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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

Training legend Barry Purdon may not win either Inter Dominion final at Alexandra Park tonight but his horses might hold the keys to who does. Purdon rivals his brother Mark for trainer of the carnival as he has three in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final and Marcoola in the $150,000 trotting group one. That is a fair leap from just a month ago when he didn’t even train Marcoola or dual series heat winner A G’s White Socks, while Mach Shard was jarred up after a New Zealand Cup shocker and his other pacing finalist On The Cards had just started his campaign with a third in a moderate race. So Purdon has taken two stable newcomers and two $150 chances and squeezed the absolute best out of them to give them a shot at the title. That, after all, is what horse training at its most basic level is all about. To turn that training genius into something a little more spendable Purdon’s trio in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final are going to need to be in the right place at the right time and for that A G’s White Socks, Mach Shard and On The Cards all have a very valuable weapon: gate speed. They are all on the front line surrounding hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and while anything could happen inside them it looks better than even money one of Barry’s horses will lead early. On The Cards, from barrier four, is the most likely to cross to the pegs but he could easily be joined by Mach Shard and/or A G’s White Socks if they can beat Ultimate Sniper off the gate. That is very possible as Natalie Rasmussen is often neutral for the first 400m of major races. The other side of that coin flip is Ultimate Sniper attaching itself to On The Cards, following it straight across and pretty much waltzing to the lead, which would give it the luxury of a $100 chance on his back and maybe seal the fate of Ultimate Sniper’s rivals. Purdon says his three are all well, have handled the rigours of the series and are ready to run up to the best form. “We know it is going to be hard to beat Ultimate Sniper, when horses start racing like he has during an Inter Dominion they tend to hold that form and I think he will too,” says Barry. “So maybe he will be too good but our horses should be up there and handy and that will give their drivers options.” If an A G’s White Socks or Mach Shard is given free rein to charge forward and can cross Ultimate Sniper then they get their chance to lead and almost certainly trail after so any one of Purdon’s three could sneak into a quinella or trifecta spot. But while it is hard for the master trainer to be too confident of beating Ultimate Sniper, he is more upbeat about an upset in the trotting final. Marcoola was always likely to be a better horse for tonight than in the heats, with the week off a chance for him to put on weight and Purdon to train him, rather than just look after him. He has worked well this week and after driver Sheree Tomlinson impressed Purdon with her patient handling of Marcoola in his heats, the boss is happy for her to power up the big boy tonight. “I will tell Sheree I am happy for her to drive him forward if he feels like that,” says Purdon. “He is fit and ready and we realise if we let Winterfell get his way in front then he might get it too easy so we will probably be rolling forward. “I couldn’t be happier with him and with a horse like Majestic Man fast off the gate too there could be some pressure early.” Purdon has trained 31 winners in just 101 starts this season, giving him a higher strike rate than even the All Stars, and should snare another group one before the Interdom Finals are even run tonight. He has speed freak mare Belle Of Montana headlining a four-pronged attack on the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts and even though she has drawn the second line it shouldn’t matter. Belle Of Montana is so fast she almost certainly would have made the pacing final had she contested the Interdom series and she is racing horses tonight who wouldn’t have. She sat parked to beat most of them last Friday and Purdon says she will be fitter tonight. “She will definitely come on from last week and while she has the second line she is the only horse starting there so Zac (Butcher) has options. And she is probably good enough she could parked and win if she had to.”   Where: Alexandra Park When: Saturday night, first race 5.45pm What: $500,000 Interdom Pacing Final, $150,000 Interdom Trotting Final, $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial, $50,000 Alabar Classic, $40,000 Lincoln Farms Classic. Support card: Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm and Tickle Me Pink in the free-for-all trot, Miracle Mile favourite Self Assured in race nine. The Punt: Tote and Fixed all races, $10,000 included in First4 pools for Interdom Finals, head to head markets and special bet options, all at Watch: Live on Trackside 2 (Sky 63) from 5.14pm including live interviews with drivers in pre-race warm ups. On track: Free admission, dining packages sold out but Macs Bar (Party Zone) open on the infield as well as seating still available in stand, Lyell Creek and Alex Park. After party after racing programme finishes.   by Michael Guerin

Race 6, 8.19pm: $150,000 HR Fisken And Son Inter Dominion Trot Final, 2700m mobile: If he races up to last Friday’s national record performance then this looks Winterfell’s  (2) race to lose. After a mainly disappointing year since a superstar three-year-old season he has bounced right back during this series and has looked safer with every start. If, and it is still a very small if, he behaves he should get the lead and can trot a sub 3:20 time for 2700m. That will take an awful lot of beating. Majestic Man (4) is the obvious danger. He has been wonderful all series and could cross to the lead, trail and await the passing lane. The mid-race pressure could determine his chances but is a winning threat.  Most on the second line have been good to very good during this series so the runs they get probably decided who gets closest out of Temporale (9), Paramount King (12), Massive Metro (13) and Tough Monarch (11). Temporale looks the best place chance of those taking the short way home but Paramount King has been the big mover so it wouldn’t surprise to see him fly home. That, of the winning chances, leaves Marcoola (8) who has been driven cold all series and has been good but not his startling best. Don’t be surprised to see him do something incredible tonight. Selections: Winterfell, Majestic Man, Temporale, Marcoola. Suggested bet: The $1.90 for Winterfell looks fairer by the day while Temporale a place is tempting as he should sit four fence and the TAB pay back to fourth fixed odds.   RACE 8, 9.35pm: $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2700m mobile: Sometimes when a horse is $1.45 you go looking for value to beat it, but really, what is the point? Ultimate Sniper (5) should win. He has been three wide for at least a lap of every race during the series and savaged the line. He might be turning into a great horse and hard to imagine any of his rivals parking him should be look for the lead. From there only a drop in his performance level or a lack of concentration can beat him. If a favourite is expected to lead and dominate you want to be on those in his slipstream and that looks a race between stablemates On The Cards (4), Mach Shard (6) and A G’s White Socks (7). The latter is the better performed of the trio and if was able to work across to the markers that would make him a huge quinella chance to cap his comeback series. Cruz Bromac (11) has been brave in a stellar last month and as the NZ Cup winner should beat most of these but faces sitting parked or one-one last lap. His best chance is if they burn early.  Thefixer (13) is in a similar position but probably not racing as well and Chase Auckland (9) will probably jump on the three wide train with his stablemates at some stage so who beats who home out of them could depend on how those cards are shuffled. Of the bolters few can win but My Kiwi Mate (1), On The Cards (4), who might be the best chance of leading early and Mach Shard (6) could all sneak some stake money and make your First4 juicier. Selections: Ultimate Sniper, A G’s White Socks, Cruz Bromac, Thefixer. Suggested bets: Ultimate Sniper should win so if you betting big take the shorts. But the best value might actually On The Cards at $8 a place at with the TAB paying back to fourth on fixed.   INTERDOM NIGHT SUPORT CARD MADE EASY R1, 5.45pm:  Three-year-olds coming out of stronger races should dominate but Down To The Bone (3) is better odds than Dina Bolt (4) so worth an each way play. R2, 6.15pm: Copy That (2) beat all of these last week after he got the lead and if he does so again should double up. The trick is Flying Even Bettor (1) drawn the ace but that still give Copy That the trailing option. So he has two shots at repeating with your biggest concern being Flying Even Bettor holding the lead until Copy That trails and THEN handing up. But David Butcher might be too smart for that. R3, 6.45pm: Oscar Bonavena (9) is the real deal and has won right-handed. Should win although Enhance Your Calm (4) was a close second to him at the workouts two weeks ago and Tickle Me Pink (3) is a class mare. Three very good four-year-olds who should be too fast for the Interdom left overs. R4, 7.15pm: Amazing Dream (5) sat parked and was a huge third last week but tonight gets a far better draw and should get the lead off Need You Now (4), who was very good beating her last Friday. They look a certain quinella with Spellbound drawn the second line. R5, 7.46pm: On a night when not many winners will come from the second line Belle Of Montana (9) should be the exception. Looks the best pacing mare in Australasia and should be able to sit parked if she has to and still win. Multi anchor. R7, 8.56pm: The Interdom Consolation and Another Masterpiece (3) looks beautifully placed from the draw after a luckless series. He is no superstar but finds himself in the right race, albeit at shorter odds than you really want. Solid Gold (4) is a chance to lead and get the trail so looks a great place bet while if there is tempo Colt Thirty One (11) and Classie Brigade (12) come into play while Our Uncle Sam (6) is the blow out. R9, 10.05pm: Self Assured (8) might be as good as the best Interdom horses so even from his draw should win as he heads toward the Auckland Cup. Bettorstartdreaming, Ball Of Art, Mr Kiwi and Double Rocket your best trifecta includes. R10, 10.33pm: The mobile start helps Havehorsewilltravel (3) and on his best behaviour could take some catching. Puma Road (7) is racing at his peak and Ace Commander (6) can be one paced but small field helps. Resonate (9) has the talent to win but if you considering backing him wait until as late as you can before the race because last Friday he got terribly stirred and was no chance by start time.   Michael Guerin

New Zealander Sarah O'Reilly emerged victorious in the 2019 Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship after the final heat was run and won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. It was a combination of relief and excitement for Sarah following the race, ''I was relieved that I crossed the finish line in the last race because I knew I had won the series. I just wanted to drive the best I could in the series and get one winner and have fun.'' O'Reilly led the series by eleven points over NSW representative Cameron Hart leading into the tenth and final heat and only a win or second from Hart would have caused an upset victory. It was not to be for Hart with his drive Johnny Mac finishing 6th, one position behind O'Reilly's drive, M T Pockets. The race was won in great fashion by The Paua Diver for Sheree Tomlinson for trainers Josh and John Dickie over Dina Brown for South Australian, Brodie Webster and Pekeson for the Tasmanian representative, Conor Crook. Sarah's victory in the 2019 AYDC was a result of brilliant and consistent driving for the entire series. Her two wins and four second placings from her ten drives earned her a total of 101 points, 12 points in front of Cameron Hart who won three races, and third was kiwi Sheree Tomlinson who finished with 68 points.   Final 2019 AYDC Points Score:   Sarah O’Reilly (NZ) 101 Cam Hart (NSW) 89 Sheree Tomlinson (NZ) 68 Corey Peterson (WA) 65 Matt Elkins (QLD) 64 John Morrison (SI, NZ) 60 Benjamin Butcher (NI, NZ) 57 Brodie Webster (SA) 49 Zac Phillips (VIC) 46 Conor Crook (TAS) 42     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a whirlwind six months for New Zealand’s most promising junior driver, Sarah O’Reilly. After a thrilling week of competition against the best of her peers from here and in Australia, she was crowned Australasian Junior Driving Champion at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Friday. It comes just five months after she secured the New Zealand title at Addington during the winter. The attention and fanfare that comes with such accomplishments has proved daunting for the quietly-spoken teenager from Rakaia. And it’s fair to say having a virtually unassailable lead for the past 24 hours weighed heavily on her shoulders. “I woke up a couple of times last night because I was so nervous,” she said. “But I was trying not to overthink it. They told me last night what I said to do in the last race to stay in front so I was just focused on that.” After reining M T Pockets in to fifth place – enough to secure the title – she finally let herself enjoy the moment, joined by her horseman father, Gerard, and mum, Jane. “It’s pretty amazing, I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect any of this. “I was just happy to drive 20 winners last season.” Gerard taught her everything she knows, she reckons, but she made special mention of another lady driver who has become a mentor and role model for her. “Sam Ottley has been really good to me. She’s been there for me since my very first workout drive.” With the two big goals already ticked off her ‘to-do’ list, O’Reilly has a rather modest target moving forward. “I just want to keep going the way I am, keep driving winners and, hopefully, beat last season’s total.” One thing’s for sure – she’s a lifer in the game.  “I just want to keep driving as much as I can for the rest of my life.” Sydney’s Cam Hart finished second after a very hot and cold series where he drove the first three winners only to have his next two drives pulled up without taking any serious part. O’Reilly’s fellow Cantabrian, Sheree Tomlinson, who won the final heat with The Paua Diver, rounded out the podium finishers, unable to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The first batch of race-ready juveniles will step out at Alexandra Park tonight in a $25,000 Young Guns heat. For Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, it’s a chance to step out a colt they have very high hopes for as perhaps their next stable star. His name is Krug and at $155,000, he was the third highest-priced colt out of the Christchurch yearling sales earlier this year. Money well spent according to Purdon. “He’s probably right up there with some of the best two-year-olds that I’ve driven,” he declares. “He’s definitely got a lot of ability and this trip away is doing him the world of good. “A typical Bettor’s Delight; has got a great attitude and is very versatile.” After being unbeaten in two trials in his home province, Krug came north and immediately made an impression winning at Pukekohe on November 30, over most of the horses he meets tonight. But First Class, co-trained by Purdon’s father, Mark, turned the tables on Krug in a workout between races at Alexandra Park last Friday night, and that has him a little weary tonight. Especially with Krug drawn wide and First Class in the two-hole. “First Class looks the one to beat on what he showed last week. “Blair Orange drove our guy last week and was very happy with him; he didn’t ask him for too much and just came out at the top of the straight. “He got in a wee bit on the journey so we’ve put a rein pole on him tonight to help that.” Purdon just wants to see Krug do everything right and hit the line well tonight, to confirm that they are on track for richer upcoming assignments. “The main aim is for him just to do everything right. It would surprise me if he didn’t because he’s got great manners. “He’s grown a lot in the last six weeks and hasn’t copped a lot of hard work. “We’ve given him four or five days off here and there to manage him through it and he seems pretty bright at the moment. “He’s a horse that we think has a big future, but he’ll tell us how far he wants to go this season.” Also tonight, Dalgety and Purdon line up three-year-old trotting filly Chevron Action against the older horses over a mile. “She’s a lovely trotter and one that has really matured since she’s been up here. “I think she’s thriving on the trip but as far as the race tonight goes, she’s against the older ones and I wonder whether the mile might be the undoing of her.” The team has Gemma Mac and Dr Susan in the Group 1 Ladyship Stakes tomorrow night and Purdon says the latter is the stable’s better chance of running in the money. “She’s a lovely filly and is probably thriving fractionally more than Gemma Mac up here. “The other filly has squeezed up a bit, which isn’t uncommon in Art Majors, but just the way they’ve been going I think Dr Susan is our better hope. “Probably can’t beat Amazing Dream but wouldn’t surprise me if she ran in the money.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    When you talk to Brad Williamson, it quickly becomes apparent that he has an aptitude for race tactics. He’s a student of the game. Does his research. Knows his opponents and what he needs to do to beat them. So, it’s no surprise that he has a clear idea in his head ahead of Saturday night’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final at Alexandra Park. Williamson drives second-favourite Majestic Man for his father, Phil and they face a rather daunting task trying to beat the even-money pop Winterfell, and Mark Purdon. “Just at the moment, Winterfell appears to be in the zone and I don’t think any trotter could sit outside him and beat him,” Williamson says. With that statement he’s justifying what was a meritorious effort by Majestic Man to run third after sitting parked outside Winterfell in a New Zealand record in the final heat last Friday night. This week is a different kettle of fish though – both horses are drawn well and Williamson fancies his chances of finding the markers first. But it’s not as much of a formality as many might think. “It’s a tricky one because obviously Majestic Man has super gate speed, but Winterfell is also a lot quicker than people realise. “I had trouble crossing him in the Northern Derby and I wasn’t able to get across him when we were drawn side by side in another race. “That being said, Majestic Man is in the zone and the markers are the place to be so I have to get there.” Williamson confirmed his father had given him a clear directive accordingly. “Dad mentioned to me that he does want me to cross and, realistically, looking at the race, that’s the only way I could see us winning.” But the lead isn’t something Williamson wants, either. In fact, he wants the trail. “I don’t think he’ll be able to lead and win in this race.” So, does he hand to Marcoola and put Winterfell three back, or is he expecting Purdon to immediately come out and challenge for the front? Honestly? he doesn’t especially care. “Both Winterfell and Marcoola are stayers and when they find the front won’t be giving it away. “So, we’ll be handing up to which ever is the first of them to come looking. “And I’m 90 percent sure that will be Winterfell.” Williamson is banking on his horse’s sheer speed coming to pass in one last stretch battle. “Majestic Man is as fast as anything in the race over a quarter but I’m picking Mark is not going to leave it to a sharp sprint home. “It’s not going to be a slowly run race, that’s guaranteed being an Inter Dominion Grand Final. “Winterfell broke the New Zealand record under a hold last week and probably had a couple of seconds up his sleeve, too.” Even then, it will be out of Purdon’s hands anyway as a bevvy of decent trotters try and get in to the race from wide or second line draws, primarily Marcoola. “It’s not really going to affect me, what the other horses do, because the markers are the place to be in this race. “But, being a Grand Final, I don’t think everybody is going to be sitting back and not moving.” Outside of the big three, Williamson reckons Temporale, who maps to sit four pegs for most of the race, could be the blowout option. “Looking for an outsider, Temporale has got the best draw of the others outside of Winterfell, in my opinion. “He’s drawn to sit on the markers on a likely record run and all he’ll need is a wee bit of luck of the last 800 metres. “And you’d back Tony Herlihy, out of anyone, to find a path through them. “He knows the track better than anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take advantage of a cold shot at them.” With all the planning and thinking done ahead of time, Williamson was looking forward to getting up to Auckland and just taking it all in. After all, he’s a live chance of joining the greats of the game – Anthony Butt, Mark Purdon, Gavin Lang, Tony Herlihy, Barry Purdon, Doody Townley, David Butt, Peter Jones – as the winning driver in an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final. The annals of harness racing history await the lad from Oamaru. “There is just something about it that I’m really looking forward to. “The Inter Doms are all anyone is talking about at the moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It has been a bleak Inter Dominion for the Aussies, but our Australian correspondent Adam Hamilton gives us his thoughts on Grand Final night. THE BEST AUSSIE HOPE Despite his poor draw, it still has to be TOUGH MONARCH (R6, n11) in the Trotting final. He’s got the class, has hit the line strongly past two runs and could run into a place if everything panned out. Next best would be MY KIWI MATE (R8, n1) because he’s drawn the pole, will get a cosy run and is right back to his very best form. Also a sneaky place hope. BEST BET Well, it’s a more a multi-builder because $1.35 is skinny, but the buzz around OSCAR BONAVENA (R3, n8) and the way he worked Wednesday morning says he’ll win for fun and continue on the pathway to greatness. VALUE BET Speed is a wicked weapon and MAJESTIC MAN (R6, n1) has plenty of it. Expect him to zip to the front then trail favourite Winterfell. If it’s genuinely run, he should give it a serious crack along the sprint lane when it matters. BEST ROUGHIE He’ll be double-figure odds and OUR UNCLE SAM (R7, n6) certainly drops in grade in the virtual consolation. Went for home far too early last week and certainly wasn’t disgraced. Not ma many winning chances here and he’s definitely one of them.   By Adam Hamilton for HRNZ

It was a perfect morning from the All Stars least perfect horse. And it was all you needed to see if you want to back Winterfell to win the $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final on Saturday night. On a morning when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were left beaming after the private workouts of many of their superstars at Pukekohe, it was Winterfell who was the star of the show. And it was some show. Not many stables in the history of harness racing could roll a team that includes the first and second favourites for the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, with Cruz Bromac and Ultimate Sniper hitting the line together after the latter trailed until they sprinted up the straight at the end of 2400m. Both look spot on, Cruz Bromac the more natural track worker, Ultimate Sniper wearing far more gear, in a muck of sweat but pacing fluently on the tightish, flat Pukekohe track. The conveyor belt of class didn’t stop there, with Thefixer sharp as he came from last to brush up alongside Another Masterpiece and Self Assured also over 2400m, the latter pair looking where they need to be for their support races at Alexandra Park on Saturday. Other Grand Final contenders Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will have their final workouts today, with new driver John Dunn to partner the latter for the first time. And before the Inter pacers strutted their stuff, the stable flexed some serious newcomer to the carnival muscle in Northern Trot Derby winner Enhance Your Calm and New Zealand’s most exciting trotter Oscar Bonavena, with little Oscar sitting behind his far bigger stablemate and picking him up in the last 200m. It was all slick stuff, horses deliberately hitting the line together, not a step out of place, no hanging or heads tossed in the air. Professional, daunting. “It was a really, really good morning,” said Mark Purdon. “We were happy with all of them so things are very much on target for Saturday.” But while there was a phenomenal amount of elite horse power on display the eyecatcher was Winterfell. He started this Interdom series the problem child of the open class trotting ranks, having finished 104-lengths last at his previous start, beaten 33 lengths when sixth of eight the start before. Remarkably for a horse who finished his three-year-old season looking a potential champion he has won only four of his next 14 leading into this series, finishing unplaced in six of them. They are rare numbers for an All Stars Group One player. The sort of numbers that might see a less talented horse ostracised to another stable. Or another country. But something has clicked since Winterfell arrived north. The Winterfell that Purdon has been so happy with at home is finally accompanying him to the races. He was still wayward winning on night one, was taught how to settle in the field when it became apparent he couldn’t win on night two and looked back to his outstanding best winning his final round heat in national record time. That improvement curve continued all the way to yesterday when he worked with leading three-year-old pacers One Change (Sires’ Stakes winner) and Flying Even Bettor. Winterfell was bombproof trailing the galloping pacemaker whereas for several starts in the last 12 months he would have wanted to join in the galloping fun. He looked big, strong, trotting squarely but more importantly he looked a racehorse, no gawking, swerving or looking for excuses. He looked like an Inter Dominion Trotting Final winner in waiting. “He has gone from strength to strength up here,” says Purdon. “He still did a few little things wrong on night one but he has been perfect since. “He went a record last Friday and I am sure he can go faster again this week and I’d like to be in front.” Winterfell can probably afford to get crossed early and still be handed the lead because of the respect he has regained during this series. With yesterday’s faultless trackwork display another stamp in his passport out of Crazy Town, it is going to take something special to beat Winterfell on Saturday night.   Michael Guerin

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