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Shaun McNaulty fondly remembers sneaking out of school to get to St Arnaud's track and take in the trots and will return to the scene on Sunday for a "dream" tilt at the BSL/St Arnaud Sporting Club Trotters Cup. The 27-year-old Marong trainer, who grew up just a stone’s throw from St Arnaud at Logan, has fond memories of the track at which he was first exposed to the sport. “I remember wagging school one day, at the last ever meet (before the track closed for a while),” he said. “Me and my best mate wagged school so we could go watch it. We blamed the school for not being able to go to the trots. We got in trouble too. They knew we should have been in school.” McNaulty spent his early years in the industry at St Arnaud, acting as a board member for the club on his way to becoming a valued stablehand for some of the industry’s top trainers. In February he started his own stable, believing the time right to go out on his own. “I had worked for a couple of stables (including All Stars’ Mark Purdon) and I just thought if I’m going to be working I might as well be working for myself and putting in the hours into my own horses,” he said. “I sort of had three or four horses and I wasn’t spending time on them. I thought here’s my chance. I might as well go out on my own and have a crack.” He admitted running his own stable had been “bloody tough” but hoped it could all come together at the place it began on Sunday when Fratellino lines up in the BSL/St Arnaud Sporting Club Trotters Cup. “It would be a dream come true to win the cup, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s been my aim for the last 12 months.” McNaulty hoped to put a disappointing seventh in the Swan Hill Trotters Cup, of which he said he had worked the gelding too hard, behind him and outstay “a very even field”. “I think he’s chance (to win) but I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t run top three,” he said. McNaulty’s other starter, Rift Valley, had been scratched due to a “couple of little issues”, he said. He also hoped the return of St Arnaud’s Fabian Bigmore - in his first drive since March 19, 2005 - could give Fratellino the hometown edge.    “It would be great to see him get the chocolates.” McNaulty said a family connection to Bigmore’s grandfather, St Arnaud trainer Frank Evans, had prompted a call to the former driver, who only regained his licence this week. “When I was in St Arnaud I had a bit to do with Frank. We had our horses at his place and he taught me a lot. (Fabian) is the grandson of Frank, so I thought I reckon Frank will enjoy seeing him driving in the St Arnaud cup. “I rang him a week or so ago about the possibility and he said ‘if my licence comes through’. Thankfully it did, so we put him on.” It will be the first time Fratellino has contested a leg of this year’s $10,000 Maori’s Idol Trophy Series, which is led by Father Christmas and King Denny who scored maximum points when saluting at Kilmore and Swan Hill respectively. King Denny will start off 10m in Sunday’s cup and have a chance to not only take a significant stranglehold on the trotting championship but strengthen his hold on a starting place in December’s Inter Dominion. He is presently ranked 25th, having jumped from 68th place courtesy of a Swan Hill win. The $25,000 Trots Country Cups Pacing Championship is headed by San Carlo (10 points), Im The Boss (10 points) and Menin Gate (five points). None feature in Sunday’s Weir’s Supa IGA St Arnaud Pacing Cup but it bodes as a very competitive race, headlined by Kerryn Manning’s Motu Meteor and Kima Frenning’s New Zealand newcomer Buster Brady, who book end the field in gates 11 and one respectively. There will also be plenty of family-friendly activities on the day, with children able to enter for free and enjoy farm yard animals, a balloon sculptor, face painting and Pat Your HERO. More details: http://www.trotscountry.com.au/meeting/st-arnaud/   Mark Smith Trots Media

At picturesque Yarra Valley racecourse today, Shepparton pacer San Carlo (pictured right, by Nikkita Ross) took another mighty step towards scaling the TAB Inter Dominion pinnacle. The brilliant eight-year-old dazzled as he sat parked outside one of the toughest horses in the caper in the United Petroleum Yarra Valley Pacing Cup before scooting clear in the last 200m for an emphatic win. San Carlo’s driver, Bec Bartley, only needed to gently flick the reins when she wanted her charge to go, and go he did, the pair romping home by 4.8 metres as Hickstead ran the race of his life in second place and early leader Im The Boss battled into third. “He took himself to the front, and as soon as I pulled the plugs he took off,” Bartley said of the 1:56.8 win. “He was so strong right to the line. We’re super happy with him.” Today’s win came at just his third run back from a spell and trainer Stephen O’Donoghue has San Carlo on track to peak during ID18, which kicks off on Saturday night December 1 at Tabcorp Park Melton. It was 12 days ago that San Carlo fiercely fended off Tiger Tara in the Decron Cranbourne Gold Cup. That pacer is a serious player in the New Zealand Trotting Cup on Tuesday. So it is little wonder TAB today slashed San Carlo’s ID18 price from $10 this morning into $7 by early evening. San Carlo was ranked No.6 at the most recent ID18 rankings released on October 31 after initially being No.14 when nominations closed. When the fourth and final rankings are revealed on Wednesday November 21, he’ll be higher again. Read more here   Cody Winnell Trots Media

Three-time Inter Dominion winning trainer Chris Lang is hoping to make his long-awaited return from a spell next week. It has been three years and eight months since Lang last graced the track, stepping away from the sport he loves in 2015 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. A masterful horseman, the now Riddells Creek based 58-year-old trained Galleons Sunset to win trotting’s greatest prize in 2008, and scored back-to-back ID successes with Sundons Gift in 2009 and 2010. In a nutshell, Lang was diagnosed with a mishmash of medical conditions – scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and Reynaud’s Syndrome. “It’s a connective tissue disease,” Lang said. “I was hoping by stepping away from the driving it might resolve the issue, but it has stayed the same. It hasn’t gotten any better, but hasn’t gotten any worse. “I’m hoping I can manage myself a bit better this time.” The lengthy spell has revitalised the charismatic trots man. And if desire, skill and a fiercely competitive spirit mean anything, it won’t be long before Lang’s name is once again being etched on Group 1 trotting honour rolls.  “The hunger’s really good. The three years off has been a great thing for me,” he said. “Sometimes an extended spell can change a horse, and it’s certainly changed how I feel. I’ve got fresh eyes, a fresh outlook … everything is new again.” The prospect of training quality trotters excites Lang. He has 10 horses in work, including Next Thru for owner and friend Richard Matthews. That horse is a half-brother to Let Me Thru, who Lang trained for Matthews to win six Group 1s between 2009 and 2011 – including the $150,000 Australasian Trotting Championship Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Additionally Lang also has smart mare Derrie Aire and untapped CR Commander colt Miyabomba – a half-brother to Cobram Cup winner Quillabamba and a full sibling to 2011 Victoria Trotters Oaks runner-up Moyabamba – in his stables. All going well, Miyabomba will be Lang’s first runner at Kilmore next Wednesday. “I’ve had to have 15 trial drives because of the extended break and I’ll wrap those up this weekend,” Lang said. “The goal now is to win another three Inter Dominions.”   Cody Winnell

KIWI trainers can breath a little easier with Australia’s top trotter Tornado Valley staying home instead of raiding Cup Week in Christchurch. Trainer Andy Gath and owner Norm Jenkin tossed the decision around for two days after Tornado Valley’s stunning Cranbourne win last Saturday night. “In the end, we’ve decided to stay home,” Gath said. “The two major reasons are he’s not a good traveller and it’s a big trip from Melbourne to Sydney by road then fly to Christchurch. And we’ve also got an Inter Dominion and the Great Southern Star still to come in our own backyard. “He travelled a better to Cranbourne (about two hours from Gath’s Long Forest stable last weekend), but it’s a lot bigger ask getting him across Christchurch. “You know me, I love to tackle the best races anywhere when we’ve got the right horse, but this time we’re better staying home and focusing on the Inter Dominion given it’s just around the corner.” Tornado Valley made it 12 wins from just 16 Aussie starts for Gath when he produced a career-best performance in the Group 3 Chris Howe Trotters’ Cup (2555m) at Cranbourne last Saturday night. Best known as a front-of-the-field horse, the gelding showed his versatility by sitting back and coming with a big, sustained run in the last lap to blow away many of Victoria’s best trotters. His speed blitz including a privately-time 26.9sec split from the 800-400m and powered clear to win by 13.5m over talented mare Sky Petite and top class veteran Kyvalley Blur. “We were thrilled with him. He’s come back really well. He had to do plenty of work in the last lap, but he ran away from them in the end. And that’s saying something given how well Kyvalley Blur has been going,” Gath said. Kyvalley Blur ran another solid race for third and his Christchurch raid remains on target. Adam Hamilton

Tiger Tara’s NZ Cup raid is bang on target despite a narrow defeat in last night’s $50,000 Group 2 Cranbourne Cup. The recent Victoria Cup winner did all the work outside the leader – the emerging San Carlo – and went down by a just half a neck in a blazing 54.8sec last half around a notoriously slow track. It was a mighty effort given it was Tiger Tara’s fourth start in as many weeks, including his second round trip from Sydney to Melbourne. And it came the same night he was crowned NSW Horse of the Year. Now it’s full-stream ahead to the NZ Cup. While most eyes were on Tiger Tara, the top prize went to emerging Victoria pacer San Carlo, who has been specifically set for the Inter Dominion by co-trainers Steve O’Donoghue and Bec Bartley. San Carlo won a heat of the Perth Inter Dominion last year and despite being an eight-year-old, has been sparingly raced, essentially because he’s been such a slow maturer. He’s won both runs back from a long spell and 23 of his 35 career runs. Bartley took the reins on San Carlo and showed intent from the start when she pushed forward to take the lead from speedster Audi Hare then steady the tempo, forcing Todd McCarthy to circle the field to sit parked on Tiger Tara. They scorched down the back straight in 27sec flat, but as hard as Tiger Tara tried, San Carlo kept answering and staved him off. Another emerging star, Shadow Sax, charged home from near the rear to finish a close third. It was a fantastic content and showed all three will be major Melbourne Inter Dominion players. ____________________________________________________________________________________ GOOD to hear powerful WA stable “Team Bond” is planning a two-horse raid on the Melbourne Inter Dominion. Greg and Skye Bond have been major players in the past three home state Gloucester Park Inter Dominions and have never been afraid to travel. Stable rep Ryan Warwick said proven open-class player Galactic Star and the emerging Vampiro had been set for Melbourne. Galactic Star, who won a heat of last year’s Inter Dominon and ran fifth to Lazarus in the final, is about to return from a short break. “He’ll be back in a week or so and, given he’s more experienced, he’s probably our main hope for Melbourne,” Warwick said. “Vampiro went through the grades really quickly and now, after a few runs at open-class, he’s settling into it. His last win was terrific.” The only issue for the Team Bond – and any other WA trainers – is the availability of suitable flights back to Perth after the Melbourne series given the December 15. Cargo space is at a premium with so much Christmas “luggage.” ____________________________________________________________________________________ A BRILLIANT Shannon Suvaljko drive helped Tommy Be Good to a big upset win in the feature race at Gloucester Park last Friday night. Suvaljko, renowned for his marker peg genius around the tight track, extricated Tommy Be Good from three pegs in a solidly-run Parliamentarians Cup to finish over the top of them and win as a $29.90 outsider. Heavily-backed favourite King Of Swing was in trouble soon after the start when unable to lead, then dragged back to last behind another horse trapped three-wide. Driver Stuey McDonald made a three-wide charge with a lap to go, but King Of Swing was spent before the home bend and dropped out sharply to run last. The other buzz runner, Mitch Maguire, was stuck in traffic, had no luck at all and charged home when the race was over for sixth spot. ____________________________________________________________________________________ TEAM Tritton’s fantastic strike rate with Kiwi imports continued at Menangle last week. Recent import Bridget Blue Chip looked fantastic winning at third run for the stable in slick time after sitting parked. She ran a 1min51.7sec mile. “She’s got better with each run and went super the other day. Not many can go that time sitting parked,” co-trainer Shane Tritton said. “She’s another one the owners just rang us and asked if they could send her across.” Team Tritton was also prominent at the NSW Horse of the Year awards in Sydney last night. They were the leading metro stable and picked up two of the horse categories: Muscle Factory 2YO colt/gelding of the year and My Rona Gold the Aged pacing mare.   Adam Hamilton

Following an extensive review of Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) Licencing Policy and consultation with the Victorian Trainers and Drivers Association (VTDA), the HRV Board has approved a revised Licensing Policy draft and a Show Cause Committee Charter (SCSC), which will commence December 1, 2018. The revised policy includes an overarching requirement for the participant to be “of good reputation and character, and is a fit and proper person to hold the licence for which the applicant has applied”. The criteria for determining the above is set out in Schedule 1 of the policy, which can be read online here. Other amendments made to the Licencing Policy will assist new people entering the harness racing industry in Victoria, while maintaining robust protection of the industry’s integrity. “The community has the right to demand the highest level of integrity from those involved in the professional sporting industry. The introduction of this policy provides an additional safeguard for HRV to ensure our industry maintains its social licence and fosters confidence for all involved,” HRV General Manager of Integrity Brent Fisher said.    Cody Winnell

The 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year, Menin Gate, is exactly the kind of horse racing fans warm to; a fierce competitor with a will to win and a tenacity that stables him in the hearts of punters. His trainer and driver, Michael Stanley (of Burrumbeet), describes Menin Gate as "a warrior", and now that he's back, all going well, he promises to be a headline act at this year's Victorian TAB Inter Dominion. Last Friday night's courageous 3SH Swan Hill Cup win saw Menin Gate's customary fight in full view, holding off fitter challengers such as Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup winner Im The Boss and rising metro star Magical Marn to win the second leg of the Victorian Trots Country Cups Championship at his first run back in almost 18 months. "He'd been in work for quite some time," Stanley told RSN's One Out, One Back this morning. Read the full story here   Cody Winnell Trots Media

Jilliby Kung Fu is the 2017-18 Victorian harness horse of the year after the annual honours were bestowed upon the winners at last night’s Gordon Rothacker Medal event at Crown Palladium. Over 450 people attended the industry’s night of nights, which also featured a lengthy list of honours, including legend I.R. Dick Lee receiving the prestigious Gordon Rothacker Medal. In the Horse of the Year awards, Jilliby Kung Fu, trained by Marg Lee, secured top gong for a dual Group 1 winning four-year-old season (wins in the TAB 4YO Bonanza at Melton and the Chariots of Fire at Menangle), plus a runner-up effort beaten a head in the Grand Circuit open-age classic, the Miracle Mile, in 1:46.9. Check out what the award recipients had to say about their equine stars The Victorian Horse of the Year voting panel, comprising 10 judges, voted 4-2-1 for overall Horse of the Year, and Jilliby Kung Fu picked up 20 votes to finish five ahead of Lennytheshark, whose biggest win for the year was the Group 1 Victoria Cup. Lennytheshark, who won the open-aged pacing entires and geldings’ horse of the year gong, also won an Inter Dominion heat and finished second in the Group 1 Ballarat Cup and fourth in the Group 1 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup. Filly Shez All Rock capped a dazzling three-year-old season by winning Victorian three-year-old filly of the year and was third in the overall Victorian Horse of the Year category with 12 votes. Shez All Rock was judged on her performances when trained in Victoria by Emma Stewart and then Mark Pitt, with her major performances therefore being her Group 1 Alabar Victoria Oaks and New South Wales Oaks successes. Trotter Sparkling Success was fourth overall for Victorian Horse of the Year (11 votes), the John Meade-trained star winning the open-age trotting entires and geldings’ section after winning two Group 1 races for the season – the Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star and the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile. Soho Tribeca (six votes) finished in fifth place for the overall Victorian Horse of the Year award. Importantly, judges could only take into account Soho Tribeca’s performances when trained by a Victorian-based trainer. Soho Tribeca won the Group 2 Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup, and placed in the Group 1 Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup, Group 1 Allied Express Sprint and Group 1 Miracle Mile. Other horses to pick up votes in the overall Victorian Horse of the Year were trotting mare Maori Time (four votes), open-age pacing mare Ameretto and last season’s premier three-year-old male, Poster Boy (one vote each). The judging panel consisted of Rob Auber, Jason Bonnington, Michael Guerin, Adam Hamilton, Michael Howard, Lachlan McIntosh, Dan Mielicki, Craig Rail, Blake Redden and Cody Winnell.   Victorian Horse of the Year 2017-18 results 2YO Pacing Colts and Geldings Centenario: 32 Hurricane Harley: 28 Hardhitter: 8 Lochinvar Art: 2 2YO Pacing Fillies Kualoa: 38 Soho Nolita: 20 Major Kiss: 6 Tangoingwithsierra: 4 Two Times Bettor: 2 3YO Pacing Colts and Geldings Poster Boy: 40 (unanimous) Ride High: 20 Major Times: 4 Konan: 3 Master Moonlite: 2 Duplicated: 1 3YO Pacing Fillies Shez All Rock: 34 Speak No Evil:  26 Soho Burning Love: 10 4YO Pacing Entires and Geldings Jilliby Kung Fu: 40 (unanimous) Wrappers Delight: 20 Motu Meteor: 6 Stars Align: 3 Magical Marn:  1 4YO Pacing Mares Carlas Pixel: 36 Tell Me Tales: 24 Flying Moth: 10 5YO+ Pacing Entires and Geldings Lennytheshark: 34 Soho Tribeca: 23 Shadow Sax: 13 5YO+ Pacing Mares Ameretto: 40 (unanimous) Our Golden Goddess: 19 Berisari: 11 2YO Trotting Colts and Geldings Always Ready: 40 (unanimous) Kyvalley Clichy: 17 Moreton Bay:  13 2YO Trotting Fillies Sleepee: 30 Emerald Stride: 26 Fear The Yankee: 13 Georgias Pride: 1 3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings Wobelee: 30 Stress Factor: 29 Anywhere Hugo: 11 3YO Trotting Fillies Moonshine Linda: 40 (unanimous) Pretty Majestic:   20 Moonlite Dream: 10 4YO Trotting Entires and Geldings Kheiron: 40 (unanimous) Deltasun: 20 Claudys Prince: 5 Garshaway: 2 Carnera:  1 Hellbound:  1 Illawong Byron:  1 4YO Trotting Mares Margaret Ruth:  33 Kinvara Sue: 23 Margaret Jean: 9 Myrtle Vale: 3 Andyou: 2 5YO+ Trotting Entires and Geldings Sparkling Success: 38 Tornado Valley: 21 Kyvalley Blur: 11 5YO+ Trotting Mares Maori Time: 32 Red Hot Tooth:  27 Regal Pepperell: 7 Hey Yo:  3 My Tribeca:  1 Overall Victorian Horse of the Year Jilliby Kung Fu: 20 Lennytheshark: 15 Shez All Rock: 12 Sparkling Success: 11 Soho Tribeca: 6 Maori Time: 4 Ameretto: 1 Poster Boy: 1 Cody Winnell Trots Media

“HE’S as good as any of the three-year-olds in the stable!” That’s the high praise from trainer Emma Stewart when discussing unbeaten Australian Pacing Gold purchase Demon Delight. Especially considering her team includes Group One winners and fellow APG graduates Hurricane Harley and Centenario, which was named 2017/18 Victorian Two-Year-Old of the Year just moments ago. But with an average winning margin of 11 metres, it’s hard to argue with Stewart’s huge wrap. “I’ve got a very big opinion of him,” Stewart said. “He’s only had three starts and is still on the way up, but he’s as good as any of the three-year-olds in the stable! “We are definitely looking at races such as the Victoria Derby with him.” Demon Delight maintained his perfect record with a commanding triumph at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. With Chris Alford holding the reins, the son of Bettors Delight began quickly to lead from the pole as Im Sir Blake worked on his outside. Striding clear around the final bend, Demon Delight was untouched to score by 15-and-a-half metres from Prosecco Boy, with Im Sir Blake six metres away third in a slick 1:52.7 over 1720 metres. “After leading he was never going to be run down,” Stewart said. “His ran a quick time without being tested, which shows how much upside there is to him.” APG Media

HIS name is a question which is easily answered following Whats In The Esky’s victory at Tabcorp Park Melton last night. Unbeaten from three starts this season, Whats In The Esky made sure there is an abundance of premium refreshments in the iconic Aussie cooler this morning! “We couldn’t be happier with him,” trainer Allan McDonough said. “There are a few of us in him and we all love a drink. “The Esky is full and we'll be enjoying his win on a perfect sunny spring Sunday. “I’m fixing a few fences at the moment, but I’ll be reaching into the Esky soon enough.” McDonough explained the four-year-old’s name extends from a comment made following the purchase of a colt at the 2015 Melbourne Australian Pacing Gold Sale. “Adrian Darcy was with us at the sale and he was the only one there with an esky,” McDonough recalled. “After he put up his hand for the winning bid the auctioneer said ‘sold to man with the esky’, which is what we named that horse…Manwiththeeski. “Now the ‘esky’ part of it has rolled on from there.” Purchased at the 2016 Australian Pacing Gold Sale, Whats In The Esky has thrived since returning from a spell, with his latest win coming with Greg Sugars in the cart. After finding the lead from barrier three, Whats In The Esky was eased to take a trail behind Wanted Lady, which was surged to the front from gate four. Angled away from the pegs leaving the back straight, the son of Western Edition cruised to an effortless seven-and-a-half metre win from the pacemaker, with Ozzie Major a half-head away third in 1:58.1 over 2240 metres. “His work and form since I moved to Ballan has been sensational,” McDonough said. “I expected him to come back better after a short break, but not as much as he has, which has been a bit of a shock. “Since being at Ballan I’ve been able to fast work him, where as previously I couldn’t do it as much on my smaller tight track, and he has grown a leg. “He is beating my metro horses at home so I can’t see any reason why he won’t go through the grades. “There is a race at Ballarat next week that I will enter him and then keep going along from there.” APG Media

Menin Gate and King Denny have turned back the clock to record stunning victories in Friday night’s Swan Hill pacing and trotting cups. Form and injuries have meant it has been a long time since either of the pair graced the winner’s circle, but the duo set up tantalising tilts at this year’s Inter Dominion series with the wins. The heavily-backed Menin Gate led from the get go, holding off spirited late charges by Im the Boss and Magical Marn to take out the 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. 'The Birchip Bull's' mile rate of 1.57.3 equalled a track record over 2790m (set by Arden Rooney in 2015) and was the 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year’s first race back after a 16-month layoff due to injury. In the What the Hill Swan Hill Trotting Cup, King Denny found good coverage from Sky Petite before turning three-wide on the final bend and coming home for a hard-fought win ahead of Our Dreamlover and Sky Petite. It was the 2014 New Zealand 3YO Trotter of the Year’s first win since May 30 2015 and one trainer Michael Gadsden described as a “surreal” moment. “He was such a good horse in NZ as a three-year-old and he’s been through four or five other stables since. So to finally get him somewhere near what you know he can do was a real thrill,” he said. “Everything went to plan well. He hasn’t been stepping away from the tapes real well lately and it’s been costing him. He’s been getting off slow. I said to Denbeigh (Wade) if he gets away well enough see if you can go around and get some cover and it worked out perfectly really.” Menin Gate trainer Michael Stanley said it had been a hard-fought pacing cup win. “We probably had to kick up and go a little bit harder in the lead time than we expected (but) we were able to back off in the first half," Stanley said. “I was a little bit concerned that Im The Boss didn’t do much work and when I was getting a breather he got around really cheap but full credit to the horse, he sort of had that feel about him that he wanted to win and he didn’t give in, he wanted to be the winner.” The wins are likely to place the pair more firmly in the Inter Dominion series calculations with the next lot of TAB Inter Dominion pacing and trotting championship rankings due out at 10am on October 31. “Hopefully with the win we can get (Menin Gate’s) ranking down below 30” Stanley said. “Hopefully we can be in that spot now where we are in contention.” After two rounds of the Trots Country Cup Championship, Im the Boss leads on eight points, ahead of Menin Gate (five points) and Three Ways, Bad Billy and Magical Marn (three points each). In the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship, King Denny joins Father Christmas (six points each) atop the leader board, ahead of Our Dreamlover, Margaret Ruth and Kyvalley Barney (three points each). On Saturday, the third leg of the Trots Country Cup Championship will be the Cranbourne Pacing Cup, while the Maori’s Idol Trotting Championship resumes at Yarra Valley on November 8.   Mark Smith Trots Media

If Gottashopearly can produce a minor miracle and qualify for December’s TAB Inter Dominion series, he’ll be positioned to become the pride of Tamworth. For the duration of the three-week ID18 series at least, the Country Music Festival preparations will take backseat as the Richard Williams-prepared steed takes on the best in Australasia’s premier harness racing series. Heck, if Gottashopearly wins they’ll have to replace the Golden Guitar with the bronzed pacer. “We’ve definitely thrown him in the deep end of the pool,” acknowledged trainer Williams on RSN’s One Out, One Back this morning. “He won our feature at Tamworth over 2700m and rated a 2:01 mile rate on a 750m track. As far as the Inter Dominion nomination is concerned it wasn’t really on the radar until we sort of thought, everything ticks the boxes for him. He loves the quick back-up and he’s a genuine stayer. "We’ve taken him to Brisbane and Menangle to step him up and see what he’s got. He wouldn’t disgrace himself, so we thought we’d throw him in and have a stab. And if it’s not this year, who knows, maybe next year.” Gottashopearly has already jumped 11 spots in the TAB ID18 rankings since the initial positions were released earlier this month, but he’s still got a long way to go. He’s up to 92 (from 103), starting out second-lowest ranked of the 104 entrants. A forward showing in tomorrow night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup would see him thunder up the charts. And there’s money in the market to suggest he just might – backed from $31 to $14 with TAB.com.au’s fixed odds market for the Swan Hill Trots Country Cups Championship feature. “We haven’t driven 12 hours for nothing,” Williams said when asked about the pacer’s chances at Swan Hill. Similar to fellow Swan Hill Cup and ID18 contender Im The Boss, Gottashopearly is a former claimer. “Basically I was nagging the owners to claim the horse about four months ago and they weren’t real keen on him … they ended up claiming him to keep me quiet. Now they’re pretty big fans of him,” Williams said. Cody Winnell

There will be a few trainers and owners looking to improve their horse’s ID18 rankings at Trots HQ on Saturday night, among that number is Kyabram horseman Mark Watson, who's hoping for continued improvement from two runners at different stages of their careers. Watson will gear up former star juvenile Brallos Pass in the Welcome Pridmore Electrics! Pace over 2240m and promising three-year-old Prosecco Boy in the 1720m Prydes EasiFeed 3YO Pace Final. He said Brallos Pass, who won the 2016 SA Derby and got within 2.3m of champion Lazarus in 1:52.9 the next year, was almost ready to fire after two runs back from a spell. “He hasn’t had great form (these) two runs in but hadn’t raced for a fair while and there weren’t that many suitable trials around so we went to the races,” Watson said. “When you get to his class you can’t (expect to win) when you’re only 80 per cent fit but I have been happy enough with both his runs. “The trouble he has been having at the moment is he has drawn poor. And he has drawn poor again on Saturday night so I will leave that up to (driver) Ellen (Tormey). He may take one more run but he’s not far off.” The likes of Audi Hare (25th in ID18 rankings) , Love Ina Chevy (40th), Burnaholeinmypocket (45th) and Hickstead (91st) will join Watson’s six-year-old in trying to improve their TAB Inter Dominion rankings on Saturday night, as will a great chunk of the field in the Aldebaran Park Trot. ID18’s second round of rankings, released this week, have Brallos Pass at 33 in the pacing pecking order, which has him starting if the series was run tomorrow. “That’s the pipedream isn’t it,” Watson told thetrots.com.au. “You look at last Saturday night, the Victoria Cup, gee there were some nice horses in that. I feel he may be in that lower, next category, (but) he never disgraces himself.  “But for us it is a dream to participate in a series like that. Hopefully he can keep on improving and he can go through the series. We’ll have no expectations and enjoy the ride.” The latter statement also rings true for Prosecco Boy, who set tongues wagging after his first start third to Emma Stewart’s highly rated youngster Demon Delight at Shepparton earlier this month. “He drew bad, would have run a really quick quarter down the back and just wobbled a bit on the corner and lost his momentum a little bit, but he was good,” Watson said. “He has definitely got some speed, there’s no doubting that, but I don’t think the boom and the horse deserve each other just yet." He said Prosecco Boy, who on Saturday night faces Demon Delight again from very similar draws to Shepparton, was a late starter who had “come a long way in a short time”. “We didn’t break this fella in until really late, he was nearly a two-year-old, as he kept on getting bad infections and colds as a young one,” he said. “He is still very babyish in the mind; he is a little bit of a spooky little fella and it took him a little bit of time to get his confidence.” Watson said Prosecco Boy’s rapid improvement meant it was hard to gauge where he might end up. “If you had have asked me (what he was like) about six weeks ago I would have said ‘nah, I don’t like this one’,” he said. “(But) you notice a weekly improvement in him, in his mannerisms and his affection towards yourself and the other horses; he is a much friendlier horse now. “He’s not in the same league (as Brallos Pass at the same age). I have never, ever put him in the same street. He has a fair way to go to live up to (the hype)." Shaun Campbell

More than 50 members of the Swan Hill Football Netball Club will attend the 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup trots this Friday night as part of Harness Racing Victoria’s Grassroots Gold campaign. The local trots club has partnered with the football club, which will gain all returns from Harness Racing Victoria's GoodForm Grassroots Gold $500 Game Plan. “HRV is proud to support the 25 country trots clubs and their partner clubs and associations right across Victoria by providing the vouchers for the Grassroots Gold campaign and raising important revenue for grassroots sports, particularly in our regional communities where the trots clubs provide important social, economic and communal outcomes,” HRV General Manager of Marketing Andrew English said. “Good luck to the Swan Hill Football Netball Club this Friday night and I am sure the big group of footy club members attending the 3SH Swan Hill Cup for this promotion will have a fantastic night at the trots.” Secretary of the Swan Hill Football Club Carl Hufer said ‘the Swans’ were heavily engaged in the local community. READ: Swan Hill Cup bid has Vic Horse of the Year out of the Gate early “Our club has 474 members with players from five footy sides and nine netball sides,” Mr Hufer said. “We run the annual triathlon each year, which involves 120 volunteers and raises funds for the Swan Hill Swimming Pool, we do the clean-up for the Swan Hill Racing Carnival, our members tin-rattle for the Good Friday Appeal and we’re always willing to assist when required for community events and fundraisers. “We’re looking forward to attending on Friday night and have promoted the trots cup heavily to our members. We’ll have over 50 in the Think Big Room and it will be a great way to get together post-season and enjoy each other’s company.” Mr Hufer said the club appreciated being involved with Grassroots Gold and any revenue gained would go to great use. "It takes a lot to put 14 sides and over 160 players out on the court and field each week, so any funds greatly assist," he said. "Our long-term goal is for a new club room facility that can be used not only by our club but the community. "We are also planning to undertake a project to preserve all our history through scanning of photos and other memorabilia." The GoodForm Game Plan will be published at thetrots.com.au tomorrow. The Kilmore Football Netball Club collected $429.90 as the first Grassroots Gold partner club on September 27. For more details on Grassroots Gold click here.   Cody Winnell Trots Media

Menin Gate trainer Michael Stanley is just looking for a competitive hit out from his new star recruit in Friday’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup. But it wouldn’t surprise him if the horse pulled off a first-up win. The 2015 Victorian Horse of the Year is a surprise starter in the race - his first start since being sidelined with a fractured pelvis 16 months ago. Stanley said the plan had always been for Menin Gate - who joined his Burrumbeet stable in August - to make a run at this year’s Victorian Inter Dominion series after arriving in good health after such a long spell. But two impressive trial wins at Maryborough in the past two weeks saw him nominate the seven-year-old ahead of schedule. “To be honest, I didn’t plan on racing him this early,” Stanley said. “He’s had a slow build up, we haven’t rushed him. We’ve had no little niggles with his injury. Everything has gone really well. “His first trial he didn’t do too much, we just sat last and didn’t pull out until the straight and let him run home under his own steam. And when I pulled him out he really attacked the line, he wanted to beat the others. So I was really impressed with that. “I took him to the trials (again) on Sunday and I thought I’m just going to push him out a bit and give him a really good hit out and just see if he is sharp enough to go to Swan Hill. And he was super. The times he run were equivalent to what he’d have to run in a race.” Stanley said while his expectations for Friday were simply for Menin Gate to get through the race and be competitive, he believed the former Group 1 winner was up to the pace for a cup win. “It just looked like an ideal race to step him out in first up,” he said. “Going for the Inter Dominion, we’d like to get our ranking down and be peaking for when that’s on, but he’s definitely forward enough that he’ll run a really good race first up for sure.” Friday night’s 3SH Swan Hill Pacing Cup is the second leg of the Trots Country Cups Championship, which kicked off at Kilmore on September 27. The David Aiken-trained Im The Boss, who was a last start sixth in Saturday night’s Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, will be out to record a fifth country cup, having won at Shepparton, Mildura and Cobram last season before saluting at Kilmore last month. Stanley said the plan against the country cups champ would be to use the favourable gate three draw to set the pace early. “(Menin Gate’s) a really good front runner and a hard horse to pass, so that’s probably the plan,” he said. “We’ve got Im the Boss on the back line and a couple of handy sprinters in the middle of the front row, so if we can keep them behind us that’s probably the ideal way to tackle it early on. “(But) the expectations (for this one) really are just to get him back to the races and be competitive. Anything above that is a bonus.” Stanley also has the backmarker in the What the Hill Swan Hill Trotters Cup in Sky Petite, who he said would look to build on a first-up fifth in the Maori Miss Trotters Free for All. “Her work had been fantastic since before she went to Melton first up,” he said. “I think she probably just overdid it a little bit early. The lead time was fairly quick, I think the second quickest of the night, even with the pacing races. So first-up from a spell, with that quick lead time, she ran through the middle section a little bit too quick and she got tired. “(But) I think she was beaten by one of the best up and coming trotters we have in Dance Craze, who sat on her back and she fought on well. She only got beat the eight or nine metres. “The country cup races probably suit her better than the 2200m mobiles. With the long 2700m stand she’ll have time to settle and follow them into the race, instead of being the one that does the work. There’s a couple of nice trotters in that race though, so it’s going to be a good race, but I’m sure she’ll race really well.”     It promises to be a ripping night at Swan Hill, with gates to open at 5pm and the course hosting free children’s activities, a punters' club plus a range of different options to take in the night’s racing. While the corporate box and private deck have sold out, patrons can still snap up a dinning ticket or a place in the Pooles Pavilion via www.swanhilltrots.com.au Mark Smith Trots Media

Nominations for the 2018 TAB Inter Dominion series in Melbourne later this year have now closed. A total of 104 pacers are chasing the code’s ultimate prize while 88 trotters are striving for greatness, it’s the first time since 2012 that a trotting series has been staged. Ironically, the last trotting series staged was won by the star performer I Can Doosit, prepared by master horseman Mark Purdon. With most states of Australia represented across both divisions plus both islands of New Zealand, the series looks loaded with talent. And the Sunshine State is amongst the early action. The John Cremin prepared Melpark Royal Son and the Grant Dixon trained duo of Miracle Rising and Our Overanova are all nominated for the trotting series. In the pacing division, Grant Dixon has a trio nominated including Alleluia, Frankie Rocks and Ohoka Punter while Chantal Turpin has nominated both Mattgregor and Watch Pulp Fiction. The last pacing series staged in Melbourne back in 2008 went the way of Queensland champion Blacks A Fake. A winner of four Inter Dominion Grand Finals, ‘Blackie’ scored a dominant victory at Moonee Valley. The first round of rankings will be released by Harness Racing Victoria tomorrow (Wednesday). The series starts on December 1 with the Grand Finals scheduled for December 15 at TABCORP Park, Melton.   Chris Barsby

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