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Mark Purdon may have lost before he has won heading into tomorrow night’s $200,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park. Purdon is back from Sydney for a few days, where he will return to partner Alta Orlando in the Miracle Mile on Saturday night, but heads to Alexandra Park tomorrow night. He and partner Natalie Rasmussen have four starters in the Derby but two at the head of the market, perennial Group One winner One Change and Oaks winner Amazing Dream. And the couple devised a unique way of deciding who would drive who: they drew names out of a pot in the tea room this week. The winner, at least according to the market, was Rasmussen who will partner One Change, leaving Purdon on the superstar filly. As much as the stable love Amazing Dream, after she drew barrier seven she is rated clearly their second best chance at around $6 with the TAB but likely to be longer on the tote. “The draws are a huge thing for him and not so much for her,” admits Purdon. “From barrier one Nat has options with One Change, whereas I will probably have to find some luck somewhere or at least be conservative early. “So he is the clear best chance for us, although as everybody knows Copy That will be hard to beat.” The stable find themselves in the unusual position of not having the favourite in the Breckon Farms Young Guns Final, with It’s All About Faith only second favourite to Krug, again because of barrier draws. “Krug is a really good young horse and from barrier three he is going to be hard to catch. “I am sure our big fella will have improved by his second last week but it is so hard to come wide and win juvenile races at this level.” Purdon was happy with both Oscar Bonavena and Winterfell after their trial at Ashburton on Tuesday and the pair will trial again before racing at Addington in two weeks. Looking to Menangle he is happy to be reunited with Alta Orlando this weekend and expects Our Princess Tiffany to be hard to beat in her mares race where once again she clashes with Belle Of Montana. But one horse who won’t be heading to Menangle is Smooth Deal, who was first emergency for the NSW Derby but is already back home in Canterbury. “We didn’t go well enough in his prelude last week so we have brought him home and he will race at Addington next week and be set for the Derby here at Addington.”   Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s most powerful harness stable looks set for near certain compensation at Alexandra Park tonight for a horror start to racing’s giant weekend. The Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen stable have red hot favourite Amazing Dream in tonight’s $125,000 Pascoes The Jewellers Oaks, the first group one of Auckland racing’s massive week.  The superstar filly would have been favourite for tonight’s 2700m mobile from any barrier draw but from gate three she is $1.12 to win and probably lead for most of the trip in doing so.  That win would put a smile back on her trainer’s faces after a huge double blow yesterday when they lost two major Miracle Mile contenders from that Sydney carnival in the space of an hour.  Self Assured was ruled out of next week’s A$1 million sprint after developing a hoof abscess but at least they are still hopeful of getting him to Alexandra Park for the Taylor Mile and Messenger in late April.  But the news for Chase Auckland is almost certainly worse after he pulled up abruptly in track work at Menangle yesterday and is suspected of having a pelvis injury which could rule him out for the rest of the season and maybe longer. “It has been a shocking morning,” admitted Purdon.  They still have horses like Stylish Memphis (NSW Oaks) and Our Princess Tiffany (Ladyship Mile) in A$200,000 group ones tomorrow night but their open class blows continued a horror season for their elite pacers like Ultimate Sniper, Spankem, Turn It Up and Thefixer.  Tonight though Amazing Dream looks one of several odds-on chances punters can build a multi bet around, with both Passion And Power (R8, No.2) and It’s All About Faith (Race 10, No.5) likely to win their juvenile events while Dina Bolt (R9, No.4) should win his lead-up to next week’s Northern Derby.  But two of the other major races tonight have a potential match-race feel to them with the clashes of Copy That and One Change in the Derby prelude the most intriguing.  One Change has a champion’s record in the best races, having won the Sires’  Stakes and the Sales Series twice as well as the Jewels which would make any punter wonder how he is $2.70 compared with $1.70 for Copy That tonight.  But Copy That has beaten him fair and square the last two times they have met, both times by getting in front of him.  He is drawn to do that again tonight but both favourites have stable mates in the race who would probably prefer to hand up one of their own it could become a real game of cat and mouse. The Founders Cup sees a resurgent Star Galleria against Triple Eight over 2200m with the latter again having the draw edge but Star Galleria the better gate speed.  If Star Galleria could cross to the lead he would be the clear top pick but with On The Cards, who was quick enough to cross to the front in the Inter Dominion Final in December, drawn inside him it may not be a case of the favourite simply getting his own way. Any early pressure would appear to aid Triple Eight, who is back from a luckless Hunter Cup campaign in Melbourne but before that finished third in the Auckland Cup.   Michael Guerin

Outstanding trotting mare Tickle Me Pink is set to miss the next month but trainer Tony Herlihy is confident of having her back to her peak before long. Tickle Me Pink raced well below her best in the mares trotting feature at Cambridge last week and as a consequence is missing from the Sims Pacific Metals Northern Trotting Stakes at Alexandra Park on Friday night.  “She didn’t show her best last week and initially I didn’t know why,” said Herlihy.  “But we had her looked over by the vet and she has an issue with her back. “I don’t think it is serious but we will ease up on her and have that worked on and the hopefully she can come back before too long.” How quickly last season’s Jewels winner can get back to full health and the races will determine whether she gets the chance to defend her title at Cambridge on May 30.  Having already won a race at Alexandra Park this season Tickle Me Pink is well up the Jewels leader board, her $17,350 just outside the $18,175 (Baxter) of the top 12.  But that last figure is likely to grow to at least $25,000 for the cut off point by mid May so she will need at least a placing or two, or another win, to be assured of a start in the Jewels.  That is exactly what she did last season, with her late autumn form flurry getting Tickle Me Pink to the big day before she led all the way to beat Tricky Ric at Addington.  Tickle Me Pink’s untimely defeat last week has also provided last Friday’s mares trot winner Pretty Majestic with a prime opportunity to escalate her claims for the trotting mare of the year title in coming weeks.  Pretty Majestic not only won last week but is $1.90 favourite for Friday night’s group three feature and if she wins that and adds to her record of three wins from five starts since joining the Robert Dunn stable from Australia it is going to take a good mare’s performance in probably one of the open class races to beat her in the trotting mare of the year race.  Alexandra Park’s Oaks meeting on Friday has plenty of other odds on favourites with Amazing Dream $1.12 for the classic, Dina Bolt odds on later in the programme as he prepares for next week’s Derby and two-year-olds It’s All About Faith and Passion And Power also well into the red.  The opening night of Derby week at The Park also plays host to a $100,000 Pick6.   Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight    If you asked most pundits with half an idea which horse they thought epitomised the term ‘tradesman’ in the north, many would surely say Check In. You never get anything flashy, there’s no brilliance about him and he’s not that pretty. But he turns up every other week, from the stand, or the mobile, from a mile to 2700 metres, at Auckland and Cambridge, or even the South Island, and he gives it his all. He’s raced every month of this season and never disgraced himself, but his win in the $25,000 feature at Alexandra Park on Friday night was his first of the term. But that’s not to say he’d been disappointing – on the contrary he had earned over $35,000 this season before the win and had even managed a last-start Group 2 second in the Cambridge Flying Mile. And the best part? His now 10 wins, 22 placings and nearly $180,000 in earnings were never expected. “He’s been a real surprise package,” says his trainer, Steve Telfer. “He was just ok at two, better at three and better again at four. “It’s just been a case of him continuing to improve and stepping up as time has gone on.” Check In lacks any real high speed, but he follows it just so well, and that’s part of the reason he has continued to earn – the better class of races are run at higher speeds and that plays in to his hands. “He doesn’t look that flash, but he continues to front up in these races. “He lacks a bit of real dash but if they go hard he’s always going to be in it. “At the end of last season, he ran 2.38 one night.” Telfer is building a large stable in Ardmore, with more than 70 horses on the books and a swag of yearlings to be added to that again next week, so it’s easy to think an unremarkable horse like Check In could get lost in the shuffle. Not true. “Actually, he is Triple Eight’s best mate. “It means he gets to come in to the barn every night – having friends in high places helps,” Telfer joked. Telfer says Check In has a bit of personality to him, as well. “A bit of a grump; he’ll bite you if you give him the chance, but nothing too aggressive. “He wouldn’t have lasted this long with us if he had a bad attitude.” So how do you keep a six-year-old homebred veteran of 71 starts fresh in mind and body? “We don’t actually have to very his work too much. “He doesn’t hopple a hell of a lot, most of his work is cantering and he seems to thrive on that.” The inevitable question of selling a horse like home overseas has come up in the past, but “probably not for two years”. “The phone used to ring quite a bit, but not for a long time.” Check In is raced by Stonewall Stud’s Steve Stockman and Jill Stockman, long-time stable client Scott Plant and Brian Cameron. Plant and Stonewall bred the son of Mach Three out of their Group 1-winning Sands A Flyin mare, Time To Fly, making him a half-brother to stablemate Dance Time. Andre Poutama did the driving and Telfer was quick to pay tribute to the Pukekohe horseman for another heady drive. “Andre has been driving him for the past few months and doing a great job with it. “It was a top drive tonight; he rated him perfectly in front.” Telfer’s good friend Robert Dunn also had a great night out at ‘the Park’, preparing three winners, including the ultra-impressive two-year-old filly, Passion And Power. She streeted her fellow juveniles by six lengths in the hands of Peter Ferguson, who also won earlier in the night with the Dunn-trained Resonate. Ferguson’s son, Dylan, completed the Dunn treble behind Pretty Majestic. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The country’s top three-year-old colt returns at Alexandra Park tonight on a path towards next month’s Northern Derby. And it’s an unconventional starting point for Copy That, too – a standing start event against the older horses. The reason? Quite simple. He is too highly assessed and there is a dire horse shortage in Auckland. Trainer Ray Green is frustrated but understanding. “I’ve had that conversation with them but I can understand their problem, that being the gross shortage of horses in the north. “Really, we have no other option; it’s a necessary evil.” He’s ineligible for next week’s Waikato Guineas due to his high rating – a race he would have been a very short-priced favourite in. Instead, Green will start him this week, then in the Derby prelude in two weeks’ time before the $200,000 feature on March 6. Green gave Copy That some standing start practise at the trials last week and it went well. “We stood him up once and he did well; I think he’ll be very good from the stand because he’s quite a rapid-going little horse.” The horse is thriving according to Green and he is in a good place heading towards a plethora of feature races over the next six months. “He’s very good and I’m very happy with him. “He’s in a good place right now. “It was good to get him a wee break over Christmas but he was glad to be back; he likes being in work and enjoys the routine.” Green is noted for taking his horses to the races fit and ready to win every time and this week is no different. But don’t expect driver David Butcher to launch him if he’s slow away. “This is just a lead-up race to our main mission. “He’ll win it if the opportunity presents itself, but we aren’t going to send him on a ‘search and destroy’ mission.” Bookies have faith – they opened Copy That a prohibitive $1.55 favourite yesterday afternoon. Green also has four horses in the $15,000 two-year-old race to close out the night. Of them, Franco Nandor opened second elect with bookies last night after a brave debut second a week ago, where he was nosed out right on the line. “He sort of exceeded my expectations a little bit first-up. “He’s certainly lifted his game. All four of them are nice horses, actually. “Vanquish Stride’s first start was very good considering he did everything wrong against a better class of horse and still finished with them. “The three colts will all be pointing towards the Young Guns Final in a few weeks’ time.” Monday will see Green, stable owner John Street, and client Emilio Rosati start their three-day yearling shopping spree at Karaka and Christchurch. Most of the hard work has been done, but he’s hopeful of avoiding one thorn in his side. “We’ve eliminated a bunch in the last few weeks, but haven’t looked closely at the ones still on our list. “It’s the same old story – work to the budget and see what they’re going for. “And if Jean Feiss is bidding on one that makes it difficult. “We were the under-bidders on Jesse Duke and Self Assured. She’s tough to beat, especially when she hones in on one she likes. “She’s a great judge.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s only a month away, but Pam Turner is daring to dream of the Northern Derby with her promising sophomore pacer, Texas Tiger. The three-year-old son of American Ideal has his second run up on a new campaign at Alexandra Park tonight and will likely start favourite. “He’s very good at the moment and I’m very happy with him.” Pukekohe-based Turner told HRNZ. “We had a bit of trouble getting him to go right-handed last season so he’s been gelded and had a break and we started again.” Steve Telfer was training Texas Tiger but recommended Turner bring the horse home and train him herself. “Steve did a good job with him, but he was getting a little bit wayward and Steve thought the one-on-one focus of a smaller stable would help him. “The other option was to send him to Australia to race, but we didn’t really want to do that.” Turner and husband Lindsay have quietly pencilled in the $200,000 Northern Derby on March 7 as a target, but understand the horse needs to stick his hand up before then. “That’s what we are hoping for. “We’ll have to see how he goes this week. He has a lot of high speed and I wouldn’t mind putting him in the Prelude in a few weeks to see how he goes.” It was a fine run for second when resuming on January 24, especially since the race didn’t really pan out in his favour. From an outside draw he had to go back to last and then couldn’t get a suitable drag in to the finish. He came solo four-wide on the bend and hit the line well, but leader Dina Brown had slipped the cutter by that stage. “It was a good effort, I thought,” said Turner. “We were never going to hustle him out of the gate just to get his confidence up that way around. “But he went super after that. If he’d got carted in to it he would have been ok, but it didn’t happen.” Turner says they’ve just paid Texas Tiger up for the Breeders Crown and the Harness Jewels at Cambridge is firmly in her plans, too. While she doesn’t train it, Turner could well have two horses start favourite on the night when her classy mare Tiger Swift drops back in grade. She’s a Group 1 performer that has just not had the rub of the green for Cambridge trainer Ross Paynter and connections are confident she can return to winning form this week. “To be fair, her races haven’t really been run to suit. “She’s been getting back in the field and they’re coming home in 26, which means she’s no show. “She’s a far better follower of speed and this week, back in grade, with a good draw, we think she’ll go a lot better.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Blueblood trotting mare Daisy Hill cracked maidens in impressive fashion at Alexandra Park on Friday night, but still has a long way to go. That’s the belief of her driver and co-trainer, Josh Dickie, after the Muscle Hill half-sister to Stent cleared out to win by four lengths. “I’ve always liked her and she’s got a bit about her, but has just been a bit mentally weak,” said Dickie. “A couple of times she has galloped when she felt like she was going to win. “Really, she’s been letting herself down.” And while she’s finally put it all together in impressive fashion, Dickie reckons it will take plenty of racing and miles in her legs before she’s ready for the better company. “She’s the type of mare that’s not going to come out in her next few starts and keep doing this, I don’t think. “I really think we are a year away from seeing the best of her. “I believe with horses like her you’ve got to keep going around, putting the miles in to them. “She works perfectly at home, but she’s got to learn to keep her head in the game on race night.” Daisy Hill is the sixth foal of racing age out of broodmare gem Belle Galleon, who has a 100 percent winners-to-foals record thanks to Stent, Belles Son, Arya, Izmok and Lone Star Lad. She’s owned by Cantabrians Kevin Chapman and Trevor Casey, who have bred her about-turn for the last eight years. Daisy Hill was bred, and is co-owned by Chapman, who has been a regular collaborator with Dickie and his father, John, for a many years. “Kevin always has a nice horse around him and he’s been brilliant to us; we’ve had a bit of luck with the horses he’s sent north. “He did warn us that this one wouldn’t be easy as he’d had a bit of trouble with her, and he was right.” Tony Herlihy was the star of the show at Alexandra Park, training three of the eight winners on the night. Classy trotting mare Kenny’s Dream got her season back on track thanks to a heady drive from stable foreman, Tony Cameron. “It was a good effort after starting from a handicap,” said Herlihy. “There are a couple of nice mares’ races coming up for her.” Dina Brown was the easiest winner on the night, clearing out to win comfortably after leading throughout. “She’s just kept improving and is better than what I probably thought she was going to be. “It’s a great breed and she’s definitely got more wins in store.” And while the betting plunge came for stablemate Delightful Catherine, it as the Herlihy-trained Cowgirls N Lace that won the night’s opening event, a maiden. “She’s a good, honest filly from a nice family.” On The Cards put some disappointing recent performances behind him with a confidence-boosting win in the night’s feature pace, an early mistake the difference-maker for race favourite Double Rocket, who ran second. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Belle Of Montana may have given punters a blood nose last start but the good news is the glamour mare escaped unharmed. So it is all system go for phase two of her season which should begin with a win at Alexandra Park tonight. The brilliant mare had a rollercoaster December, winning the Group One Queen of Hearts at Alexandra Park but exploding into a wild gallop as a $1.20 favourite in a free-for-all on New Years Eve. That was caused by a hopple shortener coming loose at full speed going into the first bend as Belle Of Montana was contesting the lead. She recovered but galloped again later. Punters didn’t. But while money won or lost on the tote comes and goes the most important thing is the exceptional mare is fine, which is never a given when a horse gallops at that speed. “She was good as gold after the race, didn’t harm herself at all,” says trainer Barry Purdon. Knowing the reason for the incident is at least a positive, because it shouldn’t affect how punters assess her in tonight’s 2200m mobile. Belle Of Montana is using the race to prepare for the A$100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton on February 1 before she returns home to get ready for the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile in Sydney on March 7. She meets not only some of her talented mare stablemates tonight but Interdom contenders Star Galleria and Solid Gold, the latter now trained by Tony Herlihy after being purchased by a North American owner. Solid Gold has been good enough, especially over sprint trips at Alexandra Park, to suggest he can at least test Belle Of Montana and Herlihy is not concerned by his lack of a recent workout. He took the speedster across the road to Stonewall Stud on Monday, the facility where Steve Telfer trains which has one of the best training tracks in the country. “He worked well there so he should go well this week, but Belle Of Montana will obviously be hard to beat,” says Herlihy. That chances of Solid Gold’s lowering Belle Of Montana’s colours may come down to where they settle in relation to one another and how hard Solid Gold has to work if Herlihy chooses to push the button early. But for sheer class and aided by the small field Belle Of Montana deserves to be about a $1.80 chance. Purdon’s assault on the Victorian riches starts tomorrow night where he has Bad To The Bone in an incredibly strong heat of the Victoria Derby at Ballarat. He has a second line draw against the two favourite's for next week’s Derby final in Smooth Deal and local star Be Happy Mach. “It is a shame they are all in the same heat, I thought they would be spread around more,” said Purdon. Having to finish top four to make the Final, Bad To The Bone will at least be added by the huge diet of high class racing New Zealand’s three-year-old pacers have digested by this stage of the season whereas many of the Australian stars are only resuming. With Be Happy Mach also drawing the second line and fresh up since winning the Breeders Crown in August, if he can beat the Kiwis tomorrow night he is something else and would be a ready-made Derby favourite. But there has already been some big bets on Smooth Deal since the market opened on Tuesday and driver Mark Purdon is likely to try and stay in front of the other favourite's to make them work hard. Michael Guerin

The New Zealand harness racing scene waved goodbye to 2019 in Group 1 style on Tuesday with an evening of premier racing at Alexandra Park. The three Group 1 races on the card were complemented by the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Final at listed level and showcased the very best at their very best! The first Group 1 race of the night The $138,000 Alabar Sire Stakes Fillies Championship for three-year-olds was won by the Natalie Rasmussen driven Amazing Dream (Bettor's Delight - Christian Dreamer - Christian Cullen) for the All Stars Stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The class filly again showed her undeniable quality by making a three wide bid over the last lap and being too good for a brave Stylish Memphis in the run home. Dr Susan closed in late for third while the Robert Dunn trained duo of Spellbound and Need You Know, who dictated the race tempo from the front, both felt the pace over the last furlong. The overall time was 2.38.23 over the 2200m mobile.  Amazing Dream The $200,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Final (listed) was won by the race favourite One Change (Bettor's Delight - Changedown - Falcon Seelster) who found the lead early before taking a trail behind stablemate Flying Even Bettor. The Barry Purdon trained Bad To The Bone made the most of a good mid-race position and fought well down the outer for second while Flying Even Bettor fought well for third. The second favourite Smooth Deal met with trouble early and was meritorious thereafter. Overall Race time was 2.36.80 over the 2200m mobile. One Change The $98,000 Sims Pacific Metals 2019 National Trot, arguably the deepest race of the night, was won by Inter Dominion champion Winterfell (Majestic Son) who produced a winning sprint over the final furlong after finding the trail early to snare the title from a brave Majestic Man who led up and fought well in the run home. Oscar Bonavena, the tote favourite, moved mid-race to a position outside the leader but couldn’t muster enough over the final stages and had to settle for third place while Temporale rounded off the top four placings.   Overall race time was 3.21.24 over the 2700m mobile.    Winterfell The Trillian Trust 2019 Auckland Cup, over the extreme two mile distance, concluded the group racing for the night and saw Self Assured, a 4yr old son of Bettor’s Delight, dictate terms in front and win impressively with the overall time dipping below the four minute mark. The Fixer, stablemate to the winner, obtained a trail throughout and battled on well enough to claim second over a fast finishing Triple Eight from the Steve Telfer barn and Chase Auckland who ran a very good fourth.  Overall race time was 3.59.42 Self Assured The win of Self Assured completed an All Stars night-to-remember with all four feature winners coming from the stable.      For full results from tonight's meeting click on this link. Ben McMillan

The Shark makes his way to Alexandra Park and the final harness racing meeting of the year, Auckland Cup night, in search of winners to end the year on the right note. For more punting information head to The Punters Lounge   Race 1 4 Bolt For Brilliance: Jewels winner back in action and does so with some good workout and trial form. Should have the class edge on most of these in a fresh state. 11 Full Of Hope: Has the motor and two runs since arriving in the north have both been excellent. Sure to be a live hope again here. 10 Swiss Miss: Hit the line with real venom last time out and headed in the right direction. Good field, but she’s a leading contender for sure. 1 Safrakova: Gets back onto the front line here which can make all the difference. Usual good manners land on the speed and keep them honest. Selections: 4-11-10-1 Race 2 6 Sheffield Sparky: In great nick and last two runs have been both huge in defeat. Deserves a winning turn and gets a golden opportunity on a big night to make it happen. 8 Fabrizio: Orange sticks with the ship after a brave effort for fourth last time out. Tricky draw, but right man to make things happen and land in the right place. 10 Dina Brown: Should be at peak fitness now after three runs back from a spell. Took on a strong field last time out so should be a leading contender in today’s challenge. 4 Golden Quest: Two good wins in his last two starts. Going from strength to strength and looks a live prospect again here tonight. Selections: 6-8-10-4 Race 3 1 Gliding Away: Last four runs have all been excellent and often without much luck. Huge in defeat last time and from the draw gets a chance to turn the tables here. 2 Dina Bolt: Emphatic in his two starts since arriving in the North Island and headed for bigger and better things. Should be one half of the quinella. 6 Double Rocket: Has been taking on far stronger fields than this in recent starts and should find things a little easier. Can certainly be a player here. 3 Best Western: Sharp mare back in action and looked good in her workout to ready for this. Will get better with racing but still a live hope here. Selections: 1-2-6-3 Race 4 10 Stylish Memphis: Loved the late work last time out to get close to an outstanding pacer. Draw advantage here, so gets a chance to turn things around. 9 Amazing Dream: Ultimate class filly with it all in front of her. So much depends on how the first few 100m pan out for her though. Needs a little luck. 2 Need You Now: Tried to run them into the dirt last time after strong win from off the speed start prior. Trail is probably on offer here and can win if she takes it.  3 Spellbound: Drawn next to the stablemate and they look the early pace-setters. Not that far off them lately and can certainly get a huge slice of the pie. Selections: 10-9-2-3 Race 5 8 Tickle Me Pink: Better for the two runs back from a spell and back on even terms with them too. That should see her class shine through and see her get the win. 1 Tricky Ric: Not far behind the best trotters last season in his age group and better for fresh up run. Good draw, will do no extra work and can make a big play for it. 12 Sunny Glenis: Big win last time out. Back to the stand here but when she’s in good form, she’s in good form and no surprise to see her stand up here and go close again. 7 Pretty Majestic: Not a lot of luck in NZ debut last time out. Had plenty more to offer. Can get a slice of the pie with natural improvement and a little more luck. Selections: 8-1-12-7 Race 6 2 One Change: Two great runs in last two efforts and get his chance tonight from the very good draw. Should be the one they all have to beat. 8 Flying Even Bettor: Excellent money on offer for a horse who hasn’t had the best of luck recently. Can get forward and be right there when things get serious. 10 Smooth Deal: Much more like it last time and should be able to follow through the early speed here. Certainly good enough to win it. 6 Line Up: Form reads excellent and without high class stable mate here he gets the chance to be the centre of attention and give it a good shake. Selections: 2-8-10-6 Race 7 6 Oscar Bonavena: What beats him wins. It really is that simple. 2 Majestic Man: Momentarily looked set to lower the colours of the champ in waiting on Christmas Eve. Different tactics tonight: Could the result turn? 1 Winterfell: The star of the Inter Dominions. Not sure if this is the great draw for him they would have wanted. But respect the ability immensely. 5 Enhance Your Calm: Was going OK when he galloped last time out at Cambridge. We know how good he is, but there’s still some work to be done. Selections: 6-2-1-5 Race 8 8 Belle Of Montana: Has been untouchable lately. And it’s hard to see how that’s going to change here tonight. Looks home and hosed. 9 Wainui Creek: Living in the shadow of an exceptional mare. Not a bad place to be though when you’re going as well as she is. Good place chance again. 7 Step Up: That was more like it last time out when winning. Can maintain that form and be a major player in this line up tonight. 2 Revolver: In good nick since coming back from a spell. Gets his chance from a good draw to stand up and make a bit of a play for this. Selections: 8-9-7-2 Race 9 3 Self Assured: First time on the biggest of stages, over the ultimate distance. Good enough, there’s no doubt about that. His class should take him close, but maybe not quite so straight forward. 1 Thefixer: Loves the two miles and should be handy to the speed throughout from the good draw. That puts him in a great position to make a big play for this. 5 Cruz Bromac: Cup winner back to the ultimate distance and Orange in the bike. Will see it out better than most, without a doubt and can win if things go his way. 11 Chase Auckland: Might be the forgotten runner right down the bottom of the book. In great form and with a quick beginning and a nice trip could be the blowout. Selections: 3-1-5-11 Race 10 1 Krug: Good run on debut to go down fighting late. Gets the plum draw here, should lead and keep them honest. His race to lose. 2 First Class: Showed a bit of ability on debut and from the handy draw tonight should land on or near to the speed here and give a good account. 5 Black Edition: Hit the line strongly on debut. Smaller field here should help get a little closer, even from the wider draw tonight. 4 Platinum Stride: Great run on debut with a good effort for fourth. Has to be considered a great chance of getting into the top four once again. Selections: 1-2-5-4 BEST: 6 Sheffield Sparky (Race 2) NEXT: 8 Belle Of Montana (Race 8) VALUE: 10 Stylish Memphis (Race 4) ................................................................ The Shark - best at Winton on Tuesday 31 December 2019 , Punters Info The Shark makes his way down to the deep south to Winton looking to round off the South Island harness racing year with success. For more punting information head to The Punters Lounge   Race 1 4 Time In A Bottle: Both stylish and effortless in first run for the Williamson barn last weekend. Should go on with it too. Looks a big chance again. 8 Crusher Collins: How good has she been in recent weeks? Super, that’s how good. Wide draw, but ability will take her a long way against this field. 10 Ayutthaya: More upside than most in this and does seem to appreciate the mobile conditions. Can make a late play at them with a bit of luck. 6 Global Flight: Canterbury raider who is better than the form line would suggest. Meets the right kind of race to get back in the winning groove. Selections: 4-8-10-6 Race 2 1 Jaccka Ted: In genuine nick in good fields recently and slots a really good draw for this assignment today. Should be right in the fight. 14 Glenledi Captain: Loves doing a bit in his races and seems to keep giving right to the finish line. Has to be afforded a big chance here, even from the draw. 2 Yuko: Is better than the form looks and finally gets a decent marble to work with. Can punch forward and be handy and play a role in this. 5 Swell Time: Has more ability than most in this assignment and gets a decent chance. Just needs to race kinder and get that little bit of luck. Selections: 1-14-2-5 Race 3 9 Flash Party: Best horse in the race with the worst draw. Clear air at any point before it’s too late and she’s the one they all have to beat. 10 Ideologist: Would expect sharp improvement from the fresh up run where asked to do a bit of work. This is easier. Has to be a hope. 3 Holy Havoc: Better than the last couple of performances and up against an even field today so gets a good chance to get things back on track. 5 I’m Jimmy James: Talented enough type who should come on in leaps and bounds from the fresh up performance. Can have the last say in this with a sit. Selections: 9-10-3-5 Race 4 10 Burnham Boy: Best horse in the race but woeful last time out. So much better than that and should be too good for this field, even from the second line. 3 Triple VC: Generally needs things to pan out in races to put the best foot forward, but this is a notable drop in class today and not the worst chance. 1 Lite Percussion: Forget the last run, just needs a little more luck than that. Should get it here too, especially from the handy draw. Can win it. 8 Tartan Trilogy: In great form but cops a horror draw here so might need a little more luck than he’s used to getting to be a winning chance. Still in it though. Selections: 10-3-1-8 Race 5 6 Sekkie Monkey: Best form, which is really good – could be too good for these. Small field certainly helps the cause and can win today. 7 Super Fast Pat: Huge motor but still putting it all together. They might not see which way he goes if he’s caught on the right foot when they say go. 8 Cuchulainn: Big run last time out and now with two runs under the belt should be at peak fitness and ready to rock and roll. Can get a big slice. 5 Majestic Connies: Fresh up without any preps, but is that ever really a concern for a Williamson runner? Could be the blow out hope. Selections: 6-7-8-5 Race 6 6 Sugar Loaf: Peach of a John Dunn drive got the job done last time at Addington. Has a bright future ahead and should be winning again here today. 4 Watch Me Now: Could not have been any more impressive winning last time out. Clearly heading for bigger and better things and a big chance here again. 3 Luella: More upside than most here and brilliant in Rangiora trials. In for a good summer and should show up here in what is a very good field. 5 Pearl Harbour: Excellent effort to win last time out, but that wasn’t as strong as this field. Will need to be even better again, but can get a slice of it. Selections: 6-4-3-5 Race 7 14 Buck: Some really strong workout and trial form around this debutant. Has to overcome the second line but everything points towards that being possible. 9 Major Meister: For a horse yet to win a maiden there sure have been some excellent performances of late. Another tricky draw but a winning chance with luck,. 12 Saint Tropez: Nice in the breeding column and above average in workouts and trials. Stable is kicking a few goals too. Winner at short notice if not here. 13 Mossdale Lottee: Beautiful family and solid workout and trials to prep for this debut. Respect for the stable whenever they line one up. Selections: 14-9-12-13 Race 8 5 Mossdale Art: Expected to be in need of the run at Rangiora and might even be better on the firmer tracks. Can jump, run and grind them into the dirt here. 1 Might Be Me: Has an unreal turn of foot and looks set to ping out from the gate and find the back of the right one to make a play for success. 6 Major Sass: Now on the beach with the Barclay and Ellis barn. That’s been a successful step in the past and no surprise to see sharp improvement here. 12 Anamajor: Down from Canterbury where the form lines are solid. Should get near to the speed at some point and can certainly be a player. Selections: 5-1-6-12 Race 9 8 Kingmaker: Big win last time out up the road in Canterbury. Wide draw here but could get across them and keep them honest. Too good to drop. 7 Whata Razzle Dazzle: Mobile specialist who can punch across them all early and if allowed to dictate terms in front, might be too good form them to catch. 10 Mach’s Back: More upside than most in this line up. Tricky having to come off the second row, but certainly good enough to win it. 3 Dangerous: Great win last time out and can build on that confidence here today. Has a good turn of foot when saved for one run. Selections: 8-7-10-3 BEST: 6 Sugar Loaf (Race 6) NEXT: 10 Burnham Boy (Race 4) VALUE: 14 Buck (Race 7)

By Garrick Knight    Just because he’s facing a significant drop in grade, doesn’t mean Saint Michel is any more of a winning chance at Alexandra Park tonight. That’s the belief of his Kumeu trainer, Tim Vince, who is convinced the veteran trotter just isn’t interested in winning races. “He’s a dear old fella but he’s just one of those horses. I reckon he's won one race in the last three years, and it was a horrible field. “If you put him in a maiden or in a rating 64, he’s going to run the same race. “He’s developed really good manners in his advancing years and that always means he’s going to be there or thereabouts.” Two starts ago, on the first night of the Inter Dominion carnival, he placed third behind two high quality mares in Fanny Hill and Tickle Me Pink. Tonight he meets a far easier field and has the ideal draw to do no work, on the inside of the front line. Vince expects another placing, though warns the horse might not quite be at his peak. “I’m not certain he’s as sharp as he was two or three weeks ago. “We’ve given him a light week – he might have jogged eight laps twice this week – and hopefully that’s kept him happy and up to the mark. “He hardly ever goes to the track, we usually swim him.” New Zealand’s all-time leading driver, Tony Herlihy, takes the drive, and bookies have a $4 second favourite. “We’re scraping the barrel there,” Vince joked. “No one else was available so I went to the bottom of the list.” Monkey Selfie is the best in the field on ability and will be the hardest to beat, though the Cambridge mare has had her manners elude her in recent racing. Vince points to Saint Michel as the best of his five on the night. He has three horses – Mister Slick, Vespa and M T Pockets – in the same race and they’ve drawn the three outside barriers. “The intention is for Mister Slick to go forward. He was terrible last time because I backed him up too soon. “Vespa is a tradesman and a good horse, but won’t be driven urgently. “And M T Pockets probably wasn’t driven the best last week but is on the way back u from a setback; he had something stuck in his foot for six weeks.” Rounding out the team is Akarana Prince, who resumes after one trial in a very strong field. “He’s not the worst and is going to be alright, but it’s a difficult race for him after only one trial.” Vince just sold Simon to Australian interests and Mister Slick could well be headed the same way soon. “Simon has gone to South Australia and after his next win I’ll be sending Mister Slick to Darren McCall in Sydney.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Here is the updated score board from Inter Dominion Grand Final night: Punters 9.5, All Stars 7, Bookmakers 0.5. But the TAB’s head racing bookmaker Thad Taylor says there is a silver lining to the second worst meeting in history of the harness racing book at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The near complete domination of favourites, headlined by Interdom winners Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell, was only halted when second favourite Havehorsewilltravel won the last of the 10 races. That was the race where the bookies got their gold star for trying but by then the horse hadn’t just bolted, it was already in another post code. Multi bets had left the bookmaking team shell shocked after the favourites refused to lose and the harness book suffered its worst single-meeting loss since the great bookie-bash of May 31, 2008 when the Harness Jewels was a strip out. The TAB never officially commented on just how bad that Black Saturday in 2008 was but estimates range range between $750,000 and $1million went back into punter’s pockets. The truth will never be known. After all, this is not the sort of savaging anybody likes to admit to. Saturday night was not quite as bad because the bookies didn’t get much wrong, they priced most of the favourites closed enough to their closing prices. The problem was they just kept winning. While the night belonged to the All Stars they weren’t the only villains for the odds setters, with Barry Purdon’s magnificent mare Belle Of Montana justifying her red hot favouritism for the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, watching her made easier for punters by a brilliant Zachary Butcher drive. His father David matched that three races earlier by staying calm when heavily-backed favourite Copy That, trained by Ray Green, galloped early but recovered to win the $50,000 Alabar Classic. The exciting three-year-old was one of several chances for the bookies to stem the flow. Winterfell was rocky at times before outstaying his rivals in the Trotting Final but the baddest beat came when Another Masterpiece overcame losing 30m in an early gallop to win what was effectively the pacing consolation. “That was our real chance to get one of the favourites beaten and when he got up to win we were done,” says Taylor. “Obviously all those All Stars winners didn’t help but the team (bookies) didn’t do much wrong. “It was just one of those nights, a wake up call for us after a good start to the summer for the harness book. “I said to the guys afterwards we have copped it but the good news is the money has been shared around between a lot of punters. Almost everybody got some and we would rather that than say somebody landing $300,000 worth if multis to one person. “So the punters got us but there is plenty of racing coming up so they will have plenty to spend.”Taylor wouldn’t be drawn on how deep the well of red ink ran on Saturday night but a loss of $500,000 perhaps slightly more is realistic, which is a lot for any race meeting in this country. Their under belly was multi bets, which have always been popular with harness punters and even more so now as many of the most successful punters are restricted on how much they are allowed to bet to win. The limits for multi bets are much higher, for the obvious reason fewer of them win, but when the favourites refuse to lose like on Saturday night, the numbers add up. If Another Masterpiece or Copy That had kept galloping, or Winterfell had reverted to the trotter of just four weeks ago, the bookies would have got away with it. But for punters the night was almost as perfect as the entire series was for new pacing champion Ultimate Sniper. No matter what was thrown at him during the series the four-year-old ball of muscle found a way to win, often not my much, but the history books rarely care about margins. Just ask the harness bookies. Winning is winning. But where there are winners there will be losers. On Saturday night the winners were at Alexandra Park. The losers were at TAB head office in Petone.   Michael Guerin

The Inter Dominion became the Inter Domination as New Zealand’s greatest ever harness stable put on a show at Alexandra Park last night. The All Stars, the aptly-named training operation of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, won both the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final with hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and the $150,000 Trotting Final with Winterfell as they unleashed the full force of their stable on harness racing’s biggest stage. Not only did they take home the two Holy Grails but won five of the support races, including another of the group ones in the Peter Breckon Memorial with Amazing Dream. In all they contested eight races last night and won seven, Copy That denying them a clean sweep by winning the Alabar Classic for the three-year-old. But while Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell did the job for punters they were anything but an easy watch as both hard to work harder than those who took the short odds would have liked. Ultimate Sniper was expected to find the front in the IRT Pacing Final but after the Barry Purdon trio showed superior gate speed Ultimate Sniper was left back in the field and had to move to sit parked with a lap to go. He mastered leader A G’s White Socks at the top of the straight and then held out trailer Mach Shard and the booming late finish of Thefixer to complete a faultless series. All this from a horse who was allowed to miss the New Zealand Cup just a month ago and who the stable had initial fears about how he would handle the Alexandra Park right-handed track. “He was out on his feet that last 50m but he kept going like the good horses do,” said Rasmussen after driving her fifth Inter Dominion final winner, having also trained Blacks A Fake to win four before she joined Mark Purdon in partnership. Purdon took the reins behind Winterfell in the Trotting Final and as expert a job as he did the winning of the race may have been the hands-on training he has done with the former problem child of the open class trotting ranks since he came north for this series three weeks ago. Winterfell gave punters some nervous moments when he was crossed early and then when Purdon asked him to work around Majestic Man he took some fancy steps. Once balanced up he got away with an easy lap but copped pressure after from Tough Monarch and then Massive Metro, who headed him at the top of the straight before Winterfell fought back. Even after all that he still had to hold out Majestic Man up the passing lane, with the latter throwing away his chance to win by refusing to go down to the passing lane. But as last night showed, getting to the All Stars horses is one thing, getting past them is quite another.   Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight    Belle Of Montana confirmed her billing as New Zealand’s top race mare with an effortless win in the $100,000 Group 1 Queen of Hearts on Saturday night. Driver Zachary Butcher had a relatively easy task once he found the front early on in the race, his mare’s clear class edge meaning opposing drivers were simply unwilling to challenge him. As a result, the race was run in a relatively sedate 2.40.7, but punishing finals splits of 55.2 and 26.5 gave her the upper hand. Trainer Barry Purdon said post-race that the Auckland Cup in just over two weeks’ time was off the table, but she might get a wee ‘taster’ against the boys early next month. “There’s a rating 50 and faster programmed for Auckland Cup night, but I’m nut sure what sort of field that will be. “Maybe we’ll go to the mile at Cambridge the week after. We’ll see.” After that, it’s off to Aussie to tackle two key Group 1 races across the ditch. “There’s a nice race in Melbourne at the start of February, the Ladyship Cup. I’d like to target that and then possibly the Ladyship Mile at Menangle.” There are firm plans to tackle the open class ranks next season with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “Next year she’ll be five and I really think we’ve got to have a go at the really big races like the (NZ) Cup. “But for now, she’s only four and there are some good race against her own sex. “We can space them out a bit and look after her.” On hand to receive the trophy was Belle Of Montana’s Queensland owner, Dean Shannon, a self-made business tycoon with a real love of the horses. “I’ve had seven or eight businesses over the years that I built up and sold.” He’s had a longstanding relationship with Brisbane horseman Darrell Graham, who was also on course to celebrate, but Shannon decided to team up with Purdon two-and-a-half years ago, a move he’s never regretted. “I’ve bought horses from the sales for the last 20-odd years. “I decided I’d like to race a few here so I went to the sale and bought four, then I just needed a trainer to leave them with. “I went and saw Barry and asked if he had any room for these horses that I’ve just bought and he was more than happy to. “I’d met Barry and (wife) Katrina a few times over the years and they are really lovely people. And of course, he’s just an awesome trainer. “Couldn’t be happier with my decision. “And now I’m fully engaged in New Zealand racing. I’m watching it every weekend and know all the horses.” Belle Of Montana, Shannon humbly concedes, was one he picked out on his own from the sale catalogue. “She was on my short list and I came over and saw her in the flesh. “I always spend a couple of days looking at all the horses I like and get the vets to go over them “In my system that I use, she actually rated a nine out of 10. “Being a three-quarter sister to Carabella I thought I’d have to pay $100,000 for her. “So, I was stunned when I got her for $40,000 or $50,000, I can’t remember exactly how much. “She was my top pick of the sale.” Any while the other three Shannon bought in that first crop have ended up in Queensland with Graham, Belle Of Montana won’t be following suit. “One hundred percent, she will be staying with Barry for good. “She’s not going anywhere.” Except, most likely, back to the winner’s circle. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Harness racing master trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have grabbed another Gr1 title after Winterfell won the $150,000 HR Fisken & Sons 2019 Inter Dominion Trotting Final in a thrilling finish tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Mark Purdon seized the initiative early in the race re-taking the lead from Majestic Man after that horse had crossed him out of the mobile at the beginning of the race. Despite being nursed around the final turn and being headed early in the run home Winterfell fought back like a top horse and stuck his head in front just before the line to get a deserved win. "I had to nurse him a bit around the final turn," Purdon said after the race. "Once he got around the final turn he trotted faultlessly. But he did have ground to make up again, because he had been headed at that stage by the horse on the outside of him"  "I was a bit concerned but he was very tenacious to the line," he said. Massive Metro was brave in defeat fighting on well for third after heading the favourite on the turn and Majestic Man got going late in the run home and dashed into second. Winterfell (5g Majestic Son - Una Bromac by Live Or Die) trotted the 2700m mobile in 3-21.6 a mile rate of 2-00.1. The last 800m was run in 58.2 and the final 400m was trotted in 28.9 seconds. Harnesslink Media

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