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Experience of poverty prompts sharing call

Birgit Albers listens to a performance by the Choir of High Hopes yesterday.Launceston’s Birgit Albers has seen poverty first hand.
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She knows the struggle people go through and she knows how hard it is for them to keep their families alive.

So why when then, when we live in a rich country are we still not sharing?

That was the message Ms Albers wanted to get across at yesterday’s Choir of High Hopes Christmas benefit at St Aidan’s Church.

The concert raised funds for Ms Albers’s Malawi Back to School Foundation, which she established in 2002 after travelling to the world’s third poorest country.

“I meet a young guy and he was sort of my personal tour guide,” Ms Albers said referring to her first trip to the African country.

“He helped me with whatever I wanted to see like a village tour or going swimming.

“After my tour time was over, I said, you were so great and so loyal, I’d like to do something for you.

“He could have said, I want some new sneakers or a backpack, but he said he wanted to finish school.”

Ms Albers, who moved to Tasmania from Germany in 1986, said she found out it cost $100 a year to send the orphan boy to secondary school.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“I said to myself what can I do to help.”

It was then that Ms Albers established her foundation to help others like the man she’d met get an education.

“Education is the step to getting them out of poverty,” she said.

Yesterday’s concert saw about 50 people listen to the harmonious sounds of the Hobart-based choir.

Funds raised from the event will be used to send Malawi orphans to secondary school and build an orphanage.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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2012 could be a year to keep students studying

THE Tasmanian education system is likely to undergo an interesting time to say the least in 2012. The start of this school year will also be the last with three terms as the state moves in line with the rest of the country and adopts a four-term model in 2013.
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And by the end of this month Education Minister Nick McKim is expected to receive the much-anticipated report from the School Viability Reference Group.

Which schools, if any, will close will be of interest to many communities and particularly to those 20 named on the government’s initial proposed hit-list in the June budget last year.

The state’s economy and the slashing of the department’s budget in 2011 will come more into play from the start of this year as programs, teacher aides and activities will be cut.

This is hurting both public and private schools and as revealed late last year it will result in about a $100 annual increase in Catholic school fees.

The focus for the government is getting the state back on track.

But at this time of upheaval it would be interesting to know what principals and teachers want to see happen in the education sector.

And what parents would like to see.

As other commentators have said there is no doubt that Tasmania has suffered economically due to the previous practice of allowing students to leave at the end of year 10 or age of 16 _ which ended in 2007.

The state’s split public high school (year 7 to 10) and college (year 11 and 12) system only exacerbated the problem as kids thought ”woo-hoo, I’m finished” and left after year 10, cutting themselves short.

Many more than not have suffered for it.

Year 10 formals and ”leavers’ dinners” to celebrate the occasion only cemented the feeling.

Thankfully students must now continue on with some form of education until they turn 17.

The reasoning behind holding a formal for year 10s beggars belief to someone who had to wait for that right until the end of year 12 interstate.

A trend taking off in Victoria at the end of last year was year 6 formals where 11 and 12-year-olds (or more correctly their parents) were spending $150-plus on dresses, then more money on hair and make-up, before partying the afternoon away in the back of a stretch Hummer.

There’s evidence of Tasmanian grade 6 students following the trend.In the department’s annual report it acknowledges Tasmania’s retention rates in post-compulsory education and training are lower than most other states and many OECD countries.

Despite a more than 10 per cent increase on the retention rate to 73 per cent in 2010 (the latest figures), Mr McKim is aiming for the state to meet a national target of 90 per cent of students to attain a year 12 education or its equivalent by 2015.

Overall public student attendance figures also increased slightly from 2009 to 2010.

One step in the right direction is the department’s implementation of the Retention and Attainment Strategy, which tracks year 10 students through to year 12 or its equivalent.

Students completing their education to a year 12 level today will better set up the state and economy of the future – something Tasmania desperately needs.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Regaining confidence a big mission for Orica

ACCIDENT-plagued chemical company Orica has been told it must do much more to restore the public’s confidence in its operations.
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Premier Barry O’Farrell issued the warning yesterday and threatened to shut Orica’s Port Kembla plant if it failed to comply with environmental laws after an acid leak on Friday.

Orica has only partially restarted operations on Kooragang Island after a series of spills forced the closure of both its ammonium nitrate and ammonia plants.

On Friday, Orica disclosed its Port Kembla plant leaked up to 4000 litres of concentrated sulphuric acid.

Mr O’Farrell said the company would have to work hard to restore confidence.

‘‘They will only get their licence, they’ll only continue to keep their licence, if they are able to abide by the state’s environmental laws,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

‘‘Orica will have to do an enormous amount in order to restore public confidence in NSW.’’

A spokesman confirmed later that Mr O’Farrell was referring to the licence for Orica’s Port Kembla operation.

An Orica spokeswoman said last night that all of the Kooragang Island ammonium nitrate and nitric plants were now back on line, allowing it to produce explosive using ammonia feedstock brought onto the site.

The ammonia plant, which makes ammonia from natural gas – and which was the site of the August hexavalent chromium emission – remained offline.

‘‘Orica’s emphasis is on restarting the ammonia plant safely and while conducting some prestart checks, we determined there was a part of the plant that required repair work before the restart process could continue,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Once repairs are complete, the restart process will continue.’’

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Hodgman’s `detailed’ policy push

Will HodgmanLIBERAL Leader Will Hodgman will announce a suite of fully-costed, detailed policies this year, starting this week, in a bid to prove his party is a credible alternative.
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Mr Hodgman used his first day back at work to launch the “future directions” strategy, which he said would provide details about how the opposition would implement its economy-focused agenda to ensure Tasmania was “open for business”.

“In 2012 we will be focusing a lot on how we would be different and what a Hodgman Liberal government would look like,” Mr Hodgman said.

He declined to reveal the topic of his first policy announcement to be made later this week.

“Our future directions statements will be be bold, they’ll be major policy announcements and they’ll go to the heart of where Tasmania should be heading – and that’s a place that is self-reliant and open for business.”

The state government, which has continually criticised the opposition as being too negative, seized on Mr Hodgman’s announcement.

“I welcome the fact that it has finally dawned on him that it is not enough to simply oppose everything,” acting Premier Bryan Green said.

Mr Green reminded Mr Hodgman of some of his past “plain dumb” policies including paying former Tasmanians $5000 to return home.

“And his plan to continue all high schools to year 12 will send shudders through all our secondary colleges,” Mr Green said.

Mr Hodgman said more details on his party’s education policy would be revealed and it would not include closing any colleges.

He acknowledged it was not enough to only criticise the government.

“When a government is shutting schools, shutting down hospitals of course we are going to be critical but I recognise also that Tasmanians want to see an alternative,” Mr Hodgman said.

Voter opinion polls indicate the Liberal Party would form a majority government if an election were held now, but they also show a significant amount of undecided voters.

“This is about explaining to Tasmanians better exactly what we would do in government.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Councils call for rate rises

RATE pegging was introduced in the late 1970s by then premier Neville Wran as a way of keeping apparently expansive local government spending plans in check.
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But a lot has changed since then and the dominant view, nowadays, is that councils need to spend more, not less, to properly discharge their functions.

Rate pegging is widely accepted as a major contributor to the parlous state of council coffers because rate increases have failed to keep pace with cost-of-living increases.

The other big problem is “cost-shifting”, whereby state and federal governments pass the responsibility for certain actions – but not the funding to do them – down to local government.

State Labor was effectively deaf to the councils although it did pass the responsibility for setting the annual rate cap to the Independent Regulatory and Pricing Tribunal.

In contrast, the incoming Coalition government announced several key changes, including a review of the Local Government Act, soon after taking office in March.

Working with the Local Government and Shires Association and others, the government has also announced what Local Government Minister Don Page has described as a “new direction” for the sector over the coming 25 years, titled Destination 2036.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hunter mayors interviewed by the Newcastle Herald want an end to rate pegging.

While Mr Page says “everything is on the table” in the review process, he appears to be playing down the likelihood of the councils getting open slather on rates, saying recently it was wrong to think “everything would be fine” if only councils had more “financial resources”.

Mr Page says councils should co-operate more and share their resources. More controversially, the Destination 2036 documents also discuss voluntary amalgamation.

In recent years the Herald has acknowledged the difficulties that councils have faced under rate pegging.

Infrastructure backlogs in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, especially, require many tens of millions of dollars that the organisations do not have.

But Newcastle, in particular, has hardly covered itself in glory recently, as the Laman Street fig debate makes all too clear. In such a climate, the councils must prove to the public they can be trusted with the power they are seeking.

Ring the registers

FOR most of us, Christmas came on Sunday.

But for the Hunter’s struggling retailers, the celebratory spirit begins this morning with the delayed start of the annual Boxing Day sales.

It has been a tough year for retailers with global financial uncertainty and the online onslaught.

Pre-Christmas sales volumes were reportedly flat but more and more of us are delaying our purchases, nowadays, until Santa goes and the prices come down.

The sleigh bells might have stopped.

But the cash registers are just starting.

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Pressure to gain return of Australian activists

The Japanese security vessel Shonan Maru No 2, on which three Australian anti-whaling activists are being held.CANBERRA – The federal government is under pressure to take swift action to secure the release of three Australian activists detained aboard a Japanese whaling security ship.
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But the government has moved to lower expectations of what it can do and has conceded that the men could be taken to Japan to face legal action.

The West Australian men from the Forest Rescue environmental group boarded the Japanese security vessel Shonan Maru No 2 in waters off the coast of Bunbury overnight.

The daring mission was aimed at forcing the vessel to stop tailing the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s anti-whaling flagship, the Steve Irwin.

The men climbed past razorwire and spikes to board the ship and deliver a message: “Return us to shore in Australia and then remove yourself from our waters.”

But the Shonan Maru No 2 yesterday afternoon was instead persisting with its pursuit of the Steve Irwin, with the Australians still on board.

The three activists have been named as Geoffrey Owen Tuxworth, 47, of Perth, Simon Peterffy, 44, of Bunbury, and Glen Pendlebury, 27, of Fremantle.

A spokesman for the Japanese whaling program at the Institute of Cetacean Research, Glenn Inwood, confirmed that the men were still aboard the vessel.

“They are unhurt, they are being questioned and there has been no decision on anything beyond that at this stage,” New Zealand-based Mr Inwood said.

He said the men had boarded the vessel well outside Australian territorial waters – about 40 kilometres from the coast – and any suggestion otherwise was false.

The Sea Shepherd and Forest Rescue say the incident happened 16.2 miles off the coast – outside territorial waters but inside Australia’s 24-mile contiguous zone.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Australia’s embassy in Tokyo had contacted the Japanese government seeking more information, most pressingly the vessel’s location.

“If this vessel is close to Australian waters, you’d think there was a possibility that (they) would promptly have discussions with us about a safe and immediate return,” Ms Roxon said.

“There are a range of different options that could occur for the transfer of these people back into Australian control.”

But Ms Roxon expressed no confidence that this would happen, saying the government’s options were restricted because the incident happened outside territorial waters.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Modest crowd for Boxing Day races

IN THE MOOD: Mhairi Morrison and Liz Larkin in the grandstand at Broadmeadow as horses cross the finish line in race five yesterday. – Pictures by Peter StoopTHE impact of Newcastle Jockey Club’s track closure was felt yesterday when a modest crowd of about 5000 turned out to the once-popular Boxing Day races at Broadmeadow Racecourse.
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Club chairman Geoff Barnett was hoping for a crowd of between 8000 and 10,000 for the event that attracted about 16,000 at its peak in the early 2000s and netted the club about $750,000.

Racing NSW officials closed the track on October 20 when the Australian Jockeys Association expressed concern about track safety.

The NJC spent ‘‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’’ on repairs.

Club chief executive Cameron Williams said it had cost the club a similar amount in lost revenue while it was shut.

‘‘Financially it will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the majority of that leakage has come through lost food and beverage revenue,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘Where we would have had the racing marquees and restaurants all pre-booked, we obviously had a lot of cancellations and we certainly suffered as a result.’’

The NJC recorded an operating loss of $1.6million three years ago that was reduced to a loss of $140,000 last financial year but that was expected to blow out again next year as a result of the closure.

It has also forced the NJC to offer reduced membership renewals for 2012-2013. It is also offering an interim membership.

‘‘We’re rolling out a discounted membership renewal platform for next year, Mr Williams said.

‘‘We’re also rolling out a six-month membership program from now until June 30 at a reduced rate as well, which we don’t usually do.’’

On the bright side, track repairs got a tick from jockeys who inspected the track after the running of the first race on the eight-race program.

‘‘The track is as good as it’s ever been,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘The jockeys went and had a look at the track after the first race today and came back and said it was perfect.

‘‘We’ve seen a number of class records set today and we wouldn’t see those records being set if they couldn’t hook around the turn and get a bit of pace up.’’

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Rodionova steady as gale hits court

Anastasia Rodionova handled the deteriorating conditions better than Hungary’s Greta Arn at Hobart’s Domain.SHE admits she’s emotional on court but Australian Anastasia Rodionova was refusing to get angry at the gale that blew up for her Hobart International first-round match.
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Rodionova despatched Hungary’s Greta Arn 6-4, 7-5 in a match that the Russian-born 29-year-old said was more about patience in the conditions than any sort of game-plan.

“I can’t really get mad at the wind – it’s not going to go away,” Rodionova said.

“I just tried to focus on what I can control, and I couldn’t control the wind, but I could control the way I was moving and it was working for me.

“It was tough to play the game I wanted to play.

“The way I finished the match I was patient and it paid off.”

Wildcard Rodionova handled the deteriorating conditions better than world No. 63 Arn at Hobart’s Domain Tennis Centre, perched high above the city and susceptible to high winds.

She converted her second match-point in a tough encounter that lasted one hour and 40 minutes.

The world No. 108 moves into a second-round clash with either compatriot Jarmila Gajdosova or Japan’s Ayumi Morita, who meet tonight.

Earlier, former world No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze, playing her first match since June last year, cruised past third seed Monica Niculescu in straight sets.

The 2007 champion won 6-0, 6-4 as she embarks on her latest comeback after a series of setbacks since making the US Open semi-finals and reaching her career-high ranking in the same year.

Chakvetadze was broken just once but ground it out to take the second set and beat the Romanian in one hour, 15 minutes.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” she said.

“I had some problems with the close of the match but I didn’t play for such a long time, so it’s not a big deal.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Bargain hunters warned to stay safe

BARGAIN hunting at the post-Christmas sales is so serious police issued a warning for shoppers to be vigilant about their security.
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NSW Police delivered the message yesterday as part of the Play Safe, Stay Safe campaign designed to protect consumers against theft and fraud.

Traditionally the December 27 sale day is the largest single trading day of the year with most retailers offering post-Christmas reductions.

Read The Herald’s editorial ‘Ring the Registers’ by clicking here.

Customers are set to queue for hours before the shops are scheduled to open at 9am today and the rush for bargains often causes chaos.

‘‘We support the message being sent by police and we have increased security at this time of year to support our customers and retailers from those situations,’’ Westfield Kotara centre manager Ryan Burns said.

‘‘We were quite busy prior to Christmas but the 27th is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year.’’

Charlestown Square centre manager Dwight Hodgetts said customer feedback had been predominantly positive in regard to safety before Christmas.

Mr Hodgetts said an increase in security and a management plan to control car park rage had created a safer shopping experience.

‘‘We’ve been very conscious of the traffic flow in and out of the centre which makes life a bit easier for everyone,’’ Mr Hodgetts said.

East Maitland’s Green Hills shopping centre was another expecting large crowds in the holiday rush after a double cut to interest rates leading into the festive season.

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut the cash rate from 4.75per cent to 4.25per cent when it reduced it by 25 basis points in November and again in December.

‘‘It has certainly been a challenging year for the retail sector across the board,’’ Mr Hodgetts said.

‘‘From the GPT point of view the company has achieved its expectations in its first year since the major development was completed and we’re looking forward to 2012.’’

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Myall Lakes sewage collection vessel to stop

FAILING HEALTH: Bede Bright will not operate the Myall Lakes sewage collection vessel past New Year’s Eve. – Picture by Ryan OslandUP to 200 boat owners holidaying on the Myall Lakes will be left without a sewage collection service from next week.
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Local identity Bede Bright and his wife Jacqui have operated the collection vessel Independence since 1986.

Failing health prompted Mr Bright, 70, to begin negotiations with NSW Roads and Maritime for the transfer of his licence in August.

The new prospective owner was ready to continue the business under the same contract with no disruption to the service. The talks broke down last week without any prospect of a new service in the foreseeable future.

The 70-year-old, who has terminal lung cancer, said his poor health would prevent him operating the vessel beyond New Year’s Eve.

‘‘The last correspondence I had from them [the Department of Roads and Maritime] was on December 22, the same day I got the news my cancer was terminal,’’ Mr Bright said.

‘‘They had previously offered a contract and my solicitor had written back to say we would like to change certain things. They just replied and said it was noted and disagreed.’’

Mr Bright said he regretted leaving between 150 to 200 boats without a sewage collection service, but he had been left with no option.

‘‘It’s left me terribly disappointed because I’ve always had such a terrific association with Maritime,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel a bit cheated actually.’’

The prospect of raw sewage entering the lakes system has also raised alarm among locals who are already concerned about poor water quality in the estuary.

A spokesman for Roads and Ports Minister Duncan Gay said negotiations with Mr Bright were ongoing.

‘‘Roads and Maritime Services is currently negotiating with Mr Bright over a new contract that will allow him to sell the business if he wishes,’’ he said.

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Lake risk reduction plan

LAKE Macquarie faces environmental security risks worth $4.4billion by 2110, a city council report says.
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The value of the risks, which related to natural disasters, climate change and pollution, stood at $249million last year, the report said.

The council said its sustainability department aimed to reduce those costs through managing contaminated land and air quality, flood mitigation and climate change adaptation.

‘‘The extent of risk reduction achieved through these programs is monitored and audited by council,’’ the report said.

The sustainability department has been criticised recently, with mayor Greg Piper and Cr Barry Johnston saying it should shed staff.

Their comments reflected wider concerns that the department was too big and too academic and must produce more tangible results.

Lake Macquarie councillor Phillipa Parsons defended the department, saying it did a good job.

Cr Parsons said surveys showed Lake Macquarie residents rated the environment a top priority.

‘‘The programs the sustainability department are implementing now are putting us in good stead,’’ Cr Parsons said.

Cr Johnston reaffirmed his concerns, saying the council had to ensure the department was ‘‘not wasting money or duplicating state issues’’.

Challenging criticism of the department, Cr Parsons said: ‘‘Council bashing is a regular occurrence in the media. It almost qualifies for an Olympic event.’’

Council general manager Brian Bell has not said publicly that the department, which he started, should shed staff.

But a council statement said the department had reduced staff by 12per cent in the past year.

The department had about 20 staff and a $9million budget in its first year in 2008-09, but now has 36 full-time equivalent staff and a $12.4million budget.

Councillors voted recently to significantly increase rates over seven years, which includes continuing sustainability programs.

On the weekend before the vote, the council advertised for a ‘‘sustainability engagement officer’’ earning up to $72,000 a year for a 35-hour week.

The council said the position was ‘‘required to meet commitments under the sustainability levy’’.

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FFA cries foul over tactics in Culina case

UNDER FIRE: Dumped Newcastle Jets marquee star Jason Culina. – Picture by Getty ImagesFOOTBALL Federation Australia has accused the players’ union of mischief-making in asserting FFA was responsible for insuring disenfranchised former Socceroo Jason Culina.
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The Professional Footballers Association launched legal action last Thursday, accusing FFA of not ensuring Culina’s former club Gold Coast took out an insurance policy when they signed him as a marquee player in 2009.

PFA chief executive Brendan Schwab suggested in the Newcastle Herald on Saturday that Culina’s bitter split with the Jets could have been avoided had the 31-year-old midfielder been appropriately insured.

In a statement issued yesterday, FFA corporate affairs and communications director Kyle Patterson said the PFA was ‘‘trying to make out that this situation involving Jason Culina can be boiled down to a dispute between FFA and Jason over insurance’’.

“This assertion is a red herring; a quite mischievous distraction from what’s happening. You have to question the PFA’s motives in running this line through the media,’’ Patterson said.

“FFA doesn’t intend to talk specifically about Jason’s case, other than to say our advice is that the Newcastle Jets have been meeting their obligations under Jason’s contract, as they should.

“We also understand that Jason is working hard on his rehabilitation in order to get back into action, which is great news for Australian football … On behalf of the football community, we wish him well in his efforts to return to playing football.”

Clarifying rules for marquee players, Patterson said any club that contracted one was responsible for all costs, including insurance, and subsequent liabilities. Costs, as with benefits, rest with that club, not FFA, the A-League or other clubs, because not all clubs signed marquee players.

That information seems to contradict clause 3.2 of the PFA-FFA collective bargaining agreement, which states: ‘‘FFA must establish and maintain such insurance as is necessary to cover the remuneration and entitlements of a league player … for the period of any injury, illness or ailment sustained arising out of or in the course of his employment with a league club.’’

Culina suffered a serious knee injury representing the Socceroos in January while contracted to the Gold Coast.

After surgery, he signed a $2.65million three-year deal with Newcastle.

The Jets asked FFA in October to set aside that contract and sacked his father, Branko, as coach.

? Newcastle’s round-24 home game against Brisbane has been brought forward from 4pm, Sunday, March 18, to 5.30pm, Saturday, March 17, to fit in with the Roar’s Asian Champions League schedule.

The W-League game between Newcastle and Sydney on Saturday has been switched from Belmore Sportsground to Campbelltown Stadium.

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Trainer aiming to cleanup at cup

The Cleaner is well-placed to win a second cup this month after winning at Longford on New Year’s Day.RISING star The Cleaner is challenging for favouritsm in Wednesday’s $100,000 Devonport Cup after attracting the top bid at the barrier draw-calcutta yesterday.
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The Cleaner was clearly the most wanted horse at the calcutta selling for a bid of $1000 well in excess of race favourite Too Many Reds who was knocked down for $600.

Longford trainer Mick Burles said he couldn’t be happier with The Cleaner and was delighted when he was able to nominate barrier four for his stayer when the preferential barrier draw was held.

“Barrier four is perfect for him, it’s better than drawing one or two when there would be a chance he would get chopped out,” he said.

The Cleaner was second favourite at $5 in bookmaker Nick Whelan’s opening market behind the topweight Too Many Reds ($3.50) but that could change by Wednesday with further support expected for him.

Too Many Reds also drew favourably in barrier seven and the in-form five-year-old will have Craig Newitt in the saddle on Wednesday.

Too Many Reds clearly didn’t attract the same attention as The Cleaner yesterday and was sold for $600.

South Australian visitor Uchimura wasn’t afforded any favours in the barrier draw coming up with stall 10 but he still sold for $400 and was brought by transport operator Vern Poke.

The calcutta attracted a final pool of $3660 with the first prize being $2560.

Campania-trained Maybe French remains the only horse without a jockey and there was a doubt about the seven-year-old taking her place in the cup.

But trainer Michael Voss said after the mare had drawn barrier one that he was influenced to consider a start for her.

The Devonport Cup festivities continue tonight with a cocktail party at Spreyton Park.

The guest speaker will be Michael Dickinson the owner of Tapeta Footings Inc and the man responsible for laying Spreyton Park’s new $11 million synthetic track.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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