Day At The Track

Mark Purdon gets perfect farewell

07:35 AM 01 Jan 2021 NZDT
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Amazing Dream, harness racing
Amazing Dream driven by Mark Purdon wins the Auckland Cup. Photo /
Trish Dunell Photo

New Zealand's greatest harness racing trainer left on his own, perfect terms at Alexandra Park on Thursday night.

In his last race before Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen take a sabbatical from training they quinellaed the $200,000 Auckland Cup as little mare Amazing Dream grabbed stablemate Spankem late to win the great race.

Fittingly it was Purdon who drove the winner but it was Rasmussen who set up the win as her lung-searing last mile in front on Spankem to keep the attentions of Copy That at bay ultimately won the race for Amazing Dream.

"That is what won me the race," admitted Purdon.

"The pressure on at the lead made it a staying test and this mare is a great stayer."

The win was historic as Purdon and Rasmussen, known as the All Stars, cease training from Friday, with the majority of their horses to be taken over by the young stable foreman Hayden Cullen.

Purdon and to a lesser extent Rasmussen will still occasionally drive and it is likely they will return to training in some capacity but the days of the all-conquering All Stars machine look over.

"I am very comfortable with that decision now and so is Nat and to win our last race officially training with a horse owned by Jean Feiss, who has been one of our most supportive owners, is a great way to end this chapter."

Spankem was enormous in second while Copy That was also huge, with his race becoming so much more difficult when he was crossed at the start.

The $200,000 Auckland Cup

Earlier in the night Enjoy Me gave two of the stars of northern harness racing their first Group 1 win when she won the Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship.

Trainer Steve Telfer, who this season started training in partnership with his sister Amanda, and young driver Ben Butcher were both registering their first wins at the highest level of racing when Enjoy Me used the passing lane to grab favourite Bettor Twist after she sat parked for the last lap.

Teller and his Stonewall Stud bosses have believed in Butcher since he was a junior driver and their faith has been repaid as he has matured into a leading senior driver.

"To get my first Group 1 is special but even more too to get it for Telf and Stonewall after how much they have supported me," said 25-year-old Butcher.

Enjoy Me

He wasn't the only passing lane major winner tonight as Aladdin, who was sold to new Australian owners just last week, took out the $200,000 Harness Million, beating stablemate Shan Noble in the last few strides.

Aladdin

Sundees Son ended, for a while at least, the argument over who is New Zealand's best trotting stayer when he easily beat Bolt For Brilliance and Majestic Man in the $95,000 National Trot, aptly named cause the winner set a new national record.

Sundees Son was able to run to the lead uncontested in the middle stages and adds the National to the Anzac Cup and Row Cup as Group 1 wins at Alexandra Park, as well as a Jewels and a Dominion at Addington, giving him the record of a great trotter with the promise of so much more to come.

Sundees Son

By Michael Guerin

Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

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