While there were plenty of highs to come out of Cup Week, there were also a few lows, and one of them was the retirement of ‘crowd favourite’ Highview Tommy, who ran well down on his best in the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday. “He has had a great career, but I think it is time to pull the pin. He just hasn’t been the ‘Tommy’ of old recently,” said his co-owner and biggest fan, Hazel van Opzeeland. van Opzeeland purchased Highview Tommy out of the Ready-To-Run Sales as a two-year-old, and has been on the ride of her life ever since. “I was working for Michael House at the time, he was preparing ‘Tommy’ for the sale and I fell in love with the horse,” recalled van Opzeeled. “I followed his progress the whole way through and even before I had purchased him, I claimed him as mine,” she laughed. “Every time he worked the stable boys would joke to me saying your horse just went up $10,000 today Hazel. “At the time, I was new to racing and I didn’t even know what that really meant but now I know it must have been because he was working so well. “When I talked to Michael about buying him he said I don’t care what you do, just make sure you get Mark Purdon involved.” So, that is exactly what van Opzeeland did, albeit not until the day before the sale. “I was still a bit undecided and left it until the last minute. That was the first ever time I spoke with Mark Purdon. The next day van Opzeeland and Purdon secured Highview Tommy, the quickest time trialist of the 2007 Ready-To-Run, for $200,000, before Phillip & Glenys Kennard came on board once returning from the Rugby World Cup. “I had met Phillip and Glenys through their Micheal and Michelle House and their purchase of Fiery Falcon, who also went on to be a top horse, out of Micheal’s 2006 Ready-To-Run draft,” explained van Opzeeland. Wind the clock forward a few months and the brilliant racing career of Highview Tommy had begun, starting from a modest two placings in Auckland and building to the heights of wins in the $100,000 Welcome Stakes and the$200,000 2YO Harness Jewels and placings in the Sales Series Open and Sires Stakes Final, this saw him crowned Two-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year. “He was only really ranked as Mark & Grant’s second best two-year-old earlier on behind Sir Clive, so Blair Orange got the drive on him and they managed to string up a wonderful association,” explained van Opzeeland. As a three-year-old ‘Tommy’ placed third in the 3YO Sires Stakes’ Final and second in the 3YO Sales Series Open, with Stunin Cullen the fly in ‘Tommy’s ointment, but it wasn’t long before the bulky black son of Bettor’s Delight kicked back, winning the $50,000 Southern Supremacy Final in record time. “It was a big thrill to take ‘Tommy’ home to Southland and win the Southern Supremacy and the Invercargil Cup,” said van Opzeeland. “I’ve become very good friends with the Clark family who bred Tommy, and it was wonderful for them. Highview Tommy is a first foal from his dam Baptism Of Fire (Christian Cullen), while he was also the first horse bred by Riverton's Allan Clark, a son of Highview Stud's Dave Clark. "The story goes that Dave gave me Baptism Of Fire in return for the good work on the yearlings to get me started, but there was a bit more to it than that,” says Allan Clark "She has certainly been a good start though," he added. Baptism Of Fire’s next three foals were Highview Chartom (5 wins), Highview Chasue (4 wins), and Highview Teejay (5 wins), and van Opzeeland has been involved in the ownership of all three of them. “I recently sold Highview Teejay, he is now with Grant Dixon in Queensland. Highview Freddy who sold at this year’s Yearling Sale for$122,000 is the first one from the family that I haven’t bought into.” As an older horse, Highview Tommy was successful in the Superstars Champion, the Tuepeka Cup, the Invercargil Cup, the Manukau Summer Cup, the Interdominion Consolation, the Franklin Cup, and ofcourse the Group One Ballarat Cup, where he come flying down the outside to beat Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up at odds of $101. “I wasn’t even there that night, but it was still so exciting and definitely has to be one of his career highlights. “To beat horses of the calibre of Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up, who at the time, were right on top of their game, was absolutely amazing.” Highview Tommy, who also has dual New Zealand Cup placings on his resume, cracked $1 million-dollars in stake earning earlier on in the season when being trained by Greg & Nina Hope, who trained the entire for the last eight starts of his 104 start career at Woodend Beach, in an attempt to get him back to his best form. “One of the things I am very proud of is that he won $100,000 every season from when he was two-years-old to seven-years-old,” proclaimed van Opzeeland. “There are plenty of horses that win $100,000 as a two or three-year-old or a $100,000 as an older horse, but not many that do that right the way through their career,” she clarified. On a personal note, one of my favourite memories of the horse that rocked a mohawk haircut was his staggering win on Cup Day of 2009, when he blitzed his rivals in a time of 3-08.5, equalling the 2600m New Zealand Record of Desperate Comment. Van Opzeeland said that she is still unsure where Highview Tommy will be standing at stud next season, but with her involvement at Woodlands, I would have it as the $1.50 favourite. *Video attached: Highview Tommy winning on Cup Day in New Zealand record time. By Mitchell Robertson
Australia's most exciting pacer is confirmed for the 2011 Auckland Cup meeting and he could have plenty of company on the plane over. And Themightyquinn could head a remarkable early Australian harness racing domination at the head of the markets for the group one classics on Auckland Cup Night on March 11.
Fiery Falcon was outstanding yet somewhat unlucky on the racetrack in that he ran into exceptional horses in both his two and three year old years-and he overcame that. But he could not overcome the virus which afflected him after the Motukarara harness racing workouts last Monday and which took his life at Roydon Lodge on Thursday evening.
Ohoka Nevada might have been denied the $20,000 West Coast bonus when beaten a head and a neck in the Reefton Cup but he has certainly made up for it by winning two $30,000 races in four starts since.
Fiery Falcon will be aimed at the Auckland Cup next March, providing he can continue on with the brilliant New Zealand record breaking form he displayed at Addington Raceway this afternoon (November 11).
In any other season Fiery Falcon (Mach Three) would be the best three-year-old in New Zealand and probably the best horse in the powerful Mark Purdon/Grant Payne stable.
TAB Harness Bookmaker Steve Richardson reported a relatively quiet afternoon of Harness Jewels fixed odds betting action, with only Fiery Falcon and Changeover attracting serious wagers.
The dominant All Stars racing juggernaut heads two ways from Rolleston this week to chase the big money at different ends of the country. Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, with 69 wins, are making a one horse race of the trainers' premiership, breaking Catherine and David Butt’s vice like grip in recent years.
Mark Purdon's vice-like grip on the $200,000 2008 Christian Cullen New Zealand Derby (2600 metres) at Addington on Friday night is a continuation of the remarkable run of success he has enjoyed in the classic.
Horses can’t talk but, if they could, it would be interesting to ask Classic Cullen why in the words of his co trainer Mark Purdon he is “racing now with more will to win.’’
Mark Purdon and Grant Payne have the 3-Year-Old colts and geldings feature races seemingly at their mercy after Fiery Falcon led all the way to win the Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park tonight (February 29).
New Zealand’s joint leading driver of the season Peter Ferguson can’t get over how laid back star 3 Year Old pacing filly Lizzie Maguire has become after he drove her to preserve her unbeaten southern record at Ashburton today Saturday 9 February.
Despite not being 100 percent as well suited the right handed Auckland way, Fiery Falcon is expected to contest the $200,000 Woodlands Northern Pacing Derby (2700m, mobile) at Alexandra Park on Friday 29 February.
Exciting sire Mach Three came of age when his outstanding sons and stable mates Auckland Reactor and Fiery Falcon completed the quinella for Mark Purdon and Grant Payne in the Gr 1 $200,000 NRM New Zealand Sires’ Stakes Final (1950m, mobile) at Addington today Tuesday 13 November.
Leading trainers Mark Purdon and Grant Payne now have six 3 Year Old pacers qualified for the final of the Gr 1 NRM Sires’ Stakes Final (13 starters) on 13 November at Addington after racing there tonight Friday 2 November.
Despite the outbreak of Equine Influenza in Australia, interest from across the Tasman in the PGG Wrightson Ready To Run Sale in Christchurch on Wednesday 10 October is the highest it has ever been.