What happens next in the career of exciting two-year-old pacer Alta Orlando is, ultimately, up to Alta Orlando.
The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained son of Courage Under Fire added a substantial cheque to the bankroll this afternoon (Saturday) when winning the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series 2Y0 Final.
But while he was brilliant in his victory, Alta Orlando has the potential to be so much better and sorting out the top two inches will go a long way to sorting some of the issues out.
“You can’t afford to take your mind of him for even a minute,’’ Rasmussen said.
“He could just as easily spin around on you so you have to be on the game when driving him.
“The fact he is a really talented horse makes it a little easier to deal with.’’
The minor problems nearly cost the team victory yesterday with alleged interference on the Bob Butt driven Maverick shortly after the start leaving Rasmussen sitting in a chair in the Stewards room.
The inquiry was quickly dismissed though after it was ascertained that Maverick’s galloping was no direct fault of Alta Orlando.
“It probably didn’t look all that good, but we haven’t made contact and it’s more just two-year-olds acting their age a bit.’’
The early issue out of the way, Rasmussen and Alta Orlando soon found themselves outside the speed and trying to grind their way to victory – and that’s exactly what they did.
Stopping the clock at just over 2.20 for the 1950 metre mobile, Alta Orlando was too good for a game Say My Name with Express Stride running home well to finish in third position.
“He doesn’t mind a fight,’’ Rasmussen said.
“He just keeps giving and doesn’t like other horses getting anywhere near him.
“It’s a good quality to have.’’
Alta Orlando will now be aimed at the Harness Jewels where he will have to square off with his unbeaten stable mate Follow The Stars who returned from a successful Australian campaign this week.
Owned by Neil Pilcher and legendary galloping trainer Jim Gibbs and his wife Anne, Alta Orlando has now won three of his five career starts and the $107,000 he added to his earnings yesterday took him to $145,000 for the season.
Wanna Play sets NZ record
Natalie Rasmussen thinks she might finally have enigmatic Wanna Play sorted out.
The two-year-old trotting filly made light work of winning her first race today (Saturday) at Addington in the Seelite Windows and Doors Sires’ Stakes 2Y0 Trotters Championship worth a cool $60,000.
In seven previous starts the daughter of Majestic Son has shown enough potential to warrant total respect in any race she lined up in, but those performances had been mixed with some bad manners.
But today’s effort contained none of that.
In fact it was quite the opposite.
Balanced up early by Rasmussen and allowed to find her feet, Wanna Play then surged forward to take the lead off her stable mate Arya at the 1000 metre mark and, from there, never looked back.
Despite the quality of her opposition the lightly framed filly ran them off their feet smashing the 2Y0 trotting fillies New Zealand record for a 1950 metre mobile in the process.
Previously held by Kylie Ree with a time of 2.27.5, Wanna Play stopped the clock at 2.24.2.
“She did it easily really,’’ Rasmussen, who co-trains the filly with her partner Mark Purdon, said.
“The ability has always been there, around home I have always said she is a pretty nice horse.
“But I’ve figured her out I think, you are better off just letting her run than trying to get her to stop and start all the time.
“When you start fiddling with her mouth she can get a little bit funny in her gait, but letting her run today she was great.’’
Wanna Play is out of the former top race mare, Miss Whiplash who won 13 races and was trained by Purdon.
She has since left solid performers Emma Hamilton and Dutch Annie but looks to have thrown a real potential star in Wanna Play.
And the best part for Rasmussen…she owns a share in the filly with prominent juvenile trotting owner, Trevor Casey.
“That adds a little more excitement to the win for sure, this is pretty special.’’
Casey also owns runner-up Arya who was brave in defeat for Colin DeFilippi while Monbet ran well to finish third.
He won the race last year with Daenerys Targaryen.
Wanna Play will now be pointed toward to the Harness Jewels at Cambridge at the end of the month and her victory today adds another interesting piece to a difficult puzzle in the 2YO Trotting category.
By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)