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Boom pacer Turn It Up only solidified his place as the most exciting pacer in the southern hemisphere following his clinical yet dominant victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Monday). Facing the starter for only the 9th time in his career, the Courage Under Fire gelding was confidently backed to win the 3200m stand-start feature and safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz to claim his maiden feature. But it looks the first of many more to come. And he’s another star off the production line of All Stars – Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The victory provided the Purdon family with their 15th Auckland Cup, the premier pacing event in the North Island. It’s also the fourth straight success for the All Stars following on from Vincent, Dream About Me and Have Faith In Me in the previous years. Overall, Mark Purdon has been directly involved with seven (7) Cup winners – Turn It Up, Vincent, Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus plus his inaugural winner Sharp And Telford. The All Stars stable had the bulk of the runners in this year’s version with five runners engaged in the 12 horse field, they managed to finish 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th plus a failed to finish. But the focus is clearly on the winner; the four-year-old oozes class coupled with great staying prowess and looks a certain future star of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. A last start winner of the Franklin Cup, Purdon got him away safely and made his early move to find the lead with approximately 2400m left to run while Dream About Me sat behind him followed by Jacks Legend. The lead time was covered in 2:04.5. Star Galleria made an early move and raced outside Turn It Up with 1400m left to run before he gained cover on the back of Ashley Locaz as the field swung into the home straight to reach the judge and the bell. The first half of the final mile was posted in 31.5 and 32.6 seconds. Those sectionals spelt disaster for his rivals and Purdon allowed him to stride freely down the back straight while his rivals attempted to make a race of it with him. The third split was timed in 28.2 seconds. In the straight, Turn It Up safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz who chased determinedly. The final section was covered in a spine tingling 26.1 seconds. And the winning time was 4:03.0 – a mile rate of 2:02.1 – well outside of the race record held by Dream About Me (2016) at 3:55.4. “He’s an exciting horse and we’ve always held him in high regard, I was confident he would handle this way of going and he hasn’t disappointed.” Mark Purdon said. When assessing the achievement of Turn It Up, Mainland Banner quickly springs to mind when she won the 2005 New Zealand Cup at her 12th race start….it’s truly extraordinary! Looking ahead, connections have so many options to consider including the upcoming Victorian summer carnival features, Chariots of Fire, Taylor Mile & Messenger in Auckland, Jewels and the Vicbred series among others. The next leg of the 2018/19 APG Grand Circuit heads to Perth for the running of the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 18. Chris Barsby

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

Star horseman John McCarthy is not getting ahead of himself. The former multiple Albion Park Premiership winner has recently returned to take part in the 2018 Racing Queensland Summer Carnival at Albion Park where he grabbed the spoils on the opening night when Rakarolla proved too classy in the Gr.3 $31,400 Be Good Johnny Sprint on December 1. It has been the one and only start McCarthy has given the giant gelding in Brisbane. Until now. McCarthy will head back to Albion Park this Saturday night searching for another feature race victory when Rakarolla takes his place in the Gr.2 $50,660 Egmont Park Stud Queensland Cup, the final feature of the carnival. The 2138m mobile start event features rising star Colt Thirty One, the reigning Queensland Horse of the Year and McCarthy believes he’s the real deal. The Grant Dixon prepared Mach Three four-year-old had his first taste of open company last week when he quickly dispatched a tidy field in the Christmas Cup in race record time when coming from near last. “He’s a very good horse; he was brilliant last week and despite a nasty draw this weekend, he’s the horse we all have to beat. I had a good look at him at the wash bay and he’s a good looking horse, he’s got class written all over him.” McCarthy said. Colt Thirty One has drawn the outside of the second-line (gate 13) while Rakarolla has drawn nicely in gate four which gives McCarthy several options. Rakarolla took inside runs to win the sprint feature two weeks ago but McCarthy is adamant his versatility will have him as a key rival. “Despite his age, he’s actually quite an immature type who’s still learning but he’s adaptable to different situations. I think he’ll be even better next year and could measure up for some better races. “The fact he raced week in and week out in lead-up to the Brisbane trip has worked to his advantage, he raced six weeks straight and was really fit for the Be Good Johnny. “He’s trained on well since that victory and should prove competitive again, I was happy to bypass last week and focus on this week’s event.” UBET has listed Colt Thirty One at $1.90 while Rakarolla is quoted at $6.50. Rakarolla is raced by his New Zealand based breeder, Brendan Fahy. The Queensland Cup is listed as race 8 and is scheduled to start at 9.37pm local time.   Chris Barsby

The All Stars stable of Natalie Rasmussen and Mark Purdon knows no boundaries. Their pursuit of excellence continues to defy belief, constantly rewriting the pages of history, producing brilliant talent season after season and across all age groups. The Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final is a time honoured feature that tugs at the heartstrings of both Rasmussen and Purdon. After all, Rasmussen and her mighty champion Blacks A Fake won the event a record four times while Purdon has lifted the trophy on six occasions – 3 pacers and 3 trotters. This will be Rasmussen’s 7th Inter Dominion Grand Final, her previous six coming with Blacks A Fake – 4 wins and 2 seconds. In fact, the last time the Pacing Grand Final was staged in Melbourne (2008 - Moonee Valley), it was Rasmussen and ‘Blackie’ that proved victorious. And now they’re chasing another slice of history this weekend. The All Stars have qualified two runners for the Gr.1 $500,000 TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final, the top two point scorers following the three rounds of heats over the past week. Cruz Bromac and Spankem are the two combatants, both striving to provide the stable their third straight Inter Dominion hero. Yet all with different horses after Smolda scored in 2016 while Lazarus took honours last year. And here’s the magic, no stable has won the Inter Dominion three times and with a different champion each time. The famous stables of Bob and Vin Knight fell short back in 1990 after both Our Maestro and Jane Ellen scored in the previous. It was Thorate who scored at Globe Derby while the Knight trained Jane Ellen and Rockleigh Victory were both unplaced and therefore denied the Victorian stable a three peat. Obviously Rockleigh Victory would’ve created history if successful - three different winners in three consecutive years. But now the All Stars can claim this record if either Cruz Bromac or Spankem deliver. And both have undeniable chances, Spankem will start from gate five with Purdon driving after Rasmussen elected to stick solid with Cruz Bromac despite drawing gate nine. Purdon is taking his 9th Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final drive; he has won three finals previously with Mark Hanover, Smolda and Lazarus while he has won 3 Trotting Finals with Pride Of Petite and I Can Doosit (twice). Cruz Bromac is the only runner during the series to win all three qualifying heats. With the series undertaking several changes throughout recent years, the last pacer to clean sweep a series (3 heats & Final) was the champion performer Im Themightyquinn back in 2012 at Gloucester Park in Perth while Elsu also achieved the feat in 2005 at Alexandra Park, Auckland. So, can Cruz Bromac and Rasmussen achieve the sweep? Will it be his stablemate, rising star Spankem? The professional four-year-old has thrived during the series winning two of his three heats and looks like he’ll relish the 2760m distance. Another New Zealand four-year-old I’m Pats Delight is also relishing the hard grind of the series and looms as a serious player for a formidable combination in Cran Dalgety and Gavin Lang. Between them, they have won more features than they care to remember. However, the Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final trophy has proven elusive for both future Hall of Famers but can they etch their names into the record books this weekend? This will be Lang’s 10th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive and second for Dalgety after partnering London Legend back in 2006. I’m Pats Delight will start from gate three. Perth powerhouse Greg and Skye Bond are represented by the ideally drawn Galactic Star (gate one) and the Bettors Delight gelding has been outstanding throughout the series to date with top three finishes in each of his three heats. Last year, Galactic Star finished 5th behind Lazarus. In 2012, the Bond’s also finished 5th with Can Return Fire behind Im Themightyquinn. Ryan Warwick takes his third Inter Dominion Grand Final drive when he reunites with Galactic Star. Interestingly, the only proven Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit winner in the field this year is the tough Sydney trained millionaire Tiger Tara. And his maiden Grand Circuit victory came recently when successful in the Victoria Cup here at TABCORP Park, Melton when leading throughout. Placed third last year behind Lazarus and Chicago Bull, the Kevin Pizzuto trained and Todd McCarthy driven will need to overcome gate seven, the outside of the front-line. McCarthy is taking his 4th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. The Bettors Delight entire was placed in all three heats including his victory last weekend at Cranbourne. Local star San Carlo lines up again following his impressive efforts last year in Perth where he won a heat but in the final, he finished 9th behind Lazarus after drawing poorly. Although winless during the heats and starting from gate eight, the inside of the second-line, San Carlo still rates as a winning hope. Prepared by Steve O’Donoghue and handled by Bec Bartley, the Mach Three gelding will carry plenty of local support. Another local which will have plenty cheering is the David Aiken trained and Kima Frenning driven up and comer Wrappers Delight. A winner in the sprint heat at Ballarat on night two, the Bettors Delight gelding needs to overcome gate 11. This opportunity provides Frenning with her first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. One of the surprise packets of the series is the Mattie Craven trained and driven Can’t Refuse, responsible for some eye-catching efforts throughout the heats. The Bettors Delight gelding will start from gate two. Like Frenning, this is Craven’s first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. Another pacer that has thrived throughout the series is the Bathurst prepared Our Uncle Sam for father/son combination of Chris and Anthony Frisby. Blessed with sharp speed and great determination, the Sportswriter gelding is looking at bringing another Inter Dominion trophy back to the famous region. Memories of Honda Grattan and Smooth Satin come flooding back when assessing the chances of Our Uncle Sam. The five-year-old will start from gate 10 and this is Anthony’s first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. There’s no doubt rejuvenated pacer Maximan will have the biggest cheer squad, the one-time claimer has thrived under the care of Shane and Lauren Tritton. It will be their 3rd Inter Dominion finalist. Boasting owners from all parts of the country, the veteran performer will start from gate six. And Craig Cross is represented by two runners, just like the All Stars, speedy pacer Mach Doro starts from gate four while Cash N Flow is looking to overcome gate 13, the outside of the second-line. Luke McCarthy partners Mach Doro while John Caldow takes the drive behind Cash N Flow, McCarthy is lining up for his 7th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive while Caldow is taking his maiden drive in a Pacing Grand Final. McCarthy has finished third four times previously but is still chasing his maiden victory. Interestingly, Cash N Flow is a former member of the All Stars operation before joining Cross earlier this year. Owner Dominic Martello races both Wrappers Delight and Mach Doro. Audi Hare (gate 12) is listed as the emergency runner. Chris Barsby

The last time an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final was staged, it was 2012. It was staged in Melbourne at TABCORP Park, Melton. And the Kiwi’s got ‘Lucky” when brilliant squaregaiter I Can Doosit proved triumphant for champion horseman Mark Purdon. In fact, it was New Zealand domination with the first four placegetters all hailing from the Shaky Isles. Now, the Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final returns to the feature race calendar and again, it will be staged in the garden state. The Gr.1 $150,000 TAB Inter Dominion Trotters Grand Final is the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and takes place this Saturday night. While the Kiwi’s are well represented, the locals hold the whip hand through the Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley. Bred in New Zealand and raced by Queensland based Norm Jenkin, the Skyvalley gelding has been a revelation since being under the tutelage of the Gath couple. A clean sweep of his three heats has him listed as the punters elect and he’s hoping to join I Can Doosit who swept the 2012 series. But back in 2012, there was only two heats and a final. Throughout this year’s series, Tornado Valley has looked as safe as a bank with the only concern coming last weekend in his final heat after his hind leg bandage starting to unravel with 300m left to run. As it turned out, the star trotter never missed a beat. A winner of 16 of his 20 starts on Australian soil, Tornado Valley will start from gate six in the 2760m mobile start feature while his main danger, New Zealand star Speeding Spur has drawn the ace. Having met in the second round at Ballarat, Tornado Valley took glory with his all the way victory over his Kiwi rival. Interestingly, Tornado Valley led Speeding Spur in that event despite drawing on his outside. But Speeding Spur is a high quality performer, a trotter that is no stranger to the big stage. And his record at Melton underlines his class, with four wins from eight starts including features and excellent form throughout the series, it shapes as a classic Trans-Tasman battle. The stunning looking entire won two of his three heats while placed behind Tornado Valley in the other and the John and Josh Dickie prepared gun is looking to crack the million dollar mark if successful this weekend. While Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur have hogged the limelight throughout the series, several others are looking to take centre stage including several locally trained performers. And most have strong Inter Dominion connections. Legendary father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang will combine with in-form trotter Save Our Pennys, a runner-up in all three heats throughout the series. Both Graeme and Gavin know what’s required to score an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final, they have five trophies combined. Back in 2012, they combined with Save A Sixpence who finshed 6th behind I Can Doosit. Save Our Pennys will start from gate three. Over the past 45 years, the name Lang has been synonomous with Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Finals. Astute horseman David Aiken is looking for success with the talented Big Jack Hammer, a runner-up in his past two heats. Again, the rising star will be handled by Kima Frenning and will start from gate five. While Aiken has lofted an Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final trophy, his best finish in a Trotting Grand Final is 5th (twice) with Twebby Twotter (2002) and Im Dejazzman (2012). Richly talented young horsemen Mick Stanley and Ryan Duffy are looking for their piece of history with the talented Sky Petite, but the mare will need to overcome gate seven. Former New Zealand horseman Brent Lilley is chasing his second Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final after scoring back in 2002 at Harold Park with Game Bid. Representing his stable is the North American bred evergreen Kyvalley Blur, the 11-year-old gelding will start from gate eleven. Kyvalley Blur scored a stylish heat victory in the second round of heats at Ballarat and will again be handled by champion reinsman Chris Alford. Speedy mare Red Hot Tooth is looking to provide Kari Males and Zac Phillips with their biggest triumph but face a massive challenge after landing gate thirteen. The Yankee Paco mare was placed behind Tornado Valley and Save Our Pennys in her final heat last week at Cranbourne. Andy Gath is duly represented in the final with Kingdom Come lining-up from gate ten, young Alex Ashwood will take the drive. The state of New South Wales will have a triple threat through the deeds of Rompers Monarchy (gate four), Tough Monarch (gate nine) and Wilmas Mate (gate twelve). Husband and wife combination of Joe and Mary Rando along with driver David Morris are hoping for their biggest success through Rompers Monarchy while Rickie Alchin is also chasing the ultimate prize with his talented performer Tough Monarch for the first time. Champion trainer Tim Butt, now based at Menangle, is chasing his fourth Inter Dominion Grand Final trophy after scoring previously with Lyell Creek and Take A Moment (twice). Back in 2012, he finished second with Vulcan behind I Can Doosit. Butt is preparing the talented mare for Christchurch trainer Paul Nairn, a winner of the 1995 Inter Dominion Grand Final with Call Me Now. And New Zealand horseman Phil Williamson is hoping it’s five times a charmwhen he sends out Monty Python, the talented gelding will start from gate two. Williamson has previously qualified Allegro Agitato (2005 – 12th), One Over Kenny (2008 – 7th) and Springbank Richard (2011/12 – 8th & 7th). The locally trained Illawong Armstrong is listed as the emergency runner, he will start from gate eight if he secures a start. The Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final is steeped in great history and and now another chapter is about to be written this weekend. Chris Barsby

Former New Zealand trotter Arnold makes his local debut this weekend at Albion Park. Purchased by trotting enthusiast Jeroen Nieuwenburg , the Muscle Mass – Niamey gelding arrived last Saturday and will start in the Radio TAB Trot over 2138m. Arnold will start from gate six in the 2138m mobile start event. A winner of 4 races from 12 starts to date, Arnold finished near the rear of the field behind Missandei at his most recent start at Addington during Cup week. Arnold ranks as a half-brother to talented performers Pocaro, Sun Of Anarchy and Daenerys Targaryen. Nieuwenburg races classy trotter Needle (by Muscle Mass), a leading player in the Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship currently taking place at Albion Park. The Gr.2 $40,770 Final is scheduled for next Saturday. *********************************************************************************** Another former Kiwi now calling Queensland home is Paravani. The Christian Cullen four-year-old has joined the stables of Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen at their Patrick Estate property. At his most recent start, Paravani finished 7th behind Bettor My Dreamz at Addington on Cup day last month. A winner of 2 races from 27 starts, his victories came via Oamaru and Addington. The Turpin/McMullen stable are currently campaigning Mattgregor during the Inter Dominion Pacing Series in Melbourne. *********************************************************************************** Champion horseman Noel Daley has arrived back on home soil. Based in the United States for the past 29 years, largely in New Jersey, Daley has prepared some all-time greats during his time abroad. His champion pupils include Mr Muscleman, Broad Bahn, Explosive Matter, All Speed Hanover, Cedar Dove, My Little Dragon, Impressive Kemp and Caviart Ally among many others. After working as a groom for Brett Pelling, Daley went out on his own in 1998 and captured the training title at the Meadowlands in 2003. Daley prepared his team from Magical Acres Farm where he prepared up to 125 horses at one point. A number of key horse people have spent time working under him including Luke & Andy McCarthy, Anton Golino, James Rattray plus Mat & Gemma Rue. But the Queensland born horseman has returned to Australia to become the private trainer for leviathan owners Emilio and Mary Rosati. He will prepare the team their Londonderry property in Sydney. During his time in North America, Daley prepared 2570 winners with earnings in excess of $61,454,588. Only Ron Burke, Jimmy Takter, Robert McIntosh, Erv Miller and Mark Ford have won more money. *********************************************************************************** Another former Queensland trainer, Tahn Camilleri is currently enjoying strong success in North America. Based in New Jersey, Camilleri prepared former Redcliffe Cup winner Constantlysideways who scored a stylish victory at the Meadowlands last weekend in a time of 1:49.1. Constantlysideways was handled by champion New Zealand reinsman Dexter Dunn. The Village Jasper gelding was previously prepared by Bill Crosby. Another solid performer for Camilleri is Three Of The Best, also a last start winner at the Meadowlands in 1:51.1. Three Of The Best was handled by star reinsman Andy McCarthy. The Mach Three gelding was previously prepared by Shannon Price and Scott Miller. *********************************************************************************** Scintillating last start feature race winner Muscle Factory is set to resume. Back In August, the Shane and Lauren Tritton prepared rookie set Albion Park ablaze with an unbelievable effort to claim the heat and final of the Gr.1 $100,450 Albion Park Gold Brisbane Graduate Final. In the heat, the Roll With Joe colt rated 1:54.1 before taking the final a week later in 1:53.1 – the fastest time ever recorded by a juvenile at the famed Breakfast Creek oval. Subsequent to his feature race romp, he was crowned the NSW 2yo of the Year. He won 5 of his 9 starts and banked more than $112,000. Muscle Factory starts on Tuesday at Menangle; he will start from gate four in the DM Plumbing Pace over the 1609m. *********************************************************************************** Queensland driver Isobel Ross will never forget her maiden voyage to Menangle. Now based in New South Wales and working for leading trainer/driver Amanda Turnbull at Bathurst, Ross took the winning drive behind talented mare Eye See Diamonds in the feature event, the Gr.3 $30,600 Garrards Teeny Teeny Stakes. The winning time was 1:51.6. It was her first drive on the 1400m circuit. Ross has only recently moved to Sydney after stints with Jack Butler and Grant Dixon. Boasting over 200 career victories, Ross landed the Gr.3 $30,540 Egmont Park Stud South East Oaks behind the Dixon trained Red Charmer. *********************************************************************************** Last start APHRC Members Cup winner Mr Kalypso is an early scratching tomorrow night (Saturday). Unbeaten in seven Queensland starts, the Kylie Rasmussen trained pacer was engaged to start in the Mr Feelgood @ Egmont Park Stud Pace where he listed as a short priced favourite. But a paddock mishap earlier this week where he strained some chest muscles forced his scratching. He is expected to make a quick recovery. Since arriving from the All Stars stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, the Art Major entire has been stunning charging through the grades.   Chris Barsby

The door is slightly ajar. Queensland pacer Mattgregor still has a chance of qualifying for the Gr.1 $500,000 TAB Inter Dominion Grand Final at Melton next Saturday. He sits right on the precipice. But the Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen trained gelding needs a top three finish in the final round of heats at Cranbourne tomorrow night (Saturday) to stamp his ticket to the big dance next week. And then rely on other results. “I suppose we’re still in the mix to sneak into the final but he needs to race well this weekend to show he deserves his place in the final, a top three finish would propel our chances of qualifying. We’re in the final heat so at least we should know what’s required to get us into the final by that stage.” Turpin said. Mattgregor sits 16th, currently ranked on 14 points. On the opening night last weekend, Mattgregor was responsible for a tidy 7th after starting from a nasty second-line draw and covering ground over the concluding stages before finishing 5th on Tuesday night after having his chance on the speed. Mattgregor will start gate two in the 2555m event tomorrow night but faces series favourite Cruz Bromac  from the stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Cruz Bromac has drawn gate four and is listed at $1.09. “It was a pass mark for his opening heat but probably a shade disappointing on Tuesday night given the trip he got, Pete’s drive was extremely good and deserved a better result. “This is his best draw this weekend and hopefully we can sit handy on the pace again, an ideal scenario would be to lead and then hand over to Cruz Bromac which would give us every opportunity for a top three finish. “He’s handling the series quite well, we’ve always looked after him since he first arrived and we were a little unsure how he would cope but all signs are good right now. Three runs in a week at this level is intense. “If we qualify, well that’s great and a super proud moment for the family but if we don’t, the consolation will be the focus and hopefully we can take that home.” The last Queensland trained pacer to qualify for an Inter Dominion Grand Final was Avonnova; the triple Queensland Horse of the Year finished an unlucky 4th behind Lennytheshark at Gloucester Park back in 2015. The only Queensland trained Inter Dominion winner is four times champion Blacks A Fake, the greatest pacer of all time! Chris Barsby

Reigning Queensland Horse of the Year Colt Thirty One made a triumphant return to Albion Park last night (Saturday). Starting at prohibitive odds in the Gotta Go Cullect @ Egmont Park Stud Pace, the Mach Three entire quickly circled the field from his second-line draw before controlling the race outside the leader Our Major Day. The brilliant four-year-old quickly gained the upper hand soon after straightening and drew clear from a game Our Major Day while Top Flight Cruize filled third placing. The winning mile rate for the 2138m event was 1:57.2 while covering the final half in 55.6 seconds. The victory took his earning past $400,000. It was the first full metropolitan meeting staged at Albion Park since September 22 after the track underwent major remediation works following a spate of cancellations owing to poor weather. The Grant Dixon prepared pacer was having his first start since finishing second behind Ride High in the Gr.1 $195,000 Breeders Crown Final at TABCORP Park, Melton on August 25. And without the benefit of a public trial. “Obviously we couldn’t trial him at Albion Park in preparation for his return but we have plenty of handy types that can make him stretch out at home, I was really happy with where he was at prior to his return and he didn’t disappoint and felt like his normal self.” Dixon said. The Queensland summer carnival over the next three weeks has been added to his program as they build towards their main target, the Gr.1 $200,000 Chariots of Fire at TABCORP Park, Menangle on February 16. “We’re definitely going to have a look at some these local features in the coming weeks, he won’t start in all of them but he will be tested at some point against the open class performers. “He’s destined for open class and this looks the right opportunity to dip his toe in the water, it fits his schedule nicely.” The Gr.3 $30,660 Be Good Johnny Sprints kicks off the carnival on December 1 followed by the $20,660 Christmas Cup (December 8) and then the Gr.2 $50,660 Queensland Cup (December 15). The trio of open class features will be raced over the distances of 1660m, 2680m and 2138m. With the return of racing to headquarters, Dixon enjoyed a great night preparing five winners. His haul included Eleniark, Fioki, Colt Thirty One, Alleluia and Our Overanova. It is the 10th time he has achieved the feat. And it’s the 7th time he’s achieved it at Albion Park. The previous occasion came earlier this year when preparing five winners on May 12. Chris Barsby

Reigning Albion Park Horse of the Year Glenferrie Hood is on target for the upcoming Racing Queensland summer carnival features. A winner of three races from five starts this term, the Christian Cullen gelding has not raced since disappointing at Redcliffe back on October 27 when finishing at the rear of the field behind millionaire pacer Ohoka Punter in the Stevie Redback Pest Control Open Pace. Trainer Wayne Graham elected to freshen his star performer in readiness for the open class features at Albion Park. “It was established he was suffering from a virus so I backed off on him with the view of having him ready for the features next month. He went off his tucker which is very unlike him but he’s back to full health now and I’m happy with his condition,” Graham said. “I could’ve started him this week but elected to give him the extra week; at this stage he’ll probably contest two of the three features. The $50,000 Queensland Cup is the main target and he’ll appreciate being back on the bigger track like many others.” He added. Glenferrie Hood won 9 races last season and all of those victories came via Albion Park. *********************************************************************************************   Talented mare January has been sold and will do her future racing in North America. The Kylie Rasmussen prepared mare was scratched from her event last weekend at Redcliffe owing to the sale. Highly respected Perth based agent Frank Rinaldi negotiated the deal. January won 14 races and managed 23 minor placings from her 64 starts while banking more than $112,000 in stakes. *********************************************************************************************   Young Brittany Graham is heading to Sydney to take up a position with SKY Channel. The daughter of respected trainer Darrel and Albion Park committee member Linda, Graham has taken on a permanent role with the race broadcasting giant after coming their academy. Graham has forged a tidy career in the sulky and enjoyed good success with the likes of Montana Falcon plus her own pacers The Next Star and The Falcon Ute. Last season, Graham won the Seymour Group Lady Drivers Invitation Series at Albion Park.  Graham will be trackside this weekend at Albion Park in a hosting role with Greg Hayes for SKY. *********************************************************************************************   Up and comer Slice Of Heaven looks set for an exciting campaign following a stylish trial at Redcliffe on Wednesday. Prepared locally by Donny Smith, the Rocknroll Hanover gelding dominated his 1780m public trial in a time of 1:59.0 defeating Courageous Leo and Bangkok Bravado. Slice Of Heaven has not raced since winning at Albion Park on August 18 in a time of 1:55.4. The five-year-old has won 11 of his 28 starts to date including his past three. The summer carnival features next month could be a temptation for connections but another trial next week will determine future plans. *********************************************************************************************   Willowbank trainer John Edmunds and owner Tony Veivers are focused on the Gr.2 $40,770 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship series starting next week at Albion Park. Edmunds will take a trio of talented trotters to Albion Park tomorrow night in readiness for the series when Lavros Jack, Any Old Way and Spud contest the Pryde’s Easifeed Mobile Trot, the final race on the big program. The 2138 mobile start event also features reigning Queensland Trotter of the Year Our Overanova and Melpark Royal Son, the 2016/17 Queensland Trotter of the Year. The Edmunds trio have drawn well with Lavros Jack starting from the inside gate with Any Old Way drawn handy (gate 3) while Spud has landed the inside of the second-line, directly behind his stablemate. Both Lavros Jack and Spud have displayed strong ability since joining the stable; Any Old Way is having his first stable for his new connections. Previously prepared by Brent Lilley, the Sundon gelding gelding boasts a recent placing behind Kyvalley Blur in 1:58.1 for the 2240m distance at TABCORP Park, Melton. Overall, Any Old Way has won 14 of his 84 starts while earning in excess of $140,000. The DJA series starts next Friday with the opening round of heats at Albion Park over the distance of 2647m before switching to the 2138m the following week. The 2647m final is scheduled for December 15. *********************************************************************************************   Young James Herbertson went home a winner after driving Honey Please to victory at Redcliffe on Wednesday night. Born and bred in Queensland, James is the son of respected horseman Ashleigh and Jody Herbertson. The 18yo was enjoying a week’s holiday and catching up with family and friends and landed the drive on the Ray Cross trained trotting mare. Starting favourite, Herbertson gave the Yankee Spider mare a perfect trip and proved too strong at the finish defeating Somedash and No Transactions in the 2280m stand start event. It was the third time the pair has combined for success after scoring at Maryborough and Bendigo earlier this year. “It was a great opportunity to take a few drives during my trip up here and I’m pleased for Ray that the mare performed to the level that I know she is capable of, she’s more than handy.” Herbertson said. The in-demand reinsman returns to Melbourne today and will head to TABCORP Park, Melton tonight to drive the Bill Milner trained Opia in the Blue Pace Trot. In the coming days, he takes drives at Horsham, Bendigo and Echuca. Herberston landed his maiden winner at Terang back in March, 2016 when successful aboard Tearitup for his father Ashleigh. “The family has recently moved farms and we’re mixing the horses with some sheep farming, we currently have around 10 in work. “The best horse that I’ve driven so far is probably Vapar Grin while my winner at Melton (Upanatom) winner was pretty handy too. “My goal is to drive 100 winners in a season while it would be great to drive a metro winner for Dad.” Herberston has driven 15 winners to date this season. *********************************************************************************************   Louth Park trainer Darren Elder is heading to Brisbane for the summer carnival. But unfortunately, his stables Shannonsablast and Bright Energy won’t be making the trip north after succumbing to injury. However, Elder is bringing four pacers north with Sports Bounty, Days End, Hosier Lane and Justarumour. All four pacers are engaged this Saturday night at Albion Park. “The pick of them is Hosier Lane, he went great last start at Menangle and looks well placed this weekend despite a bad draw. We’re happy to support these young drivers and happy to have Deni Roberts driving for us,” Elder said. “Shannonsablast got injured after his last start and is having some time off while Bright Energy was ready to go late last week before sustaining another injury. It was a shame because we have a big opinion of him.” He added. Bright Energy was a winner of the Gr.3 $30,600 Simpson Memorial at Menangle in 1:52.0 last season. The Elder family is chasing a two state double with Ashark starting in the $20,000 Club Menangle Where Horses Fly Final. Prepared by Melanie and driven by Brad (Darren’s children), Ashark is a last start winner at Newcastle.   Chris Barsby

The Queensland summer carnival features now beckon for Lilac Flash. That won’t shock anyone given the recent form of the former New Zealand pacer who made it 8 straight wins on Saturday night at Redcliffe when triumphant in the Comfort Inn Northgate Pace. Lilac Flash has been a revelation since heading across the Tasman Sea; the pint-sized Bettors Delight gelding has now won 12 of his last 15 starts. Since joining the stables of Kylie Rasmussen and Darren Weeks, Lilac Flash has won 12 of his 19 starts in the Sunshine State. But his recent win streak has prompted connections to focus on the upcoming Albion Park features. “We’re considering some of the open class races during the summer carnival, his form is excellent and he deserves his shot for the better prizemoney. No doubt, this will be much harder but his form speaks for itself.” Co-trainer Weeks said. The Gr.3 $30,660 Be Good Johnny Sprints kicks off the carnival on December 1 followed by the $20,660 Christmas Cup (December 8) and then the Gr.2 $50,660 Queensland Cup (December 15). The trio of open class features will be raced over the distances of 1660m, 2680m and 2138m. And all distances shouldn’t pose any issues for Lilac Flash. The zippy pacer has already recorded victories at Albion Park at the 1660m and 2138m while he is untried at the 2680m distance. However, he recently scored a comfortable victory at Redcliffe over the 2280m. “He’s still very green and he’s not simple to drive just yet because he’s always running in and out during his races, he’s slowly getting there but he’s not perfect yet. “His speed is obviously his key asset, he just seems to follow pace all day long and then rattle off some quick splits of his own. It will be interesting when he’s forced to follow the higher pressure in the open class races, we think he’ll handle it but it’s an unknown at this stage. “There’s obviously some handy open types running around currently plus there’s talk of some southerners heading up for it so competition will be strong but it will give us a good guide going forward. He’s been a great buy for the stable and it’s still pretty much his first campaign for us so a few more like him will be great.” Lilac Flash was previously prepared by respected south island trainer Tony Stratford in New Zealand. Unraced as a two-year-old, Lilac Flash won two races with 11 minor placings from 20 starts before being sold. Lilac Flash is raced by Darren Wilson.   Chris Barsby

Harness racing royalty is headed to Brisbane. And they’re coming for the Queensland summer carnival which starts on November 30 at Albion Park with the opening round of the Darrell Alexander Memorial Trotting Championship heats. The Gr.2 $40,770 Final is scheduled for December 15. Inter Dominion winning trainer/driver Darren Hancock is heading north with trio of talented performers spearheaded by feature race winning squaregaiter, Monaro Mia. Hancock scored a memorable victory with Jofess back in 2004 at Gloucester Park in Perth among a stack of other features during his glittering career. Monaro Mia, a winner of the Gr.3 Northern Trotting Oaks at Alexandra Park, Auckland last season has recently joined Hancock and has shaped nicely in her two local Sydney starts. The Imperial Count mare has been a runner-up in both starts at TABCORP Park, Menangle to date and Hancock believes the Sunshine State feature fits in nicely. “We’re heading up but the main purpose is Monaro Mia and the trotting feature, that’s the purpose of the trip and we’re looking forward to it. I have Monaro Mia and Empire Bay for the trotting series while Majestic Kiwi is also making the trip up.” Hancock said. Majestic Kiwi ranks as a full brother to On Thunder Road, a winner of 35 races and over $425,000 for Hancock in recent years. Hancock will be based at Redcliffe but the team will be under the watchful eye of his son Corey and famous uncle, Brian. B.P Hancock needs no introduction; his deeds within the industry are legendary following his three Inter Dominion victories with champion pacer Our Sir Vancelot during the late 1990’s. The winner of a record six Inter Dominions - five as a trainer and five as a driver - Hancock believes he has achieved everything he ever aspired to. Hancock trained and drove Weona Warrior (1994) while achieving the three-peat with Our Sir Vancelot (1997/98/99). He also trained Thorate (1990) while taking the drive behind Koala King (1980). During his time, Hancock made many trips north of the border when campaigning the likes of Quantum Lobell, Tallowood Pursuit, Courage Under Fire, Thorate, and Weona Warrior among many others. Known as Mr Inter Dominion, Hancock retired from race driving in 2003. And Brian and Darren Hancock have achieved feature race success in Brisbane previously when they combined with former North American pacer Sweet Fame in the Gr.1 $125,000 Trans-Tasman at Albion Park back in 2006. “We’re in good hands with Uncle Brian in charge up there, if they go good it’s because of my foundation work and if things go pear-shaped, it will be on him. “It will be a great experience for my son Corey and spending quality time with Brian, hopefully he gains plenty of knowledge. “All horses are in good form and should acquit themselves well, I’m really happy with Monaro Mia and the way she’s performing. This series fits her schedule perfectly and should be a good target going forward, she’s a quality performer with a good record.” Monaro Mia starts tomorrow (Tuesday) at Menangle. Brian will take on the role of ‘executive foreman’ during the Brisbane campaign. Feature events are scheduled for December 1, 8 and 15 at Albion Park.   Chris Barsby

The Dominion is all about the Ford factory. However, it’s horsepower of a different variety – equine! For the second straight year, West Melton trainer Ken Ford has walked away with the biggest trotting cheque in the southern hemisphere after his brilliant performer Marcoola delivered a stunning performance to win the Gr.1 $300,000 Used To Me @ Haras de Trotteurs Dominion at Addington today (Friday). Twelve months ago, the Ford family was left shell-shocked after Amaretto Sun and young Sheree Tomlinson (Ford's grand-daughter) pulled off a longshot shocker to win the south island feature and again today, they were left a little gob smacked by the sheer arrogance and blinding acceleration of their star trotter as he raced away with the 3200m standing start feature. Handled by Ford's son Clint, it was utter domination from Marcoola. Unlike last year, the performance today didn’t completely shock anyone because most are acutely aware of the rich talent the Sundon six-year-old entire possesses. In lead-up to the event, his form has been true and consistent but the barrier allowed punters to gain a juicy price about the speedy performer. Race favourite Speeding Spur was backing-up following his Gr.1 FFA victory on Tuesday and was attempting to claim the Rowe Cup/Dominion double in the same year while join the other 17 trotters to claim the Cup week double. With Alderbeck, Temporale and Hey Yo all beginning quickly and vying for the early supremacy, Speeding Spur stepped safely and landed in a handy spot just behind the leaders. Classy mare Harriet Of Mot galloped away badly and lost considerable ground. Within the first lap, changes swept over the field with the highly fancied Great Things Happen finding the lead while Lemond was left parked without cover and Speeding Spur sitting right on his back. The tempo was dawdling with Great Things Happen and driver Gavin Smith walking the big field through the opening lap. The lead time was covered in 2:08.1. Speeding Spur made a move around the 1200m point and parked outside Great Things Happen while Ronald J soon followed and raced outside the leader. The first half was covered in 29.2 and 31.7 seconds. Entering the back straight, Great Things Happen led Ronald J while Speeding Spur sat poised ready to strike. Passing the 1000m point, driver Clint Ford made his move with Marcoola and allowed him to stride forward three wide and his run was unimpeded. And he came with a rush as he built massive momentum. The third quarter was covered in 29.7 seconds. With his blinding acceleration, Marcoola surged to the lead and soon opened up the field and raced away to lead by a clear margin entering the home straight. Ford kept his charge focused as Australian trotter Kyvalley Blur started to charge down the outside but the margin was too great. Marcoola scored convincingly and registered a margin of 4 lengths from Kyvalley Blur with a further 2.75 lengths back to Lemond in third while Speeding Spur finished fourth. The winning time was 4:08 – a mile rate of 2:04.6 with a final split of 28.7 seconds. Yet again, it was time for celebration for the Ford family. “He felt really good and there was some cat and mouse tactics from Anthony (Butt – Kyvalley Blur) and Tony (Herlihy – Temporale) and I just went for it. He trotted great and showed great speed but I kept thinking they were coming and I kept checking but he did it well.” Driver Clint Ford said. Marcoola is raced in partnership by Clint and his father Ken. The last time a trainer prepared back to back winners in the Dominion was Tim Butt back in 2003/04 after Take A Moment and Lyell Creek proved triumphant. Interestingly, Marcoola is closely related to Lyell Creek and takes his record to 14 wins from 31 starts while his earnings now exceed $410,000. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $150,000 Inter Dominion in Melbourne on December 15. Chris Barsby

The unplanned Sydney trip has been profitable for Turpin/McMullen racing stables. A team of seven pacers from the Patrick Estate stables of Chantal Turpin and her husband Pete McMullen ventured south owing to the issues with the Albion Park track and they’ve reaped the rewards. Already successful at TABCORP Park, Menangle has been stable stars Mattgregor and Watch Pulp Fiction while Bull Market and Laughing Emoji have also registered victories. Opononis Bliss has managed two minor placings while former New Zealand pacers Some Excusesomwhere and Itz Major Look were unplaced in just one start to date. With the Brisbane summer carnival and a return to Albion Park imminent, the team will be heading back up the highway in the next week. But not all. “At this stage, we have Laughing Emoji, Opononis Bliss, Itz Major Look and Watch Pulp Fiction heading home. Bear (Mattgregor) is racing again this weekend and then he’s joining Darren Binskin while Bull Market has been sold to Leon Jurd and Some Excusesomwhere will head to Jarrod Alchin next week.” Turpin said. On Tuesday, the husband and wife stable combined for a double after Bull Market and Laughing Emoji both proved triumphant. Both pacers recorded new personal best times with Bull Market taking a mark of 1:51.5 while Laughing Emoji rated 1:52.9. Their victories follow on from Mattgregor winning last Saturday night while Watch Pulp Fiction and Bull Market both scored the previous week. And with solid success during their brief stay, they’re reluctantly returning home. “We have absolutely loved it down there, we’re based on the track at Menangle and the facilities are outstanding and the other trainers are very accommodating so it makes it difficult to leave but we have obligations up here. A return trip next year is already being planned and we can’t wait to have another crack at it. “We plan on starting Watch Pulp Fiction in the open features during the summer carnival, that’s as long as he gains a start. That’s the reason why we are leaving Mattgregor down in Sydney; he’ll probably get left out of these upcoming features so we figure its best to keep him in Sydney on the bigger track. “He looks a good chance again this weekend and Pete will fly down on Saturday and take the drive, he did a good job last week rating good time over the longer distance and being first-up. He’s back at the mile trip this week and should prove very competitive; it will be interesting to see what ranking he holds for the Inter Dominion if he wins again.” Final rankings for the Melbourne Inter Dominion series will be released next week. The stable have several runners engaged at Redcliffe this weekend. Representing the stable tomorrow (Friday) is Happy Feelings, Exceptional Mach, Heavens Hurricane and Imthe Golden Child with McMullen driving the quartet. On Saturday night, the stable starters are Always My Mate, Bells Beach House and Argyle Beach with Turpin driving the trio while taking a catch drive aboard Amajorjo for her father Tony. “Argyle Beach looks our best chance at Redcliffe across the weekend, she’s a classy mare with great speed and very consistent form,” Turpin said. “This mare will be making a trip to Sydney next year, we’re thrilled with the way she has performed for Ross (Patrick – owner).” She added. Since the 2013/14 season, Turpin has trained over 100 winners each term. Turpin has trained 11 winners while McMullen has driven 29 winners in Queensland so far this season. Chris Barsby

Talented mare The Charging Moa has run her final race in Queensland. The New Zealand bred daughter of Changeover – Special Ops has proven to be a great money-spinner for her connections winning 13 of her 16 races in the Sunshine State. And 11 were recorded at Albion Park. A winner of four Rising Stars Finals at Albion Park, the speedy type recorded a personal best time of 1:53.8 in winning one of her finals. At her most recent start on November 3 at Redcliffe, The Charging Moa finished an unlucky fourth as favourite behind Sweet As in a time of 1:57.4 for the 1780m event. Leading horseperson Kylie Rasmussen was the most recent trainer of the mare where she won 3 of her 8 starts under her tutelage. A talented sit-sprint type, The Charging Moa is headed to Victoria to join the stables of Dean Braun. Ultimately, the mare could end up in North America given the huge success ‘downunder’ mares have experienced over the past twelve months spearheaded by the ex-Braun trainee Shartin among many others. The Charging Moa ranks as a half-sister to Bettor Ops (9 wins - $92k). **********************************************************************   Broodmare Smooth Class achieved a rare result last night (Wednesday). The French Chef mare produced the quinella result in the UBET Pace at Redcliffe when Took Your Time defeated older brother Spondooley. Both pacers are sired by Grinfromeartoear. And both geldings are raced by Perth based owner Tanya Graham and prepared by her highly respected father Wayne. Young gun Leonard Cain took the winning drive behind Took Your Time while Wayne partnered Spondooley. Took Your Time (better known as Fletch) takes his record to 6 wins from 24 starts while Spondooley (aka Nash) has won 21 of his 210 starts. Their combined prizemoney now sits at $168,287. “It was a massive thrill seeing the boys fight out the finish, it didn’t matter who won as long as they both did their best. It’s very satisfying; they provide me with the opportunity to get home as much as I can because they’re my Flight Centre account.” Graham said. Based in Perth, Graham operates the Gloucester Park Garrards Horse & Hound store. The Graham family is synonymous in Queensland harness racing circles after racing the likes of Sparkling Melody, Yahoo Buckaroo, Albert Aralar, Mach Alert and reigning Albion Park Horse of the Year Glenferrie Hood.   ********************************************************************** Former multiple Queensland premiership winner Alan Donohoe is back in town. Based in Victoria for the past decade, Donohoe has returned home and prepares his small team of pacers at Alberton, south of Brisbane. His blue silks with a yellow diamond are very familiar to punters. Venturing to Redcliffe last night (Wednesday) with his first starter since relocating, Donohoe finished as runner-up behind Montana Express aboard race favourite Gunrneedrbigrboat in the Darren Ebert & Co Pace. Donohoe has prepared and won many features in Queensland with the likes of Armada Miss, Grants Law, Penny The Pussycat, Academy Award, Devils Dream, Pocket Battleship and Stratum among many others. His haul of state and metropolitan premierships is very impressive; State Drivers Premiership winner 86/87 90/91 94/95 97/98 98/99   Metro Drivers Premiership winner 90/91 91/92 94/95 95/96 97/98 98/99   Metro Trainers Premiership winner 94/95 95/96 Donohoe never won a State Trainers Premiership. **********************************************************************   A trio of classy mares was back in action earlier this week (Tuesday). Four-year-old mares Lisa Lincoln, Fame Assured and Aqua Miss all lined up in a Redcliffe trial over 1780m and performed as expected. The Melissa Gillies trained Lisa Lincoln led throughout defeating the Grant Dixon duo of Fame Assured and Aqua Miss in the 1780m workout. The winning mile rate was 1:58.3 with sectionals of 31.2, 28.8, 29.5 and 29.2 seconds. With a return to Albion Park imminent, expect to see these mares back in action shortly. ********************************************************************** Star Of Montana has scored himself a summer vacation. The exciting prospect, formerly prepared by legendary Auckland horseman Barry Purdon, has failed to handle the heat and humidity of a scorching Queensland spring. As a result, new trainer Darrel Graham is now left to radically change his upcoming engagements. “He’s basically melted under the Queensland sun; I was happy with the early stage of his preparation but as we got deeper, it got hotter and he hasn’t coped at all. To be fair, it has been very trying weather patterns lately with plenty of storm activity but he’s not worth risking or pushing on with so he’s out until February.” Graham said. The Art Major gelding was being readied for the upcoming Victoria and New South Wales Derby classics early next year but now the ultimate target has become the home town Queensland Derby in the middle of winter. A return trip to Purdon was considered before sending him to the spelling paddock. “I asked Dean (Shannon – owner) if he wanted him to go back to Barry for a shot at some of these bigger races but he wanted him back in the paddock, he believes he will acclimatize in time. “The Queensland winter carnival followed by a trip to Melbourne for the Breeders Crown if his form warrants it is the key focus now; they’re both in cooler conditions which will help. “It’s disappointing because we have a good opinion of him and thought he was up to the standard required to be very competitive in those southern features.” Shannon races talented three-year-old Belle Of Montana, a tidy Alexandra Park winner on debut back on October 26. The Bettors Delight – Lady Cullen filly is likely to head to Brisbane next year in preparation for the Queensland Oaks.   Chris Barsby

As far as elite drivers go, the name of Natalie Rasmussen is clearly in the conversation. The trailblazing girl from Queensland can drive.....and she can drive fast. But it’s the soft hands and gentle approach that puts her in rare air. Her collection of big race trophies includes Inter Dominions, Miracle Mile, Queensland Pacing Championships and Auckland, Victoria and Hunter Cups. Rasmussen has led the way for female drivers by becoming the first to win the Inter Dominion, Queensland Pacing Championship plus the Auckland, Victoria and Winter Cups. All of the above mentioned are Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit events, the best of the best. And the latest trophy to the mantelpiece, the Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup, another Grand Circuit feature. Rasmussen produced another polished display to land the 3200m stand start feature, getting race favourite Thefixer away safely before taking the early lead from Star Galleria and then handing over to stablemate Dream About Me. It was typical of her normal poise and guile in big pressure events. The victory puts her alongside fellow Australian Kerryn Manning as the only female winners of the famed feature. Rasmussen also co-trains the winner in partnership with Mark Purdon. After a long delay following a botched attempt the first time around with the starting strand becoming entangled with Eamon Maguire, runners were called back and forced to stand to attention again. But the delay had no effect on Rasmussen or Thefixer with a safe beginning made and landing in a dangerous position while key rivals navigated some early traffic and jostled for positions. Sitting patiently in the trail, Thefixer followed Dream About Me and saved much needed energy, the lead time was covered in 1:57.8. Sole Aussie raider Tiger Tara soon made his move and circled three-wide before parking outside Dream About Me, he maintained strong pressure onwards. Approaching the home turn, Dream About Me and Tiger Tara sprinted as strong as they could and actually had Thefixer losing their backs but Rasmussen went to work and the nuggety little stayer knuckled down and picked up via the passing lane to defeat a gallant Tiger Tara with Dream About Me filling third place. The winning margin was a head with a half-length back to third. The winning time was 3:53.9 - the mile rate was 1:57.6. “I can retire happily now that I’ve finally won this race,” Rasmussen declared. “That was so so close but we got there, he’s been a project horse of mine for some time and he’s such a great little stayer, we got a great run but I was worried when the sprint went on but he fought all the way to the finish and he was brave. It wasn’t an ideal campaign with the hoof abscess but things worked out well.” It was her 7th drive in the New Zealand Cup. Her victories on New Zealand soil now tally 237 from 612 drives while amassing more than $7.9 million. The All Stars stable has now won 4 of the past 5 editions. And the efforts of super sire Bettors Delight can’t go unnoticed, his 5th straight winner of the Cup plus a trifecta! Thefixer is by Bettors Delight from the Christian Cullen mare Tosti Girl and came at a cost of $47,000 at the 2015 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Melbourne on December 15.   Chris Barsby

Wow.....where do we start with the 2018 Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup? As the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit, the Kiwi feature is steeped in tradition after first being staged back in 1904 when Monte Carlo proved victorious while many great names line the pages of history. And another great pacer will etch their name into the record books on the famous second Tuesday in November at Addington. The build-up has been intense and absolutely relentless as we draw closer to the 3200m stand start feature. The early scratchings of Australian star Chicago Bull and local ace Ultimate Machete have only added to the pre-race drama. In fact, the race has seen more moves than a 1980’s disco dance floor! And so many questions need to be answered. All the normal types like who has the Best Stamina? Endurance? Willingness? Desire? And Hunger? But what about answers to the following; Can the All Stars win another Cup? The Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen combination has won 3 of the last 4 editions (Lazarus x 2 & Adore Me) and this year is represented by Thefixer, Cruz Bromac, Eamon Maguire and Dream About Me. Can Dream About Me become the latest mare to claim the Cup? The last mare to score in the Cup came from this stable with Adore Me triumphant four years ago. At this point, Dream About Me is the only mare starting in the Cup although Queen Bee Bardon is listed as the third emergency. Thefixer is facing the starter for only the 16th time, only Mainland Banner has had less starts prior to winning the Cup (it was her 12th start). Can the All Stars prepare the trifecta in the Cup? Back in 2016, they prepared 1st, 3rd & 4th (Lazarus, Titan Banner & Smolda). The biggest number of starters in a New Zealand Cup from All Stars is five (2012). Respected trainer Robert Dunn has the biggest representation in the Cup with five starters; he will gear up Alta Orlando, Captain Dolmio, Letspendanitetogetha, Billy Badger and Zadaka. Can he train his second winner of the event? Dunn scored with wonder mare Mainland Banner back in 2005. Can Ricky May score a record 8th Cup victory when he partners the Greg and Nina Hope trained A G’s White Socks? The next best is Cecil Devine who won 6 Cups. Can Aussie raider Tiger Tara join the likes of Steel Jaw, (My) Lightning Blue and Arden Rooney as an Australian trained winner of the Cup? Prepared by Sydney horseman Kevin Pizzuto, the $1.59 million earner will be handled by regular reinsman Todd McCarthy who is taking his 3rd Cup drive. Now an eight-year-old, Can Tiger Tara join Monkey King (2010) as the most recent winner of the Cup at that age? Tiger Tara is starting in his 4th Cup. Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is chasing his 4th Cup victory and will partner the highly regarded Auckland trained Star Galleria for trainer Steve Reid. Can Barry Purdon train his 4th Cup winner when Jack’s Legend takes his spot in the Cup? If successful, it will be his 1st outright victory after preparing his trio of winners in partnership with his legendary father Roy. Can Zachary Butcher (Jack’s Legend) join his father David (Changeover – 2008) as a Cup winning driver? Oddly, Changeover (Geoff Small) was the most recent North Island trained winner of the Cup. Can Natalie Rasmussen (Thefixer), Sam Ottley (Forgotten Highway) or Sheree Tomlinson (Locharburn) join Kerryn Manning as a female winning driver of the Cup? Can super sire Bettors Delight claim his 5th Cup after winning the past 4 editions? This year, the record breaking stallion is represented by Thefixer, Dream About Me, Jack’s Legend, Forgotten Highway & Tiger Tara. Can 1998 Cup winner Christian Cullen produce his 2nd winner (Mainland Banner – 2005)? The wonder horse is represented by Locharburn and Baileys Knight (2nd emergency). Interestingly, the horse that has claimed the title of APG Grand Circuit champion for the past two seasons has won the Cup…..the one and only Lazarus! So, all this and more will make sense late on Tuesday afternoon. Because then, at 5.12pm Local time, it will be time for answers.   Chris Barsby

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