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It is a harness racing truth that you don’t second guess people in harness racing with the names of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. If you were a doubter you would not have been after Friday night at Addington. They produced an incredible training feat to win the 3200m Easter Cup with Turn It Up. Probably Mark can take the credit for concluding after his recent Rangiora trial that he could win a race of that calibre first up in two months. Even in the new age of open class racing where stars rise and fall much faster than they used to it was an extraordinary feat to win his second 3200m G1 at just his 11th start. Mark never lacked confidence in the move after Rangiora. “He hasn’t raced for a while but he is a very athletic type and while he wasn’t racing he was doing conditioning work up north before coming down to us so I don’t think it is beyond him” Admittedly, after Mark used him early to take the lead and then trailed, Turn It Up was stretched to hold out A G White Sox but in a 3.58 and change in a charge through the slush it was still a great effort. But, to be fair the New Zealand Cup winner, Thefixer, lost no caste in defeat. He renewed memories of the (good?) old days of handicap racing. Starting from behind the front line means at some stage you have to go around the field. Turn It Up got rid of that early to reach the lead but Spankem and Thefixer weren’t going to manage that . Thefixer moved around and sat parked then Spankem took over that role so Thefixer would have run about the same time as the winner, Not to forget Elle Mac went a great race too under the radar perhaps. The Turn It Up is a fairy story in most respects likely to be a pointer to the 2019 New Zealand Cup. Mark selected him in Australia largely for his treasued friend Neil Pilcher and the ghost of that special man, with the trademark sly grin, surely hovered over Addington on Friday. It was typical of Mark and Natalie they had handed a share in the horse to Neil’s brother Lee Neil also shared ownership in ONE CHANGE who won the Welcome Stakes, now owned by All Stars Stables with Trevor Casey and Mike Woodlock who had missed the youngsters surprise first up win two weeks ago because of a prior engagement in Nelson. Trevor and All Stars have raced a number of horses together and Mike, a retired St Andrews College teacher who has always been a harness fan and helps out at All Stars. “I think he has gone up in the ratings” Trevor Casey said of One Change. “Tonight reminds me of Neil and I's first win in this race with Zakariah. Nobody really expected him to win and he paid a good price ($25)” Neil Pilcher then won three Welcome Stakes in succession, two of them with Trevor Casey, and the other with Ann and Jim Gibbs who raced Turn It Up with Pilch before his untimely death. Happy owners and supporters acclaim One Change after All Stars 13th win in the Welcome Stakes and 7th on end Happy owners and supporters acclaim One Change after All Stars 13th win in the Welcome Stakes and 7th on end.(All Stars photo) About the only criticism the connections of One Change could make was the narrowness of his winning margins which tend not to help blood pressure levels. But even that begs to compare with the “Major Mark” Syndicate, who won the Welcome Stakes away back in 2010 and since then a raft of top performers including Derby winners, Fly Like An Eagle and Border Control, Derby runner -up Ulltimate Machete and Heaven Rocks plus a number of feature winners.   Courtesy of All Stars Stables  

The most important factor Spankem has on his side going into tonight’s $100,000 Easter Cup is the one thing you can’t see.  The 3200m race looms as a thriller with the winners of the New Zealand and Auckland Cups in Thefixer and Turn It Up as well as last-start Miracle Mile winner Spankem with a super-strong support cast on Addington’s most dazzling night of the season.  Many of the indicators punters might use for making their decision are there in plain sight — the standing start and 3200m records, video performances from races and trials, the handicaps and draws while we can all rate the big three and their rivals on how we personally feel about them.  But the one thing you can’t see but you can ask is who is the horse in the zone right now?. Because when the competition is this tough and even, the horse who is closest to their peak is often the one who can run through the pain barrier to win.  That horse might be Spankem.  While co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen says all five of their starters in the Cup are ready to go, she believes Spankem is the one in that zone.  “Obviously any one of our top three could win without surprising us and it might simply come down to luck in the running,” says Rasmussen. “But Spankem seems perfect, really where he needs to be. He was spot on when he won the Miracle Mile and he hasn’t lost any of that.  “He couldn’t be better so if I had to opt for one it would probably be him.”  That doesn’t guarantee any success as Spankem still faces a 20m handicap and the chance of bad luck that brings and new driver Tim Williams will need to join the battle at the right time. For example if he follows Thefixer around the field and has to sit parked giving the latter the one-one maybe he probably can’t win. Reverse that scenario and Spankem becomes the one to beat out of the pair.  The horse punters might struggle to work out the exact fitness of is Turn It Up, who might be the best pacer in the country.  The Auckland Cup winner hasn’t raced for three months but wouldn’t be here unless his champion trainers thought he could win.  But very, very few horses in the modern history of New Zealand harness racing have won group one 3200m without a lead-up race. Turn It Up might be that good but his odds aren’t really tempting enough to find out.  While the Easter Cup could come down to any combination of those variables tonight’s two Derbys both look far more straight forward. If both Ultimate Sniper ($200,000 Pacing Derby) and Enhance You Calm ($100,000 Trotting Derby) behave themselves and race up to their potential they should both him.  The NZ Trot Champs is a battle of the established in Speeding Spur and Marcoola against the four-year-olds but Marcoola is still top trotting dog until somebody wrestles that title off him.   Michael Guerin

The drive on a last-start Miracle Mile winner doesn’t get given away very often so Tim Williams knows he is a lucky man.  But he might still need every ounce of that luck to turn his golden opportunity into something more tangible in the $100,000 Breckon Farms Easter Cup at Addington  on Friday night.  Williams, the third-string driver for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, will be given the reins behind Spankem even though after his Miracle Mile victory five weeks ago you could make the case he isn’t just the best horse in their stable but as good as any in Australasia.  But a thankful Williams wasn’t surprised his bosses opted to stay with their more regular drives.  “Natalie drove Thefixer to win the New Zealand Cup and Mark has driven Turn It Up all along, including his Auckland Cup win,” says Williams.  “When Turn It Up didn’t go to Aussie it meant Mark could get back on Spankem but I can understand him sticking with Turn It Up now they all back together.  “But I’m in a pretty privileged position to get on a horse like him straight after he wins a Miracle Mile.” Not that it by any means guarantees victory as the race is now shaping as the strongest of the season in New Zealand, even superior to the New Zealand Cup.  While Tiger Tara started in the New Zealand Cup along with Dream About Me, this Friday’s race has that NZ Cup winner, the Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile heroes as well as Easter Cup defending champion A G’s White Socks, the in-form Henry Hubert and former Jewels winners Eamon Maguire and Jack’s Legend, the latter having also finished second to Lazarus in a NZ Cup 18 months ago.  Williams admits nobody at the All Stars knows what to expect. “I think everybody likes to think they might know what will happen in a race but when it is a 3200m standing start handicap it is impossible to tell.  “So I am looking forward to seeing what happens like everybody else.”  Turn It Up will likely start favourite even though he hasn’t raced for three months because he gets a 10m start over Spankem and Thefixer (20m) but those advantages can disappear with the slightest bobble or scrap of bad luck.  While the Easter Cup isn’t easy to predict the $200,000 Diamond Creek Farm NZ Derby got a whole lot clearer after the pre-draw favourite Ultimate Sniper drew barrier four after emergencies.  While he cost punters plenty when galloping last start in the Flying Stakes he has worked well since and with stablemate Jesse Duke on the second line Ultimate Sniper will start well into the red.  So too will Enhance Your Calm in the $100,000 NZ Trotting Derby but the $100,000 NZ Trotting Champs looks a good puzzle, with newcomer King’s Landing (three) and veteran Speeding Spur (four) getting the better of Marcoola (six) in the draws.  TAB markets for the group ones should be open today. Michael Guerin

Addington racing manager Brian Rabbitt thought All Stars were pulling an April Fool’s Day stunt when he looked through the early nominations for the Easter Cup and saw Princess Tiffany among them. A three year old filly in a 3200m race ? How likely was that ? Well not really likely. But Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are making a point. There is no other race for her on the New Zealand Derby night programme on Friday and she is a filly who needs racing. “I suppose you could say we are having a little protest at the programming, especially for three year olds” Natalie said, “She has had a little break and she needs to have a race. But there is not one for her on the programme. So the Easter Cup is the only option” All Stars will have a good list of starters in the Cup, Turn It Up, Thefixer, Eamon Maguire, Spankem, Elle Mac -and Princess Tiffany. Altogether the stable will have 18 starters at the Premier meeting with Cheerful included in the nominations for the Trotting Derby, and a bunch of juveniles for the Welcome Stakes.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Barry Purdon has no idea what is behind Jack’s Legend renaissance but he is keen to see if it can extend all the way to a Easter Cup.  So the most in-form pacer in the country will spearhead a stable assault on Addington in coming weeks as Purdon aims at premier racing there on two separate occasions in  the next few months. Jack’s Legend made it four open class wins on end in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All at Alexandra Park last Friday and it was the style in which he achieved the victory that filled Purdon was satisfaction.  “I thought he would go well because he has been in such good form but to it parked and win in that grade is a big performance,” says Purdon.  “There were some good horses in that field and sitting parked has never really been his go but as he had gotten older maybe he is just knuckling down more. They don’t often sit parked to win good races at Alexandra Park.”  While Purdon is full of praise for how new driver Scott Phelan has been handling Jack’s Legend he was just as happy with how regular pilot Zac Butcher had been, so he says the improvement in the five-year-old can’t be put down to that, as good as job as Phelan as done  “He seems to have gotten his confidence back but really there isn’t one reason for it.  “But he is a happy horse so he has earned a trip to Addington.”  Jack’s Legend has of course been to Addington plenty of times before and split Lazarus and Tiger Tara, no mean feat, when finishing second in the New Zealand Cup 17 months ago. He will return for the Four and Five-Year-Old Superstars on March 29 before the Easter Cup a week later.  “He will head down there with Supreme Dominator, who is going down for the Derby.  “Then Jack’s Legend might even come home and have another race before the end of the season because those $25,000 stakes at Alexandra Park are so good.”  Purdon is proud to see his home track boosting stakes to record levels but that won’t be his sole focus for the rest of the season. “After the Easter Cup meeting we will be looking south later in the season with Belle Of Montana and Havtime for the Nevele R and the Oaks and then maybe the Jewels, as we could have some other horses for that month of racing too.”   Michael Guerin

The biggest name in New Zealand racing is set for a surprise season swansong - maybe even two. Champion pacer Lazarus could start in both Auckland and Christchurch before the end of the season, giving New Zealand fans a rare chance to see the freakish pacer. Trainer Mark Purdon is reluctant to confirm either of those options until after next week's A$750,000 Miracle Mile in New South Wales but says they are both on the table as he would love to give Lazarus's fans a chance to see him in the flesh. Lazarus has drawn the ace in his A$100,000 Miracle Mile Prelude at Menangle on Saturday night and is a $1.60 favourite to win Sydney's greatest harness race a week later. He would then have 13 days before the $50,000 Co-Op Taxis Free-For-All at Alexandra Park, a race his stablemate Smolda started in last season after running a close second in the Miracle Mile. "Laz has to travel home through Auckland anyway and could well be there around that time so he is definitely a chance to start at Alexandra Park," says Purdon. "I wouldn't make any decision until after the Miracle Mile because he has had a busy summer and done a lot of travelling but I would like people at home to get a chance to see him. "The way the fans in Perth and Victoria have received him has been wonderful and we know plenty of people back home would love to see him too." Even if Lazarus doesn't make it to Alexandra Park for what would be harness racing's version of a Winx-like occasion, he is almost certain to head to the Easter Cup, fittingly sponsored by Purdon's All Stars stables, at Addington on March 31. "That is definitely on his programme at this stage," confirmed Purdon. If Lazarus doesn't race at Alexandra Park he may need a blowout in the Addington free-for-all a week earlier, so he looks likely to have two starts in New Zealand to end his season. "And then regardless of what happens in the Easter Cup he will be finished for the season and we will aim him at a third New Zealand Cup next term." While he is New Zealand's most loved harness horse Lazarus has only had four starts here this season, the last being his New Zealand Cup win on November 14. Since then he has won the Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup and if he adds the Miracle Mile will be the only horse to hold Australasia's four greatest race titles at the same time. Meanwhile, exactly who drives stablemate and second favourite Heaven Rocks in the Miracle Mile is unclear, with no date set for Natalie Rasmussen's appeal against her suspension that could cost her the drive. With Jilliby Kung Fu having accepted his invitation to the Miracle Mile, the other seven spots in the super sprint will be filled from the starters in Saturday's two preludes. Lazarus's list • A$100,000 Prelude at Menangle on Saturday. • A$750,000 Miracle Mile on Feb 24. • Potentially $50,000 Free-For-All at Alex Park on March 9 or $30,000 Free-For-All at Addington on March 23. • $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington on March 31. Michael Guerin

The mental fragility of New Zealand’s most eccentric pacing talent may be a blessing for local harness racing. Because Heaven Rocks, freakish winner of Saturday's $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington, may be too loopy to take to Australia. And that could see him become a pacing rarity next season, a crowd-puller who races almost exclusively in New Zealand. The four-year-old with the huge motor and small brain recorded one of the racetrack stunners of the season on Saturday, overcoming an early gallop which cost him 40m to still thrash his older opponents. That in itself would have been impressive from the veteran of a mere 14 starts but the jaw-dropping aspect was that Heaven Rocks made up all of his lost ground inside the first 800m. Once driver Natalie Rasmussen settled the rampaging mammoth, who was scared into a gallop but rivals rushing up behind him, she gave him his head and he launched. His giant stride saw him circle the field to seize the lead with two laps to go and he left some of New Zealand’s best pacers floundering, winning by nearly three lengths in a tidy 3:58.7, his last 800m seemingly effortlessly in 54.1 seconds. Heaven Rocks’s next stop is Alexandra Park for another clash with stablemates Lazarus and Waikiki Beach in the Messenger on April 28 and then on to the Harness Jewels at Ashburton on June 3. He may not be ready to beat Lazarus yet but he appears to have a similar motor and with Lazarus now out of the Jewels officially, Heaven Rocks is odds-on to repeat his win of last season. But the more interesting question is whether the freakish show in harness racing can travel, with the Australian riches overwhelming but the downside’s obvious. Heaven Rocks may not be a perfect standing start horse yet but next season’s biggest domestic targets --- the New Zealand and Auckland Cups -- are both stands where he can start off the unruly and ease away without having horses behind him like he did on Saturday. Under those conditions, given time to settle, he could be a staying superstar. But Australia presents very different challenges. Every major race he could be aimed for there is a mobile and that would mean giving exceptional, hard-running rivals starts on sometimes smaller tracks and shorter distances. The saucer that is Gloucester Park would seem to rule out the Inter Dominions, while he would be dodgy at best for a 2240m around Melton for the Victoria Cup. And no matter how big his motor and suitable Menangle would be, horses with his lack of early manners don’t win Miracle Miles. So for next season at least Heaven Rocks might be allowed to stay closer to home, learn some trackcraft and thrill local race fans in the process while his stablemates go hunting for Aussie loot. On a night of big performances, Golden Goddess thrust herself back into Jewels contention with her first win of the season and Spankem moved to the top of the juvenile pacing pecking order with a dramatic Sires’ Stakes win. But the training performance of the night had to be Phil Williamson, who produced a debutante in Springbank Lachie to win the NZ Trotting Stakes, an incredibly rare feat for a first starter in a group three race. Heaven Rocks Springbank Lachie Michael Guerin

Natalie Rasmussen knows better than to try and dance with the devil, so you won’t see Heaven Rock’s straying too far from the nest for the next few months. The massive pacer with the big motor and even bigger bag of tricks was simply stunning when winning last night's (Saturday) Group One $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington after blowing the stand start and while he showed his best work for about 3100 metres of the 3200 metres, Rasmussen couldn’t help but ponder what could be if he was a little more tractable.  “He’s very, very good, there’s no doubting that,” she said.  “But he’s also a big orangutan.” While there must be some temptation to go and take on the best in Australasia with such an exciting talent, Rasmussen, and her training partner, Mark Purdon are more inclined to stick to the proven and keep Heaven Rocks around the Rolleston base and make a bid at a second Jewels success.  “I don’t think at this stage, with some of his mannerism, sending him away would be the best thing for him.  “He’s getting better, but he’s still a ratbag and you certainly couldn’t leave him with someone, so we are better keeping him close by where we can manage, and handle him.” That news will likely result in a shot at the Rangiora Classic in a couple of weeks before the Jewels preparation.  Becoming a dual, Jewels winners became a bit easier on Saturday night with Purdon officially withdrawing superstar Lazarus from the big race day.  Heaven Rocks has now won eight of his 14 starts and took his earnings past $200,000 on Saturday night for his connections; Phil and Glenys Kennard, Phil and Margaret Creighton, Gavin Douglas and Kevin Riseley.  After missing away from the stand start, he settled quickly into his work and Rasmussen took any further bad luck out of the equation and launched her way to the lead within the first 500 metres.  “He relaxed back to me really well which is a good thing because he can pull.  “He got a bit keen when the bell went at the mile marker, but again came back to me really well and was just travelling super from there on.” They stopped the clock in a slick 3:58.7 with Captain Dolmio emerging from the ruck to run a valiant second while North Island visitor Maxim was a very good third.  Saturday was another good night out for the All Stars with wins coming from Elle Mac, Golden Goddess and Spankem to sit alongside Heaven Rocks.  Two Brad’s enjoyed good night’s out with Brad Williamson driving his first Group race winner with Springbank Lachie who was stunning on debut in the New Zealand Two-Year-Old Trotting Stakes while Brad Mowbray grabbed himself a double with Ultimate Desire and Delishka.    Matt Markham    

Natalie Rasmussen has no idea what might happen at the start of tonight’s Easter Cup at Addington, but she does know that one of two scenarios will play out - one good and one not so good. Rasmussen has the drive on hot-pot Heaven Rocks and what the monster pacer does from behind the barrier strand will determine what happens for the remainder of the 3200 metre Group One. The 13-time New Zealand Group One winning driver was rather frank in her assessment of her chances. “He’ll either step away and probably win, or blow it and take no part,” she said. “And I don’t really know which one it will be. It very much depends on what kind of mood he is when he gets around to the start and that.” But if Heaven Rocks mood is anything to draw confidence from then punters who have him at $2.50 to win tonight might be a little worried when they hear what the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding has been like around home this week. “He’s been in a horrible mood most of the week in the weather,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve been working him on the round track and he’s been a bit of a brute and Mark (Purdon) worked him on the straight track today (Friday) and said he was good but still in a foul mood.” Second last start behind his superstar stablemate, Lazarus, Heaven Rocks will start from the outside of the front line and be given plenty of room by Rasmussen who intends to have a starters assistant at the horse’s side throughout the starting process. While the clear air in front of him when the tape pings could be a concern, there’s more worry about what will be coming from behind him. “It’s a really quick 10 metre line and those horses rushing forward on him could be a problem.” The Purdon and Rasmussen stable have three runners in the event with Chase The Dream and Piccadilly Princess also lining up in the $100,000 race. Piccadilly Princess will be looking to become the third mare since the start of the millennium to win the race and follow in the footsteps of Adore Me and Alta Serena. Nigel McGrath also has a strong hand in the race with his two runners, Classie Brigade and Maverick. The former was very good sitting parked outside Lazarus and if Heaven Rocks was to leave his manners at home he would become the most likely victor of the race. Robert Dunn also has two runners engaged with Southern import Captain Dolmio a real sleeper off his front mark and Franco Nelson who returns after setting a New Zealand record when he was produced two weeks ago. Maxim will be out to become the first North Island horse since Alta Serena in 2005 to win the Easter Cup and incidentally will have trainer/driver Brent Mangos in the bike who drove Alta Serena. Dexter Dunn will be aiming for his third straight win in the race when he combines with Titan Banner for Graeme Anderson having won with Locharburn and Christen Me in the past two years.    Matt Markham

Maxim is going to tell trainer Brent Mangos something on Saturday night. Because where the heroic comeback pacer finishes in the $100,000 Easter Cup could determine his pathway for next season. Maxim has been one of the stories of the harness racing season, the former Victoria Derby winner who was sidelined for a remarkable three years before returning for new trainer Mangos. He was sent the horse by Barry Purdon so Maxim could be swum regularly to ease pressure on his troublesome legs and Mangos has worked the miracle, the now six-year-old having won three of his four starts since his huge break. But now Maxim heads back into the big time, against four other Group One winners, two NZ Cup placegetters and Classie Brigade, who holds the second fastest 3200m winning time in New Zealand history. It is a steep jump in class and could determine whether Maxim is set for a New Zealand Cup campaign or something a level easier. “I know he is up to them,” says Mangos. “He won very well last week at Alex Park and while he only went 2:41, he could have gone 2:38 (for 2200m mobile). “And it is not even that. He just feels like a good horse should. “So I can see him running in three this week, maybe even better because he will keep going no matter what the speed.” Mangos admits what all punters know, if the best version of freakish talent Heaven Rocks turns up on Saturday night he may have too much x-factor for even a field of this class. But while it took Lazarus to beat him last start, Heaven Rocks may not be ideally suited by the field configuration as he is on the front line but unruly with some fast beginners on the 10m handicap mark. Not only will that give the mammoth pacer little room to move early but the added threat of horses rushing up behind him early. It may not matter and if he is able to behave then he might simply be too special. “A horse like him would be very hard to beat but if his manners see him settle a little way off us then horses like my fella and Captain Dolmio will roll along and make it hard for the others.” As good as Maxim is, and he looks serious open class material, he is not proven at that level yet whereas Franco Nelson and Titan Banner are. Franco Nelson almost won Adore Me’s New Zealand Cup two years ago and is a high class stayer with great manners who is well placed under Saturday’s handicaps. So he looks the best value to upset Heaven Rocks, while Titan Banner was third in this season’s New Zealand Cup and was massive at Alexandra Park in December so is another worthy of respect in a wonderfully put together field, in which almost any of the nine could win without stunning. A surprise entry for the Cup is Piccadilly Princess as trainer Mark Purdon tries to earn around $5000 more dollars with her domestically this season to assure her place in the Harness Jewels come June. Her stablemate Golden Goddess races in a $13,000 race on Saturday for the same reason, needing to earn around $18,000 in the next six weeks to make the Jewels because she has no earnings that count toward the Jewels this season. “There aren’t many races for them and Golden Goddess in particular needs to win some money soon,” says Purdon. The stable will dominate betting on the two-year-old pace on Saturday, with Spankem certain to be odds on after his easy win in last Friday’s Welcome Stakes. One of the heartening factors at Saturday’s meeting is the capacity field with some genuine talent in the juvenile Trotting Stakes, with the two-year-old crop looking one of the more advanced in recent years.   Michael Guerin

With the depth of the open class pacing ranks in New Zealand not exactly flush this season due to injury and retirement, harness racing has been crying out for a new face to challenge the established stars and just lately there have been a few looking likely. Seel  The Deal and Costa Del Magnifico have suggested they will be challengers with some outstanding performances so far this season while some of those coming back from injury such as Locharburn and Franco Nelson are proven performers at this level but now have to really re-establish themselves after quietly working themselves back into form. Tonights $100,000 Group 1 Easter Cup at Addington Raceway only drew one horse to have raced on the Grand Circuit with distinction this season in the form of the Courage Under Fire gelding, Smolda who was handicapped on 20 metres.  Locharburn (Christian Cullen) is a renowned stayer and with a 20 metre head start, he was given a good chance of upsetting Smolda while several others had a case to be a first four player. Mighty Flying Mac and Blair Orange grabbed the lead early and kept the tempo solid before handing up to Sky Major and Zac Butcher with two laps to go. Two hundred metres later, Locharburn and Dexter Dunn who been working around the field for the first 800 metres swept to the front with ease and eased off the pace a touch to give the big horse a bit of a breather. With a mile to go, Smolda and Mark Purdon started to mooch around the field from the rear and ended up on Locharburn's wheel with 1000 metres to go at which point Dexter upped the tempo. Off the back straight Dexter went for broke and put two to three lengths on Smolda as they straightened for home. As only Smolda can do, he slowly started to reel in Locharburn in the straight and in the last 50 metres Smolda got up alongside Locharburn but just couldn't get past and was still a neck adrift at the winning post. Smolda was as game as ever in running second with Mighty Flying Mac flying along the inner late for third. Costa Del Magnifico provided a minor highlight of the race after working early, sitting parked for 600 metres and running on well again to break 4:00 in finishing fourth. Locharburn paced the 3200 metres in a very quick 3:58.9, a mile rate of 2:00.1 with closing sectionals of 55.3 and 27.9 It is the third quickest time for the 3200 metres Easter Cup since the race was changed to that distance in 1972 with only Christen Me and Monkey King having gone quicker. Smolda's official time of 3:57.4 off the 20 metres mark was a brilliant effort from the old warrior. Dexter Dunn was all smiles post race. "I had to work a bit early to get around them but once I got to front I was able to button off the speed a touch." "I upped the ante at the 1000 metre mark and really put the pressure on down the back straight." "When I had a look just before the corner, I thought Mark was a bit flat on Smolda so I went for home." "I thought I was on the winner until the last 50 metres when Smolda really came at us but Locharburn had enough of a lead to hold him out and my fella fights really hard," Dexter said. Locharburn plans are not set in concrete but Dexter felt that tonights race may be last this season with a view to having a long prep aimed at next years New Zealand Cup. Harnesslink Media  

The crowd came to the harness racing meeting at Addington last night hoping to see their champion, Terror To Love go out on a winning note. Most were hopeful but not expectant as the three time New Zealand Cup champion had been battling injury and a form slump by his own high standards leading into last nights Easter Cup. You heard an audible gasp from the crowd when Terror To Love with regular pilot Ricky May in the bike galloped away and then kept galloping for nigh on 70 metres before hitting his hobbles and starting to pace. Arch rival Christen Me and Dexter Dunn had also missed away but settled ten lengths in front of Terror To Love and these two were miles off the hot pace set by Tiger Tara. Christen Me tacked on to the bunch after 700 metres while it took Terror To Love another 300 metres to tag on to the bunch. After 1400 metres Mark Purdon sent the former age group star Border Control to the front and upped the tempo even more. With the high tempo there were no mid race moves and it wasn't until the 400 metres mark that Dexter launched Christen Me and while Terror To Love was left a touch flat footed, he took off after him. With 150 metres to go Christen Me swept to the lead but Border Control wouldn't go away and Terror To Love joined in late. At the finish Christen Me had a neck to spare over a game Border Control with just a head back to Terror To Love in third. Christen Me paced the 3200 metres from a stand in 3:57.2, a mile rate of 1:59.2 with closing sectionals off the front of 56.9 and 27.1 That took a second off the race record previously held by the champion Monkey King. Terror To Love was credited with a placed time of 3:57.3 but that time doesn't do the champion justice. Terror To Love paced his first mile after that wild early gallop in 1:57.8 and then proceeded to pace his last mile in 1:56.3 for a post to post time of 3:54.1 and he finished that off with a last quarter of 26.7. It was the run of a true champion and left everybody wondering what might have been. Driver Ricky May was both thrilled with the run and gutted by the result. " He warmed up beautifully tonight and seemed so relaxed pre start and then he did that." " The run afterwards was huge and I was thrilled with how he went but you can't help feeling disappointed that but for missing away he could have gone out on a winning note," Ricky said. Terror To Love heads to stud the winner of 31 races and $2,429,978 in stakes. You had to feel for the Christen Me camp who had just won the Easter Cup but were virtually ignored by the big media contingent there to witness the last raceday appearance of Christen Me. Last nights win was his ninth this season from just 14 starts and took his stake earnings to $2,281,318 with the highlight this season undoubtedly being his win in the Miracle Mile in 1:49.1 The run of Christen Me was just further confirmation of how far he has come in the last twelve months and the camp may now have to reassess their New Zealand Cup plans after last nights win. Harnesslink Media  

Patrons on track will notice a brand new large Digital Display on course at our next race meeting, this Easter Saturday night, 4 April. The big LED screen measuring approximately nine metres x five metres, will be located immediately adjacent to the Winning Post in front of the Metropolitan Stand and will show live races from the track, pre-race totes and post-race dividends. Replacing the tote board in the inner track area, the Digital Screen will enhance the experience for on course patrons providing a modern structure incorporating leading edge technology. Easter Saturday night also sees champion pacer Terror To Love race for the last time in the Group One $100,000 Breckon Farms / All Stars Racing Stables Easter Cup, a race he won in 2013. The Terror will lead the field out for the Cup with a montage including his three great Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup wins showing on the large screen whilst he parades. There’ll be promotions on course including a double happy hour, Terror To Love caps, posters and a 1000 Easter Eggs given away and a life sized cut out figure of the champ hitched to a sulky for those keen to take part and have their photo taken.  The champ will be officially farewelled on the The Breeders New Zealand Oaks Night on Friday 15 May before he enters his new career as a stallion where he’ll stand at Pinelea Farm in Weedons,Canterbury. There’ll be a presentation made by The Met to his connections, on-course promotions and The Terror will parade for his fans. Let’s hope the champ bows out with a victory this Saturday night and adds another Group 1 to his impressive resume. Who can ever forget those three second Tuesdays in November made famous by one of our equine greats.  Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

24 March 2015 - Three-times Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Terror To Love will start for a final time when he lines up in the Group One $100,000 Breckon Farms / All Stars Racing Stables Easter Cup on Easter Saturday, the 4th April. A race he won in 2013. “The King”, as he is known to many in the industry, lines up in this Friday’s Group Three $25,000 Gordon Roxburgh Free-For-All, before facing the starters tape for the final time in the Easter Cup over his favourite 3200 metre distance where he’ll lead the field out onto the track. It’s appropriate that he finishes his racing career at his favourite racetrack, he’s won 16 of his 32 starts at Addington, the champ will bow out as one of the greatest pacers we have ever seen with his career highlight undoubtedly being crowned a three-time winner of New Zealand’s holy grail, the New Zealand Trotting Cup. A feat only equalled by two other great pacers - Indianapolis and False Step many years ago. That won’t be the last time fans will get to see “The Terror” though. The winner of over a staggering $2.4 million will be back to be officially farewelled on The Breeders New Zealand Oaks Night at Addington on Friday 15 May, before entering his new career as a stallion where he’ll stand at Pinelea Farm in Weedons, Canterbury. Fans will get the opportunity to see “The Terror” on the night. He’ll parade up the home straight, a presentation hosted by The Met will take place and there’ll be promotions throughout the evening to honour one of the greatest equine athletes ever to grace the racetracks of Australasia. Adding to this, his owner Terry McDonald will be generously donating a stallion service for Terror To Love which will no doubt be warmly received, as there’ll be a large number of breeders on course attending a function on Oaks Night. Make sure you are at Addington to see “The Terror” and be part of a farewell he so richly deserves. Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager

Of course he must be otherwise Mark and Natalie wouldn't be starting him ! But seriously will a lack of racing find Hands Christian out at the end of a hard 3200metres? Its possible. Before his great run in the Canterbury Classic he had not raced for two years and five months since breaking down in the Messenger (4th) at Alexandra Park. In the previous month he had won the Easter Cup in 4.04 beating Terror To Love -only his third win at Addington after a heartbreak loss to Gold Ace in the Sires Stakes Final at three.  But he had a lot of racing leading up to that Easter Cup including a win in the Paleface Adios in Australia. To be honest few male pacers in modern times have won the race with two races in two years -actually none-and Mark concedes that he would have had more racing but for the tendon issues. His previous tendon injuries have restricted the race pressure Mark and Natalie have been prepared to put Hands Christian under. But he has been in work a long time and his actual fitness levels will equal most in this field. And he pulled up so well in the Flying Stakes he might not even need to go to the Cup Trial. Hands Christian's being able to resume after such a long break and match up with the best has caught the eye of canny punters. When the Cup book opened he was at $61 but he is a lot shorter now. Even before the drive on Smolda or Adore Me was going for the Cup Natalie said she was more than happy to drive Hands Christian. The lady is a fine judge. The record book is against the gallant Hands. But then record books have surrendered to Cup winners in the past and he is on track for a truly remarkable comeback-one of the biggest in cup history. It won't be easy. You couldn't say it was probable. But it can happen. Courtesy Of All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this  season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in  terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving  total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable.  Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me.  It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER  "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing

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