Aussie News - 27 April

By Adam Hamilton

THE Victorian harness industry shone brightly as it honoured the great Gavin Lang at Melton last night (Saturday).

Lang, who lost a battle with lymphoma at the age of 61 last Friday, was front of mind with everybody.

Rather than wearing black arm bands, special permission was granted for a couple of drivers to compete in Lang’s stable colours.

Emotions overflowed when Greg Sugars donned Lang’s colours and drove the Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin-trained Like A Wildfire to victory.

After the win, Sugars said: “He’s my idol, pretty much from the time I wanted to be a trotting driver, he was who I wanted to be. That was never going to happen, there’s only one Gavin Lang. I’m pretty proud I’ve done his colours justice tonight.”

Tonkin said: “It’s an incredible honour to be able to team-up in Gav’s colours to win with Like A Wildire, who Gav trained to win at his first five Australian starts.”

Earlier in the night, 16-year-old driver Connor Clarke, who has overcome serious illness a few years back to fulfil his dream and become a driver, dedicated his win in the opening race on Miss McGonagall to Lang.

“I couldn’t thank Gavin enough for everything he did for me, the time I worked for him, was unbelievable. To be able to win a race at Melton, just after Gavin has passed … this is for you Gavin,” he said.

Harness Racing Victoria CEO Dayle Brown said they were exploring a range of options how to honour Lang in ongoing style.

“Gavin was a champion and legend of the sport. His ability on the track was probably unrivalled, and the friendships and esteem in which he was held by so many is testament to his standing,” he said.

“We’re considering a range of ways we can remember Gavin and will release details soon.”

It’s believed re-naming one of Victoria’s major races is one of the options.

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THE Gavin Lang factor stretched to the most exciting win at Melton when former Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy returned with a sparkling victory.

Lang drove Poster Boy to his first win at just his second run as a two-year-old.

Greg Sugars took the reins on Emma Stewart’s five-year-old last night when he resumed from almost a year out to score with absolute arrogance.

Sugars snagged him back to last from the outside draw in small field of five and came with a long, sustained run for the last 1100m.

Poster Boy won without being extended by 2.1m and paced his last half in a staggering 53.7sec around Melton.

“It’s great to have him back and everything told us at home and the trials he’d come back really well,” co-trainer Clayton Tonkin said.

“We hope HRV is able to ease some of the restrictions soon and resume proper metropolitan racing so we can run in some free-for-alls in coming weeks.”

Fans certainly hope the same with Lochinvar Art also racing, but in a separate zone under Victoria’s current restrictions.

“Imagine if we could mark the return of metro racing with Poster Boy and Lochinvar Art racing each other,” Tonkin said.

Tonkin and Stewart also have their other top open-class pacer Ride High just weeks away from a return after a throat operation.

Poster Boy’s win was his 20th from just 28 starts (with another seven placings) and he’s earned $789.630.

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IT was harness racing’s “Dandy Andy” moment.

When Ocean Ridge upset the Chicago Bull/Shockwave “match-race” at Gloucester Park last Friday night, it revived memories of the day $126 outsider Dandy Andy upstaged champions Bonecrusher and Vo Rogue in the 1988 Australian Cup at Flemington.

Opinions raged for days leading into the Gloucester Park showdown where Chicago Bull started a slight favourite over young buck Shockwave.

It shaped as a tactically fascinating race with neither drawn to well and that’s just how it played out.

The heat was on up front between Our Jimmy Johnstone and Talktomeurmattjesty, but it was Aiden De Campo who landed an early edge by pushing through from the back row on Shockwave and settling well ahead of Chicago Bull (who drew wide in gate seven).

Gary Hall Jr made a midrace move around the field, but De Campo pulled out in front of him and then landed the one-one trail briefly before Chicago Bull powered his way to the front.

Just when it seemed Shockwave had Chicago Bull beaten and was headed for victory, Ryan Warwick hooked $20 shot Ocean Ridge off their backs and snatched a head win over Shockwave with Chicago Bull another five metres away in third spot.

It was a stop-start affair, but they still ran a scorching 1min54.4sec mile rate for 2536m – just 0.2sec outside the track record Caviar Star set winning the Group 1 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park back in January.

Ocean Ridge’s win continued a huge season for Greg and Skye Bond, who won the WA Pacing Cup back in January with Mighty Conqueror.

Shockwave was still fantastic in second spot and Chicago Bull’s effort, second-up after such a long injury-enforced spell, was massive.

WA fans are in for some fantastic open-class racing if Shockwave and Chicago Bull keep racing towards the winter months.

Both are being set for the Sydney Inter Dominion, providing it goes ahead in November/December.

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THE Craig Cross showed rolled-on with another training treble at Menangle last night (Saturday).

Emerging pair Pocket Of Terror and Culture King landed betting plunges to win the second and fourth races respectively, then speedy mare Hows The Memory caused a minor upset in race five.

Pocket Of Terror led, took a sit and pounced to win easily in a blazing 1min53.9sec mile rate for 2300m.

Culture King also tackled the longer 2300m trip, but he led, dictated and ripped home in 26.5sec to win easily.

“He’s one we had set for the TAB Million Dollar Pace, but that race was shelved because of Corona,” driver Luke McCarthy said.

Hows The Memory used all her blistering early speed to lead, then sat on $1.30 favourite and former classy Kiwi mare Havtime before running her down late in a sizzling 1min50.1sec mile.

McCarthy drove all three winners for Cross and the pair just missed a quarter of wins when Cruz led and was rundown late as a $1.50 favourite in the free-for-all.

It was McCarthy’s father, John, and brother, Todd, who snatched the free-for-all with Jack Farthing, who trailed the leader and paced a 53.2sec last half to come off Cruz’s back and beat him.

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