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THERE were so many layers to the Cranbourne Cup story, but none better than Jodi Quinlan. It’s only a few weeks since Quinlan, a former Miracle Mile-winning driver, returned from horrific injuries sustained when an out of control horse wiped her out. And she teamed with the state’s top trainer, Emma Stewart, and the super-speedy Phoenix Prince to win last night’s $60,000 Group 2 Cranbourne Cup. Stewart had five of the 10 runners and was expected to dominate, but more so with buzz four-year-old Hurricane Harley and the emerging star Tam Major. They had to be content with second (Tam Major) and fourth (Hurricane Harley) while Phoenix Prince stormed home late to snatch victory in a 1min56.5sec mile rate for the testing 2555m trip. Hurricane Harley, took a sit on Tam Major and looked the winner halfway down the straight, but his run was short-lived and Phoenix Prince powered past them all. It was a fitting and magical moment for Quinlan. And Stewart’s dominance was surreal with her runners filling the first five spots across the line. On the same cards, last year’s Inter Dominion champion Tornado Valley was simply too fast and classy for his rivals in the Group 3 Trotters’ Cup. While potential Victoria Derby player and regally-bred Soho Hamilton won the Group 3 Caduceus Club Cup, something his famous brother Soho Tribeca did a few years back. _____________________________________________________________________________________ AS we head towards the Inter Dominion final it’s fitting last year’s pacing final winner Tiger Tara is starting his comeback. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto is thrilled with the superstar veteran, who was struggling for form and missed this year’s series in Auckland. “Everything just went wrong last campaign so we had to turn him out and start again,” he said. “ Ultimately, that really hard run second-up in Brisbane knocked the stuffing out of him and he didn’t recover. “He’s really well now. I’ve got the old horse back and he’ll have a private trial this week.” Pizzuto confirmed plans to raid Perth’s January riches, headed by the Group 1 double of Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups. “I’ll have him very fit when he goes to the races. He’ll just have the one lead-up race at Menangle, hopefully over 2300m, then we’ll go to Perth a week or so before the Freo Cup,” he said. Pizzuto also confirmed a change of ownership for one of his brightest stable stars, Commander Kirk, who boasts nine wins from just 14 starts and already a 1min49.7sec mile win at Menangle. Cruz Bromac’s managing-owner, Danny Zavitsanos, now has a half share in Commander Kirk, who was previously raced by high-profile US duo Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks. “He’s a lovely horse with so much speed,” Pizzuto said. “He came a long way quickly last time in work, so we’ve given him a good, long break. I think he’ll make a Miracle Mile horse, but this year might come around a bit too quickly for him. He’s only now about to come back in from the paddock.” _____________________________________________________________________________________ ANOTHER star possibly headed for Perth is 2018 Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal. Tim Butt’s star grabbed the eye in a Menangle trial last week and is set to resume at the same track on December 14. Butt wants to get through the first-up run before deciding whether to tackle Perth or stay in Sydney and build towards another Miracle Mile assault. _____________________________________________________________________________________ STILL in WA and their Carnival continued to hot-up with a hugely popular win by Gotta Go Gabbana in last Friday night’s $125,000 Group 1 Westral Mares’ Classic (2536m). Owner-trainers Annie and Colin Belton wear their passion for the sport loud and strong and were thrilled when Gotta Go Gabbana broke a long run of bad draws to snare the pole. Top freelancer driver Chris Voak did the rest. “When she led easily it was pretty much over,” he said. “She’s a really hard mare to get past and, although the second horse (Our Alfie Romeo) did a good job, my mare won easily.” Gotta Go Gabbana ripped home in 56.1 and 27.5sec to win by 7.2m in a 1min57.3sec mile rate for the long trip. “I’m just thrilled for Colin and Annie. They supported me strongly about 10 years ago when I first started driving and continued even after I’d lost my claim. “And they gave me the drive on this mare when she was three so it’s special to win this big one on so many levels.” Having just his second run back from almost a year out due to a breathing operation, Greg and Skye Bond’s seven-year-old was simply too strong and classy. Emerging star Ideal Liner, also on the comeback trail, led, but Ryan Warwick made a mid-race move to sit parked. “He’s strong and versatile and I wanted to get Ideal Liner out of his comfort zone after he got the lead so easily,” Warwick said Galactic Star crushed Ideal Liner, who tired for fifth, and staved-off late challenges from the classy Vultan Tin and Ana Malak to win in a brisk 1min56.1sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip. Warwick will soon have to decide between Galactic Star or the exciting stablemate Mighty Conqueror to partner in races like the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups. “Let’s keep ‘em apart for now,” he smiled. _____________________________________________________________________________________ NSW’s devastating bushfires led to a massive number of scratchings from last night’s Menangle meeting, but the star Kiwi still shone brightly. Hail Christian narrowly but impressively posted his second win from as many runs back in NSW in the Group 3 John Binskin free-for all. The Paul Court-trained five year-old blasted off the gate with the other favourite, Alta Orlando, in a blistering 25.5sec opening quarter then sat behind that horse. Another former Kiwi, Letspendanitetogetha, came and sat parked and put paid to the leader, but just couldn’t hold-off Hail Christian in a 26.6sec closing quarter. _____________________________________________________________________________________ QUEENSLAND’S Summer Carnival got serious when the classy Mattgregor won the Group 3 Be Good Johnny Sprint (1660m) at Albion Park last night. Trained by Chantel Turpin and driven by Pete McMullen, Mattgregor took full advantage of the pole draw to lead and just held-off Dream To Share to win by a head in a 1min52.5sec mile rate. Veteran Mach Alert grabbed the eye in third spot. The other feature of the night, the Members’ Cup, was dominated by Grant Dixon, who rushed home from his luckless Inter Dominion campaign with Colt Thirty One. Dixon trained the trifecta and drove the winner, the exciting Governor Jujon, who ran down buzz recent Kiwi import Virgil in closing splits of a 55.5 and 27sec. _____________________________________________________________________________________ THE fantastic story that is Kima Frenning added another chapter last Friday. Frenning’s 250th driving win came aboard Rocknroll Ronnie at Melton, meaning she has out-driven her claim. Sure the claim helped Frenning get loads of early opportunities, but she’s now cemented with some of Victoria’s leading stables and success will continue to flow. It’s remarkable when you consider Frenning came to Australia from Sweden a few years back to work as a stablehand and, hopefully, drive in a few Monte (saddle trot) races. “I don’t know what to say. Of course I could never have imagined this and I have so many people to thank,” Frenning said. Frenning also just missed in the main Melton race of the night, being beaten a half-head aboard Emma Stewart’s Somerocksomeroll behind $31.90 outsider Keayang Ebonyrose in the Melton Mares’ Championship.   Adam Hamilton

The committee of the Horsham and District Harness Racing Club are saddened by the recent and sudden passing of their friend and colleague Bernie Poulton. Bernie as hobby trainer, breeder, owner and driver "always had one or two going around" with the mares Miss Rainmaker (six wins) and Jollie Jeparit (two wins) his best performers. He gave away race driving in 2007 because of the demands of work but returned to the sulky a little over six months ago with the six-year-old gelding The Butcher. Bernie had bred the son of Denver Gift and Miss Rainmaker in partnership with his friend, the late Eric Hahne who "loved his horses and was always in them with me". Bernie was determined to get The Butcher to the races for Eric and it was a proud moment for all concerned when the "bloody cranky early on" and "silly as a wheel" pacer finally qualified at the Ararat trials and six weeks later made it's racing debut.  A long serving Horsham committee member, track attendant and voluntary worker Bernie will be much missed by the harness racing community.  We extend our sincere and deepest sympathy to his family.   Tony Logan

When Kerryn Manning heard the word euthanasia, her heart sank. She had resigned herself to the likelihood Motu Meteor would never race again but was entirely unprepared for the shock veterinary recommendation. Meteor’s legs had shown signs of wear and tear in the preceding months, a strong hint that his days competing at a high level may be numbered. But the little horse loved his job and always gave 110 per cent on the track, an elite equine athlete in the truest sense. His doting trainer simply refused to accept that the end of his racing career should also mean the end of his life. “Meteor was a favourite of everyone at the stables and a really genuine trier at the races,” Kerryn reflected. “So laid back, never a problem to deal with and also quite a handsome man. He just had to have the chance to find his forever home.” Vets determined that on the balance of probabilities, Meteor had strained a ligament from his medial suspensory branch into his foot. The injury could only be definitively diagnosed with an expensive MRI scan and had a poor outcome for a racing. Given his medical history, leading owner Merv Butterworth chose not to proceed with the test, accepting that the curtain had come down on the six-year-old’s 40-start career, which reaped 14 wins and $252,295 in stake earnings. “When Merv told me Meteor was going to be put down, I jumped straight on the phone to the vet,” Kerryn said. “I hoped with appropriate rehab he could be saved as a paddock companion or for light riding duties and he said there was no reason why that couldn’t happen. “Once I explained this to Merv, he was all for giving the horse the opportunity – he is a big owner who runs his harness racing interests as a business, but very kind-hearted and always wanting to do what he can for his horses." Meteor’s racing owners, in fact, took their commitment a step further, agreeing to pay for the gelding’s upkeep during the crucial early months of his recuperation. Once he completed his box confinement and the injury had healed to a stage where Meteor could be turned out into a larger area, Kerryn assumed ownership and responsibility. He is currently resting comfortably in her retirement paddock at Great Western, having come through his rehabilitation with flying colours and now been cleared for rehoming. Kerryn will be supported in the next stage of “Project Meteor” by Harness Racing Victoria HERO Program Manager Tanya McDermott. “I’ve worked with Kerryn to rehome horses from her stable for more than a decade, so when the call came through of course I was going to do all I could to help,” Tanya said, qualifying that while the horse fell outside the HERO Program’s re-education and training framework, she had made a personal promise to assist. “Both Kerryn and Merv are animal lovers who have demonstrated a passion for life after racing over many years – we previously rehomed Meteor’s older brother Motu Crusader via the HERO Program on their behalf. “It’s been a privilege to follow their shared dedication to nursing Meteor back to health - he is trotting comfortably around the paddock, the leg is looking good and we have every reason to believe he will go on to enjoy a long, happy and rewarding life. “He’s a really pretty horse (a son of super sire Bettors Delight) and not big, so he might be suitable for someone who would like a standardbred to show in hand. “His temperament would also make him ideally suited to an equine therapy role or liberty training. Our main priority will be finding him a long-term home where he will have nothing but the very best care. “He loves being around people so someone with the facilities to keep him close by and time to spend with him will be very important.”   HRV HERO

"It should be a great race," says reinsman Chris Alford as excitement builds for Saturday night's Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup, when a number of Emma Stewart's runners will attempt to bring the heat to their next-big-thing stablemate. Hurricane Harley, the Lauriston Bloodstock bred four-year-old who's already banked $355,640, will step from gate two in his Trots Country Cups Championship debut, with heavyweights Tam Major, Rackemup Tigerpie, Code Black and Phoenix Prince ready to pounce from the back row. Alford will again take the reins of Tam Major, whose finished third in each of his three cups this season. "The (inside back row) draw makes it a bit tricky for Tam, he likes to get out and do a bit of bullying," Alford told Trots Talk. "He's racing really well and he'll give it a huge shake. "He seems to like being up the front end. Cranbourne's not the sort of track that you can sit back and come with one run ... the bends aren't kind to horses out three and four wide, so first plan would be to try and get him up there unless the speed's crazy." That would likely mean applying pressure to likely leader Hurricane Harley, who can call on all the gate speed in the world to gain the early ascendancy. Alford, whose six drives on Hurricane Harley yielded four wins and a second, will instead be plotting against the Bettors Delight. "It's always tricky jumping up to the top class," he said. "When he led last week he had to burn for 200 off the gate, got a real easy run and ran a quick half (home), but I don't think cup races are run like that too often these days. He is brilliant, but I don't think he's unbeatable." Alford will also take the reins of Born To Be Watched in The H & F Abrahams Caduceus Club 3YO Cup, where Emma Stewart's colt will attempt to make it three from three. He will need to be good to upstage the likes of Victoria Derby hope Soho Hamilton, but Alford said while Born To Be Watched was "a little bit green" he had "loads and loads of ability" and "the same sort of talent" as Be Happy Mach, who dominated last year's two-year-old racing. CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL EDITION OF TROTS TALK     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Grand Circuit plans appear in Emain Macha’s path after Greg Scholefield’s talented six-year-old further enhanced his reputation with Sunday’s second Trots Country Cups Championship victory of the season. Emain Macha and reinsman James Herbertson were in full control of the Talquist Trees Stawell Pacing Cup, despite the presence of championship contenders Code Black and Phoenix Prince who were breathing fire late. “He’s the best I’ve trained, there’s no doubt about that,” Scholefield told TrotsVision. “He’s a genuine racehorse. If he keeps going this way I’ll certainly be putting him in (Grand Circuit) races, that would be a great thrill not only for the horse but for me as well. Privileged to have a horse like him.” The victory also inserted Emain Macha into the $35,000 Trots Country Cups Championship conversation ahead of this week’s double-header at Cranbourne on Saturday night and Gunbower on Sunday. While he's not backing up this weekend, Emain Macha’s two starts – in the St Arnaud and Stawell cups – produced two victories, acquiring 10 championship points, second only to Code Black (19 points), who will build on his lead in Saturday’s Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup. Herbertson shot to the front at Stawell and controlled the race, quickening in the third quarter to make it difficult for Emma Stewart’s horses to advance and holding them at bay in the 27.2 final quarter. “When I revved him up off the back he was right there and that last quarter pretty much puts it into words,” Herbertson said. “Great thrill, I’ve always dreamt of winning country cups and now I’ve won two on this horse and just living the dream at the moment. “He’s just a pure racehorse. He wears no gear, just the ear plugs, his manners from the first time I drove him, which was a while ago at Melton, to now - he’s just come forward in leaps and bounds.” Making the efforts all the more meritorious is Emain Macha's recovery from a near fatal illness. “He nearly died on us, but he came back,” Scholefield said. “This preparation, being a six-year-old, he’s settled in his races a bit now, we can drive him on a bit of cotton and settle him back in the field, he wasn’t doing that before. “He’s just the perfect horse now. He will go home and eat everything tonight and be cheeky as billy-o in the morning. He’s got a personality for sure, he’s a different horse, I love him, he’s good.” The $25,000 Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship could also be shaped with this weekend’s Cranbourne-Gunbower double-header, with only two points separating the top eight on the table, which is led by Chris Svanosio’s pair Magicool and Kyvalley Finn. The former will contest Saturday night’s Aldebaran Park Bruce Skeggs Memorial Cranbourne Trotters Cup along with Dance Craze and likely favourite Tornado Valley, who can leap up the championship leaderboard with a victory. The stakes will also be high in Sunday’s Cohuna Car Sales Bill Poxon Memorial Gunbower Trotters Cup, where third-placed Jerichos Trumpet and equal fourth-placed Father Christmas will be among those chasing maximum series points.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Harness racing Living Legend Ross Sugars has reflected on his time in the trots, including learning from his dad, Hall of Famer Len, and carving out his career in South Australia and Victoria. Sugars sat with Paul Campbell for the Tooth Be Told podcast, with his reflections including the winning night at Wayville that set the flame alight. "I'd been given a permit at the start of that season to be able to drive metropolitan races ... and (that night) I got a treble," Sugars said. "I knew it wasn't easy, but gee it was a buzz. I was hooked on harness racing well before that, but that really entrenched things because it set me alight and then I started to drive a few winners." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW:       HRV Trots Media  

A personal milestone for Michelle Phillips has affirmed the effervescent Victorian horsewoman's decision to pursue harness racing ahead of her other sporting interests. The 22-year-old recently drove her 50th winner, and with her family background was probably always going to end up in harness racing, but she admits competitive basketball captured her love for several years. "I'd played basketball when I was growing up at Warragul in Gippsland and was lucky enough to get a position at Seda College while I was completing Year 11 and 12," she said. "The main emphasis of the college is basketball with the Melbourne United Club and Basketball Victoria working together to further develop the sport." Phillips represented Victoria a few times, mainly as a point guard, and also competed in school carnivals against other States. But as a graduate of the Gippsland Harness Training Centre at Warragul (where she was selected as the inaugural Harness Racing Victoria-Community College Gippsland trots intern), harness racing was never far away. And ironically, her basketball interest was probably what eventually brought her back to the trots. "Then when I finished Year 12, Deb and Gary Quinlan, from Drouin West, offered me a part-time job at their stables, I jumped at it - probably because I had renewed enthusiasm after the two-year break," she said. Phillips grew up around harness racing, with both her father Ken and grandfather Max being Clerks of the Course for many years at local trots meetings. "While I was at the Harness Racing Training Centre I had 12 months of learning everything about the industry and spent time in a number of leading stables here including Alison and Chris Alford, Anton Golino, Andy and Kate Gath, and with Mark Purdon in New Zealand," Phillips said. "A highlight was helping Mark with the preparation and care of Smolda, leading up to him winning the Inter Dominion," she said. Phillips drove her first winner in April last year at Ballarat when successful at her eighth race drive on Our Sir Oliver, trained by Norm McVitty. She then followed the April with with two further victories in May with the same horse at the same track! In her first season she finished with 10 wins and 26 placings. Last season she improved with 23 wins and 62 placings and now looks set for her best-ever with 18 wins and 30 placings to date. She landed her 50th winner at Maryborough last week on Lets Went for Bendigo trainer Laurie Wills. "I was absolutely stoked, and it was great to have the luck continue for a bit at Mildura the next night when I got home on Rocknroll Legend. But it was soured a little bit later in the night cos I got a suspension," Phillips said. Now attached to the successful Chris Svanosio barn, Phillips is busy helping with the stable's shift from their Bendigo base to a Romsey property where Svanosio's partner Elizabeth MacLean is established. "We are all looking forward to it because it's a magnificent complex," she said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The Mercury is rising this summer at Tabcorp Park Melton. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has unveiled a five-race sprint series titled the Mercury80, consisting of four $20,000 heats and a $50,000 Group 2 final – all over 1200 metres. The first heat will be held at Melton’s New Year’s Eve race night in front of an expected crowd of about 7000 people. Each Mercury80 race will consist of eight runners, all starting across the front line.  The first two horses in each of the heats will make the Final. The fastest winner in the series will pick up a $20,000 cash bonus – $10,000 to the owner(s) and $5000 each to the trainer and driver – and if a horse breaks 80 seconds in winning during the series an additional $8000 bonus ($4000 to owner(s) and $2000 each to trainer and driver) will be won. Following the New Year’s Eve series opener, Mercury80 heats will be run at Melton on January 4, 10 and 17 before the Final features alongside the Victoria Derby and Victoria Oaks on Saturday night, January 25 – TAB Summer of Glory Night 2. “It’s really significant the prizemoney and those cash bonuses. I’m sure it will make people set horses for the series,” Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association president Lance Justice said. Justice should know – he’s trained more winners of the annual 1200m Stampede at Melton than any other with four (Coastal in 2010 and ‘11, The Smiler 2012 and Toulouse Lautrec in 2014). “Coastal just had sheer high speed and was so strong for 1200 metres that he wouldn’t waver,” Justice said. And Justice, a noted aggressive reinsman, said the key to setting the fastest winning time in a sprint race – and potentially breaking 80 seconds – from a driver’s perspective was “to not think twice”. “You can’t hesitate. As soon as you hesitate for half a second … you’ve lost a length and a half. You have to have a forward mindset.” HRV Racing General Manager Stephen Bell said it was important harness racing moved with the times and found new ways to innovate. “It is no secret faster racing appeals to a range of punters and we’re going to pull out all stops to ensure everyone has a great experience during the Mercury80 series,” Bell said. “People want to have fun while attending a sporting event. Racing needs to be engaging, entertaining and ultra-competitive. The Mercury80 series is exciting and we think it will produce some fireworks.” HRV recently announced a revamped TAB Summer of Glory carnival, which now carries more than $2million in stakemoney with eight Group 1s alongside the Mercury80 Final. Justice said he would have “a couple of fast horses” for the Mercury80. “It’s a great concept and these are the things the industry needs to get behind and try moving forward,” he said. Classes for the the Mercury80 heats will vary, with an NR 80 to 89, NR 70 to 79, No Metro Wins and NR 75 to 84 scheduled.   Media enquiries to cwinnell@hrv.org.au or 03 8378 0288. HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

After a thought-provoking opening night of Inter Dominion 2019 heats, the market still believes in a Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen pacing series win. The premier training partnership dominated night one with Ultimate Sniper impressively capturing heat one just ahead of stablemate Chase Auckland, while fellow All-Stars runners Cruz Bromac and Thefixer ran second and third in heat two. A G’s White Socks was the other pacing heat winner, hailing from the stables of Barry Purdon. Victorian-trained pacing hopes San Carlo (fifth), My Kiwi Mate (seventh) and Sicario (seventh) all made fair starts to the series without setting the world alight. Importantly the trio has largely fared well at the barrier draws for round two. CLICK HERE FOR MICHAEL GUERIN'S HEAT-BY-HEAT BREAKDOWN My Kiwi Mate will tonight trail polemarker Chase Auckland in Heat 3, starting from the coveted barrier nine. This gives the Craig Demmler trained and driven star every chance to pocket important points, while San Carlo has barrier one in his heat. Co-trainers Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley will be confident their stable star will be improved for the opening night performance, but he’ll have to be at his best tonight to hold off the lightning-quick Bling It On, who has drawn to trail in barrier nine and series favourite Ultimate Sniper in gate seven.   HOW ARE YOU DOING IN TROTSTARS? CLICK HERE FOR RESULTS Brent Lilley-trained Sicario is drawn gate 10 in the third heat and is an outsider ($81). In the trotting ranks Victorian star Big Jack Hammer would have impressed trainer David Aiken on opening night finishing third, but he faces a stiff test tonight after drawing gate seven in a heat containing series favourite Marcoola from the pole.   Full coverage tonight can be streamed  via Sky Racing Active (download free in the app store) in addition to Sky Racing 1 and Sky Racing 2, as well as on radio RSN (927am). HRV Trots Media social media channels will be covering the night, with a live blog delivering all the action as it happens at thetrots.com.au. Join the conversation using the #ID19 hashtag and tag @TheTrotsComAU on Twitter.   Inter Dominion 2019 Round 2 Heats schedule from Alexandra Park Tonight 6.20pm: Pacing Championships Heat 3, featuring Team Victoria runners My Kiwi Mate and Sicario 6.52pm: Trotting Championship Heat 3. 7:25pm: Pacing Championship Heat 4, featuring Team Victoria runners San Carlo and Cruz Bromac. 7.53pm: Trotting Championship Heat 4, featuring Team Victoria runner Big Jack Hammer.   Inter Dominion 2019 Pacing Championship rankings after Round 1 A G’s White Socks: 17 Ultimate Sniper: 17 Chase Auckland: 14 Cruz Bromac: 14 Mach Shard: 12 Thefixer: 12 Solid Gold: 10 Star Galleria: 10 On The Cards: 9 San Carlo: 9 Ashley Locaz: 8 Triple Eight: 8 My Kiwi Mate: 7 Sicario: 7 Classie Brigade: 6 Conviction: 6 Atomic Red: 5 Colt Thirty One: 5 Bling It On: 4 Our Uncle Sam: 4 Check In: 3 Dance Time: 3 Another Masterpiece: 2 The Devils Own: 2 Henry Hubert: 1   Inter Dominion 2019 Trotting Championship rankings after Round 1 Paramount King: 15 Winterfell: 15 Marcoola: 12 Massive Metro: 12 Big Jack Hammer: 10 Majestic Man: 10 Temporale: 8 Valloria: 8 Destiny Jones: 7 Monty Python: 7 Bonnie Highlander: 6 Habibi Inta: 6 C K Spur: 5 Tough Monarch: 5 Didjabringthebeers: 4 Sertorius: 4 Kenny’s Dream: 3 Ronald J: 3 Pres The Belle: 2 Woodstone: 2 Credit Master: 0 McLovin: 0 (scratched)     TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Final (Sat December 14) fixed odds Ultimate Sniper: $2.5 Cruz Bromac: $4.5 Thefixer: $5 Chase Auckland: $5.5 Bling It On: $9 Ashley Locaz: $11 A G’s White Socks: $15 Triple Eight: $16 Colt Thirty One: $17 San Carlo: $17 Atomic Red: $41 Classie Brigade: $41 Mach Shard: $41 Our Uncle Sam: $51 On The Cards: $61 Star Galleria: $61 Henry Hubert: $71 Another Masterpiece: $101 Conviction: $101 Sicario: $101 My Kiwi Mate: $151 Solid Gold: $151 Check In: $201 Dance Time: $201 The Devils Own: $201   TAB Inter Dominion Trotting Final (Sat December 14) fixed odds Marcoola: $3 Winterfell: $3.8 Habibi Inta: $4.5 Massive Metro: $5 Majestic Man: $7 Paramount King: $15 Tough Monarch: $15 Temporale: $17 Big Jack Hammer: $21 Valloria: $35 Bonnie Highlander: $51 Didjabringthebeers: $51 Kenny’s Dream: $51 Monty Python: $71 C K Spur: $151 Destiny Jones: $151 Pres The Belle: $151 Ronald J: $151 Sertorius: $151 Woodstone: $151   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

Well known trots horseman Rodney Demmler passed away on Friday after a battle with cancer, aged 65. Despite not having the high profile of his older brother, Ted, Rodney was himself an accomplished horseman and well known as a freelance reinsman during the 1970s and 1980s. Like his brother, Rodney worked for famed horseman Dave "Darky" Wilson and his son, Graeme, and soaked up all the knowledge they offered on training and driving horses. He helped Ted with his horses when he developed his own stable, while also taking freelance driving opportunities and preparing a small team on the Mornington Peninsula, while also working full-time. His connection with the Wilson stable helped Rodney secure his first city winning drive, behind the grand old trotter Touch Merchant at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds on May 1, 1976. Rodney took the steer behind Touch Merchant at the recommendation of Dave Wilson, after Graeme Wilson had been suspended. A week later, Rodney combined with another Wilson horse, Intrepid Prince, for a second city victory. Rodney was a member of the group of drivers to land a winner at both the Showgrounds and Moonee Valley, however the unique aspect of this was that his first victories at both tracks were with trotters. He later trained and drove Phengory Boy to win at Moonee Valley in July 1981. Rodney won several races with Padthaway, and other multiple race winners he drove included Amorous Heel, Ritzi Riki, Deux Cent and Tuned In. Rodney's wife Deborah passed away in 2014. Together they had four daughters - Samantha, Maddison, Gabrielle and Jamieson.   Kyle Galley

Sweeping a Trots Country Cups Championship night was so night Kate Gath would love to do it twice, with the leading reinswoman to steer a talented duo in Sunday's Stawell pacing and trotting cups. Having guided Phoenix Prince to Saturday night's Geelong Pacing Cup and War Spirit to the trotting equivalent, both in track record time, Gath joined Trots Talk this week ahead this Sunday's Stawell features. "(Winning country cups is) what it's all about and it's good reward for the hard work - definitely makes it worthwhile," Gath said. "(Phoenix Prince) was pretty impressive the way he hit the line. He was jogging the whole way and felt like he was doing it pretty easily, even though they were running. "He felt like he'd get up the straight pretty good if I got a decent run at them somewhere and we were lucky enough to get that and full credit to him. He was still good enough to get the job done against pretty quality horses." Phoenix Prince beat Code Black, leader in the $35,000 Trots Country Cups Championship, into second at Geelong and the Emma Stewart trained pair will go head to head on Sunday in the Talquist Tree Stawell Pacing Cup. "It's a little bit harder on the smaller, tighter tracks off the second row to make up the ground, but it's not a full field and with a little bit of luck he won't be too far away at the finish," Gath said. She will also steer Chief Runningcloud in the Grampians Excavations Stawell Trotters Cup, with the lightly-raced five-year-old to come off 10 metres along side Jerichos Trumpet. "He trialled quite well (at Melton) on Monday night," Gath said. "He's pretty good from the stand. It doesn't have a whole lot of depth in it, obviously Kyvalley Finn's the one to beat, but providing he handles the track hopefully he won't be too far away." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL EDITION OF TROTS TALK:     HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard  

Eight-year-old Fake Smile produced a thunderous finish to capture the Evolve Stone Gordon Rothacker Memorial Championship Final tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Craig Demmler-trained gelding was lining up for just his third run back from a three-and-a-half-year injury layoff, but he was able to sprint past rising superstar Lumineer at the end of the 1720-metre Group 3 sprint in a slick 1:52.3. “This horse has been an amazing story what he’s come back from. Craig deserves all the credit because it’s been a long road back and a lot of hard work,” winning driver Jackie Barker said. “I think he’s done his tendon three times, so to get him back to the races is an enormous effort. Craig and the team have done an amazing job.”                                                                                    --Photo by Stuart McCormick Barker, who is making a bit of a habit of producing barnstorming-finish wins at HQ, bided her time from the back-row gate 11 draw tonight as others set a brisk tempo at the front. Pick Up Line led from the pole but eventually handed up to Deedenuto after 600m and a lead time of 6.9secs followed by a 27.4 opening split, with Lumineer working around to the breeze for the last lap. They kept moving with a 57secs middle half-mile and Fake Smile was on the move wide from the back. With Barker throwing everything at Fake Smile the son of Grinfromeartoear (out of Fake Left mare Counterfeit Girl) pounced on his rivals in the straight for a 1.3m win over a brave Lumineer, who had to lose no admirers after his tough effort in defeat, with Pick Up Line third just ahead of Brackenreid, Smart Little Shard and Blingittothemax. “When you draw the second row over the sprint it’s never going to be easy but this horse really flew home,” Barker said. “If he can stay sound and keep going I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet.” Barker said she was “grateful for the opportunity to drive Fake Smile”, adding “I think you have got to be 100 per cent dedicated if you want to try and make it. And I do want to make it, so I’m grateful for the opportunities and I’ll go anywhere to get them.”   HRV Trots Media - Cody Winnell

He's regarded as the "Go-To Man" in Victorian harness racing circles, and Ararat's Michael Bellman wouldn't have it any other way! The popular horseman's love for the equine and the sport of harness racing is never in doubt - and there aren't too many horse-related problems he hasn't tackled over the years. "We're probably all in the sport because of a love of horses, but if someone needs a shoe tacked back on or help getting a head-strong one in or out of a float, I'll give a helping hand for sure," Bellman said. "Yes, I would have done a fair few favors over the years. But what the hell, if you can't do these sort of things there's something wrong," he said. And the same etiquette applies when he's contacted by owners or trainers to drive at meetings. Since his junior driver days, it's been evident that Bellman doesn't care if they are favorites or long-shots, he's always been prepared to take the drives. "They don't know they're 50/1," he laughed. "I do think that being prepared to go all over the place for a drive or two is one of the main reasons I've been able to stay in the system for so long - what you lose on the swing, you pick up on the roundabout! "Besides you never know when a little hobby trainer or owner might be lucky and find that good one. "Years ago, I would carpool on the big trips with Daryl Douglas and Emma Hamblin but I don't tend to do those now, just because of the distance, and that's probably cost me a good few wins each season." One of Bellman's early successes on the far-flung tracks circuit was with well-credentialled Northern Region pacer Uncle Wingnut. "I used to drive for Joe Costa who lives near Swan Hill and we did very nicely for a while with Uncle Wingnut. We won both the Charlton and Ouyen cups, ran third in a Cranbourne Cup and competed in the A.G. Hunter Cup," he said. "Even though I tend not to go to Mildura or Shepparton these days because of the distance, I'm still kept busy because I clock up about 120,000 kms each year." With his parents Neville and D'arne, and grandfather Pat heavily involved in harness racing, it was obvious from a young age that Michael was going to follow in their footsteps. "We always had a pony when I was growing up and I did the pony trot circuit so it's pretty much all I've known. I say I was doomed the day I was born" Michael laughed. "But honestly I can't think of anything else I'd like to do." And this is despite just being eight years old and still remembering when his dad's father Pat suffered a massive heart attack just 60 metres from the finish, while driving in a race at Ballarat. Grandfather Pat was a successful trainer and driver and raced many good horses including New Noble. "He was going to weigh in in that race, for sure. They called home when they realized what had happened, but we were never going to get there to do anything because he died on the track," Bellman said. The family involvement in harness racing grew noticeably when changes to the male dominated sport came in the late 1970s - and D'arne Bellman was among the first to become involved as a driver. "Mum would go to the trials to get as much experience as she could and played one club against the other to let her compete. It was quite funny," Bellman said. "I think she was the first female to register a dividend on the tote. Another of her highlights was receiving the prestigious Pearl Kelly Award," he said. "Mum has always been around them up until about eight years ago when she was badly injured in a training accident and now has on-going complications." Bellman said while he was quite happy just being a driver in the early years of his career, he was persuaded to take up the role of training about 12 years ago. "I really fell on my feet right from the word go as a trainer. I had an extremely good run with a great bunch of owners," he said. "One of the first was Chelsea Hanover who won 10 races and Unicycle was probably around then as well. I won six of his 10 wins. Then I took on two from a friend in Hughie Smythe - Mister Rhys won over $100,000 and Corporate Power Broker was another very handy one." Bellman said apart from his family background, he owed much to a solid grounding from stints with Peter and Kerryn Manning, Andy Gath, David Burns and Terry Croton, of nearby Stawell. "Kez (Kerryn) was like my big sister. She would call in and pick me up on Wednesdays when the Manning stable was busy with fast work. Back then it was Saturday night racing," he said. "All the experience I picked up now plays a massive part in the daily running of my own stable. I work all my own, with the help of dad and our longtime assistant Kerry McKinnis, as well as the shoeing and other chores." In addition, he's also kept on the run, having four children in Harvey, 10, twins Ryder and Darcy, 8, and Bridie, 3. Since the 2012-13 season, Bellman has topped the ton as a reinsman on five occasions. He had a standout season in 2015-16 with 140 wins and 331 placings. "I was driving for some guys who had big teams with a number of top-class horses. Apart from Joe Costa, there was Vince Vallelonga, Mark Thompson, Kevin Brough and some others," Bellman said. The past two seasons he hasn't been far away from the magical 100 mark with 89 and 96. And if the past two or three weeks are any indication, Bellman is well on his way to again giving it a shake this season. "I've been getting a few over the line-the secret is to keep it going," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises tonight’s scheduled Echuca harness meeting has been abandoned due to the extreme weather and fire conditions in the area. The CFA has issued a Code Red alert – Victoria’s highest bushfire warning level – for the Mallee and Northern Country regions. The advice from the CFA for a Code Red alert is: “These are the worst conditions for a bush or grass fire. Leaving high-risk bushfire areas the night before or early in the day is your safest option – do not wait and see” “Safety for all participants, human and equine, and staff is our top priority. Based on advice from the CFA and the weather conditions we have cancelled the Echuca meeting,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said. “We are closely monitoring the Wimmera region for today’s Horsham meeting. Conditions there are not as severe and the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a cool change will reach Horsham around lunchtime. Our first race is scheduled to start at 2.03pm. If the situation changes we will issue immediate alerts through all our channels.” HRV has been in communication with the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association throughout the morning in relation to tonight’s cancellation. HRV’s racing department is exploring the possibility of scheduling an additional Echuca meeting later in the season. Follow HRV’s social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and thetrots.com.au for updates.   HRV Trots Media

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) advises it is closely monitoring conditions in and around Echuca ahead of tomorrow night’s scheduled race meeting. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a top of 42 degrees in Echuca tomorrow, while the CFA has declared a Code Red – the state’s highest bushfire warning level – in the Mallee and Northern Country regions. HRV will provide updates for participants throughout tomorrow via its text message alert system in addition to social media (@TheTrotsComAU on Twitter and the HRV Facebook page) and web notifications at thetrots.com.au and harness.org.au. “Our number one priority is the welfare and safety of all participants, both human and horse. We’re closely monitoring tomorrow’s conditions and will provide updates as early and as regularly as possible in relation to tomorrow night’s Echuca meeting,” HRV CEO Dayle Brown said.   HRV is also monitoring conditions around Horsham, which is scheduled to host a race meeting tomorrow afternoon.   HRV Trots Media

Often-underrated mare Reciprocity will attempt to make a leap to the state's elite via this year's Flying Brick Cider Co. Geelong Pacing Cup, fresh from a one-lap last to first dash at Melton. Having won nine of 30 starts for trainer Peter Manning at an average starting price of $8.83, Reciprocity will launch from gate three in Saturday night's feature and has been installed as a $13 outsider with TAB.com.au. Reinswoman Kerryn Manning told Trots Talk the six-year-old mare "needs to step up and see what happens". "It's a very strong field, she's just drawn a bit awkward in three, where she's going to need to get in the running line probably and hopefully get some good cover." While co-favourites Tam Major and Trots Country Cups Championship leader Code Black loom large on the back row, Manning will be hoping the big guns pour plenty of pace into the race to allow Reciprocity to invoke her fast finish. That was certainly on display last Friday night, when she came from last at the bell to climb over the 12-horse field and win the $20,000 pace. "The race was run to suit - the leaders went pretty hard up front, we got a nice cart up, albeit three back and three wide, but she's a pretty smart horse on her day," Manning said. "It was pretty pleasing to go on and win." The world's most successful reinswoman is hoping that form can translate to Saturday's higher grade. "She's quite versatile, she has shown at times she can sit-sprint or she can do a bit of work. She's probably going to have to rely on a bit of luck, but if the speed's on she will run on really well. "The owner's a lovely fella, Henry (Campbell), and hopefully she can go well in the cup. It's a bit harder again this week but she deserves to be there." Manning has also prepared Pantzup, the pacer turned trotter who was a nominee for Victorian trotting mare of the year. Previously trained by Gavin Lang, who's battling illness, Pantzup will step off the back mark in Saturday's Yabby Dam Racing McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup. "Again we will need a lot of luck in a big field, but it's a nice even field, if she improves off St Arnaud (Cup) and gets a little bit go her way they will know she's there." CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO TROTS TALK:   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

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