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Jason Lee isn’t afraid to take a glance at the stars with in-form square-gaiter Jilliby Babavska following his third successive triumph on Saturday night. Lee was at the controls as the son of Sundon burst through along the sprint lane to take out the Pryde’s Easi Lyte Trot at Tabcorp Park Melton, putting a third picket on the fence. Trained by his brother Paddy, Lee said the big races across the summer carnival were on the agenda for the six-year-old. “I would love to have him win a Group 1 race - that would be awesome if he could do that,” Lee said. “There’s probably no real standouts in the trotters at the moment, apart from maybe Tornado Valley when he is up and going, and probably six or seven other really nice ones. “Obviously McLovin went super Saturday night, but I reckon in the big race (Alderbaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint) with the right run, (Jilliby Babavska) could have won the race.” A leg injury that required a pin to be inserted into a back fetlock saw Jilliby Babavska sidelined throughout 2018. He eventually returned to the races in May this year and has strung together eight wins since. Lee didn’t take much prodding to label Jilliby Babavska one of the quickest trotters he’d driven. “I reckon he is one of, if not the, quickest trotter I’ve sat behind for sheer speed,” Lee said. “He is definitely a difficult horse to drive, but in terms of speed I haven’t driven a lot of trotters that can reel off 27 quarters like he was able to do there a couple of weeks ago at Melton. “When you hit the button, it’s just like driving a fast pacer. He has just got that sheer speed. He has definitely got the attributes to turn into a Group 1 winning trotter." Lee said it’s likely Jilliby Babavska would be nominated for the Group 3 Maryborough Trotters Cup on Sunday.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media

The “perfect horse” Bling It On put in a clinical, explosive performance to win a record-smashing Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup, capping a stunning comeback story. The 2017 A. G. Hunter Cup winner has barely been seen since that career-best performance owing to a bad fall and subsequent injury, but though fresh off a 10-month "retirement" and only second up he showed he had lost none of his brilliance in rounding up the Group 1 field. “He’s such a special horse,” said reinsman Luke McCarthy. “Everyone knows his story by now and for him to come back second up after having that long off and win a Victoria Cup is just a credit to the horse. “He’s so sound and wants to do it, he’s a beautiful horse, open bridle, no head check, no boots, no tongue tie – he’s just a professional. The trip worked out beautifully tonight and lucky enough he was good enough to finish it off.” The speed map’s proved true as Cash N Flow crossed Colt Thirty One to lead and placed Bling It On three back on the pegs, while San Carlo worked to the breeze ahead of Buster Brady and Tam Major. The brisk 42.7-second lead time preceded little respite through the 29 and 28.5-second first and second quarters, and when Buster Brady faded from the running line mid-race the door opened for Bling It On to explode into contention. Off the 27.6-second third quarter Bling It On ate into the leader’s gap to the final turn, easing three-wide outside San Carlo and by the 100-metre mark he was a length clear and had the race in hand. Colt Thirty One and Cruz Bromac filled out the placings and San Carlo bravely got over Cash N Flow in his final strides to fill out the first four, but it was Bling It On’s title for McCarthy and trainer Craig Cross. A 27.4-second final quarter sealed a 1:51.5 mile rate record, breaking Lennytheshark’s 2018 mark. “He’s just an utter professional, just a brilliant racehorse, we got a beautiful run tonight and it just worked out perfect,” McCarthy said. “It’s hard to explain, he’s just such a perfect horse, he’s that smart. He’s getting collected, serving mares as we speak – he got collected yesterday and then jumped on the float and come down for Vic Cup. “He feels as good as ever. Being an older stallion he should only race into better form through the preparation.” Bling It On will likely carry plenty of favour as he turns his attention to a New Zealand campaign that will likely include the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Inter Dominion to follow. Making the win all the more special, the participating drivers wore helmet covers in tribute to reinsman Gavin Lang, who is battling ill health.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

McLovin sent a hearty warning shot across the Tasman with a gritty, brilliant victory in the Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters' Sprint. With most of Australia’s trotting heads of state in the field McLovin sat three-wide for the bulk of the 1720-metre sprint and still proved too good, saluting by a head from Big Jack Hammer. “He’s a great horse, we were debating whether we trial him or race him in this race first up and decided to bring him here,” trainer Andy Gath said. “We were disappointed during the week when we had to scratch a good horse in Tornado Valley, but to have a back-up horse like this perform like that, we are fortunate to have a couple of great trotters in the stable.” While there was some predicted early burn as Big Jack Hammer challenged Red Hot Tooth and Tough Monarch also went forward on their outside, the pace eased when Kima Frenning dropped anchor on Big Jack Hammer to take Red Hot Tooth’s back and Chris Svanosio settled in the breeze. The 7.3-second lead time eased into 30-second and 30.5-second first and second quarters and reinswoman Kate Gath, who had eased back out of the gates on McLovin, had to get on her bike. “The first quarter come up and then the second quarter and I thought I have got to go now, if I don’t go now I’m just not going to get into the race,” she said, having launched three wide down the main straight with more than a lap to go. “I got going when I got going just to get up there and he’s one of those horses who just drops the bit a little bit on the corner but I just knew he would keep coming and he was bloody terrific.” At the turn McLovin still had two lengths to make up on the leader, Red Hot Tooth, while Big Jack Hammer threatened via the sprint lane, but amid a 56.7-second final 800 metres Andy Gath’s former Kiwi had all the answers and nosed clear in the final 50 metres. “He come back this time and felt a million dollars at home, it’s a terrific win and I’m not entirely surprised though,” Kate said. It was an encouraging return fresh off a three-month spell and ahead of an ambitious campaign, with Andy Gath outlining that McLovin would fly to New Zealand November 7, contest a free-for-all on November 12 and then the famed Dominion on November 15. “Hopefully he can do everyone proud,” Andy said. “It’s a great experience, a great day to be there and a great day to be a part of it.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Colt Thirty One is rightly favourite, Cash N Flow the likely leader and Bling It On and Alto Orlando will be hitting the line as well as any. They are some of the assessments of gun reinsman Luke McCarthy, who will be perfectly placed to watch the action unfold in Saturday night’s Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup before striking late with Bling It On. “Colt Thirty One (gate one) deserves to be favourite from the draw, he’s going to get a dream run,” McCarthy said. “I wouldn’t imagine he’d hold the front because he’s going to know that I’m sitting on his back. If he does sit on Cash N Flow he’s probably the one to beat. “I’m happy with (drawing gate eight with Bling It On), he’s going to be right there following two good horses and not have done any work to be there. “If he can get any sort of luck late we know he is going to hit the line super. He will just need a bit of luck in that last 400 to 500 metres. If he gets clear you know how well he will hit the line.” McCarthy said “regardless of the draw” he was always going to drive Bling It On, who he labelled “a professional horse” who has “been here since he was a yearling”. That decision gifts the drive on TAB Smoken Up Sprint winner Cash N Flow to brother Todd McCarthy, who’s perfectly poised for a second successive Melton victory. “Cash N Flow’s work has gone to another level. We were really confident he would go good in the Smoken Up. He’s come through the run really good,” McCarthy said. “He’s jumping out of his skin this week, he seems even better than he was last week. With it being the 2200 metres rather than the 2700, it’s still a short trip and he’s got good speed. He will be in front, Todd’s got some good form and they will have to catch him. “I didn’t even pull the ear plugs on Saturday night in the Smoken Up, really only just shook him up a little bit in the straight. If I had have got going a bit earlier at the corner he would have broken the track record easily. He’s in career best form and he’s come up with a good draw.” And should the Victorians pour on the pace through the likes of Tam Major, Buster Brady and San Carlo, Bling It On and another Craig Cross-trained runner – Alto Orlando – will be lying in wait. “(The back row draw) will suit him,” McCarthy said. “He came from last in the Blacks A Fake when he ran second to Colt Thirty One, so he’s got great speed; if there is heaps of burning early and mid-race pressure he’s obviously the one run-on horse that will be flying home. “We’ve got a really good team at the moment, nice group of horses and hopefully we can have a bit of luck on the weekend.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Energetic harness racing trainer Dallas McIntyre admits that some days he does wonder how he is going to squeeze in all his work. McIntyre spends seven days a week milking a dairy herd of 260 cows and in between times, trains a horse or two for himself as well as pre-training and breaking-in others for clients. "It does get hectic at times. But I grab a nap here and there so I can get through," the happy-go-lucky Echuca horseman said. "My day starts very early at about 4am. I later try and get to the horses because after 3.30 pm it's back to the cows again. "But while I'm enjoying it, I'll keep making it work. I've been doing the milking now for about 18 months." McIntyre had some success in his very first season of training in 2017-18 with two wins and two placings from 13 starts. "I didn't race at all the next season as I really enjoy pre-training horses for others and I had a few to break-in," he said. McIntyre said one of the breakers was for keen Swan Hill owner-breeder Joanne O'Bree. "I take pride in my work with a lot of care. I send the young ones back in the condition I'd expect to see them returned if I was an owner," he said. "I know Joanne was impressed and it was then she offered me a racehorse to train." McIntyre produced that horse in five-year-old mare Sarah Bonus (Artistic Fella-Mini Bonus (Armbro Operative) at Echuca last week and the pacer was an impressive winner, being handled by Bendigo reinsman Haydon Gray. "She previously had a bowed tendon so I did put in a heap of time and work with her. We trialed her at Bendigo 10 days before the race and I had a fair idea she was fit enough," McIntyre said. "I was nervous going to the trial. But I did get a big shock as she got pushed four wide and still won. I took her there so Haydon could get a feel. "And then leading up to the Echuca race I was worried. I don't know why because she got the job done nicely." McIntyre said Gray had a great strike rate with his horses. "He couldn't have driven Sarah Bonus any better. I've known him for awhile and watched him drive--he does alright." McIntyre is based at the Echuca harness racing track. "It's a great spot and a bit special as my pop Max Blake was also based at the track," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Get set for the biggest TAB Summer of Glory yet. With eight Group 1 races and almost $2 million in prizemoney across three superb nights of harness racing, Victorian trots will be in the spotlight during the 2020 carnival. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has revealed a new-look TAB Summer of Glory schedule, which will include for the first time the Victoria Oaks heats and final. The change aligns both Victorian three-year-old pacing classics, the Derby and the Oaks, with the TAB Summer of Glory carnival. HRV has also increased the distance for both series, with the Derby and Oaks finals to be run over 2760m on night two and the heats over 2710m at Ballarat on night one. Australasia’s richest trotting race, the $250,000 Great Southern Star, will now be on the third and final night of the TAB Summer of Glory carnival alongside the $500,000 Grand Circuit pacing classic, the A.G. Hunter Cup. “Overall it’s an amazing line-up of racing right across the three nights, kicking off with Ballarat Cup Night, featuring the Derby and Oaks heats, as well as the Cochran Trotters Cup and of course the $110,000 Ballarat Cup,” HRV General Manager of Racing Steve Bell said. “Night two becomes ‘finals’ night with the $200,000 Victoria Derby and the $150,000 Victoria Oaks finals over the longer trip, plus we have the $100,000 Four-Year-Old Bonanza, the $50,000 Dullard Trotters Cup and the $50,000 Casey Classic. “The third and final night will feature of course the $500,000 A.G. Hunter Cup, the $250,000 Great Southern Star and now the $100,000 Ladyship Cup for pacing mares. “It will mean the Australasian trots spotlight will be on Victoria for this world-class carnival and we’re really excited by it. “We’ve thrashed these changes out at length before moving the levers and feel they’re in the best interests of the TAB Summer of Glory. “If you’re not innovating you’re going backwards. We’re keen to shake the product up a bit with some other big announcements in the not-too-distant future.” Following the third and final night of racing the party will continue at the Inglis Complex, Oaklands Junction, on Sunday February 2 when the Australian Pacing Gold and Australasian Premier Trotting sales are conducted. Check out the Victorian feature race list    Cody Winnell HRV Trots Media

Goulburn Valley based harness racing trainer-driver Damian Wilson wasn't totally surprised recently when he bobbed up with two longshot winners at Echuca. "They had both been working up to getting the money - it was probably just a case of getting an ounce of luck for a change," Wilson said. "Caesars Falcon is a newcomer to the stable, but he's improving all the time and Winkn Nod was very unlucky at his previous run when he got knocked over and then held up for a run," he said. Wilson, of Byrneside, 20 kms west of Shepparton, got the money on Caesars Falcon at 10/1, while young Albury junior concession driver James McPherson drove the perfect race on Winkn Nod to blow punters out of the water at 40/1. It had been a long time between drinks for six-year-old Caesars Falcon (Falcon Seelster-Hope Riley (Julius Caesar) who previously scored at Tamworth in May, 2017, when handled by young gun Queensland reinsman Brendan Barnes. "I've only had him now for three runs, but he's got better each time. His first run at Kilmore was okay and then at Shepparton he battled away after racing in the death-seat," Wilson said. "The owner Mark Shiers is happy because he picked up the horse pretty cheap. He didn't have any racehorses at the time, so when Caesars Falcon came along, he jumped at him. "The horse has a few issues, like pulling extremely hard, but we are slowly ironing them out. He'd run a few seconds before Mark grabbed him, so he certainly isn't hopeless." Caesars Falcon led all the way in the feature event on the program, the $7000 Harold Ogden Memorial Pace, named in honor of a club founder. The late Mr Ogden was Vice President when Echuca held its first meeting in 1948. He was later to race many outstanding horses under the prefix "Armagh" in the 1960s and 1970s. Truant Armagh (Brian Gath) won the 1976 A.G.Hunter Cup, the last held at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Then there was prolific open class winner Brett Armagh, who ran fourth in an Inter Dominion, and James Armagh and Charles Armagh. Wilson said while he was thrilled to win the Ogden Memorial, he was very pleased to see James McPherson post a winner. "I've known James for quite a while because I lived for a bit in Albury where he's from. I've also driven against him and liked that he'll sit and be patient," Wilson said. McPherson certainly showed a cool head, sitting three back on the fence with Winkn Nod (Grinfromeartoear-Mull of Kintire (Chandon) awaiting his opportunity. And that came with 600 metres to go when he got out into the clear and began to work home. James McPherson                                                      --Echuca HRC The eight-year-old, raced by Norm and Joan Visca, won easily by 10 metres in a brisk 1.58-2. "We thought he'd get buried back on the fence, but James didn't hesitate and when he did get off, everything went to plan," Wilson said. "Let's hope the double was the start of a bit of a winning run," he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

STAR South Australian reinswoman Danielle Hill has no qualms with border-hopping across to the renowned Victorian grape-growing city of Mildura. "It's a bit over four hours each way to do the trip - but if we can keep getting results, it's all good," Dani said. The pint-sized harness racing driver has recorded six wins and several placings at the three meetings conducted so far this season at the far north-west Victorian club. At Wednesday night's fixture, Dani was successful on three South Australian-trained pacers along with a local horse. The visiting contingent included More Than A Legend (prepared by Robin Maguire), Oohlala Lady (Jill Neilson) and Graffiti Lombo (Lars Ahlfors). Her other winner was Euston Flyer, trained at Mildura by Andrew Vozlic. In addition, Dani's drive on Oohlala Lady was judged as the "drive of the night." Dani's brother Wayne Hill has been a regular face at Mildura for several years and had a sensational 2018-19 season, culminating in taking out the leading driver trophy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- IT was a case of history repeating itself last Friday and Saturday - fortuitously for gun Shepparton horsewoman Laura Crossland and her beloved Richmond Tigers. The Tigers' number one fan in Shepparton forms a formidable team with partner David Moran and was lucky enough to get a ticket to go to the AFL Grand Final last Saturday afternoon. It proved a memorable couple of days for Crossland who scored a training treble and driving double the previous night at Shepparton. Through a strange coincidence, it wasn't the first time she'd enjoyed the same run of luck. "I had three winners at our home track the night before the 2017 grand final which of course was the last flag the Tigers won," she said. "To have the same thing happen this year was a pretty big coincidence, but a good one! The Tigers were just awesome!" Laura Crossland                                                           --photo courtesy Cobram HRC Crossland is still crowing about the demolition job on the Giants and will be for a while yet - guaranteed! "We'll have to wait and see if it happens again next year. The Tigers will be there again, so the pressure will be all ours to get a treble!" Star 4yo pacer Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder In Paris (Ponder), prepared by the couple, is back in work after a month off. "He will have a few weeks on a water walker and then back home and into it," Crossland said. Lochinvar Art, owned by Sydney enthusiast Kevin Gordon, has had a magnificent career to date with 12 wins, 15 placings from 28 starts for over $310,000 in stakes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Another promising South Australian youngster by emerging sire Auckland Reactor has kicked off his three-year-old season with an impressive win. Juddy Douglas (Auckland Reactor-Markeaton Navi (Falcon Seelster USA), prepared by Globe Derby stalwart Bronte Giorgio was confidently backed to win the SA Brewing Company Pace at headquarters on Saturday night and got the job done in competent fashion. Juddy Douglas (from barrier five) was left in the "breeze" when quick beginners Haveachew and Samalise cleared out by 20 metres after the start. But reinsman Jayden Brewin showed a cool head on the favorite and moved steadily up to the leading bunch with a lap to go, before putting the foot on the accelerator in the straight to win by five metres. Young reinsman Jayden Brewin cruises to the line with Juddy Douglas Juddy Douglas has stamped himself as a more than capable juvenile, with all of his three wins (from six starts) in the "death seat". He was first up from a spell on Saturday night against the older horses, rating 2:00.8 for the 1800 metres (31.7, 31.7, 29.7, 29.4). He is a half-brother to the handy Oscars Glory (Village Jolt CA) (winner of 13 races) and the consistent Renesmae (Christian Cullen NZ) (winner of four from 22 starts).   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Darby McGuigan has sights set on scoring a career-best triumph in the sulky when he teams up with one of four Emma Stewart-trained horses in Saturday night's TAB Smoken Up Sprint at Tabcorp Park Melton. The young driver has scored wins in Group 3 features before, but would rate success in the weekend's Group 2 contest at the top of the pile. He will partner Phoenix Prince, which has drawn barrier six in the field of 11. McGuigan won his first three drives behind the son of Somebeachsomewhere before finishing sixth in the Always B Miki Breeders Crown Graduate Pacers Free For All and 10th in the Jet Roofing 2019 Kilmore Pacing Cup at his most recent outings. Those assignments were at Group 2 level and Phoenix Prince was beaten less than 10m on both occasions. "It's going to be tough enough because we are drawn six," McGuigan said of Saturday night's race. "There's a bit of speed inside us but he is a very good miler and if they go crazy I think there's every chance he will be hitting the line strong." McGuigan said Phoenix Prince was one of the first Stewart-trained horses he drove and an early victory has helped foster a partnership with the state's leading stable. "You can drive bad horses as good as you want, but if they're not the best horse in the race they are going to struggle to win," McGuigan said. "They've always got their horses spot on and ready to win, so it is a big help towards the result." Stewart also has Code Black (Greg Sugars), Born To Rocknroll (David Moran) and Shadow Sax (Chris Alford) accepted for the TAB Smoken Up Sprint. In what looks an open feature, David Aiken's Wrappers Delight and Shadow Sax are the main threats according to McGuigan, while Kima Frenning's country cup star Buster Brady and Craig Cross' Cash N Flow must certainly be respected in the $50,000 event. McGuigan has a book of six drives at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night and rates Stewart's Maraetai as his best chance of the evening in the Swift Signs Pace.   Tim O'Connor HRV Trots Media  

A breathtakingly even field will collide for the right to be a Smoken Up Sprint champion, throwing up scenarios that have trainer David Aiken among the many “really looking forward” to the Group 2 dash. The preparer of three of the past four winners of the sprint – Lennytheshark in 2015 and 2017 and Wrappers Delight (pictured) last year – Aiken’s well positioned to add a fourth in only the sixth staging of the race, but admitted to being intrigued to the many tactical ramifications. In particular, the question who will lead? While Aiken has reigning champ Wrappers Delight drawn in gate one and lightning beginner Audi Hare in gate four he said there was no easy answer, but added reinsman James Herbertson and Audi Hare would be advantaged by their mid-row draw. “The middle is probably the best barrier at Melton at that distance,” Aiken said. “Wrappers Delight is pretty quick out, but it depends on how it plays out. We probably have our best chance with Wrappers Delight, but Audi Hare will be doing his best to cross him.” He said “the barriers couldn’t have worked out better” for the stable, and some form analysts were confident Aiken’s runners would be leader and leader’s back in the early stages. Among that number is Good Form’s Jason Bonnington. "The quandary for punters here is that there are perhaps four different conceivable speed map scenarios and each one has the potential to badly mitigate and significantly elevate the winning chances of several runners,” Bonnington said. "The fact is Audi Hare has Coastal-like gate speed, he's the fastest horse off the arm in Victoria and as a specialist miler and last start winner I'm favouring the concept that he will lead and hold. "What happens after that from a pressure perspective probably relies largely upon Born To Rocknroll, but if Audi Hare does lead I think they'll run a freakishly fast mile with several horses rolling up to occupy the breeze and fireworks throughout." So, Aiky, if Audi Hare leads what’s next? Let’s start with can Wrappers Delight follow his stablemate out and retake the lead? “A horse like Phoenix Prince is very quick out, it will probably cover up the outside,” Aiken said. “Cant Refuse comes out quickly. I don’t know about retaking.” So it’s not completely off the table, but at least very unlikely. Which begs, if Audi Hare leads, does he hold the front? “If it was 2200 metres Audi Hare would be handing up, but he is good over 1700. If he leads he will definitely hold them.” So, in that case, Herbertson would attempt to hold the front for as long as possible, with Wrappers Delight – whose driver is yet to be finalised – to be leader’s back hoping his stablemate can take him to the sprint lane. “(Wrappers Delight) likes the distance, especially if he doesn’t have to do a lot of work,” Aiken said, adding he expected “a pretty quick mile, at least the (one minute) 52 mark”. One horse who may ensure that pace is Buster Brady, trained at Aiken’s stable by Kima Frenning. A prodigious talent, Buster Brady may have lost a few fans after another “weird” run in last Saturday’s Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup, when he again lost momentum about 800m from home before crashing the line late, having eased to $6.50 with TAB.com.au for Saturday night’s Smoken Up Sprint after opening at $5.50. “It’s frustrating,” Aiken said of Buster Brady’s fade-outs. “He seems to be better leading, when he’s back in the field he seems to drop off at the wrong time of the race and then pick up again. “I’ve never seen a horse do what he does and then remake the ground. He doesn’t do it when he’s on top, it’s weird what he does.” Aiken has an enormous opinion of Buster Brady, particularly when he leads. “I think he’s the best horse in Victoria, he’s the best horse here (at my stable).” So what role will he play Saturday night? Aiken said he was a candidate for an early move to the breeze “unless there was super pace on”. All will be answered from 9pm on Saturday night.   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Smoken Up’s hooves will again imprint Tabcorp Park Melton’s straight Saturday night, when Lance Justice will reunite ‘Trigger’ with the site he made his own. The 17-year-old superstar of the sport will lead a deep field out for the TAB Smoken Up Sprint, the Group 2 classic that kicks off at 9pm. “It’s pretty big,” Justice said. “Not many horses have races named after them.” Track goers will not only be able to enjoy Smoken Up’s on-track return but visit the winner of more than $3.6 million in stakes in stall 61 at Tabcorp Park. “He loves people, loves children,” Justice said of the 12-time Group 1 winner, who had 41 of his 153 starts at Melton. “Melton was one of his favourite tracks. He’s been there from the start,” Justice said. “After they completed the earthworks they had a press event and Smoken Up worked on the track with no top on it, just up and down lumps and hills. “He raced there in its first meetings. He owned the joint and held the track record there when he retired.” Smoken Up’s 1:51.1 track record – set on February 4, 2012 in the Sky Racing Free For All (pictured) – stood until February 6, 2016, when Cold Major lowered the mark to 1:50.8. It’s now in Cruz Bromac’s keeping, having won his mile on January 27, 2018 in 1:50.7. While Smoken Up won’t be giving any records a nudge when he waltzes out on Saturday night, his long-time trainer-driver will be thrilled race goers will again be able to tip their hats to one of the greats. “They always say about good horses, you judge them by the company they keep and Smoken Up had to race against half a dozen of the toughest horses," he said. “He had Im Themightyquinn, Blacks A Fake, Mister Feelgood, Mister D G, Monkey King, Terror To Love – a group of horses who were champions on there own.” Smoken Up will then return to his retirement paddock at Ballan, which he shares with fellow Group 1 champion Sokyola. “They didn’t used to like each other for a fair while, but now they are really good mates.”   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

A huge sigh of relief tonight for industry champions Kerryn Manning and Grant Campbell, who were involved in a car accident on their way to the Terang trots. Near Lake Bolac, Manning said another driver allegedly drove their car directly through an intersection, resulting in the collision. The car Campbell was driving was extensively damaged, as was the float carrying three horses, but thankfully all humans and horses walked away unscathed, though the horses were scratched from their engagements at Terang. Manning took to Twitter: Happy to report we walked away with just a few sore spots, car and float not so lucky but horses were ok thank goodness. #incrediblelucky #dodgedabullettoday pic.twitter.com/aCMPRZFlTE — Kerryn Manning (@KerrynManning) October 1, 2019 The images Manning tweeted serve as a reminder that our industry participants and staff are on the road every day and nothing’s more important than safety.   Cody Winnell HRV Trots Media

Priority one is to get through the Jet Roofing Kilmore Pacing Cup unscathed, but a top four finish could lay the foundations for a grand season for Craig Demmler and his My Kiwi Mate. The 2018 Kilmore Cup proved a nightmare for Demmler after My Kiwi Mate disappointed when running seventh only to later be found suffering an injury that would put a line through ID18 dreams. But, 12 months on, 'Kiwi' is back and Demmler told Inside Word podcast a strong performance would not only strengthen his claims for a Pryde's EasiFeed Victoria Cup start but give strength to a New Zealand Inter Dominion campaign. "He was a bit stiff last year," Demmler said. "He went amiss in (the Kilmore Cup). They all thought on face value he was disappointing, but that was where he ended up having that injury ... when he fractured his pastern. "It's been a long journey back to get where we have today. Every race to me, I just take it as we are lucky to have him back. Some of his runs to date have been terrific." My Kiwi Mate has had three starts back this campaign including a last start third in the VHRC Classic, when he loomed likely at the turn. It seems a good foundation for Thursday night's Kilmore Cup, where Demmler said the 2690 metres might prove telling.  "There's going to be some that we don't know (if they) can run over the distance," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see how many can shape up ... that's going to sort the men (from) the boys. "I know 'Kiwi' can, and Buster Brady's the same, he can (as can) Shadow Sax - they're all proven. But these new kids on the block, it's going to be really interesting to see who steps up to the next level." My Kiwi Mate will emerge from gate three providing emergency, Forty Thieves, fails to get a start and has been listed a $13 chance with TAB.com.au. Demmler said he would be looking to go forward before settling in the running line and biding his time for a late burst, admitting a good result would be necessary to earn a start in the October 12 Victoria Cup. "He needs to finish pretty high up there on Thursday night to get a spot," Demmler said. "There's a lot of horses who will be trying to get into that race and there's only 12 spots there for it.  "My main aim down the track, I may take him to the Inter Dominion over in Auckland. There's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then."   Michael Howard HRV Trots Media

Chapter two in Lumineer's long-awaited sequel will be scripted at Geelong tonight and Ange McDowell's extraordinarily talented five-year-old is well placed to produce a happy ending. The Sportswriter entire, unbeaten except for an injury plagued Victoria Derby in January last year, was clinical in winning at Terang on September 11, when he was first-up after an almost 21-month lay-off. "It was good," trainer McDowell said. "He did everything that we wanted him to do and what he is capable of doing first up after 20 months. He pulled up well and through to the next assignment." That is tonight's R U OK? Pace at Geelong tonight (9pm) and, speaking to Blake Redden for the Inside Word, McDowell said the run had "really brought him on the run, reminded him what it's all about and what he's there for". CLICK BELOW FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW:       HRV Trots Media

Ballarat-based harness racing young gun Darby McGuigan has provided a "shot in the arm" for a Sunshine State husband-and-wife team's Victorian campaign. McGuigan, fresh from driving over 100 winners for the first time last season, showed patience personified before timing his run to perfection to land the prize with nine-year-old mare Majestic Whiz at Swan Hill on Tuesday night. Majestic Whiz (Majestic Son-Roydon Whiz (Gee Whiz II), trained by Gavin and Kay Crone, scored by the narrowest of margins in the $7000 Cardigan Boko @ Goodtime Lodge Trotters Handicap. The square-gaiter is one of a handful of horses being campaigned on a "working holiday" down south by the couple. The Crones come from Ebenezer, a small rural township 44 kms from the capital Brisbane with a population of about 300 residents. "It was great because no-one gave us much of a chance, but I can tell you that Gavin and Kay and their friends were very excited," McGuigan said. "The horse was always travelling nicely and had an easy time buried away three back on the pegs. I was able to pop off into the one-out line on the home corner and we just found enough up the home straight to snatch victory," he said. "The race was run at a consistent tempo (of 30.5, 30.9, 29.8 and 29.3) which suited us. But to be honest, I wasn't sure if I had run down the favorite Majestic Devil (Michelle Phillips). It was certainly very close." McGuigan, now into his fourth season of race driving, said he met Gavin at a recent Ballarat meeting and was offered the drive. "I don't mind trotters. I get a few drives on them and I've had a few wins and it's always a good feeling," he said. The victory ended a long streak of being out of the winner's circle for Majestic Whiz. Her previous triumph was at Bankstown (December 22, 2017) and her 57 starts since that success have yielded just 10 placings at Albion Park, Redcliffe and Marburg circuits. The successful Crone clan after their win in the Springboard Series in Queensland in August (photo courtesy Dan Costello) Majestic Whiz is now owned by former Sydney trainer Peter Carson who's a well-known fan of the square-gaiter. The mare started her career in South Australia under the care of the McMillan family, running second on debut at Globe Derby Park in March, 2013, before winning there two weeks later. Five placings followed in the next four months before she found her way to the Melbourne stable of Brent Lilley. After an unplaced effort in the G1 Redwood Classic at Maryborough, Majestic Whiz was produced 18 months later by Carson at Menangle. She had quite a few attempts prior to the Bankstown success. Her next stop was to Ebenezer to the Crone stables, who also share a love for the square-gaiters. The couple had half the field in the Swan Hill event. Apart from winner Majestic Whiz, Kay drove Princess Katerina (3rd) and Gavin piloted Davey's Gift (5th). Also making the Victorian trip is talented three-year-old Armbro Variable-sired gelding Indefensible (Armbro Variable-Mental Power (Its Motor Power). He was an impressive winner back home in the $15,000 Stallions Australasia Springboard 2yo Trotters Final. His three Victorian runs have been good with a third at Maryborough and two fourths at Ballarat. The visitors are hoping Indefensible can breakthrough because he's Vicbred which entitles him to an $7000 bonus in addition to stakemoney. Crone's brother Darryl, who lives in Victoria, owns and bred the horse. McGuigan shared driving honors at Swan Hill with Boris Devcic, of Mildura, both landing doubles. "It was fantastic landing Byalla Boy for dad (Tim). The horse was good recently at Mildura, but disappointed a bit at Yarra Valley, so we were happy to see him bounce back," McGuigan said. "It was his eighth win. Seven of these have been when he's landed in front." And it could have easily been a treble for the youngster who was engaged to drive winner of the opening event Spring Delight for Steven Duffy. "We had a few hiccups on the way and I didn't get to the track on time, so Zac Phillips took my place - and they got the money!" McGuigan said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Resilient Moama harness racing horseman Tony Peacock has never been one to accept defeat. From his wild youthful days of competing in boxing tents at country agriculture shows, to breaking-in a non compos mentos yearling, the veteran is well known to not take a backward step. But without doubt his biggest challenge in his colorful life was 21 months ago when a horrific training track accident at home nearly cost him his life. Peacock was catapulted from the cart and landed vertically on his head. He broke his neck between the C2 and C3 vertebrae—the same spot that stops a person’s nerves and breathing when they are executed by hanging. And now after months and months of hospital care, rehabilitation and support from family and friends, Peacock is back doing what he loves....race driving. The familiar colors of black, gold horseshoes and armbands will be in action Tuesday night at Swan Hill with two stable runners in Majadore (Art Major-Jadore Bromac (McArdle) and Bettor Enforce (Bettors Delight-Their Excuse). “I’m really looking forward to being out on the racetrack again. I had to complete a few drives at the trials, pass medical tests along with a stress test,” Peacock said. “I feel as fit as a fiddle. I’ve actually just finished shoeing Bettor Enforce as I want everything to be spot-on for my return,” he laughed. “She trialed okay against superstar pacer San Carlo at Shepparton recently and I reckon she has a bright future.” Peacock said he had been back in the cart at home for the last six months. He said during his recovery he hadn’t thought much about returning to race driving. “I just ensured I did all the rehab and everything else with the aim of getting my health back to where it was,” Peacock said. “I suppose it was always in the back of my mind to keep my drivers licence if possible. It was probably just in case I find another champion around the corner!” Majadore, a Shepparton winner two starts ago, has drawn barrier 10 in the Ultimate Machete at Alabar Pace (race 4) while last-start Cobram winner Bettor Enforce has come up with the three alley in the Aldebaran Eagle at Aldebaran Park Pace (race 6). After being transferred to the Peacock barn in June, Majadore impressed with a strong second placing at Kilmore and then got the job done at Shepparton. She ran 8th in a fast-run affair at Bendigo last start. Black mare Bettor Enforce, a purchase from New Zealand in May, has two wins (Wagga and Cobram) and a close-up second at Maryborough to her name since crossing the Tasman Sea. Long-time friend and legendary reinsman Brian Gath has been taking care of driving engagements. Despite Peacock hardly being seen in recent years as a driver (he had two drives for one placing in 2015/16 and one unplaced drive in 2016/17), pre-post betting markets have his two horses at Swan Hill among the top fancies. “Yes it’s been awhile. But I’m pretty certain I’ll still know my way around,” he said. For the fields click here. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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