Day At The Track

The stories, within the story

06:02 PM 06 Jun 2016 NZST
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Natalie Rasmussen + Mark Purdon - Have 17 runners engaged at Addington tonight
Natalie Rasmussen and Mark Purdon - The "All Stars" team

It it is easy to make the mistake of thinking the All Star’s domination of Jewels Day is boringly repetitive.

Just like last year the harness racing super stable --- surely New Zealand’s greatest ever of either code --- won five of the Jewels races at Cambridge.  

The stats are hard to comprehend. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained not only the five winners but seven other placegetters, including two trifectas.

They have won nearly $4million in stakes in New Zealand alone this season and every group one pacing race for two and three-year-olds held in this country.

But it was fitting the five winners wore four different sets of colours because while whether the All Stars monopoly is good for the industry is open to debate, the diversity of their winners is not.

Each of the five winners has a different story of joy, battles won and lost and memories that will last forever.

Here they are:

Custodian, 2YO Ruby:

Roddy Butt sometimes feels guilty about inheriting his grandfather’s racing colours.

Because the red and gold silks of seven-time premiership winner Wes Butt deserve to be on show behind good horses more often.

“But I chose a different career path so they don’t get shown off very often,” says Roddy, a former professional rugby player and now development officer.

Roddy used and train and still shares in the ownership of Custodian so to see those colours he inherited 20 years ago win a Jewels race will forever be special.

“When I asked Mark to wear them he was great about it and it means a lot to our family,” says Roddy.

Partyon, 2YO Diamond:

Jeff Wilson’s timing was perfect as usual.

The face of New Zealand rugby broadcasting had a rare winter weekend off and spent some of it watching the Jewels with good mate John Hart.

The pair are in the Breckon Farms syndicates which not only won with Partyon but the Victoria Trotting Oaks on Friday with High Gait.

“There is nothing like owning a racehorse, even if you only have a small share,” said the dual international.

“It is a different type of nerves from when you play because it is out of your control.

“So John and I watched it and had a couple of wines to celebrate.

“Then we started discussing why the All Stars are so good. They are like the All Blacks, they are the best but keep innovating to improve.”

Piccadilly Princess, 3YO Diamond:

As 50th wedding anniversary presents go, a Jewels win takes some beating.

The Patterson boys from Christchurch are well known in harness racing, they run the Commodore Hotel where so many racing visitors to the city stay.

But while some of them who own Piccadilly Princess were at their parents 50th anniversary, watching en masse in Queenstown, Thomas Patterson was trackside at Cambridge.

“It is pretty special to have her win against those two other fillies, even if it means my Uncle Mike and I, who got us into racing, were a day late for the anniversary celebrations.

“They all loved it down there, so I am sure they won’t mind.”

More The Better, 2YO Emerald:

Roy Purdon doesn’t get to the races as much as he used to.

The legend of New Zealand racing -- how he hasn’t been knighted is baffling --- says the cold doesn’t agree with his arthritis.

“But I watched it at home and loved it. I celebrated with a whiskey and water, mainly water these day,” laughs the 89-year-old.

Roy has raced some great horses, including Sole Command, but this is his first group one winner in a long time. 

“It’s special to race it with Mark (son) and see what they did yesterday. Mark is a superstar.”

Heaven Rocks, 3YO Emerald: 

He is very big, very fast and very dumb.

But what Heaven Rocks lacks in experience, one of his owners makes up for.

Kevin Riseley may live in Victoria but like so many Australian harness fans he loves having some of his horses trained here because of the standard of racing, trainers and the greater industry profile.

“We love coming to the races here,” says Riseley, who also owns Inter Dominion champ Lennytheshark.

He and dozens of Australians like him, are huge contributors to the yearling sales here, without which the whole industry grinds to a halt.

Michael Guerin

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