31 May 2011 - The Bendigo harness racing industry is mourning the death of Merv Dillon. The popular Marong-based trainer-driver died yesterday after a long battle with illness.
Dillon will be remembered as one of harness racing’s “best blokes”, according to Bendigo Harness Racing Club committeeman Peter Svanosio. “He was a great competitor on the track and a wonderful friend to many off the track,” Svanosio said. “He was a great contributor to harness racing. As a trainer he was a very good conditioner of horses and he was an underrated driver. “He won a lot of good races in Victoria over many years. “He was also on the committee of the BHRC for a number of years where he always made a strong contribution. “Even when he finished up on the committee you could always go to him to get his thoughts on how the industry was going and he’d have good ideas on what path we should take. “The best way to describe him is that no one would have a bad word to say about Merv Dillon.” Dillon first gained a harness racing driver’s licence in 1958, but Harness Racing Victoria records only go back to 1980. From 1980 onwards Dillon trained 705 winners, while as a driver he had 451 wins and 1049 placings for $1.16 million in prizemoney. His last winning drive was aboard Lorinda on August 7, 2003 at Charlton, which was fitting because Dillon was originally from Dumosa near Charlton. His stables at Marong were named Dumosa. Leading Victorian driver Daryl Douglas said Dillon had helped kickstart his illustrious career. “If I ever had a problem he’d be the first person I’d go to for advice and he was always there to help out,” Douglas said yesterday. “I was lucky enough to drive two of his better horses in his latter years in Flip A Dollar and Alley Luvzit. “Merv was a great horseman. He always had a good horse in his stable ... he was a very good operator.” Dillon’s funeral will be held onFriday 3 June in the Napier Park Chapel, 420 Napier St. Bendigo at 1:30pm. Please join the Bendigo Harness Racing Club in offering condolences to the family and friends of Merv Dillon. - With the files of the Bendigo Advertiser
May 2011 - In many parts of the world the month of May is a month of celebration. In this part of the world there is a celebration between two of the major standardbred breeding farms Alabar and Stallion Station with announcement of a merge of their stud operations. “It just makes so much sense that in these tough times for the breeding industry we have pooled our resources” said Stallion Station Director Gary Lyons. “With the savings of administration and advertising costs the new entity can now pass some of these savings onto broodmare owners in the form of reduced service fees” he added. With the new structure the Stallion Station premises at Toolern Vale Victoria will be closed and Courage Under Fire and Major in Art will relocate to Alabar’s property at Echuca in Northern Victoria. Whilst Mach Three (pictured above) and Art Official will move to the Alabar property on the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand. The $4 million earner Mister Big will also be part of the new entity and will stand at a property yet to be decided. “This is a fantastic deal for Alabar to now add the proven sires Courage Under Fire and Mach Three to our roster, as well as three young horses who won in excess of $7 million between”, them stated Alabar Australia General Manager John Coffey. One of the Stallion Station Directors Robert Watson, now trading under the Soho Standardbreds banner, will support the new venture to the hilt with many of his 80-90 broodmares. The announcement of Service Fees for these five new additions to the roster, plus other Alabar stallions will be made in July and there is bound to be some good news in that announcement for Broodmare Owners.The Australian sires list (as at 21st May) reveals just how powerful this Alabar/Stallion Station entity will be with – Village Jasper, Courage Under Fire, Art Major, Armbro Operative, Mach Three and Grinfromeartoear, occupying six of the top nine positions on the Sires Premiership for 2010/11 season.The reports emanating out of Canada also suggest that the Alabar stallion Jeremes Jet is on the verge of something exciting. Two of Canada’s leading trainers, Casie Coleman and Jeff Gillis are singing the praises of their Jeremes Jet 2 year olds.
28 May 2011 - Former top filly Life Inthefastlane capped a remarkable resurgence when she outgunned some of Australia’s best mares to win the $100,000 Nevele R Stud Queen Of The Pacific at Melton’s Tabcorp Park.
A year ago Doreen owner/trainer John Yeomans and wife Christine were preparing to say goodbye to the daughter of Life Sign, whom they also bred, when she was battling a severe case of colitis. “We had her down at Werribee Veterinary Clinic, she was in intensive care for two weeks and she was that close to death that we never thought she was going to survive,” Yeomans said.
“We went down to see her to virtually say goodbye. She had every sort of treatment, it was just so intensive and you wouldn’t have thought she could survive. We’ve got to thank the Werribee Veterinary Clinic that she did survive.”Incredibly, Australia’s only Group 1 standing start event for mares, run over the testing 2760 metres, was just Life Inthefastlane’s fourth run back from her life-threatening illness.The five-year-old took benefit from a solid third in the previous week’s Group 3 Ladyship Cup, which followed a Shepparton win, to finish powerfully from midfield and register her 15th win at her 49th trip to the races. Not only was it Life Inthefastlane’s first start beyond 2575m, it was also her first try at standing start conditions.“We always thought she was a stayer, her mother (Indigenous) was a very tough horse, but I must admit that we did not think she was quite prepared enough to win this race,” Yeomans said of the mare who started even money favourite in her two-year-old APG final. Most punters were in the same boat. Life Inthefastlane, who was driven by Daryl Douglas, returned $34 for her 4.3-metre win over $59 chance Pacific Playgirl with another longshot, Left In Paris ($21), just over a head away in third. Broadways Best ($2 fav) found working into the spot outside leader Mendelico mid-race after spotting her rivals a 20m headstart too much to counter, finishing in seventh spot, 14m from the winner. The mile rate was 2:00.6 – just 0.5secs outside Whipair’s track record – and included a 56.6-second last 800m. Douglas said the race didn’t go exactly how he thought, but it worked out for the best.“The plan was to be behind the leader, but when I was three-back the fence I thought, ‘oh well, I’m still a chance here’,” the Bendigo horseman said.“When I was able to get one off the fence halfway down the back and end up one-one and then peeled I thought, ‘they’re going to be battling to beat me’.” - With the files of Brad Bishop
The Snake Racing Syndicate
27 May 2011 - One of the state’s largest harness racing syndicates, Snake Racing celebrated a big win at Bendigo’s Lord’s Raceway on Thursday night when promising three-year-old Our Calvados continued its winning form in the Symons Dairy 3yo Pace (2150m). Snake Racing’s 1, 2 and 3 syndicates consisting of 60 harness racing enthusiasts share with Anderson Racing, the ownership of the Glenn Douglas-trained Our Calvados which has now won three of six race starts. The Snake Racing Syndicate was formed by friends of the late Bendigo based owner/trainer Peter Crapper. After Peter, nicknamed Snake, died the syndicates formed to purchase the horses that he formerly raced. Our Calvados is their latest acquisition. The In The Pocket gelding was having his first start for the Snake Racing Syndicates and extended its winning streak to three races in a row, with previous wins at Melton and Kilmore this month. 36 of the syndicate members were on track to witness Daryl Douglas steer Our Calvados, the short-priced $1.40 favourite to a 1.9 metre victory over Major Command (Gavin Lang) with Pelling (Brian Gath), beaten 3 metres to round out the top three finishers. After the victory the owners surrounded the pacer on the track for a winner's photo. - David Aldred
24 May 2011 - The future of the time-honoured Central Victorian Pacing and Trotting Championships looks very bright with the organising committee announcing a new six-year agreement with its major sponsor Warehouse Sales and a significant increase in prizemoney for the Series.
In 2012, both the Trotting and Pacing Championship Finals will be staked at $30,000 each, the highest in the Championship history. The secondary sponsor Loddon Valley Stud has also increased its contribution to the series. Charlton, Boort, Maryborough, St Arnaud, Wedderburn and Bendigo each conduct pacing and trotting heats of the Championships with the 2012 Finals scheduled to be conducted in January by the St Arnaud Harness Racing Club at the Charlton track. Central Victorian Championship Committee chairman John Campbell said the sponsorship increases and the decision by the committee to increase the Trotting Final Stakes to $30,000 was the most significant boost that the Series has had in its 52 year history. “I cannot emphasise enough the thanks for the support we have had for the series, in particular from our long term sponsor Warehouse Sales and their executives Vic Fenech and Bendigo’s Darren McPhail,” Campbell said. “My own business ‘Loddon Valley Stud’, has also increased the value of its contribution with services to our best stallions.” The Central Victorian Pacing Championship is one of the most sought after prizes on the Victorian Country harness racing calendar. First conducted in 1960 for a stake of 400 pounds, when former Trotting Control Board steward Rod Osborne scored aboard Miracle Echo at Echuca, the status of the race has grown over the years, with many of Victoria’s finest horsemen successful in winning the event which has been held annually throughout Central Victoria. Great horses from the past including Charles Armagh (1962 - Ken Pocock), You Crovottie 1964 – Bill Davies), Lord Setay (1966 – Dick Benger) and Honest Reward (1968 – Ralph Ford) have had their name etched into the history books by winning the race, with noted reins persons Ted Demmler, Noel Shinn, Clinton Welsh, Max Wishart, Brian Gath, John Caldow, Lance Justice, Kerryn Manning, Chris Alford, Gavin Lang, Bruce Clarke all piloting winners as the race progressed through the ages. It was decided to include the Central Victorian Trotting Championships into the mix in 1984, with Admiral Aaron (John Koek) being the inaugural victor. The stature of this race will continue to be part and parcel of the Victorian Country Harness Racing scene for many years to come. This year, the Central Victorian Championship Finals were held for the first time under lights at Bendigo’s Lord’s Raceway, adding another special chapter to the history of the Championships. The 2011 Pacing Champion winner, Bitobliss also underlined the quality of the Series winning two subsequent races and finishing runner up in the Group 1 Chariots of Fire at Menangle in New South Wales. - David Aldred
22 May 2011 - Bendigo mare Sassy Pinevale was once again outstanding on Saturday night, powering away to an impressive victory in the John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup at Bray Park, Ballarat. The Ross Graham trained CR Commando five-year-old mare outstayed gallant placegetters Gentle Image and Earl Of Mot in the 2710 metre $15,000 feature to win by 2.4 metres, closing the final quarter of the last mile in 28.8 seconds. Driven by ace Bendigo reinsman Daryl Douglas, Sassy Pinevale ($3.20) shared the back mark of 10 metres in the standing start with $2.40 favourite Earl Of Mot (Lance Justice). Douglas had Sassy Pinevale, one out and one back from the pacesetter Gentle Image (Kelly-Ann Dunne) going into the final circuit with Justice parked outside the leader on Earl Of Mot. The trio turned into the straight three abreast with Sassy Pinevale striding boldly on the outside to wear down Gentle Image and draw clear over the concluding stages. Another Bendigo trotter Billy The Brat (Ian White) finished on gamely to take fourth place. - David Aldred
19 May 2011 - Bendigo trotter Barneys Invasion will travel to New South Wales for a shot at the $20,000 Taylor Made Travel Trotter’s Championship (2300m) at Tabcorp Menangle on Friday night. Longlea-based trainer Paul Morrissey will drive the eight-year-old Armbro Invasion gelding in the $8,000 qualifying heat from the inside of the 10 metre mark in the 13 horse first division. Barneys Invasion, the winner of the Crystal Bucket at Echuca three starts ago is the only interstate horse contesting this heat with two other Victorian’s Si Capisco, trained by Neville Welsh at Elmore and Kyvalley Mirage trained by Chris Lang at Nagambie contesting the second heat. Barneys Invasion, the winner of almost $65,000 has failed twice at Tabcorp Park Melton since his big victory in the Crystal Bucket but his last start fifth behind Alta Soliel in a 2240 metre standing start race was a very good performance. Held up in traffic in the 14 horse field, Barneys Invasion was finishing stronger than most of the field and came from near last into the straight to finish fifth beaten just over 10 metres. A good showing in Friday night’s heat will get Barneys Invasion into the final to be conducted at Menangle on 28 May. Chris Lang Aldebaran Park stables at Nagambie also has three starters in the feature $20,000 Taylor Made Travel NSW Trotters Oaks (2300m) on Friday night. Lang will harness up the very promising Windsong’s Legacy filly Aldebaran Breeze, which he will drive, as well as Yankee Paco filly Class of Her own to be driven by Darren Hancock and first starter Kyvalley Aldebaran, a daughter of Sundon, to be driven by Ben Gledhill. Race sponsor Michael Taylor of TMT said he was thrilled that the Central Victorian and Goulburn Valley horses were making the trip to Sydney. “The visitors really makes these races and I am glad Paul, Neville and Chris are racing at Menangle, I’ve already contacted Chris to thank him for bringing his team,” Taylor said. - David Aldred
17 May 2011 - Bendigo reinsman Paul Campbell and Nic Dyer are part of a five driver team representing Victoria in the annual Elders Insurance Drivers Invitation Series to take place this Friday night at South Australia’s Port Pirie track. The Port Pirie Club have invited eleven drivers to compete in the Series.
Five Victorian drivers and six South Australian drivers will contest a minimum of three races, scoring points for each drive in accordance with their finishing position. In addition to Maiden Gully trainer/driver Campbell and Junortoun driver Dyer, Michael Bellman, Lisa Miles and Caleb Lewis will also represent Victoria. Dyer, Campbell and Lewis are all have been invited to contest the series for the first time. “I got the call up to say I was part of the Victoria team last week when Port Pirie Secretary Neville Thomson contacted me,” Campbell said. “It’s a tremendous competition and the Club gets great local support from the town, I just hope I draw some fast horses because the drivers there have all the local track knowledge which is a good head start on us.” The South Aussies in the Series are local champion David Harding, Ryan Hryhorec, Leah Harvey, Jake Webster and father and son duo David and Michael Smith. David Harding was last season’s Port Pirie Driver of the Year and currently SA’s leading driver with 157 winners to date. Michael Smith was the leading young driver at Port Pirie in Season 2009/2010 while Jake Webster leads the way in the current season and will be representing South Australia in the Australasian Young Drivers Series in New Zealand in June. Leah Harvey, who will be driving on her home track, is the defending title holder, winning the Invitation series last year.
11 May 2011 - Three-year-old Armbro Operative filly Little Red Cloud lived right up to the wraps her Goulburn Valley trainer Noel Tyndall has on her with a bullocking last stride victory in Wednesday night's Vicbred Super Series Heat at Lord's Raceway. With regular driver Craig Northcott back in the sulky after a suspension, the tiny pacer put her best foot forward to score a half head victory over Ezee Duzit Lombo (Daryl Douglas) with Secretive Lombo (Greg Sugars) rounding at the top three, four metres from the winner. Northcott kept the Little Red Cloud ($3.90) one out and three back in transit and she came with a big finish to just get up. The trainer blamed himself for the filly's blemish two starts back when she finished 10th in the Fillies Classic at Bendigo. "I drove her that night, tried something different and it didn't work," he said. At her last start a week ago, Little Red Cloud was piloted by Nigel Milne into fourth place in a 3CO race at Bendigo. But it was her first foray into the bigtime which underlined Little Red Cloud's potential. The half-sister to Tyndall's well performed Crocodile Tears finished fourth the Oaks at Melton won by Bettor Cover Lover.
11 May 2011 - With five consecutive victories four-year-old Bendigo-owned pacer Composed is a rising star in the Victorian harness racing ranks, but trainer David Aiken will be banking on luck riding with him at the “Black Friday the 13th“ Tabcorp Park Melton program where the gelding will contest a Semi Final for rich Vicbred Series.
Luck wasn’t with Composed at the barrier draw for the race with Bendigo’s best performed pacer this year snagging the outside draw on the front line. “I’m nervous already and this is just a semi,” part-owner, Bendigo HRC treasurer Paul Best said. “He will want to be at the top of his game, the opposition is pretty darn good.” Composed, to be driven by Chris Alford, looks like he is in peak form, his last start victory at Bendigo was in a Vicbred Heat and he beat the subsequent Chariots of Fire runner up Bitobliss fair and square. That win was his fifth in a row and followed a Melton treble of wins and his victory in the KR Castlemaine Cup at Bendigo. This season, Composed has already won almost $73,000, racing 19 times for nine wins and six placings. A top performance in this race will elevate him into the $100,000 Vicbred 4yo C&G Series Final raced at Tabcorp Park next week.
Two of Composed’s main stumbling blocks en route to Final will be matched against him in his Semi Final. Gun New South Wales pacer Mach Wiper has gone unbeaten at his last four starts, winning three in NSW before looking extra special at his Victorian debut, winning a Vicbred Heat at Cranbourne last week. Mach Wiper is now trained and driven by superstar Mr Feelgood’s trainer/driver Luke McCarthy. The Mach Three 4yo entire has already paced a best mile rate of 1:54.1, easily the fastest of the 12 competitors in this race. McCarthy purchased the horse only a month ago and has been surprised by his recent string of wins. “I didn’t know too much about the horse to be honest before we bought him but we got him out of the Riverina and on the plus side of things it seems he is used to doing a fair bit of travelling to get to the races so the trip to Victoria last week for the heats didn’t worry him and I am expecting him to travel well again this week.” “I know he went 1:54 at Menangle two starts ago and he did that quite comfortably but some of the C2 horses can run that on a Tuesday so I am not going over the top.”
Mach Wiper will start from gate four on the second row with another top contender Bitobliss (Scott Stewart) drawn three gates to his left on the inside of the second row. Bitobliss has not finished out of the official three placing at 11 starts this season and his performances in Grand Circuit company on the spacious Menangle track have been superb. At two starts there, Bitobliss finished runner up to Motu Crusader in the $20,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes, then runner up to Lanercost in the $200,000 Chariots of Fire. - David Aldred