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There'll be very few in harness racing who won't take time to stop to reflect and enjoy the success of teenage Ballarat driver Connor Clarke in driving his first ever winner on Friday night. Clarke's been race-driving since February, and the talented reinsman's first success was undoubtedly more than a little overdue. But the classic comeback story after this popular young driver's brush with cancer made this particular maiden victory a little more emotional than most. And to add to the special occasion, the youngster was not only wearing his family racing colors, but the achievement was posted at Bray Raceway, his home track, and for his well-known bosses in Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin. "When I was pretty sick and in hospital back in 2017, all I had in my head when I came out the other side was to get stuck into harness racing and watch and maybe play plenty of football again," Clarke said. The youngster spent six months in Melbourne Royal Children's hospital after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a condition rare in children. The cancer was found to be stage four, which meant he had to undergo Chemotheraphy on-and-off during his stay. "It's always been my dream and now that I've got my first winner, I can't really believe it. I was stuck for words straight after the race. It was such a big thrill," he said. "Here I am doing what I just love and winning a race for Victoria's leading stable. It doesn't get much better than that." Clarke handled four-year-old pacer Struve (Courage Under Fire-Jets Girl (Jeremes Jet) with the poise of a driver well above his years. He landed in the perfect one-one spot soon after the field settled, with the $1.30 favorite Pur Dan (Greg Sugars) in front of him in the death-seat. "The horse is pretty smart and had been working well leading up to the race," Clarke said. "He was always travelling nice and Clayton thought I could probably make a move 500 to 600 metres from home. That's what I did and he went to the line full of running," he said. "Now that I've got my first winner, I just want to keep driving more. It was a funny feeling though when I went over the finish line. I thought what do I do now?" Connor Clarke returns to the winner’s podium with the victorious Struve Prior to Friday night, Clarke had driven 16 times for five placings, and, with the Regional Racing mode and COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria, there was a little sense of unreality when he finally scored the win. "I've got close a few times when driving for dad (Stephen), just getting pipped on the line," Clarke said. "Mum (Belinda) was at home due to the racing restrictions, and dad had to work but my pa (Jim Clarke) was with me. Pa was my designated driver cos I'm not old enough to have a car driver's licence yet. "They were all stoked for me though and Dad sent me a text message to congratulate me and told me it was time I got a winner for him too! "I drove Miss McGonagall for him the next night at Melton and thought at one stage I was going to do it. But we ended up with another second placing-I've run a few of those for dad!" Clarke cut his teeth on the pony trot circuit and enjoyed a successful partnership with Pride Of Petite. "That was certainly a great experience and gave me the feel of driving a horse. I started when I was nine years old and continued with it up until I began trials drives for my licence," he said. "My pony wasn't real easy to handle. She was a bit rough in her gait and was a typical mare. My 12-year-old younger sister Reagan has taken over her now. "I enjoyed the pony trots because I got to know a lot of people involved in harness racing. There was always someone coming up to have a chat and say g'day." Clarke admitted that while he'd probably watched the replay of his winning drive "a few hunded times" over the weekend, it was back to work again today. "Mum cooked me my favorite meal of veggies and ribs after I got home from Ballarat as a celebration, which was nice. Hopefully it won't be too long before she's doing it again!" he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Easy-going Bendigo harness racing trainer Shaun McNaulty still pinches himself when he recalls the day he received a telephone call "out of the blue". McNaulty said he didn't recognize the number at all, but when the caller started chatting about a horse named Hashtag he immediately took notice. "I used to watch Hashtag probably from when he first of all started racing for (Shepparton trainer) Laura Crossland," McNaulty said. "He'd do a few things wrong, but there was always plenty of bottom to him," he said. Crossland won 10 races with the pacer before he was transferred to the Sydney stables of Craig Cross, who won three. Hashtag then headed to Queensland for a stint with Grant Dixon which produced one victory. Then connections-the Charantoss Racing Syndicate-decided it was time for Hashtag to return to Victoria. "That was my lucky day when I took the call from Charles Merola, who was ringing on behalf of the syndicate made up of 10 mates. The horse is undoubtedly the best I've ever had," McNaulty said. And Hashtag (Shadyshark Hanover-Elvira Bromac (Badlands Hanover) showed just why he's so highly-rated by McNaulty with a brilliant performance at Bendigo on Wednesday night. The brown gelding stopped the clock in winning the $12,000 Garrards Horse and Hound Pace in a time of 1.51-9, equalling the track record set back in February by the Maree Campbell-trained gelding Belittled. "We really had the best run in the race, sitting on the fence behind the two leaders, and they kept the pace on. The track is on fire at the moment, but the front ones didn't back off," McNaulty said. Streitkid (Shannon O'Sullivan) led with Form Analyst (Tayla French) up on the outside. Both horses were stirred up and pulling hard with the first quarter a blistering 26.2secs, followed with splits of 28.0, 28.2 and 29.4. Recent comeback driver Rod Lakey shot Hashtag up the sprint lane to record an easy win over Courageous Saint and Animated, the latter certainly being one to follow after charging home from the clouds. Driver Rod Lakey with Hashtag McNaulty said his pacer had a perfect attitude, with an unbelievable desire to win. "He just tries his heart out every time and loves getting out there. He's an absolute ripper. I'd compare him to one of those blokes that you always want to go to the pub with!" McNaulty laughed. Hashtag joined the Marong stable of McNaulty last August and has since won four races-the others being at Melton (twice) and Mildura. "I had planned on taking him up the highway to Mildura again for the Pacing Cup Carnival. But that got scrubbed with the coronavirus pandemic," he said. "With the regionalisation racing restrictions we haven't any option but to keep racing him at Bendigo, but that's okay because there are going to be some interesting battles ahead with Animated because he's certainly one of the best in the area at the moment." Gifted reinsman Rod Lakey, who recently returned to race driving after an absence of more than a decade, went home with a double. Apart from Hashtag, he was also successful with the Lynne Mercieca prepared pacer Art Finest (Art Official-Finest (D M Dillinger).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Astute Victorian horsewoman Kerryn Manning has put the polish on a number of former NSW harness racing horses over the years-and there are signs she might be shaping up to do it again. "I've built up a great relationship with Ashlee Grives, of Bathurst, and she recently sent another one down to us to give it a try," Manning, of Great Western, said. "He's a nice little fella and if he can get a bit tougher, you just never know how far he might go," she said. And there are certainly some positive signs with brown gelding Romero (Million Dollar Cam-Athletic River (River Khan), who, before being sent to Victoria, had won four for the Grives team. Stepping out on two occasions this month for Manning, Romero has the perfect result of two impressive wins. The four-year-old scored at Stawell on April 1 and then repeated the dose last Monday afternoon in virtually identical fashion by zipping to the head of affairs and leading all the way. "He pulled quite hard in his first win for us, but surprisingly ran a faster mile rate with 1.58-7. He didn't come with a lot of points, so we were getting balloted out. In the end we were forced to run him out of his class," Manning said. "He's a funny horse to drive. He runs with his head down but gets over the ground okay. A great thing about the horse is that he's kept improving. "The most recent Stawell meeting was a great day for us because (husband) Grant also drove a winner in Glenavril King, which he trains. It's not far to travel, just a bit up the way so under the new zoning conditions we can compete at Stawell and Terang." Manning said in the past she had taken on a few horses from Ashlee, who she become friends with years ago. "Probably a standout was Ameretto which was a lovely mare. We won several nice races in Melbourne with her. One was a Group One feature in the Queen of the Pacific, the first that she had ever won, but thoroughly deserved," she said. Ameretto (Million Dollar Cam-Eyes of Courage (Courage Under Fire) had won 17 races before being sent south to Manning in search of more suitable handicapping conditions. Her record shows she won 27 races and had 20 placings for $565,000 during a career full of highlights. Under the care of Manning, the mare won 10 races-six of these in a row. Her biggest scalp was the $100,000 G1 Queen of the Pacific in May, 2018, but victory in the $60,000 G2 Alabar Breeders Crown Graduate FFA in August, 2017, was also memorable. Ameretto returned home last year, but tragically died on the comeback trail after a suspensory injury. She contracted severe colic and failed to recover after two major surgeries. However, thanks to embryo transfer technology the mare's line continues with a Warrawee Needy filly foal born to a surrogate mare.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness racing identity Tony Peacock has been dealt another devastating blow, after a fire destroyed his home in the New South Wales Riverina at the weekend. Peacock nearly lost his life over two years ago in a track accident and he and his partner Shelley have now been left with virtually the clothes they were wearing when a fire tore through the historic homestead at his Moama property. The magnificently renovated 150-year-old homestead at the picturesque St Fort property was razed late on Sunday afternoon, destroying valuable trotting books, photographs, rare autographed memorabilia, inscribed rugs, racing colors and trophies. "I reckon it was gutted in about half an hour. We grabbed the hoses, but there was a lot of beautiful old Murray Pine in the house, so it was pointless once the fire had taken hold," Peacock said. "The fire brigade came out, but they couldn't save anything. The remains are still smoldering now. It's heart-breaking," he said. "We've lost personal papers and records. Our passports, cheque books, accounts and other stuff are gone-but the main thing was that no-one was injured." The alarm was raised around 5 pm when Shelley's son and grandson woke to find the house on fire. "Bryce had been cropping all night and was having a sleep with his young son Isiah. He told me the first thing he remembers was waking up with sore eyes and the room was hazy," Peacock said. "It didn't take him long to realize it was smoke and ran out screaming to Shelley that the house was on fire. They were very lucky to get out when they did." Peacock was trimming the hooves of a yearling in the stabling area, while Shelley had taken a trotter for a training jog. The home, originally used by Cobb and Co as the first stop from Victoria into NSW, had three fireplaces. "They had been lit at 5 o clock when the day began to cool down. We've been lighting the fires each night for a while," Peacock said. "It's just devastating because over the five years we've been here, there's been at least $100,000 spent on renovations. We put in a new kitchen, new bathrooms, en-suites and made other improvements. Tony Peacock "I've virtually been left with a pair of RM Williams trousers and a shirt. We did find a few trophies and some old horse photographs that were left out in the shed. None of the photographs were our horses though - they were some of the greats like Cardigan Bay and Niatross." Peacock broke his back in December 2017 when he was training a young pacer at St Fort and was catapulted from the sulky. After a long rehabilitation program, he is back doing most chores at the property, but the past few years have been difficult with drought and water carting for the past 12 months. The property is owned in partnership with a Sydney doctor, and is currently the subject of a legal dispute. It's believed the insurance policy had lapsed and hadn't been paid up. "I received a call from the insurer's office notifying me that the insurance payment hadn't been honored. I rang the bank, but I wasn't able to do anything about it other than pass the information onto my business partner," Peacock said. He said the couple had been overwhelmed by the support from the local community as well as others in the harness racing industry. "We have other accommodation on the property including a small guest unit. It's just been unbelievable how many offers of furniture and other things we've had." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Rising star reinsman Tom Ison had a day to remember at his hometown harness racing track of Tamworth yesterday with a haul of five winners. Four of the winners were for his boss Roy Roots Jnr with the remaining one for local trainer Anthony Missen. Ison has been in career-best form in recent weeks, posting a quartet at Newcastle-the third time he had achieved the feat. He has previously landed four winners on two occasions at Tamworth. But he went one better at Tamworth, with a fabulous five. "It certainly was a big day-I'm pretty excited," he said late yesterday while loading up the horses for home. The first winner for Missen was a blowout for punters starting at 30/1. Ison led all the way with Mickey Ramone (Armbro Operative-Key Attraction (Troublemaker). To watch the video replay click here. The next four were all in the market, but Ison showed he's a "class act" to get them over the line. The Ison/Roots combination was successful with Black Eight (Rocknroll Hanover-Bed Socks (Knight Rainbow); Watching Your Dream (He's Watching-MajorDreams (Major In Art); Glengarry Rose (Real Desire-Glengarry Lass (Live Or Die) and Bohannan (Santana Blue Chip-Ariana Angel (Elsu). To watch the video replay of Black Eight click here To watch the video replay of Watching Your Dreams click here To watch the video replay of Glengarry Rose click here To watch the video replay of Bohannan click here "It was unbelievable. I really wanted that last one to make it five and we just got there by a short half head, which makes it even more special," Ison said. "The race was a nice one to win. The owner of the horse rang during the week and asked about our chances. We thought he would go okay because he's a big strong horse," he said. "He was keen early so I decided to let him zip. I thought with 400 metres to go we may have been gone. But he just kept powering on." Ison has now driven over 50 winners for the season--with an enviable strike rate of finishing top three at least half the time. His tally last season was 39 wins and 62 placings. "It was nice to get the five at my old track. But it didn't really matter where it was, I just wanted to get them. My next ambition is to land a treble at Menangle. That would be sweet because I've had a double there." But there were no big festivities planned for the young man in a hurry. "My celebration on landing five winners will be McDonalds on the way home," he laughed. Another young gun in Jack Callaghan, who just recently was the toast of Newcastle with a bag of five winners, was again prominent at Tamworth with a winning double. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

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

There's no one in Tasmanian harness racing who had more at stake from the State's COVID-19 racing shutdown than Ben Yole. And yesterday Tassie's biggest trainer, with around 80 horses in work, was the happiest he's been in some time. The State called a 30-day halt to racing on April 2, and Yole was among the industry participants becoming anxious at the prospect of a mounting financial burden and knock-on animal welfare concerns. But Yole, based at Sidmouth, near Launceston, was full of praise for the Tasmanian Government's announcement of financial support for the three codes of racing. Under the assistance package, released by the Minister for Racing, Jane Howlett, each horse kept in work will be subsidized $35 per day. "The money on offer doesn't cover all the costs, but it will certainly go a long way to helping us along," Yole said. "All the owners are aware they will have to pick up a bit of slack." Yole, who recently landed the 800th win of his training career, said happily he would now be able to retain staff and keep his team "ticking over". "There will just be regular jog work because there's no point in giving the horses fastwork until we get a definite date as to when racing might resume," the 35-year-old said. "They've actually just enjoyed a 10-day break. We tossed them out onto some green grass which was fantastic. But they've been back in work and they're fit, so when an announcement is made, they will be quickly near the top of their game," he said. "The stewards will be checking on stables as to numbers of horses that are in training, which is fair enough. "We had to push hard for the rescue package and next we will be proactive as to when we might able to be back into action. Everyone is hoping it will be after that initial 30-day period, but we'll have to wait and see." Yole said there had been many anxious people waiting to hear the full details of the relief package. He said some owners had lost their employment or business through the coronavirus pandemic. "The operating costs in feeding horses and ensuring their welfare are massive. Without racing they had no chance of recouping anything. There's going to be a shortfall with the rescue package, but we'll all battle through." The impacts on Tasmanian racing of the shutdown underline what's at stake for mainland States still being permitted to race. Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and WA have all introduced various restrictions aimed at ensuring racing can continue without a public health risk. Measures include limits on raceday and stable staff and regional racing arrangements in Victoria and New South Wales to limit movement of participants to their own local area. The temperature testing of all raceday staff, trainers, drivers and strappers is now required before admission, and social distancing requirements are strictly enforced at all meetings. "The measures are in place to ensure that harness racing complies with all bio-security requirements of the Victorian and Federal Government and must be adhered to if racing is to continue under the current restrictions," said Harness Racing Victoria Integrity Manager Brent Fisher. "Cooperation by industry participants will help us all to continue racing for as long as possible, but any breaches may place the future of racing in jeopardy," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

If ever someone deserves success, it's third generation Victorian harness racing trainer Janet Exell. Exell, from the Western District, admits that talented square gaiter Show Me The Moola (Allawart Ray-Chantivari (Chandon) has more than tested her patience at times. "He certainly takes the cake as the slowest one to get it-he just doesn't learn the lesson at all. And on top of that, he can't relax and won't do things at a steady pace," she said. "There's no doubt he was the dumbest I've ever broken in. I just spent so much time with him. I have had advice and some wisdom from two great horsemen in David Drury and Ray Holberton. They have been super." But for all her perseverance, Exell is now reaping the rewards with Show Me The Moola (known around the stables as The Bad Boy). The five-year-old has won two of his past four starts, his latest at Terang on Tuesday night. Driven for the first time by young Jason Ainsworth, the gelding stepped away from the tapes in good fashion and was never headed to take out the $7000 Greavesy's Fruit and Veg Trotters Handicap over 2180 metres. Watch the replay here "They did really well because they had to withstand a bit of pressure in the race. Jason didn't put a foot wrong because I know how difficult the horse can be to drive at times," Exell said. "I purposely steer clear of putting him in mobile barrier races because they just fire him up too much. He just can't relax and I can say that first-hand. Just from training him there's no flabby arms on me - I'd challenge anyone to an arm wrestle!" she laughed. "He's always been so anxious and fractious, but he's getting better so maybe we are starting to win the battle. I've changed a few things so hopefully we're on the right track." Exell is based at Balmoral, a small township halfway between Horsham and Hamilton, with her husband David. She said while her husband was a "horse person", he didn't come from a harness racing background. "He's right into quarter horses, but he's always ready to give me a hand," she said. "We have a small property with a 600-metre track. I usually take our horses into Hamilton for fastwork. There's a team of five in training at present and three of them are trotters which I really do prefer. "I learnt how to do the shoeing part off my dad. I've been doing it most of the time, particularly since he passed away three years ago, but now David has taken over." Exell, who bred, owns and trains Show Me The Moola, follows in the family footsteps of her late grandfather Arthur Exell and her father Ken. "I still race in dad's colors, which he got registered when he was 16 years old back in 1949," Exell said. In the same race that Show Me The Moola won at Terang, Kerryn Manning wore Exell's dad's all-green colors, finishing third with the stable's other runner, the appropriately-named chestnut mare Keepthedream. Allawart Ray (Speed Supreme-Bernies Love), the sire of Show Me the Moola, was raced by the Foreman family. He was a star Wimmera trotter back in the late 1990s, winning 19 races and over $67,000 in stakes and had victories at Moonee Valley as well as many country tracks such as Stawell, Maryborough, Charlton, Horsham and Bendigo.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

Astute Victorian trainer David Miles has sounded an ominous warning with his rising star pacer, Focus Stride. Although the pacer took 12 starts to break through for his first win, he hasn't been beaten since. And Sky Channel host and part-time harness racing driver Brittany Graham was quick to wryly observe, a worthy advertisement for the ultimate gear-change - being gelded! Focus Stride (Art Major-Sparkling Stride (Christian Cullen) turned 25/1 giant-killer at last weekend's rich Bathurst Gold Carnival, sitting in the "death seat" and eventually overpowering odds-on favorite Perfect Stride in the $100,000 G1 Colts and Geldings Gold Chalice Final. But Miles believes there's still more depth to his latest star. "He's still got a tendency to want to runabout about a bit-I reckon there might be more improvement in him when I straighten him up," Miles said. "Without doubt one of our best decisions was to have him gelded. He's won six out of seven races since we did, and while he wasn't out of control or anything like that, he was little bit boyish and just wouldn't listen. "He used to make a lot of mistakes in his races last season as a two-year-old, and they cost him dearly a few times." The maturing three-year-old Focus Stride pulled out plenty in the shadows of the post to grab a narrow and upset win. Miles has a team of 25 in work at Monegeetta, near Victoria's famous natural landmark the Macedon Ranges. He's enjoying a successful season with 24 wins and 40 placings, finishing in the top three in nearly 50 percent of his race starts. And while he is no stranger to winning the big ones with previous success in Crowns, APGs, Derbies and Oaks, Miles admitted that, with Focus Stride, he'd taken on board the sage advice of legendary former gallops trainer the late and great Bart Cummings. "One of Bart's best quotes was: 'Keep yourself in the best company, and your horses in the worst'," Miles said. "So, I really did that. I aimed to bring Focus Stride quietly along through the country classes and the Gold Chalice was the first big one on the radar for him," he said. "He was super-great and I was just so proud of him. After racing in the breeze, he was still sticking to his guns on the home corner. Then when I pulled the earplugs, he really put his head down. "He was as brave as they come. It was a fantastic victory." Focus Stride is raced by enthusiastic Sydney owners Emilio and Mary Rosati who, ironically, also own the vanquished favorite in the Gold Chalice, Perfect Stride, a winner of eight races from 21 starts. Rosati, the driving force behind a highly successful construction company, divides his time between home in Sydney and overseeing massive building projects, mainly in Melbourne. He has been involved in harness racing for over 45 years. The couple owns hundreds of horses under the E and M Stride partnership. Nearly all of their horses carry the "Stride" moniker, after one of the first they raced in the 1970s named Stride High who won nine races. Focus Stride looks set to build on a successful association between Miles and the Rosatis. "The Rosatis are so passionate about the sport and I've previously won a couple of feature races for them with Emerald Stride," Miles said. "They love their horses to death, and they put more money into the sport than anyone else I know, so they certainly deserve all the success that comes their way."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Two drivers are recovering in hospital after a sickening fall in the main event at the Inverell harness racing meeting on Sunday afternoon. The field in the 2020 Inverell Cup had travelled only a short distance when the pole horse stumbled and fell, with the incident causing a chain reaction that brought down several other runners and completely disrupted the field. Reinswomen Elly Chapple and Sarah Rushbrook were seriously injured and were airlifted by helicopter to hospital. Both are reported to be in a stable condition with multiple fractures as well as other injuries. Fellow reinsman Brad Elder, of Maitland, who was also involved in the fall, but escaped unharmed, said it was alarming to see it all unraveling. "I was on the back row drawn beside Sarah. I saw her get catapulted out when the one in front of her went down. It looked like she was thrown about five metres up into the air," Elder said. "I fell out, but I was a bit lucky and didn't even get a mark. I got up and ran to the number one horse who was the first to go because it was still down on the track. I just sat on his head waiting to get help," he said. "His driver was okay. I think he landed on the horse beside him, which was being driven by Elly, who got caught up in it all. It was nasty. Let's just hope both the girls get better quickly." Elly Chapple Local ambulance paramedics stabilised the pair at the track before transporting them to Inverell airport where the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter was waiting with a doctor on board. They were further treated by the Critical Care Medical team before flying to Lismore Base Hospital. Sarah Rushbrook's older sister Rebecca, posted yesterday afternoon that after being thrown from the sulky, Sarah went into the railing. "Her right femur is broken upper midway and she has a broken tailbone and a bunch of cracked ribs. She hit her head, but the helmet did its job," Rebecca's post said. "After surgery we'll know if the broken vertebra is pressing on her spine. If this is the case, Sarah will be transferred to the Gold Coast which will be awkward as she will be there on her own with the border closures. "She is in good spirits and already talking about when she can get back in the gig." Rebecca said one of the doctors who'd examined Sarah had English as a second language, referring to the sport as "chariot racing". "Watching how tough she is I think it's fair enough to call her a Gladiator!" Rebecca posted. Sarah Rushbrook Inverell Harness Racing Club shared a message on behalf of Julie and Dean Chapple, parents of Elly, expressing thanks to the community for the unbelievable support. "We received so much help on the track and later travelling to Lismore. Thanks goes out to the clerks of the course Dwayne Dixon and Col Mathers along with club secretary Kerry Miller-who is a nurse in her working life away from harness racing." Elly Chapple was still undergoing scans yesterday but is believed to have a broken elbow. All horses escaped serious injuries. The incident forced the final two races on the Inverell program to be abandoned. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Three Victorian harness racing trainer-drivers who travelled interstate to contest the prestigious Gold Series finals at Bathurst, NSW, have been the first caught up in changed Victorian quarantine arrangements, announced Sunday. The three were racing in the rich finals of the Bathurst Gold Crown juvenile race series but have subsequently been caught up in the ever-changing and necessary requirements for racing under COVID-19 restrictions. Permissions were granted by both NSW and Victorian authorities on Friday for David Miles, David Moran and David Farrar to travel to Bathurst to drive and race their qualifiers for the Group One Gold feature events for two and three-year-olds. It's believed the trio was advised on Saturday afternoon, after they had already got on the road, that a change in the interpretation of the requirements meant they would need to go into isolation after their return to Victoria. They were further told that they would be permitted to complete their NSW engagements, but on their return, they would be stood down for a period of 14 days and would not be permitted to enter any Victorian racetrack for that period. They initially thought their stables would be shut down for the same period, but they've now been advised they will be permitted to continue preparing their teams, but cannot attend any race track for a period of 14 days and must receive a medical certificate before resuming. The David Miles-trained Focus Stride (Art Major-Sparkling Stride (Christian Cullen) was a boilover winner in the $100,000 Colts and Geldings Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds. Focus Stride, an impressive winner of the $100,000 Gold Chalice David Moran's Lochinvar Chief was beaten a head, finishing second to Tasty Delight (Bettors Delight-Gentle Audrey (Artsplace) in the $100,000 Group One Gold Crown Final for two year old colts and geldings; and Dave Farrar had made the journey north with The Kew Legend to contest the Gold Crown Consolation, finishing sixth. Although disappointed, the affected trainer-drivers are philosophical about their predicament. "If that's what it takes to do for us to continue racing, I'm more than happy with the decision," Miles said. David Miles after his Bathurst win HRV yesterday released a statement advising that licensees who fail to comply with the requirements face significant penalties, including disqualification. HRV Stewards advised all industry stakeholders, effective immediately: All Licensed persons whom have competed interstate must not attend race or trial meetings in Victoria for a period of 14 days from the date of competition, and must provide a medical clearance to HRV within that 14-day period; Trainers, who are subject to the above restriction, will not be permitted to present a horse to start in a race or trial during this 14-day period; All persons are advised that should they fail to comply with these requirements significant penalties, including periods of disqualification, may be imposed under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR). AHRR 238 states: A person shall not fail to comply with any order, direction or requirement of the Controlling Body or the Stewards relating to harness racing or to the harness racing industry.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Central Victorian community of Avenel is perhaps best known as the hometown of one of our most famous bush rangers - but the town's pin up boy of harness racing is also as "game as Ned Kelly". The town's famous bushranger terrorised country Victoria in the late 1800s, and the Avenel-based gelding Reactor Now (Auckland Reactor-Who's Sorry Now (Western Ideal) now seems to be following the same path, but with his eye on even greater deeds. Father-and-son combination David Aiken and his reinsman son Josh have produced the gelding for three eye-catching wins from four outings. At his most recent race start at Kilmore, the four-year-old sat parked outside the leader and then ran away from his rivals to win by 22 metres-setting a new track record along the way of 1.53-4. The time shaved .01 of a second off the previous best performance, set back in October of 2014, by former Scott Stewart-trained champion Bitobliss, a winner of 24 races and nearly $500k. Click here to watch the race. And at his two starts prior to venturing to Kilmore, Reactor Now set tongues wagging at Shepparton. On the first occasion he spread-eagled the field with a 33.3 metre win on February 27, following up with a more "sedate" 2.9 metre victory a fortnight later. Click here to watch the 27th February race. Click here to watch the 13th March race. Reactor Now has five wins from eight lifetime starts for earnings of $21,450. He's without doubt a magnificent looking horse destined for bigger things. He was fortuitously purchased after the APG Gold 2016 sale by Graeme and Liz Old, their nephew Frank and his wife Robyn, and their daughter Narelle Hall and husband Steve. The deal was sealed when the group decided to go looking at what had been passed in at the end of the day. Reactor Now was purchased with the input of Craig Wight, husband of well-known Great Western trainer-driver Michelle, who is a keen student on breeding, and Frank who prides himself on picking them on looks. The gelding made his debut in February of last year and after giving Wight's brother-in-law, reinsman Grant Campbell a tough time through being over excited, got around, albeit unplaced and 27 metres from the winner. Reactor Now was back at the track a month later and showed his better qualities with a strong win at Ballarat after being "a mile" off them in the first lap. He then continued on his winning way 13 days later at Terang with a sub-two-minute mile rate. The pacer was far from disgraced when fifth (beaten 11m) in the VHRSC Vic Sires Classic at Melton in 1.55-7 and was then sent for a spell. Reactor Now is undoubtedly destined to be one of the smart ones from a fine crop of Auckland Reactor progeny of his season. Auckland Reactor now has 149 individual winners with more than $4 million in earnings in Australia and New Zealand combined. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Ararat hobby trainer Wayne Ferguson has been thoroughly enjoying his comeback to harness racing even more so now after a recent Maryborough meeting. Ferguson made the 120km drive with his stable team of two horses, hoping that his first runner could win "if everything went right". And to his delight, the popular horseman landed his first-ever training double when it all worked out fine. "Both Ghanasuya and Gottahaveahobbie have been racing well, but I was really pinning my hopes on the first one," Ferguson said. "It certainly was a thrill and when I got home, I went out for tea with my partner Rosemary Preston and had a couple of drinks to celebrate," he said. Ghanasuya (Mr Feelgood-The Princess Poet (Christian Cullen) was driven a treat by one of Victoria's leading freelance drivers in Michael Bellman. After beginning well, they took the sit behind Sassys A Terror (Greg Sugars). With an easy first half of 62.2 secs in a sprint race, the tempo was always going to hot up and Ghanasuya was looking the goods a long way out. The gelding worked home nicely, and courtesy of the sprint lane, got the chocolates by a few metres. "He hasn't been far away in his races this season with four placings prior to the Maryborough victory. I thought his Charlton and Swan Hill efforts last month when he ran third both times were good," Ferguson said. In the very next race, four-year-old Gottahaveahobbie (Well Said-Ay Tee Em (Mach Three) posted one of the eye-catching runs of the meeting with an impressive victory in the Bendigo HRTC Concession Drivers Pace, for those who haven't had 25 winners. Reinsman Jason Ainsworth, handling the pacer for the first time, scored top marks for his exhibition. After settling midfield, he sat quietly until the 450m mark before whipping around in the blink of an eye. The pair powered away to win easily in 1.57-4. Ferguson said Gottahaveahobbie, known around the stables as Louie, just loved the Maryborough circuit. "He's probably had four trials there and won them all. And now I've raced him at the track on three occasions for two wins and a third," he said. Ferguson, who owns both horses in partnership with his brother-in-law Bill Campbell, said they were lucky to end up with Gottahaveahobbie after deciding to bid for him at a Ready To Run sale in Sydney. "We pulled out at $15k, and another bloke ended up going to $20k. We were on our way home and got a telephone call to say the horse had just been left there and the winning bidder was nowhere to be found," he said. "So we agreed to pay $15k which was our last bid. He ran 4th at Geelong at his first start and then 2nd at Mt Gambier before doing a suspensory in his back leg. He was off the scene for over 12 months, but now has four wins and nine placings for over $25k. "He's going to be a nice horse because he has such a powerful sprint." Ferguson followed his father Stan into harness racing and the pair enjoyed a reasonable amount of success more than 25 years ago with such horses as tough campaigner Derricks First, who held a track record at Mt Gambier at one stage, and the talented Reneko. "Dad was the trainer and I did the driving. It worked out really well. I probably drove for about four years and then gave it away when dad was having health problems," he said. "I've been back for 18 months and I was lucky to again race the horses in dad's old racing colors of purple with a green V. My partner Rosemary isn't from a harness racing background, but she is now hooked and enjoying the horses." Ferguson said he was loving the training aspect, and really had no plans to go back to race driving. "I'll leave that to the experts, although it would be convenient so that I could drive at the trials."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Exciting junior harness racing driver Shannon O'Sullivan is resting at home after being flipped out of the cart in spectacular fashion at Ouyen last Sunday. "I'm counting my lucky stars as I did get out of the whole incident pretty well - I'll be back as soon as I can get medical clearances," O'Sullivan said. The 20-year-old from Heathcote suffered severe facial lacerations and bruising to her back and neck after being thrown high in the air near the finish line in the final event on the program. O'Sullivan was driving bay gelding Better B Nice for MIldura trainer Scott Garraway when she clipped the wheel of another runner while desperately searching for a gap. "The horse was travelling enormous and I remember spotting a bit of a run. It then closed a split second later, but the horse was just wanting to go," she said. "When I saw what might unfold I knew I was in trouble. I got tossed into the air when we fell and then the cart crashed down onto me, although the horse sort of took the brunt of that. I was unconscious on the track for about 40 seconds. "My chin was hurting pretty bad, as well as a few spots in my neck and back, but I've been told that I was more concerned about the horse. Anyway, he's having a few days off, but is okay according to Scott." Shannon O’Sullivan in her dad Jim’s racing colors The youngster was transferred from Ouyen to Mildura Base Hospital and said she was overwhelmed by the support, along with messages and telephone calls from well-wishers. "I was fortunate that Scott looked after me, along with Maddy Tormey (a younger sister of fellow reinswoman Ellen Tormey). Maddy is a Mildura nurse and came to the hospital on her day off-I was pretty scared, but she calmed me down, looked after my welfare and explained everything," O'Sullivan said. "To be honest, I have never been to hospital before, so it was a bit overwhelming without mum and dad there." O'Sullivan, daughter of legendary horseman Jim and his wife Terresa, has been in sensational form this season with a career-best 19 wins, including an enjoyable Elmore Cup victory, as well as 32 placings. In her three seasons as a driver, she has improved immensely. Starting in 2017/18, O'Sullivan had four wins and 32 placings, and followed this up in the next season with 17 wins and 32 placings (footnote: the 32 placings aren't a misprint, something of a coincidence!). "I've formed an awesome association with Greg and Jess Sugars with five wins from not many more drives and I've had a few more for Susan Gloury, who's been using me on her horse Monash and other trainers, including my dad, have also been giving me opportunities," she said. After spending Sunday night at Mildura Base Hospital, O'Sullivan was flow to Melbourne the following day and is now recovering at home. "The concern was that I'd maybe cut a nerve on my chin. The laceration was through to the bone, and while there's bruising and damage, fortunately the nerve didn't get cut," she said. "I got plastic surgery done to the bottom of my chin and the doctors are confident it'll all heal up without any noticeable marks. I was really worried that I would end up with something permanent. "I have to go to Melbourne next Monday for a check-up on the stitches and in the meantime, I just have to keep it all nice and clean. I'm only able to eat soft foods, but thankfully it's nowhere near as painful as I thought it would be."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Young Mildura harness racing trainer Cassandra O'Brien has got her career off to a flying start after having a licence for only a short time. O'Brien took two pacers to the Ouyen Cup meeting last Sunday. She landed her very first winner when Tell Us We Dream was victorious-and then made it a memorable double an hour later with Graceful Art getting the money. The 24-year-old has been registered as a trainer since October, taking the reins for her veteran horseman uncle Peter O'Brien, when he suffered a stroke - just months after the passing of both Peter's father Jim and brother Gary. Cassandra had been Peter's strapper for about five years. But when Peter was sidelined, she was never going to let the horses slip out of her uncle's life. "He'd been at me and at me to get my trainer's licence, then when he had his stroke, I just had to jump in the deep end - there wasn't anyone else to do it, and the horses are Pete's life," Cassandra said. "I was so lucky that we had a terrific owner in Alan Cordy who just said to me he wasn't going to take his horse somewhere else...he knew I could do it. He had faith in me when others didn't and I appreciated that and it gave me confidence." But nonetheless, Cassandra said it was a steep learning curve, moving "from the passenger seat to behind the wheel". "I always thought I could do it, and Pete had taught me so much that I was confident, but it was still a bit of a whack in the face to be suddenly in charge!" Cassandra said. "I'd never even towed a float before and I'd just learnt to drive a manual car, so I was pretty nervous taking the horses to the track the first time - I think I was driving about 40 kmh!" she laughed. "Then I had to get another trainer to back the float out after we raced that night, but we got there and home safely and that was the main thing." Since then, Cassandra has had 35 starters, and eight placegetters, before Tell Us We Dream (Real Desire - Lils Dream (Badlands Hanover) broke through to record her maiden win as a trainer in the Brow and Body Maryborough Pace at the Ouyen Pacing Cup meeting on Sunday. Two races later, the first success became a winning double, with veteran 10-year-old Graceful Art (Artesian - Denver Grace (Armbro Operative) scoring comfortably in the Nutrien Ag Solutions Pace. "I was so nervous the night before the race, just thinking 'what if I get my first winner?', because I thought Graceful Art was a good chance," she said. "But never in a million years did I think about a double! Tell Us We Dream is a capable enough horse, but you just never know which Tell Us We Dream is going to turn up! "It was an absolutely awesome day. I couldn't stop crying after the first winner and I couldn't stop smiling after the second. It was unbelievable." The O'Briens are now stabled at Merbein South with well-known trainer Ian Watson, and Cassandra said the change had done the horses a world of good. "They've blossomed out there -- we have to put them in the cart every day to work them, and we've changed the way we feed them, and they're a lot happier. The environment out there is terrific as well. It's quiet, and Ian is fantastic. He's happy to answer any questions or give me a bit of advice when I need a hand," she said. Cassandra, who is in the final stages of training as a registered nurse, said Peter was lucky to survive the stroke and, as anticipated, the lure of getting back to the horses was a big motivator in his recovery. Peter O'Brien has spent his entire life around horses, first as a youngster on the show circuit, including at the Royal Melbourne, then in later years as a jumps jockey, before injury forced him to change direction into harness racing. "When we got the horses to the races the first few times he really didn't know much about it, but as he got better, all he wanted to do was get back to the horses. He wouldn't have got anywhere near where he is now if it hadn't been for them." Cassandra said, as well as being a tonic for Peter, the horses had provided a welcome distraction for both herself and her mum Kerri. "We had a shocking year last year with losing Pop and Uncle Gary, then Pete having his stroke - hopefully this is a sign of better things ahead," she said. "We're all still here, we've just changed roles a bit. I used to get angry at Pete for being a grumpy trainer, now it's me that's the grumpy one - but I couldn't do it without either Pete or mum. And the horses kept us all sane through all of it, I think."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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