25 April 2011 - Eight-year-old Bendigo square-gaiter Barneys Invasion scored his first win in over seven months, taking out the $15,000 J A Connelly Crystal Bucket at Echuca on Easter Sunday. Trained and driven by Bendigo Harness Racing Club committeeman Paul Morrissey, Barneys Invasion was the $38.00 outsider in the nine-horse feature race field. Morrissey had Barneys Invasion in third place behind the leader Si Capisco until the straight then the driver used the sprint lane to steer his trotter home to a narrow victory. Barneys Invasion beat Si Capisco ($9.70 - Neville Welsh) by a neck with My Mate Claudy ($3.90 - Scott Dyer) four metres away in third place. The $3.40 favourite Armed Guard finished fourth. The victory was the ninth for Barneys Invasion from 92 starts. He last greeted the judge first back in September last year at Warragul with the Ambro Invasion geklding's best 2011 performance before Sunday's victory, his third placing to stars Ronerail and Danny Cash in the SA Trotters Cup in January. Barneys Invasion is the seveth of eight foals that Morrissey has bred from his Nardins Byrd (USA) mare Anna Sophia, with Just Like Jack, Chase A Dream and Livingonadream the mare's other race winners. - David Aldred
21 April 2011 - Emma Stewart isn’t letting Our Surfer Girl’s failure at Cranbourne this weekt get her down ahead of Vicbred Super Series specialist Rocknrolla’s long-awaited return to the racetrack this Saturday night at Bendigo.
Like Our Surfer Girl, which Rocknrolla nosed out to win last year’s $100,000 Group 1 Vicbred 3YO Fillies Final, the daughter of Grinfromeartoear resumes from a lengthy spell in a heat of this year’s four-year-old mares division. This week'ss heat saw Our Surfer Girl gallop out before finishing eighth behind Hermione at her first start since cracking a pastern after her effortless 3YO Fillies Classic win last June, but Stewart is confident of a better showing from Rocknrolla. She also won the Vicbred crown at two and defending her titles has been the aim ever since Stewart put Rocknrolla aside after she beat home just two runners behind De Lovely in last July’s Australian Oaks at Tabcorp Park. “It’s been a long road back, but we’re looking forward to seeing her race again,” she said.
“She had a really bad virus when she came back from Sydney from the Australian Pacing Gold (in March) and we battled with it all season, but we just decided to give her a long spell so she could get over it and come back and defend her title this year. “She’s probably come back the best we’ve had her. We had a bit of a hiccup two weeks ago when we weren’t sure whether we were going to make it or not, but apart from that her work’s been really good and we’re really happy with her.” Rocknrolla might still be short of her best given she’s coming off a nine-month break, but Stewart thinks she’s capable of taking of her record to 13 wins from 22 starts. She will start from barrier five in the 2150-metre qualifier that includes Tabcorp Australasian Breeders Crown two-year-old champion Led Suitcase (three), in-form pair Nickle Miss (six) and Espshlilucky (nine) and the capable Illawong Cath (eight). “It is a strong heat and the others are all up and running, so we’re on the back foot a little bit there, but she’s had plenty of work at home and she trialled well on Sunday so she’ll definitely be forward enough,” Stewart said.Rocknrolla’s race, to be run at 6:55pm, is part of a big Easter Saturday night of Vicbred action at Bendigo. Another four-year-old mares’ heat, including classy types Revivalist (one), Art Shadow (two), Miss Trickin Lombo (seven) and Vapar Raine (10), will follow at 7:30pm. Our Flash Girl and Moyabamba headline a three-year-old trotting fillies heat that kicks off the program at 6:25pm, while the clash of Composed and Bitobliss headlines the four-year-old entires and geldings heat that rounds out the card at 10:00pm. - Brad Bishop
20 April 2011 - Outstanding Goulburn Valley four-year-old Bitobliss will be primed for next week’s Group 1 Chariots of Fire with what appears to be an easy assignment in Saturday night’s 1st heat of the $10,000 Bendigo Party Hire Vicbred Super Series at Lord’s Raceway. Fresh from a sensational performance at Tabcorp Park, Menangle last week, Bitobliss will start a hot favourite for the race against just five competitors. His presence in the race has scared off most, but Bendigo’s 2010/11 Horse of the Year leader Composed, the winner of his last four races and the very handy Modern Warrior have remained in the six-horse line-up. Bitobliss, the winner of six of nine starts this season including the $30,000 Central Victorian Pacing Championship at Bendigo, is one right out of the box for Congupna trainer and driver Scott Stewart. Bred by the Stewart family, the son of Blissfull Hall has already paced a 1:55.4 mile and is shaping as grand circuit performer. The wraps are big for him and his connections have refused big offers from Western Australia and New Zealand. “Yes there have been offers but he is a horse we bred and watched develop from a foal to what he is today, we will be keeping him,” Stewart said. The trainer said Bitobliss which placed third to big name pacers Motu Crusdaer and Lanercost in last week’s Hondo Grattan Stakes (1609m) at Menangle, is getting better and better with each run. “Every time we ask him to step up he does,” Stewart said. In the Hondo Grattan, Bitobliss met some of Australia’s most promising pacers and to do what he did travelling three and four wide around the 1400 metre Menangle track has raised the bar on whatever the horse has done before, according to Stewart. “From the awkward barrier he was always going to be giving good horses a head start and I was hoping he would justify going back for the Chariots of Fire and he did that,” Stewart said. “Both the horse and I will be better for our first run around the 1400 metre track.” Stewart said Bitobliss pulled up from the tough Menangle race a treat, cleaning out his feed bin as soon as he returned to his box at Darren Hancock’s stable that night. “He spent the weekend in a paddock and he is feeling good so we decided to put him in the Bendigo race,” Stewart said. The Chariots of Fire, raced at Menangle on Saturday 30 April is the second biggest event on the New South Wales harness racing calendar each year – being runner-up to the $500,000 SEW Eurodrive Miracle Mile. Like the Miracle Mile, Australasia's premier mile, the Chariots of Fire is of important significance to the Australasian calendar as being the single richest four-year-old race with $200,000 in prizemoney. First run in 1995, the Chariots of Fire has grown vastly in the pursuing years and is a race that has been contested by a number of future Grand Circuit stars. Lisa and David Miles’ Villagem was successful in the race last year and Stewart is hoping that Bitobliss can again fly the flag for Victoria. - David Aldred
7 April 2011 - Glencoe, South Australia reinsman Jayson Finnis ended a frustrating sequence of minor placing’s with a win in the final race of the 2011 Goulburn Valley and Central Victoria Young Driver’s Challenge, taking competition honours on Thursday night at Shepparton. Finnis finished in minor placings in the majority of his drives during the six race Challenge series held at Maryborough, Bendigo and Shepparton on Wednesday and Thursday. But he stepped up to the plate to get the Michael Stanley trained three-year-old pacer Alrightythen home in first place in the sixth and final race of the penalty free series. The $2.10 race favourite, Alrightythen overcame difficulties during the race and travelled with a three wide trail before motoring home in a 58.8 last half mile to win by 3.3 metres in the 1609 metre event. Finnis, SA's leading under 25 driver in 2010, is the son of the prominent Mount Gambier based trainer Barry Finnis and his family is steeped in harness racing tradition. He has been successfully driving in South Australia for a few years and often crosses the Victorian border to partner horses trained by his father. Last season they had a lot of success with King Grin which won the final of the $50,000 Southern Cross 2yo at Globe Derby Park. Finnis who totalled 62 points won the Young Drivers Challenge by just one point over Victoria’s Rhys Nicholson (61) with 16-year-old Tasmania Alex Ashwood,who was joint leader with Finnis after two legs of the Challenge, finishing in third place on 56 points. Shepparton’s, Rebecca Bartley (Vic), the only female driver in the placed fourth with 50 points. The winning drivers during the Challenge Series were: Maryborough: Duncan Dornauf and Rhys Nicholson, Bendigo: Alex Ashwood and Michael Smith, Shepparton: Robert Morris and Jayson Finnis. The Young Driver Challenge Final standings were: 62 - Jayson Finnis (SA) 61 – Rhys Nicholson (Vic) 56 – Alex Ashwood (Tas) 50 – Rebecca Bartley (Vic) 48 – Robert Morris (NSW) 47 – Ashley Warton (Vic) 46 – Michael Smith (SA) 44 - Brad Cowan (Qld) 43 – Duncan Dornauf (Vic) 39 – Joshua Duggan (Vic) 37 - Jason Hackett (Vic). - David Aldred