The Tamworth Harness Racing Club January racing carnival has begun.
The first to pick up gold was the Clayton Harmey stables with the win of Portalegre in taking out the Pub Group Gold Nugget.
Harmey won the inaugural running of the Gold Nugget race back in 2001 with Tight Fit trained by Allan Beresford and 21 years later Harmey has picked up another win, this time as a trainer and leaving the driving to Blake Hughes.
Clayton Harmey is now on a mission to win the Garrard's Tamworth City Cup as a trainer after taking out the cup race back in 2010 - where the prizemoney on offer was of $20,000 - as a reinsman with Enjays Cam winning the 2360 metre race in a mile rate of 1.59.3 and trained by the late Neville Tomlin.
Portalegre will look to gaining a spot in the up race on finals night for Harmey.
Sunday evening will see the Tamworth HRC conduct their Golden Guitar Heats with Harmey having four runners engaged: Shanks For Coming (Ht 1), Brydon Earl (Ht 2); Johnson Step (Ht3) and Miss Verstappen (Ht5).
The five heats of the Golden Guitar has attracted runners from Sydney, Queensland, Hunter Valley, Bathurst along with a good selection of local runners who have some good chances.
Opening night of the carnival saw the ladies take centre stage with Sawyer Gully trainer Stacie Elliott training three winners on the eight-race program which commenced in the opening event when Playboy Shadow won with Bevan Pringle taking the reins.
Playboy Shadow had a head win over last start winner and $3.60 race favourite Pay Me Smart (Blake Hughes) and another last start winner in Freddie's Delight 10 metres away third.
The next to greet the judge from the stable was Freedom Writer (Tom Ison) who had a 2.3-metre win over Diesel Don (Anthony Varga) and Yellow Bow (Chris Shepherdson) two metres away third in the Bevan Douglas Pace.
Our Bushwacker (Grace Panela) had an 18-metre win in taking out the Southgate Inn Pace over Gojoe (Chris Shepherdson) and Horrie Otara (Brad Elder) eight metres away third.
Local Tamworth reinswoman Emma Ison made a return to the winner's circle when she guided Overthemoon to a win in the Pub-Gunnedah Road Pace, trained by her father Andy Ison.
After sitting in behind race leader Kudos Mason, Ison took an opportunity to gain the lead with Overthemoonwhen the leader stepped out of gear for a short distance. Ison then dictated the terms of the race out in the lead. Overthemoon came away with a 3.7-metre win over Nor Westa (Dean Chapple) and Cashwrangs Smoker (Grace Panella) 18 metres away third.
Courtney Sutherland also returned to the winner's circle when she accepted an outside drive behind Big Beat.
Big Beat, a seven-year-old gelding, was also securing his first win for the Len Simon stables.
"It felt really good to drive a winner," Sutherland said.
"It was a close finish but my horse lifted and got the win. It was a big thrill."
Big Beat obtained a half neck win over Blissfull Identity (Dean Chapple) and the second runner from the Simon stables in Remember Bubbles (Maddison Simon) 4.7 metres away third in taking out the Moonshiners-Honky Tonk Bar Pace.
Sutherland has accepted the drive behind two runners from the Len Simon stables on Sunday evening in Remember Bubbles and Dark Side in the two heats of the Hazell's Tamworth Local Pace.