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THE fastest last quarter in the history of harness racing in Australia sealed the richest race ever run at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight when four-year-old gelding Spankem won tonight's $1m Ainsworth Miracle Mile. Surging home in a 25.4s final quarter as part of a slashing 1:47.7 mile, Spankem gave champion reinsman Mark Purdon his first win - as a reinsman in the race - and his second as a trainer. And even more satisfying for the All Stars team is that they bagged the quinella in the Group One with New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer (Natalie Rasmussen) finishing second and their other runner, Chase Auckland (Luke McCarthy) fourth, just behind Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy (third). Typical of Australia's biggest harness race, few could tip the way the race would unfold. Thefixer led from gate two but handed up the lead to Spankem early in the race and from there Purdon never gave anything else a chance. Spankem scored a one and half-metre win over the stablemate with Poster Boy 7.5m back in third after getting clear when the race was all over. Tipped by many to make a clean sweep of Australia's greatest race, Tiger Tara scored the first surprise when he was taken back out of the gate and when he made his move going up the back straight the final time just couldn't get into the action. Tiger Tara eventually dropped off slightly in the straight to finish fifth. Purdon took particular delight in winning his first Miracle Mile in the sulky: "This is a massive thrill," he said. "This race and this meeting is equivalent to our New Zealand Cup meeting - and they don't get any better than this." Purdon paid tribute to Luke and Belinda McCarthy for letting the All Stars team stay at their Cobbitty base. "It's been a home away from home and all the horses settled in so well there - it's just been fantastic," he said. Sean Vella SVella@clubmenangle.com.au   7 9:28pm AINSWORTH MIRACLE MILE (GROUP 1 - GRAND CIRCUIT EVENT) 1609M $1,000,000 RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments 1 SPANKEM NZ     Fr6 7 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Mark Purdon   $ 4.40   PRS GS L   BAY GELDING 4 by BETTORS DELIGHT USA out of CRUSHEM (NZ) (HOLMES HANOVER USA) Owner(s): G J Kennard, P I Kennard, Breckon Racing Syndicate, J A Gibbs, A Gibbs, G A Woodham, K J Woodham Breeder(s): R K Wah, G Wah 2 THEFIXER NZ     Fr2 2 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Natalie Rasmussen 1.70 $ 3.20 fav  PRS GS 3 POSTER BOY     Fr1 1 Emma Stewart Chris Alford 9.20 $ 4.80   PRS 4 CHASE AUCKLAND NZ     Fr3 3 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Luke McCarthy 19.80 $ 11.00   PRS 5 TIGER TARA NZ     Fr7 8 Kevin Pizzuto Todd McCarthy 21.10 $ 4.20   PRS RAS 6 MY ALPHA ROCK NZ     Fr5 6 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lauren Tritton 22.40 $ 81.00   PRS GS 7 YAYAS HOT SPOT NZ     Fr4 4 S P Tritton, L R Tritton Lachie Manzelmann 26.40 $ 151.00   PRS r MY FIELD MARSHAL NZ     Fr8 9 Tim Butt Anthony Butt   $ 14.00   PRS RAS TIRE R VXAR CR SDVC SD/ECG SD14D SD1T Scratchings   OUR UNCLE SAM 5 CRUZ BROMAC NZ 10 Track Rating: GOOD   Gross Time: 1:47:7 Mile Rate: 1:47:7 First Quarter: 26.9 Second Quarter: 28.2 Third Quarter: 27.2 Fourth Quarter: 25.4 Margins: 1.7m x 7.5m  

CHAMPION trainer Mark Purdon suggested he would have his ace mare Our Dream About Me fitter and ready to run the race of her life in tonight's Group One Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle. And Purdon wasn't kidding. Despite finishing second to Tell Me Tales at this track last week, Our Dream About Me looked a lot sharper and ready to roll at the south-western Sydney track tonight as she quickly took the lead from barrier two then defied all efforts to run her down. With Purdon himself in the sulky, Our Dream About Me dominated the best mares in Australasia to score a four-metre win in slashing 1:50.1, defeating the plucky Major Occasion (Anthony Frisby) with outsider Bridget Blue Chip (Lachie Manzelmann) a surprise third a half-head behind the runner-up. Our Dream About Me has now earned almost $1.4m in career earnings and gave Purdon his first win in what has become one of the highlight races on the Miracle Mile program each year. "She a special mare and it was a last minute decision to bring her here," explained Purdon after the race. "She had to find some of her best form to warrant the trip and she did that so we're glad we decided to proceed with talking this race. "She's done us proud and it was really an honour to win a race like this." Nothing could be taken away from the six-year-old mare and although her rivals chased hard they were in a different trace to this outstanding daughter of super-sire Bettors Delight. Sean Vella SVella@clubmenangle.com.au

Thefixer may look one of the most unlikely horses to complete pacing's greatest double. But at Menangle tonight he can become just the sixth horse to win the New Zealand Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. The two races are the greatest, and richest, held in their respective countries with total stakes worth nearly $2 million, no small deal in the harness racing world. But winning both is worth more than money. It earns a horse entry to a club with only five members: Monkey King, Christian Cullen, Chokin, Christopher Vance and Master Mood. They all won the double back when both races were held in November, so form from one race could carry over to the other. Even then it is still a special feat, the Cup being a standing start over 3200m, the Miracle Mile a mobile sprint. They are the long and short of pacing greatness. But no horse has ever done what Thefixer is favoured to do tonight — win the Cup in November then the Miracle Mile nearly four months later. Not that it has been the smoothest of sailing in between. Thefixer was a poor seventh in the Hunter Cup just four weeks ago and his Mile chances looked shattered. But he has adapted to Australia and more particularly Menangle and the way he blew past arch rival Tiger Tara on his home track in the Mile prelude last Saturday suggested he is back to his NZ Cup peak. Add in barrier two and his gate speed on what is, by Miracle Mile standards, a relatively sedate front line and everything has fallen into place for Thefixer. "A month ago we looked in trouble but he has gotten better every step of the way since the Hunter Cup and is back to his best," says champion trainer Mark Purdon. "He is our top chance and if he leads I think Natalie (Rasmussen, driver) will be keen to stay in front." The Purdon-Rasmussen trio for the Mile, the others being Spankem and Chase Auckland, worked well together on Thursday and the boss rates them Thefixer, Spankem and Chase Auckland because of their respective open class experience levels. "And the biggest danger to us is Poster Boy, he is a very good horse." That discounts the Australian superstar of the season Tiger Tara but a mile on his home track has rarely seen his best work and wide barrier draws have been a horror show for punters in Miracle Miles. Purdon is very confident with Our Princess Tiffany (NSW Oaks) and Ashley Locaz (Bohemia Crystal) tonight but says Our Dream About Me's chances in the Ladyship Mile could depend on the start. "She raced a bit dour last week and to be honest I would have preferred barrier two or three rather than one, in case she gets crossed. "But I have given her shorter heat work sessions this week and put the winkers on her to sharpen her up and if she can hold at the start she is the one to beat." By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of he New Zealand Herald

If Tiger Tara is going to complete pacing’s Triple Crown at Menangle on Saturday he is going to have to do it the hard way. After capturing both the Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup this summer the NSW pacer will try to add the A$1million Miracle Mile to give him a sweep of Australia’s three most prestigious races. But this time there is likely to be a huge difference as the great stallion could struggle to secure his favoured pacemaking role. In both of his major wins this season and also the Victoria Cup in October, Tiger Tara was able to lead and driver Todd McCarthy able to increase the tempo over the last 1200m, particularly in the section between the 800m and 400m to get his rivals gasping. But his chances of dictating in the Mile on Saturday night look slim after he drew barrier seven with most of his favoured rivals drawn inside him. Poster Boy, winner of the Chariots of Fire nine days ago came up with the ace draw while Thefixer, who surprisingly divebombed Tiger Tara with sheer speed in beating him in a prelude at Menangle on Saturday night, has barrier two. Add in the wild card entry of Chase Auckland at three and Saturday night’s other Mile prelude winner Spankem from barrier six (after likely scratchings) and Tiger Tara not only has a lot of horses who will want to park him out but also some very quick sit-sprinters who could be sitting around him. The end result is the Tiger Tara is only on the third line of betting at $4.60 alongside Chase Auckland while Poster Boy heads the TAB market at $3.60 and Thefixer at $3.80. Thefixer was superb on Saturday as was Spankem while Chase Auckland snuck into the race after winning race two and because the two third placegetters in the Mile preludes were not deemed to be strong candidates. Thefixer will have co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen in the sulky even though she copped an eight-week suspension on Saturday night for her drive on Chase Auckland in the Chariots Of Fire a week earlier. Most importantly her suspension doesn’t start until after this week’s meeting so she is free to drive Thefixer, with Mark Purdon will drive Spankem and Luke McCarthy on Chase Auckland. Other big winners in the draws for Saturday’s star-studded meeting were Centenario in the NSW Derby and returning NZ star filly Our Princess Tiffany in the NSW Oaks. And Dream About Me will start from the ace draw in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile in which pre-draw favourite Tell Me Tales fared terribly in the copping the outside of the front line. The field for the $1million Ainsworth Miracle Mile is.—- Poster Boy (1), Thefixer (2), Chase Auckland (3), Yayas Hot Spot (4), Our Uncle Sam (5), My Alpha Rock (6), Spankem (7), Tiger Tara (8), My Field Marshal (9), Cruz Bromac (10). Ems: Our Uncle Sam, Cruz Bromac.   Michael Guerin

Natalie has decided against appealing a heavy suspension over her drive behind Chase Auckland at Menangle last week. After Miracle Mile night next week she will be sidelined for two months at a time when a number of feature events such as the Woodlands Northern Derby on March 8 behind Ultimate Sniper plus a host of other features and wins. The case was heard on Saturday. “I had the certain feeling last week I was in for a suspension and probably a longer one. I was sure they had made up their minds about the charge so I was ready for something like this” “Appealing this sort of charge is a headache anyway with all the coming and going and while I will miss those good races I am rather looking forward to a break from the driving to be honest !” To add insult to injury Natalie was fined $400 on Saturday for her whip use on Thefixer. “I was charged with engaging with the shoulder which was a new one to me. I didn’t feel I’d done anything wrong.” The good news was that the Miracle Mile runners all came through their leadup race well. “Those three boys were especially fresh and good this morning around the paddock and I don’t think they have taken any harm at all.” Natalie said. “The draws are going to help. Luke has driven Chase Auckland a bit over here and is an ideal driver for a race like this” Mark and Natalie both paid a heartfelt tribute to travelling foreman Poi Bowden after Saturday’s success. “He is just such a good operator and a good judge. He was really big on Spankem all week and he knew what he was talking about” Mark said “It is just so important to us to have someone who can tell you exactly where the team is at. Its so valuable especially when we cannot be there all the time. He has played a big role in our success” Natalie was thrilled with the performance of Princess Tiffany especially as she was driven with some reserve. “I knew from Wednesday work at Addington she was ready so I was very confident actually. But I was conscious she hadn’t raced for some time and I didn’t want her to have a real gutbuster a week before the Oaks Final. As it happened she got it both ways. I waited until late but she just sprinted past them like the terrific filly she is. I don’t know what she ran her last quarter in but it was 26.5 off the front which is a good guide !” Ashley Locaz and Cruz Bromac will be in the G1 Bonanza next Saturday and All You Need is Faith in a Free for All having missed a Bonanza start. Ashley Locaz was brave again after being parked in Thefixer’s race and has come through it in his usual no nonsense style. If Mark had one reservation on the night it was Dream About Me, who, like Princess Tiffany, only flew over on Friday. “She went well enough and she ate up well overnight. But she was on and off the bit-more off than on-so that was something to work on” In a career of many firsts this was the first occasion when All Stars had won four races on one night at Menangle major meeting , though going close on occasions.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Chariots Of Fire champion Poster Boy was the biggest winner tonight after the barrier draw for the $1m Ainsworth Miraclle Mile. The Emma Stewart-trained four-year-old drew the dream No 1 barrier, right next to New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer, who drew two to add the icing on the cake to his Allied Express Sprint win earlier in the evening, which sealed a spot in the big race for the plucky Bettors Delight-bred five-year-old. Chase Auckland became the third pacer from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's All Stars stable (with Thefixer and Spankem) when given the surprise wildcard spot into the final field and he too got lucky again when he drew barrier three for next Saturday night's big Group One. The final field for Saturday night's biggest harness race of the year is: 1. Poster Boy by Somebeachsomewhere 2. Thefixer by Bettor's Delight 3. Chase Auckland by Auckland Reactor 4. Yayas Hot Spot by Jeremes Jet 5. Our Uncle Sam (em1) by Sportswriter 6. My Alpha Rock by Rock N Roll Heaven 7. Spankem by Bettor's Delight 8. Tiger Tara by Bettor's Delight 9. My Field Marshal by Art Major 10. Cruz Bromac (em2) by Falcon Seelster.   FOR FURTHER INFORMATION TELEPHONE CLUB MENANGLE RACING MANAGER DAVID WONSON ON 0438-398-251.   Mandy Madern  

BRING on Round Three! There is a horse that ain't too frightened of the mighty Tiger Tara . . . and his name is Thefixer. The New Zealand Cup winner darted up on the rails to beat Tiger Tara in November's New Zealand Cup and the Kiwi star, with star reinswoman Natalie Rasmussen aboard, was at it again at Menangle tonight winning the Allied Express Sprint, the first of two qualifying races for the Miracle Mile. Thefixer had to earn his stripes, coming from one-out and one-back to register another victory over Australia's best pacer, nabbing Tiger Tara right on the nine to score by a head in a 1:50.7 mile rate. While Tiger Tara will be revved up and ready for next week's return bout in the Ainsworth Miracle Mile, it was the way that Thefixer found the line which will have harness fans assured that next week's $1m Group One is anything but a one-horse race. Taken straight to the front by Todd McCarthy at the start from the inside barrier, it was expected to be a cakewalk for Tiger Tara, chasing his sixth win in succession. After a 28.1s first split of the mile, Todd was able to back off the speed with a 29.5 second split, suggesting the son of Bettors Delight would have too much pace in the run home. The speed went on with a 26.9 third split and as they dashed home in 26.2 Thefixer came with a dash and knuckled down over the last 100m to score by a head from 'The Tiger', with Cash N Flow (Luke McCarthy) one and three-quarter metres back in third place. The winner's stablemate Ashley Locaz was a close fourth. The second Sprint, the Canadian Club Sprint saw an upset right from the start when Kevin Pizzuto's other big hope Majordan bombed the start, losing almost 100m before finishing well out of the placings. The race went to New Zealand's No.1 stable, the All Stars, with Mark Purdon spearing Spankem straight to the front and leading all the way for an impressive victory. With little mid-race pressure, Purdon was able to back off the speed after a 26.1s first split with a 30.4 second quarter and a third split of just 29.4. That enabled the Bettors Delight four-year-old to dash home in 25.6s for a 1:51.5 mile rate in defeating outsider My Alpha Rock (Lauren Tritton) and the winner's stablemate Cruz Bromac (Natalie Rasmussen). That meant six of the eight spots in the Miracle Mile were decided with Club Menangle directors heading into conference to decide the rest of the field. Those already qualified were Newcastle Mile winner Yayas Hot Spot, Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy and the first two home in the two sprints, Thefixer and Tiger Tara, Spankem and My Alpha Rock.   FOR MORE INFORMATION TELEPHONE CLUB MENANGLE RACING MANAGER DAVID WONSON ON 0438-398-251.   Mandy Madern

Champion filly Princess Tiffany has been forced into an NSW Oaks tilt by the conditions of the restricted Nevele R fillies heat at Ashburton next week. Not being eligible for that race has affected her preparation for the 2700m of the Pascoe Northern Oaks and with full support from owners Braeden and Caroline Whitelock and Phil and Margaret Creighton Mark and Natalie have opted for the Australian campaign. The heats for the Oaks (2400m) are on February 23 (next Saturday) and the $A200,000 Oaks is on March 2 the day after the Pascoe Oaks. The Sires Stakes Board have made both the Methven and Ashburton heats Restricted to R70 rating and total earnings of $50,000 “to give middle and lower class fillies more opportunities in the series”. That means the only remaining South Island heats for Princess Tiffany and Kayla Marie are at Addington March 15; Forbury Park March 28 and at Addington 20. All Stars have won three of the last four NSW Oaks through Fight for Glory, Dream About Me and Partyon but was not earlier on the horizon for this year’s fillies. Princess Tiffany leaves next week with other All Stars Sydney aspirants to be confirmed but likely to include Elle Mac and Dream About Me.   Courtesy of All Stars Website http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

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

A sensational mile victory by Bubbled Up in the Nevele R Fillies Series Heat 2 at Methven last weekend highlighted the success of another of the Breckon Farms harness racing syndicates.  Raced by The Perfect Ten Syndicate, Bubbled Up smashed the clock in a race record 1-55.9 on the grass surface at Mt Harding Raceway on Sunday and in doing so went very close to the 1-55 track record set by top pacer A.G's White Socks in the Green Mile in 2017. Driven by Tim Williams the effort of Bubbled Up was even more remarkable when you consider the filly had to do all the work herself, leading from the outset and also after being pressured hard by the two Robert Dunn trained runners during the race. At the finish the American Ideal filly still had half a length to spare from the speedy Greg and Nina Hope trained Kendra who flashed home late, with third going to another Hope trained runner Mossdale Art. Sundays win was special for Tim Williams as it gave him the milestone of his 400th winner from 3338 lifetime drives. The Perfect Ten Syndicate is the fifth such syndicate established by Ken Breckon of Breckon Farms, following in the footsteps of the already highly successful The Good Sports Syndicate, Super Seven Syndicate, The Top Ten Syndicate and Six of the Best Syndicate. Heat 3 of the Nevele R Fillies Series is at Ashburton on 23rd February with the $140,000 final at Addington on the 10th May. Bubbled Up winning at Methven on Sunday Breckon Farms have 26 yearlings entered for sale at this years inaugural National Standardbred Yearling Sale at Karaka, Auckland on the 18th of February 2019. Three of those yearling fillies are by American Ideal the sire of Bubbled Up. Lot 6 - Needamargarita is a filly by American Ideal from Fellamongstabeauty by Bettor's Delight from the Christian Cullen mare Goodlookinggirl. Lot 6 - Needamargarita Lot 6 - Needamargarita Lot 12 - Allamericanlover is a filly by American Ideal from Goodlookinbabe by Mach Three from from the Christian Cullen mare Goodlookinggirl. Lot 12 - Allamericanlover Lot 12 - Allamericanlover Lot 96, Simply Shaz, an American Ideal filly from Simply Stunning. This filly is a first foal from black type race winning Art Major mare. Lot 96, Simply Shaz American Ideal has produced ten millionaires in North America in total. Four have been fillies including his richest progeny American Jewel 1:48.2s ($1,834,823) and also the champion current North American three-year-old filly of the year Yourmycandygirl 1:48.2 ($1,497,000). American Ideal has produced the winners of over $87 million to date in North America. In New Zealand he is the sire of progeny that has earned $7.5 million to date and in Australia he has progeny earnings of over $10 million to date.  Therefore, American Ideal now belongs to the $100 million club an outstanding achievement. He best performing mare in New Zealand is The Orange Agent ($516,974) and in Australia, American Ideal has produced two millionaires to date. They are Bling It On 1:50.8 ($1,656,656) and Soho Tribeca 1:53.8 ($1,103,374)  Harnesslink Media

Canterbury trainer Michael House has equalled the NZ record for number of training wins at a meeting by training seven winners at the Manawatu Harness Racing meeting today. Seven wins at a meeting has only been achieved a handful of times in the past but what makes todays feat remarkable is House went within two narrow margins of making it a clean sweep of the nine race card. After winning the first five races he was beaten a neck into second in Race 6 by the Scott Dickson trained Westar Sam. In Race 7 he was beaten a head into second by another Scott Dickson trained runner in The Night Hawk, but he won the last two races to make it a record equalling seven win day. Leading driver Blair Orange drove six of the house winners giving him a personal best total, while Sarah O'Reilly drove a patient race to get the other house winner Shes All The Craze home in race 8.   Blair Orange driving Shillelagh home in the last to give Michael House seven training wins for the day.   Harnesslink Media  

SUCH is the aura around Ultimate Sniper, you could hear the sigh of relief when Mark Purdon said his Sydney trip was off. Leading the charge was top local trainer Shane Tritton, who has the now logical NSW Derby favourite Muscle Factory. Remembering Ultimate Sniper was a $1.70 favourite for the NSW Derby in Aussie prepost markets before Purdon ruled him out today (Thursday). Instead, Purdon said the All Stars’ Victoria Derby runner-up Im Anothermasterpiece was staying in Australia to tackle the NSW Derby. He was quickly added to betting markets as equal favourite with Muscle Factory, who beat him in the Victoria Derby. “It’s certainly helps us not having Ultimate Sniper coming after what’s he done in NZ. Maybe we scared him off,” Tritton smiled. Ultimate Sniper was the second big name All Stars’ horse to defect from Sydney’s Carnival of Miracles this week. Earlier, Inter Dominion finalists Spankem, the long-time Chariots of Fire favourite, was scratched from Saturday night’s Paleface Adios owing to a virus. He’s heading home. It’s a huge weekend in NSW ahead with the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday night and the Paleface Adios at Menangle on Saturday night. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto holds the key at Newcastle with defending champion Majordan (gate three, $1.40) and exciting four-year-old Picard (gate four, $3.30). “I can’t split them. Picard is absolutely flying and Majordan is on the way up. They’re two great changes,” he said. In Picard’s case, a win would create a dilemma because the conditions of the Newcastle Mile state the winner cannot race again before the Miracle Mile. However, because Picard was already qualified for the Chariots before accepting to race at Newcastle, it’s different for him. HRNSW has told Pizzuto that Picard cannot run in both the Chariots and Miracle Mile if he wins at Newcastle. “I have to tell them by 9am Monday which race I’m going to. Even if I go to the Chariots and Picard wins that, he’s not allowed to run in the Miracle. It’s crazy,” he said. Despite Spankem’s scratching, the All Stars still holds the key to the Paleface Adios at Menangle with comeback star Chase Auckland $1.90 favourite from gate two. They also have $13 All U Need Is Faith from gate nine. Much interest centres on Tasmanian star Ignatius, who smashed the clock first-up in the Hondo Grattan last week and will be fitter. He’s a $3 shot despite a wide draw (gate 10).   Adam Hamilton

In racing, your enemy can very quickly become your friend. Which is just as well for Steven Reid and Star Galleria heading into tonight’s $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton, because if they have any chance of winning they might need some help from those enemies. Star Galleria is the speed freak New Zealand pacer who looked like he could be anything back in spring until a moderate campaign saw him diagnosed with an entrapped epiglottis. Since that was operated on Star Galleria has rediscovered his turbo booster, even giving Wrappers Delight a fair start and a beating at Melton last Saturday. That suggested he could win tonight’s great race until the barrier draw suggested he couldn’t. Star Galleria has drawn three on the second line, not a killer blow in itself but the real problem is Inter Dominion champion Tiger Tara drew barrier three, from where he should lead and play catch me if you can. They usually can’t. Sitting on Tiger Tara’s back Star Galleria might have the speed to slingshot a vulnerable version. From the second line he will need help. Enter, the enemy. Actually, two of them. They are Thefixer and Cruz Bromac from the Purdon-Rasmussen stable and, quite incredibly, the last eight times Star Galleria has been beaten the race has been won by a Purdon-Rasmussen horse. But, tonight, they might be his only hope, because all three are likely to settle back and move in the middle stages. “I think that is our best chance, rather than trying to punch through at the start on the back of Tiger Tara,” Reid said. “In those big staying races being out of the early rush can often be a good thing, but if Tiger Tara runs straight to the front we could all be in trouble. “So I hope there is some pressure early and then the Kiwis all move together. Maybe then, if we get the right sit, we have a chance, because I couldn’t be happier with my horse.” Thefixer beat Tiger Tara in the New Zealand Cup, but that was when he hugged the marker pegs and the Tiger had to come wide. Tonight the horseshoe is very much on the other hoof. Unless Group 1 fever strikes a couple of the drivers or Tiger Tara performs below his best, the result might be different too.   Michael Guerin

There is life in the old girl yet.  That is co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen’s view as Dream About Me returns to mares company at Addigton tonight even though she faces a far worse draw than younger, and maybe faster, stablemate Elle Mac.  The pair were two of the stars of the recent Auckland Cup meeting but ended on vastly different notes, Dream About Me below her best in the Auckland Cup the same night Elle Mac set a new national record for 1700m after sitting wide the entire race.  Before that Dream About Me had beaten Elle Mac twice fair and square in mares races at The Park and back to their own sex at Addington tonight, Rasmussen slightly favours Dream About Me again. “I think she has been working well and back at home I think she might have a slight advantage over Elle,” says Rasmussen.  “I know Elle has the better draw but Dream About Me can work in her races. But they are both ready to go well.”  Rasmussen is in Victoria where she will partner Thefixer on what could be a mission impossible in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton tomorrow night.  While he was brilliant in the Ballarat Cup two weeks ago both he and stablemate Cruz Bromac, along with fellow Kiwi pacer Star Galleria, start from the second line while Tiger Tara is drawn to lead from barrier three in the 2760m mobile.“If Tiger Tara leads and races up to his best form this season we might be running for second and third,” suggests Rasmussen.  “We are really happy with our pair but at his best, when he is in front, Tiger is very very hard to beat, as we saw in the Inter Dominion final.”  But all hope is not lost.  “There are a couple of times this season when he (Tiger Tara) hasn’t raced up to that form and that is what we have to hope for on Saturday night — he doesn’t go as good as he can and we get some luck.”  The All Stars also have a strong four-year-old at Menangle in Sydney, where they expect big improvement from last season’s best three-year-old Chase Auckland in an M0 race.  He blew out when fresh up for a long time last Saturday but has worked better since show looks a far better chance tomorrow night while Ashley Locaz looks set to guarantee himself a place in the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire on February 16 by winning A$50,000 Hondo Grattan.  “He might even be our best chance in the Chariots of Fire because he is flying at the moment.” Michael Guerin

Tiger Tara has opened a short-priced favourite for Saturday night’s Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton after drawing gate three for the $500,000 Grand Circuit classic at tonight's MCG barrier draw. The 2018 TAB Inter Dominion and reigning Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup championtrained by Kevin Pizzuto opened $1.50 with TAB.com.au moments after tonight’s draw, while fellow New South Wales trained pacer, Our Uncle Sam, from the Chris Frisby stable, was instantly backed into second favourite after snaring the pole draw. The ID18 runner-up opened $7 but tumbled into $4.8 quickly. PETstock Ballarat Pacing Cup and New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer drew outside the back row in gate 11 for the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen team, while All Stars stablemate Cruz Bromac has to overcome gate nine. Veteran Flaming Flutter for Geoff Webster gets his chance to secure more top-level prizemoney from gate two, while fellow Victorian hopefuls Buster Brady (gate four), San Carlo (gate six), Cant Refuse (gate seven) and Wrappers Delight (gate eight) will be searching for a home-state win. Visiting New Zealand-trained Casey Classic winner Star Galleria snared gate 10, while Raukapuka Ruler has barrier five for trainer Tim Butt.   Kima Frenning, who trains and drives Buster Brady, said she was feeling confident about her horse's chances. Asked if the 2019 Hunter Cup had “come up too soon” Frenning replied: “I don’ think so … in the Ballarat Cup (fourth) he was so good, I probably didn’t do him a lot of favours in that race and his sectionals were super. I think he’s right up to the task here.” Frenning explained that Buster Brady “loved the distance” (2760 metres) but wanted to make it clear how highly she rated the former Kiwi’s speed. “He’s super quick. I shouldn’t have pulled him out when I did (at Ballarat) and he wobbled around that turn. But down the straight he was super quick and made up ground. I really think his speed is his biggest weapon," she said. From the draw Frenning said “we’ll probably roll forward” before she added tongue in cheek, “we’ll see if Toddy (McCarthy) wants to hand up”. “It’s not a great draw, but it’s not the worst draw either,” she explained. “It’s ridiculous. He’s been really, really good. He’s just such a cool horse to be around and I’m so appreciative to have him as my first horse. “It’s very exciting” Glenys Kennard, among Thefixer’s ownership, remained positive despite drawing gate 11. “You know what, that’s racing. It’s never a bad draw until after the race,” she said. “It’s always nice to be here and to take part. “What gives us confidence is he hates getting beaten, he’s got such a strong, strong will to win. He’ll definitely be giving his 120 per cent.” Steve O’Donoghue, trainer of San Carlo, said the Hunter Cup had been his stable star's “target race” all campaign. “He’s better than what he was this time last year, no doubt about that, he’s a bigger horse, more mature, this is the race I’ve probably set him for. All the way through, this is the one, the Hunter Cup, it means so much to me. The longer distance, he’s a stayer, that won’t worry him,” he said. “I’m always confident. I never lose confidence in the horse or Bec’s (driver Bec Bartley) driving.  “I’d say he’s the best I’ve ever had him. The Shepparton run was the best he’d ever done. I think I have no doubt Shepparton was his best run, gutsiest run.” O’Donoghue said San Carlo didn’t boast “instant speed” but stressed the stayer “can build into momentum” and can “maintain that speed”. More barrier draw analysis will take place tomorrow morning live at Tabcorp Park Melton when the Del-Re National A.G. Hunter Cup Breakfast of Champions kicks off at 8am.  All are welcome to attend, with RSN's Michael Felgate hosting Racing Pulse from the track live with Jason Bonnington, Dan Mielicki, Adam Hamilton and champion driver Chris Alford all featuring on the show.   Cody Winnell for Trots Media

INTER Dominion finalist Spankem won’t contest Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1 Hunter Cup at Melton. So Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s quest for a third Hunter Cup win in the past four runnings will sit with their Ballarat Cup duo Thefixer and Cruz Bromac. The Aussie TAB has NZ and Ballarat Cup winner Thefixer $2.70 equal favourite with Tiger Tara. Cruz Bromac is on the third line of betting at $4.50. “The big races are so close together you can’t run in them all,” Purdon said. “Spankem won’t run this week. He needs to run in a qualifier for the Chariots Of Fire, which will be the Paleface Adios (February 9) and it’s asking to much to race this week as well.” Purdon and Rasmussen have the first three in betting in the Aussie TAB’s Chariots of Fire market: Spankem ($3.50), Ashley Locaz ($4) and Chase Auckland ($4.50). All three raced last weekend with Ashley Locaz, who stormed home to win the free-for-all at Menangle, the only winner. Spankem was massive in defeat after sitting parked in slick time and just being edged-out by star Victorian Poster Boy, who had the perfect sit on him, in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza. The win gets Poster Boy automatic entry into the Chariots and he’s an $11 chance. He’s now the best hope for trainer Emma Stewart after she revealed Breeders Crown winner Ride High was sidelined with injury. Chase Auckland remains the most interesting Chariots player. He returned from more than 10 months out through injury with a well-held fourth to Kevin Pizzuto’s Chariots hopeful, Picard, at Menangle last Saturday night. Opinions varied on the run, but Purdon said it was “about what we expected to be honest.” “We’ve done everything we can at home, he just needs the racing now and he’ll come on a lot from the other night,” he said. “He’ll back-up in the Hondo Grattan (a Chariots qualifier) at Menangle this week.” Pizzuto is yet to decide whether Picard will run this week or wait for the Paleface Adios on February 9. “It’s hard when you’ve got big races in different states on the same night like I have with Tiger heading to Melbourne and a couple of key races at Menangle,” he said. Pizzuto will definitely run his star speedster Majordan again at Menangle this week after he galloped at the start and lost all hope in the race won by Ashley Locaz last Saturday night. “He was just too fresh. He’ll be right don’t worry. I’ll run him this week then probably again six days later in the Newcastle Mile. It’s all about having him spot-on for the Miracle Mile,” Pizzuto said. Pizzuto will wait until after the Hunter Cup to finalize Tiger Tara’s path to the Miracle Mile. Despite his amazing deeds this season, the Miracle Mile rules still require Tiger Tara to contest a qualifying race.   Adam Hamilton

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