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Connections of history-making Victorian speed machine Lochinvar Art now have an enjoyable decision to make for their harness racing superstar-where to next? Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder in Paris (Ponder) stopped the clock in 1.48-6 in winning the $100,000 G1 Alabar 4yo Bonanza at Melton on Saturday night. It was the first time the magical 1.50 mile rate had been smashed in the State. Watch the race replay here!  "We'll sit down with David (trainer-driver David Moran) and talk it over in the next few days. We have a few options, but there's certainly exciting times ahead," jubilant owner Kevin Gordon, said yesterday. "In winning the Bonanza, we now have a gold ticket straight into the $200,000 Chariots of Fire in Sydney in just under four weeks' time. David is very keen to give him a start between now and then," he said. "There's the AG Hunter Cup as well as the $35,000 Echuca Pacing Cup coming up, so there's plenty to think about." Gordon and his wife Leonie are best-known for their association with greyhound racing, having claimed many of the major features, including the Paws of Thunder, the Sydney Cup and Christmas Cup. But they rate the recent victory by pacer Lochinvar Art as the biggest thrill in racing. "Apart from the Bonanza being such a prestigious event, being the first Victorian to break a 1.50 mile rate just takes it to another level," Gordon said. "He went absolutely super. A lot of horses don't progress from their 3yo days, but we are thrilled Lochinvar Art has taken that next step. He has developed physically and is bigger across the back and he's shown this time in he's a lot stronger too. "The win was a credit to David and he's surely now cemented himself as a top trainer. He works hard and deserves all the success he gets." Moran worked forward in the Bonanza, waiting until the leading brigade found their positions before taking up the role as pilot. The talented horseman had a pre-race plan to cover as little ground as possible, but he was hoping his main rival (Mark Purdon's $1.10 fav Self Assured) would be called upon to do "that little extra" at some stages. "I needed him to do a bit more work because it was the only way I was ever going to beat Mark - his horse is so talented," Moran said. "It did fall into place for us. While we were one-off and then in front, he was working out three wide to get to being one-off, then I was happy to keep the speed on and have them running." Self Assured tried his heart out and got to within 4.7m of the winner, but final splits of 27.3 and 26.4 in a race run in record time, made the task most difficult. "When I opened up just before the final turn and pinched a break, I thought and hoped it just might be mathematically impossible for Mark to get to me." Moran said he had "a few troubles" with Lochinvar Art in the leadup to the Bonanza. "He's just been so full of himself this preparation. He's been a handful and actually tried to kick me out of the cart in the Shepparton Cup. While it's good he's feeling so well, he can be a bit of a ratbag," he said. "I've altered a few things with him, and we should now be fine. I suppose it's just being a colt coming out in him every now and again." Lochinvar Art's connections are naturally aiming at the season's big races, but Moran said they were mapping out a careful campaign. "We won't be over racing him like last season, when I think we ran in the first Classic 3yo event and then continued until the last as well. In between he had a trip to Qld. That was a huge year for him," he said. "We've made a conscious decision not to give him an over taxing campaign, but in saying that, he has pulled up terrific. He was pig rooting and charging about this morning while I was trying to change his rugs, so he's feeling pretty good."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice-but try telling that to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga! Vallelonga, from Bolinda, 50 kilometres north of Melbourne, is one of the most experienced horsemen going around but is laid up again following his second serious stable accident in 18 months. "You wouldn't believe it-I've broken the same bone in my right leg again, but this time it's in a different spot," a dejected Vallelonga said. "My doctors have told me I'll be out of action for at least six months, so we've decided to shut down our stable operations until I'm up and about again," he said. "It was pointless struggling along doing the job half-hearted." The first occasion Vallelonga was injured was in a freak accident on July 17, 2018. "I'd just washed a horse and was towelling it off when a gust of wind whipped up out of nowhere and blew a bucket over. The horse took fright and knocked me over," he said. "I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip. That still hasn't healed properly and now I'm nursing a break to the same bone, just above the knee. "This time I was putting a rug on a horse and it lashed out and got me." After being rushed by ambulance to hospital, Vallelonga had an 18-inch plate inserted, along with pins and screws and 54 staples. After a fortnight in hospital he is now home and able to use walking aids but spends the majority of his time in a wheelchair. "It's very painful 24/7, but it's also just so frustrating sitting around. There's only so much television you can watch, and I have to rely on my partner Elizabeth or other family to get me outside into the sunshine and take me to appointments," he said. Vallelonga had a team of 12 in work at the time of the accident, but most have now been placed with other trainers. "It's going to be a long road ahead, but I'll get there," he said. Vallelonga said incident had come "out of the blue". "That particular horse has never been like that," he said. "Not that I take any chances with any of them anyway, we all learn that pretty much early days, but it does go to show that something like that only takes a second." "I'll be back, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on recovery."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

New South Wales harness racing has been rocked with the revelation the State's top training partnership is relocating to the United States. Record-breaking husband and wife partnership Shane and Lauren Tritton have decided to pursue their future careers in the New York region - a choice they say is prompted, in part, by the state of the industry in Australia. The couple shared their decision with family and friends this week and have advised key owners of their plans. "This decision has been made for many reasons, both business and personal, and to leave such a successful stable located in the world class facility (Menangle) is not without hesitation," Team Tritton said. "We would love to be staying in Australia for the rest of our careers, but the reality is the viability of a trainer and driver in harness racing in Australia is too volatile," they said. "We believe that in life we should always strive to reach our full ability, and the challenges of reinventing our stable in America will allow our techniques and understanding of this sport we both love to grow and prosper." Shane Tritton's father Peter has been operating successfully in the USA for many years. A number of the couple's key owners have elected to follow the stable and send their horses to the USA. "We're very grateful and proud they are willing to take this leap with us," the couple said. Team Tritton Stable at Menangle Park will continue with business as usual as the team prepares for the relocation. But the couple also sounded a clear "call to action" for the sport's governing bodies. "On a final note, we hope that those in control of harness racing can see they need to do more to make this great sport of harness racing bigger and better," they said. "In the past decade (it) has lost its viability to support participants who rely on it. "We have tried to stress this to those in charge without any reaction or concern for the issues that every trainer or driver in the country faces every week. "Please take notice those in charge need to do better for everyone in this industry who rely on it to survive. This is a sport and it should be fun - surviving isn't fun."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Not a day goes by when popular Adelaide horseman Paul Cavallaro isn't reminded of the serious injuries he copped in a sickening harness racing crash nearly 12 months ago. "I've certainly got aches and pains that I didn't have-but I'm still alive and our good horse (Culture King) come through it all okay," he said. And Culture King's runaway performance at his NSW debut at Goulburn on Sunday would have been just the tonic for the recovering Cavallaro. Culture King was sent north by Cavallaro and his owners (the Ready to Run Syndicate) to chase the riches on offer in that State over the next few months, in particular, the inaugural NSW $1 million pace at the end of May. Culture King is now under the care of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy at Cobbitty. "He's a lovely horse - he went super in winning at Goulburn," McCarthy said. "They went 1.57 but he did it so easy - and there's been a bit of a change of plans for him as a result. He'll now be aimed at the Chariots of Fire next month at Menangle," he said. The emerging potential of Culture King has no doubt given Cavallaro a kick along in his return to training after the injury. "I'm at the stables most days. However, I'm more or less just doing light duties. I don't know if I'll ever return to race driving, but I'm not really fussed if I do or I don't," he said. The race accident happened on Group 3 South Australian Pacing Derby night of February 9 last year. I'm Sir Blake, driven by star reinswoman Danielle Hill veered out sharply in the straight with a lap to go after it choked down and crashed into Major Exclusive (Darby McGuigan). Cavallaro, driving Culture King, was left with nowhere to go, resulting in a horrific pile-up. He was catapulted into the air before landing heavily on the track. Cavallaro was rushed to hospital with a fractured vertebra in his back, broken wrist and severe facial injuries, including a broken nose and lacerations. McGuigan was fortunate to escape injury, but Hill was also admitted to hospital with a badly fractured tibia. Remarkably, she returned to race driving in July and has been consistently in the winner's circle ever since, despite on occasions still feeling the injury to her knee and leg. Paul Cavallaro on HRSA’s Mobile Rolling recently (Watch the interview below) Cavallaro said that in the past nine months, he had been operated on six times. "I had a gaping hole in my face. My mouth was ripped halfway across my cheek in the fall. The first lot of face surgery just before Christmas didn't go all that well," he said. "The stitches dissolved early after just a few days, so I had to have more surgery, which was under local anaesthetic this time. "I felt fine afterwards when I was loaded with pain-killers. But when they wore off, I have never felt so much pain in my whole life." Cavallaro said that while his back was on the mend, he couldn't say the same about his wrist. "I don't think it will ever be the same again. It becomes quite painful because it's sort of bone on bone," he said. Watch an interview with Paul Cavallaro on HRSA's Mobile Rolling program. Cavallaro trains a small team with a number of helpers. "I've got Culture King's full brother, who is two, and he's in work and goes along okay. There's another two-year-old here, sired by Art Major, and a racehorse in Miss Iconic who is only lightly raced, but has a win and a few placings," he said. "Mark Billinger is doing the driving for me at the moment and he does a top job." Cavallaro is a member of a strong harness racing family, with his father Neil being most successful over many years. His sister Angela (Chapman) is also involved and recently won at Kapunda with brown mare Sally MacLennane, prepared by her father.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Legendary Riverina harness racing caller Allan Hull has called time on his 50-year career, but says he's fortunate to have spent every working minute doing something he loves. Hull, who turns 70 this year, officiated this week for the final time at his hometown Wagga Wagga trotting track, but says race-calling never really felt like work at all. "It really didn't. It was my passion and every race is a different story," Hull said. "When I was young, I always wanted to be a sports commentator. I would listen to Alan McGilvray on the ABC (a cricketer who became the doyen of Australian cricket commentators)," he said. "There were no radios back then and I had a crystal set. I worked out that if I attached the alligator clip on the end of the wire to a tin roof at home, the reception would be much better. I would listen to the cricket being broadcast from England until about 2 or 3am. "I did also tune in to the races and my favorite pin-up jockey was Geoff 'the golden boy' Lane. I had a scrapbook of race story clippings because the Weekly Times use to do a two-page spread each week," he said. His passion for sport resulted in Hull starting to call trots trials at Wagga when he was just 17 or 18. "I was a bit keen to get involved and the guy who was running them was a family friend in Max Croker," he said. "I jokingly told Max that I'd do a better job than the bloke they had...and that was indeed true because at the time they had no-one doing it! I got to call the trials using a portable PA and microphone with about 20 to 30 people attending. "Then not long after I was asked if I'd do the Henty Show trots. Back then show trots were huge--all the trainers just loved them. I called four events and that was my first paid gig when I was 19 years old." Hull instantly loved the art and challenge of race calling - and his career took off from there. "I got a lucky break when Tex Condron, who was calling trots at Wagga, Junee and Leeton, was wanting to shift his focus more into training his own horses," he said. "So I took over from Tex and started calling at Wagga Wagga on November 20, 1970. I was the on-course commentator and also got paid for doing it on radio because it was relayed on 2WG. I recall later doing the Leeton Breeders' Plate on New Year's Day, 1971. That was big!" But race calling was never a full-time gig because there weren't enough meetings, Hull said. "After I'd finished my Intermediate certificate at Wagga High School in 1965, my father told me to go and get a trade--I left school on the Friday and started a fitter and machinist apprenticeship on the Monday," he said. "I was there for seven years, working my way up to foreman in the machine shop and one of my brothers also worked there as a boilermaker." Hull also started calling Aussie rules football in the 1970s for a local radio station, and did this for 25 years. "I ended up a sales rep because the manager heard me calling the trots and football on radio and offered me a job. So for most of my life I sold advertising for radio and television." Hull also began calling the gallops, doing his first few meetings at outlying areas such Hay, Griffith and Berrigan. Ted Ryder, regarded as a sporting icon in the town, was the caller at Wagga and Albury meetings, but Hull eventually took over from Ryder, calling his first Wagga Gold Cup in 1979. Allan Hull (centre) was presented with a plaque by Wagga CEO Graeme White (left) and club president Terry McMillan (Wagga HRC) He went on to call the Murrumbidgee Turf Club's feature event for 40 consecutive years, appropriately being dubbed along the way as "the golden voice of the Riverina". Hull said preparing for meetings depended on how many visiting horses were competing and working on their form. "If it's a Wagga trots meeting and I'm familiar with most of them, it may take one and a half hours. But if it's the Wagga Gold Cup gallops carnival over two days, 100 out of the 180 horses might be visitors so I'll take three to four hours doing the form for each day," he said. "I remember colors and names on a race to race basis. You get to know how a particular jockey sits on and if they are left or right-handed and that helps. "I think calling races is really a God-given gift. It's not something that's a natural thing, and it's one of those things that's difficult to do unless you have the knack. Hull is well-known for his two quirky terms of "the gates craaaaaash back" and "they hit the l-iiiiiiiiiiine...". "I guess my love for theatre also comes out a bit, because I've been involved in a few musicals over the years!" he said. "I always thought of three things: to be accurate, articulate and entertaining. "But if you have ever stood next to the barrier stalls, the gates do crash back. And as far as the other 'and they hit the l-iiiiiiiiine'...well, I'm buying time of a second or two to work out who has won! I only say that if it's a tight photo finish. "But I'll always have a go at calling the winner in a photo -- you just have to, I think. If I don't get it right, that's not a blue in my book. But if I call the wrong horse or the wrong colors, well that's different. If a panel beater makes a mistake, they can hide it with a spray can. We have to wear it!" Hull said he admired Matt Hill and now retired caller Greg Miles. "Those guys were terrific when calling races with big stables like Godolpin having multiple runners with the same colors, except for perhaps slightly different colored caps. That's when our business can get really difficult," he said. Hull said among his race-calling highlights were calling four InterDominion finals on radio. "They were at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and New Zealand and InterDominions were huge events. It was for 2WG and I also provided them with snippets and other regional radio stations also picked it up, so they were definitely memorable," he said. Hull will call his last meeting at Albury trots on January 31, although he added that he will probably "help out" at a few non-TAB meetings over the next six months as he winds down. Hull and his wife Gayle have two children in Stephanie, a teacher; and Quentin, a longtime ABC sports broadcaster, who both live in Brisbane, and four grandchildren. "The time has flown, I've importantly enjoyed good health, and I wouldn't have had it any other way--it's been awesome," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Super-talented South Australian pacer Culture King showed this week that he's right on target as he warms up for a tilt at some of the huge interstate harness racing riches on offer. Part-owner and trainer Paul Cavallaro said the four-year-old had been sent to New South Wales, specifically aimed at the inaugural $1Million Pace at Tabcorp Park Menangle. "We just sort of thought we'd give it a shot-he's a lovely horse, but we realize with that amount of stakemoney on offer, it's going to certainly attract the very best," Cavallaro said. "I've never really knocked him around and he's won 11 from 18 starts. So, he just might take the next step and show further improvement. That would be nice," he said. Culture King (Art Major-Tessace (Aces N Sevens) was sent late last year to Cobbitty, 60 kms south-west of Sydney, to be trained by Craig Cross. The bay horse trialled at Menangle on Monday and impressed with a comfortable win over the flying mile in a tick under 1.54. He was handled by Cross' number one pilot, champion reinsman Luke McCarthy. "I've spoken to Luke since and he was quite happy with the horse," Cavallaro said. "We were just pleased that he'd settled in well at their property because he virtually had the run of my place back home. I think Craig and Luke put them out into paddocks as much as possible so that's good. He's living the same life," Cavallaro said. Paul Cavallaro "They are now weighing up the options. Because Culture King is from interstate, he must have five starts in NSW prior to the start of heats of the million-dollar series," he said. To kick off proceedings, Culture King will compete at Goulburn this Sunday afternoon where he has drawn the three alley in the $12,000 Goulburn Soldiers Club Tom and Angela Hewitt Memorial. "There's 10 of us in the horse and we live as far away as Perth in WA. There are other owners in Sydney, Victoria and South Australia. We've had a ball so far-we're in it for the fun. But we'd all be rapt if we got a slice of the big stakes along the way," Cavallaro said. The lucrative $1M series will take in 14 tracks-basically half of NSW- in each of the State's harness racing regions, as well as Broken Hill. Preliminary $5000 heats at Broken Hill on May 3, will be followed by $10,000 heats at various tracks in the Hunter, Western Districts, Riverina and metropolitan. Quarter finals of $15,000; and $10,000 consolations will be from May 20-24, with the grand finale-$1M final and $25,000 and $50,000 consolations-at Menangle on May 31. Coincidentally it was at Menangle where Culture King caught Cavallaro's eye. "I went to the Ready to Run sale and he was the last one to trial. He ran a half in 56 secs which was second fastest to Lochinvar Art, now a superstar with David Moran," Cavallaro said. "I just loved him from the start. He was obviously unraced and hadn't trialled, but there was something special about him," he said. "Anyway, the price was way out of my league. I went on a holiday to Queensland, but there was probably not a day went past when I wasn't thinking about the horse. "I spoke to my mother-in-law on the telephone and she told me to count her in. It just snowballed from there, mainly through word of mouth and now the 10-member Ready to Run Syndicate races him." Prior to sending Culture King by road transport to Cobbitty late last month, Cavallaro had been "keeping him up to the mark" through a number of trials. "He was underdone the first time, but his next two were strong. I think he went around in 1.57 and home in 56 secs so I was really happy with him," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of the most colorful and talented of Australia's female harness racing pioneers is back in the winner's circle. The highly-skilled and prolific former Victorian horsewoman Gaita Pullicino is rekindling her relationship with the sport she loves as a driver in South Australia - and success was never going to be far away. "I'm just so excited-I love the industry and horses have always been a big part of my life. I've still got the fire in the belly," an obvious delighted Pullicino said after her first winner at Globe Derby Park on Saturday night. The lightweight reinswoman was at her best to land six-year-old gelding Farbio (Aldebaran Yankee-Call Me Nancey (Straphanger) in the Air Diffusion Agencies Trotters Handicap. An elated Gaita Pullicino crosses the line on square-gaiter Farbio  (Harness Racing SA photo) "We decided to make a fresh start in South Australia with my husband Frank being the trainer of our team and me getting back to driving, which I love. We were very lucky to find a lovely property at Mallala," Pullicino said. The Pullicinos' property is on 45 acres and includes a 650-metre banked track, stables, paddocks, a horse walker and bungy pool. With a chequered career behind her in Victoria, the ever-enthusiastic Gaita is keen to move on and continue building on her impressive strike-rate as a driver. Pullicino was a pioneer of female drivers in her home State along with Debbie Quinlan (née Turner), Pam Wilson, Leonie Collins, Ruby Tyack and others. "Back in the 1970s I remember we weren't allowed to drive in Victoria, but new ground had been broken in NSW and females got the green light through the efforts of Margaret Frost," she said. "I was just champing at the bit. I ended up convincing my late father Leli Mifsud to nominate a horse in Albury, NSW where I could drive. "That was in 1979 and it was stinking hot. It had to be close to 50 degrees. The bitumen was melting and our old Chevy boiled so many times on the way I thought we were never going to get there. "We drew barrier three with Ben Rowland. We jumped to the front, led all the way and I got a winner at my first attempt!" Pullicino has gone onto drive hundreds of winners, but Saturday night's comeback victory, on the eve of the 37th anniversary of her dad's death, was extra special. Pullicino is a member of one of Victoria's most prominent harness racing families. "There are five girls and three boys in our family, and we're all involved in the sport in one way or another," she said. Before getting back in the sulky this month, Pullicino's last drive was in April 2015 (when she finished second at a Geelong meeting) but she is thrilled to be resuming her career in South Australia. "We have always liked competing in SA. I'm at the stage of life where I enjoy racing just a couple of times each week-I'm too old to race too often!" she laughed. "There's some nice horses in the team and we hope Farbio, owned by the Cormack family, can keep improving because we like him a lot. Its Elvis is another that we think can do a job for us." She's hard-pressed to name favorites among the many handy performers she's been associated with over the years - but a Ballarat cup win in the early '90s with speedster You Wish is a cherished memory. "You Wish was owned by Mario Zammit and he was a very fast horse. When I got him to train, he was a lowly C3, but he ended up in open class," she said. "Another was Revonez, who I trained and drove when he ran second to the mighty Courage Under Fire in the Australia Derby at Moonee Valley, with Shakamaker in third spot." And for a favorite driver? "That's an easy one," says Pullicino. "Bendigo's Brian Gath is a legend of the sport. He's my idol and he's always been very good to us."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

A revitalized Kima Frenning was wearing a bigger smile than usual after winning the feature event at this week's Swan Hill harness racing meeting, the Kiel Tiling 2020 Blue Pearl Classic. The champion reinswoman has just returned to Australia after a two-week holiday back home in Sweden and said she was thrilled to win the female-drivers' race. "I've driven in this race once previously and I haven't happy memories because I got suspended for three weeks for an unacceptable drive," Frenning said "So, I suppose I could look at this result as a little bit of sweet revenge!" she laughed. Frenning combined with all-conquering Ballarat trainer Emma Stewart to win with three-year-old filly Shesskylah (Alta Christiano-Yeronga Songbird (Classic Garry). The annual Blue Pearl Classic was being held for the fourth time by the Swan Hill club, and aims to highlight the contributions of reinswomen in the sport. The $9000 race also carries a $1000 blue pearl necklace for the successful driver and an inscribed rug for the winning owner. Ellen Tormey on Ajay Breezy Rose was the pilot after beginning fast off the gate. Frenning landed one-one into the first turn, then got shuffled back one spot when Bec Bartley worked Rockon Locksley around to the death-seat. Travelling down the back for the final time, Frenning made her move on Shesskylah and rounded them up quickly to get outside the leader in the blink of an eye. She slipped into overdrive up the straight-the last half being run in a sizzling 55 secs flat. The classy filly has now had four starts for four impressive wins for Stewart. Blue Pearl race drivers: Stacey Towers, Ellen Tormey, Kerryn Manning, Tina Ridis, Jackie Barker, sponsor Tony Kiel, Kima Frenning, Katrina Cain and Rebecca Bartley (Photograph: Brook Shaune-Bould) The win was the first leg of a winning treble for the Frenning-Stewart combination at Swan Hill. The others were Like A Wildfire (Big Jim-I'm Against The Wind (D M Dillinger) and Minuscule (Bettors Delight-Our Petite Soeur (Grinfromeartoear). "It's always a pleasure to drive for Emma. Her horses are so well prepared, and they really make you look good-it's a bit hard to muck up on them," she said. "I just point them in the right direction, and they do the rest!" Frenning said she had regained her keenness after a short holiday. "I was getting a little tired and needed a good break. I didn't even wander down to the horse stables or do anything like that while I was home," she said. "I just relaxed and probably ate too much. But I caught up with family and friends and it was special to see my grandmother because she's 93 and my last visit home was in mid-2018." Frenning said she was excited to get the three wins at Swan Hill after "not doing much good" at her return to driving a few days earlier at Cobram Cup day. The gifted horsewoman has driven over 60 winners for the season-10 of these being at city meetings. She has recently lost her junior concession claim, but is hoping to still get the support of owners and trainers. "I just love it, and I'll make sure I am doing my best with the opportunities I get," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

After nearly 30 years at the echelon of harness racing Down Under, you'd be forgiven for thinking Menangle trainer Tim Butt's passion might be a little dulled. But nothing could be further from the truth -he's bubbling with anticipation as he finalises plans for a trip to France later this month on a mission to find Australasia's next boom trotter. Butt already has a cornerstone investor on-board with his plan to source an elite French stallion to race and then stand at stud in Australasia, but he's excited that smaller shares still available could possibly bring serious new investors into the sport he loves. "I've never really thought about doing anything other than harness racing. My parents did it, and my grandparents on both sides of the family were in harness racing, so I've just always loved going to the races and wanted to be good at it," Butt said. "I love the sport and the competitiveness, but for me, it's the challenge of finding that next top-liner. Having a good horse and winning the big races drives me and keeps me excited for what's ahead," he said. "I'm heading to France to look at the best trotting stallions in the world and that's exciting for me, but also an opportunity for investors who want to be part of it." Butt is unrivalled in the Southern Hemisphere for his Group One success - he's won more than 90 Group Ones, including the Miracle Mile, InterDominion Pacers and Trotters final (4), NZ cup (2), Auckland Cup (2), Hunter Cup (2), Dominion Handicap (8) and the list goes on. "We don't have a big team - we aim for quality and hold our numbers at about 24 so we can aim primarily at those big races," Butt said. "That's what our goal is in France. To identify the best modern bred trotting stallion we can afford, race him down here in those good races, with the goal of setting him up for a stud career. So for the people who come on board it's a long-term investment and we're hoping a profitable one." The idea for sourcing Northern Hemisphere trotting blood began when the Butts campaigned with their champion trotter Lyell Creek during their early 2000s. "Lyell Creek was no doubt the best horse I've been associated with - he was brilliant," Butt said. "But this idea really stemmed from when we took him to the Elitloppet in Sweden and it was clear to me just how far ahead of us their trotters were," he said. "We've previously brought three European horses to race down here, in Peak (Denmark), Kvintet Avenger (Finland) and Daryl Boko (Finland) and they had two group one wins and a placing between them. We also brought out Mr Feelgood from America, who was probably the most successful pacer to come out from the States, so I know the qualities I'm looking for," he said. "I've done a lot of homework and have a good relationship with (premiere French horseman and trainer, and owner of Love You) Jean-Pierre Dubois' son Jean Dubois, who is now a gallops trainer out here, at Mittagong. "I've spent a fair bit of time with him talking about my ideas and going through catalogues and we've identified some good options - it's just a case of being able to afford the one you want, taking into account the exchange rates." The Butt team also has a profile in Europe through their hosting of a number of young Swedish horsemen and women to work in Australia. Butt is joining a La Trot (French trotting authority) sponsored tour of about 25 potential buyers and investors being organised by Harness Racing Australia. The week-long tour leaves on January 23 and will be based in the horse-racing region of Normandy. The key focus for Butt will be horse auctions during the initial days of the tour, including broodmare, ready to run, yearling and stallion shares. But the tour will also take in key racing and breeding establishments in Normandy - studs including Le Haras du Pin, the Haras de Sassy training centre, Ecurie Guarato training centre (home of Bald Eagle) and the property of Jean Pierre Debois to view renowned stallion Love You. The tour will also visit the historic Grosbois training centre, on the outskirts of Paris - a harness racing community that includes a castle, trotting museum and 1500 horses in training, utilising numerous straight, forest and qualifying tracks, a restaurant, cinema and veterinary clinic. HRA delegates are also presenting at the Stallions Exhibition, an industry trade fair that is a fixture on the French racing calendar and will be showcasing the innovative Australian BestSeat 360 concept - immersive technology that provides interactive driver's-eye view of the racing action.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

WHILE the smoke haze at Cobram last weekend provided a sad reminder of how our country is burning up, a pacer making its harness racing debut certainly "lit up" the track. Three-year-old gelding Scorcha (pictured), a full brother to InterDominion winning superstar Smolda (Courage Under Fire-Under The Mattress (Safely Kept), posted an impressive runaway victory in the Cec Berger Memorial 3yo. The business-like manner that Scorcha stopped the clock in 1.57-8 certainly augurs well for owner/breeder Paul Blackshaw. He's destined for bigger things, that's for sure! Scorcha is trained by Peter Romeo at Chiltern and was reined by Cameron Maggs. In what has been described as a most fitting result, it saw two legendary north-east harness racing families in the spotlight. Peter Berger donated a beautiful canteen of cutlery in memory of his father Cec, to the Blackshaw family. Cec was a staunch supporter of the sport. Peter and Matt Berger are now following in his footsteps. Smolda had 32 wins for $2.4M in a sensational career. Apart from winning the 2016 Inter, the champ also claimed the NSW Derby, Len Smith Mile, Melton A.G Hunter Cup, Bohemia Crystal FFA, SA and Ballarat Cups and was narrowly beaten by Lennytheshark in the $750,000 Miracle Mile. __________________________________________________________________________________ STAR big gun NSW pacers My Field Marshal (Tim and Anthony Butt) and Alta Orlando (Craig Cross/Luke McCarthy) have had travel plans disrupted on the eve of Friday night's $300,000 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park, Perth. My Field Marshal, who won the Group One event 12 months ago, and last-start Shirley Turnbull Memorial winner Alta Orlando were due to fly out Monday. It's believed an air-freighter was delayed and threw the travel plans into chaos. The two horses eventually left Sydney for Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon and the next leg from Melbourne to Perth was scheduled for 3am today (Thursday). Millionaire pacer My Field Marshal, the Miracle Mile winner in 2018, has been installed favorite to make it back-to-back wins in the Cup. Luke McCarthy's drive Alta Orlando shares equal second favoritism with Galactic Star. The visiting pair were among those chosen by a Racing and Wagering WA selection panel. Officials received more than 30 entries. HoofNote: My Field Marshal's little brother, four-year-old Surreal won at his race debut at Menangle on Tuesday. The pacer rated 1.53-6 and was bred and owned by Syd and Shona Brown, who were trackside to celebrate. __________________________________________________________________________________ ACCOMPLISHED Hamilton reinswoman Jackie Barker obviously doesn't suffer from travel sickness-which is just as well! In true Barker family form, the youngster is prepared to clock up the kilometres to fulfil any driving commitments that come her way. Back in the day, her grandfather Jim and father Rod would bob up here, there and everywhere, whether it was just a short trip from their Hamilton base, or a five- or six-hour road journey. And win, lose or draw, their trademark broad smiles were always there. And Jackie is is certainly a "chip off the old block(s)"! Let's take a look where she competed in the first week of 2020: Leeton 652 kms; Terang 111; Bendigo 264; Melton 259; Cobram 449; Boort 285 and Mt Gambier 125. That's round trips totalling 4290kms. Asked about all the travelling, Jackie replied: "Crazy...but I don't think anything of it. I'm really just doing what I love". __________________________________________________________________________________ IT didn't take long for the "comeback kid" to return to the winner's circle. Competent South Australian freelance reinsman Mark Billinger combined with well-known trainer Paul Cavallaro to win the opening event at Globe Derby on Monday. Billinger scored on 3yo filly Miss Iconic (Art Major-Lucille Franco (McArdle) in the Amos Vac pace. He had seven drives at the Saturday night fixture and warmed-up nicely with two placegetters. "Fortunately, I've become a bit of a gym-junky lately and that certainly helped get back into the swing of things," Billinger said. Another to re-ignite their career was colorful horsewoman Gaita Pullicino, now based at Mallala, near Gawler. And it probably won't be too long before the highly experienced driver greets the judge, either.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of the real excitement machines in Australian harness racing returned to the action at the weekend and gave a clear message that he's again going to be a major player. Four-year-old stallion Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder In Paris (Ponder) was first-up for four months but cruised home for trainer-driver David Moran to score nicely in the G3 $35,000 Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup. "We were very pleased because the Cup was over the longer distance of 2678 metres and the horse had only been to the trials on one occasion," owner Kevin Gordon said. "David had hoped to get at least another trial under his belt, but they got called off. So, with more racing, he will strip fitter and it won't be long before we see the very best of him," Gordon said. "The horse had a hard campaign last season and has returned bigger and stronger from a decent spell. We've picked out a few nice races for him and can't wait." Gordon said he spoke with Moran prior to the Cobram Cup, and they agreed on a plan to allow Sicario (Chris Alford) to go to the front and sit on his back. "We were just then hoping that we could outsprint them. He certainly showed a super turn of speed and David is hoping he can continue to drive him like that this campaign," he said. Ella Moran tries on the winner’s garland                                (Cobram HRC Photograph) Sicario was returning to racing after competing honorably in the recent NZ InterDominion series with a fourth in the final round of heats and seventh (beaten 15m) in the final. His Cobram cup second was solid after being rated to perfection by Alford. Following splits of 30.2, 30.4 and 28.2, Alford went for home on the corner. Moran was able to shift off the pegs and packed too many guns in the run to the line, winning by six metres with third placegetter Pick Up Line, the only mare in the field, a further nine metres away. Gordon, who rates Moran up there with the best horsemen of our country, paid $29,000 for Lochinvar Art. "David selected him as a yearling and I will admit that we've had some attractive offers at times. But we'd rather have the horse and enjoy the excitement of racing him," Gordon said. "He will most likely have his next start in the Shepparton Gold Cup and then the Group One Bonanza later in the month." Lochinvar Art now has the impressive record of 13 wins and 15 placings from 29 starts for over $331,000 in stakes. The only time he's been unplaced in a sparkling career was fifth (beaten four metres) in the Crown 3yo C & G final at Melton last August-his last run before going for a spell. While the Sydney-based Gordon and his wife Leonie have owned pacers since the late 70s, he is also known for his roles in greyhound racing. He won the Group One Paws of Thunder with Lochinvar Meadow and was also a member of the NSW Greyhound Industry Alliance that took on the State Government over the State's greyhound racing ban. The ban was announced in July, 2016, to come into effect the next year, in response to allegations of widespread cruelty. But lobbying by the Alliance helped broker an agreement for the ban to be overturned several months later. The first pacer owned by the couple was Lochinvar Girl, trained by Vic Frost, who now lives at Sleepy Hollow on the Tweed coast. "She won quite a few feature races including 14 at Harold Park," Gordon said. "We have raced a great number since including the Darren Binskin-trained Our Crown Lady who ended up getting sold to America," he said. "She also provided Lauren Panella (now Tritton) with her first metro winner at Menangle."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Harness Racing industry is doing its bit to help with bushfire aid as eastern Australia continues to be devastated by horrendous fires. Owners, trainers and drivers; transport operators; feed suppliers and others have joined forces to donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. Those connected to the industry are renowned for being generous and willing to assist wherever there's a need - and initiatives are emerging each day on a number of fronts. Mildura Harness Racing club CEO Michelle McGinty has made a plea, on behalf of Performance Saddle Fits, for urgent supplies. "Our club is hoping to collect new and used horse gear that's in good condition so it can be donated to fire affected horse owners throughout Australia," Ms McGinty said. "The sorts of things we are looking for are veterinary items such as wrap, tape and creams for burns, antiseptic sprays, Manuka honey and supplements particularly magnesium," she said. Images of Malua Beach in NSW "Also, things such as fly veils, halters, leads, rugs, buckets, harness, tack and brushes - anything that horse owners need." The club has asked for all secondhand items please be clean and in good condition so they can be passed onto those in need without delay. Anyone who can assist can drop off donated items to the club during business hours or contact Ms McGinty on 0447 380214. The powerful Yole team in Tasmania will donate $50 from each winner landed this month to the bushfire appeal. Stable representative Samantha Gangell said the pledge kicked off last week. "We landed four winners last Wednesday at St Marys so we've already made $200 for the appeal," Gangell said. "Let's hope we can kick home heaps of winners to help out all the desperate people in need who have been effected by this horrible disaster," she said. And in addition, generous South Australian owner-trainer Aaron Bain has answered the call for donations in the best possible way. "Every winner we own with the Ben Yole racing team, it's double up!" Bain said. New South Wales reinsman Brad Elder has also promised $50 from every winner in January. "Hopefully I can get a few-and it would be fantastic if other trainers and drivers get on board and do the same," Elder said. Seven-year-old bay gelding Iconic Value raced for an extra special cause at Gloucester Park, Perth, last Friday night. A pledge of $1000 was made to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal and Fire Wildlife Rescue from clients of the Ross Olivieri stables if the horse was successful. Iconic Valor, owned by Jemma Hayman, was driven a treat by Chris Voak to get the job done. The Hygain Team Teal Lady Drivers donated their driving fees at the Bendigo Pacing Cup meeting on Saturday to the Victorian bushfire victims. Other offers again showing the generosity of horsy people include empty holding yards near Bendigo, and a couple offering free horse transport services - M and J Peterson Horse Transport has a truck and two-horse float based at Wangaratta. "Our semi carries 10 horses with water available on board. We have portable cattle yards to load unhandled and difficult horses as well as other livestock," Matt said. The thoroughbred industry has also jumped on board. Champion jockey Tommy Berry will donate $250 for every January winner he lands, while one of the most famous racing establishments in the world, the Godolphin empire, will kick in $100 for every winner. For every horse sold during this week's Magic Millions sale, the vendors will contribute $500 per horse. A facebook page "Victoria Bushfire Horse Help" is helping to coordinate offers of assistance and donation items. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Diminutive West Australian harness racing driver Lauren Jones is taking an unbelievably brave act on the racetrack all in her stride. Twenty-three-year-old Jones, driving Combat Crusade, calmly grabbed a driverless horse while charging up the home straight to the finish line in a race at Perth's Gloucester Park this week. The courageous decision to take hold of Glowing Report certainly controlled a dangerous situation and potentially averted a nasty accident. "I really didn't think twice about it. I knew he was driverless because he cut me off on the corner," Jones said. "Then I got past him soon afterwards and he sort of popped in behind me. I was worried he was going to strike my wheel and puncture it, so I just leaned out a little and grabbed him by the bridle," she said. "There was never any drama. He just tagged along and kept up!" Watch the replay of the action here: Jones said after going across the finish line in third placing with Combat Crusade, she just steered the pair toward the outside fence. "I think the clerk of the course came to my rescue as I was easing up and took charge of Glowing Report from me, but he wasn't playing up or anything. He was pretty cool," she said. Twenty-three-year-old Jones, driving Combat Crusade The sensational drama unfolded in the $7500 Etch Coatings Pace at Gloucester Park last Monday afternoon. Stewards reported that with 700 metres to go, race leader Reacher became unbalanced and galloped. As a result, Prince of Smiles was checked and broke. It then shifted out while galloping and contacted the sulky of Glowing Report, dislodging driver Deni Roberts. After being examined by paramedics, Roberts was cleared to fulfil her other driving engagements at the meeting. Reacher was sent back to the trials for one satisfactory performance before being able to race again. The race was won by Art Tutor (Art Major-Atomic Fusion (Nuke Of Earl), driven by Michael Grantham. Carramar Philemon (Shannon Suvaljko) ran second and Combat Crusade, third, for Jones. The course commentator was full of praise, remarking that it was a great piece of driving and that Glowing Report had been "miraculously" reined in by Jones. Old timers in the sport also described it as a remarkable display of skill and poise on the racetrack. Jones is an expatriate Queenslander, the daughter of well-known Sunshine State horseman Peter Jones, and has made a huge impact since crossing the Nullarbor six years ago. She joined the strong Hall stable after spotting a job advertisement on a harness racing website. "I moved from my hometown in early 2014 and learnt so much at Halls. Gary Hall Snr was great, while the boys were always giving me tips to improve on my driving," she said. "I left there a while ago and I'm now training with my partner (trainer-driver Kyle Harper) at Byford. We have 10 in work including a few nice ones." Jones cut her teeth in the pony trots, celebrating a memorable 16th birthday in Auckland, NZ, while representing Queensland in the 2011 Mini Trotting Championships and finishing third. She drove her first race winner on Old Golden Black at the now defunct Gold Coast track in 2013 and has driven over 150 winners since, all but 19 of these in the West. Meanwhile Harper has been in red-hot driving form recently with a double last week at Gloucester Park. He then wound up 2019 with a similar tally for trainer Michael Brennan at Bunbury on New Year's Eve. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E hello@newsalertpr.com.au   W www.newsalertpr.com.au      

There were thrills and spills, but no serious injuries...and the skirmishes will take little away from the winner of Victorian harness racing's first two-year old race of the season, Ultimate Exclusive. Kilmore is the traditional host of the Victorian season opener for the "babies" and there's always some nervous anticipation in the leadup to the New Year fixture - but today's event was a little more action packed than most. Several of the debutantes broke stride early in attempt one of the Bendigo Club Two Year Old Pace. In the resulting severe interference, two of the youngsters fell. Watch the replay of attempt one here. Both of the fallen horses (Ire of the Dragon and Syzate) and their drivers (Peter Salathiel and Robert Graham) were quickly back on their feet, with none sustaining serious injury, but stewards halted the race and ordered all runners to be vet-checked - with the ultimate result, that the two fallen horses were late scratchings. Attempt two got underway without incident, but even then, the action wasn't all over for the four-horse field. Race favorite Sheffield Peak (which had galloped after the start in the first attempt at the race) was balanced up out of the gate and worked to the lead. He looked a good winning chance turning for home, then broke up at the 400-metre mark as the death-seat horse Ultimate Exclusive (Art Major-Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative) moved up outside. Reinsman Michael Bellman showed plenty of composure, allowing Ultimate Exclusive to then cruise to the front and run away to score a comfortable 30-metre win over Swiss Lightning (Betterthancheddar-Virginia Lightning (Christian Cullen). Sheffield Peak (Artspeak-Chloe Sheffield (Whats Next) still managed to regain third when Ultimate Hughey broke straightening for home. Watch the race here. Trained by Ted Caruana, Ultimate Exclusive is the latest in the dynasty from the super-reliable broodmare Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative-Uncork NZ (Tuapeka Knight). Her progeny includes Aspiring Artist ($170,000), Our Little Artist ($70,000), Rap Artist ($100,000) and Major Exclusive ($90,000), and the mature-looking colt Ultimate Exclusive showed a lot to like at his debut run. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E hello@newsalertpr.com.au   W www.newsalertpr.com.au      

Accomplished Goulburn Valley reinsman Damian Wilson had a memorable New Year's Eve at the ever-popular Albury harness racing meeting. Wilson, based at Byrneside, 20 kms west of Shepparton, had a one hundred percent strike rate with five winners from five drives at the venue, which is proving to be a happy hunting ground. "I thought I really had one standout chance, while another two looked to be well in it with a bit of luck. But everything just kept falling into place and the end result was fantastic," Wilson said. "I've never landed five winners on the same program before-my previous best would be four. And that was a while ago at Albury as well," he said. "It's only a little over two hours to drive up there to compete. I really enjoy it because the people involved with the club are great and appreciate us supporting the meetings." Wilson said he didn't do much celebrating after posting the career-high five winners. "I had to get home because I had a few that needed to be worked the following morning and I was racing at Echuca that night," he said. Apart from training and driving two winners at Albury for himself, Wilson also landed a double for close friend and trainer David Farrar. His other victory was for another Sheppparton horseman, Darryl Hill. The Wilson-trained pair were Feeling The Love (Mr Feelgood-Summer Eyes (Ok Bye) and Winkn Nod (Grinfromeartoear-Mull Of Kintire (Chandon). Horses from the Farrar stable to win were Hayjoshandco (Grinfromeartoear-Our Pocket Princess (In The Pocket) and Nationaldraft (Modern Art-Laura Cloe (Iraklis), while Hill cheered home Our Summer Bay (Metropolitan-Bye The Deep South (Ok Bye). Feeling The Love Winkn Nod Hayjoshandco Nationaldraft Our Summer Bay There's no doubt that Wilson deserves any success that may come his way, with the ups and downs he's had over several decades in the sport. He suffered a broken tibia and fibula along with a severe laceration to his calf in a spectacular fall at the 2012 Kilmore Cup meeting in late October. Two others drivers in Scott Dyer and George Batsakis also suffered serious injuries. On the flip side, Wilson has a Kilmore Cup victory to his name after combining with Ohoka Nevada. He also dead-heated in a Cranbourne Cup and has claimed many feature events such as Sires Stakes Finals and other country cups in his career. Wilson said providing there were suitable races for his horses to compete at Albury, he would continue to compete there. "I'm actually off to Leeton next week which is about 200 kms on from Albury," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There was no bluff about evergreen veteran pacer Poker Storm when he played a winning hand to get the cash at a recent Launceston harness racing meeting. The 12-year-old paid three figure odds across most betting outlets with a stake-high $220 for a single win unit on the NSW TAB. But the victory didn't come as a surprise to his trainer Adrian Duggan, or the passionate owners. "I don't bet, but his owners always have a couple of dollars on him, so that's great for them," Duggan said. While the NSW TAB was the standout, those players who put their chips on the pacer to trump his rivals, collected $187 (SuperTAB), $106 (UniTAB), and $100 in his home state. "It's definitely not every day that you have that happen - but he also didn't deserve to be those odds, either. He's been racing really well," he said. Poker Storm hadn't won since March - but has been enjoying Tasmania's Discretionary Standing Start racing and had weighed in at all but one of his previous five starts, hence the quiet confidence in the Duggan camp. Annette and Chris Rockliff, Jacob Duggan and Nathan Rockliff were all smiles after their old warrior scored a memorable long-shot win  "He's an out-of-the-draw horse in the stands, but if he's off the second row he usually goes away all right," Duggan said. Poker Storm (Trump Casino-Cameo Mist (Lucky Cam) and Duggan have been a racing combination for almost as long as is possible in harness racing. The ownership group is based at Devonport, on the north coast, but, after he was broken in, they elected to send their two-year-old to the southern area of the Apple Isle, to Duggan at Brighton. And while others have come and gone, Poker Storm has been there ever since - for 10 years, nearly 200 starts, 23 wins and $170,000 in stakes. Duggan admits unashamedly, Poker Storm's the favorite. "He's just a lovely horse to have around. Hardly a lame day in his life and he's just one of those horses - he's not very big, but he's a warrior," he said. "He's very straightforward, very athletic and he just loves what he does. He's like most horses I suppose - if you keep him happy, he is very easy to get on with." Poker Storm crosses the line to win at start number 199 Duggan trains a team of 11 or 12 with the help of his stepfather Phillip Young, his wife Amanda and their 14-year-old son Jacob, who's just recently become licenced. "Poker Storm's been around nearly as long as Jacob has!" Duggan laughed. "He doesn't actually remember a time when we didn't have the horse - and he's doing quite a lot of the work with him now, too, so the win was a big thrill for Jacob as well. "Nathan (Rockliff) and Peter (Webb) are just the sort of owners you love to have. They are very loyal to me and have three horses here at the moment. "They love the sport and old Poker Storm has done a great job for them, but the minute I think it's time to pull the pin they'll be okay with that. "At the moment though, we're just enjoying racing him and while they keep programming the discretionary races and he gets handicapped fairly, we'll keep him going round," he said. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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