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Lennytheshark is the deserved short-priced harness racing favourite for Saturday night’s Allied Express Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton after drawing the coveted gate one today, but a couple of trainers with speedsters drawn wider out are tipping sparks early. Vince Vallelonga, who has seven-year-old Major Crocker out of gate six in the Victoria Cup, said his stable star would be using whatever weaponry he had on Saturday night. And he has gate speed in spades. “Lennytheshark might still lead and be too good but … we’ll definitely be shanghaiing off the arm,” Vallelonga said. “If we can lead then Lenny wants to come off the fence and have a crack for the front then that’s what he’ll do. There’s no point going back.” It’s a view shared by New South Wales horseman Kevin Pizzuto, who trains Cup contenders Code Black (barrier four) and Tiger Tara (barrier five). “We’re coming there to race,” he declared. “No point driving eight hours for nothing.” Pizzuto said he would be applying hopple shorteners to Tiger Tara, which is mainly a longer-term strategy for Perth’s Inter Dominion, but he’s still declaring game-on for Saturday night. “He’s got to get out harder with the Inter Dominion in mind, but in saying that we have Code Black too and actually I think Major Crocker if he wants to can probably get across the lot of us.” Reinsman Chris Alford, who has won 27 races aboard Lennytheshark including last year’s Miracle Mile, the Victoria Cup in 2016 and the Inter Dominion in 2015, said he “couldn’t be happier” with Lennytheshark’s barrier one draw. “It’s going to take something crazy to happen for someone to get across him from there and bring him undone,” Alford said. “He’s come through last week’s run (a win in the Olympus Feeds Smoken Up Sprint) really well.” Kerryn Manning has two runners engaged and both take extensive winning form into Saturday night, with Ameretto chasing her seventh straight win from gate two and Mr Mojito (barrier 11) pursuing a fourth successive victory. “I’m really happy with barrier two for Ameretto,” Manning said. “It’s a bit tricky obviously that Lenny has drawn one, but really happy to be in gate two. She’s well-placed where she’s drawn and being in the running line already from there is a bonus.” Ashlee Grives takes the steer on Ameretto on Saturday night with Manning attending a friend’s wedding in Queensland. Manning’s husband Grant Campbell will have the reins aboard Mr Mojito. “If the emergency comes out he’ll come into three on the back row which is not too bad for him but he’ll end up near the back. If the speed’s on that’ll suit him and if not we’re in trouble,” Manning said. Cobbitty trainer Craig Cross is hoping there is pace aplenty to bring his five-year-old gelding Galactic Star into the equation. “He’s going really good. He was parked the other night and they went 50 and a bit. He’ll be looking to come with a run I’d say, but we’re drawn well and we’ve got the best in Luke McCarthy driving,” Cross said. Tim Butt-trained My Field Marshal is clear second-favourite for the race despite drawing gate 10. Driver Anthony Butt gives the six-year-old Art Major entire a good chance of causing an upset, but admits he’ll need “some luck”. “It was a super run the other night. He had a flat tyre for the last 600m and I was really happy with him. We’re definitely a winning chance, but as I said he’ll just need a little bit of luck and for things to happen.” While Alford was thrilled to have drawn gate one with Lennytheshark, trainer Shane Tritton said Yayas Hot Spot “couldn’t have got a better draw” in barrier nine (eight if the emergency doesn’t gain a start). “We’re not going to have to burn off the arm. This is his chance. Not sure if we can beat Lennytheshark but he’s fast enough to definitely run a place,” Tritton said. “Lauren said he just got left a bit flat-footed at the bend (on Saturday night in the Smoken Up Sprint when fourth). If they make a race of it early we can hopefully do a bit of damage up the straight.” Yayas Hot Spot finished second in the Hunter Cup earlier this year from three-back on the pegs at the bell, beating Lennytheshark home by 5.4m. He has also placed in a 4YO Bonanza and Derby Final at Melton. Meanwhile, trainers Andy Gath, Alan Tubbs and Stephen O’Donoghue were upfront about their winning chances after their charges drew poorly. Gath has Burnaholeinmypocket from gate 12 and said “it makes it impossible, really”, adding “if he can run top-five that would be a great result.” On San Carlo, who drew gate seven, O’Donoghue said: “We’re happy to be in it but barrier seven makes it extremely hard and unlikely.” And Tubbs said things were “now out of his hands” after Tee Cee Bee Macray drew barrier 13. “I’m really disappointed but that’s just the luck of it. We can’t plan anything from there. If they don’t run 43 to the peg then basically you’re out of it. We’ll just be able to enjoy the night now I’d say.” Get the TAB.com.au fixed odds now for the Allied Express Victoria Cup Barrier draw for Allied Express Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton Saturday night 1  LENNYTHESHARK 2  AMERETTO 3  GALACTIC STAR 4  CODE BLACK 5  TIGER TARA 6  MAJOR CROCKER 7  SAN CARLO ------------------------------------------------- 8  FLAMING FLUTTER 9  YAYAS HOT SPOT 10 MY FIELD MARSHAL 11 MR MOJITO 12 BURNAHOLEINMYPOCKET 13 TEE CEE BEE MACRAY BOOK YOUR DINING PACKAGE FOR VICTORIA CUP NIGHT TODAY Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

The Victoria Cup of 2008 will always be remembered as the night Amy Tubbs and Melpark Major ran their harness racing rivals off their legs. Bowling along at the head of proceedings, Melpark Major was over a length clear off the back and running time. Into the straight the rivals got out and had their chance, but it mattered not, because Melpark Major was “the new king” as caller Dan Mielicki declared. “What about the time? It has obliterated the track record by half a second, 1:55.8 mile rate. That is staggering!” Bred and raced by long-time trots man Don Smith, Melpark Major was a son of the mighty Iraklis. He was trained by Alan Tubbs and Alan’s daughter Amy, 24, was entrusted with the driving duties. “I was roaring up the straight cheering him on and he just kept giving,” Amy said. VIDEO: Re-live Melpark Major's magical Moonee Valley win Given metro trots moved to Melton not long after Major’s Vic Cup win, the 1:55.8 mile rate record for the 2575m trip at Moonee Valley looks everlasting. Melpark Major was a modern-day champion, netting 36 wins and 36 minor placings from 113 starts for $979,056 in stakemoney. The fact he’ll never be credited with a Miracle Mile win seems almost cruel given how brave his run was in the Harold Park feature of 2008. He finished second to Divisive, who didn’t spent a drop of petrol in the run while Melpark Major was three-wide the trip. It was arguably the best runner-up effort seen on the Grand Circuit stage. Despite later-career issues following a mishap in Brisbane as a five-year-old, when he was the favourite for the Inter Dominion series, Melpark Major still won the 2010 Popular Alm Sprit, the 2013 Horsham Pacing Cup and a host of other strong races. “He was never the same (after Brisbane),” Alan Tubbs said. “He went from being a clean-legged horse to having joint trouble. I had to learn acupuncture, which I guess is a good thing because I can use it in future, but we had to look after him a lot more after that.” Melpark Major retired in 2014 to the property of Don Smith to live alongside other ‘Melpark’ horses. Today he continues to enjoy his retirement. Book your 2017 Allied Express Victoria Cup package now Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Star pacer Chicago Bull will travel to Melbourne to contest the harness racing $200,000 Victoria Cup at Melton on Saturday week if he wins the $50,000 J. P. Stratton Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. That’s the tentative plan formulated by the five-year-old’s master trainer Gary Hall Snr. “We’re thinking about tackling the Victoria Cup, and if he wins on Friday night we will seriously consider it,” Hall said. “I’ve tentatively booked the flight to Melbourne. “I had also planned to run Beaudiene Boaz in the Victoria Cup, but he has a quarter crack in his off fore hoof and he won’t be ready to resume racing for a month.” The Victoria Cup is a 2240m mobile event, with a random barrier draw. It is a race that Hall would dearly love to win. He took Im Themightyquinn to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2010, Im Themightyquinn finished third to Mr Feelgood in the Victoria Cup a week after winning the Cranbourne Cup. In 2011, Im Themightyquinn finished last behind Smoken Up in the Victoria Cup after finishing third to Smoken Up in the Miracle Mile, a nose second to Melpark Major in the Group 3 Popular Alm Free-For-All and second to Mr Feelgood in the Cranbourne Cup. Then, in December 2012, Hall made a hit-run trip to Melbourne when Im Themightyquinn finished third to Caribbean Blaster in the Victoria Cup after winning a Free-For-All at Gloucester Park the previous week. Chicago Bull, who has earned $963,434 from 23 wins and eight placings from just 36 starts, has drawn awkwardly on the inside of the back line in the 2130m Stratton Cup and reinsman Gary Hall Jnr’s initial thoughts are to stay on the pegs, trail the likely pacemaker Shandale and rely on a slice of luck to obtain a clear run in the final circuit. “I reckon it’s too hard to go back (from the inside of the back line) and then go around the rest of the field,” Hall Jnr said. Hall Snr agreed that the inside of the back line was far from an ideal draw. “I was hoping for a front-line draw so we could push him out of the gate, just to test his gate speed a bit. “He’s just a great little horse and his latest run was outstanding. That was his second run after a short spell and I wouldn’t have thought he was 100 per cent for that race, so I was a bit surprised at how well he did it. He’s going to keep getting better and better, I hope, leading up to the Inters.” The wonderful combination of Hall Snr and Jnr has won the Stratton Cup three times --- with Bengeeman (2002), Alzona (2011) and Waylade (2015). Hall Snr will also be represented in this year’s Cup by Norvic Nightowl (Stuart McDonald), Run Oneover (Nathan Turvey) and American Boy (Lauren Jones). Norvic Nightowl ran a splendid Cup trial last Friday night when he was ninth at the bell before sustaining a powerful three-wide burst which took him to a narrow lead 70m from the post before finishing an extremely close third behind Simply Susational and Tricky Styx. He is handily drawn at barrier two on Friday night and is sure to be prominent. Chicago Bull’s chief rivals are likely to be Soho Tribeca (barrier two on the back line), Shandale and Norvic Nightowl. Soho Tribeca made a wonderful return to racing after a short spell when he started out wide at barrier nine, raced three wide for much of the first lap and then in the breeze before getting to the front on the home turn and winning from Bronze Seeker and Ideal Tyson over 2130m last Friday night. That was his fourth win in a row and his 16th victory from 40 starts. Shannon Suvaljko, who has been successful in the Stratton Cup with The Hunter (2010) and Libertybelle Midfrew (2016) is delighted at Shandale’s barrier draw at No. 1 on the front line and said he expected the five-year-old to prove hard to beat. “Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca have difficult draws and I’ve got a good draw over 2130m,” he said. “I’ll definitely be holding the lead and I’ll be letting Shandale roll along. His latest run, when seventh behind Chicago Bull in the Navy Cup last Friday week was good. He was off the track when they ran the third quarter of the last mile in 27.4sec. and he still fought on. “I honestly think he’s a winning chance; he’ll definitely finish in the top three. If they get over him, they get over him. But they’ll have to run some time to get past him.” Shandale is prepared by Mike Reed, who has won the group 3 Stratton Cup with Just Packapunch (1995), Capitol V (2008) and Libertybelle Midfrew (who set the pace from the No. 1 barrier and won easily from The Bucket List and Bettors Fire last year). Hall of Fame reinsman Chris Lewis is seeking his eighth win in a Stratton Cup after being successful with Black Irish (1983), Village Kid (1985, 19888, 1991), Ohoka Ace (2005), Sneakyn Down Under (2009) and Sensational Gabby (2014). He will drive Americanbootscoota, who was outstanding in defeat when second to Chicago Bull in the Navy Cup after setting the pace and being under extreme pressure from Run Oneover, who overraced badly in the breeze. Americanbootscoota is awkwardly drawn at the No. 6 barrier on the front line. Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri, who won the Stratton Cup with Just Packapunch (1993) and Sensational Gabby (2014), will be represented by Jambiani (Chris Voak) and Sheer Rocknroll (Morgan Woodley), who face tough tasks from wide barriers. Ken Casellas

2004 – Sokyola delivers Justice his first Victoria Cup. “It’s the Aussie champ, Sokyola’s done it again!” Racecaller Dan Mielicki produced a trademark pearl for Race 7 at the Valley on 18 December 2004. Same can be said for Lance Justice, the straight-shooting harness racing horseman who put the hobbles on his superstar Sokyola that night and delighted favourite punters who took a ticket at the $2.10 on offer with the bagmen. The win came during a season of astronomical success for Sokyola, an eight-year-old son of Sokys Atom out of a one-start maiden Chiola Hanover mare named Maudola (12th at Winton in 1995 on debut). In fact, both 03-04 and 04-05 saw Sokyola unrivalled in the pacing game – named back-to-back Australian Harness Horse of the Year. Soky won both Miracle Miles in those seasons at the then dream factory of New South Wales trots, Harold Park. At the completion of his racetrack career, Sokyola had amassed $1,890,990 in stakemoney with 78 wins and 42 minor placings from 161 appearances. For trivia buffs, the first of those successes came for a Kiwi trainer, Mervyn Todd, who drove Sokyola home in a three-year-old handicap at Invercargill in March 2000. “Don McRae and Curly Thomas jacked up the sale for us,” Todd told the Southland Times in 2007. “(Australian trainer) Lance Justice flew over and trialled him on my wee track. He only ran him over a furlong and commented he was a natural.” That was enough for Justice to be won over. In Australia, Sokyola was raced by Colin Croft, who, like his trainer originated in South Australia. And Sokyola was not Croft’s first Horse of the Year, either. He famously raced Inter Dominion champion Markovina (1977’s premier trots performer). In terms of Soky’s achievements, the 2004 Vic Cup win is remembered as one of his most memorable. Working to the front early for Justice, who incidentally earlier that evening piloted outsider Cam Strike home in the opener – the Claimers Cup, Sokyola dictated the pace early (74.7secs lead time, 31.7 first split and 32.5 second). “It is going to be a big sprint home here,” said Mielicki. “Have they played into Lance’s hands?” They had. At the 500m Justice began to up the stakes, Just An Excuse was extended by reinsman Todd Mitchell in the breeze, and Flashing Red, the Queenslander for Ian McMahon, was three-wide. Hexus, for Nathan Giles, was following Justice’s every move behind Sokyola, waiting to strike. At full throttle Hexus worked home solidly along the inside but his late bid was always doomed to fail, with Sokyola having plenty in reserve up the stretch. Just An Excuse finished third and stuck to his guns but, in reality, Soky always had them licked in the run, winning by a metre and a half in 2:02.5 with a last quarter of 27-flat. The triumph was Justice’s first in a Vic Cup but wouldn’t be his last. In the 2011 renewal he combined with his next champion, the indomitable Smoken Up at Tabcorp Park Melton. And who’s to say there won’t be another?  Book your Allied Express Victoria Cup dining package today Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Three phone calls a few minutes apart today all but confirmed New Zealand with a starter in next week’s Victoria Cup -- possibly two. Because while trainer Steve Telfer can’t be certain his greatly-improved mare  Better B Amazed will get into the A$200,000 race, he is planning like she will. And has now decided to add stablemate No Doctor Needed to the list of possible Cup contenders. Better B Amazed has been the revelation of the fast-class pacing season in the north with two wins this campaign before a brave second off a 20m handicap to No Doctor Needed in the Spring Cup at Alexandra Park last Friday. That was enough to convince Telfer and the pair’s owners they deserve a crack at the big time in the Victoria Cup, which has been moved from its traditional summer date to October 14. Telfer is hoping to get both straight into the 2240m Cup so has decided to bypass the major lead-up, the Smoken Up, at Melton this Friday and phoned Harness Racing Victoria today to ascertain whether a Cup start is likely for the pair. “They couldn’t confirm anything and I respect that so we won’t know definitively until the field comes out next Tuesday,” says Telfer. “But she would be a M5 or M6 over there and he would probably be an M5 and I am thinking that will be enough to get one or both of them in. “ And they (HRV) now know we are keen to start. “So the next call we made was to the transporters to see when the flights are. “The plane doesn’t leave till next Wednesday so we can see if they make the field and put them, or one of them, on the plane after that. “But at this stage are are planning to go and make it a one-race raid. “Then Better B Amazed can come back here and be set for the mares races while No Doctor Needed will go to the New Zealand Cup. “For the mare a big run, especially a placing in a Victoria Cup, would be a great result for her broodmare career later.”  Telfer is also toying with the idea of starting his exciting three-year-old American Brave in the second northern Sires’ Stakes heat at Alexandra Park next week.  “He was very unlucky last Friday night and we think a lot of him.  “So we will give him a shot at a Sires’ Stakes heat and see how he measures up.”  The first northern Sires’ Stakes heat of the season is at Cambridge this Thursday, with a small but select field including last-start Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing.   Michael Guerin

Who could forget the night Caribbean Blaster came from widest on the second row to cause a harness racing boilover in the Victoria Cup? It was 15 December, 2012, at Tabcorp Park Melton, and driver Kate Gath delivered Caribbean Blaster connections and husband trainer Andy Gath an early Christmas present with an absolute jewel of a steer. And her salute at the post was priceless. “… Kate put him in exactly the right spot and his finishing burst was special,” Andy Gath beamed post-race. “Obviously I was initially disappointed with the barrier draw (13) but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, his speed is sensational and he follows pace so well. “I thought he would win at the home turn, when he made his run with Im Themightyquinn I was confident he could get over the top of him, it was a very gratifying victory.” West Australian star Im Themightyquinn shot away from the mobile to lead for Gary Hall Jr, confirming the natter pre-race. Pressure came in the form of The Gold Ace and Tony Herlihy into the first bend but ‘Quinny’ held the front. Initially Terrorway for Andy McCarthy had landed one-by-one, but as soon as ‘Quinny’ signalled his intention to hold out the Ace, McCarthy went whoosh three-wide and shimmied to the lead unchallenged. When the lead time was semaphored at 41.9, Andy Gath must have been smiling. That’s smoking! Speaking of, the superstar from Lance Justice’s camp, Smoken Up, then made his run three-wide with over a lap and a quarter to go. Justice urged tough ‘Trigger’ up outside of Terrorway and Washakie, the latter booting up in the chair at the thousand for driver John McCarthy. It was fair dinkum on. An interesting sidenote, John McCarthy had three runners in this race, the leader Terrorway, the breeze horse Washakie and Franco Jamar back in the field. Meanwhile, Caribbean Blaster was three horses back in the three-wide train, and, you’d have to say, well placed given the hot fractions. A 30secs first split and a 28.7secs second meant Caribbean’s pre-race $30.40 odds had surely been blasted into single digits. Off the back in 29.2secs and Smoken Up was under pressure to chase down the leader. Washakie was basically in reverse. Gonzo. ‘Quinny’ angled away from the inside and pushed three-wide into the clear, while Caribbean Blaster loomed like a thunderstorm for punters who’d taken the shorts about the favourite (‘Quinny’ was $1.6). The WA pacer did hit the front, but only fleetingly. Kate said go and her son of Bettor's Delight put ‘Quinny’ to the sword, resulting in the Gaths adding a Victoria Cup to their trophy cabinet alongside the A.G. Hunter Cup won by About To Rock six years prior. Mah Sish poked through along the inside late to snare second place ahead of Im Themightyquinn; the final quarter covered in 28.5secs. Caribbean Blaster recorded a mile rate of 1:53.7. “He was just a lovely horse to work with. You get to spend so much time with them one-on-one. Every time they step on to the track they go to war for you. They’re the sorts of horses that actually make me look good,” Andy Gath said years later of Caribbean Blaster. Caribbean Blaster is nowadays establishing himself in the breeding barn. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Prior to 1997, only four horses had won multiple harness racing Victoria Cups. They were Koala King (1978, 79 and 80), Popular Alm (1982 and 83), Bag Limit (1987 and 88) and Sinbad Bay (1989 and 91). Despite his horse being an 11-1 shot, Kiwi trainer Cran Dalgety would have had every confidence in '97 that his 1996 Victoria Cup winner Desperate Comment could go back-to-back, because ‘Spike’, as he was affectionately known, was a warrior. “He had an amazing will to win,” Dalgety said of Desperate Comment looking back at the million-dollar stakes earner’s career ($1,033,065 in prize money to be exact). Eight years old and lining up from the pole draw on February 1 1997, at Moonee Valley Desperate Comment was a distant third-favourite with punters in the Vic Cup behind Iraklis (1-4fav) and Our Sir Vancelot (5-1). A year prior, Peter Jones had steered Desperate Comment to success in the Victoria Cup over Burlington Bertie and Norms Daughter. Now Graeme Lang was in the gig behind the Kiwi superstar. Early doors in the 2380m feature everything went to script for favourite backers with Iraklis cruising to the front for Ricky May from gate two. Trainer Robert Cameron had two representatives in the race, Iraklis and 20-1 shot Anvils Star. After a couple of hundred metres they were one-two on the rails, with Anthony Butt pushing Anvils Star on to the leader’s back position ahead of Desperate Comment, who drifted back in the early section to land the often-awkward three-fence position. When The Suleiman pushed to the chair – eventually and under driving – with a lap and a half to go there was some extra heat up front, but nothing too major and the favourite always appeared to travel well. Into the back straight the final time and Desperate Comment remained three back on the rails, but 100m later he began to emerge as Lang started plotting a path between runners. They went 28.1 for the third split, so Iraklis by this stage was fair humming, and both Our Sir Vancelot and Desperate Comment were in the clear around the famous Moonee Valley home turn the final time. Iraklis had a strong kick and halfway up the straight looked as though he may have put the result to bed. But, alas for May and Iraklis, the winning post just never seemed to come, and Desperate Comment swooped down the outside to score a neck win over another fast-finisher in Anvils Star, who finally saw daylight, with Iraklis battling into third place beaten one metre. The winning rate was 1:58.2 and the last split 28.3. For Dalgety, looking back to earlier in Desperate Comment's career, success didn’t take long to arrive. At just this third start with the Kentuckiana Lodge stable, ‘Spike’ beat Grand Circuit superstars Master Musician and Blossom Lady to land the Group 1 Easter Cup at Addington for reinsman Jimmy Curtin. “Admired, respected and loved for his courage, determination and attitude,” reads the headstone above where the champion pacer’s ashes now rest in the garden adjacent to the stable complex at Kentuckiana Lodge. “Champion racehorse, world record holder, millionaire pacer, winner of 28 races. Born Auckland 22-11-1988, died Melbourne 26-9-1997.  His memory will live on in the hearts of Allan Campbell, Joe Mullins and Graham Pilkington (owners), Cran Dalgety (trainer), Peter Jones (driver) and all who were privileged to know him.” Desperate Comment fractured a near pastern when racing at the peak of his powers in August 1997. “The fractured leg just disintegrated at a later date and he had to be put down,” Dalgety said. “When you look back, it was a good effort for him to just crack the million in stakes when he did all his racing as an older horse.” Desperate Comment won 28 races from 76 starts.  Book your place at this year's Allied Express Victoria Cup Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Loyalty means everything to champion trainer-driver Kerryn Manning. That’s why she won’t be at Melton when she has two runners in the rescheduled $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup (2240m) at Melton on October 14. Many months back – long before Harness Racing Victoria shifted the Victoria Cup to its new timeslot – Manning gleefully accepted the Maid of Honour role at the wedding of harness identities Vic Frost and Gail Geeson.  And nothing will change that.  Manning expects to have her two stable stars, Mr Mojito and Ameretto, in the Victoria Cup.  “Obviously the timing isn’t great where they moved the Victoria Cup to, but I’m comitted to the wedding and Vic and Gail are great people. That’s where I’ll be,” Manning said. Manning spoke with Ameretto’s former trainer-driver and part-owner Ashlee Grives about partnering the mare in the Victoria Cup.  “Ash didn’t say no, but didn’t confirm it either. I’d love her to drive her mare, she knows her better than anyone does,” she said.  Grives confirmed via social media last Saturday night that she would take the drive.  Ameretto looked fantastic winning her sixth race on end in a scorching 1.51.5 mile rate for 1720m in the Group Three Tailamade Lombo at Melton last Friday night.  “She did it pretty comfortably,” Manning said. “She did so much work early, I didn’t want to go for home too early. She’s going so well she deserves a go at a race like the Victoria Cup.”  The key was Ameretto’s win against “the boys” in the Group Two Breeders Crown Graduate free-for-all in late August.  Manning is uncertain whether she will run the mare again before the Victoria Cup.  “The only option is the Smoken Up Sprint in two weeks, but that means running against the likes of Lennytheshark, My Field Marshal and others,” she said. “She’s really fit and might not need another run. I’ll wait and see.”  It’s a similar situation with Mr Mojito, who also ran blistering time winning his third race on end in the free-for-all last Friday night. His mile rate was 1.52.0 for 1720m.  “He’s improving with every run, but he is still green. He’s an M5 now and has only raced 20 times. I’m not sure he’ll ever grow out of some of quirks,” Manning said.  “He’s such a bad steering horse at times. And one day he works really well in training, but the next he feels like an average maiden.  “But he’s putting it together consistently at the races and should get a start in the Victoria Cup on what he’s done in his past few runs.  “I might take him straight into the Cup now. But the option of the Smoken Up Sprint is there for him as well.”  Manning’s husband and co-trainer Grant Campbell has first dibs on the Mr Mojito drive in the Victoria Cup, but no final decision has been made.  Beyond the Victoria Cup, both Mr Mojito and Ameretto could head to Perth.  “Ameretto will go for the mares’ races over there. I’m also taking Motu Meteor for the four-year-old races,” Manning said.  “Mr Mojito is not certain because he’s still raw and the (tight) track must be some query, but if we take Ameretto and Meteor, then we will probably take Mr Mojito across as well.  “Let’s see how he goes against the really good ones in the Victoria Cup and then make a decision.” Adam Hamilton

Shane Tritton’s been trying to get his speedstar Yayas Hot Spot to the Perth Inter Dominion for three years. And now he’s sure he will finally get there. “I feel like it’s unfinished business,” Tritton said. “He’s finally ranked high enough and we’re going across. “First it’s down to Melbourne for the Victoria Cup.” Yayas Hot Spot confirmed a two-race Melbourne raid after Yayas Hot Spot smashed the clock in a solo workout at Penrith. He ran a 1.53.6 mile, which was 1.4sec inside the official track record. “He won’t run before Melbourne. He’ll go first-up into the Smoken Up on October 6 at Melton,” Tritton said. Then comes the $200,000 Group One Victoria Cup at Melton eight days later. In other stable news, Shane and Lauren Tritton combined with their classy six-year-old mare Miss Riviera Belle to win the $30,600 Group Three Piccadilly Princess in a 1.53 mile at Menangle last Saturday night. _______________________________________________________________________________________ When Hunter Cup winner Bling It On crashed to the track a few months back and was ruled-out of the Victoria Cup and Perth Inter Dominion, Luke McCarthy’s hopes of competing in those races looked slim. Maybe Mach Doro or Allblack Stride could step-up, but instead it has been new stable addition Galactic Star who emerged. The former WA-trained five-year-old has looked terrific winning both starts for Craig Cross with McCarthy in the bike. Galactic Star won narrowly but impressively after sitting parked for much of the race in a 1.55.9 mile rate for 2300m at Menangle last Saturday night. It was enough for connections to label the Victoria Cup (Melton, October 14) a target. Galactic Star was bought from NZ by Greg and Skye Bond and won 13 of his 19 WA starts for them before being sent to NSW. Adam Hamilton

Next stop Victoria for My Field Marshal. Trainer Tim Butt declared his stable star right on target for the Victoria Cup after a narrow, but impressive Menangle win last Saturday night. My Field Marshal’s next and only other lead-up run will be in the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at Melton on October 6. The rescheduled $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup is eight days later at the same track. “He’s right where I want him,” Butt said. “We’ve had to drive him outside of his comfort zone in these two recent Menangle races because he’s been the best horse in the race and drawn the outside. “The problem with sitting parked with him is that he’s a bugger for wanting to loaf when he hits the front. “He did that when Little Rascal nabbed him two starts back and wanted to do it again the other night, but lifted enough to hold them off. He’s got more left that it looks, but he’s a better chaser than leader.” Despite doing all the work, My Field Marshal hit the lead early in the straight and held-off Allblack Stride to win by a neck in a slick 1min51.9sec mile. Butt, who announced last week he was setting-up a Menangle stable and spending much of his time in NSW, will first head to Melbourne on Tuesday week. “I’ll be down in Melbourne for five weeks. Let It Ride, who is a serious horse, is coming across to join My Field Marshal down there,” Butt said. “The 4&5YO Championship (November 11, at Melton) is the main goal with him down there.” Butt said it was a busy, but exciting time for the stable. “It’s great to be going into partnership with Jonny Cox back home and to be getting serious about a team at Menangle,” he said. “I’m really excited about the Menangle team and committed to making a splash with a nice bunch of horses.” Adam Hamilton

Trainer Steve Telfer is daring to dream of Cups glory with the surprise package of the pacing season -- but not the Cup everybody else is thinking about. Telfer has had a red-hot start to the season but he admits even he is stunned by the form of Better B Amazed, with the enormously improved mare scoring two crushing open class wins at Alexandra Park. The second came last Friday where she sat parked and rated 1:53.9 for 1700m, just 0.4 of a second off his national record on a cold, wet night. Better B Amazed has now beaten New Zealand Cup contenders No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind twice, coming from outside them both times and would not be out of place in the Cup at Addington on November 14. But while Telfer realises the new season version of his mare has jumped up a few notches, he is thinking of a different Cup. “There is a little chance she could target the Victoria Cup at Melton next month,” says Telfer. “We all realise how much better she is going even than last season when she was going pretty well. “I can’t really put it down to one thing, probably just maturity. “But she is working better and every time this season we have taken her to the workouts or race she has gone up a level. “We had a meeting on Saturday night to discuss what to do next and the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup isn’t her best distance so we aren’t considering a late nom for that. “But the new Victoria Cup interests us a bit.” The Victoria Cup has been transferred from the January date when Lazarus won it last season to October 14, the same day as the Everest in Sydney and the Caulfield Guineas. Because of the move leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have declare they aren’t likely to send one of their team to the 2240m mobile and with the Australian elite ranks lacking depth after injuries to Hectorjayjay and Bling It On, the Victoria Cup is dominated by Lennytheshark and My Field Marshal. “They are still great horses but we think she is at her best over sprint trips so we are considering taking her to Victoria for the Smoken Up over 1720m in early October and if she raced well then the Victoria Cup,” says Telfer. “She we will nominate her for the Spring Cup next week and make the final decision after that, but a start next week might also depend on her handicap.” Telfer would eventually like to campaign Better B Amazed at Menangle, outside Sydney,where in her current form something close to a 1:50 mile looks within her capabilities. She wasn’t the only big-name pacing mare to impress over the weekend as Dream About Me was a brave third to stablemate Have Faith In Me in their comeback race at Addington on Saturday. Dream About Me was expected to need the outing and paraded looking burly but after sitting parked her run was every bit as good as Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner, who beat her home. She will now become a rarity, a Purdon-Rasmussen starter in this Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru as she needs more concentrated racing while Have Faith In Me will be allowed to miss that next stop on the road to the New Zealand Cup. But much of the Cup focus will be on the Rangiora trials tomorrow where the two dominant favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks have their first public outings for the  season. They are likely to follow identical paths to the great race so punters will get plenty off dress rehearsals to help them make up their minds before November.   Michael Guerin

October’s premier trots event will be named the Allied Express Victoria Cup after Australia’s leading independently-owned courier, freight and logistics company partnered the famed race. Allied Express CEO Colin McDowell said the company’s sponsorship of the October 14 Victoria Cup reflected its commitment to the sport and to greater Melbourne. “Melbourne is an important market for Allied Express and the trots is a vehicle for us to spread the business’s message,” Mr McDowell said. “The Allied Express Victoria Cup is a big race and it’s the night of the Everest and the Caulfield Guineas, so a lot of people will be thinking about the thoroughbreds and the trots on that day.” The prestigious race, which has been won by immortals Christen Me, Lennytheshark and Lazarus in the past three years, further strengthens the long involvement both Allied Express and Mr McDowell have had with the sport. The company, which employs more than 1500 Australians in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, has financially supported the sport for almost 50 years. Mr McDowell has been a trots driver for almost as long as well as a prolific owner and breeder. “It’s in my blood,” he said. “My son (Ben) and daughter-in-law (Kerry) do the training now and we have about 70 horses on the go and are always working to find that next nice horse.” Harness Racing Victoria CEO David Martin said: “Harness Racing Victoria is pleased to have signed Allied Express as naming rights sponsor for the 2017 Victoria Cup. The 2017 Allied Express Victoria Cup promises to be an exciting race.” The cup will be held on October 14 at Tabcorp Park Melton and remains one of only eight Australasian races that form the Grand Circuit. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) has tonight announced the Group 1 Victoria Cup will be run on Saturday night, October 14, next season. The Victoria Cup will carry prizemoney of $200,000 – reduced from $400,000 in 2016-17, with the $50,000 Group 1 Bill Collins Trotters Sprint run on the same night.  The $50,000 Smoken Up Sprint will be held on October 6 as the lead-in race to the Victoria Cup, which in turn complements timing for horses wishing to participate in the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Inter Dominion. HRV CEO David Martin acknowledged the scale of the change, explaining that the reduced prizemoney would enable the provision of more races to the industry, and thereby contribute to a continuation of an increased participation rate evident in recent months.  “Importantly, the Victoria Cup will retain its Grand Circuit status and remain a key feature of our racing calendar,” Mr Martin said. Mr Martin also said the alteration would allow the Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star to become the headline act on night one of the Summer of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday, January 27. “There will be multiple Group 1 events on the first night of the Summer of Glory at Tabcorp Park Melton, so it will remain an elite program with the Great Southern Star the main race, but also featuring the Victoria Derby and the Ladyship Cup,” Mr Martin said. “Night two of the Summer of Glory will feature the Group 1 A. G. Hunter Cup and the Group 1 V. L. Dullard Trotters Cup.  The Ballarat Cup is the week before Great Southern Star night and it made sense not to have three straight Group 1 pacing events of similar distances in three weeks. We wanted to ensure the Hunter Cup attracted the best field possible as part of our Summer of Glory.” Today’s announcement means the Group 1 PETstock Ballarat Cup will be the lead-in race to the A.G. Hunter Cup, with Grand Circuit horses likely to take a week off between the two events. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Lazarus might be the best pacer in the world but he won’t be asked to prove it. Because trainer-driver Mark Purdon says his piece of pacing perfection will never campaign in North America, even though he could potentially dominate there, like he did in Saturday’s A$400,000 Victoria Cup. Lazarus turned the 2240m mobile into an advert for his future stud career, blazing to a 12m win without being asked for his maximum. His task was made easier by a second favourite Hectorjayjay being checked into a gallop early but it wouldn’t have mattered as Lazarus was in front of him by that stage and tore around the Melton track in a 1:52.5 mile rate. He becomes a rare four-year-old winner of the Victoria Cup and is now red hot for the A$1,050,000 treble of the Bonanza, Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile in the next month. Purdon believes Lazarus is still working his way back to his jaw-dropping level of New Zealand Cup week and if he gets there by Miracle Mile night on February 25 he could go close to 1:47 for a mile. It is a very realistic estimate considering Have Faith In Me set the Australasian record at 1:47.5 last season and Lazarus is racing to a higher level than his stablemate was then. A 1:47 mile in the Southern Hemisphere would put Lazarus in the all-time greats of the sport anywhere in the world and it would be hugely tempting to give him his shot at North America next year, where feature race success could set him up as a dual hemisphere stallion. But while that could be worth millions, Purdon says there is enough money to be won in this part of the world without the risk. “I don’t think he needs to go up there and risk the complications,” he explains. “He has some huge races to chase down here and his owners are loving racing him so we haven’t even talked about the stud stuff yet.” If he can stay sound and he doesn’t start thinking more about his love life than his track like, Lazarus could the horse harness racing has prayed for. He was the captain of a near perfect Kiwi team at Melton on Saturday, with Vincent, Motu Meteor and Jack’s Legend winning the three Victoria Derby heats. Jack’s Legend was patiently handled by Zac Butcher but still sat three wide for the last 800m and rated 1:55 for the 2240m, handing trainer Barry Purdon and Butcher as driver a perfect two from two for the night. Earlier in the evening Butcher snuck Rocker Band up the passing lane to win her first Australian start and now takes on Piccadilly Princess in the Ladyship Cup this Saturday, the winner guaranteed a start in the Ladyship Mile on February 25. Motu Meteor made the most of a trail to win his heat but it was Vincent who stole the show, sitting parked before smashing his rivals by 12m and earning $1.30 pre-draw favouritism. Among the older horses Have Faith In Me scored his first win since the Miracle Mile in a support race and while it had to be brave after sitting parked he still looks two or three lengths off the horse of last season, with the Hunter Cup on Saturday his chance to turn that around. For all the greatness of Lazarus perhaps them most heart-warming Kiwi win of the night was Sunny Ruby sneaking home in the Dullard Cup for Sam Smolenski in what was the first Australian start for horse and trainer. “That was a great buzz because obviously the Great Southern Star is the main race we are here for,” said Smolenski. “But I am loving this trip and learning so its a great experience.” Sunny Ruby will now head to this Saturday’s A$300,000 Great Southern Star against Speeding Spur, with Kiwi horses set to be favourites in all five group ones at Melton this Saturday. Michael Guerin

It’s a knockout. The triumphant performance of New Zealand pacer Lazarus in tonight’s (Saturday) Gr.1 $400,000 Eynesbury Victoria Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton had to be seen to be believed after he embarrassed his rivals in the 2240m harness racing feature. It was eerily similar to his New Zealand Cup thrashing back in November when successful by an ever expanding margin. The brilliant pacer joins only Sinbad Bay and Holmes DG as winners of the Victoria Cup as a four-year-old. Starting as a clear favourite after landing gate six, Lazarus ($1.50 fav) pushed hard from the gate and found a forward position early before Purdon allowed the Bettor's Delight entire to stride freely down the back straight on the first occasion to take the lead from Major Crocker with a mile left to travel. The lead time was covered in 44.2 seconds. With Mach Doro galloping wildly at release point and then Hectorjayjay also making a rare error, the race took on a completely different look in comparison to most speed maps. Many thought the race was over once Lazarus found the front. Lazarus travelled strongly in front and covered the first half of the final mile in splits of 30 and 28.6 seconds. Bling It On worked clear from the inside and moved around the outside while Allblack Stride also made a mid-race move before Hectorjayjay charged around to sit parked over the final lap. At this point, rivals were chasing in vain. Entering the back straight, Lazarus powered along in front leaving rivals starting to feel the pinch while others jostled for better positions. The third quarter was covered in 27.4 seconds. At the top of the home straight, Purdon lifted the reins and his star pupil left his rivals tapping out as he inflicted more pain with a scintillating final sectional. He finished off his rivals with a 26.4 final split. Lazarus defeated Major Crocker ($81.80) by 12m while Bling It On ($14.20) grabbed third a further 7.7m away. The final mile was clocked in 1:52.4. The race time was 2:36.6 – a mile rate of 1:52.5 which easily eclipsed the previous race record of Smoken Up who set a mark of 1:53.4 when successful in 2011. It also smashed the track record which previously belonged to All Eyes On Us at 1:53.2. “He’s a very special horse, perhaps the greatest I’ve ever trained.” Purdon stated immediately after the race. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017 The victory was his third in the event following previous victories with Young Rufus (2003) and Brabham (1998 – trainer). The winning effort also elevates Lazarus to a clear lead in the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit with 200 points following his victories in both the New Zealand and Victoria Cups; his stablemates Smolda (120) and Our Dream About Me (100) are next. Perth pacer Chicago Bull has also amassed 100 points. Only two legs of the APG Grand Circuit remain this season. Next week, the Gr.1 $500,000 Del Re National Hunter Cup takes place; the 2700m mobile event will be staged at Melton. Chris Barsby

Lazarus’ dominant victory in the Eynesbury Victoria Cup reinforced his star-studded status and capped a remarkable night for harness racing trainer-driver Mark Purdon, who registered a fifth win on the trot. The 12m win in the $400,000 Group 1 feature prompted Purdon, not one for grand statements, to share that Lazarus just might be the greatest horse he had ever trained. Purdon had reason to be chuffed after Lazarus’ win topped an incredible winning streak and has him seemingly set for further glory on Saturday’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night. “I feel good. It’s been a great night,” Purdon said. “Unbelievable, you don’t expect to come here and win them all and to do it is a great feeling.” Purdon claimed two VHRSC Victoria Derby heats, including with Vincent who put in a Lazarus like performance, won the The SEW Eurodrive Pure Steel with Have Faith In Me and then drove Sunny Ruby to victory in the Haras Des Trotteurs V L Dullard Trotters Cup. But all the success would have been soured had Lazarus not sealed the deal in the night’s showcase race, and it was a win that never seemed in doubt. Lazarus showed gate speed to match the fast starters inside him, Major Crocker and Tact Tate, and so was able to glide across and then claim the front at the time of his choosing. Lazarus’ biggest threat, Hectorjayjay, had plenty of room to advance from the back row after Major Crocker’s blistering start, but a check with Cruz Bromac saw Hectorjayjay break and plummet to the rear of the field. It as good as put paid to Josh and David Aiken’s challenger and enabled Purdon to run free up front. “You can’t afford to get checked in this sort of race, it’s tough to overcome that against a good horse like this,” Purdon said. “Luckily (Lazarus) got out of the gate good and into a good spot before I decided to take the front.” After a 44.2 lead time Lazarus set 30-second and 28.6-second first and second quarters, the latter after Bling It On loomed into the breeze and then gifted that place to trailing Hectorjayjay. Aiken's was a brave attempt to put the second favourite back into the race, but Lazarus’ 27.4 third quarter and 26.4 final quarter put him into a class of his own, winning by 12m from Major Crocker, who ran an outstanding second and finished some 7.7m clear of third-placed Bling It On. But, in the end there was only one, Lazarus, the four-year-old Bettor's Delight entire out of Bethany for owners Glenys and Phil Kennard, Trevor Casey and Kevin Riseley. “He’s a special horse,” Purdon said. “I said that to the owners as a three-year-old. Smolda got beaten in a free-and-all and I told the owners that Lazarus would have won that, and he was only three at the time.” Smolda will get his turn next week in the $500,000 Group 1 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, when he will take on old foe David Aiken. Purdon’s enormous Summer Of Glory could continue to blaze on February 4 with Lazarus to be an almost unbackable favourite in the Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza and Vincent likewise in the VHRSC Victoria Derby. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

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