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The Tough Tilly story is well known to most in the harness racing industry, and regular driver Kate Gath is excited to start writing the next chapter with the sport's feel-good filly. The Emma Stewart-trained daughter of Captaintreacherous closed out her 2020 preparation with a heart-warming win in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series 2YO Fillies Final on New Year's Eve, before returning for a three-start campaign through February that finished with a fourth placing in the NSW Oaks. Tough Tilly is back at the races on Thursday night for a first round heat of the Australian Pacing Gold 3YO Fillies series, which is one of five $7500 qualifiers on the Bendigo card. "It's great to be reunited with her. She's a great filly so we are looking forward to it," Gath said. "I think she should lead and be really hard to beat. Obviously, (stablemate) Beach Music is a quality horse and Momentslikethese (Jess Tubbs) has been going well, but she's beaten them before.” The filly is named after Tilly Wilkes, an inspirational youngster who was born with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic condition that results in wounds that never heal, disfigurement, blisters, bleeding and ever-present pain. Craig Judd, from Benstud Standardbreds, donated a 25 per cent share in Tough Tilly as part of a fundraising auction for EB Research, with the winning bid going to a syndicate including Tilly’s father Corey Wilkes. READ MORE: The flying filly fighting for a cure "It's one of the greatest things of being involved in her really, everything she stands for. And trying to raise funds for EB and make people aware of it," Gath said. "I think most of us hadn't even heard of it before Tough Tilly began racing, so it's a great story." The well-bred three-year-old, who is a half-sister to the late Centenario, has won six of her 14 races for nearly $200,000 in prizemoney. Stewart looks to have a strong hand in the other heat for the fillies with Joanna, who is returning from a runner-up placing in the Group 1 Gold Bracelet at Bathurst. The Cardigan stable also has runners in all three of the first round heats for the three-year-old colts and geldings, including the exciting Act Now who resumes from a break. Round one APG 3YO heats have already been run in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, with second round qualifiers also complete in the Sunshine State. New South Wales will follow suit next week, as will Victoria at Kilmore on May 21, before fields are then assembled for $350,000 Group 1 national finals at Tabcorp Park Melton on May 29.   By Tim O'Connor for HRV

Tornado Valley has run his last race for the preparation, with connections pulling up stumps on the pursuit of $1million in prizemoney for the time being. Regular driver Kate Gath, the wife of trainer Andy, told thetrots.com.au that a decision had been made to give the champion squaregaiter a break following last weekend's third placing in the DNR Logistics Vulcan Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton. The nine-year-old has so far fallen short in his bid to become just the ninth Australasian-bred trotter to reach the $1 million prizemoney mark, being beaten in his last three trips to the races. This has left the son of Skyvalley stuck on $996,797 in earnings. "We've decided to give him a little break and give him one last go, so that's where he's at at the moment," Gath said. "He's sort of been in work for a really long time. Even though he didn't race a lot prior to the Great Southern Star, we'd had him in work for a really long time trying to get him right. "He'll have a decent break of a month or maybe a little bit longer and we'll give him one last go." Gath said it was hard to know when retirement might be on the cards for the winner of 38 races. "Obviously, we'd like to get to the million dollar mark. If he gets there and we are really happy with him and he goes really well, then (we will) probably look at keeping (him) going. But if he gets there and we think that he's got a few little niggling issues and has got older, we might just stop it there." Tornado Valley is raced by prominent owner Norm Jenkin, who has had a long and successful association with the Gath stable.   By Tim O'Connor for HRV

After eight placings since starting his harness racing driving career early last month, young reinsman Cody Crossland is finally a winner. The 16-year-old scored a memorable first success in the sulky at Yarra Valley this afternoon, piloting My Golden Eagle to victory in the Hi-Style Building Group 3YO Maiden Pace. Crossland, the son of well-known trainer-driver Laura, settled last in the small field of six and came with a sweeping run in the home straight to charge past leader and odds-on favourite Whiskey And Rye. “It was very good, very exciting and a big moment. It was pretty good going across the line,” Crossland said. “At the top of the straight, I was a bit worried because Kate (Gath on Whiskey And Rye) had a bit of a kick on me and she looked like she wasn’t travelling too bad. I was travelling good and about 50m out, I knew I had her. “It was a big thrill. It felt awesome.” The breakthrough success was even more special due to the fact it was for long-time friend and master trainer David Aiken, whom Crossland now works for on a full-time basis. “I’ve been coming to David’s since I was about five, if not younger. I’ve been coming and going,” he said. “It was really good to win for David Aiken and especially on this horse, too. He’s not a bad horse to have around, he’s one of my favourites and it’s his first winner.” Crossland’s maiden win came at his 20th drive, while it was My Golden Eagle’s first success at start 10. The young driver will be back in action at Friday night’s Shepparton meeting, where he has a handful of bookings. Watch Crossland's first win below:     HRV - Tim O'Connor

The Ararat Harness Racing Club is getting right behind the Pacing for Pink campaign, dedicating tomorrow night's meeting to the cause. The names of all races on the eight-event card have been sold to support the breast cancer awareness and fundraising initiative, as has the track's sprint lane, which has been named in memory of Sandra Sladdin. Sladdin lost her seventh battle with breast cancer on June 18 last year, when she was 69 years old. She is survived by her three daughters, two granddaughters and grandson, most of whom will be on track tomorrow. A host of donations will assist raffles and auctions on the night, with a memorabilia table to be filled with caps, stubby holders, beanies, vests and t-shirts from various thoroughbred training establishments. A framed Lunar Fox Australian Guineas print, signed by trainer Paul Preusker and jockey Michael Dee, is among the major auction highlights, with the club taking bids for about the next week. Jockeys Dean Yendall and Harry Coffey have also donated signed riding pants. Pacing for Pink aims to raise much-needed funds for the McGrath Foundation and to continue the fight against breast cancer. For the first time, reinsmen have joined reinswomen in wearing sponsored pink pants throughout the entire month of May, with 69 drivers signed up to take part in the initiative. The campaign’s major fundraising day is scheduled for the Shepparton Harness Racing Club on Sunday, May 23 and will feature giveaways to trainers, drivers and owners, as well as continuous raffles throughout the afternoon. CLICK HERE TO VIEW TOMORROW NIGHT'S ARARAT FIELDS WATCH PACING FOR PINK CO-ORDINATOR DONNA CASTLES SHARE HER PERSONAL BREAST CANCER STORY BELOW:       HRV - Tim O'Connor

A bargain buy off Facebook is reaping rewards for young up-and-coming harness racing trainer Sam Barker and his girlfriend Taylah Markham. The 22-year-old Barker prepared Ultimate Vinnie to beat a handy field of youngsters in the Signature Clean 4 You 3YO Vicbred Pace at Ballarat on Wednesday night, with the horse sitting parked throughout the 1710m trip and prevailing in a hot 1:53.6min mile rate. The victory was just Barker's fifth as a trainer and 30th as a driver. "I thought going into last night he'd run 1:54, but I didn't know if I could sit outside them and beat them. I thought I was going to have to find out because I didn't think I'd be able to find the front," the Great Western local said. "He probably went a tad little bit better than I thought." Barker said Markham had been persistent in securing the horse after seeing him on Facebook as a yearling, which she eventually did for about $700. After proving a handful in the early days, Ultimate Vinnie won The Storm Inside Vicbred Super Series 2YO Bronze Pace by more than 15m on debut at Bendigo in December last year, before being tested at Group 1 level two starts later in the VHRC Caduceus 3YO Classic. This race was won by Aaron Dunn's Bondi Lockdown, with Barker’s charge running a creditable sixth. Barker, who works for Dunn in Horsham and trains his own horses from that base, said Ultimate Vinnie was in the same league as his boss’ stable star. "There's not a lot between them, but Bondi Lockdown has got the writing on the board," Barker said. Ultimate Vinnie is a son of Alta Christiano out of a mare by the name of Bella Enobrac, who failed to win a race from nine career starts.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Peter and Kerryn Manning know what Group 1 glory feels like, but it's been quite some time since harness racing's dynamic Great Western duo has combined for elite level success. In fact, it’s been more than a decade. The father-daughter trainer-driver team last joined forces to win a Group 1 with Leilani Lombo all the way back in 2010, with Kerryn steering the horse to victory in the $300,000 Australian Pacing Gold 2YO Fillies Final at Albion Park. This weekend, the pair has a great chance to break the drought. Kerryn will drive Plymouth Chubb, one of two runners from the Peter Manning stable in the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic 2YO Trotting Colts and Geldings Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. The son of Majestic Son has won his past three starts, including the only heat of the series at Maryborough when he beat all of the rivals he meets this Saturday night. Kerryn said Plymouth Chubb had been great following his debut run on March 10, when he had excuses. "He has shown some pretty nice form in his four runs," Manning said. "His first start he probably had a bit of an excuse. That was the night we had an accident just before we got to Melton and hit a car. "They vetted him and he seemed fine, but it wasn't the ideal scenario going into your first start. He went away good and just went out of his gear on the first turn and then that was the end of him that night. But he did feel good. "Since then, he sort of hasn't put a foot wrong. He's still learning, but he's got the talent that's for sure..." Plymouth Chubb is a half-brother to stablemate Dublin Chubb, who was a promising juvenile that finished fourth in the time-honoured Redwood Classic as a two-year-old, but has failed to win since late 2019. Fellow stablemate Mangana Joe is in Saturday night's Group 1 and will be driven by Jason Ainsworth, who will be looking to better the horse's eighth placing from the heat when he galloped early in the race. "Mangana Joe I think is going to win races eventually. He is just sort of working it all out, but he has shown enough on his few runs that he has got a bit of speed about him (and) that he shouldn't be far off a win in time," Kerryn said. "Plymouth Chubb seems to have it over him a little bit at this stage, but there's not a hell of a lot between them. I went with the one with the form." The Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic 2YO Trotting Fillies Final is the other Group 1 on the Melton card. Geoff Webster-trained Aldebaran Misty won the first of the heats at Maryborough back on April 30, before Brad Angove's Ebonys Avenger took out the second. They look among the leading chances for the $50,000 feature. Another highlight of the meeting is the return of Tornado Valley, who continues his search of the million-dollar prizemoney mark when he lines up in the DNR Logistics Vulcan Trotters Free For All. If successful, the Andy Gath-trained star will become just the ninth Australasian-bred squaregaiter to reach the milestone.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

It’s always hard to know how a horse will come back from a spell, but Darraweit Guim harness racing trainer-driver Lisa Miles could hardly have asked for much more from her talented mare Shes A Hovercraft at the weekend. The daughter of Night Of The Stars, who hadn’t been seen since her down-the-track finish in the Group 1 Vicbred Super Series 3YO Fillies Final on December 31, signalled that she is in for a good preparation with an eye-catching second in Saturday night’s Nevele R Stud Pace (1720m) at Tabcorp Park Melton. Shes A Hovercraft greeted the bell towards the rear of the field in the running line before Miles peeled off the back of Orbie and let fly down the home straight. For a brief moment, it looked as though the four-year-old might challenge crack Kiwi mare Spellbound, but in the end could only get to 2.3m of Nathan Purdon’s import on the line. Nevertheless, it was a great return, with the sectional times backing it up. Shes A Hovercraft reeled off the fifth fastest last 800m of the entire meeting – bettered only by horses in the TAB Golden Reign Free For All – and clocked easily the slickest final 400m of the race. There looks to be some winnable races in store for the horse, with Miles eyeing a second-up run at Cranbourne on May 16. Watch replay here: General Dodge (Mick Chircop) produced the fastest final quarter of the meeting, ripping home in 26.39sec, while the fourth place-getter in that race Max Delight (David Aiken) actually reeled off the best closing 800m sectional of 54.61sec. There was also Melton racing on Tuesday night last week, where PJ Data was also collecting all the sectional information. Maryanne Laffan-trained Keepcrackingjokes had the best last 400m of the meeting when fourth in the Menzclub 3YO Pace and John Justice’s Smoken Shazza the hottest final 800m of the night in winning the Dynamic Print Group Pace.   FASTEST FIVE MELTON TUESDAY, APRIL 27 LAST 400m KEEPCRACKINGJOKES - 28.02sec - 4th MENZCLUB 3YO PACE 1720m CHEDDAR VALLEY - 28.17sec - 1st EMPIRE STALLIONS PACE 2240m GHANASUYA - 28.26sec - 5th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m BETTER STEAM AHEAD - 28.31sec - last MENZCLUB 3YO PACE 1720m MACELLI - 28.39sec - 4th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m   LAST 800m SMOKEN SHAZZA - 56.52sec - 1st DYNAMIC PRINT GROUP PACE 2240m MUSZTANG - 56.55sec - 2nd ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m OHOKA MAXIMUS - 56.61sec - 6th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m MACELLI - 56.64sec - 4th ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m MISS BLUE GLORY - 56.83sec - 1st ALL IN ONE PROPERTY PACE 1720m   CLICK HERE TO SEE SECTIONALS OF EVERY RUNNER   MELTON SATURDAY, MAY 1 LAST 400m GENERAL DODGE - 26.39sec - 1st TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m MAX DELIGHT - 26.61sec - 4th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m STAR GALLERIA - 26.65sec - 2nd TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m IDEALSOMEMAGIC - 26.66sec - 5th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m MAJESTIC CRUISER - 26.79sec - 8th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m   LAST 800m MAX DELIGHT - 54.61sec - 4th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m STAR GALLERIA - 54.67sec - 2nd TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m GENERAL DODGE - 54.70sec - 1st TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m IDEALSOMEMAGIC - 54.72sec - 5th TAB GOLDEN REIGN FREE FOR ALL 2240m SHES A HOVERCRAFT - 55.04sec - 2nd NEVELE R STUD PACE 1720m   CLICK HERE TO SEE SECTIONALS OF EVERY RUNNER HRV - Tim O'Connor

He was one of the country's top-line harness racing stars through the early part of last year, but the exciting Code Bailey has only been seen at the races just once since his appearance in the 2020 Miracle Mile. That was a disappointing 11th in October's Pryde’s Easifeed Victoria Cup, which led to trainer Margaret Lee eventually putting the son of Christian Cullen back out for a spell. While there haven’t been any major issues during the last year-and-a-half, Lee said Code Bailey just hadn’t been right and had displayed signs of tying up. She says this is why the horse has been so sparingly raced in recent times, but some positive blood test results in recent weeks and some good work at home has the Terang horsewoman hopeful the six-year-old can get back to his best. "I can't see why not. His bloods are good and we've been happy enough with his work, so hoping he can come back. He's feeling good in himself and he looks really good,” Lee said. "You never know with these horses, do you? They test you out." Lee said a change in feed also appeared to have made a difference to the horse. Code Bailey beat stablemate Jilliby Nitro in a trial at Terang on April 18 and went around again yesterday at Tabcorp Park Melton, with Lee to then decide if he needs another hit-out or is ready for a return to the races. The upcoming Queensland carnival could be on the agenda, said Lee, if he shows enough to warrant a trip north. "It could be something you could look at, but he's got to come back to where he was when he was in his top form," she said. Code Bailey won the Bendigo and Terang cups in early 2020 before running second in the Group 1 Allied Express Sprint to earn a place in the Miracle Mile, where he placed sixth behind King of Swing. In total, the entire has won 17 races and nearly $300,000 in prizemoney from 46 starts.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

"If he stays sound, we might have a challenger to Lochinvar Art!" Those were the words of legendary harness racing broadcaster Dan Mielicki as he called General Dodge to victory in Saturday night's TAB Golden Reign Free For All at Melton. It's onwards and upwards for the Mick Chircop-trained eight-year-old, who backed up his brilliant first-up win at Geelong a fortnight earlier with another sizzling sprint lane success. With driver Jason Lee in the sulky, General Dodge shot across the face of the field from barrier seven to find the early lead and then handed up to Jilliby Chevy, who quickly surged to the top from his back row draw. It was then left to see if General Dodge could show his explosive speed in the home straight and he did just that, running past Jilliby Chevy to win by 1.6m over a brave Star Galleria, who battled on bravely to claim second. Lee was once again in awe of the injury and illness-plagued son of Courage Under Fire, who has had just the 19 career starts for 14 wins. "It is a shame that he hasn't raced more, but all credit goes to the team behind him that they have got him here now," Lee said. "They've been through a pretty tough road so it hurts no one more than them. I'm just very much enjoying just being a very small part." Lee was impressed with the versatility of General Dodge, who relaxed well despite flying the start early. "It's hard to get a horse to be the complete package where they can burn the gate and take cover like that and back straight off. He was already backing off before he got there," he said. "When you do get them and then they have this much ability, it's pretty special." Lee rated General Dodge as the fastest horse he's ever had the pleasure to drive. "From point-to-point speed, I think he's the quickest horse I've sat behind," Lee said. "Obviously, I've been lucky enough to drive some really nice horses over the years - trotters and pacers - and I don't think I've quite driven one with the point-to-point speed (of General Dodge). "I always said Chilli Palmer was electric one night when I drove him. He had gears upon gears and this guy is every bit of him, if not more." Watch the replay below: HRV - Tim O'Connor

A philosophical David Moran insists racing fans have not seen the last of superstar Aussie pacer Lochinvar Art. But he won’t be seen again this year after succumbing to some more “little setbacks” and going to the spelling paddock. Gone are races like the Group 1 Blacks A Fake in July, Group 1 Victoria Cup in October and Sydney Inter Dominion in December. He was prepost favourite for all three. “We’re going to give him four months out and forget about this year,” Moran said. “It’s a couple of little setbacks and we got them early. There’s no breaks or anything career-ending, but the advice was eight to 10 weeks in a paddock, so we’re going to be conservative and make that four months. “It’s no ideal, but that way it guarantees he’ll make it back to 100 per cent health. “It’s been one of those years for him. It started so well, but it turned on us really quickly.” Lochinvar Art hasn’t raced since posting his ninth win from his past 10 starts when he brilliantly won the iconic Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton on February 6. He’s won seven Group 1 races from his 28 wins – and 19 placings – from just 50 starts. Lochinvar Art was something of a bridesmaid at two and three, but transformed into a megastar last season at four. He’s won over $1.1 million in the past 15 months. Moran said he and owner Kevin Gordon were seriously considering breeding some mares to Lochinvar Art during his recovery time later in the year. “There’s a possibility we may register him as a stallion and collect semen from him while he’s out,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

Some troubles in the breeding barn has led to Rock N Roll Chapel being brought out of retirement, and it looks as though there's certainly a comeback win in store if Saturday night's sizzling harness racing finale is anything to go by. The Joe Pace-trained-and-driven mare failed to get in foal from a couple of attempts, which led to connections exploring the idea of sending her back to the races. She hadn't been seen in a competitive event since mid-November last year, but returned in good style with a fourth placing in the www.donaldsracing.com.au Pace at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Pace settled Rock N Roll Chapel back in the field from the barrier 10 draw and saved her for one run, allowing her to finish off hard out wide for an eye-catching fourth behind winner Sonny Weaver. Visually it was impressive and the clock backed it up. The daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven ran a last half mile of 55.27sec and a final quarter of 26.92sec to be only beaten just over 6m on the line. Those sectionals were the third fastest of the night's nine-race card in both categories, with Willie Go West (Dean Braun) and Major Manbar (Leigh Graham) the only horses to run quicker closing splits. "I was very impressed, especially because she hasn't run for four or five months," the Harkness-based Pace said. "They went 1.54.1 (mile rate) and the quarters were 28(.7) down the back and 27(.6) home and she made good late ground. I was quite surprised." Rock N Roll Chapel's biggest win came in the Group 3 Allied Express Tailamade Lombo at Melton in 2019, with her career record now at 14 victories and 27 placings for more than $160,000 in prizemoney. WHERE TO NEXT? Pace is expected to skip this weekend's meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton and aim for a race back there on May 8.   FASTEST FIVE TABCORP PARK MELTON APRIL 24 LAST 800m WILLIE GO WEST - 54.52sec - 2nd THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) MAJOR MANBAR - 54.85sec - 3rd THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) ROCK N ROLL CHAPEL - 55.27sec - 4th www.donaldsracing.com.au PACE (1720m) BONCEL BANJAMIN - 55.40sec - 1st CATANACH'S JEWELLERS PACE (2240m) SPELLBOUND - 55.46sec - 1st ALLIED EXPRESS IAN DAFF MEMORIAL (1720m)   LAST 400m WILLIE GO WEST - 26.53sec - 2nd THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) MAJOR MANBAR - 26.85sec - 3rd THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) ROCK N ROLL CHAPEL - 26.92sec - 4th www.donaldsracing.com.au PACE (1720m) WOULD YOU MIND - 26.98sec - 4th THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) FYNN FROST - 27.20sec - 1st THE ORIGINAL MALTESE PASTIZZI COMPANY PACE (1720m) CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL RUNNER-BY-RUNNER SECTIONALS FROM SATURDAY NIGHT   HRV - Tim O'Connor

A little bit of advice from his legendary father has given young harness racing trainer Nathan Purdon the confidence to send former Kiwi mare Spellbound into the heat of battle without a lead-up trial. Purdon has set the two-time Group 1 place-getter for Saturday night’s Allied Express Ian Daff Memorial at Tabcorp Park Melton, where she will clash with the classy Gary Hoban-trained Tangoingwithsierra, who has won her last five starts. Since moving out from New Zealand and setting up camp in Avalon, Purdon has only had the four starters at the races and is yet to break through for victory. Spellbound, who has been here in Australia for the past couple of months, looks a talented acquisition for Purdon’s developing stable, with her record sitting at five wins and 11 placings from 29 career starts. She last appeared for former trainer Robert Dunn in The Leefield Station NZ Breeders Stakes at Addington during February, running seventh in the Group 1 event for the fillies and mares. “She actually hasn’t trialled. I was working her down towards a trial and she was just working probably a touch better than where I thought she was at,” Purdon said. “I was lucky enough when Dad (Mark) came over for the sales and he had a drive of her one morning. He said she was borderline, probably not quite race fit and going to take a lot of benefit from the run, but she’s probably more forward than going to a trial too.” While wary he doesn’t know the form here in Australia as well as he does back home in New Zealand, Purdon felt Spellbound was well placed to break through for his first victory as a trainer since setting up a base in Victoria. “I’d like to think she’s a pretty good mare. She’s probably got to be in the top four or five in New Zealand, so to come over here and not meet supposedly the best mares going around in Australia, you’d like to think she’s in with a good shot,” he said. “She sort of got into an awkward grade where she was meeting the best boys (in New Zealand), so probably the last handful of starts it wasn’t really a true guide on how nice she was.” Purdon wasn’t revealing any major plans with the daughter of Art Major, but did hint at a possible trip to Queensland for that state’s carnival if the mare showed some promise. Spellbound will be driven on Saturday night by Group 1-winning reinsman Stuart McDonald, who has recently made the move from Western Australia to Victoria. The pair will start from barrier six, with the field of 10 including fellow top mares The Pantheist (David Miles), Delightful Jazz (Ahmed Taiba) and Flying Jo (Allan McDonough). The Allied Express Ian Daff Memorial is one of the major highlights on the Melton card, alongside the TAB Sapling Stakes for the two-year-old colts and geldings. The meeting will kick off with race one at 5.32pm. View the Tabcorp Park Melton fields click here!   HRV - Tim O'Connor

He’s been an amazing model of consistency through 2021, but it’s also been a frustrating period of near misses for harness racing trainer-driver John Justice and connections of Hatchback. The gelding has been one of the in-form trotters in Victoria through this year, however there’s no wins to show for a quality nine-start preparation that has returned eight placings. In total, Hatchback has been beaten a combined margin of only 32.1m across all of his runs this campaign, with no greater defeat than when the classy President Roydon prevailed over him by 7.6m at Melton back in January. The latest defeat was in the Mildura Trotters Cup, and Justice has pondered whether or not he went for home too early on the five-year-old, who was run down by Well Defined in the shadows of the post. “He is going really well,” Justice said. “I guess he was a bit unlucky and I might have gone a little bit early. It might have been more my fault than his last time, but in saying that I don’t think I drove him badly. “I think if I got the front when I actually put the pressure on a lap out instead of being made to really work for it, I think he probably would have won.” Hatchback is one of the key dangers to champion trotter Tornado Valley in Friday night’s Aldebaran Park Bendigo Trotters Cup (2650m). The Andy Gath-trained star had his tilt at reaching the $1million prizemoney barrier thwarted by Big Jack Hammer at Geelong last weekend, but gets another chance to reach the seven-figure sum in his first try at the standing start since late 2019. “I think he can win,” Justice said of his horse. “And I think he is probably better suited off the front because he probably just trots straight to the front and that probably puts him at a good advantage over the rest. “There’s a pretty good horse coming off 30m (Tornado Valley), but he is going to have to be right on his best game to get to us. If we get beat again, it will be by a horse that’s won the Great Southern Star and everything else…” Lining up this Friday off the 30m handicap alongside Tornado Valley will be John Meade-trained Sparkling Success, while Jackson Square (Mick Blackmore), Nephew Of Sonoko (Leigh Graham), Chief Runningcloud (Maree Caldow) and C K Spur (Andy Gath) are all off 10m. Norquay (Chris Svanosio) and Di Li (Brett Shipway) are with Hatchback off the front. Bendigo’s Group 3 $25,000 feature wasn’t run in 2020, but it was last taken out by Gath and his wife Kate, who combined with McLovin to win the race in 2019. BENDIGO TROTTERS CUP RECENT HONOUR ROLL 2010      Thepowerofhealing Nathan Jack (10m) 2011      Danny Cash Kerryn Manning (FT) 2012      Aleppo Sunrise Chris Lang (10m) 2013      Earl Harbour NZ Kerryn Manning (FT) 2014      Brunelleschi Amy Tubbs (FT) 2015      Vincennes Anthony Butt (10m) 2016      Tenno Dance Josh Duggan (FT) 2017      Fabrication Nathan Jack (FT) 2018      Save Our Pennys Gavin Lang (FT) 2019      McLovin NZ Kate Gath (20m)   HRV - Tim O'Connor

The 2021 Inter Dominion Championships is well and truly on the table for the exciting General Dodge, who has "pulled up pretty good" following his dominant win at Geelong on Saturday night. The eight-year-old emerged from more than a year on the sidelines to take out the TAB Captain Sandy Free For All, where he left a quality field in his wake with a breath-taking sprint lane success. It was just the son of Courage Under Fire's 19th appearance at the races and his first since the 2020 Ararat Pacing Cup, when he was knocked over approaching the home turn before finishing fifth. A host of illness and injury issues have plagued the stylish brown gelding throughout his career, but trainer Mick Chircop told thetrots.com.au on Tuesday that he was "pretty happy" with his horse’s condition following the weekend’s performance. Plans are now in motion for another start in the next "two or three weeks". "I've probably got to have a look at the calendar and just see where I'm going to go and what the next plan of attack is," he said. Looking long term, Chircop is keen to target some of the country's biggest races fully aware that time is against the horse. Specifically, this could include a tilt at the Inter Dominion Championships, which will be held in New South Wales late this year through November and December. "Let's say for instance if he's all good and well and there's an Inter Dominion series, I'd be more than happy to try and put him into it," Chircop said. "You've sort of got to have a go, have a crack. If he's healthy and fit and he's conditioned well, I'd definitely be looking at it. "I'm not saying he's the best horse out there, but with the right run he can knock off some nice horses. "You have got to roll the dice and it's come to that point where I really can't look after him too much, just try and get him racing." Saturday night's success was an emotional one for connections, with Chircop paying tribute to late part-owner John Lorensini, who passed away recently. "When he crossed the line, I actually thought of him straight away," he said.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Tornado Valley will make his return to the standing start this Friday night as he continues the pursuit of the magical million-dollar barrier. The Andy Gath-trained star was bidding to become just the ninth Australian or New Zealand-bred trotter to reach the seven-figure mark at Geelong on Saturday, but was narrowly thwarted by Big Jack Hammer in a thrilling finish to the Jack Rabbit Winery Sundons Gift Trotters Free For All. Tornado Valley is one of nine horses set to line-up in Friday night's $25,000 Aldebaran Park Bendigo Trotters Cup, where he will start off the 30m handicap alongside John Meade's Sparkling Success. It will be the first time Tornado Valley has raced in a standing start event since late 2019, when he placed third at Yarra Valley off the 50m backmark. In total, the nine-year-old has won eight times from 20 goes at the stand. The runner-up placing on the weekend lifted his career prizemoney tally to $993,897. If triumphant at Bendigo, Tornado Valley would join fellow greats Lyell Creek, I Can Doosit, Sundons Gift, Speeding Spur, Take A Moment, Stent, Keystone Del and One Over Kenny as those from this part of the world to reach $1million in earnings. Gath also has stablemate C K Spur in the Group 3 feature on Friday night, with Di Li (Brett Shipway), Chief Runningcloud (Maree Caldow), Norquay (Chris Svanosio), Jackson Square (Mick Blackmore), Nephew Of Sonoko (Leigh Graham) and Hatchback (John Justice) making up the field. The Bendigo Trotters Cup caps off a big Friday of racing in Victoria, with the Tabcorp Park Melton afternoon meeting featuring two heats of the Australian Pacing Gold four-year-old series. Quality fields of six have been assembled for both the mares and colts/geldings divisions. Racing then returns to Melton on Saturday night, with the nine-race card headlined by the TAB Sapling Stakes for the two-year-old colts and geldings and the Allied Express Ian Daff Memorial for the NR 70 to 99 mares.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Top colt Idyllic has been sidelined by a serious injury just weeks after his Group 1 Gold Chalice triumph. The Clayton Tonkin-trained star has undergone surgery for what is understood to be a stress fracture in a hind pastern, which presented during training last week. It's expected the horse will undergo more surgery in the coming weeks and be confined to box rest for a number of months. Toby McKinnon broke the news of the injury on SENTrack's Trots Life on Tuesday morning, with connections hoping the son of Somebeachsomewhere can make a successful return to racing before the end of the year. Idyllic won the $100,000 Gold Chalice Final at Bathurst in late March, which took his career record to eight wins from 18 starts. He was runner-up in the Vicbred Super Series 2YO Colts and Geldings Final to Kimble late last year, and was also placed in the Gold Crown Final at Bathurst in early 2020.   HRV - Tim O'Connor

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