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Two of the north’s bravest trotters are set to cash in on the frailties of trotting big boys over the next month.  Temporale and Massive Metro have already paid for their Australian campaigns for trainer Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett with big performances at Melton over the last two weeks. Temporale won the A$50,000 Dullard Cup in a rare group one win for Hackett’s green and white racing colours 11 days ago, while Massive Metro was a strong third in the A$250,000 Great Southern Star at Melton last Saturday. While plenty of the Kiwis who contested that carnival are already home, both the South Auckland trotters are staying on in Australia for three more races and the final one in particular looks perfect for them. The pair next contest the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on February 14 followed by the A$100,000 Grand Prix at the same track on February 29. They will then head north to Menangle for the A$50,000 Trotters Mile on March 7, which is Miracle Mile night. Already one of the hotshots of the open class trotting scene in Oscar Bonavena has returned to New Zealand, where his connections hope a break will help him strengthen up. And while Great Southern Star winner Tornado Valley will meet the Kiwis in their two Victorian races, he can’t make the trip to Menangle. “He is the worst traveller we have ever had,” explains driver Kate Gath. “It is not nerves because when he gets to the track he is fine but he never stops moving in the float. He is like he is tap dancing the entire trip. “We took him to Ballarat two weeks ago and he was in a lather by the time we got him there so he definitely couldn’t do nine hours in a float to Sydney.” So while the Wallis-Hackett pair will be competitive in both their upcoming Victorian races, the Menangle Mile should be well down on the class of the Great Southern Star. “There is nothing for them here and they are handling the racing so well over there it makes sense to stay,” says Wallis. “Temporale is a old pro and he won well the first night but never got a chance getting back and wide last week while Massive Metro took a while to settle in but was far better on night two. “So it is great to have A$200,000 worth of races for them at this time of the year.”   Michael Guerin

Connections of history-making Victorian speed machine Lochinvar Art now have an enjoyable decision to make for their harness racing superstar-where to next? Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder in Paris (Ponder) stopped the clock in 1.48-6 in winning the $100,000 G1 Alabar 4yo Bonanza at Melton on Saturday night. It was the first time the magical 1.50 mile rate had been smashed in the State. Watch the race replay here!  "We'll sit down with David (trainer-driver David Moran) and talk it over in the next few days. We have a few options, but there's certainly exciting times ahead," jubilant owner Kevin Gordon, said yesterday. "In winning the Bonanza, we now have a gold ticket straight into the $200,000 Chariots of Fire in Sydney in just under four weeks' time. David is very keen to give him a start between now and then," he said. "There's the AG Hunter Cup as well as the $35,000 Echuca Pacing Cup coming up, so there's plenty to think about." Gordon and his wife Leonie are best-known for their association with greyhound racing, having claimed many of the major features, including the Paws of Thunder, the Sydney Cup and Christmas Cup. But they rate the recent victory by pacer Lochinvar Art as the biggest thrill in racing. "Apart from the Bonanza being such a prestigious event, being the first Victorian to break a 1.50 mile rate just takes it to another level," Gordon said. "He went absolutely super. A lot of horses don't progress from their 3yo days, but we are thrilled Lochinvar Art has taken that next step. He has developed physically and is bigger across the back and he's shown this time in he's a lot stronger too. "The win was a credit to David and he's surely now cemented himself as a top trainer. He works hard and deserves all the success he gets." Moran worked forward in the Bonanza, waiting until the leading brigade found their positions before taking up the role as pilot. The talented horseman had a pre-race plan to cover as little ground as possible, but he was hoping his main rival (Mark Purdon's $1.10 fav Self Assured) would be called upon to do "that little extra" at some stages. "I needed him to do a bit more work because it was the only way I was ever going to beat Mark - his horse is so talented," Moran said. "It did fall into place for us. While we were one-off and then in front, he was working out three wide to get to being one-off, then I was happy to keep the speed on and have them running." Self Assured tried his heart out and got to within 4.7m of the winner, but final splits of 27.3 and 26.4 in a race run in record time, made the task most difficult. "When I opened up just before the final turn and pinched a break, I thought and hoped it just might be mathematically impossible for Mark to get to me." Moran said he had "a few troubles" with Lochinvar Art in the leadup to the Bonanza. "He's just been so full of himself this preparation. He's been a handful and actually tried to kick me out of the cart in the Shepparton Cup. While it's good he's feeling so well, he can be a bit of a ratbag," he said. "I've altered a few things with him, and we should now be fine. I suppose it's just being a colt coming out in him every now and again." Lochinvar Art's connections are naturally aiming at the season's big races, but Moran said they were mapping out a careful campaign. "We won't be over racing him like last season, when I think we ran in the first Classic 3yo event and then continued until the last as well. In between he had a trip to Qld. That was a huge year for him," he said. "We've made a conscious decision not to give him an over taxing campaign, but in saying that, he has pulled up terrific. He was pig rooting and charging about this morning while I was trying to change his rugs, so he's feeling pretty good."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Trotting fans should get ready for the era of Oscar, who makes his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton tonight in the Group 1 V L Dullard Trotters Cup, the lead-up to next week’s $250,000 Great Southern Star. His full name is Oscar Bonavena, the New Zealand trotter many are predicting will soon be the best in Australasia, if he’s not already. The great horses, even those in waiting, often end up with one name, like Brazilian soccer players. We get to know them, love them, speak of them so often they become like old familiar friends. Blackie (Blacks A Fake), Quinny (I’m Themightyquinn), Trigger (Smoken Up) and even a one-word champion in Lazarus quickly became Laz. The difference is they all earned their nicknames the hard way. Oscar hasn’t yet. He is like the young gun footballer playing with the men, who just looks faster than them. Several times this season Oscar has jogged past very good horses, including Inter Dominion champion Winterfell at Cambridge last start. But he is yet to win a race worth more than $50,000 and in his greatest test to date he had to settle for third after sitting parked in the National Trot at Alexandra Park two starts ago. He was made to race tough outside the leader, blunting his weapon of sheer speed. And when young upstarts have to play tough with hardened old warriors they can be exposed. Champion trainer Mark Purdon says that defeat may help Oscar overcome his second line draw tonight. “He learned from that,” Purdon said. “He is very fast and sometimes wants to go flat out and he didn’t do himself any favours when he got beaten. “But it taught him to look after himself and the next start at Cambridge he was far more relaxed. “That could be really crucial over the next week because, as we saw at Ballarat last week, you can’t sit back in races over here, so I might have to move with him mid-race. So racing kinder will be important and I think he will.” Purdon thinks so highly of Oscar he will stake him for every major race in North America next year, so if the small but athletic trotter turns out as good as the boss thinks he is the Australasian era of Oscar may be cut short. Purdon is, as so often, at the centre of the New Zealand attack on Melton tonight and realises Self Assured will probably have to sit parked outside Lochinvar Art in the 4YO Bonanza tonight while Stylish Memphis faces a huge task in the Victoria Oaks. “But I actually don’t mind her (gate 13) draw,” he said. “She has so much speed I think she is better coming from behind them and as long as she gets a cart into the race she can still win.”   HRV Trots Media - Michael Guerin

Those who want to see much-hyped speed freak Oscar Bonavena in the flesh will want to get track side for Nights 2 and 3 of the TAB Summer of Glory, with Mark Purdon’s trotter earmarked as the centrepiece of a US campaign. The four-year-old Kiwi makes his Australian debut at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday in the DNR Logistics V L Dullard Trotters Cup before a tilt at the $250,000 What The Hill Great Southern Star on February 1. Purdon sat with Paul Campbell this week for the latest edition of Tooth Be Told and said the Majestic Son entire could be All Stars Racing’s ticket to the land of Stars and Stripes. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s probably having a horse like Oscar Bonavena, who looks pretty exciting and he’s got the speed of a pacer, which you do need to take on the best over there,” Purdon said. “He’s part owned in America by Chris Ryder. I think it’s something I don’t want to put off, I’d like to do it and see how we go. It’s just something I would like to do for six or eight months and see how it works out.” Purdon said plans were for a partial relocation in 2021, while continuing his Australasian operation with co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen, but there were many moving parts including the rise and rise of Oscar Bonavena. “I think this season will make (Oscar). He needs to be better than probably what he is to take on the best over there, but I think he will be capable,” he said. Should all go well, Purdon said, Sweden’s Elitloppet could follow. “He would have to perform when he got (to the US) and hopefully get an invitation from there, but that would be part of my thinking.” CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW:   HRV Trots Media

Bigger crowds, improved fan engagement, increased brand exposure and wagering returns are the major driving forces behind Harness Racing Victoria’s (HRV) decision to re-position the Breeders Crown to November. The new timeslot – three months after the previous winter-based August Breeders Crown – sees the $2million series positioned on the heels of Melbourne’s famous Spring Racing Carnival. Across three enormous Saturday nights from November 7-21 Tabcorp Park Melton will roar to life with Breeders Crown heats, semi-finals and grand finals. “Fan engagement is everything and you can’t engage with fans if they’re not there,” HRV General Manager of Racing Stephen Bell said. “This event’s position in winter made it a tough sell. The Breeders Crown is a magnificent series and is deserving of a showcase position on the calendar. Now the party continues after the spring carnival at the trots.” The Breeders Crown will draw the best pacers and trotters aged three and four from Australia and New Zealand with the Graduate races for older horses to also be retained. Full details on the schedule can be found here   HRV Trots Media Media enquiries: or 03 8378 0288. Photo by Ashlea Brennan

FORMER champion Kiwi driver Anthony Butt is genuinely buzzing heading towards Melton’s huge meeting on Saturday night. Despite his stellar record in some of Australia’s biggest races, headlined by seven Hunter Cup wins, Butt’s record in the Victoria Derby and Oaks has been bleak. Remarkably, he hasn’t won a Derby and has only jagged the one Oaks title, aboard Geoff Small’s brilliant Pullover Brown way back in 2003. “My one chance of winning the Derby was Lavros Star (1997). I won the heat on him, but got suspended and Ricky May won the final on him,” Butt recalled. The now NSW-based Butt is confident of turning it all around at Melton this week. And the punters have thrown their support behind him. Butt trains and drives heavily-backed Derby favourite, Line Up, who ran blistering time leading throughout in his heat at Ballarat last week and is drawn to lead again from gate three. He’s been $2.40 into $2.25 on the Aussie TAB since drawing gate three. “It’s a fantastic draw, especially being inside Governor Jujon, who looks the main danger,” Butt said. “Line Up really impressed me last week. He only came to us a couple of weeks before the heat, but obviously I’d driven him in those big races over in NZ. “He’d been working well and I was keen to hold the front. He did a terrific job in quick time after having to sprint three times. “He’s a great chance of leading again and has come through the heat win really well.” Butt’s hopes of winning a second Oaks sit with Cran Dalgety’s speedy and improving filly, Dr Susan, who led, then took a trail on Stylish Memphis and got clear too late when second in her heat at Ballarat. “She was only starting to wind-up on the line last week. I was keen to hold the front, but Mark (Purdon, driving Stylish Memphis) had one crack at me and then his filly started to pulling hard, so when he came again I took the trail knowing it was a heat,” Butt said. “There will be no handing-up this week, that’s for sure. We’ve drawn really again (gate five) and can hopefully find the front, while Stylish Memphis is outside the back and will have to work hard to get around the field and outside of us. “Maybe she will just be too good Stylish Memphis, but Dr Susan is one of those fillies who has just absolutely thrived on the trip away. She’s getting better and better.” Dr Susan has been backed from $3 into $2.50 and is now equal favourite with Stylish Memphis on the Aussie TAB.   Adam Hamilton

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice-but try telling that to harness racing trainer Vince Vallelonga! Vallelonga, from Bolinda, 50 kilometres north of Melbourne, is one of the most experienced horsemen going around but is laid up again following his second serious stable accident in 18 months. "You wouldn't believe it-I've broken the same bone in my right leg again, but this time it's in a different spot," a dejected Vallelonga said. "My doctors have told me I'll be out of action for at least six months, so we've decided to shut down our stable operations until I'm up and about again," he said. "It was pointless struggling along doing the job half-hearted." The first occasion Vallelonga was injured was in a freak accident on July 17, 2018. "I'd just washed a horse and was towelling it off when a gust of wind whipped up out of nowhere and blew a bucket over. The horse took fright and knocked me over," he said. "I snapped a femur (thigh bone) and fractured a hip. That still hasn't healed properly and now I'm nursing a break to the same bone, just above the knee. "This time I was putting a rug on a horse and it lashed out and got me." After being rushed by ambulance to hospital, Vallelonga had an 18-inch plate inserted, along with pins and screws and 54 staples. After a fortnight in hospital he is now home and able to use walking aids but spends the majority of his time in a wheelchair. "It's very painful 24/7, but it's also just so frustrating sitting around. There's only so much television you can watch, and I have to rely on my partner Elizabeth or other family to get me outside into the sunshine and take me to appointments," he said. Vallelonga had a team of 12 in work at the time of the accident, but most have now been placed with other trainers. "It's going to be a long road ahead, but I'll get there," he said. Vallelonga said incident had come "out of the blue". "That particular horse has never been like that," he said. "Not that I take any chances with any of them anyway, we all learn that pretty much early days, but it does go to show that something like that only takes a second." "I'll be back, but for the moment I'm just concentrating on recovery."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

There were thrills and spills, but no serious injuries...and the skirmishes will take little away from the winner of Victorian harness racing's first two-year old race of the season, Ultimate Exclusive. Kilmore is the traditional host of the Victorian season opener for the "babies" and there's always some nervous anticipation in the leadup to the New Year fixture - but today's event was a little more action packed than most. Several of the debutantes broke stride early in attempt one of the Bendigo Club Two Year Old Pace. In the resulting severe interference, two of the youngsters fell. Watch the replay of attempt one here. Both of the fallen horses (Ire of the Dragon and Syzate) and their drivers (Peter Salathiel and Robert Graham) were quickly back on their feet, with none sustaining serious injury, but stewards halted the race and ordered all runners to be vet-checked - with the ultimate result, that the two fallen horses were late scratchings. Attempt two got underway without incident, but even then, the action wasn't all over for the four-horse field. Race favorite Sheffield Peak (which had galloped after the start in the first attempt at the race) was balanced up out of the gate and worked to the lead. He looked a good winning chance turning for home, then broke up at the 400-metre mark as the death-seat horse Ultimate Exclusive (Art Major-Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative) moved up outside. Reinsman Michael Bellman showed plenty of composure, allowing Ultimate Exclusive to then cruise to the front and run away to score a comfortable 30-metre win over Swiss Lightning (Betterthancheddar-Virginia Lightning (Christian Cullen). Sheffield Peak (Artspeak-Chloe Sheffield (Whats Next) still managed to regain third when Ultimate Hughey broke straightening for home. Watch the race here. Trained by Ted Caruana, Ultimate Exclusive is the latest in the dynasty from the super-reliable broodmare Saved A Corka (Armbro Operative-Uncork NZ (Tuapeka Knight). Her progeny includes Aspiring Artist ($170,000), Our Little Artist ($70,000), Rap Artist ($100,000) and Major Exclusive ($90,000), and the mature-looking colt Ultimate Exclusive showed a lot to like at his debut run. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura               P 0498 490 672   E   W      

Brilliant Victorian reinsman Greg "Candyman" Sugars brushed aside sweltering hot conditions for the long trip to the most recent Mildura harness racing meeting and stamped his authority at the far north west Victorian circuit. Sugars, based at Larajay Farm, Myrniong, with his wife Jess Tubbs, made the gruelling six hour trip with a team of five pacers. It was a near perfect result trainer Tubbs going home with four wins - Sugars handling three and rising star Michelle Phillips, now based at Romsey, getting the gig on the other one. Sugars also landed the money on two catch drives -- Soho Crucio (Matt Maguire) and Tale Of The Dragon (Laurie Callick) giving him a "fab five" - and actually weighed in on each of the eight charges he handled throughout the fixture.   Click on this link for a video replay of Soho Crucio   Click on this link for a video replay of Tale Of The Dragon It was only the fourth time in an awesome career that Sugars has achieved five winners. He did it at Maryborough on January 23, 2013, then repeated the dose three months later at a Melton metropolitan meeting. His other bag of five winners was at Shepparton on July 23 late last season. Sugars comes from a strong harness racing family--his father Ross was a household name in South Australian harness racing circles for many years before shifting to Victoria, while Grandfather Len was a legend in the early days on the Adelaide city circuit at Wayville. Ross Sugars landed five winners on two occasions--the first at Gawler on August 12, 1980, and then the following year on June 27 at Adelaide's Globe Derby Park.   The Mildura victories for the Sugars/Tubbs team were Hector Macray (Shadow Play-Schonbrunn (Albert Albert); The Hervey Bay (Somebeachsomewhere-Bold Opera (Armbro Operative); and Joe Nien (Shadow Play-Riverside Oakes (Art Major). Michelle Phillips landed Lenard Ess (Village Jolt-Kano Phoebe (Troublemaker) for Tubbs.   Click on this link for a video replay of Hector Macray   Click on this link for a video replay of The Hervey Bay   Click on this link for a video replay of Joe Nien   Click on this link for a video replay of Lenard Ess   Five-year-old gelding Lenard Ess continues a fairytale return to racing for the stable. "Len" sliced his tendon running around a paddock in what could have been a career-ending injury. However, thanks to the Ballarat Equine Clinic and stable staff, who were "guided through an often- tedious rehab process", the horse is back and winning. The Mildura success was his third since returning. He ran fifth at Ballarat on October 4--390 days after suffering the tendon injury--and has continued to show improvement, winning at his next start at Echuca and then later at Stawell. But the Tubbs stable makes no secret that if "Len" shows any signs of lameness, that will be it. Sugars, who booted home 262 winners and 398 placegetters for $2.3 million last season, continues to be up there with the best again, while Tubbs, with 70 last season, is already close to half that tally with just four months into the current calendar.   Hoofnote: Bolinda-based champion Chris Alford put his foot on the accelerator at the Cranbourne meeting on Sunday afternoon. Alford had five wins and two placings at the seven-event fixture. His winners were Lady Majestic, Amazing Daisy, Madena Bay, Misschanel and Heavens Showgirl. Terry Gange

Waanyarra harness racing trainer-driver Peter Sanderson and Scottish Sardius have continued their love affair with Elmore by winning a second trotters cup in three years. The seven-year-old mare proved too slick and too disciplined for his eight rivals, powering to an impressive 16-metre victory in the $4500 event. Scottish Sardius previously won the race as a five-year-old in 2017. Sanderson, who has been involved in harness racing for about 30 years, was able to control the race from start to finish, with only the Nigel Milne-trained and driven Bank On Betty providing any real resistance. The win more than made amends for a ninth-placing in last year's Elmore Trotters Cup behind the Neil McCallum-driven Love The Aces. To watch the video replay click on this link. "She's been here the last three years and she missed out last year, but she won it the year before and being able to do it again this year has been fantastic," Sanderson said. "She's a fast beginner and she likes these tight little tracks, that's why I come here, races like this are made for her. "She had to squeeze past a few early who were doing the wrong thing, but she's a real professional. She does more dodging than me," Sanderson joked. With seven wins and an eye-catching 39 placings to her name from 115 lifetime starts, Sanderson said Scottish Sardius had been a good horse for him. "She runs a heap of placings and is very honest," he said.  2019 Elmore Trotters Cup winner Scottish Sardius. Picture: KIERAN ILES   "There's no urging required, I don't carry a whip ... she does her job." Sanderson was confident the mare had at least one more racing season in her beyond 2018-19. "She doesn't like doing nothing, give her two days off she has well and truly had enough. She likes being in there working," he said. "While she's like that and loving it, we'll keep her happy and keep doing what she loves." An unabashed fan of the smaller country cups, Sanderson said he would like to see more such events programmed throughout the year. "They're great days for us (trainers and drivers) and they are great for the towns too," he said. "Half the town (of Elmore) is probably here and having a great time. "It's just like the local footy in the winter time. A couple more of them (cups) would be a great idea." By Kieran Iles Reprinted with permission of The Bendigo Advertiser

When it comes to being patient, Shepparton-based harness racing hobby trainer Tony Barca certainly knows all about that. Barca got the money recently at Swan Hill with eight-year-old mare Hypervigilant. It was her first victory since Echuca on June 30, 2016 - which equates to 55 starts ago and 30 months. "She is owned by our daughter Marianne and this time in she has been so consistent with a second, and two third placings," Barca said. "It's the first time we've ever raced a horse at Swan Hill and it was good to have success because it was a $10,000 Alabar Vicbred Platinum Country Series Final," Barca said. "We always raced at Nyah plenty of times before it was closed and moved to Swan Hill," he said. Barca said he was pleased with Hypervigilant (Badlands Hanover-Fairy Tales (Torado Hanover)when she ran third in a qualifying heat at Gunbower. "We got caught in the death-seat, but she did her best and went down by two metres in a time of 1.58-9. Her two other races after having a short let-up were pleasing with a second and then a third, both at Shepparton." Watch the video click here! Hypervigilant now has three wins and 17 placings for over $36,000. Ace reinswoman Laura Crossland drove the mare to the Swan Hill victory. "Marianne bought her off well-known breeders in Jack and Luke Primmer. She won as a three-year-old and then as a four-year-old, but things went amiss for a bit from there. Hopefully she's now back on track." Tony Barca                     (Cobram HRC photo) Barca, who has been involved in the sport for over 40 years, said he became interested while being a dairy farmer at Undera. "Back in those days, most of the dairy farmers had a horse," he said. "I always had ponies before getting involved in harness racing and since then I've been a breeder, owner, trainer and driver. "I bred my own horses for years and years and enjoyed some success. I gave away the driving part about 10 years ago when I had to have an operation on both shoulders, from years of doing heavy, physical work. "Marianne used to drive as well. She didn't have all that many goes and the closest she got was a third placing. She is still disappointed she didn't get a win. In the end, a back operation put paid to her driving career." Barca has a two-year-old which he is pinning his hopes on. "It's my 79th birthday next week. I reckon I've been saying for several years now that I've been going to give it up," he said. "Anyway, when the two-year-old finishes it's career, that will be the day I do too!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

The win of eleven-year-old pacer Bushi at Sunday's Warragul trots meeting was a drought breaker in more ways than one.   Significantly it was the first time a horse trained in the Latrobe Valley has recorded a victory in at least two decades.   The region once boasted its own racing club, racetrack and group of grassroots participants, however only a few have continued to dabble in training horses there since the Traralgon club closed down in 1995.   Wayne Evans is a relatively recent addition to local training ranks, having returned home to train from a property at Tyers, north of Traralgon, after some years away in the north east of the state.   His family has a lengthy involvement in trotting, and Wayne and his daughter Stephanie prepare Bushi, which scored its first win in exactly 366 days on Sunday.   It was also Wayne's first training win since 1998, though he has had only a handful of horses to the races in that time.   Stephanie assists at the Gippsland Harness Training Centre, and Christmas came early for the family with Bushi's twelfth win coming at start 129.   Another local, Michelle Phillips, now based away from Gippsland, returned home to drive her first winner at Warragul with Run Myles Run in the first race on Sunday.   Greg Sugars drove four winners on the day, including Doug which won the feature $10,000 Trotters Cup.   The consistent four-year-old is trained by Greg and his wife Jess and beat Trafalgar trotter Sovereign Minx.   Top horseman Chris Alford recorded winning drive 100 less than fourth months into the season when Rocktagonal won the fourth race on Sunday.   The race meeting saw fast times recorded in all events, and officials were pleased with the attendance despite clashes from Sale races and Big Bash cricket in Moe.     Kyle Galley

A new three quarters of a million-dollar function centre at Horsham will provide a timely boost to harness racing facilities in the Wimmera next year. The funding announced by the Racing Minister Martin Pakula this week will clear the way for one of the most important infrastructure projects since harness racing co-located with the gallops club more than 25 years ago. Harness racing began in Horsham at the tight showgrounds circuit in 1913, but the sport outgrew the site and moved to a new 1000-metre track at the Horsham Racing Centre. The centre is now home to the West Side Horsham entertainment complex. Horsham and District Harness Racing Club President Robbie Connelly said the new development was a much-needed expansion that would be a boost to both codes of racing. "For the past decade both clubs have been operating with portable infrastructure and marquees which are impractical and inappropriate for a dual-code course that hosts 14 meetings a year," Mr Connelly said. "The new entertainment and function centre will deliver massive benefits on race days and for non-raceday events," he said. Racing action at Horsham The Victorian Government is investing $175,000 from the Racing Industry Fund to the project, Horsham Harness Racing Club is pitching in $350,000 and the Wimmera Racing Club, Racing Victoria and Country Racing Victoria a combined $175,000. The facility will extend from the existing grandstand and feature a full glass frontage with views of the track and winning post. It will include a bistro and cafe, commercial kitchen, cool room, keg room, kids' area and storage. The new centre will create a modern facility for club and community use that can host up to 100 people.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The big day is finally here for the determined regional Victorian harness racing stronghold of Charlton. The resilient community of a little more than 1100 has worked together for 13 years on its dream of a multi-purpose sports precinct - and with the $4.2 million dollar project now complete, harness racing makes its long-awaited return to Charlton Park this Sunday. "The whole project has been massive. But over the course of the journey there was a lot of determined people involved who kept the wheels turning," club Marketing Manager Andrea O'Gorman said. The new multi-purpose Charlton Bendigo Bank Complex replaces old buildings that were in poor condition, flood damaged and, according to O'Gorman, "about to fall down". The community readily acknowledges that former school principal John Harley, who was chairman of the 2020 committee, was the main driver. "The whole thing nearly fell over a few times, but John was so resolute and would just pick it up and go again. He worked so hard, with the help of some strong sub-committees," O'Gorman said. "It's incredible to think that the local community and those in surrounding areas, could raise $1.35million toward it," she said. "There's an unbelievable feeling that the big day has arrived and the multi-purpose Facility really is all finished!" The Charlton Harness Racing Club Committee deferred the return of racing in September, preferring to wait until the project was finally complete. "We were reluctant to hold our opening meeting until everything around the outside looked as good as the inside," O'Gorman said. "Minor exterior works like landscaping, the car parking area and around the stabling was holding us up. But it's all been done now along with a new white surface put on the track." John Harley and Andrea O’Gorman outside the new Charlton Park Community Bank complex O'Gorman, a former art teacher, has spent more than 12 months painting artworks depicting district identities and horses, which are sitting pride of place at the back of the horse's stalls. "There's 94 stalls now, so I'm five short. I'd do a few in little bursts and then take a break, before getting back at it again. They all have an Indigenous connection that depicts the strong association the club has with the Dja Dja Wurrung people of the area," she said. One particular piece of artwork in honor of former great pacer Imprimatar is sure to bring back fond memories. The son of Entrepreneur was one of the Charlton district's most successful pacers. After qualifying at Charlton in February 1989, he then went onto win 24 races for $286,000 over the next five years. And despite Mother Nature not complying by serving up searing hot weather conditions for Friday causing another rescheduling of the meeting until Sunday, there's still an abundance of enthusiasm around the club. "The decision to transfer the meeting to a twilight fixture this Sunday afternoon was necessary with the predicted heat-but the club is ecstatic with the number of horses competing in the eight races," O'Gorman said. "One of the downsides to rescheduling it was that many businesses and groups had planned on having their Christmas break-up parties at the trots. And of course, others will have already made arrangements for Sunday. So how many might turn up is probably a big unknown at this stage," she said. "But we just hope that big numbers are there-we just want it to be one big party." The harness racing club will share the new multi-purpose facility with other users at the park including football, cricket, netball, tennis, hockey and fishing. The Andrews Labor Government invested $1.5 million towards the cost of the community-driven project, which has delivered improved facilities not only for harness racing, but also for Agricultural and Pastoral Society administration, a 240-seat function centre and shared clubrooms for football, netball, hockey, tennis, cricket and golf.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

The big countdown to Charlton’s re-opening will tick over for an extra two days with the club’s meeting moved from Friday to Sunday. Forecast 45-degree heat has seen the long-awaited re-opening rescheduled to a twilight meeting on the Sunday, a move welcomed by club president Joey Thompson. “It’s a great result,” Mr Thompson said. “We’ve been looking at the weather for a while, the lowest it got to was a forecast of 42 and I thought ‘this is not good’. We went into overdrive to change from the Friday.” The re-opening is set to be a huge day for the club, which has undergone a significant redevelopment that has seen it be race-free for almost 18 months. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT CHARLTON'S 2020 PROJECT “We’ve been working pretty diligently,” Mr Thompson said. “We have focused on staying in contact with our members, increasing membership despite not racing, we are at 580-odd members and I reckon we will crack 600 this Sunday. “We just want to get racing. We’ve got a number of projects to get too, even more facilities, but on Sunday we have a significant building that will be open, a big lawn area, new trees, the revamped viewing area. The whole complex is six to eight metres off the track – you will feel like you are part of the action.” TRAINERS: CLICK HERE FOR RACING INFORMATION   HRV Trots Media

Top reinsman Greg Sugars believes potential superstar Ride High felt much better when winning at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night, improving on his 4YO & 5YO Championship showing last month. Despite only having a metre to spare on the line, the Clayton Tonkin-trained son of Art Major made light work of his opposition in the TAB Multiplier Westburn Grant Free For All (2240m). It was the five-year-old’s second start back from a long injury lay-off and his first since November 9 when scraping home for victory over Hurricane Harley. “He had the race obviously comfortably in his grasp and I just tried to look after him as best I could,” Sugars said of Saturday night’s front-running display. “He probably overdid it a little bit. Once I eased him, he’s eased too much and they run him to a slightly narrower margin than what we would have liked. “But it’s nothing to be too concerned about. We took a lot of positives out of the horse. He felt a lot sharper than what he did in his first-up run to me and I’m pretty happy with what he did. “If I had have been fair dinkum and sort of pushed him right out, I think he would have held a pretty decent margin and looked very, very impressive.” Owner-breeder Peter Gleeson told last week that a number of big Group 1 races were on the table for Ride High, including the illustrious Miracle Mile in March next year. Sugars said it would now be a matter of getting the runs into Ride High, which has been to the races just twice since late August 2018. “Obviously they are going to target some of the big races coming up early in the new year so I think we will just race wherever is suitable just to get a few runs under his belt and make sure he is in cherry ripe condition by the time those good races come up in January,” Sugars said. Ride High has now won 10 of 11 career starts for more than $200,000 in prizemoney. On Saturday night, Sugars landed the second leg of a winning double behind Joe Abela-trained Madena Sky in the Emerald Lake Logistics Trot (1720m, NR 67-77). John Caldow also drove a double, firstly partnering Michelle Eastman’s Aleppo Murphy to win the Schweppes Kids Christmas Party Trot (2240m, NR 78-100) and then Dallas McIntyre’s Sarah Bonus in the Pooch Beauty Salon Pace Final (1720m, 4YO+ NR 46-51). Training honours were shared, with 12 different people getting in the winner’s circle on Saturday night.   HRV Trots Media - Tim O'Connor

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