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 A testing workout on Wednesday morning has convinced co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen her glamour mares can bounce back in the $100,000 NZ Breeders Stakes at Addington tonight. And she says while Dream About Me may still be the stable's best mare Elle Mac is the one to beat in tonight's 2600m group one. The pair cost punters plenty when they led and trailed but were beaten out of a place in a similar race two week ago. Post-race blood tests suggested a virus which was just starting to come on and, after that was treated, the open class mares have had their workload upped this week.  Rasmussen has spent much of the last month in Australia with partner Mark Purdon preparing their stars for Victorian and NSW assignments but she returned this week to put the polish on some of the stable stars set to race at tonight's big Addington meeting. "I am sure the mares will go better than last start," she explains. "It was just one of those things. The blood tests before the race were fine but the one after wasn't, so it must have been coming on that day. "They are good now and I really liked how they worked on Wednesday morning." Rasmussen drove Elle Mac in that workout as she will tonight and says she narrowly favours her as the stable's best chance because of her front line draw tonight, whereas Dream About Me has to come off the second line. "I would like to think my mare could lead and I'd most likely stay there and that makes it harder for Dream About Me, even though she might still be the better mare." Dibaba, who caused the shock beating the pair last start, looks at least a place chance again but if Elle Mac leads and races up to her national record 1700m setting form of two starts ago it will take a big performance to beat her.  Rasmussen admits to being as happy but not as confident with Ultimate Machete in tonight's Summer Cup, even though he is clearly the best horse in the race. Good enough to sit parked outside and beat Tiger Tara last season, Ultimate Machete has raced sparingly because of hoof issues this season but worked well this week. "We know he is the best horse in the race but being drawn wide and it being 1980m he could have to work very hard so I can see it being a tricky race for him," says Rasmussen. "He is the top pick of our pair in the race but I can't say he is a good thing and if Funatthebeach got the sit on him he could outsprint him." The richest stake of tonight's meeting could come north as Barry Purdon-trained filly Havtime is the hot favourite in a moderate line-up for the $150,000 Sales Series Pace. Barry also has the firepower to dominate the main pace at Alexandra Park tonight, with Jack's Legend and On The Cards a great chance to repeat their last start quinella in the open sprint. Meanwhile, heavy support has seen the Purdon-Rasmussen trained Chase Auckland tighten to favouritism for tomorrow night's A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle. "He will be a lot better for his three starts over there and is getting fitter all the time," says Rasmussen. "I will drive him off the gate hard to use his ace draw and hopefully lead or trail and I think he will be hard to beat but it is a strong field." NZ Cup winner Thefixer makes his Menangle debut a race earlier and will be heavily supported but Kiwi horses can often be vulnerable fresh up in fast mile races at Menangle so punters should be careful. Michael Guerin

A Pukekohe workout last Saturday suggests punters should be careful supporting Belle Of Montana too enthusiastically in her return to racing at Alexandra Park tonight.  Because while she might even be the best three-year-old pacing filly in the country the December fillies triple crown winner could be vulnerable in tonight’s Nevele R heat.  Belle Of Montana has been one of the finds of the harness racing season, going from unheard of maiden to group one winner in three months and twice beating last season’s champion filly Princess Tiffany along the way.  She has explosive speed but faces a different challenge at barrier seven tonight in a race where she could settle close to last and main rival Chevron Supreme could lead, and trainer Barry Purdon admits that could be a problem.  “If she (Chevron Supreme) is in front and we are well back and having to make our own luck, over 1700m that can be very tricky,” says Purdon, who also has Havtime in the race.  “I couldn’t be happier with my fillies and we know how good Belle Of Montana has been but Chevron Supreme could be hard to catch if she was able to lead and it is always hard when your horse has had a bit of a break from racing and then they have to chase.”  Chevron Supreme’s motor is not in doubt but her attitude sometimes has been but she was on her best behaviour during last Saturday’s workout when she led, trailed and then blazed over her last 400m in 26.6 to easily beat Belle Of Montana, who wasn’t knocked around in second place.  So punters would want close to $2 to be getting value about Belle Of Montana winning tonight from her draw. Purdon also expects a good performance from Mach Shard in race two tonight in which he comes in well under the handicaps conditions and a return to his best form would make him very hard to beat.  Meanwhile, a change of plans for unbeaten three-year-old Ultimate Sniper is a win for Alexandra Park and a loss for Menangle.  The Sires’ Stakes and Sales Series winner was going to head to the NSW Derby on March 2 but will now not make that trip because of a change of travel schedules so he will instead be aimed at the Northern Derby at Alexandra Park on March 8.  So he will effectively swap places with stablemate I’m Anothermasterpiece, who was to have returned from Australia for the Northern Derby but will instead stay there and take in the NSW Derby. Michael Guerin

Former harness racing jewels winner Jack's Legend was back in winning form last night when taking out the Gr2 JLT Cambridge Futurity Stakes at Cambridge Raceway. Driven by Scott Phelan the showy Bettor's Delight gelding used his customary blazing gate speed to cross the field to lead from his outside draw before handing up to his more favoured stablemate On The Cards and Zachary Butcher. In the straight the race turned into a two horse war with Jack's Legend getting the upper hand and edging clear of On The Cards with 50m to go. The margin was three quarters of a length with a gap of more than two lengths back to Triple Eight in third. Jack's Legend paced his last 800m in 56.8 with a closing 400m in 27.1 and the race was cut out in a slick 2-40.8 which equated to a 1-57.6 mile rate. The win of Jack's Legend was the third time trainer Barry Purdon had trained the winner of the Cambridge Futurity having also won it with Riley Hale in 2000 and Seeking The Gold in 2004. Jack's Legend winning last nights Cambridge Futurity   Harnesslink Media  

At first glance Raptors Flight looks to be one of the greatest downgraders of the harness racing season at Alexandra Park tonight.  But even though he drops back from an Auckland Cup to an intermediate grade race that doesn’t make the five-year-old the certainty it may suggest.  The Barry Purdon-trained pacer has taken on Turn It Up and some of the best horses in the country his last two starts, far from disgracing himself with a seventh and a ninth in the Franklin and Auckland Cups.  He sneaks into tonight’s main pace with the concession claim of junior driver Nathan Delany and while he is down enormously in class, these days that often doesn’t matter as much as the run you get at Alexandra Park.  The reality is even two-win horses can break the once daunting 2:40 for 2200m mobile, with a race rival tonight in American Empress pacing 2:37.8 last start winning on New Years Eve.   So if Raptors Flight gets back off the speed and a rival like American Empress can let loose with a sub 2:40 time tonight then any horse, even one who has been racing the elite, is going to struggle to come wide and win.  “He definitely has a chance because he is a nice horse but these type of races can be tough because they can all run good time these days,” says trainer Purdon.  That suggests American Empress might actually be the better bet in a race where another down in grade, Check In, also claims and like Raptors Flight could win with the right run.  Earlier in the night Purdon has one of the favourites in Pearl Harbour in the first fillies heat of the Young Guns series and he admits it is hard to line up the form.  “She has gone some good workouts and has the ability to win it is hard to know what to expect from the others with them all on debut,” says Purdon.  American Empress’s trainer Jeremy Young could be the trainer to follow tonight as not only does he has have her but two other winning chances in The Stunning Nun (race seven) and Best Western (race eight).  The last race should see a continuation of one of the trends of the season so far with three-year-old trotters too slick for their older rivals, with Vatican Hill, Tricky Ric and Fortunato all three-year-olds who look better than maiden grade.   Michael Guerin

The "bridesmaids" are set to get their chance in Cambridge's race of the season. Because both Jack's Legend and Star Galleria have drawn to try and upset the All Stars apple cart in the $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile on Friday night. The sprint race is the centrepiece of the club's centenary celebrations and has drawn a field worthy of the occasion, with the first ever clash between New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer and last week's Auckland Cup champ Turn It Up. The latter will start a hot favourite after drawing the ace in the mobile mile while Thefixer faces a huge task in his first start for two months after drawing the outside of the eight-horse field. But while Turn It Up will dominate betting, the draws of Jack's Legend (barrier three) and Star Galleria (four) at least suggest some early fireworks. Both have proven Cup bridesmaids to All Stars runners before - Jack's Legend finishing second to Lazarus in last season's New Zealand Cup while Star Galleria was second to Turn It Up last week. But what Jack's Legend and Star Galleria both have is real gate speed and they have also used it before to upset highly favoured Purdon-Rasmussen favourites. Jack's Legend began brilliantly to lead and down Ultimate Machete in the Jewels as a 3-year-old while Star Galleria led and won this race last season defeating Heaven Rocks. And their trainers agree their only chance of beating Turn It Up this Friday is crossing him at the start. "Usually those good horses have good gate speed but we have to have a crack to find out," says Star Galleria's trainer Steven Reid of Turn It Up. "My horse is flying and came through the Auckland Cup great so he will be heading forward and with Jack's Legend in there too at least Turn It Up will have some pressure early." Reid also has Utmost Delight in the race and his pair will then head to Australia to be campaigned in both Victoria and New South Wales. "I want to qualify Utmost Delight for the Ladyship Mile in Sydney so she will contest the Ladyship Cup at Melton on January 26," explains Reid. "Star Galleria will race is a sprint race [Casey Classic] that night and then the Hunter Cup on February 2 and then they both head up to the Miracle Mile meeting at Menangle." Rival trainer Barry Purdon is also hoping Jack's Legend can at least test Turn It Up early and set himself up for an Australian campaign. "He has really good gate speed whereas we haven't seen Mark's horse [Turn It Up] from the mobile all that much so we have to have a look at the start and see how we go." Purdon is eyeing Australia with three of his horses, with Jack's Legend still a chance to chase a Miracle Mile spot in Sydney next month. If he heads there that might increase the chances of exciting filly Belle Of Montana making the trip to Sydney after owner Queensland-based owner Dean Shannon left the decisions between the Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park and the NSW Oaks the same weekend to Purdon. "He said it is up to me so she will race here on February 8 and then we can firm up which Oaks to aim at." Purdon will send 3-year-old pacer Supreme Dominator to the Victoria Derby heats next week, where he will join Another Masterpiece as New Zealand representatives. Michael Guerin

Harness racing up-and-comer Turn It Up has remarkably won the Gr1 $250,000 2018 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at only his ninth start. He had to be good to win the race too after a somewhat slow beginning and also being trapped wide for the first 700m. In the end the Courage Under Fire gelding was simply too fast with trainer/driver Mark Purdon sending the speedy 4yo around to the front and dominating for the rest of the race. A very slick last 800m cut out in 54.3 seconds meant game over for the rest of the field with Star Galleria and Tony Herlihy getting closest albeit more than a length from the winner at the line. Mark Purdon said after the race he was always keen to bring him to Auckland at some stage as the horse paces better the Auckland way around.. "When he ran second in the Free For All at Addington that really impressed me and knowing he was a better pacer this way around that sealed it," he said. "We might take him to Australia later, he is still eligible for the Vic Bred series but we will see how he comes through this race before making any decisions.  "There is plenty here for him with the Taylor mile and the Jewels so we will see how it pans out,"  Turn It Up paced the 3200m from a stand in 4-03.0 and the winning margin was one and a half lengths. _______________________________________________________________________ Massive Metro caused a boilover of epic preportions beating the race favourite Marcoola in the Gr1 $96,000 Sims Pacific Metals 2018 National Trot at Alexandra Park tonight. In doing so the 5yo Muscle Mass gelding shaved 0.2 of a second of the New Zealand set by Stig in this race in 2012. Trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett got a huge thrill winning the race as they also trained Paris Metro the dam of Massive Metro to win the same race back in 2004. An emotional Todd Mitchell gave credit to the trainers for supporting him with drives and also for correcting the bad manners the horse had at his last start at Cambridge. "He is a very exciting trotter. "I am not sure what happened last start at Cambridge, but Bernie and Michelle have done a great job with him and rectified that," he said after the race. "He felt so much happier right handed. "When they backed off I thought this is my chance and if we are going to get the front we will get it now. "In the end he had to come off Marcoola's back to beat him so it shows this guy has got a bit of heart." The race was run in 3-21.1 with a final 800m in 57.4 and the last 400m in 29.2 seconds _________________________________________________________________________ Wow how good is he? Ultimate Sniper remained unbeaten winning his sixth race from six starts in tonights $195,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Open final for 3yo pacers. Any questions asked that Ultimate Sniper may not hold the lead off the gate were quickly answered by a flick with the reins from driver Natalie Rasmussen and the imposing son of Bettor's Delight blasted off the gate to lead easily. With no attackers mid race Ultimate Sniper was able to reel off a sizzling last 800m in 54.5 seconds and win easing down by more than three lengths from stable mate Another Masterpiece. Rasmussen had no doubts Ultimate Sniper could hold the lead. "He is just a natural high speed horse. "A lot of these good horses have that high speed and he has just got instant speed so the other horses have to be extra good to get near him at the start," she said post race. The overall time for the 2200m mobile was a quick 2-39.8 and Ultimate Sniper zipped over his last 400m in 26.4 seconds. Top sire Bettor's Delight sired the first three horses in the race a feat he achieved two more times during the night. ________________________________________________________________________ Speedy filly Belle Of Montana made it four wins from five starts when she won the $150,000 Gr1 Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship by a narrow margin. Driver Zachary Butcher gave the Barry Purdon trained 3yo a lovely run three deep on the fence and produced her wider at the turn to rush home down the middle of the track to grab the leader Wainui Creek by the barest of noses. "You can not take it away from her, she has won four out of her last five starts now," Butcher said after the win. "She is a filly with high speed and to be competitive against these better ones you need that. "When I pulled her out at the bend and straightened her up she really drove to the line when the plugs came out," he said. Belle Of Montana ((Bettor's Delight - Lady Cullen) ran the mobile 2200m in 2-40.6 with a closing 800m in 57.0 and the final 400m in 27.3 seconds.   _________________________________________________________________________ The Paul Court trained 2yo Mach Da Vinci has dominated the second heat of the Breckon Farms Young Gun Series leading all the way and winning comfortably by a length over the 1700m mobile. A sensation shortly after the start of the race saw the raging hot favourite Smooth Deal go in to an uncontrolled gallop and lose his chance in the race with a stunned Mark Purdon saying after the race he was not sure what caused the $1.05 favourite to break stride. Mach Da Vinci was driven confidently by Joshua Dickie and paced the 1700m journey in a sedate 2-06.4 with a quicker last 800m on 57.6 and a closing 400m in 27.8 seconds. The mile rate was 1-59.6 Mach Da Vinci (Art Major - Mach's Love) is a half brother to the two win 3yo pacer Stun Gun who ran third in a heat of the Young Gun Series last year.   Harnesslink Media

There’s a certain something with the name Purdon and the Auckland Cup. The famed North Island feature was first staged back in 1890 when Commodore proved triumphant and since then, so many great champions have won the event. Names like Cardigan Bay, Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Master Musician, Christian Cullen, Monkey King, Im Themightyquinn and Terror To Love  have all proved victorious while many more have all etched their name into the record books. But it’s the name Purdon that is synonymous with the Alexandra Park feature. Whether it is Roy, Barry or Mark – they have all made the race their own! Their haul of winners includes Sole Command, Comedy Lad, Luxury Liner (x 2), Christopher Vance, Chokin (x 2), Sharp And Telford, Holmes DG, Young Rufus and Auckland Reactor. And more recently, they have won it with Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me and Vincent. What’s even more remarkable, the Purdon name has contested the Auckland Cup every year since 1985. Most times with multiple entries. And the 2018 edition is no different. Again, the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup will be staged over the 3200m and the Purdon stables have 8 of the 12 runners. The All Stars (Mark & Natalie Rasmussen) have 5 entrants while Barry has three runners engaged. Sporting the blue and silver livery is classy four-year-old’s All U Need Is Faith, Turn It Up, Sicario and Ashley Locaz while 2016 winner Dream About Me also represents the powerful stable. Mark Purdon All five pacers are racing in super form headlined by millionaire mare Dream About Me and emerging superstar Turn It Up, a last start winner of the Franklin Cup. Big brother Barry has Raptors Flight, Jacks Legend and Mach Shard lining up. Jacks Legend finished 6th behind Vincent last year. Astute mentor Steve Reid has a pair of challengers with the highly regarded Star Galleria and Utmost Delight both engaged. Dream About Me and Utmost Delight are the only mares tackling the famed feature this year. Veteran performer Lets Elope is starting in the Cup for the second time after finishing 5th behind Terror To Love back in 2014. After spending several seasons in Australia, the Real Desire gelding has recently returned to original trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins. Promising four-year-old Triple Eight takes his place for trainer Steve Telfer but faces his biggest challenge to date. Six of the 12 runners are four-year-olds. As it stands, Sydney based pacer Tiger Tara is a clear leader in the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit and while connections have elected to bypass this feature, maximum points are up for grabs which will be crucial as the series hits the halfway mark. Chris Barsby

Somebeachsomewhere filly Pearl Harbour has been sent to North Island trainer Barry Purdon and will be aimed at the Young Guns Fillies Series for two year old fillies at Alexandra Park. Trained by Katrina and John Price, Pearl Harbour qualified at Winton on Friday. She’ll likely follow a similar racing plan to what Democrat Party followed four years ago. She was also owned by the Prices.   Democrat Party qualified at Ascot Park, was sent North where she won a qualifying heat of the Series, going on to win the Group Two Final in 2014. “She’s (Pearl Harbour) probably more advanced than Democrat Party was when we sent her up there to Barry’s. She’s a lovely filly. Everything she does at home and on the track seems to be with ease,” said Katrina. The second heat of the Young Guns Fillies Series will be run at Alexandra Park at the end of this month. Pearl Harbour qualifying at Winton                      - Photo Bruce Stewart   Katrina says the main reason behind the move is the current rating system. “If you’re going to race as a two year old, unless you’re racing in those really rich races, you might as well not. You’re better to come back as a three year old and do the Ladyship (Series). If you win a race as a two year old it’s just too hard to come back with the ratings the way they are. We had to make the decision. She was either going to go into the paddock or we were going to race her. If she raced she was better doing it in the North Island.” The Prices experienced the tough part of the rating system last season when Repartee which had won as a two year old, came back and found the going pretty tough as a three year old. “It killed her last year. It was only at the end (of her three year old season) that she got properly into her correct grade. A lot of damage had been done. When she came back as a three year old filly the times she had to run and the horses she had to race were just too hard.” As Katrina rightly points out there has only been one two year old trial this season and there don’t appear to be many juveniles around at the moment. “We’re just missing out. At this stage (of the season) in other years there have been lots of two year olds. People are just not taking them out so we’re losing out on that whole age group of horses.” Meanwhile Rockabilly Blues which won her first two races for the Prices has pulled up well after her brave fifth in the Equine Stakes yesterday. “She’s tearing round here like a mad thing. I thinks she’ll be better for the run. It’s hard with the ratings system. It was preferential barrier draw. She was five wide on the first bend and five wide on the second. All she’s beaten up until now have been maiden fillies and mares. She’ll learn a lot from it and will be better for it. Her main target now is the Southern Belle and she’ll be far better off as the draw is done on winning stakes not ratings.”     Bruce Stewart

If Barry Purdon is right and logic plays its part Jack’s Legend could be the best each way bet in Tuesday’s New Zealand Trotting Cup. The one-time Jewels winner goes into the great race rated a $16 chance on the TAB, even though he ran second in it last season to Lazarus, beating home Tiger Tara and plenty of other stars. Taking Lazarus out of the equation and Jack’s Legend could be the defending NZ Cup champ and training legend Purdon says he is probably better for Tuesday than he was this time last year. “He is peaking at the right time and I would say he is at least as good as this time last year,” says Purdon. Jack’s Legend suggested as much when he stormed into third in the Cup trial on Wednesday, his last 400m faster than when he won the same event last year.   He was clearly outpointed by Chicago Bull at Alexandra Park last start but then again, so would most of his opponents on Tuesday been had they started in the same race.  After a false start to the season when he missed away in his first race, Jack’s Legend has been two big seconds and now looms as the dark horse in Tuesday’s Cup.  Purdon realises his job is all but done and now it is up to driver Zac Butcher to deliver the next piece of the puzzle.  “He is best when driven with a sit and one run at them, like he was last year,” admits Purdon “And that is not easy to do. You want to be following the right horse and Zac did that beautifully last season.”  Jack’s Legend actually made a flyer from his 10m handicap last start at Alexandra Park but Purdon cautions against he and Butcher rolling the dice and trying to cross the favourites drawn inside them in a surprise move on Tuesday.  “Sure that could happen if he begins really well and that would be great but I don’t think you can go out there with that as your Plan A, to make a quick beginning. “The most important thing is to get away safely and get a spot and the a cart into the race. “I think that is his best chance and then if all that happens then I hope there is a good speed to bring is into it.”
 After opening too short post-draw at $3.80 Tiger Tara has started his expected drift and was out to $4 this afternoon as the stablemates Dream About Me and Thefixer start to jockey for favouritism at $4.40 each with Cruz Bromac the biggest mover into $6.50 on the back of his Cup trial win. Michael Guerin

Barry Purdon’s best horse may not be his best chance of the four he lines up against a rampant Star Galleria in the $20,000 Spring Cup at Alexandra Park tonight. Trainer Purdon has three of his team making their seasonal debuts including last season’s New Zealand Cup runner-up Jack’s Legend, whose hasn’t raced since March. While Jack’s Legend is the best horse in Purdon’s barn, his stablemate Mach Shard has the enormous benefit of two recent starts under his belt and that fitness edge sees Purdon opt for him as his top hope of upsetting hot favoutite Star Galleria. Star Galleria smashed his own national 2200m stand record with his win last start and will be expected to repeat with anything like similar racing luck tonight. But Mach Shard got close enough to him last start after galloping early that if he can step safely and take advantage of his 20m head start he could prove at least slightly problematic for the favourite. “He was pretty good last start considering the overall time and the fact he missed away, which actually surprised me,” says Purdon. “So even though Jack’s Legend is a more proven horse at the top level Mach Shard might have a little edge on him this week.”  Jack’s Legend is a real deal open class player this season but Purdon’s horses tend to improve with a run under their belt and that will almost certainly be the case tonight.  “I wouldn’t be shocked if he won because we all know he is a very good horse but it is hard for them fresh up against horses like Star Galleria.” Purdon also has stunning debut winner Dream Major in tonight but he meets some hardened rivals in race eight, which looks a great early season form race.  “He is a pretty good horse but he will have some other smart young horses around him and potentially following him so it is a big step up.”  Also returning tonight is National Trot winner Temporale, up against his arch rivals Lemond and Speeding Spur in a rare Alexandra Park mobile mile open grade trot.  Trainer Tony Herlihy is adamant the now six-year-old is bigger and stronger than last season, when a late growth spurt may have seen him weaken off and dip in form.  “He has been working well but we all know how hard it can be fresh up for them, especially when the other two have had a start this time in,” says Herlihy. lot may come down to the start because if Lemond, who has the best draw of the big three, can get across and lead it is hard to imagine he will be attacked. After trotting a very fast time fresh up off a 50m handicap last Friday he might be the best bet of the favourited trio tonight.  Tonight’s mainly mile meeting also features an even bigger rarity, a standing start mile for the lower grade trotters which will see a new national record as there is not one listed at the moment. Michael Guerin

John and Judy Stiven got a lot of satisfaction when Countess Of Arden won in their racing colours at Ascot Park today. The Net Ten EOM filly which was bred by the Tapanui couple had a tough introduction to racing last season, fronting up as a two year old to the unbeaten Princess Tiffany. At that point she was trained by Barry Purdon. After three starts in the north she was bought home to West Otago and sent to the spelling paddock. When she went back into work it was with Oamaru trainer Brad Williamson. In today’s race from the inside of the second row, she had to be eased round Last Hurrah who was slow to start in front of her. Once the field settled Countess of Arden was second last. As the speed dropped off with just over a round to run Williamson sent the filly forward and with a lap to run she was in front and held on to win by a neck from the trailing horse Gomeo Denario. It was noticeable that Countess Of Arden was switching off and on as she went down to the line so you’d expect once she fully learns the racing game she’ll improve. Countess of Arden is out of Young Tegan and her pedigree goes back to a host of good fillies including Eden’s Joy which won six races for Henry Skinner and Young Eden which won the 1987 New Zealand Oaks. “The depth of Southland in this family is unbelievable. We took a foal out of her before this one - a filly by Panspacificflight. She was a cracker but unfortunately she got a virus and died before it was weaned. I’d only borrowed the mare at that stage and I rang Russell (owner Russell Hollows) to tell him about the dead foal and he asked me if I wanted to buy the mare. We ended up doing that and it was the first year Net Ten EOM came out so we put her to him and this is the result,” said John Stiven. Young Tegan is now part of the extensive band of broodmares at Arden Lodge. “Last year we sold A Rocknroll Dance colt out of her which Colin MacPherson bought. This year she’s got a Sweet Lou colt and is in foal to Always B Miki.” The Stivens are now the biggest Southland vendors of yearlings at the National Sales and they have five colts and six fillies on their books for next February sales. John is particularly excited about an Art Major colt out of Venus Serena. “He’s sensational.” He says others that are looking good are an Art Major colt out of Tricky Woman and a Captaintreacherous colt out of Southwind Arden. Interesting times ahead, at the track and at the Sales.      Bruce Stewart

Concession driver Mikayla Lewis has helped former group one winner Mach Shard sneak into the perfect comeback race at Alexandra Park tonight. Now she just has to help him overcome a tricky draw in his first start for nearly a year. Mach Shard was a top juvenile who missed most of last season as he kept growing and weakened off. But he has lost none of his raw ability judging by a pair of recent workout wins and Barry Purdon says the now four-year-old is as ready to win as any of his stable can be without a lead-up race, with the master trainer never one to screw his horses right down at the trials. "I am really happy with where he is at and with Mikayla claiming he gets into an ideal race," says Purdon. "The draw won't be easy to overcome but Mikayla has driven five winners from not a lot of drives and works here so has driven him in his work. "So I think he will go very close, although it is never easy fresh up with horses in this grade." If Lewis can get any sort of tow into the race, Mach Shard might be too sharp but with race fit opponents who are ready to pace 2:40-2:42 for the 2200m mobile, these races are always tricky so taking short odds is not advised. But short odds are all that will be on offer for stablemate Dream Major when he makes his debut in race four. He has looked very talented at recent workouts and Purdon rates him a genuine Sires' Stakes contender in a few weeks. With in-form Zachary Butcher in the sulky he should win his debut. "I like him and he got off the gate well enough at the workouts last weekend to suggest he can use his draw." Meanwhile, Purdon is happy with last season's New Zealand Cup runner-up Jacks Legend as he prepares to return to the workouts in two weeks and as one of the best-performed survivors from last season's group one pacing classics he could be in for a lucrative five-year-old season.   Michael Guerin  

After 13 months in the harness racing wilderness Classie Brigade is back where he left off --- trying to beat Buster Brady. The forgotten horse of the open class scene returns at Alexandra Park tonight after over a year on the sidelines with mystery lameness. “He has had every test known to man and we still don’t know what was wrong with him,” admits trainer Nigel McGrath. “But the main thing is he is fine now and ready to race. “He has had a long slow build up, done a heap of swimming and had three workouts. “Obviously nothing gets them as fit as racing and the small field could be tricky but he is ready to go well. But the tactics and tempo of the race could decide things.” Classic Brigade is in tonight’s last race at Alexandra Park to prepare for a $40,000 Uncut Gems race next week, a kind of Jewels consolation race which is a very juicy carrot on the relatively bare winter landscape. Tonight he finds himself against a familiar foe. When Classic Brigade last raced 13 months ago he ran fourth to Buster Brady in the Winter Cup, the start before he just beat him home. And the pair look set to dominate again tonight. Buster Brady is now trained by Barry Purdon and has an obvious fitness edge tonight and with the race only having four starters, whichever of the two favourites is able to dictate to the other will probably win. But while that fitness edge means there probably shouldn’t be much between the pair in the market, on sheer class Classie Brigade is the better horse. A race earlier former Jewels winner One Over Da Moon faces an interesting challenge in the main trot, having to overcome a 40m handicap over 2200m, something very few horses have accomplished at Alexandra Park.   Michael Guerin

On The Cards is racing for more than just a winning stake at Alexandra Park tonight. Because an impressive performance tonight will see the three-year-old book himself a trip to Christchurch for a New Zealand Derby which becomes far more attractive after losing it’s biggest star. After Chase Auckland’s Northern Derby win two weeks ago he looked set to run the table in the three-year-old features but a slight injury last week has put him out of the Derby with the rest of his season in doubt. With several other key defections at the highest level of the classic crop, all of a sudden horses who may not have been in the NZ Derby winner conversation a few months ago now have a huge carrot dangling in front of them in a few weeks. Many of them meet in the Flying Stakes at Addington tonight, the scratching of Sheriff has left Pat’s Delight as the best and maybe only chance to halt the All Stars juggernaut, led tonight by Sicario (wide draw) and Anthem (good comeback winner last week). But On The Cards could join that Derby party via a winning performance in race seven at Alexandra Park tonight.  He was luckless in both the Northern Derby and its prelude but looks a top class three-year-old and when horses of his calibre drop back from Derbys to the type of race he is in tonight they usually win. “He has to be hard to beat,” admits trainer Barry Purdon.  “I thought he was very good in the Derby after working and he has worked on well since.” That should make him the Alexandra Park multi anchor for the night. Purdon also holds a huge two-horse hand in race nine but says Opoutama rates higher than Raptor’s Flight at the moment.  “Not that I am disappointed with him at all because he was fourth behind Star Galleria last start but the mare (Opoutama) has been racing so well and very consistently,” says Purdon. The Alexandra Park meeting has its share of age group stars smattered throughout the programme but the Addington meeting will take centre stage, with the Flying Stakes all the more interesting with the three-year-old ranks looking more open now, albeit sadly for the connections of Chase Auckland.  The draw for the NZ Trotting Oaks has not been kind to very classy northern filly Girls On Film, who will start from the outside of the front line with two very smart rivals in Renezmae (one) and Luby Lou (five) drawn to get far better runs, with the latter may having more scope.  And the first race on a programme that starts unusually early sees Jessie Duke back after his jaw-dropping group one win at Alexandra Park last start, ensuring he will be everybody’s anchor to add a few percentage points to their multi bets. Michael Guerin

Just because the Dickie stable has one of the more powerful hands at tonight's Alexandra Park meeting doesn't mean stable driver Josh Dickie is in for a big night. Because the young gun driver says there are some question marks over three of his key drives, not so much their talent but their readiness. Josh and father John take seven horses to the tote races tonight (and two to a non-tote) and they have dual acceptors in three of those. But while Josh gets his pick of the drives he admits they may not be the best winning chances, starting with Somethingaboutmary in the Nevele R Fillies heat (race three). "She can definitely win but is no better chance than our other one, New York Rain," says Dickie. "A lot will depend on the run they get over 1700m because it could end up being a tricky race for them both. If New York Rain can get handy she might be hard to beat." With plenty of speed drawn inside the pair, either could win but equally they could both get beaten and go good races. Dickie is on the likely favourite Sertorius in race four and the big horse looks headed to open class but his stablemate C K Spur is rated at least as good a chance tonight. "It is 2200m and Sertorius can be a bit slow away, which would be a real disadvantage in this grade with some experienced older trotters drawn behind him. "I think Sertorius is an open class horse in the making but if he is slow and C K Spur pings the tapes then he could beat him. So it is a tricky one." The same applies in race six where Sex On Fire is having only her second start after beating older horses as a juvenile by eight lengths. "She obviously has the ability but she has taken a while to come up this time and our other filly (Star Of Olesya) is race fit and also won easily last start. "So while there will be plenty of people keen on Sex On Fire, if you add in a handy filly like Aoraki it is another race I could easily get beaten in. "So I'm hoping to have a good night but if I went away with two wins or none I wouldn't be totally surprised," Dickie mused. Another man set to star tonight is Steve Telfer, who sits third on the national trainers premiership and has two huge hopes in American Brave (race seven) and Parker (race five) with a pretty strong support cast too. Barry Purdon looks the dominant trainer in the two-year-old race, with Star Of Montana and Supreme Dominator both looking youngsters with good seasons ahead of them. Michael Guerin

It is out of the frying pan into the fire for headstrong pacing star Heaven Rocks this week. The dual Jewels winner makes his Australian debut in the Ballarat Cup on Saturday night, taking on his Auckland Cup conqueror Vincent and local Victorian hero Lennytheshark. With a campaign aimed at the Hunter Cup (February 3) and the Miracle Mile (February 24) his connections have decided Heaven Rocks has to be taken off the unruly from mobile starts so he can at least have a shot at being competitive rather than always settling last. But they probably didn’t expect the huge pacer’s first night back in the draw to result in barrier one in a hot field, which will present its own series of challenges on Saturday night. Heaven Rocks has only had one mobile start this season and behaved himself when not really asked to take on to the field in the score up in the Flying Mile at Cambridge two weeks ago. But the inside draw in the push and shove of Australian racing could see him bolt to an early lead or have no idea what to do when the outside pressure comes --- neither would surprise. Either way Vincent has emerged as the horse to beat in the A$100,000 group one over the 2710m mobile, even from barrier six, with Lennytheshark to start off the second line. Saturday’s meeting will also play host to three heats of the Victoria Derby, which is run a week earlier this season, with Spankem and The Devil’s Own the Kiwi reps against a strong local three-year-old crop. Meanwhile, an Australian campaign is off the cards for New Zealand Cup runner-up Jack’s Legend. The Auckland pacer was initially being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney on February 10 and would have needed to contest a qualifying race but trainer Barry Purdon says the four-year-old will be staying home. “He hasn’t been quite as sharp in his last few starts and with his two huge runs during Cup week maybe he is feeling the effects of a busy start to the season,” says Purdon “We have plenty of good four-year-old races still to go up here so I will set him for those instead.” With races like the Taylor Mile, Messenger and Jewels just a month apart in the north this season and the four-year-old ranks containing Vincent, Ultimate Machete, Jack’s Legend and Star Galleria among others, that last-season treble could prove one of the highlights of the pacing year. Michael Guerin

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