THE jury is in, and the verdict is unanimous.
Despite the modest margin of Ultimate Stride’s success in Saturday night’s I Didnt Do It Free For All at Melton, the dye is now cast regarding our young trotting stars and our stalwart veterans.
The first blow was struck just a fortnight earlier when Mufasa Metro led, dictated and humbled a very similar assortment of adversaries.
In its precarious pursuit for relevance, racing – particularly southern hemisphere racing – has had to make myriad, often quite undignified concessions.
One glaring example of these compromises has come via various marketing manifestos aimed at encouraging equine ownership.
There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, where wading into such fundamentally speculative waters was done with courage, faith and honour.
Back then, pragmatism wasn’t part of the equation; all that mattered was the chance of glory.
Sadly, that has changed.
Rarely, perhaps one or twice in each generation, athletes emerge that transcend their chosen craft.
In Aussie Rules there was EJ and Barass, boxing had Ali, while soccer has lived through the deeds of Ronaldo and Messi for more years than many would care to remember.
In harness racing's halcyon days, four monikers maintained sovereignty over all others; Ted Demmler, Gavin Lang, Vinnie Knight, and Brian Gath.
And on Sunday night, the final of those champions, the man known universally and affectionately as "The Little Master", was rewarded for his legendary achievements with Victorian harness racing's highest accolade, the Gordon Rothacker Medal.
RACING is, intrinsically, a carnival sport.
And in the trots there’s no more magnificent or iconic carnival than the one set to launch at Mildura tonight.
If you’re a gallops zealot and don’t know much about harness racing, think Warrnambool’s May carnival only slightly longer and potentially more brutal if done with genuine intent.
RACING, particularly these days, is about far more than preparing horses to compete at their very best.
Increasingly, the trainer’s role is more akin to that of stable CEO.
It’s a funny thing. In recent years, for various reasons, racing animals of the female persuasion have increasingly taken center stage.
In the gallops, Black Caviar and Winx have set previously inconceivable standards of dominance.
IN a world where previously predictable values and ethics are rapidly evolving, harness racing stoically holds its course.
In many ways, this game, religiously referred to as ‘the trots’, subconsciously symbolizes an Australian stereotype tepidly fading with time.
Playwrights and script doctors typically live listless existences, endlessly agonising over nebulous narratives and uncompelling concepts.
It all seems such a waste when one night at Melton manifests every perfect portrait that a story arc could need.
Drawing comparisons between athletes is both divisive and devilishly enjoyable.
Hardened critics hate the process, young bucks eat it up.
Wherever you sit on the spectrum, the most complex contrasts involve those between teams, kennels, countries and stables.
LEGENDS, for eminently understandable reasons, tend to linger somewhat longer than they should.
Ali did it, Jordan did it, and there’s a growing argument that even the Bambi of international sport, Roger Federer, is finally pushing the envelope.
Not so King Of Swing.
GLAMOUR and racing are as immutably inseparable as love and marriage.
At their core, all three codes of racing survive and thrive on a brilliant brand of razzamatazz religion, a mystical mythology only known to those that serve at their altar.
Punters – proper punters – carry complex, often perplexing perceptions about the world around them.
For them, good fortune is natural justice and bad fortune utterly intolerable.
IT’S now almost two years since the seminal legend of southern hemisphere harness racing, Gavin Lang, left us far too soon.
In an increasingly secular society, fewer folks than ever sense the hope there is a Heaven.
Still, imagine there is.
On face value last weekend's seminal heroes, Majestuoso and King Of Swing, have little in common.
Majestuoso, who claimed the What The Hill Great Southern Star Final is diminutive with devastating pace, King Of Swing, who dominated the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup is statuesque and strong.
They do share one bond, however, everlasting doubters.
SINCE 1949 the Hunter Cup has molded legends.
Tonight, at Tabcorp Park, which will stage Victoria’s richest annual pacing feature for the 12th occasion, another legend-making triumph looms.
What those without a rich or rewarding relationship with harness racing may not recognise, however, are that legends fill the race.
Let’s start with the Hunter Cup's reigning lord and regent, reinsman Anthony Butt.
SEARCH Instagram or Facebook and there’s no evidence of any link between Canadian rapper Drake and star pacer Expensive Ego.
Yet the curse following Belinda McCarthy’s outstanding five-year-old endures.
Popular culture has dubbed this the ‘Drake curse’; though even that hitmaker would be hard pressed to create the shocking Karma following Expensive Ego.
There’s no place quite so desperate as the old last chance saloon.
Tonight, as Victorian harness racing’s Summer of Glory continues at Melton’s Tabcorp Park, six solemn standardbreds will frequent said saloon – and it’s called the Casey Classic.
In psychology, they call it insight – and we’ve all experienced it.
Insight is that magical moment that materializes when suddenly, and without warning, one accesses the solution to a pressing problem. Often a problem one has toiled over without making any obvious progress.
Spirit Of St Louis has reached insight in 2022.
In his epic masterwork War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy declared that life’s two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
Tonight, at Lord’s Raceway Bendigo, these wonderful warriors may well meet as one.
Twelve years ago, a brand new feature event purpose-built to showcase and inspire the speed of southern hemisphere squaregaiters was inaugurated.
That race is the Aldebaran Park Maori Mile.
Remove rugby league and cricket from the equation and those state-based sporting rivalries which once sustained us rarely receive oxygen these days.
Fan dedication is much more often aligned to their chosen club, or, at a pinch, their nation in a world littered with international competition.