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GOULBURN Valley harness racing identity, Warren Newbound, who died recently, will be remembered as a cheerful and thoughtful friend to many, and one of the true gentlemen of the sport. Warren was part of the famous Newbound family, being the son of the late Leo Newbound, who played a huge part in the sport when operating Forest Lodge firstly at Chiltern in the 1950s with his brother Kevin. The Newbound name has been to the fore for decades and Warren ensured this continued in his passion as a trainer, breeder, farrier and boot manufacturer. Well-known Shepparton trainer Laura Crossland said 57-year-old Warren, who trained out of stables nearby, was always happy and smiling. "He was such a good person. When he drove in each day he'd toot the car horn and give a big friendly wave," Laura said. "There was always a horse in his stable that he would have in work. We loved him and when we had horses racing, he'd be the first to send us a good luck message." All drivers at Cobram on Monday showed their respect by wearing black armbands in Warren Newbound's honor. His funeral will be held at St Brendan's Catholic Church at Shepparton on Monday at 11 am, with a wake afterwards at the Goulburn Valley Hotel. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ "GO Lions, Brisbane Lions...we'll kick the winning'll hear our mighty roar!" And we bet there were plenty of roars (and maybe even a few renditions of the club song) in the Lions camp last weekend! Lions captain Dane Zorko and teammates Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester, along with Louie Taylor, who recently transferred to the Sydney Swans, are enthusiastic harness racing owners. They race a number of handy horses with outstanding Victorian trainer Marg Lee and her reinsman son Jason, including 5yo gelding Iam Erik (Shadow Play-Invigorate (Artsplace) who scored nicely at Melton in a time of 1.53-8. The links with the Western District Lee stable go way back, with Jason and Louie Taylor students at primary school together. "They are a fantastic group of owners. Darcy in particular just loves the sport and probably gives me a call or sends a text message nearly every day to check on the horses," Jason said. "We have three owned by the boys now. One of the others in Yankee CJ has been a good money-spinner and a few of them are in Code Bailey," he said. Marg Lee was at her best at the Melton meeting with a training treble- which took her to an outstanding personal career milestone of preparing 500 winners. While Jason is Lions through-and-through, Marg, despite her association with the star Lions, cannot be swayed and remains a devoted Carlton supporter. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ CRACK Queensland reinsman Pete McMullen is seeing the funny side of a bizarre incident at Hobart last weekend during the Australian Drivers Championship series. McMullen was driving the ominously-named Awayandrideyourself and was fortunately uninjured in the incident, which occurred just 100 metres from the finish in the third heat of the Championship series. Confident punters could have been excused for heading to the bar when the pair, sent out warm favorites, were sitting pretty in fourth spot rounding the home corner and in the clear running out wide. But as the race caller spotted Awayandrideyourself about to stake his claims, disaster struck when McMullen's sulky seat gave way and dumped the driver onto the track. As he slipped from the sulky, McMullen kept hold of the pacer and was pulled upright again to find himself momentarily doing some "skiing", before tumbling ungraciously to the track. Video from Somehow McMullen ended up with only some scrapes and bruises and was cleared fit to continue driving during the night. "The seat slipped off, which wasn't anyone's fault. It was just a gear malfunction and I'm all good," he said later. "Thankfully I was out wide at the time with none of the other runners tracking me." McMullen said it was the first time he'd experienced a "seat slip" - and hoped it was his last! McMullen (who had 192 wins last year and is enjoying a handy start to the season, with about 30 so far) won the inaugural National Driver's Championship for Qld in 2014 - but the incident didn't help his cause this year, finishing eighth. Gary Hall Jnr took the title for WA (77 points) well clear of Mark Yole (Tas) and Darby McGuigan (Vic)   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of our country's greatest harness racing horsewomen Jodi Quinlan is back on the track doing what she loves - albeit with due care and caution. Quinlan is based at Parwan, near Bacchus Marsh, with her partner Craig Demmler and returned to race driving recently after being sidelined by injury for nearly 11 months. "I really wasn't nervous at all. I thought I may have been, but I guess it's just like getting back on a bike," Quinlan said. "But I can say that I've lost some of my strength and fitness and that was a bit surprising. So I'm going to have to work on that!" she said. "I've still got on-going physio and osteotherapy once a week. But I'm using muscles now that I haven't used for 11 months so it will take time to build those up again." Quinlan suffered severe injuries when she was kicked by a horse that took fright in the float parking area at Tabcorp Park Melton last Christmas Eve. She received a lacerated kidney and three fractures to her spine along with muscle damage on her left-hand side. "It has certainly been a long road back with the rehabilitation. There's also been a fair amount of frustration along the way, but I've learnt that I just have to preserve myself through proper management," she said. "As part of my rehabilitation and to work towards getting back to the races, I've been driving some horses at home. It's only been a few here and there, probably more like when I feel up to it!" Quinlan had her first drive back at Melton 10 days ago in the Allied Express Sokyola Sprint finishing 7th on 7/1 chance My Kiwi Mate, prepared by Demmler. But a comeback win appears not far away with a third at Yarra Valley with Hezatoff before Quinlan finished second on Illawong Armstrong at Melton on Saturday night. Quinlan said she was training a team of 26 prior to being injured. "Craig had his own team up and going and then found himself filling the gap with about six of mine being lobbed onto him," she said. "I really felt for him because it's hard work. There was also a number of babies that were having their early preparations. "If I decide down the track to increase the stable numbers, I'll have to put on other staff that's for sure." Quinlan said she hadn't really thought much about returning to race driving while recovering. "I probably wasn't brave enough to look that far ahead - anyway it was up to the doctors to make the call. When I got through the period when pain was a big issue, I didn't know if I wanted to drive, but some of my owners sort of inspired me," she said. "Dr Martin Hartnett and his wife Kaye, who have been fantastic over the past five or six years, kept encouraging me. All my owners have been supportive. It was then I started pushing myself. "Martin's own health has been up and down a bit. So I thought okay let's do this and get back at the track and drive their team of trotters." The energetic horsewoman makes no secret she has high hopes for the Hartnett's three year old Illawong Stardust who will be set for the rich Vicbred and Breeders series as well as the Oaks. The Quinlan-Hartnett combination has tasted Group one success in the past with talented Illawong Armstrong and Illawong Byron. "Firstly, I'm happy just to be back, and secondly I'm happy to stick with the square gaiters at the races," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

Winning his first-ever country cup yesterday, junior reinsman James "Herbie" Herbertson showed the brilliance that stamps him one of Victorian harness racing's brightest young stars. The 20-year-old, based at Lexton, near Ballarat, teamed up with well-performed six-year-old gelding Emain Macha (Safari-Machabella (Mach Three) to win the 2019 $14,500 Weirs Supa IGA St Arnaud Pacing Cup. Showing a cool head and a touch of class to weave through tight traffic after despatch, Herbertson balanced Emain Macha up then made a race-winning move to ping him to the death-seat with 1000 metres to go. "He's a real nice horse that's for sure. I asked him to do a bit of work and then he responded on the home corner when I went for him," Herbertson said. "It's always a great day at St Arnaud, but getting my first country cup win there made it extra special," he said. Emain Macha showed plenty of grit to hold out the fast-finishing Rupert of Lincoln (Kerryn Manning) and Hashtag (Tayla French). The victory was another success for his astute Naracoorte-based trainer, Greg Scholefield, who continues to bob up with winners from just a small stable of runners. Scholefield, a builder by trade, has concentrated solely on horses for the past decade and races Emain Macha in partnership with Gail Davis, Peter Lamond, and father and son John and Sean Penny. Scholefield had his stable star back to his best after a short let-up and made use of Herbertson's junior claiming status to be eligible for the cup. "I've been to St Arnaud on three previous occasions-going back quite a few years ago-and was lucky enough to get two wins, while another runner cut himself and was a late scratching," Scholefield said. "Emain Macha went very well to win the cup and he's pulled up terrific. I got told the time was .9 of a second outside the race record so we're thrilled," he said. "James certainly deserves credit as he got him through to a lovely spot after starting on the outside of the back row. They had to work early, but the horse finished off well." Scholefield said he hadn't picked out where he would race next. "We'll sit down and look at suitable races, but it will most likely be at Melton because with the national ratings system he will be high up with points and it's hard to place him," he said. Emain Macha has now won 28 races with 12 placings from 48 starts. He has earnt more than $230,000 in stakemoney. The win continues a satisfying run for Herbertson who has now landed winners at three different tracks in the past three days. He got the money with Im Shadow Boxer at Bendigo on Friday night for his father Ashleigh, and then followed up the next night at Melton with a longshot double-Jodan (33/1) for the Tindall camp, and Are Doubleyou (25/1) for Kevin Wheatley. He continues a rapid rise in the sport. This season, just his fourth, is shaping well with 27 wins and 49 placings to date. This follows his record-breaking 2018-19 term when he drove more than 100 winners for the first time. "I copped a two-week suspension a while ago which put a dent in things, but the season is going along nicely with a fair few trainers giving me race opportunities," Herbertson said. The St Arnaud club was again thrilled with the success of its annual Cup meeting - with a big crowd enjoying perfect weather and great racing at the picturesque Northern Victorian track. The other feature event on the program, the St Arnaud Sporting Club Trotters Cup was taken out by the in-form Chris Svanosio, who trained and drove Kyvalley Finn.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Champion Melton harness racing trainer-driver Lance Justice has achieved it all over the years. But last night at Bendigo, he secured a win that is sure to always be special. Justice was seen at his best to come up trumps in the eighth running of the $10,000 Oxley Feed Mill Invitational Veteran Drivers Trot- the highlight on the 10-race program. The wily horseman combined with Blue Sparkler (Danny Bouchea-Argyle Grace (Lawman) to score a comfortable win for Ballarat trainer Emma Stewart. Competitors in the feature event have been outstanding ambassadors of the sport over many years, including such legends as Brian Gath, Geoff Webster, Ginger Gleeson, Jim O'Sullivan, Mark Hayes, Debra Wicks-Moss, Glenn Conroy, Noel Shinn and Graeme Whittle. Gath, who lives at nearby Longlea, had been victorious in two of the past three races including defeating Justice last year. "I was thrilled to get the call-up last year and got rolled by Brian Gath. I thought I was the winner until he swooped. So it's fantastic to now make amends," Justice said. "Competing in this event is one reason I'm still driving-I seriously thought about giving it away a month ago," he said. "I was offered an invitation in this event again, then the guy at Wayville in Adelaide rang me about competing at their special meeting next month. "I won that last year, so I thought I'd better go back again for another crack!" Justice is still in Victoria's top three reinsmen, behind Chris Alford and Gavin Lang and has more than 3400 winners on his record. "I'll weigh up my options after that. I've had a good time of it." Lance Justice It was a significant night for honouring harness racing greats at Bendigo, which is home to the Victorian Harness Racing Museum, with the club hosting the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame awards ceremony. Edgar Tatlow was inducted as the eighth Legend of the Victorian Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Mr Tatlow's Derby Lodge dominated Australian trots, producing 13 Inter Dominion winners and the horse he stood at stud, Globe Derby, was elevated to Legend status in 2015. Mr Tatlow is in the elite company as an industry "legend". Previous inductees include Gordon Rothacker (2012), Maori's Idol (2013), George Gath (2014), Popular Alm (2016), Vin Knight (2017) and Bill McKay (2018). At the awards ceremony, there were also six inductions to the Hall of Fame: Horse inductee: Gyro Horse inductee: Noble Scott Trainer-driver inductee: Alice Laidlaw Trainer-driver inductee: Ken Pocock Trainer-driver inductee: Dick Lee Associate: Harry Holmfield Current-day reinsman Greg Sugars was awarded the inaugural 'Fan Favourite' award and John Azzopardi was awarded the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association Award.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Tasmania's powerhouse Yole harness racing team is about to wrap up a successful three-month campaign in Victoria. "We decided to dip our toe in the water and give it a real crack and we probably ended up with better results than we were expecting," an elated Ben Yole said. "It's quite on the cards that we'll be back sometime early next year. We are now back to having two meetings per week of racing in Tasmania so we'll concentrate on that for a bit, and then sort it out," he said. The Yole family team, comprising Ben and his brothers Mark and Tim, along with their father Wayne, are based at Sidmouth, a small rural community in the Western Tamar Valley region. It has a population of about 400 people and is 45 minutes north-west of Launceston. "We campaigned with about 18 horses in Victoria, but some of them got off to a late start because they were crook for a little while," Yole said. "That left around 35 back home in Tassie and our hard-working team of staff are doing a great job with them. Recently they've been competing well at Hobart and Devonport with big numbers," he said. Handy pacer Tiwanaku scored at Melton last month for the Yole team and was claimed on Tuesday at Yarra Glen. He’s pictured with victorious driver Jack Laugher and stable representative Tim Yole          --Stuart McCormick photo The Victorian statistics sit very nicely for the stable with Ben positioned in the top 10 on the trainer's premiership for the 2019-20 season. He has posted 15 wins, 18 seconds, 19 thirds and 25 fourths for over $100,000 in stakemoney. "It's been a bit strange at times, because we've had more than our share of second placings - for instance, just recently we took three to Bendigo in Machitelli, Somedan and Shestryintactics and they were all runners-up!" Yole said. "It has been a bit weird in that way, but we aren't complaining," he said. "Our success was certainly due in a big part to the hospitality of friends Paul and Rosie Weidenbach, who are based near Shepparton. We trained out of there and they have super facilities." Yole said he was "always on the lookout for other horses" and hoped to again build on numbers soon. "We turned a few horses over during the campaign - some were sold, and we also had others that were claimed out of the claiming races. But in saying that, we have also ended up with four new ones," he said. "I want to climb back up again - the stakes are great in Tasmania and there's plenty of worthwhile feature events coming up around Christmas-New Year." Yole, previously based at Hamilton in Victoria, hasn't looked back since shifting to Tasmania over a decade ago. He has been the leading trainer since 2015 and has passed the magical 100-winner mark every season since. In the recently completed 2018-19 season he smashed all previous records with a sensational 181 winners in Tasmania. In addition, he finished second on 200 occasions, had 208 thirds and 249 fourths for over $1.2 million in earnings. The Yole season figures represented an increase of a whopping 57 winners on the previous season and an extra 81 placings. At last month's awards night, apart from Ben picking up the leading trainer trophy, brother Mark was leading driver (88 wins); junior driver Samantha Gangell was female driver of the year (29 wins); and Conor Crook took the junior driver's title (31 wins). "We mix up our training routines by going to the beach as well as jogging on a number of different tracks we have on a bush property. We find it keeps them fresh as it's not the same old grind," Yole said. "I'm lucky to have staff who are willing and dedicated. And of course, without our owners we wouldn't have the success we've enjoyed. Their support in buying new horses to add to our team enables us to keep ticking along."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Melton-based harness racing legend Lance Justice headed north this week-and went home with a training double. Justice made the four-hour trek to Swan Hill on Tuesday night and, apart from the two victories, also collected two runner-up prizes. "It was probably only the third time I've ever been up there to race, but each time I've been lucky enough to get a winner. Apart from being a big trip, I really like the track and there's good people on the committee," Justice said. "I must admit that I do always try and take up a nice horse. I think some of my previous wins have been with Lov e Ina Chevy and maybe Phil Monty," he said. While Justice this time took the reins with Miss Victoria (Shadow Play-Waltzing Matilda (Presidential Ball) to win the Toshiba Air Conditioning Pace, he engaged in-form Heathcote reinswoman Tayla French on Justice Served (Rock N Roll Heaven-Keepers Daughter (Ace's N Sevens),and the pair got the money in the Braemar Air Conditioning Pace. Justice now has driven a massive 3432 winners. Justice said Miss Victoria (5/1), who is expected to be offered for sale soon, was a regular star performer at home. "If she ever takes her trackwork to the races, she will be something real special. She just shuts off and looks like she's struggling, but, in reality, she has plenty left," he said. "The racing style at Melton probably doesn't suit her because she has to work hard early, and then later is called on to rally again. The smaller country tracks are right up her alley. "At Swan Hill, her first half was 59.8 and then her closing quarters were 28 and 29. She will do that any day of the week." The second leg of the Justice training double was five-year-old gelding Justice Served, who rated just over a second off the track record. "He certainly gave Tayla a few anxious moments. He's such a free rolling horse, who can get up on the bit and pull very hard," Justice said. "The horse has done it to me. I told Tayla to let him bowl along and drive him like he's a horse with a bit of credit. He was getting tired towards the end, but got there okay." French, who gets a concession claim, is driving in sensational form at the moment. She also went home with a driving double, after landing Karlos (Sportswriter-Kept For Pleasure (Safely Kept) for Keith Cotchin at 15/1. Justice combined with super horse Smoken Up (Tinted Cloud-Carnlough Bay (Mark Lobell) to enthrall harness racing fans around the world during a dominant period of 2007 to 2014. After teaming up to win their first 10 starts on end, the pair went on to record a further 64 breath-taking victories in Australia and New Zealand for earnings of over $3.6 million. Smoken Up, fondly known as Trigger, had his swansong run at Melton on Sept 6, 2014-he ran 4th to Exciteusinthecity. Lance Justice and his old mate “Trigger” out for a jog Justice recently hinted he too might join his mate in retirement, at least from driving, with injuries starting to catch up with him. "I'm suffering aches and pains from race falls over the years and I have pretty severe arthritis. I've twice broken both legs in smashes-one still has 12 screws in it, while the other has only two screws, but a plate as well," he said. "My hip plays up badly now and again and I haven't got much feeling in one foot, so I think the signs are there that I haven't got all that much longer in my race driving career. But I'm not complaining because I've had a fantastic time in the sport." Justice has again had the call up in this Friday coveted night's Invitational Driver's race at Bendigo - finishing second to the race's home-town legend Brian Gath. "I've only competed in it once before and that was last year. I thought I had it wrapped up for the win and along come B. Gath down the outside and got me! So, yes, I am hoping to go one better this year!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Powerful mother-son harness racing duo Marg and Jason Lee are kicking goals with a successful young ownership group now aligned with the Western District stable. The dynamic captain of the Brisbane Lions AFL team, Dane Zorko, and top players Darcy Gardiner, Ryan Lester and Lewis Taylor (who recently became a Sydney Swan) race a number of pacers with the Lee team. And star young reinsman Jason and his highly successful trainer mum Marg are giving their Lions mates plenty to roar about. The footballers are currently racing two horses with the Lee team, based near Terang, and both have been more than handy acquisitions. “They actually purchased the horses – Iam Erik and Yankee C J – at the same time so they are having a good ride so far,” Jason said. “Iam Erik (Shadow Play-Invigorate (Artsplace) has shown that he’s prepared to tough it out. We’ve had two wins and five placings with him from nine starts,” he said. “Yankee C J has been a model of consistency as well.” Yankee C J (American Ideal-Focussed (In The Pocket) scored first-up for his new owners at Ararat back in April. He was again successful at Hamilton in June and has posted seven placings as well in his past 11 outings. The Lees’ association with the Brisbane team mates stemmed from a lifelong friendship between Jason and Lewis Taylor. “We were school mates. We played four or five years of underage football together and Lewis actually lived with us for a bit,” Jason said. “He worked here on and off for a couple of years doing farm and stable work. Mum let him drive trackwork and put him on some of the good ones, so that’s where he got the bug! “When it was obvious that he had a bright football career, he would be off to Geelong twice a week training with the Falcons. Then it all became very hectic, but he’d still pop out once a week and help out.” Jason, a passionate Brisbane Lions supporter, said he wasn’t surprised by his friend’s AFL success. “If there was anyone I ever thought would be drafted, it was Lewis. He was just a freak on the footy field. When he was 15 or 16, he played seniors for Terang-Mortlake and won an elimination final off his own boot,” he said. “The opposition were quickly onto his outstanding talent and he’d often be tagged with two players to try and subdue him.” Taylor in 2014 edged out Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli by one vote to take the NAB AFL Rising Star Award, but Marg described him as “an absolute gem of a kid”. “He has never forgotten where he comes from and when he’s home in Mortlake, he always comes out to visit us,” Marg said. The success with the Brisbane Lions boys has also helped Marg, one of the best conditioners in the sport, to edge towards a significant milestone of her own. She’s now within a whisker of an impressive 500-winners in her stellar training career. The champion horsewoman is sitting on 496 winners and 585 placings from just over 1900 starters for an impressive $4.5 million in stake-earnings. The family-focused harness racing operation has about 30 in work at present, but also combines the horses with running a big dairy and a gravel pit. “We run about 500 cows. We have two workers who start in the dairy before us. We are up and helping with the cows at about 6.30am, and then it’s the horses. It’s a long day,” Marg said. “I don’t travel to the trots meetings like I used to. I tend to leave that these days to my boys, Jason and Paddy, and my nephew Glen Craven.” Marg (7 wins and 12 placings this season) and Jason (20 wins and 15 placings) are prominent on the harness racing tables, but youngest son Paddy is certainly a quiet achiever with 10 wins and four placings as a trainer from 16 starters this a top three strike rate of 87 percent. Marg’s husband Damien, while a loyal supporter of the horses, prefers sprint cars and trucks. Eldest son Jack shares the same interest. Marg acknowledges the tutelage of Great Western training legend, Peter Manning, but a good deal of credit for launching the family’s success must also go to her first ever winner – a chestnut mare named Melita (Whats Next-Another Jensen). Melita finished her racing with 11 wins from 30 but did her best work in the breeding barn with numerous handy performers – including the standout, the Holmes Hanover-sired Keayang Hanover with 22 wins and $173,000. Many of the horses bred and owned by the Lee family carry the moniker Keayang as part of their race name— Keayang is an historic pastoral property in the Western District, owned partly by the Lees. “It’ll be nice (to reach the 500-win milestone) but I don’t pay much attention to those things,” Marg confessed. “I really didn’t have any idea —we just keep doing our best and enjoying it along the way.”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Jovial Horsham harness racing trainer-driver Aaron Dunn is usually all smiles - but at the moment he certainly has every reason. Dunn made a conscious decision a few years ago to give the sport a red hot go, and this week struck a patch of red hot form, landing three winners in the space of 24 hours. "I don't bet, but gee a few of them were at good odds," Dunn said. "Their work at home had been great and they have been racing really well, so the wins weren't complete surprises." Dunn's winning streak started at Bendigo on Tuesday night with tough five-year-old mare Marjorie Jean (Blissfull Hall-Longtan Ebony (Village Jasper), who did it hard outside the leader Millah Joy ($2.10 fav) but pulled out plenty to score easily at 15/1. Dunn said he had decided to increase the mare's workload because she puts on weight "in the blink of an eye". "She is a funny horse. Sometimes her work can be great and then she doesn't take it to the races - but she was in one heck of a mood at Bendigo which usually means she's going to go okay!" he said. And the luck rolled on when Dunn's talented three-year-old Sporty Azz won the very next event. The handy son of Sportswriter was a 6/1 chance and led from the start, packing too many guns for Rock On Playboy, the $2.20 fav. Both winners were driven to perfection by youngster Jackie Barker, who got away with a leisurely speed early on Sporty Azz, then slipped him into another gear for a 56.2 last half. Sporty Azz was bred by Aaron Dunn, out of the family's consistent race mare Madazhell, and has now won three of his past four. "Madazhell was a handy performer who just couldn't quite crack it for a win in Melbourne, but she ended up winning seven races and a heap of placings for us, so she paid her way," he said. The third winner in a superb 24 hours came in the far north-west at MIldura when Keayang Kookai (Sportswriter-Melita (Whats Next), and again, it was Barker in the sulky, rating the pacer to perfection. Jackie Barker and Keayang Kookai, which has won its last two The result was never in doubt and punters who took the short odds would have been happy a long way from home with Keayang Kookai scoring a runaway 24 metre victory. The pacer had also saluted 10 days earlier at Maryborough and that win was a good effort. "He's a bit one-paced, but we did think he would take some beating in the Mildura event." Dunn was at the Bendigo meeting, but passed up the four-hour trip north the next night to watch Keayang Kookai. "I got home from Bendigo at 2am and I was up at 5.30am baling hay. So I didn't get much sleep, then I pulled a hamstring that morning, so I was a scratching from Mildura! It would have been fantastic to be there, but I just wasn't up to it." Dunn has jumped out of the blocks this season, preparing five winners and four placings from 17 starters for nearly $23,000. He has established a terrific training complex near Horsham on 240 acres. It features a 1350 metre track with two hill runs, well fenced 50 x 30 yards with shelters and numerous paddocks. "I decided in the past few years to set it up properly-I spent a lot of time doing the paddocks because I just got sick of fixing them all the time," Dunn said. "I've been running my own mobile seed cleaning business for the past 20 years and operate three trucks. It's only seasonal, but I'm hoping to perhaps take more of a back seat soon and concentrate on the horses. "We have six well-bred broodmares and over the years we've bred our own or got one or two from the sales. Although in saying that, we haven't been too often to the sales in the past 13 or 14 years." Dunn said he still got a helping hand from his dad Barry and a friend from Mortlake in Stevie Blacker. "Stevie and I go back a long way - we played junior football together. He comes here probably three days a week," he said. "And my brother Bryan who is an owner and lives in Tasmania, picks out which races may be best suitable for each of our horses. I think he's got Melton or the coming St Arnaud Cup pencilled in for Marjorie Jean." Dunn said junior reinswoman Jackie Barker, a granddaughter of a legend of the sport, Jim Barker, was a most competent driver. "I never give her any instructions-she knows our horses and drives them well. I'm on the sidelines with a suspension at the moment, but even when I'm back I'll still be using her often," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Popular Mildura harness racing trainer-driver Luke Watson is hoping his knowledge of small tracks will be a good grounding for the coming blockbuster Wayville Showgrounds nostalgia event. Watson was this week named as one of 10 invited drivers to be part of the "good old days" when harness racing again returns to the former Adelaide headquarters of trotting on Friday, December 13. "When I was growing up in Broken Hill I did heaps of fast work up there at the Rocky Baker Memorial Oval Paceway which is only 602 metres in circumference," Watson said. "It was in the late 1980s and I can say it was quite a task. To add to the difficulty, the horses back then were differently gaited to what they are today," he said. "My dad Ian and older brother Mark would always be grabbing me to help them out when it was hopple-up day. "So it's going to be interesting at Wayville because that's even smaller than Broken Hill at 510 metres. But I'm humbled to be invited and just can't wait." Wayville, in the centre of Adelaide, was the headquarters for South Australian racing from 1925 and hosted race meetings up until 1973, four years after the opening of the purpose-built Globe Derby Park. But Wayville stands on its own in harness racing heritage and nostalgia. Check out Cardigan Bay winning the 1963 Inter Dominion at Wayville Click Here! Although smaller than most of the capital city tracks in Australia, Wayville hosted the Inter Dominion on six occasions - 1937, '49, '54, '58, '63 and '69 - when crowds of passionate "trots" fans would pack the colosseum-like circuit. Up to 45,000 people would pack Wayville for the trots in the 1960s (Courtesy Harness Racing SA) And here is Richmond Lass winning the 1969 Inter Dominion at Wayville Click Here! Watson said he was recently contacted and asked if he would be interested in driving at the 2019 Wayville meeting, the second "Return to Wayville" meeting. "It came out of the blue. I told them I was definitely available and then I sort of forgot about it. Then a few days ago when I got another call to say I'd been chosen, I was rapt," he said. "I've driven in a number of drivers series as well as the State of Origin contest at Mildura. They are all heaps of fun." Other drivers to get the Wayville call up include Lance Justice, Dani and Wayne Hill, Ken Rogers, Ryan Hryhorec, Jayden Brewin, Jayson Finnis, Jason Lee and Mark Yole. Raised in Broken Hill, Watson was more into football than the horses, and showed a fair amount of ability, being a country carnival representative as well as pulling on the guernsey a few times for Norwood in underage competition. He finished school before following his parents Ian and Alison down to Mildura. "I suppose I'm like a lot of others and horses did end up getting the better of me," he said. However, Watson said his driving career didn't get off to a flying start aboard Future Bound at an Ouyen meeting for former trainer-farrier Ross Carr. "I galloped it out and we probably got beaten by a hundred metres," he said. "My first winner came a bit later. It was a horse trained by my brother Mark called Autumn Night and fittingly it was at Broken Hill." Since then Watson has stamped himself as a most competent reinsman with four group races to his name as well as other feature event wins. He was been successful in the Vicbred Series Finals with former great mare Flojos Gold, trained by his father; as well as a couple of South Australian Oaks and two SA Southern Cross finals. "We took out the Southern Cross events with Alzona, who was as brave as they come," Watson said. "But probably the one race win that really sticks out in my mind was in the rich Mark Gurry event with Loaded. It was the first good race I'd won as a trainer. "I remember speaking to owner Peter Argiro, who still races horses with us, about a bit of a race plan beforehand-and it panned out in exactly the way I thought it would. It's awesome when that happens. It still makes my spine tingle actually." Watson is married to Kathy, a concessional claim driver, and the couple have three children. The husband-and-wife team prepares nine horses at their Merbein South property, 15 minutes from Mildura. The Wayville meeting will also provide a platform for raising mental health awareness in the community, with HRSA partnering with organisations providing mental health services. Similar to 2017, all races will be conducted as standing starts and limited to eight runners.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

One of Bendigo harness racing's favorite sons will soon be on the move. Talented trainer-driver Chris Svanosio has certainly blossomed in the sport over the past two-and-a-half years and is moving closer to Melbourne in the next month. Svanosio is without doubt one of the young shining lights of the industry in Victoria. He's coming off an excellent season of 71 victories in the sulky last season, as well as training 44 winners and 115 placings. His runners finishing top three over 50 percent of the time for the season. "I'll be based at Romsey on a nice property with my girlfriend Elizabeth (MacLean) and we're really excited about what's ahead for us," Svanosio said. "It's a 40-acre property and has a 980-metre track. There's lovely fenced paddocks as well as a treadmill, swimming facilities and if we start going okay, I'd love to put in a water walker at some stage," he said. Elizabeth, who is well known for her rehabilitation work with former standardbred racehorses as well as operating a first-class agistment facility, is daughter of renowned veterinary surgeon (now retired) Alastair MacLean and his wife Susan. "There's been a lot of travelling between my hometown Bendigo and Romsey over the past 12 months," Svanosio laughed. "But we work pretty well as a team and it's going to be fantastic," he said. Despite having studied Marine Biology at university in Warrnambool and later working as a scientist in Tasmanian aquaculture, Svanosio said he was always keen to make a career with horses. "I worked in fishing management and aquaculture for a while and enjoyed it. I was part of a team involved in growing out salmon in the ocean. We had to monitor growth rate, disease and other important aspects of the health of the fish," he said. "It was fun. But I guess I always knew I'd end up in the horse industry." Svanosio said he was currently training around 18 to 20 horses, but with the move to Romsey, the couple plans to cut back on numbers and concentrate more on two-year-olds. "The property is just 40 minutes from Melton so hopefully that will be our main focus," he said. Svanosio moved back to Bendigo after being stable foreman for accomplished horseman Mattie Craven, who is located at Ecklin South, a stone's throw from Terang, for over two years. Previous to that he had stints with Chris Lang, prior to Lang taking a break due to illness, and South Australian Aaron Brown, who trained in Sydney for a period. "Bendigo is an ideal base and there are so many tracks within a few hours. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there and can't thank Bruce and Val Morgan enough for allowing me to use their place. They have been tremendous," Svanosio said. "I told my staff of my plan to shift a few weeks ago. We are hoping that we can keep (talented junior reinswoman) Michelle Phillips working with us, so that's great." Svanosio said one of his highlights last season was winning the $100,000 G1 Vicbred Super Sires in July at Melton with Kyvalley Finn. Kyvalley Finn (Skyvalley NZ-Kyvalley Paris (Majestic Son) is owned by his breeder Jim Connelly and to date has eight wins and 22 placings for over $145,000 in earnings. "We did okay last season because I was away in the USA for five weeks. Fingers crossed we do as well, or even better this season."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Highly-regarded Victorian horseman Dean Braun has decided to take a step back with operations at his Lara harness racing stables. "I didn't renew my trainer's licence this season and have handed the reins over to Amanda Grieve, who's a very competent trainer," Braun said. "I'm still giving her a bit of a hand because I have a stablehand licence, but now I'll be taking the orders from Amanda," he said. "I spent a bit of time thinking about my decision because I do I love the horses. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I was worried where harness racing was actually headed." Braun said he'd taken a lifestyle decision to spend more of his time helping out his partner Pauline at her Melton Saddlery business. "I'm unsure about the direction the industry is going in, so I decided I'd rather push my energies into the shop and also selling horses over to the US for the moment," he said. "I'll take a break and see what happens. Amanda is a very good trainer in her own right, and she will do okay." Braun has spent a highly-successful 20 years as a trainer with a strike-rate continually up there with the best of them. Last season he had 31 wins and 40 placings (over $424,000 in stakes) for a top three strike rate of 56 percent. Christchurch-born Grieve certainly has a wealth of experience behind her, working and learning from some of the best in the business. She had an early good grounding with her father Paul, a former hobby trainer, and then spent time with noted NSW horsemen Paul Fitzpatrick and (uncle) Dennis Wilson. "I took a week's holidays and travelled back to New Zealand for the 2005 Inter Dominion at Alexandra Park when Elsu won. I heard Tony Herlihy was looking for staff, and thought it was too good an opportunity to miss, with such an outstanding trainer-driver," Grieve said. "I got a job and stayed with Tony for nine-and-a-half years. It was awesome because I worked with great horses like Ohoka Punter, Western Dream and One Over Kenny," she said. Western Dream (Badlands Hanover-Dreamy Atom) won 14 from 22 races including the rich NZ Oaks and Nevele R Final for stakes of over $332,000. Super trotting mare One Over Kenny (Sundon-Frances Jay Bee) won 28 from 53. Grieve has no hesitation in naming One Over Kenny as one of her favorites. "She was a lovely horse. I got to do a lot of work with her and I think she was the first trotting mare to win $1 million." After moving on from the Herlihy stable, Grieve later had a three-year stint with champion Canterbury horse trainer Cran Dalgety. "I had the role of stable foreman with Cran and like the other bosses, I was taught heaps. I was lucky because when I was there, we had a very smart one in Bettor Joy, and a few other handy ones going around," she said. And Grieve is sure to be keeping an eye on NZ happenings over the next few months. Her underrated gelding Cruz Bromac (Falcon Seelster-Crown Defender), a winner of 21 from 43 starts, flew out on Wednesday and will race at Ashburton today (Monday). "He will go around in the (Addington) cup a fortnight later and then it's up to Auckland for a FFA which he won last year, and onto the Inter Dominion series from November 29 to December 14. He'll be away for eight or nine weeks," she said. "His last start third here in the Victoria Cup to Bling It On was huge. So, fingers crossed!" Grieve also hinted a trip to the west may be on the cards for rising 4yo star Holy Basil (Changeover-Artistic Lass (Artiscape), with the $200,000 Golden Nugget in December looking an ideal race. "We'll see what happens in the next three or four weeks," she said. Holy Basil (Greg Sugars) was the first leg of a winning double for Grieve at Cranbourne last Monday. Her other winner was War Dan Delight (Bettors Delight-Miss Elsie (Elsu) driven by Kima Frenning. She stepped up the pace with a win at headquarters at Melton on Saturday night with nine year old gelding Max Richter (Badlands Hanover-Vance Marie (Our Sir Vancelot). Pauline claimed Max Richter at Melton on August 23, and Saturday night's victory was the pacer's second win from six starts for his new owner. Max Richter got the job done at Melton on Saturday night for Greg Sugars (driver) and Amanda Grieve (trainer) (Stu McCormick photograph) Grieve has started off in flying fashion as those winners took her tally to five wins and one placing from just 11 starters for the season for earnings of over $60,000.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Star Queensland pacer Colt Thirty One sprouted wings over the final stages of the $35,000 Swan Hill Harness Racing Club's Pacing Cup last night to snatch victory - to the delight of drinkers at the bars. Ace trainer-driver Grant Dixon, who was Australia's leading trainer last year, timed his run to perfection in the long Swan Hill straight to nail Shepparton star San Carlo right on the line. It was a thrilling finish, and an enthralling race, despite the Group Three feature attracting only a small field of five. Owned and bred by industry stalwarts Kevin and Kay Seymour, of Solid Earth Pty Ltd, Colt Thirty One (Mach Three-Charm Personified (Perfect Art) was the toast in each of the three on-course bars. The Seymours promised to shout the bar for an hour after the event if their sensational five-year-old took out the Cup. And more than 175 patrons took up the offer at the club bars! Chris Alford made his intention known from the outset in the Cup on the Emma Stewart-trained Tam Major. Alford gave his pacer full steam when the gate released and booted through to hold out the $1.80 favorite San Carlo (Bec Bartley). San Carlo dropped in behind the leader, and when the tempo eased, the five were in single file for a time. Bartley popped out to step up the pressure with a lap and a half to go and Dixon was at the rear of the field seemingly smoking his pipe. Down the back straight for the final time, Tam Major and San Carlo put the pedal to the metal and the race was on in earnest. The pair were locked together around the home corner, and Dixon had positioned himself perfectly, tracking San Carlo. Just when it looked like the leaders had it between them, Colt Thirty One gathered momentum, then hit top gear when Dixon released the ear plugs half way down the home straight. Watch the race click here! The official margin was a head by 3 metres, in a time of 1:57.5 (for the 2790 metre trip) a second outside Menin Gate's track record. The last half was run in a blistering 55.5 sec. The Swan Hill victory did no harm at all to Colt Thirty One's Interdominion credentials - he looks primed and ready to take on the Kiwis in November and December. A winner of 33 of his 48 starts, Dixon plans to give his pacer a couple more runs to keep him "on song" before heading to New Zealand. "It will most likely be at Melton but I'll have to look at the race programs," he said. Colt Thirty One is ranked two for the ID19 Auckland Alexandra Park, with the Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen trained Spankem the top seed. Chris Alford was at his finest with four of the seven winners on the Swan Hill program. He won on Valiant Charger ($1.30 favorite); Ramseys Hope ($4.10); Mass Destruction ($3.30 favorite); and The Storm Inside ($1.04 favorite). The latter trained by Emma Stewart, recorded a new track record for the mile of 1:52.3, slicing more than a second off the previous best. Hoofnote: There was a bitter-sweet side note to Colt Thirty One's victory, with the news that his dam Charm Personified passed away on Thursday. The mare was sold by the Seymours to David Boydell two years ago. Charm Personified developed complications after giving birth to an American Ideal Colt at Egmont Park Stud. Charm Personified left Charming Allie, Charms on a Roll and Colt Thirty One, as well as a Mr Feelgood youngster, a yearling American Ideal colt and the latest day-old colt.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There's a buzz of excitement around central Victorian harness racing, with the green light finally being given to the sport's new regional showpiece at Charlton. The Charlton Harness Racing Club's new shared $4.2 million multipurpose facility is officially open for business, and the club's first meeting at the track is scheduled for the end of the year. "Charlton Park is the headquarters for sport and recreation here now, and, as harness racing people we're very proud and excited to be part of the leadership that's allowed it to happen," club president Joey Thompson said. "There's a lot of interest from the community and a lot of energy around the club about what's happened here, so we're pretty confident there'll be huge numbers of participants and supporters and community people turn up on Friday, December 20, when we will be racing again," Thompson said. The complex draws together a raft of sporting organisations, including football, cricket, golf, hockey, netball, tennis, fishing, and, possibly the most high-profile of the precinct partners, harness racing. More than 250 people recently attended the official opening of the complex, with many community members getting their first look at the state-of-the-art facility. Explore the complex in 3D: Click Here! "We've certainly had to be patient, but we've made it - and at the moment we are one very proud community. The new building is really good; it's magnificent," Thompson said. To achieve the Charlton community's dream of a multi-purpose sporting precinct, the town, population 1100, raised a phenomenal $1.2 million - the equivalent of more than $1000 per head of population. "That's just an unbelievable effort when you think about it, and it's taken 13 years," Thompson said. "We've kept working away at it through a drought, a devastating flood in 2011 and now another drought, but we've made it. "There's also been financial assistance from former Charlton people who have moved to areas like Bendigo and Maryborough to live. But it just demonstrates the generosity of close-knit communities." Thompson said the Charlton Park 2020 committee, under chairman John Harley, deserved high praise for holding the community's loyalty and support for the project despite the challenges. "There've been dips as well as high spots along the way, but John has been there from the start. That's certainly something a bit special in my book," he said. The club was forced to hold its programmed meetings at sister Victorian clubs through much of 2019. "Maryborough and Melton have been fantastic hosting our meetings while the construction works have been in progress. But it will be so good to be back home," he said. "There's still some minor projects that need doing like landscaping, furnishings, parking and footpaths. And again, we've put out the call to raise more money because we've been stretched financially, and we still need maybe $200,000 to finish everything off as we'd like." Mr Thompson said a number of fund-raising ideas had been suggested, such as "buying" a tree on the landscaped lawns overlooking the harness racing track and oval. "For $1000 people will be able to place a plaque with names on it at the base of the trees. We've also sold artistic stable signs, some featuring Aboriginal art, for $25," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Gun Queensland horseman Grant Dixon has never been to the far north-west Victorian tourist hot spot of Swan Hill - but he's excited to be there for the town's harness racing night-of-nights this Friday. Dixon will making the long trip for the $35,000 Group Three Swan Hill Pacing Cup as he starts to crank up his superstar pacer Colt Thirty One for the prestigious 2019 NZ Inter Dominion series in Auckland. "I'm really looking forward to competing in the Cup. It's a race that carries nice stakemoney and while there's only five runners in it, we're going to get a good gauge as to just where we are at for late November and December," he said. "The plan is to keep him ticking over and I hope to squeeze in probably another three runs if possible before the big Inter series." Colt Thirty One (Mach Three-Charm Personified (Perfect Art) has stamped himself as one of Australasia's greatest current pacers with 32 wins and 11 placings from 48 starts for nearly $755,000. The five-year-old bay horse is bred and owned by industry powerhouse couple Kevin and Kay Seymour, of Solid Earth Pty Ltd, and showed just what he is capable of when he took out the $250,000 Group One Blacks a Fake in Brisbane earlier this year. While he's recently had his colors lowered, but far from being disgraced, Dixon is confident of a solid showing in the cup. "He's only had two race starts and one trial since the Blacks A Fake win back in mid-July. With more runs he's going to get harder and stronger," Dixon said. "We thought his second placing to Bling It On in the Victoria Cup at Melton nearly a fortnight ago was a game effort," he said. In that event, Colt Thirty One recorded a sensational time of 1.51-6 for the 2240m trip - the second time he has run a sub 1.52. The other was a PB of 1.51-2 in winning at Albion Park over 1660m on June 29 this year. "His work since the Victoria Cup has been pleasing. We haven't gone to any trials because he does enough on the jog track when he's asked to click up," Dixon said. Colt Thirty One and Grant Dixon storm to victory in the Blacks A Fake in Brisbane earlier this year (Dan Costello Photograph) "The Swan Hill feature race should be exciting because Tam Major (Chris Alford) and San Carlo (Rebecca Bartley) are quality pacers. They are most likely going to land in front of me from the start and are going to be awfully hard to beat. But we'll have to work it out from there." Dixon said he realized early days that Colt Thirty One was something special. "I still remember the day I drove out to where he was being broken-in and sat behind him. I actually went up there to drive a few youngsters, but he was certainly the one that stood out," he said. Dixon, who is based at the picturesque town of Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, prepares a team of around 60-70 horses with his wife Trista and a staff of 12. The 46-year-old had a standout 2018-19 season in the sulky, with 237 winners ($1.9M in stakes), just a handful short of his personal best of 242 in 2009-10. It was way back in 1994-95 when he reached the magical century for the first time - and in the 20 seasons since 1999-2000 he has topped 100, bettering the double century on nine occasions. While Dixon says Colt Thirty One could be the best horse he's had, it's a close call because he still has great admiration for Majestic Mach (Mach Three-Midnight Lace (Fake Left), a pacer he raced for five seasons from 2012. Majestic Mach won at his first 12 starts, then finished second, before reeling off another consecutive dozen victories. "He finished with 35 wins, including four Group One events, for nearly $800,000 and it was a big blow went he went amiss in late 2017," Dixon said. Other outstanding horses that come to mind to race in the familiar Dixon stable black and white checks include I Am Sam, Atomic Art, Jeremy Lee, Majestic Major, Get In The Groove, Cherish The Moment and a whole lot more! Dixon, who admits he was "pretty much hopeless at school", was born into harness racing, being the son of Hall of Famer, Bill Dixon. Prior to relocating his family to south-east Queensland in the early 80s, Bill Dixon, was a household name in the north of the state. Training out of Townsville, he was the leading trainer-driver for a number of seasons. Bill is now retired and a resident of an aged care facility. The father-and-son hold a unique record on the Gold Coast. Bill won the last race at the old Owen Park track (Queen Street, Southport) and then when racing shifted to the now-defunct Parklands complex (at the corner of Smith St and Parklands Drive), Grant won the final race conducted at that venue, in 2013. Parklands was closed when the site was formally designated as the athletes' village for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

When Bathurst harness racing trainer Gemma Rue decided on a hit-and-run mission with two horses to Victoria, she admits that her confidence levels took a dive soon after. "The plan was to chase the Vicbred bonus with one and the other was going as a travel companion. They both had good form, but when the barrier draws come out, that took the gloss away," Gemma said. "Kash Us Back drew saddlecloth number 11 and Izzy Watt come up with nine. I knew both were on top of their games, but it's a long trip and they were bad barrier draws," she said. However, the two pacers, with the help of some expert navigation by accomplished reinsmen Zac Phillips and Darby McGuigan, overcome the awkward alley numbers to score nicely at the Shepparton meeting last week. "I've been smiling ever since because it's the first time we've raced there. It was about 620kms and took me seven-and-a-half hours, but proved to be well worth it," Gemma said. "I had to do it by myself because my husband Mat stayed at home to take five of our runners to compete at Bathurst on the same night," she said. "It wasn't that bad though because I went down the day before and then travelled back home the day after the races." Four-year-old gelding Kash Us Back (Changeover-Laughing Lilly (Mach Three) settled near last in the early stages with Phillips content to bide his time. After a three-wide tow into the race at the bell, the pacer quickly accelerated on the home turn and went to the line strongly. He started at 9/1 and rated 1.57-8. Stablemate Izzy Watt (Art Major-Platinum Sign (Life Sign) raced with plenty of zest for a nine-year-old and looked the likely winner a long way from home. It was just a matter of when Darby McGuigan could extricate him from three back the pegs. He got into the clear with 350m to go and, switching back via the sprint lane, dashed to the front. The pacer, who had been in terrific form at home, started at the luxury odds of 7/1. "Izzy Watt has been with us since he was a three-year-old, while 'Kash' is a bit special after having to fight for his life in his early days," Gemma said. In late November, 2017, (as a two year old) Kash Us Back became precariously ill with acute febrile diarrhoea. Kash Us Back during his illness in 2017                               (Gemma Rue photograph) "They thought it could have been caused by something he ate and the vet really didn't give him much hope. His temperature reached 41 and it was a roller-coaster ride," Gemma said. "We were told it was going to cost a lot of money to try and save him, and if he pulled through, he only had a 20 percent chance of ever racing. "We didn't know at that stage if he had any ability at all, but there was no way we were going to give up on him. It was a long nine or ten days with him being on the brink of death a few times. "So after all that, we thought the racename of Kash Us Back was most appropriate. He has a home for life with us, that's for sure!" Kash Us Back is doing his best to repay the faith. He won twice at both two and three years old, and has won six in total, only finishing further back than fourth twice in his 20 starts. The husband and wife team recently enjoyed their best-ever season with 53 wins, 51 of these in NSW. "We aimed at 50 and it was awesome to reach our target. We started the current season in great form with six winners in the first few weeks, but then things backed off a little," Gemma said. "Our stable numbers are around 25 with half of those being babies." While Gemma posted a winning double at Shepparton, husband Mat wasn't far off the mark as well at Bathurst, with Mymatepog (Somebeachsomewhere-One For Pog (Flight N Irish) getting home and Fouroeight grabbing a third placing.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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