speed in the race,” Tonkin said after the win. “It really worried me tonight the way the racing was run because nothing in the breeze or in front was (winning)… it was a bit of a swoopers' night. I was a little bit concerned being first up. The track hasn’t raced real true tonight.” Saturday night was the first time Sugars had steered the 2018 Breeders Crown 3YO Colts and Geldings champion in a race and he liked what he saw. “I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to sit behind a horse like this,” Sugars said. “It doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s always hard to come up against a quality field that is already wound up when you are on the way up. “But thankfully he had the barrier draw in his favour and got away with very steady sectionals for the first lap and was able to be too slick up the straight.” Stewart runners filled the placings with Hurricane Harley sizzling home to be beaten just a half-neck, while stablemate Tam Major was third. Another feature on the night was the Allied Express Cinderella Stakes (1720m, mares NR 70-120) and it was Margaret Lee’s Keayang Shekitout ($26.30) that caused a major boilover.                                                                                      --Stuart McCormick photo Stewart runners Berisari and Nostra Villa were both well fancied in the race, but weren’t able to fire as Keayang Shekitout sat outside the leader and toughed it out to score a narrow success. The win was the six-year-old’s ninth in a career spanning 33 starts and was one of three winners on the card for her trainer. Lee also scored with Iam Erik ($3.80) in the Heathglen Retirement Village Pace (1720m, 4YO and older) and Jilliby Chevy ($2.10) in the Keilor East Probus Group Pace (1720m, NR 90-105). Jason Lee drove Iam Erik and Jilliby Chevy, while Glen Craven (Keayang Shekitout and Dance Craze, $1.10) and James Herbertson (Jodan, $34.20, and Are Doubleyou, $27.80) also celebrated winning doubles. Dance Craze’s success came in the other Group 3 race on the card, the Apco La Coocaracha Trotters Free For All (1720m, trotting mares NR 70-120) for trainer Anton Gollino.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

POTENTIAL superstar Ride High marked two comebacks with his $75,000 Group 2 4&5YO Championship win at Melton last night. The entire was first-up after 16 months sidelined by a suspensory ligament injury following his Breeders Crown 3YO win. And his trainer, Clayton Tonkin, had his first runner in his own name for almost 15 years, having been the silent partner with Emma Stewart for so long. “I’ve got a special connection with this horse and it just felt right to take out my licence again for his comeback,” Tonkin said. Driver Greg Sugars used gate two to lead, controlled the race with a cosy 62.8sec middle half then zoomed home in 53.7 and 26.8sec to win, albeit by just a half-neck. Virtual stablemate Hurricane Harley smashed the clock, running his own last half in 53.4sec to almost rundown Ride High, while another Emma Stewart runner, Tam Major, was third after trailing the leader. The race lost plenty of gloss at the start when Victoria Cup runner-up and Auckland Inter Dominion contender Colt Thirty One galloped and effectively took no part in the race. Ride High’s win was his ninth from just 10 starts (he ran third in the Group 1 Vicbred final at his only defeat) and it will be fascinating when Tonkin opts to try him at the elite level, potentially in races like the Hunter Cup and/or Miracle Mile. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ TRAINER Craig Cross had half the field in Menangle’s feature race last night (Saturday), but didn’t punters any favours. That’s because the outsider of his quintet, the much-improved Wrangler, stormed to victory as a $61 shot over stablemate and $1.65 favourite Cash N Flow. Little Rascal grabbed third to make it a trifecta for Cross. The scorched over the mile in 1min49.9sec.  Steve Turnbull’s two Auckland Inter Dominion contenders, Atomic Red and Conviction, ran fourth and seventh respectively.  Atomic Red was terrific after leading at just his second run back from a long spell and finishing just 5.8m from Wrangler.  Wrangler’s win was the fourth on the night for Cross, following Admiral Bronski, Under Worked and Bettor Enforce. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ GREAT Southern Star winner Dance Craze just did enough to make a winning return at Melton last night (Saturday). The Muscle Hill mare led home a trifecta for trainer Anton Golino and the Yabby Dams team in the Group 3 La Coocaracha free-for-all with Destinee Jenilou second and Amour De Frere third. Another classy trotter to win on the night was former superstar juvenile, Wobelee, who clocked a 1min59.6sec mile rate for 2240m. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ TEAM Bond won the big race at Gloucester Park last Friday night, but just not with the horse punters hoped for. It was Vampiro, the outsider of Greg and Skye Bond’s three runners in the $50,000 Group 2 JP Stratton Cup, who poked his head out on the line to snatch a head win over stablemate and favourite El Jacko. Their other runner, Ana Malak, was the run of the race after sitting parked in quick time and fighting on strongly for a close fourth. They mile-rated a slick 1min54.7sec for the 2130m trip. Driver Colin Brown challenged for the lead early on Vampiro, then took a trail on Ana Malak and finished strongly in a 55.8sec last half. Team Bond will be a major force in January’s Fremantle and WA Cups with last night’s trio along with buzz pacer Mighty Conqueror heading its charge. Another impressive winner on the night was much-travelled five-year-old Bill Haley. The Kiwi-bred created a big impression during a short Queensland stint before heading to Debbie Lewis stable in WA where he’s unbeaten in three runs. Bill Haley is still racing through the grades, but has elite speed and could be a major race player. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ BUZZ Kiwi-bred Wildwest is turning the tide for top WA trainer Gary Hall Sr. In recent months he’s lost stable stars Chicago Bull and Major Trojan to injury. But, such is his stable depth, Wildwest has quickly stepped-up. The four-year-old son of Raging Bull made it eight wins from as many starts with by far his best and biggest victory so far at Pinjarra last Monday. Wildwest drew wide on the back row in a cracking field, but driver Gary Hall Sr showed his confidence on the gelding by making a midrace move to sit parked outside the talented leader, Patrickthepiranha, who was dictated terms. Just when it seemed Patrickthepiranha was doing enough, Wildwest lifted late in closing splits of 54.8 and 26.7sec to snatch a half-head win in a 1min56.8sec mile rate for 2185m. It was the win of a very serious horse. And WA’s string of four-year-old feature races, headed by the Group 1 Golden Nugget, are just around the corner. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ INTER Dominion champ Tornado Valley found a 50m handicap beyond him in the Group 3 Yarra Valley Trotters Cup last Thursday. It was the rejuvenated Magicool who continued trainer-driver Chris Svanosio’s recent red hot form, by popping out of the trail to beat the leader, Father Christmas. Tornado Valley chased hard, but was a never a winning hope before closing strongly late for third. The Group 3 Yarra Valley Pacing Cup went to Emma Stewart’s in-form Code Black, who was simply too good despite sitting parked in a 1min59sec mile rate for 2650m in wet and miserable conditions. Lance Justice’s underrated Rishi ran second while former classy Kiwi pacer Sicario was third.   Adam Hamilton

Greg Sugars is confident he can deliver Clayton Tonkin his first success as a trainer in some 15 years when he drives Ride High in Saturday night’s COGS 4YO & 5YO Championship. The horse will be Tonkin’s first runner in his name since July 27 2004, with the 2018 Breeders Crown 3YO Colts and Geldings champion resuming from a leg injury that halted his career in August last year. The brilliant son of Art Major tuned up for his return to the track with a two-horse trial alongside Tam Major last Saturday night. Sugars was in the sulky behind Ride High as the pair equalled Lennytheshark's 2040-metre Tabcorp Park Melton record, which was set in January 2018 and stood until this year's Victoria Cup. “We probably didn’t go out there with the intention to go quite that quick, but they are two obviously very high quality horses and they needed a good hit-out,” Sugars said of the trial. “We expected them to sort of dash up and run some good times, but to see a (former) track record equalled was probably a bit of a surprise.” HEAR THE TRAINER'S LIVE VERDICT OF THE STUNNING TRIAL: Sugars thinks Ride High, a winner of eight of nine career runs, can return in style at Melton on Saturday night. “He has got the barrier draw advantage over his main rivals, which is obviously a big help in this class of racing,” he said. “The fact that Clayton has made a comeback to training after some 15 years without a horse in his name probably speaks volumes for what he thinks of this horse’s ability. “Even though he has had the good hit-out the other day, he is still first-up racing for quite some time. Although he should be very close to the mark, you’d say there would be still some sort of improvement in him with natural race progression.” While Tonkin will chase a long-awaited success with Ride High, his partner Emma Stewart also has three runners in the $75,000 event. As well as Tam Major (Chris Alford), Stewart’s Hurricane Harley (Kima Frenning) and Thats Perfect (Darby McGuigan) help make up the small field of seven. Saturday night’s other feature is the Allied Express Cinderella Stakes (1720m, mares NR 70-120). Sugars will partner Stewart’s Berisari, which is having her first start since narrowly being beaten in a free for all at Melton back in mid August. Nostra Beach (Kate Gath) and Nostra Villa (Chris Alford) also represent the Stewart camp, while Margaret Lee has two runners in Keayang Ebonyrose (Jason Lee) and Keayang Shekitout (Glen Craven). There is 11 races on Saturday night’s card, with the first to kick off from 6.03pm and the last to go off at 11.10pm. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR FROM GREG SUGARS ON HIS SATURDAY NIGHT DRIVES:     HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Chris Svanosio produced a magical winning treble at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, when the Bendigo-based trainer-driver scored wins with three of the four horses he took to the races. Kyvalley Finn got the ball rolling with a narrow triumph in the Alderbaran Park Trot (2240m, NR 70-79), stablemate Norquay then won the Woodlands Trot (2240m, NR 52-61) before Magicool defeated the well fancied Jilliby Babavska to take out the Niota Bloodstock Trot (2240m, NR 80-100). “It’s my first Melton treble as a trainer,” Svanosio told Trots Vision after Magicool’s success. “Every week they are just great fields down here. You have got to wait your turn a bit - some weeks the fields are just that hard. We are happy to have a couple competing down here and going good.” Svanosio was in the sulky for the wins behind Kyvalley Finn and Magicool, with Michelle Phillips partnering Norquay to her victory. Svanosio is now seventh on the state metropolitan drivers’ premiership and eighth in the standings of the metro training title. For Kyvalley Finn, his hard-fought win over longshot Jerichos Trumpet was his ninth and first since July this year. The five-year-old has now collected more than $150,000 in prizemoney. Norquay has won four of her last five starts and the success at Melton on Saturday night followed a down-the-track finish when breaking at the same track a week earlier. The Majestic Son mare is now a winner of five of her 15 career outings. Magicool was able to turn the tables on Jilliby Babavska from their meeting on October 12, running down the leader in the home straight to nab his 12th career triumph. While it was a standout night for Svanosio and his team, the powerful Emma Stewart stable also landed a winning treble. Phoenix Prince won the feature Allied Express Sokyola Sprint (1720m, NR 90-120) for Greg Sugars, while Chris Alford was at the controls for the wins of Nostra Villa (Benstud Vicbred Pace, 2240m, mares NR 70-89) and Freddy Funk (Cogs Claiming Pace, 2240m). Alford scored his other win for the evening with Shaun McNaulty-trained gelding Hashtag in the IRT Australia Pace (1720m, NR 80-94). Alford remains three wins behind Kate Gath on the metro drivers’ premiership standings, while Stewart is now level on nine wins with Andy Gath on the metro trainers’ leaderboard.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

It’s not uncommon for horses to show potential not many knew they had later in life and that’s exactly what Gary Quinlan is hoping for with his talented pacer Rocknroll Pearl. Quinlan has fingers crossed that the five-year-old can emulate her mother Jazzam (pictured), which many will recall as a quality mare that went on to win 24 races and more than $230,000 in prizemoney. Rocknroll Pearl is a long way off that mark, but a promising return from a short let-up at Cranbourne on October 21 has things pointing in the right direction. Quinlan said the horse didn’t quite seem herself following a three-start Sydney campaign through June that reaped a Group 3 success and two third placings, one of which was in the Group 1 NSW Breeders Challenge 4YO Mares Final. After that, the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven placed fourth and eighth in races at Melton before she was given a break. Following the freshen-up, Rocknroll Pearl produced a nice third placing at Cranbourne, hitting the line hard from three back the pegs behind winner War Dan Delight. “She looks a treat and was working really good before Cranbourne. I thought she would go good, but I hadn’t trialled her and I was just hoping I’d see what I’d seen at home,” Quinlan said. “I was pretty happy with what she did at Cranbourne and she doesn’t seem to have gone backwards since.” Rocknroll Pearl, a winner of eight races, will tackle Saturday night’s Benstud Vicbred Pace (2240m, mares NR 70-89) at Tabcorp Park Melton. The horse has drawn barrier four in the small field of eight and Quinlan said he’s happy for driver Jason Lee to roll forward from the mobile and see what opportunities present from there. And while Quinlan thinks Emma Stewart’s Nostra Villa looks the likely winner of the race on her best form, he’s confident of a good showing from his charge. “Being realistic, if the right Nostra Villa turns up it would be winning the race so I’m under no illusions how good it is,” he said. Jazzam, who won the Group 3 Ladyship Cup at Moonee Valley back in 2009, has had just one other foal reach the races. That is Dison, a winner of two races from seven career outings. “Rocknroll Pearl’s mother really came good as a four-year-old, at the same age she has,” Quinlan said. “So I’m hoping history repeats itself.” The Allied Express Sokyola Sprint - for horses rated between 90 and 120 - is the feature race on Saturday night’s card. A quality field of horses has been assembled for the $24,000 event, with the likes of Phoenix Prince (Emma Stewart), My Kiwi Mate (Craig Demmler) and Wrappers Delight (David Aiken) among the leading fancies. CLICK BELOW TO HEAR FROM TRAINER GARY QUINLAN:   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

Victorian junior concessional driver Sam Barker is a young man with an energy and passion for the sport of harness racing that’s sure to take him places. And lately the 21-year-old has been quietly going about ticking off items on his “things to do” list. Barker drove his first Melton winner last month, something that he’s longed to achieve, and then prepared his first winner as a licensed trainer. “It was exciting times there for a while. But I got a bit of luck and it all fell into place,” he said. “I just hope it continues because I’d love to get more driving opportunities, especially while I still have my five-point claim.” Barker has been working for over three years at the Long Forest stables of Andy and Kate Gath, situated between Melton and Bacchus Marsh, west of Melbourne. “They are just fantastic and have been a huge influence on my career. Not only do they teach you a lot, but it’s always in a professional manner,” Barker said. “Both Andy and Kate are very good role models. I am enjoying my time with them that’s for sure.” It was with some irony that Barker beat his “boss” Kate when he posted his first Melton victory aboard five-year-old horse Success Counts (Imperial Count-Successor (Sundon) at odds of 12/1. “I was a bit nervous when Kate was getting an inside run on the stablemate Galleons Glory because my fellow trotted a little bit rough up the home straight the previous week and ended up in a gallop,” Barker said. “I just wanted him to keep trotting over the final stages and thought he could run a nice race – and he did. “It was so good that Andy and Kate, along with the owners, gave me the opportunity.” Barker, who now has a small team in training himself, said he had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Kelvin. Kelvin Barker, based at Ballarat, has been a well-regarded trainer-driver over the years.  However he’s now concentrating on the training side to good effect, posting a career-best season last season, with a dozen winners. “Dad has about 10 in work at the moment and is still enjoying it,” Barker said. “Further down the track it’s my aim to establish myself as a trainer. I see my future in that role,” he said. Barker registered his first training win at Ballarat recently with bay mare Beat The Drums (Modern Art-Highview Congo(McArdle) with Kate Gath taking the reins. “I own that horse myself after buying it off Barry Finnis, who lives in South Australia,” he said. “But most of the horses I’ve got belong to a friend in Lyndon Turner, who is a reasonably big breeder. He is right into it and does pretty well.” Barker said from a very young age, he had always wanted to get involved in harness racing. “I attended Ballarat Christian College. I finished Year Nine and then it was virtually off working with the horses,” he said. “When I’m asked to name my favorite track I suppose I should say Melton because I’ve now driven a winner there and it is okay – but despite the very cold nights in winter, I would have to label Ballarat as the best.” Barker has been in good form so far this season from limited driving opportunities. He has posted three wins from 11 drives.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Jason Lee isn’t afraid to take a glance at the stars with in-form square-gaiter Jilliby Babavska following his third successive triumph on Saturday night. Lee was at the controls as the son of Sundon burst through along the sprint lane to take out the Pryde’s Easi Lyte Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton, putting a third picket on the fence. Trained by his brother Paddy, Lee said the big races across the summer carnival were on the agenda for the six-year-old. “I would love to have him win a Group 1 race - that would be awesome if he could do that,” Lee said. “There’s probably no real standouts in the trotters at the moment, apart from maybe Tornado Valley when he is up and going, and probably six or seven other really nice ones. “Obviously McLovin went super Saturday night, but I reckon in the big race (Alderbaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint) with the right run, (Jilliby Babavska) could have won the race.” A leg injury that required a pin to be inserted into a back fetlock saw Jilliby Babavska sidelined throughout 2018. He eventually returned to the races in May this year and has strung together eight wins since. Lee didn’t take much prodding to label Jilliby Babavska one of the quickest trotters he’d driven. “I reckon he is one of, if not the, quickest trotter I’ve sat behind for sheer speed,” Lee said. “He is definitely a difficult horse to drive, but in terms of speed I haven’t driven a lot of trotters that can reel off 27 quarters like he was able to do there a couple of weeks ago at Melton. “When you hit the button, it’s just like driving a fast pacer. He has just got that sheer speed. He has definitely got the attributes to turn into a Group 1 winning trotter." Lee said it’s likely Jilliby Babavska would be nominated for the Group 3 Maryborough Trotters Cup on Sunday.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

A breathtakingly even field will collide for the right to be a Smoken Up Sprint champion, throwing up scenarios that have trainer David Aiken among the many “really looking forward” to the Group 2 dash. The preparer of three of the past four winners of the sprint – Lennytheshark in 2015 and 2017 and Wrappers Delight (pictured) last year – Aiken’s well positioned to add a fourth in only the sixth staging of the race, but admitted to being intrigued to the many tactical ramifications. In particular, the question who will lead? While Aiken has reigning champ Wrappers Delight drawn in gate one and lightning beginner Audi Hare in gate four he said there was no easy answer, but added reinsman James Herbertson and Audi Hare would be advantaged by their mid-row draw. “The middle is probably the best barrier at Melton at that distance,” Aiken said. “Wrappers Delight is pretty quick out, but it depends on how it plays out. We probably have our best chance with Wrappers Delight, but Audi Hare will be doing his best to cross him.” He said “the barriers couldn’t have worked out better” for the stable, and some form analysts were confident Aiken’s runners would be leader and leader’s back in the early stages. Among that number is Good Form’s Jason Bonnington. "The quandary for punters here is that there are perhaps four different conceivable speed map scenarios and each one has the potential to badly mitigate and significantly elevate the winning chances of several runners,” Bonnington said. "The fact is Audi Hare has Coastal-like gate speed, he's the fastest horse off the arm in Victoria and as a specialist miler and last start winner I'm favouring the concept that he will lead and hold. "What happens after that from a pressure perspective probably relies largely upon Born To Rocknroll, but if Audi Hare does lead I think they'll run a freakishly fast mile with several horses rolling up to occupy the breeze and fireworks throughout." So, Aiky, if Audi Hare leads what’s next? Let’s start with can Wrappers Delight follow his stablemate out and retake the lead? “A horse like Phoenix Prince is very quick out, it will probably cover up the outside,” Aiken said. “Cant Refuse comes out quickly. I don’t know about retaking.” So it’s not completely off the table, but at least very unlikely. Which begs, if Audi Hare leads, does he hold the front? “If it was 2200 metres Audi Hare would be handing up, but he is good over 1700. If he leads he will definitely hold them.” So, in that case, Herbertson would attempt to hold the front for as long as possible, with Wrappers Delight – whose driver is yet to be finalised – to be leader’s back hoping his stablemate can take him to the sprint lane. “(Wrappers Delight) likes the distance, especially if he doesn’t have to do a lot of work,” Aiken said, adding he expected “a pretty quick mile, at least the (one minute) 52 mark”. One horse who may ensure that pace is Buster Brady, trained at Aiken’s stable by Kima Frenning. A prodigious talent, Buster Brady may have lost a few fans after another “weird” run in last Saturday’s Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup, when he again lost momentum about 800m from home before crashing the line late, having eased to $6.50 with TAB.com.au for Saturday night’s Smoken Up Sprint after opening at $5.50. “It’s frustrating,” Aiken said of Buster Brady’s fade-outs. “He seems to be better leading, when he’s back in the field he seems to drop off at the wrong time of the race and then pick up again. “I’ve never seen a horse do what he does and then remake the ground. He doesn’t do it when he’s on top, it’s weird what he does.” Aiken has an enormous opinion of Buster Brady, particularly when he leads. “I think he’s the best horse in Victoria, he’s the best horse here (at my stable).” So what role will he play Saturday night? Aiken said he was a candidate for an early move to the breeze “unless there was super pace on”. All will be answered from 9pm on Saturday night.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Smoken Up’s hooves will again imprint Tabcorp Park Melton’s straight Saturday night, when Lance Justice will reunite ‘Trigger’ with the site he made his own. The 17-year-old superstar of the sport will lead a deep field out for the TAB Smoken Up Sprint, the Group 2 classic that kicks off at 9pm. “It’s pretty big,” Justice said. “Not many horses have races named after them.” Track goers will not only be able to enjoy Smoken Up’s on-track return but visit the winner of more than $3.6 million in stakes in stall 61 at Tabcorp Park. “He loves people, loves children,” Justice said of the 12-time Group 1 winner, who had 41 of his 153 starts at Melton. “Melton was one of his favourite tracks. He’s been there from the start,” Justice said. “After they completed the earthworks they had a press event and Smoken Up worked on the track with no top on it, just up and down lumps and hills. “He raced there in its first meetings. He owned the joint and held the track record there when he retired.” Smoken Up’s 1:51.1 track record – set on February 4, 2012 in the Sky Racing Free For All (pictured) – stood until February 6, 2016, when Cold Major lowered the mark to 1:50.8. It’s now in Cruz Bromac’s keeping, having won his mile on January 27, 2018 in 1:50.7. While Smoken Up won’t be giving any records a nudge when he waltzes out on Saturday night, his long-time trainer-driver will be thrilled race goers will again be able to tip their hats to one of the greats. “They always say about good horses, you judge them by the company they keep and Smoken Up had to race against half a dozen of the toughest horses," he said. “He had Im Themightyquinn, Blacks A Fake, Mister Feelgood, Mister D G, Monkey King, Terror To Love – a group of horses who were champions on there own.” Smoken Up will then return to his retirement paddock at Ballan, which he shares with fellow Group 1 champion Sokyola. “They didn’t used to like each other for a fair while, but now they are really good mates.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Trainer Adam Kelly is hoping the "good" version of Friends turns up at the races this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Toolern Vale-based horseman has described his recent stable acquisition as a quirky character who isn't always at the top of his game, but knows he will need to be somewhere near his best to measure up in the DNR Logistics Pace (rating 70-79). "He's a bit of a thinker and you can get a good Friends and you can get an average Friends on race day," Kelly said. "It can be anything from his manners, he can switch off. He has just got a few tricks." Managing owner Paul Brumby sent the horse to Kelly following a fourth placing for former trainer Luke Watson at Mildura in May. And the move has been a rewarding one for connections, with the son of Bettors Delight winning four times since. The seven-year-old was successful at his first two starts for Kelly at Kilmore and Cranbourne, won at Mildura on August 2 and then again at that same circuit just last week. "He's up in grade (on Saturday night), but we thought we would chuck him in and see where he measures up," Kelly said. "When he goes as good as he can, I'm sure he will measure up." Friends, a winner of 10 from 57, has drawn nicely in barrier one and will be driven by Greg Sugars. Stablemate Ten Spanners, which is raced by Brumby and a similar group of owners to Friends, is another bound for Melton on Saturday. The trotting mare has raced six times for Kelly since arriving from South Australian trainer Ryan Hryhorec, winning at Victorian headquarters last month. She has drawn gate six for the weekend's Melton City Much More Trot (rating 70-85) and will be partnered by Kima Frenning. "The owners sent her over from Adelaide hoping she'd be able to win a race in town, which she has done," Kelly said. "And I'm sure she has got a couple more in her with a bit of luck. "She hasn't had a lot of luck since she won. Hopefully on Saturday night if she has a bit of luck, she won't be too far away. "I don't have a lot of trotters, which isn't by design. But if you wanted a safe, lovely trotter, she is probably the one." The daughter of Tennotrump has won 12 of 52 career outings. Saturday's 11-race card kicks off at 5.22pm and winds up with the last event at 10.35pm. Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

CHRIS Svanosio hopes a stellar 2018-19 harness racing year can be the building block to even bigger and better things this season. The young trainer-driver ended the season second among Bendigo region trainers with 43 winners. Only former five-time Victorian leading trainer Glenn Douglas notched up more (112). Svanosio also steered home 68 winners as a driver. It was in the sulky where Svanosio put the lid on a season to cherish, guiding the Sydney-trained Tough Monarch to Group 3 victory in the TAB Coulter Crown at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. The seven-year-old lived up top his moniker with a tenacious win, to give Menangle trainer Rickie Alchin his 18th success with the gelding from 52 starts. It was Svanosio' second win aboard Tough Monarch at Melton following previous success in June 2018. The driver-horse combination also teamed up for a third in the Group 1 Australian Trotting Grand Prix in March, behind the David Aiken-trained Big Jack Hammer. "(Tough Monarch) has come down to stay with me a few of times now - he's a pretty nice horse to have for a couple of weeks," Svanosio said. "He's in the (Maori's Idol Trotters) Free For All against this Saturday night against Tornado Valley, Big Jack Hammer, Kyvalley Blur and all the big trotters, who have won multiple Group 1 races, and possibly going back to Sydney after that. "We are happy to have him here. "He's a big chance (in the free for all), he was terrific on Saturday night. It will be a tough test; there are some good trotters around. "Kyvalley Blur has won half a million (in prize money) and Tornado Valley has won something similar. There were a few more horses in the noms, but the field has got whittled down to the very best." Tough Monarch gave Svanosio his second Group race win for 2018-19, on the very last night of the season. He notched his other in the Group 1 Aldebaran Park Vicbred Super Series Final for four-year-old entires and geldings with his own horse Kyvalley Finn in July. Those wins were just two of the highlights of a productive and ultimately hugely successful season. "It was a great year .... obviously the biggest win was the Vicbred Super Sires with Kyvalley Finn, but I also spent about five weeks in America during the season," he said. "We were very happy with the number of winners we got this season, hopefully we go even better this year. "I have some nice horses here coming back, like Kyvalley Finn and Anywhere Hugo, and some nice young ones. There's every chance there's some nice ones among those." There has been plenty of early success this season, with Svanosio scoring a driving double with Wild Imagination (Ruth Arthur) and Roslyn Gaye (Gary Merkel) at Echuca on Tuesday night.   By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

BREEDERS Crown heroine Emma Stewart doesn’t have time to reflect. After winning three of the eight Group 1 finals at Melton last Saturday night, Stewart has switched her focus to the first big Group 1 of the new season, the $200,000 Victoria Cup at Melton on October 12. And she’s not mucking around. “We’re setting six or seven horses for the race,” she said. “There’s the horses like Born To Rocknroll, Rocknroll Icon, Tam Major and Maraetai, who went through the Breeders Crown and then a few others we’ve got close to racing again. “Shadow Sax is only a week away from a trial and The Storm Inside is pretty much on the same timeline as him. We’ve got some really good open-class horses to work with. “Ride High is another, but he won’t be ready for the Victoria Cup. The good races early next year are his go.” Stewart wasn’t as upbeat about Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy, who narrowly cheated death only a few months ago, ‘He got through it and he’s healthy again, but we’ve got him to the fast work stage again and we’re just not as happy as we’d like to be with him. We’ve got a few things to work through there,” she said. Both of Stewart’s Breeders Crown 2YO final winners – Be Happy Mach and Maajida – have gone for breaks. “Be Happy Mach is up with the best two-year-old’s we’ve ever had and I’m sure he’ll come back really well,” she said. “And even though Maajida had some good draws in the big races, I’m sure she’s top shelf as well.” Stewart joined the chorus of trainers, drivers and owners pushing for a review of what time in the season the Breeders Crown is run. “Absolutely we need to move it. It’s one of the biggest meetings in this part of the world and we need in summer when more people will come to the track to watch the great horses,” she said.   Adam Hamilton

OH WHAT a night - a great result for A-P-G… With six Group races for pacers conducted in Melton during the weekend, Australian Pacing Gold purchases dominated proceedings in emphatic style. The home of harness racing in Victoria hosted another marvelous Breeders’ Crown night which saw four Group Ones and a pair of Group Twos contested. APG Sales graduates captured each of the Group One Finals, while Goodtime Heaven was triumphant at Group Two level. A Sydney buy, Goodtime Heaven rounded out her four-year-old season by leading throughout for trainer Courtney Slater. Part-owned by the Slater family, Goodtime Heaven boasts 12 wins and three placings from 18 starts for a bankroll of $224,017. Earlier on the card record-breaking horsewoman Emma Stewart made a clean sweep of the two-year-old division when Be Happy Mach and Maajida turned their Finals into one-act affairs. Confirming his status as the nation’s premier freshman, Be Happy Mach stretched his record to an impeccable 10 wins and a third from 11 starts by rating 1:56.2 over 2240 metres, with his time nine-tenths of a second quicker than Maajida. With Greg Sugars holding the reins, Maajida led throughout to extend her record to seven wins and a second from eight starts for earnings of $271,800. As for the three-year-olds, Max Delight and No Win No Feed confirmed their position at the head of their crop by adding another top shelf win to their ever-growing tallies. Having already secured the New South Wales and Tasmania Derbys, Max Delight has won nine of his 16 starts for the season, with three placings and $299,310 also to his credit. No Win No Feed annexed her third Group One of the term, following wins in the Bathurst Gold Bracelet and New South Wales Breeders’ Challenge Final.   APG Media

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