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Rejuvenated harness racing speed machine Hectorjayjay returned to the winner's list at Albion Park yesterday afternoon after an absence of almost two years. And the rising 10-year-old, posting his 44th career win, could not have been more impressive. Trainer Jack Butler might be a cruisy character, but even he could not contain his delight at the emphatic fashion of Hector's win - and the pacer's recovery. "Absolutely stoked," Butler said. "It was an unbelievable feeling after the race. I was pretty shaky, I've got to admit. My heart was going 100 miles an hour. But it's a big thrill for us. It's been nine months of work to get him back and the whole team has put in a huge effort." A Grand Circuit winner Hectorjayjay (Dream Away-Sheer Finesse (Torado Hanover) has been plagued by suspensory ligament problems, but Butler's long and slow rehabilitation program involved treadmill work, swimming and plenty of jog work. At the pacer's first start for 22 months at Albion Park last week, he went down by just 1.2 metres to Glenferrie Hood at Albion Park in a mile rate of 1.53-7 for the 1660m trip. He pulled up well, and at his comeback second start, stopped the clock at 1:52.7, finishing 10 metres ahead of Major Cam (Kylie Rasmussen), who only got into the clear up the home straight, and Glenferrie Hood (Pete McMullen). Butler admits the race was run to suit - but was full of praise for young reinsman Brendan Barnes, who saved the pacer for one last ping on the home corner. "It was awesome that it worked out so well and they did play into our hands a little bit," Butler said. "From the draw we only had one option and that was to go back, and hope they'd do what they did, and that was run a really quick first quarter (26.5 sec). (When they slowed up) we were able to get around and get a nice sit, but Brendan drove super. He is very good young driver. "The horse obviously took a lot from that run last week, but he's just an old professional. He doesn't get too worried about anything at the races, he just takes it all in his stride." "Tomorrow will be the main day to make sure he is all right - but knowing the horse, I can nearly guarantee he's pulled up well. "Just keeping him sound and healthy is our priority, but we really don't have any worries at all on that score at the moment. "There are some nice free for alls coming up at Albion Park in June, and we'll just take it one run at a time. As the races come along, we'll go in them if we're still going along all right. "The owners are over the moon, because obviously they didn't think he would get back to where he is. We all are. He's a lovely old horse and we're just rapt to be along for the ride."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

South Australian harness racing legend Dick White has tragically lost his life in a house fire at Globe Derby Park overnight. Mr White, 85, was a prominent figure in the industry over many years, and his contributions as a trainer, driver, administrator and leader won him admirers across Australia. He was a successful trainer-driver, with a particular love of the square-gaiters, preparing more than 300 winners and enjoying success at the elite level over four decades. Probably without doubt Mr White's favorite horse, and the one he teamed with for many memorable victories, was bay horse Accolade (Aachen-Pilade Hall). In honor of the horse, who raced in the late 1970s, he named his landmark Port Wakefield Road property "Accolade Park". The stable, which was prominent through to the 1990s, also produced other talented horses including Caroldons Lover, El Juras, Dual McCall and Maori Skipper. Dick White winning a race at Globe Derby Park Mr White took on the role of Clerk of the Course, and in later years was a passionate supporter of the industry, particularly the South Australian Square Trotters Association where he held the position of president. The Legends Trotters Handicap at Globe Derby Park is named after White and fellow keen trotting trainer Marcus Hearl. Mr White was also held in high regard on the bull-riding and rodeo circuits. In fact, around the 1960s, he was a pin-up boy for RM Williams' unique clothing, boots and accessories. He was also featured widely in promotional posters riding his rodeo horse Cloudbuster in the Carrieton Rodeo in 1959. The Country Fire Service reported the cause of the house fire was still unknown and extensive damage had resulted. It was completely gutted. A report will be prepared for the Coroner. Fire gutted the home of harness racing legend Dick White on Tuesday morning (Photograph courtesy ABC News) Mr White, who was a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, leaves behind wife Janet, who is in aged care, and three daughters. Harnesslink extends condolences to Mr White's family.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A 10-year-old that's been off the harness racing scene for nearly six years has notched up a victory that must surely rank as one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus! All-but-forgotten bay gelding Von Ponder (Ponder-Heide Von Beltz (Bistro Lobell) apparently showed only modest capacity as a youngster, and was last despatched to the paddock as a four-year-old - where he remained until a little over four months ago. But he's certainly flourished under the careful attention of Bendigo trainer Shaun McNaulty, and his assistant Ben Pell. And after three handy performances, the big fellow scored a tidy win at his home track recently. "I think he was one of those horses that gets put out in a big paddock and sort of forgotten about," McNaulty said. "There may have been a few minor niggling problems, but the horse was pretty much retired," he said. "He was at a Marong property just down the road from me. Ben, who's one of the part-owners, helps me out and he was working another horse that got injured back in November. He wanted something else to work and he remembered Von Ponder was out running around in a paddock." After seven starts in Queensland as a three-year-old at his first race campaign (way back in 2012) Von Ponder was off the scene for nearly 18 months. He reappeared at a Victorian meeting at Maryborough in 2014 where he was unplaced-and was then banished for nearly six years before reappearing. To be precise, Von Ponder had a break of 2169 days or three weeks short of six years! "Ben owns the horse with a mate in Drew Gray," McNaulty explained. "They purchased him from Queensland back in late 2012," he said. After four months of jogging up, it was off to the trials and Von Ponder showed he hadn't forgotten what the racing caper was all about. "He went well at his first trial, and then we thought he went extra good at his next hit out," McNaulty said. "At his return race start on April 3, he finished down the track, as we expected, because of being away from racing for so long," he said. "He pulled up a little lame and we were all a bit disappointed, but it only proved to be a hoof abscess." A fortnight later Von Ponder ran a nice second placing at Bendigo and repeated the dose seven days later in a sub two-minute mile rate. Then a victory last Thursday repaid connections for their enduring patience and perseverance. After being eased off the gate by reinsman Rod Lakey, Von Ponder was caught three wide and then worked to the death seat. Shaken up on the home corner, the big lump of a horse responded nicely to post his unlikely comeback win in 1.57-2. To watch the video replay click here. And McNaulty has no doubts the old-timer can make his presence felt for some time to come. "He works nicely at home and he's been steadily getting better at each of his race outings. He hasn't got any issues, so I reckon the boys are going to have a bit of fun, that's for sure," he said. Prior to his latest success, Von Ponder was previously in the winner's circle at Brisbane's Albion Park on October 22, 2012. His lifetime summary now stands at 12 starts for two wins and three runner-up cheques for $8400 in stakes. Central Region (Bendigo) Trainer Statistics Trainer                   Starts      First       Placings       Average win S/P Glenn Douglas          82           16               20                  $5.35 Kate Hargreaves       45             7               13                  $7.38 Shaun McNaulty        19             5                5                 $13.26 Justin Brewin             17             5                1                   $5.72 Keith Cotchin              20            4                 5                  $2.50 Gary Donaldson          15            4                 3                  $7.53 Trevor Patching            7             3                 3                  $5.07 Anthony Crossland        5            3                 1                  $1.73 Ross Graham              26            2                 13                 $5.85 Ray Cross                   18            2                    4               $16.50 Terry Gange

Bendigo veteran harness racing reinsman Brian Gath is having a ball as he continues on his merry winning way in vintage form. Gath, a sprite 75-year-old legend of the sport, has wound back the clock since Victoria introduced its regionalised racing brainchild last month. Apart from regularly picking up books of four and five engagements at his local track, the industry icon, fondly known as "the little master", recently posted his fastest ever winning time of 1.52-5. Gath steered four-year-old gelding Gobsmacked (Auckland Reactor-Respected (Art Major) to victory in the $12,000 Bendigo Party Hire Pace last week for trainer Shaun McNaulty. "I remember on one trip to America, way back in 1979, I won at the Meadowlands in a time of 1.56. At the time it was the equal fastest mile rate recorded by a driver from Australia-the other being Vic Frost," Gath said. "Since then I've won races in 1.55 and around that mark, but the speed was on from the start at Bendigo, and they didn't back it off," he said. After an opening split of 27.6 seconds, the sparks continued to fly with 28.7, 27.8 and home in 28.7. Gath always appeared to be the one to beat, sitting quietly on the back of the free-wheeling leader Streitkid (Shannon O'Sullivan). He eased off heading into the home corner and held off the late swoopers in Glenn Douglas-prepared pair, Courageous Saint and Vandanta. To watch the video replay click here. Gath made it two for the week at Bendigo when he won three days later with bay mare Chooz Reactor (Auckland Reactor-Eleventh Command (Ponder) for Ron Sheppard, of Heathcote. Tonight, he again partners Gobsmacked and will be hoping to continue his purple patch. To watch the video replay click here. "He's a lovely little horse to drive-and to run the time that he did last start was terrific. We are off the back row this time, but with an ounce of luck we won't be far away," Gath said. The Hall of Fame reinsman said he received a "wonderful surprise" when he turned on his computer to check on race fields. "There were congratulation messages from two retired world champions in Melbourne Cup winning jockey Harry White and former brilliant USA harness racing driver Bill O'Donnell," Gath said. "I've known Harry for many, many years. I could probably say the same thing about Bill, who I met during a trip over there in the 80s. Bill was known as 'Magic' - the horses just seemed to run so much faster for him, particularly at Meadowlands," he said. Gath, with more than 3600 winners to his name, including a 1978 Inter Dominion triumph with Markovina, has nothing but praise for the new regional racing format. "I would think everyone else is enjoying it as much as we are in the Bendigo district. We are all getting a chance to earn something, and the wins are being spread across the board," he said. "They've done a terrific job to keep racing going and it's bringing different people into the limelight. Let's just hope it continues." Gath has had five wins and five placings from 20 drives since region racing got underway on April 2.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

You would have to go a long way to find a more passionate harness racing family than the Ainsworth clan-and they are enjoying every minute of it at the moment. "We are ticking along pretty well just now. We have a nice team and this is without doubt shaping as one of our best seasons, if not the very best, that we've had," co-trainer and driver Ashley said. "The majority of our stable is made up of square gaiters and they are nearly all doing a job," he said. Ashley works with his father Barry in the training partnership. They are based in the small central Victorian rural township of Moyreisk, halfway between St Arnaud and Avoca. And the father-son combination came up trumps this week at Terang, one of two tracks (the other being Stawell) where they can race under Harness Racing Victoria's regional racing zone model. They landed a winning double on Monday night with grey mare Asharah (Jet Laag-Nareece Beware (Armbro Intercept) and five-year-old gelding Namoscar (Ready Cash-Heavens Above (Like A Prayer) being successful. "It was only the second time that I've landed a winning double-my first one was a good while ago at a Swan Hill meeting," Ashley said. "Asharah is raced by my mum Katrina along with dad and we only narrowly got the money with her. The other one, Namoscar is owned by mum, and he's going well at last, after taking quite a lot of patience to get going," he said. "We thought they both had strong chances. The two of them have been knocking on the door so it was great to land the wins." Ashley said Asharah was one of only three pacers they had in work. "The other dozen are trotters. We started having a bit of success with them, and then we'd get another one and the numbers just kept increasing," he said. "I don't do a great deal of driving, but I prefer the trotters." Ashley also wears the cap of stable farrier, a job that occasionally requires some lateral thinking. He said while he tries to keep things basic, there's sometimes "a bit of welding involved with adding bars, heels or toe to the shoes". "They are really no harder than shoeing a pacer that may have a few problems. I worked at Yabby Dam farms at Ballarat with head trainer Anton Golino who has so much knowledge when it comes to square gaiters," Ashley said. "There's possibly no-one more skilled to learn from than Anton. He's worked with the best in a number of countries overseas and it was a valuable seven or eight months that I was there." Ashley said while he worked with his parents at their 50-acre property, sister Kira-Nareece also helps out when they need a hand. "One of my brothers Jason, is at Armstrong, and is getting some winners, while my other brother, Toby works for Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin," he said. Ashley and his partner Emily have two children, Chloe, 10, and Beau, one. "We call Beau the stable foreman-and one day he will hopefully grow into that position!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Young Albury reinsman Baily Scott narrowly missed winning at his very first harness racing drive, but it hasn't taken him long to make amends. "I went down by a head at Wagga a month ago. And then last Monday night at the same track, this time the margin was a short half head, but in my favor," an elated Scott said. On both occasions, the enthusiastic youngster handled four-year-old chestnut mare Blissfull Donna (Blissfull Hall-Medusa Cam (Fake Left), prepared by his mother Hellen, for owner Gary Mackay. The pacer was sent out as a 6/1 chance in the Temora Harness Racing Club Pace. After beginning nicely from the wide barrier draw of seven, Scott was three wide for a short distance, before clicking up and zooming to the head of affairs. He zipped through the first quarter in 30.1, but then threw out the anchor to record a dawdling 32.4 in the next split. The third and final quarters were solid in 29.6 and 29.1. "I really wanted a cheap section at some stage and that second one certainly helped big time," Scott said. But the race didn't all quite go to plan. "With a lap to go, I was caught off guard a bit when she suddenly veered outwards. I think she spotted something on the inside and shied. Thankfully, I was able to get back into my position, but I can honestly say my heart sunk for that split second," he said. Scott shot clear on the home corner and while the Todd Day-trained and driven longshot Artistic Trouble sprouted wings over the final stages, he just missed, with Blissfull Donna hanging on. To watch the video replay click here. "I've probably had about six or seven drives now, and another of those was a second placing. It's nice to get that first win on the board," he said. "I'm really enjoying helping mum with the training part. We are working five at the Albury showgrounds, which is great. I was always going to get involved because dad (John) has had horses forever. After school I would always head straight to the stables. Baily and John Scott with Blissfull Donna "I hope to be able to make a career out it and I plan to stick around Albury for a while and get as much experience as I can." Scott, who had his 20th birthday on March 18, said he was looking forward to a few celebrations when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. "I couldn't do much for my birthday and the same applied when I got my first winner, so there'll be two parties!" he said. "The pandemic also interrupted any plans I had of playing Aussie Rules footy this season. I've been involved since my Auskick days when I was about five. I had last season off because of a few injuries and I was looking forward to it this year. "I enjoyed playing in the midfield, but I had a growth spurt so then I was either full back or full forward. Thankfully I'm not the tallest now so hopefully I'll be a deep pocket and crumb like everyone loves to and kick some goals." But while Scott is still hopeful of pulling on the footy boots this season, his focus for the time being is on harness racing and with an ounce of luck he could be looking down the barrel of his second winner. He will partner bay mare The Stunning Nun, a winner of two of her past four starts, in the final event at Wagga on Friday afternoon. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Laid-back horseman Jack Butler and his family are huge fans of the weather in the Sunshine State-but it's a safe bet to say things could soon be about to warm up even more for them in harness racing. Butler, based at Logan Village, 45kms from the Brisbane CBD, finds himself in the public eye as the trainer of speed machine Hectorjayjay, who returned to racing last weekend after an absence of 22 months. "He finished third, but we were just so proud of his effort. We walked away very happy. And importantly he has pulled up awesome-his legs are 100 percent and he's ready to go again," Butler said. "He's without doubt the best horse I've ever had in my stables." Hectorjayjay (Dream Away-Sheer Finesse (Torado Hanover) went down by just 1.2 metres to Glenferrie Hood (Pete McMullen) and Clintal Do (Lola Weidemann) at Albion Park in a mile rate of 1.53-7 for the 1660m trip. "To be honest we were just rapt that we'd actually got him back to racing because initially he was coming up here to retire," Butler said. "We went into the race knowing that Glenferrie Hood would be hard to run down if he dictated things and that's how it turned out," he said. "Sure, it would have been a fairytale for us to win first-up, but we're not the slightest disappointed. He's pulled up great and enjoying his work." Butler has every conceivable reason to be stoked with the horse so far. A long and slow rehabilitation program with the nine-year-old involved treadmill work, swimming and plenty of jogging on his sand track that has a slight hill. The Grand Circuit winner has had a number of suspensory ligament setbacks over the years and on the advice of the late Gavin Lang, the owners even tried a preparation involving beach work. Butler admits he's mindful of the on-going concern, but "all is very good at the moment". "We are going to give this weekend a miss with him and aim at the Flashing Red Discretionary on Saturday week," said. "His standing start manners aren't all the best, but it's over the longer trip so we'll see how we go." Butler, his wife Tara and children Chloe and Marty, moved from Bathurst in early 2015. "Tara took a fair bit of convincing because we loved Bathurst and the people. We were also taking the kids away from their cousins and school friends, but I just wanted to get away from the cold," he said. "I was sick of not feeling my hands on those chilly winter mornings back home. It just wasn't fun and we do get snow falls there-you can see it if you drive to the first hill on the way to Orange." Butler's love of Queensland began as a youngster when he would travel north with Steve and Jenny Turnbull on their regular winter trips with a team of horses. "They sort of took me under their wing from when I was 12 or 13 and I owe them a lot," Butler said. "At school I was mates with Jenny's brother Nigel, so it just went from there. My grandfather had horses and while I liked them a little bit, I wasn't very interested. After I had more and more to do with them, I guess that's when I got hooked." Butler said while the couple had reasonable success and enjoyed preparing a solid team at Bathurst, they were unable to attract big clients. So, they took the plunge and purchased the fully established training property of another former Bathurst based horseman in John McCarthy at Logan Village. The property was home to champions including Mr Feelgood, Be Good Johnny, Slipnslide, Fleur De Lil and others, but became available when McCarthy, a legend of the sport, decided to shift his base to Cobbitty, near Sydney. And Butler really hasn't looked back since the move. He's topped the century mark as a trainer in the past four seasons and is again sitting nicely to repeat the feat with 70 winners so far for the 2019/20 calendar. His statistics show: 2015/16-116 wins 190 placings ($700k). 2016/17-120w, 236p ($814k). 2017/18-110w, 220p ($731k). 2018/19-117w, 241p ($895k). 2019/20-70w, 133p ($566k). "It's a family affair with Tara and the kids helping out, while our stable driver Brendan Barnes is also here most days. Tara's family is originally from Switzerland and her parents are on the property as well, and don't mind giving a hand," Butler said. "Chloe is showing promise as a driver. Our son Marty was mad on his footy and was in a few junior rugby squads but hasn't done anything with that since COVID-19, and he's showing interest now in getting his trials licence." Butler himself was a more than handy reinsman with around 400 winners in a career that was probably highlighted with five wins on Dinki Di (25 wins $312k), which included the $40,000 Bohemia Crystal at Harold Park on Nov 25, 2005. They also won the Shirley Turnbull Memorial at Bathurst in the same year. Dinki Di, a son of Fake Left, was trained by Chris Frisby. "I used to love driving, but I've got too big. Our stable driver Brendan weighs 64kg and I'm around the 90kg mark and I'm a firm believer that it makes a difference," he said. "But I have occasionally been sneaking myself onto the square gaiters-I love them, and my strike-rate is good!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Former champion harness racing racehorse and now exciting sire Auckland Reactor continues to have his name up in lights through the deeds of his off-spring. The superstar pacer, who earned the nickname "Reactor Factor" during a sparkling racing career had some impressive winners bob up over the last eight days in nearly every state, with his progeny inheriting not only his striking looks, but also his sizzling turn of foot. Four-year-old chestnut gelding Gold Horseshoe (Auckland Reactor-Aussie Vision (Grinfromeartoear) cruised to victory in the Westbred Entires and Geldings Pace at Pinjarra last Sunday week. Trained by Colin Reeves, the pacer was driven by Jocelyn Young. The following day at Melton, the magnificently bred Auckland Red (Auckland Reactor-The Summer Wind (Live Or Die) had a few kinks in his armour, but still got the job done as a $1.70 fav should. He is prepared and driven by Michael Cole. Top SA reinsman Ryan Hryhorec scored narrowly with Weeroona Boy (Auckland Reactor-Amberlu Ella (Badlands Hanover) for trainer Tyson Linke at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park. The 3yo won by the barest margin in a time of 2.00-5. Amy Day and Todd McCarthy teamed to land Atomic Bombshell (Auckland Reactor-Art Asset (Artsplace) at Penrith last Thursday night. The 4yo mare was too good for $1.60 favorite Fifteen Aces. And just 15 minutes later at Bendigo, hobby trainer Frank Barac was cheering home his 3yo filly Madam Reactor (Auckland Reactor-Madam Altissimo (Blissful Hall). It was Barca's first win since April 2016. Comeback driver Rodney Lakey, who is going like a house on fire, took the reins. The spotlight then headed over west to Bunbury the next night when Im Spiderman (Auckland Reactor-Casey's Best (Tyler's Best) cruised home for trainer Russell Smith. The gelding was handled by Jack Justins. North west Victorian trainer Murray Jardine, who took ill-fated young pacer Mallee Reactor (Auckland Reactor-Our Angel Flight (In The Pocket) to eight wins from 11 starts in 2018/19, was back in the winner's circle at MIldura with a promising type. He produced Miradero (Auckland Reactor-Mustang Sassy (Modern Art) to score in easy fashion. In-form reinsman Dwayne Locke was the winning driver. Miradero, with Dwayne Locke holding the reins At Globe Derby Park on Saturday, trainer Alyce Finnis and her driver-husband Jayson tasted success with Juddy Douglas (Auckland Reactor-Markeaton Navi (Falcon Seelster). The gelding did it tough, but those who took the short odds never had a worry in the world. Auckland Reactor (Mach Three-Atomic Lass (Soky's Atom) is one of a bunch of very well-credentialed stallions standing at Alabar Stud, near Echuca, and won at his first 17 starts. He retired with 32 wins from 53 outings for $1.8M in stakes. The lead-up to his race day debut at Timaru in New Zealand in September of 2007 had many forecasting he was a star in the making after some superb appearances at the trials. Auckland Reactor scored a comprehensive victory, followed by three more against elite company before heading for a let-up. On his return, Auckland Reactor wrapped up an undefeated 11-start season, which earnt him the crown of New Zealand Horse of the Year, the first of two that he captured. The pacer continued winning against the best up until a seven-year-old. Without doubt, a win in the Pure Steel at Ballarat in January 2012 was among his best on Australian soil. He scored narrowly, but in track record time. Then followed a close second (off 10m) in the Hunter Cup. He then went to Perth and scored comfortable wins in his three heats of the Inter Dominion series. In the final, he went back at the start before working to the "chair" mid race. Auckland Reactor faded to run seventh. An examination later found him to be suffering from a virus. Near the end of an extraordinary career, he ran a third in the 2013 Bendigo Cup to Sushi Sushi and was then unplaced in the Ballarat Cup to Mah Sish. Champion horseman Mark Purdon drove the superstar to 27 of his wins. Anthony Butt was successful of three occasions, while Blair Orange and Tony Herlihy, scored one win apiece. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Mildura trainer-driver Andrew Stenhouse is loving the opportunities Victoria's regional harness racing model is presenting to the lesser lights of the industry - especially after chalking up his first win as a driver in nearly 10 years last week! The enthusiastic trainer has been involved with horses most of his life, but renewed his driver's licence only last year. The recent victory took Andrew to a career tally of four - but it's a fair bet to say that he won't be taking so long before his fifth victory is posted. "I can't say I ever expected to be getting as many driving opportunities as I am, but I'm absolutely loving it," Stenhouse said. "The regional racing model, especially here in Mildura is quite different, but it's giving local horses a great go, local participants a fair go, and I think we're all enjoying the change, for the time being," he said. And he's certainly right in his assessment that there have been some quiet achievers who've come to the fore at Mildura. Although the far north west Victorian club has quite a number of established local professional trainers there are few, if any, race drivers who would be classified in the professional ranks, with the meetings generally dominated by the "pro drivers" coming in from South Australia and Central Victoria. Under the COVID-19 racing model, horses and driving ranks are confined to locals only, currently with a choice of 15 drivers. And with two of the most experienced, Boris Devcic and Andrew Vozlic both spending time on the sidelines at the inception of the regional racing concept, the lesser lights have made their mark. Personal milestones have tumbled. Dwayne Locke has chalked up his first Victorian treble, former Broken Hill trainer-driver Shane Smith landed his first Victorian double, then, later in the same night, made it his first Victorian treble. Local stalwart Danny Weinert notched up his first double and Merbein South driver Kathy Watson is shaping up for one of her best seasons. Sandra O'Connor has been one of the region's leading trainers in recent seasons, but made a comeback to the driving ranks, scoring her first win in the cart since 2017. In fact, of the 15 eligible drivers in the North West Region, 12 have scored at least one win. Stenhouse says, as a former Mildura Committeeman, he was pleased just to see racing continuing, but loving the x-factor that the Region Racing model was bringing. "My last winner as a driver was in Broken Hill in December 2010 and I've really just been happy to do the training and let (partner) Dwayne (Locke) do the driving," he said. "But we had a couple of horses in the same class, so I decided to get my licence back and I was enjoying just helping out a few trainers at the trials when they needed a driver and having the occasional race drive when it worked out. "But it was mind-boggling when COVID-19 started...I went from having maybe one or two steers at a meeting to all of a sudden there were people on the phone wanting me to drive their horses and having four or five at a meeting, one race to the next. "I have always studied the form pretty well. I like to go through the fields to look at how things might pan out, but it's the next level at the moment!" Born and raised at Broken Hill, in Western New South Wales, Stenhouse can thank his grandfather Jack Palmer for introducing him to horses from the age of five - although not of the standardbred kind. "Pop had an old showjumper that everyone around town used to ride and compete in the shows and the pony club, and I gradually got involved too," he said. "Then when the pony club went by the wayside, I eventually got involved with a few local harness racing trainers, including Mick Vinall, Tony Camilleri, Geoff Mobbs and Shane Smith. "Pop always told me that you listen to everyone, and everyone has something to tell you. That's definitely been my experience and all those blokes were happy to pass on what they knew." Andrew and Dwayne moved from Broken Hill to Rochester, then based themselves at Mildura, midway between their two families, about seven years ago. "Dwayne's family is in the sport and my mum and dad (Margaret and Colin Stenhouse) got interested and have bred some of our horses. They love getting to the track when we have horses in and they were the first on the phone when I got the winner the other night! "Winning is always a buzz, but our involvement in the sport is more about the people that you meet and talk to. We don't have much of a social life, other than with other racing people, so that's the best part of it. "It's heaps of fun at the moment, and I'm loving it, but I'll be just as happy to go back to spending most of my time on the sidelines when it's all over!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Polished Queensland reinsman Brendan Barnes will be in the spotlight again this weekend, fresh from celebrating a personal harness racing milestone. Barnes, 23, posted his 400th career winner at Brisbane's Albion Park, and now finds himself centre of one of the biggest talking points in harness racing at the moment - taking the reins behind comeback millionaire pacer Hectorjayjay. "It's pretty exciting because he's a special horse. I've driven him in two trials and it's unreal just how many gears he's got," Barnes said. Nine-year-old Hectorjayjay (Dream Away-Sheer Finesse (Torado Hanover) is prepared by Jack Butler and has drawn the seven alley-fittingly in the Hectorjayjay Open Pace. All races on the program have been named after horses driven to victory at Albion Park by Gavin Lang, as a tribute to the master reinsman who passed away last week. Logan Village-based Butler is thrilled to be getting the opportunity to rejuvenate the career of the former powerhouse pacer. "He came up here to retire, but when he was looking so awesome I began swimming and treadmilling him. "Two months later I got his legs scanned and they were all good and now he's probably working better than anything I've had before," Butler said. Hectorjayjay has impressed in two recent trials, particularly his latest nine days ago which he won in 1.54-9 with quick closing sectionals. "He's probably at about 85 percent regarding fitness. Obviously it would be a dream come true if he was successful, but the only scenario that matters for me is that he pulls up okay," he said. Hectorjayjay, a winner of 43 races, was victorious at his last race start in June, 2018, when he took out the Popular Alm Sprint at Kilmore, trained and driven by Gavin Lang. The pair had combined to win the rich Garrards Sunshine Sprint on July 9, 2016, a victory trainer David Aiken posted a few days ago was "one of my favorite wins with Gav". Brendan Barnes said many long hours had been put into the horse and "excitement was high in just having the champ back at the track-we are all rapt". Barnes, whose father Alistair and older brother Hayden are both heavily involved in the sport, wasn't all that interested in horses while growing up. "I remember I would just sit on a bucket and watch dad mix up feeds when we were down at Tweed Heads. Horses were nothing to me because I was right into football and cricket," he said. "Just before my 13th or 14th birthday, dad gave me two choices - either smarten up at school or learn about the big world and get a job. I was a bit of a rat at school, so I went and did the horses with dad." All three, Alistair, Hayden and Brendan, later worked for Darrel Graham. "Then I joined Ricky Gordon and Lola Weidemann for about 18 months. They threw me into the deep end, but it was a good foundation. "Later I worked with Bart Cockburn, then the Shane Graham and Vicki Rasmussen stable. I started race driving and when Shane broke his arm, I was really lucky that it meant more opportunities coming my way," he said. Crack Qld reinsman Brendan Barnes with pacer Sabrage—his 400th career winner Then further good fortune came when the youngster was in Bathurst attending the 18th birthday party of a harness racing mate, Mitch Turnbull. It was here that Barnes met Jack Butler and was offered a stable driving position. "Jack told me how he was planning a shift to Queensland and to get out on his own. He was keen to have me on board. It was great because he moved into John McCarthy's old place, a stable that certainly produced some winners over the years!" Barnes said. He was later lured to Sydney and had 12-month stints with Kevin Pizzuto, and the McDowell family. "That was one of the best things I've done because Menangle taught me how to drive on big tracks. The drivers down there are so professional, and I picked up so much from them. "I kept in contact with Jack while I was in Sydney and two years ago came back to his stable and I got my old job back. Jack really hasn't looked back since he shifted up here and he has some great owners, particularly Rod Smith." Barnes is in his seventh season and has 60 wins and 115 placings in the current fixture. Last season was his best when he recorded 109 wins and 198 placings. Butler, regarded as one of his State's best trainers, said he was pleased to have Barnes working at his stables and doing the driving. "He's such a dedicated guy, a good worker and turns up each day with heaps of enthusiasm-he is a big part of the stable," Butler said. While Barnes is sure to be the stable number one driver for years to come, waiting in the wings is Butler's teenage daughter Chloe, who is making every post a winner. The 16-year-old, with 28 wins and 86 placings for nearly $200k this season, is already being touted as a rising star of the Sunshine State. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of Queensland's most successful harness racing drivers Shane Graham has won a two-year battle to clear his name over race fixing allegations. Graham was charged with two counts of match fixing by Queensland Racing Integrity in December of 2017, relating to a race at Albion Park on July 28, 2017. Lawyers for Graham, 38, were advised this week that all match fixing charges against their client had been dropped. Graham was driving his father's horse "Dapper" in the race in question, but it was alleged he'd phoned his friend, and the owner of a rival horse by the name of "January", advising the friend that Dapper would win. Graham drove Dapper to victory over January, who was trained by Graham's long-term partner at the time and driven by an employee of the stable. A jury was discharged in September last year after being unable to reach a verdict on the charges. A District Court judge dismissed the charges against Graham in February and a crown review has now resulted in the charges against Graham being withdrawn. Graham has spent his life in the sport. Prior to the charges, he was consistently in the Sunshine State's top three drivers, having driven over 100 winners in the previous 16 years, with a career best of 250. In October 2017 he represented Australia in Canada, and he was a regular representative for Queensland in Australian State challenges. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Interdominion-winning horseman John Justice made the transition from bus driving to again being a harness racing winner in near record time. Justice, based at Toolern Vale, showed his customary fine touch with a training and driving double at Tabcorp Park Melton on Monday afternoon after only recently returning to the sport. "I quite enjoyed the change in direction and driving buses, but we're really spoilt in harness racing-it's a great lifestyle, there's good people and lots of fun," he said. Justice is keen to assemble a handy team again after putting an enforced 12 month "holiday" behind him - and two winners in his first week back at the races sets a tough benchmark. Three-year-old gelding Long Weekend (Sunshine Beach-Quick Jet (Jeremes Jet) was impressive in easily taking out the Prydes Easifeed Pace, while four-year-old gelding Hatchback (Angus Hall-Jauriol (Wagon Apollo) didn't put a foot wrong to win the Aldebaran Park Trotters Handicap "Previous to Monday, I'd had two drives back, one for my brother Lance which galloped out on me, and I then ran second on Hatchback on Saturday," Justice said. "Hatchback and Long Weekend are certainly both bright prospects and they should keep improving with any sort of luck," he said. "I've always had a bit of an opinion about Long Weekend. He was probably going to nearly win on his debut for me last year as a two-year-old but got tightened and didn't know what he was doing. "But he will keep learning with more race experience and should develop into a nice horse." Square-gaiter Hatchback is a model of consistency with four wins and 14 placings for stakemoney of $43,000 from just 28 starts. Hatchback is owned by Justice's wife Kasia Sas, his 89-year-old mother Josie and long-time friend and stable client Graeme Riley, of Melbourne. The same trio are part owners of Long Weekend, along with Peter and Jenny O'Byrne. "The O'Byrnes live at Clunes and we've been friends for a long time. We've known them along with Graeme for probably 20 to 25 years," Justice said. "My mum is still very active. She lives with her partner at Melton and they come and work at the stables nearly every day," he said. Justice said his bus driving job involved a permanent school run, V-Line trips and some charter work. "Having driven semis and horse trucks, I didn't find the buses, even the bigger V-Line ones, too daunting," he said. "I enjoyed driving those that were autos; they were good. I did a few Traralgon trips for V-Line and quite enjoyed them. But some of the old rattlers weren't that easy to drive. "I did shatter a window after hitting a pole on a metro service in Essendon and apart from that and giving another bus a bit of a scrape along the side, it was all good!" Justice has 10 horses in work and is eager to keep down to around that tally. But with his 17-year-old daughter Ewa having a stablehand licence and starting to drive trackwork, along with at least five yearlings ready to resume, he may just have his work cutout in keeping his numbers down. "While I didn't follow the trots all that closely while I was away, I did keep a check on the horses that I had before I went out," he said. And as for furthering his bus driving career, Justice admitted that he had told them that he was still available to drive on a casual basis whenever needed.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Talented Queensland harness racing driver Lachie Manzelmann blew punters out of the water with an unwanted longshot at the weekend, but he was far from surprised. "I just thought we'd get a perfect trail from inside the back-row draw and while her form didn't look great on paper, she hadn't been having much luck," he said. Manzelmann, 20, landed 80/1 rank outsider Miss Giulietta (Somebeachsomewhere-East Empress (Presidential Ball) in the Kerry Ebert-Life Member Pace at Redcliffe on Sunday night. And it's not the first time he's been the bookmakers' pin-up boy - he's steered home long-shot winners on two previous occasions. The Redcliffe race panned out pretty much exactly as the youngster had predicted with the pole horse Im Isabella (John Kerr) holding the lead and bowling along at a steady clip. "We were always going to get the sweet run and I was confident I could be right in it with the aid of the sprint lane. In the end it all worked out well," Manzelmann said. Miss Giulietta just got the first prize with a short head margin over Shadys Delight (Trent Moffat) with a half head back to third placegetter Having The Faith (Zac Chappenden). To watch the replay of Miss Giulietta's victory click here. Manzelmann said he only had two engagements at the Redcliffe meeting, the pair being trained on the track by Bianca Hooper. "I thought they both had rough chances with the right runs. I just missed with Bianca's first one, getting beaten by a half head on Michaels Desire. So, I must admit that I then had high hopes for Miss Giulietta," he said. "She is an honest filly. I actually won on her about six starts ago in January at the track. Bianca only trains three or four, but she does a good job." Two other long-priced winners have been landed in recent years by the young driver who is nearing 150 career victories. Manzelmann got former old warrior Cruisin Carl (Western Terror-Official Search) up at odds of 80/1 for trainer Shane Parrish at Albion Park on September 2, 2017. "I remember that very well because it was my first metropolitan win," he said. Cruisin Carl ended up with 24 wins and 54 placings for $120,000 from a massive 248 starts. He raced from 2010 to 2017. And it's fair to say that Manzelmann and supporters of the Shane and Lauren Tritton stable won't be forgetting the night the youngster claimed the $100,000 Group One Newcastle Mile on February 8 last year with Yayas Hot Spot (Jeremes Jet-Star Of Heaven)-also at 80/1. "That win was special. I worked for Team Tritton for nearly two years and it was a fantastic experience. They gave me a heap of opportunities and I learnt a lot," he said. Manzelmann later joined the boutique McDowell stable, where he stayed for four months. Then it was back to his native Queensland. "I started my career with Pete McMullen and initially I was there for three years. Now I've rejoined Pete and Chantal and I'm really enjoying it." Over the past few seasons, he has continually increased on his tally of winners-having a standout 2018/19 season with 61 wins and 94 placings for $636,000. Manzelmann has two drives at Albion Park this afternoon-but pre-post markets are playing it safe with Kotiro (race 5) quoted a $3.40 chance, with Arthur Lowe (race 7) a little longer at $15.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing world champion Ted Demmler says he will always cherish a special few hours he spent talking and laughing with former fellow reinsman Gavin Lang. Lang, 61, an icon of the sport, lost his battle to a rare form of cancer on Friday. "It was just wonderful - I was there for a couple of hours and we spoke about a lot of things and had some laughs along the way," Demmler said. "I got a big surprise because when I turned up at the hospital Andrew Peace, who was also a brilliant driver in his day was visiting as well," he said. "And anyone who knows Andrew will know he can be the life of the party. We all just had the most special time together." All three are Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame inductees: Demmler in 2011, Lang in 2013 and Peace, a son of legendary horseman Ron "Tubby" Peace, in 2015. Demmler and Peace said during their driving days, Lang "very seldom put a foot wrong". "I drove against both Gavin and Andrew but I seemed to be the number two driver for some of the big stables. I got called upon when the main men got outed or were interstate!" Demmler said. "Gavin was just a super guy and the smartest driver I'd ever seen. We got on very well, but I'm pleased to say that I don't think I was ever on the receiving end of one of Gavin's 'headshakes' when you displeased him!" Andrew Peace was also prominent during the Vin Knight-dominated era of the 1980s but gave the sport away and got employed at Melbourne Airport. A lineup of stars contested the 1990 Horsham Driver’s Championship.  From left to right, Andrew Peace, the late Vin Knight, Gavin Lang, Gaita Pullicino, Lance Justice, Brian Gath, John Justice, Ted Demmler, and Geoff Webster (Greg Matthews Photograph) Demmler hasn't driven for 15 years since being seriously injured in a sickening race fall at Warragul, but was a driving world champion in Europe and an eight time Victorian Drivers' premiership winner, as well as five-time leading Australian driver. He was the first Australian reinsman to land 3000 wins. "I suppose I enjoyed some time at the top levels of the sport, but in saying that, I never classed myself in the same league as Gavin," Demmler said. "He was just a professional - I always held WA's Phil Coulson in the very top bracket, but I'd also put Gavin up there as well," he said. "I can't image life without Gavin, and I've been crying ever since that visit. It can be a cruel world that we live in at times, but Gavin left a legacy that will last forever in our sport.: There will never be another Gavin Lang. Harnesslink sends condolences to Gavin's wife Meagan and daughters Danielle and Courtney.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When it comes to enthusiasm, energy and emotion for harness racing, you would have to go a long way to find anyone to top Melbourne trainer-driver Albert Cefai. Albert's passionate about anything to do with horses-and admits he's even taken a few away with him on holidays! "I just love having horses. I enjoy every minute I'm doing something with them, and I'd be lost without them," Cefai said. "Each horse is different, and you certainly learn something new quite often. I spend hours and hours with them," he said. Cefai lives in the outer north west suburb of St Albans and has been a trainer for over 35 years. But he had every reason to cherish the success of one member of his small team this week. Four-year-old gelding Fling It Rainbow (Fling It USA-Rainbow Reflection (Monarchy USA) grabbed a narrow but deserved win in the $7000 TAB Long May We Play Maiden Trot at Tabcorp Park, Melton on Wednesday night. Watch the replay here. Handled by one of Victoria's most successful drivers in Lance Justice, the square gaiter downed the Ann-Maree Conroy trained and driven Whirily Rolls by a short half head. "He's got some ability and it was a terrific win, but we've had more than our share of bad luck with him," Cefai said. "We actually came awfully close to losing him about 14 weeks ago when he picked up a virus. I saw that he was losing weight and developed a terrible color," he said. "I got onto a vet pretty quickly and he was able to get him back right for us. When he was younger, he got caught in a fence and cut his leg badly and then after that he got kicked by a mare." Cefai said he was hopeful Fling It Rainbow had now turned the corner. "He raced in behind the leader, but I was pleased the way he went. He can go a bit and will improve with more racing - that was only his fourth start. "My wife Margaret and our grown-up children all follow the horses. Margaret can't attend meetings at the moment because of the racetrack lockdowns with coronavirus, but she would have been doing all the jumping around in the lounge room. The kids don't miss it and watch it on the TV." Cefai said while he now preferred the trotters, in the past he enjoyed a lot of success with Buffalo Bill, a 14 times winner for $85,000, and then Alberts Pride, 10 wins and 13 placings for $36,000-both pacers. "I'm a boilermaker by trade and when I got any holidays, I'd go to Portarlington with a couple of my pacers and a fishing rod. I become friends with Gary Bailey, who is out of them now, but he trained many good trotters and while they can be a headache, I just fell in love with them," he said. "Fishing is my next passion so after we'd do the horses in the morning, I'd be off somewhere trying to catch a nice fish." Cefai said while growing up his dad always had an interest in the horses, but purely enjoying the occasional punt. "I've sort of taught myself a lot along the way as well as listened to others. While I drive now and again, I much prefer the breaking-in and training side," he said. "There's four in work now and I've just finished breaking-in three yearlings. We also own a few broodmares and there's some weanlings, so I've always got plenty to do." Come rain,hail or shine, it's a safe bet to say that you will find Cefai up and going at the stables at 6am each day. "It's sometimes earlier if I'm racing horses that afternoon!" he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

As trainer of over 40 years, John Meade doesn't easily get carried away about the prospects of his harness racing charges - but he can be excused for having a wry smile on his face at the moment. Meade, based at Cudgee which is halfway between Terang and Hamilton in Victoria's Western District, is certainly seeing deserved reward for effort come his way with his team of square gaiters. "I'm having some fun-and getting a bit of my hard earnt back," Meade laughed. "I think a few of them are blessed with good ability. And along with that, they just don't like losing," he said. But Meade has been around long enough to know when his enthusiasm is warranted, and that moment came recently at Terang when he produced a five-year-old trotter on debut. Bay gelding I Stand Alone (Danny Bouchea-Diamond Insitu (Cr Commando USA) is the younger half-brother to Meade's Great Southern Star champion Sparkling Success, and understandably, the debutant created plenty of buzz in the lead-up. "He's a lovely big type of horse and so easy to train. But it has been a long haul with him because he's had some serious issues," Meade said. "There's been many people go over him and I've spent a lot of money with bone scans trying to track down the problem and one vet suggested I turn him out for four months," he said. "I found a muscle man who had a bit of a go and did seem to do some good. He's still not quite right and goes rough now and again, but the muscle issues seem to have been the problem." Sent out as a cautious 5/1 chance in the Cobden AB Trot, I Stand Alone wasn't bustled out of the gate and after taking time to balance up, Meade had no hesitation in driving him to outside the leader Down Under Earl (Jackie Barker). I Stand Alone's more-fancied stablemate Wisp Of Smoke (Jason Lee) worked around at the bell, and when the leader kicked on the home corner, there didn't appear to be any threats-that was until Meade revved up I Stand Alone, who put in big strides to grab an eye-catching victory on the line. "I saw that Wisp Of Smoke wasn't going all that good, so pulled out and gave my bloke a few taps to put pressure on the leader. With a trotter you just don't go 'whack' because it's the easiest way to bust them up," Meade said. "I think there may be a card game where you win by going backwards. But there's only one way to win out on the track in my opinion, and that's by going forward. I believe when you are up there, if you sit quietly the others have to go around. They have to use petrol to do that." I Stand Alone won officially by a head over Down Under Earl, with a similar margin back to Namoscar (Ashley Ainsworth). Watch the replay here. Meade said I Stand Alone was the third foal he'd bred from Diamond Insitu and he was now the third winner-the other two being Sparkling Success ($423,000) and Diamond Wes ($22,700). "It's pretty exciting that they have now all won races. And we have four more from the mare. There's a three-year-old filly and a two-year-old colt, both of which go along nicely. We also have a yearling colt and a foal on her, and she's in foal again," he said. "Not many trotters win first-up. I've perhaps had only one other over the years so, yes, that was a special victory by I Stand Alone." Meade said he was thrilled to receive many congratulatory messages and especially a call from Father Brian Glasheen, known as the Pacing Priest, due to his love of the sport. "He told me he didn't think I was going to get away with them at the start with the horse going a little rough. But he said I'd kept him in his gear and got the win. He was delighted." Meade said his star trotter Sparkling Success (winner of 17 races from 39 starts) would be nominated for a race at Terang in seven days. Sparkling Success has impressed in his two race starts since a 17-month lay-off and is bound to further improve with racing. The gelding, bred by Meade and his wife Mary, was ready to show USA fans his style in October 2018, with a run in the $US 1M Yonkers International Trot in New York being pencilled in. However, on the eve of flying out, the champion suffered a near front suspensory ligament injury and didn't make it. "His legs are fine now, and he seems to be working well. If the standing start Terang race goes on he will be 40 metres behind. He mightn't be 'Mickey mouse', but he won't be far off," Meade said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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