BALLARAT will be part of a new saddle trot series, the Victorian Monte Championship.
Ballarat and District Trotting Club will host one of seven heats leading to an $8000 final at Melton on March 23.
The resurgence of saddle trots began in Ballarat late last year, with the BDTC having one in October as part of a celebration to mark 150 years of trotting in the Ballarat district.
Ballarat also had an exhibition Monte on Ballarat Pacing Cup night.
This heat will also be on pacing cup night – Friday, January 25.
Daylesford driver Anne-Maree Conroy and eight-year-old gelding Optimum who won three of four Monte starts last season will return for this series.
“We’d hoped we’d have even more than one horse to target the series, but it’s difficult to find a trotter suited to it; they’re either naturals or they’re not,” Conroy said.
“Having said that, if any trainer out there found the right sort of horse you’d only need a couple of weeks to get them ready.
“Thankfully Optimum is that right type.
“He’s had four starts in the Montes for three wins and a second,” she said.
“He’ll be off 10m but hopefully we’ll contest most of the heats with him moving forward.”
Heats: November 3, Bendigo; December 24, Maryborough; January 10, Kilmore; January 25, Ballarat; February 8, Stawell at Melton; February 23, Geelong; March 16, Shepparton.
Stanley fined three times
BALLARAT district trainer Michael Stanley has been fined after pleading guilty to three charges at a Harness Racing Victoria Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hearing.
Cloncullen was also disqualified from fifth position in a race in Ballarat on June 26.
The charges arose from a pre-race blood sample taken from Cloncullen.
Stanley was fined $8000 for presenting a horse with a carbon dioxide concentration exceeding the permitted limit; $4000 for having stomach tubed a horse within 48 hours of racing; and $250 for having failed to maintain a log book in relation to the treatment of a horse.
The board suspended $2000 of the $4000 fine for 12 months.
In assessing the penalty, the board gave weight to Stanley’s guilty plea and forthright evidence.
Murphy drives first winner
JOHN Murphy landed his first win as a harness racing driver at Bendigo on Wednesday night.
Murphy had the breakthrough on the well-bred It Is She ($2.70), which he also trains, in a Vicbred Platinum Country Series C heat, 1650m, for C0 pacers.
The five-year-old mare chose the right race to bring up her initial success, with it carrying $7000 as part of a new Vicbred Platinum program.
Murphy is from one of the Ballarat district’s best known harness racing families, with his brother David a prominent trainer-driver and another brother Shane heads up Mountain View Stud.
John has largely worked in the background, breaking in youngsters and training a small team of his own.
What started out as part-time driving at trials graduated to races and now he is a winner.
For It Is She, which rated a smart 1:57.1 from the front, the win was overdue after four minor placings in as many starts.
She is now the fourth winner left by champion racemare Sheza Mona.