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NEXT year’s Inter Dominion will have a very different look to Auckland this year. The new rotation sees the sport’s marquee event go to NSW in 2020, but just two of the four nights of racing will be at Menangle’s Tabcorp Park. Although yet to be formalized, it is understood regional centres Newcastle and Bathurst will both host rounds of qualifying heats. It expected the series will open at Menangle with heats on Saturday, November 28. Newcastle is set to host the midweek heats on Wednesday, December 2, then it’s off to Bathurst for the final round of qualifiers on Saturday, December 5. The Inter Dominion pacing and trotting finals will be back at Menangle on Saturday, December 12. NSW has conducted regional heats the past two times it has hosted a traditional Inter Dominion format, both times at Newcastle in 2002 and 2010. The exceptions were the controversial three years NSW hosted the Inter Dominion between 2013-15 when heats were held at a variety of tracks across Australia and NZ.   By Adam Hamilton

By Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Ultimate Sniper left no doubt as to who was the premier horse of the 2019 Inter Dominion with a brutal Championship victory, sitting in the breeze throughout to cap a perfect series. Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and driven by the latter, the All Stars continued an exceptional night in the $500,000 feature, when Ultimate Sniper became the first four-year-old since 1991 to sweep the series. The victory was apart of the stable winning seven of the opening nine races, including a clean sweep of the trotting (Winterfell) and pacing Inter Dominion finals as well as an extraordinary performance by Another Masterpiece to win the consolation. "We thought when the fields come out we could have a good night with a bit of luck," Rasmussen said. "This bloke (Ultimate Sniper) didn't have too much luck but he was good enough. We just can't believe it." Nothing has come easy for Ultimate Sniper throughout the series and that didn't change in tonight's final, with expectations that he would waltz to the lead proving unfounded. While the peg-line would ultimately settle A G's White Socks ahead of Mach Shard, On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate, Ultimate Sniper moved into the breeze with San Carlo on his back. WINTERFELL STARS TO SALUTE IN THE 2019 INTER DOM FINAL "I thought it could pan out like that, I didn't bustle him too early and he did all the work," Rasmussen said. "He relaxed so well and he's so kind and lovely, and then when I asked him he just had that kick left." With a lap to go the three-wide line emerged with Chase Auckland followed by stablemates Cruz Bromac and Thefixer, with Ultimate Sniper nosing A G's White Socks by the turn and then it was a matter of could he hold the chasers? Mach Shard emerged down the sprint lane and Thefixer was the best of those running on wide, but Ultimate Sniper had all the answers. "He was tired on the line, he just didn't give up," Rasmussen said. "For a four-year-old to come out and do it the way he has done it, he's never had an easy run or anything, but he made his own luck. I'm just absolutely rapt with the horse. "I've been so lucky to drive so many great horses, but this is really quite special tonight. For a four-year-old to go undefeated in a traditional series, all through the heats and the final, just a wonderful feat." While the All Stars Racing team have had many a magical night, this was a particularly special one at Alexandra Park. "They see Mark and I winning, they don't realise the crew behind it and the people involved - from the breeders to the preparers to the people at home getting them ready. All our staff ... they will just be thrilled to bits. It just touches so many people." Of the TeamVic quartet, Cruz Bromac finished fourth, Sicario seventh, My Kiwi Mate ninth and San Carlo 11th. WHERE DID YOU FINISH IN TROTSTARS? CLICK HERE   HRV Trots Media - Michael Howard

Harness racing master trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have grabbed another Gr1 title after Winterfell won the $150,000 HR Fisken & Sons 2019 Inter Dominion Trotting Final in a thrilling finish tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Mark Purdon seized the initiative early in the race re-taking the lead from Majestic Man after that horse had crossed him out of the mobile at the beginning of the race. Despite being nursed around the final turn and being headed early in the run home Winterfell fought back like a top horse and stuck his head in front just before the line to get a deserved win. "I had to nurse him a bit around the final turn," Purdon said after the race. "Once he got around the final turn he trotted faultlessly. But he did have ground to make up again, because he had been headed at that stage by the horse on the outside of him"  "I was a bit concerned but he was very tenacious to the line," he said. Massive Metro was brave in defeat fighting on well for third after heading the favourite on the turn and Majestic Man got going late in the run home and dashed into second. Winterfell (5g Majestic Son - Una Bromac by Live Or Die) trotted the 2700m mobile in 3-21.6 a mile rate of 2-00.1. The last 800m was run in 58.2 and the final 400m was trotted in 28.9 seconds. Harnesslink Media

At 92 years of age, harness racing stalwart Helen Head is still as passionate about the sport as she has ever been. And the Shepparton local makes no secret that when she is trackside at another Inter Dominion Final at Alexandra Park in Auckland tonight, she will be cheering for her hometown hero San Carlo. Nine-year-old "Murray" as he's known around the stables, is prepared by joint trainers Steve O'Donoghue and Bec Bartley at Morley Park, Kialla, just outside Shepparton. "It would be wonderful if they could pull it off, but I'll be barracking for all the Aussies," Helen said. "I've been over here in New Zealand as part of a tour group and we've all had a ball. We've been taken here, there and everywhere. The winery visits have been a lot of fun," she laughed. "At my age, you may as well enjoy things when you can, you know!" And after a lifetime of racing a host of quality horses and breeding many of the country's best, it's most fitting that Helen Head is sitting back to enjoy tonight's "big dance" in Auckland. Helen, who was honoured as a recipient of the Angelique Club's Pearl Kelly Award in 2016, recalls attending her first Inter Dominion Championship back in 1974. "I sort of got hooked on them because there's really been very few that I've missed since," she said. Helen and her late husband Graham developed a reputation over decades as one of harness racing's best known and most successful names in breeding and ownership. Helen shared the couple's remarkable story a few years ago with harness racing scribe Gus Underwood, recalling that as a young dress designer in Melbourne in the 1950s, she'd always dreamt of one day owning her own horse. Graham had started his working life as a structural engineer at the age of 16 and after the couple shared a trip around the world in a converted Volkswagen, they purchased their first farm at Sunbury, 40 kms north-west of Melbourne and their harness racing story began. After trying their hand at running cattle and sheep, Helen saw her dream of horse ownership come true with the purchase of a mare as a pleasure horse - but before she even got to ride it, the mare was put in foal! Selling their farm to developers, the couple moved to Seymour, then to nearby Mangalore, on the Goulburn River. This was to become the renowned Grenada Park and over the next 20 years, Graham and Helen got fully involved with standardbred breeding. They had the support of a close friend in Graham Cochran, then Chairman of the Victorian Trotting Control Board, who was a keen breeder, but owned no property. Their first foray into breeding was with the Bachelor Hanover matron Madame Han, who left 10 foals and established a great winning line. A decision to downsize in 2000 saw the couple purchase Manna Lodge from Gerald Farrell at Congupna and they continued their breeding pursuits, although now as a partnership, after the death of Cochrane. The couple considered renaming the property Grenada Park, but to prevent any confusion, left it as Manna Lodge, but adding to the title: 'Home of Grenada Park'. Countless top horses were bred at both Mangalore and Congupna, and in 2007 the Heads were named Victorian Breeder of the Year. Sadly, Graham passed away in 2009, but, after 57 years of marriage, Helen's upbeat approach to life saw her commit to continuing the couple's breeding program. "I think there's now been 24 of our breed who have each won over $100,000 in stakemoney," Helen said yesterday. "And there's also been two-Safari and Garnet River- who passed the half a million dollars mark. Safari was trained by Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart, and won 28 races while Hughie Cathels had Garnet River, who later ended up over in America with Noel Daley." Choosing a favorite among recent topliners is no mean feat, but youngster The Storm Inside (bred from Spirited Storm, a filly Helen travelled to America to buy) must surely rank highly, with the stunning colt recording 14 wins from only 16 starts for Tonkin and Stewart. Helen Head with Emma Stewart after The Storm Inside’s APG win But it's the sensational Tell Me Tales (Tell All-Soaring Falcon (Falcon Seelster) that Helen names as her first choice. Tell Me Tales put together a string of 11 consecutive wins during her 3yo season in 2018 before serious injury two months ago. Her record stands at 20 wins and seven placings from 32 starts for $360,000 in stakemoney. "Tell Me Tales is definitely my favorite, and I was very sad when she broke a bone in her hind leg," Helen said. But this optimistic nonagenarian always has an eye to the future and a positive outlook. "We've had it pinned and she's doing well - and we've taken an embryo as well, so she might also get a foal and that would certainly be lovely," Helen said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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

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

Brothers Mark and Barry Purdon are poised to dominate Saturday night’s Inter Dominion Pacers Grand Final at Alexandra Park, Auckland with several runners making the Grand Final in Australasia’s biggest harness event. This also applies to the Trotters Grand Final with the Mark and Natalie Rasmussen trained Winterfell drawing beautifully in gate two. Throughout the series, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars Barn have provided winners each night with red hot favourite Ultimate Sniper going through undefeated, Cruz Bromac winning a heat after being placed in the other two, while Chase Auckland finished second on all three occasions. Thefixer and Ashley Locaz also raced well enough to make the cut. Barry’s A G’s White Socks was the surprise of the series, winning two heats and Mach Shard was consistent all the way through. With seven of the twelve starters, it will be a huge shock should any other stable receive the accolade of preparing the winner. Looking at the Trotters Final which goes before the Pacers, it appears that the Purdon/Rasmussen team will prevail with short priced favourite Winterfell due to his perfect gate two draw. Listed below is a summary : THE TROTTERS (2) WINTERFELL from the All Stars barn looks the hardest to beat from the ideal draw. He can sometimes be a little risky if pushed from the gate, but providing he does everything right will be hard to hold out. (4) MAJESTIC MAN battled on gamely after racing exposed for the final circuit when third to Winterfell last Friday and is sure to be in the finish. (9) TEMPORALE is racing at his peak and has drawn to follow Big Jack Hammer through at the start. Off a nice sit will be hard to hold out. (8) MARCOOLA is a victim of a horror draw and is likely to be taken back off the gate to be held up for a late finish. He has been unlucky not to finish closer in all his heats and must be taken in trifecta’s and first fours. (12) PARAMOUNT KING’S performances in every heat have been excellent after winning on opening night. With the right passage, he is a definite possibility. (10) HABIBI INTA gave ground after racing exposed last Friday. There have been some excuses though and if he runs up to his Dominion victory, should be competitive. (13) MASSIVE METRO was blitzed by Winterfell last Friday and the draw has done him no favours. Has raced well through the series and is a must for multiples. (11) TOUGH MONARCH has not adapted very well to the right hand going. He battled on gamely last Friday and is another place hope with luck. (1) BIG JACK HAMMER due to his pole line draw should receive the run of the race and providing he runs the distance is a rough place hope. SELECTIONS : (2) WINTERFELL, (10) Habibi Inta, (9) Temporale, (4) Majestic Man. THE PACERS (5) ULTIMATE SNIPER looks the goods after luck falling his way in the barrier draw, his performances throughout the series has been ultra impressive. Should there be a query, it may be going forward at the start, but should he find the front, it could be easily be shut the gate. (11) CRUZ BROMAC has come through the series in grand style but has been cruelled by the barrier draw. However in saying that, he is to trail stablemate Ashley Locaz which could be the early leader. If Ultimate Sniper goes back, there is some remote chance he could find the lead and prove to be the one to run down. (7) A G’S WHITE SOCKS is another from a horror draw which could go forward at the start and if a nice sit eventuates, he is a definite blowout chance. (9) CHASE AUCKLAND wouldn’t know how to run a bad race and is in the mix from his awkward inside second line draw. (13) THEFIXER who had every chance when second to Cruz Bromac after trailing last week has to be respected. These five appear to be the logical top chances, with remote trifecta and first four hopes being : (3) ASHLEY LOCAZ, (6) MACH SHARD, (8) TRIPLE EIGHT and (1) SAN CARLO. SELECTIONS : (5) ULTIMATE SNIPER, (9) Cruz Bromac, (9) Chase Auckland, (7) A G’s White Socks.   Len Baker

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

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

When a youthful Mark Purdon captured the 1991 Auckland Inter Dominion aboard Mark Hanover trained in partnership by legendary father Roy and older brother Barry, little did he realize what the future was to hold. All in, the Purdon’s have figured in nine Inter victories, three in the pacing ranks and six with the trotters. For champion trainer/driver Mark it has been a ritual to go in search of Australasia’s most prestigious harness event, with success coming on several occasions. Following Mark Hanover, A few years went by before Mark’s name began to become dominant, especially in the trotting ranks scoring with Pride Of Petite in 1996 (Melbourne), and 1997 (Adelaide) when driven by brother in law Tony Herlihy which became one of the greatest races ever seen at Globe Derby Park, then came Buster Hanover (Sydney) in 1998 with Herlihy again the winning reinsman. Thirteen years elapsed before I Can Doosit trained and driven by Mark with Grant Payne as associate trainer scored successive victories – Auckland in 2011 and Melbourne 2012. Back in 1993 Mark’s father Roy had combined with Barry to land the 1993 Trotters Grand Final in Auckland with Night Arrow. In 2016 and 2017 it was the pacers that really made Mark a force to be reckoned with when two outstanding horses Smolda and Lazarus came on the scene. Smolda being victorious in 2016 and Lazarus 2017 when both series were held in Perth. Partner Natalie Rasmussen is no stranger to the Inters either after her outstanding pacer Blacks A Fake scored at Hobart in 2006, Adelaide 2007, Melbourne 2008 and Menangle 2010 and could have easily been five after going down narrowly to Mr Feelgood at the Gold Coast the year before. Barry Purdon himself will have two Grand Final runners this year when A G’s White Socks and Mach Shard step out to do battle. Since registering the partnership, Mark and Natalie have qualified five horses for this year’s series headed by Ultimate Sniper, Cruz Bromac, Chase Auckland, Thefixer and Ashley Locaz. With Mark, Barry and Natalie being the most prolific name in New Zealand and Australian harness racing, the name Purdon will be prominent for a long period of time to come.   Len Baker

By Jonny Turner    Oamaru trotting fanatic Rob McIntosh will realise a lifelong dream if Majestic Man wins the Interdominion Trotting Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. McIntosh is one several Otago and Southland based members of the Griffins Syndicate, which race the 5yr-old from Phil Williamson’s barn. Few owners have shown the dedication to the Interdominion series McIntosh has over the past two years. Last year he was on hand to witness Griffins Syndicate trotter Monty Python run in all three heats of Melbourne Interdominion before he ran third in its final to Tornado Valley. McIntosh travelled back and forth from Oamaru to work around his work commitments as a truck driver.  He has not missed a step Majestic Man or Monty Python have made at Alexandra Park during this year’s series. McIntosh’s passion for trotting means it would be almost impossible for him not to be at the track on Saturday night to watch Majestic Man again. That passion is driven by his earliest involvement in the sport at a young age. And it is one that is linked to the 1965 series run in McIntosh’s home province at Forbury Park. “Where it really began was I used to go over to Harry Cox’s stable at Winton and work with the racehorses - he was mum’s uncle,” McIntosh said.  “I loved it.” “He had a big photo over the fireplace of a horse winning the Interdominion trotting final at Forbury Park called Poupette.” “Every time I went there I always looked at that photo and thought hopefully one day I could be involved in a race like that myself.” “Right to this day, forty odd years later, I can still envisage that photo.” McIntosh developed a passion for the trotting gait that could have led him close to Interdominion success in 1994. A friend told the trotting enthusiast of an opportunity to join the syndicate that raced former hardy Southland squaregaiter Diamond Field. But, McIntosh did not pursue it because he felt the Cox trained David Moss, as well as another former Southland trotter Night Allowance, would have the horse’s measure in big races. McIntosh said he shared a joke with Diamond Field’s winning driver Tony Herlihy about the near miss during this year’s series. McIntosh was given the opportunity to take a vacant spot in the Griffin’s Syndicate after being involved in a similar syndicate years on McIntosh has not looked back since then as the group have racked up dozens of trotting wins. “I have had a ball being in the syndicate.” “You get to meet a lot of great people and have a lot of fun.” “Syndicates are a great way for people to be involved without it costing a lot of money.” McIntosh is not the only Oamaru based member of the syndicate. The mother and daughter duo of Glenda and Kirsty Stevenson also race Majestic Man. Several owners are also based in Dunedin and further south. McIntosh said more than 20 of the Griffin’s Syndicate to be on hand to watch Majestic Man on Saturday night. There looks a big chance for the group to be celebrating a win, going on Majestic Man’s three excellent heat runs. Win, lose or otherwise McIntosh said will be proud of his horse and he was already planning his trip to next year’s Interdominion in Sydney. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

After 3259 wins it is still there for Maurice McKendry. Not just the talent. That was never in doubt. Never has been since the little fella left Methven nearly 40 years ago to try his luck in the big smoke. What is still there is the rush, that thrill a good horse can still give even a legend even in “the twilight of my career.” That twilight has shone a little brighter during this Inter Dominion after McKendry got the call up to partner A G’s White Socks. Just three weeks ago A G’s White Socks wasn’t coming to the series and McKendry was resigned to watching it from the driver’s room after his sole Interdom steer, trotter Lemond, was withdrawn. Now McKendry goes into Saturday’s final with two heat wins under his belt and maybe the best chance to upset hot favourite Ultimate Sniper. A G’s White Socks reminded us how good he is with his two heat wins and peeled off a sizzling last 800m in defeat last Friday. McKendry has also had an Interdom to remember, perfectly patient winning his opening night heat, aggressive enough to attack an All Stars runner and wrest control of his second round heat. So how does it feel to be one of the stories of an Inter Dominion which must have felt like it had passed McKendry by? “It has been fun,” he says with his trademark half giggle. “After Lemond got pulled out I thought I wouldn’t be part of it all and then I got the call up for this horse, which I really didn’t see coming. “I didn’t know what to expect from him but I have really enjoyed it. “Even at this stage of my career, when maybe I am getting close to winding down a bit, that feeling is still the same when you drive a good horse. “When they let down and sprint is a great feeling. It is fun, a rush, even now.” That is one reason McKendry still loves going to work at 64 years old, because the sensation is the same as four decades ago on the training tracks of Mid Canterbury. “I love the speed. I always have. And when you sit behind the good horses and they let down, it feels special. “So to be here, driving a horse trained by Barry in the final, it is a real bonus.” It is odd to think that McKendry needs to remind us of his talents. He is, after all, one of only two New Zealanders with over 3000 domestic wins. The other is his good mate Tony Herlihy, who McKendry has sat next to in the Alexandra Park driver’s room for as long as anybody remembers. Like famous Brazilian soccer players they require only one name inside the industry, say Tony or Maurice and everybody knows who you are talking about. But their Inter Dominion records are vastly different, Herlihy with 37 total career victories at the Interdoms including four trotting finals, McKendry has nine heat wins. That is not about ability, but opportunity. And those opportunities are becoming rarer. “It has always been hard to get on good horses, it is a hard game,” says McKendry. “And it is harder now because there are less horses and less trainers, and many of the bigger stables already have their drivers. “But I am still getting a few drives so I am in no hurry to retire. I think I’ll know when I have had enough or I am starting to lose it.” The last fortnight tells us that won’t be any time soon. So what does Saturday hold for McKendry and his rejuvenated Grand Final hope? From barrier seven A G’s White Socks looks best placed of the favourites to try and bustle to the lead and maybe take a sit on hot favourite Ultimate Sniper? “Hard to tell,” says the understated one. “It doesn’t look the strongest front line so he might be able to work around them and get in front of Natalie’s horse. “But if I try and it doesn’t work out that can go bad. I’ll ask Barry (Purdon) what he thinks but he will probably tell me he is fine with whatever I think,” comes the laugh again. “So you can’t have too much of a plan. Sometimes you go on your gut instinct as the gate pulls away, “And to be honest, sometimes that is completely wrong.” The good news for A G’s White Socks punters is, 3259 times the gut instinct has been right. THE MAGIC MAN Who: Maurice McKendry Career record: 3259 New Zealand driving victories. Stakes: $28,846,425 in New Zealand. Highlights: 10 New Zealand driving premierships. Next: Pilots A G’s White Socks in the $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night.   By Michael Guerin

John Dickie thought his chance to win at Inter Dominion was gone. Which makes having Paramount King in the $150,000 trotting final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night that much more special for the South Auckland trainer. Dickie is a trotting man. He and son Joshua also train pacers and do that well, but for decades the Dickie name has been conjured up images of talented squargaiters in their maroon, green and gold colours. Of John’s 581 career wins in New Zealand, 288 have been with trotters. That is just under half but almost all of his flagbearers have been unhoppled heroes. But the Dickies haven’t won an Inter Dominion Final and in 2012 a crazy decision left John thinking he never would. The trotting series was canned after that year, with a case made that with it heading to NSW and then West Australia a trotting series wouldn’t fly there. And there was some concerns about brand confusion with people unable to get their heads around by having two Inter Dominion Finals. It was, of course, nonsense and thankfully the trotters returned last season, with the Dickies eventually running second in the final with Speeding Spur, albeit a promoted one. Dickie’s sometimes unrequited love of the Inters dates back further, to when Great Life finished fourth to Tussle at Addington in 1987. “He actually dead heated on the points table with one of Wes Butt’s trotters so the two sets of owners were called into a room and they tossed a coin to see who started in the final. We won the toss and ran fourth in the final.” With the series now back from the dead, this Saturday will be extra special to the father and son team. Alexandra Park is their home track these days and John loves having first-night national record setter Paramount King up against the other kings of the gait. They will all be there: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Barry Purdon, Phil Williamson, Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Tony Herlihy, Paul Nairn and even Robert Dunn has emerged as a trotting training force. Add in two Aussies and this is a real Inter Dominion Final.  “I thought that chance was gone for us,” says Dickie of the 2012 scrapping of the series.  “So to have it back, to still have a chance of winning it means a lot to me and now Josh.  “We know that might not happen this Saturday, with the second line draw not helping but you can’t win if you aren’t in.” Paramount King has been the greatest surprise of this series, a former age group talent who has risen to new heights and he is rated one of the six or seven winning chances in the final. But Dickie, as you might expect from a man who has spent decades piecing together the puzzle that is a trotter, is realistic about what Saturday may hold. “I am not sure if we can win, especially from the second line draw,” he offers. “He should be better this week because the first night took a little sting out of him for the next two heats but he might still be a year or two away from winning an Inter. “To be honest, Winterfell might be a moral. He and Habibi Inta, who we haven’t seen the best of in this series, are the two in the final I think can work and win so maybe Winterfell will be too good from his draw. “But even if that happens we will be happy. It is great to have the trotting series back and back at Alexandra Park. “They are special things. They bring a lot of different people and horses together. “It is the Inter Dominion. It is just different from a normal race.”   Dunn to drive for All Stars After terrorizing the All Stars for the last couple of seasons John Dunn will join them for the $500,000 Pacing Final this Saturday. Dunn has been the surprise call-up to partner Ashley Locaz for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Alexandra Park The stable has five in the group one and while three drives were easily settled, Blair Orange will be the new driver for Thefixer and Dunn will partner Ashley Locaz. There is some irony in the decision as no driver in New Zealand could have parked out All Stars-trained horses as much as Dunn, predominantly driving for his father Robert, in the last few seasons. It is a strategy that has worked for him and helped make racing interesting and obviously gained him enough respect to be called in as a pinch hitter. Dunn would still drive regular partner Classie Brigade should that horse, listed as the emergency, make the field.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Three Aussie mates are responsible for a popular Australian priest realising a 69 year dream when Triple Eight starts in the Interdominion Pacing Championship final on Saturday. An undeniable passion for harness racing has seen highly popular Roman Catholic minister Brian Glasheen, of Victoria, spend an incredible seven decades following Australasian harness racing’s greatest test of stamina. Sixty nine years after attending his first Interdominion in Melbourne, Glasheen’s loyalty to the sport, his friends and his faith will be rewarded when his first Interdominion runner – Triple Eight - takes to Alexandra Park on Saturday night. Unlike at his first series in 1950, Glasheen will not be torn away from watching the series final. The Melbourne Showgrounds were no place for him back when Captain Sandy won and his father ruled he could not go back to watch the final, after attending each night of heats, for he fear the young Glasheen would be crushed by the masses that flocked to watch race Glasheen getting to see Triple Eight this year was as likely as him some how being on hand to see Captain Sandy’s pacing win 69 years ago until three of his Bacchus Marsh parishioners intervened. Just last winter, Glasheen had no connection to the pacer and had not even heard of him until fellow Victorians Shannon Nixon, Joel Watson and Shane Cook coaxed the octogenarian in to coming out for dinner. There, the trio presented Glasheen with ownership papers for the horse that will see his love of the Interdominions come full circle on Saturday night. The motivation for Nixon, Watson and Cook’s generosity was simple. Nixon said they wanted to do something for the man who had done so much for them. “Father Glasheen has had a big part in all of our lives.” “He has baptised all our nine children between us.” Triple Eight ran third behind the All Stars duo of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to qualify for Saturday night’s $500,000 feature. It set off joyous scenes across the Tasman as Nixon, Watson and Cook watched on TV. As thrilled as they are to have an Interdominion finalist with their first runner, Nixon said the real joy came from having Father Glasheen on the journey with them. “The biggest source of joy for us is seeing how much it means to Father Glasheen.” “He is absolutely over the moon – he is messaging us five times a day – and he is just having a great time being over in New Zealand watching the horse.” “We are just getting a huge kick out of how much it means to him.” Father Glasheen will be able to walk in to Alexandra Park with relative anonymity compared to tracks in Australia. Glasheen is popular and widely known figure in both harness racing and thoroughbred circles across the Tasman. “Everyone in harness racing in Victoria knows him, he is very widely known in racing circles in Australia,” Nixon said. “He has followed every Interdominion around from the heady days of the sport and the Interdominion is the biggest show in harness racing, so he has met a lot of people.” Nixon secured Watson, Cook and Glasheen shares in Triple Eight after negotiating the purchase of a slice of the horse’s ownership from his North Island owners Stonewall Stud and Scott Plant. Triple Eight’s $101 odds suggest he needs divine intervention to win Saturday night’s race. Though just having a runner is a huge thrill for Glasheen, he admits barrier 8 gives his horse a huge task. “It is fantastic – absolutely special – but the barrier draw is not so special,” he told media at Monday’s barrier draw. What horses drawn in better spots do not have on their side is Father Glasheen’s proven winning touch. Glasheen blessed Northerly, at the request of trainer Fred Kersley, ahead of the horse’s 2001 Australian Cup win and during the galloper’s 13-win streak. The Triple Eight camp will hope Glasheen’s touch will work again when he blesses their horse ahead of the Interdominion Final. The priest did not keep all of his prayers just for his own runner and extended them to rival camps at Monday’s barrier draw. Glasheen blessed the colours to be worn by drivers in both the Interdominon pacing and trotting finals at yesterday’s barrier draw.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Driver Natalie Rasmussen says she can’t see hot favourite Ultimate Sniper getting to his favourite position in Saturday’s $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. So she will take the next best option: being in front. The four-year-old has been unbeaten in the three rounds of heats and is $1.45 to win the final after drawing barrier five. His draw is made even better by his key rivals, many of them stablemates, drawing worse, with A G’s White Socks at barrier seven and Chase Auckland (9), Cruz Bromac (11) and Thefixer (13) all on the second line. After being trapped three wide in every heat of the series and still being too strong, Ultimate Sniper will be expected to stroll to the front after the early shuffling of positions and win. But Rasmussen, who also co-trains Ultimate Sniper, says he would probably be better sitting parked. “I know that sounds strange but sometimes he doesn’t concentrate quite so well in front,” says Rasmussen. “He is still good there but he really loves staring horse down from parked, as we have seen when he has been wide during this series.”So why not just sit parked with the hot favourite, as crazy as that sounds with Rasmussen and everybody else expecting the lead to be there? “I don’t know any of the other drivers in the front line are going to want him outside them staring them down,” she says matter-of-factly. A reluctant outside leading when they would rather have Ultimate Sniper’s back could mean a slower mid-race tempo which would bring the outsiders into the race and allow the likes of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to creep closer three wide. So with one stablemate in Ashley Locaz and three outsiders rated $51 or longer drawn inside her, Rasmussen should only have to hold A G’s White Socks to her outside at the start and she probably ends up in front, with On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate the most likely followers. Rasmussen says all five of the All Stars pacing finalists have come through their busy week of heats in great order as well as trotting final favourite Winterfell. “We couldn’t be happier with how they have handled it and if anything they look like the series has brought them on,” she said. “They are likely to have their final fast work on Wednesday.”With Rasmussen on Ultimate Sniper and Mark Purdon sticking with Cruz Bromac, Blair Orange has picked up the drive on Thefixer, Tim Williams stays on Chase Auckland but no driver has been confirmed yet for Ashley Locaz. The stable has two odds-on final favourites with Winterfell $1.90 to win the trotting final after drawing perfectly at barrier two. He looked far more settled and happier winning his heat in national record time on Friday and while he is still not foolproof, Rasmussen says the big trotter has thrilled Purdon with his improvement in this series. It may not be a case of Winterfell simply strolling to the lead and on to the winner’s circle though, with Majestic Man drawn barrier four and with superior gate speed and therefore the likely early leader is driver Brad Williamson desires. But with Paramount King, Tough Monarch, Massive Metro and Marcoola all drawn to settle back the trotting final looks certain to contain plenty of movement. PACING FINAL, $500,000, 2700m mobile 1: My Kiwi Mate 2: Sicario 3: Ashley Locaz 4: On The Cards 5: Ultimate Sniper 6: Mach Shard 7: A G’s White Socks 8: Triple Eight 9: Chase Auckland (2nd line) 10: San Carlo 11: Cruz Bromac 12: Classie Brigade (em) 13: Thefixer   TROTTING FINAL $150,000, 2700m mobile 1: Big Jack Hammer 2: Winterfell 3: Destiny Jones 4: Majestic Man 5: Monty Python (em) 6: Valloria 7: Bonnie Highlander 8: Marcoola 9: Temporale (2nd line) 10: Habibi Inta 11: Tough Monarch 12: Paramount King 13: Massive Metro   Michael Guerin

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