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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

The old saying is that blood is thicker than water. But Mark put some doubt into that running down brother in law Tony Herlihy in the Great Southern Star with Dance Craze on Saturday. The two best drivers in the race ran first and second and Mark gave the game away in his post race interview after his second G1 of the night. “I followed Tony most of the way. He usually knows where he is going so it was a good place to be” he quipped. That decision gave the richly bred Dance Craze the last crack at Temporale and her finish was irresistible. Dance Craze , trained by Anton Golino, was the best bred horse in the race being by Muscle Hill from La Coocharacha who gave the best Kiwi trotters a headache or two in her racing days winning a Rowe Cup. Patience often pays in big races and when you have that option it worked well on Saturday. Mark said before the Ladyship Cup he and the stable felt that the well performed Carlas Pixel might need the race having been off the scene for some time. He drove her accordingly 3 back on the rail but after a first 600m in 56.2 it was obvious some were going to be gasping at the end. That was when Carlas Pixel chimed in for a dashing win. It wasn’t quite as easy for Natalie. With Muscle Factor, who had run 1.49 at Menangle two starts back, wanting to hold up , Another Masterpiec e had to settle for parked and simply could not match the leader clocking a 1.54. mile rate over 2240m. Not many three year olds around could. He fought hard but once Natalie switched to the inside to challenge the writing was on the wall. Spankem had a cruel fate. The draw beat him. Simple as that. He had to work early and when Natalie knew he couldn’t win from back he had to work to get to the parked position. Which would have been fine (Pats Delight was there and not in a mood to be anywhere else) except that Poster Boy was then on Spankem’s back having a saloon passage and that told in the end as he wore down the courageous Spankem. Both horses emerged with honour. But ironically enough while the All Star duo emerged with two Group Ones on the night they were not the two many were expecting. That’s racing. Courtesy of  All Stars Racing Stables

LAUREN Tritton sat behind the fastest three-year-old pacer to ever grace a track in Australasia just recently. And now the top reinswoman is excited to see what Muscle Factory can produce against some of the nation’s best at Ballarat on Saturday night. Muscle Factory set a southern hemisphere record when clocking 1:49.6 in the Simpson Memorial at Menangle a fortnight ago. And on Saturday night south of the border the colt faces his next challenge in a heat of the Victoria Derby. “I’m really excited to see what Muscle can do against the best of them,” said Tritton. “It’s hard not to declare a horse that just won in 1:49. “I’m not worried about the smaller track either as we saw what he did at Albion Park.” However, there is an element Tritton is concerned about. “It is the hardest heat but we’ve drawn accordingly,” said Tritton. “It’s still going to be tough facing the locals on their home turf . . . some of those horses have been raised on that track their whole life so they have that advantage.” Some of those dangers include Lochinvar Art and Australian Pacing Gold winner Centenario. Meanwhile, the $1.65 TAB Fixed Odds favourite is the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained Im Another Masterpiece. Tritton does not have to face the powerful Purdon/Rasmussen combination in her other Victoria Derby heat with Petes Big Jim. The gelding is a $15 chance behind the $2.50 elect Max Delight and the Menangle Park horsewoman is full of praise of her drive’s latest effort at his local track. Petes Big Jim finished fourth to Muscle Factory in the scintillating Simpson Memorial. “He went into that race 50/50 after being sore and tender on his feet and he is only a little horse but has a heart of gold to push through and go as well as he did,” said Tritton. “He went 1:50 himself and I’ll drive him conservative now as he steps up with the big boys.” ‘Team Tritton’ will be represented on home soil at Menangle on Saturday night as well with seven runners nominated. This includes Tritton’s two recent Inter Dominion campaigners My Alpha Rock and Maximan. “Maximan and Alpha are super since the trip to Victoria,” said Tritton. “We private trialled them around Menangle and they worked the mile in 1:51. “It’s not easy for them coming back to racing in that grade but we are happy with how they have come back after their campaign.” Tritton trains her team of horses with her husband Shane Tritton and they have trained 264 winners since starting their partnership in the 2016/17 season.   Some fun facts: Mile Records – Australasian: http://www.harness.org.au/hra/annual/public/records/ausn_milep.pdf HRA’s Milestones – Pacers http://www.harness.org.au/hra/annual/public/records/mstonesp.pdf   Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 33 racing clubs across the State.  HRNSW is headed by a Board of Directors and is independent of Government. HRNSW MEDIA CONTACT: AMANDA RANDO | MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

The Australian debut of New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer could hardly be going better. Now all the five-year-old has to do is win Saturday's A$110,000 Ballarat Cup. The Canterbury pacer went missing in action after winning the New Zealand Cup, with his champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen giving him an easy time and dodging the Auckland Cup before he returned with a luckless run at Cambridge last Friday. But while he couldn't get into the Flying Mile there because of a bad draw his luck looks to be turning around as he aims at his next target. Not only has Australia's best pacer Tiger Tara been a surprise withdrawal from the Ballarat Cup but the field has fallen away in general, with Miracle Mile winner My Field Marshal in Perth for the West Australian Cup and Kiwi pacer Pat's Delight's trainer Cran Dalgety deciding to miss Saturday's race. So Thefixer and stablemate Cruz Bromac dominated the market for the Ballarat feature before yesterday's draw and Thefixer was elevated to clear favouritism after drawing barrier three. While he isn't known for having the gate speed that will ensure his draw sees him stroll to the lead, Thefixer should settle handy and Purdon wouldn't be surprised if he does use his draw to reach the top. "He has natural speed and while he hasn't been asked to run off the gate in the past I am sure he will have early speed if we ask him," he suggests. So with the high class withdrawals and his seemingly perfect draw Thefixer opened clear favourite with the Australian TAB and could continue to shorten as punters there love a well-drawn favourite. Cruz Bromac probably has the greater gate speed of the pair but has drawn wide at barrier six and early tactics will be crucial. He hasn't raced since his brave third in the Inter Dominion Final on December 15 but was impressive at the Melton trials last week. The pair's stablemate Spankem will be kept to an easier grade on Saturday night as he prepares for his clash with Pat's Delight in the Bonanza at Melton next week, a four-year-old race that would qualify the winner for the Chariots of Fire in Sydney. New Zealand will also have reps in heats of the Victoria Derby with Another Masterpiece one of the favourites for a very deep Derby series while Supreme Dominator has also been sent across by trainer Barry Purdon and remarkably both have drawn barrier one in their heats. Steven Reid is set to take his stable stars Star Galleria and Utmost Delight this week while Nicky Chilcott has Juice Brogden entered in an intermediate grade pacer at Melton on Friday night. Star trotters Marcoola, Speeding Spur and Amaretto Sun will join the Kiwi team in Victoria from this weekend.   Michael Guerin

BOOM pacer Turn It Up will enjoy a well-deserved spell before being set for another feature race campaign. Successful in last night’s Waikato Flying Mile, the Australian Pacing Gold graduate will spend several weeks in a paddock before co-trainers Natalie Rasmussen and Mark Purdon aim him towards the Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger. The Taylor Mile is scheduled to be conducted on April 26, with the New Zealand Messenger the following week. “He will go for a good break now,” Purdon said. “He has come a long way in a short time and will benefit from a spell. “We won’t be heading over to Sydney for the Chariots Of Fire with him and will work towards the Taylor and Messenger. “After that he also has the Jewels which will round out his season.” Driven by Purdon, Turn It Up enjoyed the run of the race behind the leader, Star Galleria, before being angled into the passing lane during the latter stages. Unleashing a solid sprint, the son of Courage Under Fire scored by a length from the pacemaker. Ashley Locaz – a stablemate of the winner – was two-and-a-half lengths away third in 1:54.5. “He did very well again,” Purdon said. “He has come a long way in a search time, but is still learning what is about. “Everything he has done so far has been on raw ability.” APG Media

In form pacer Turn It Up has captured the Gr.2 $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight. After being driven hard out of the gate early by co-trainer Mark Purdon, the classy Courage Under Fire gelding had to settle for the trail as Tony Herlihy and Star Galleria were intent on leading in the early war in the race. Turning for home Turn It Up soon had the measure of Star Galleria and he cruised to the line to win by three quarters of a length in 1-54.5. Star Galleria fought gamely for second and Ashley Locaz battled on well for third after sitting parked for the trip. New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer could not make any impression on the leaders after settling last in the seven horse field. Turn It Up will now be aimed at the rich Gr1 Waste Management Taylor mile at Alexandra Park on April 26 and also the Gr1 Messenger on 3rd May. Earlier in the night Temporale led all the way in the Cambridge Trotting Stakes for trainer/driver Tony Herlihy. Speeding Spur got closest to the winner after trailing but was still a neck away at the line.  Temporale trotted the mobile mile in 1-58.5 with a final 800m in 59.0 seconds. Temporale winning the mile   Harnesslink media  

Auckland Reactor gelding Chase Auckland ran a close second to the New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer at the Auckland Trotting Club workouts run at Pukekohe today. In what was his second public appearance after an injury layoff, Chase Auckland ran a narrow second to Thefixer after moving up to sit parked outside him for the last lap.  Chase Auckland was timed to run his last 800m in around 58seconds and the final 400m in a tick under 27 seconds.   "I was really pleased with his run. He is such a beautiful pacer," said trainer Mark Purdon.   "I want to look at possibly giving him another trial during next week if needed and then it will be off on the plane to Australia."   Harnesslink Media  

Cambridge’s centenary meeting is set to host a rare clash of New Zealand’s biggest Cups winners. Because both New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer and this week’s Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up are being aimed at next Friday’s $60,000 Flying Mile. The super sprint is the centrepiece of Cambridge’s celebration of 100 years of racing and while the Flying Mile often attracts an elite level star like Lazarus, it rarely sees the two major Cup winners clash. And they are likely to be joined by defending Mile champion Star Galleria as well as last season’s New Zealand Cup runner-up Jacks Legend, making it one of the strongest Flying Miles in years. The Purdon-Rasmussen camp confirmed both Thefixer, who hasn’t raced since winning the New Zealand Cup, and Turn It Up will clash in the Mile after their trainers sat down to plan out where most of their superstars are heading for the summer. Thefixer missed the Auckland Cup after being given an easy time after the New Zealand Cup but looked very fit working between races on Monday. So his clash with Turn It Up could, depending on draws and runs, indicate just who the best pacer in New Zealand is at the moment. The All Stars also likely to have Ashley Locaz and All U Need Is Faith in the race so Cambridge officials will be beaming that their centenary night will attract a field appropriate for the occasion. Thefixer will be using the Mile as a lead up to the Ballarat Cup on January 19 before the Hunter Cup two weeks later. He will be joined at Ballarat by stablemates Cruz Bromac and Spankem, who are already in Australia after competing in the Inter Dominions. Cruz Bromac will also head to the Hunter Cup on February 2 but Spankem will be aimed at the Bonanza at Melton on January 26 to attempt to qualify for the Chariots of Fire in Sydney a month later. The All Stars have decided Another Masterpiece will be their Victoria Derby contender while unbeaten three-year-old Ultimate Sniper will be saved for the NSW Derby on March 2. He will be joined in Sydney by Chase Auckland, who is being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire while Elle Mac will be the stable rep in the Ladyship Mile, with Dream About Me returning to Christchurch after a rare below par effort in the Auckland Cup. Trainer Steven Reid has indicated he will look to take both his Auckland Cup contenders Star Galleria and Utmost Delight to Australia. While next Friday’s meeting shapes as Cambridge’s best of the season, this Friday's twilight offering is far more sedate, with small-time trainer Cheree Wigg maybe the punter’s best friend as she has winning chances with Wait For Success (race two) and Crackared (race three), both legs of the Pick6. Michael Guerin

For the past few years Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has packed up his horses and set up at Cromwell for the duration of the Central Otago Harness Racing Circuit. He's dominated one race in particular – the Trotting Free For All at Omakau. Since 2013 he's won the race six times and in yesterday’s feature he started three horses; Smokey Mac, Jen Jaccka and up and comer Majestic Man. It was the latter that came out on top. Williamson said the win was a bit of a surprise for him. “He’s a very nice horse but today was a bit of a step up. This was his first free for all type race. I didn’t really expect him to beat them. He’s in the zone, in form and has got the winning habit going.”  Driver Brad Williamson sat the Majestic Son gelding parked for the first part of the journey. He moved him forward to the lead when stablemate Jen Jaccka started to progress forward realising she may well take the lead, which she did. Jen Jaccka looked to have the race in safe keeping when she shot clear by three lengths with 300 metres to run but Brad Williamson didn’t panic and Majestic Man ground down a game Jen Jaccka to win by a neck. “I knew it would be tough as Jen Jaccka has been really pleasing us of late.” As a young horse Majestic Man progressed through age group racing at two and three. “Last year he was running second to good horses at Group One level in races like the Derby.” The only real blip on the radar last season was his performance in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. “He got a kick in the leg so that’s why he didn’t go any good in the Jewels. We had to treat him with a fair amount of antibiotics to clean up the injury. This year he’s come back bigger and better which we hoped he would and were just hoping he can improve more to get up to the very elite level.” After yesterday's win Williamson will give the gelding a break as he plans his path to the Jewels at Addington. “We are going to be a bit cautious with him. We’re Jewels bound and we won’t be doing too much racing in the interim. We’ll try and have him as good as we can for that race. He’ll have a freshener. He’s in great form at the moment and it seems a strange time to back off but you just can’t keep pushing the accelerator all the time.”        The Trotting Free For All has been run twelve times since it started in 2008 and Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson has won the race six times – the last four on the trot. His previous winners have been Alderbeck (2018), Monty Python (2017) and Springbank Sam (2013, 2014 and 2016). “We get a great thrill out of winning any race. We try to have our horses at their best for these types of meetings. We plan to have our horses at their peak at Christmas time and at Cup time.” Meanwhile another Williamson runner Shes Like The Wind won on debut at Omakau. Shes Like The Wind winning in the Williamson colours - Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography By Majestic Son out of the Sundon mare Sun Mist the three year old filly was taken straight to the top by driver Matty Williamson winning by eight and three quarter lengths. His time from behind the mobile was 2-35.4 setting a new track record for three year old trotting fillies. “Yeah good filly with potential there. We just have to work on gait. It’s just not 100% yet, it’s just on the bends. Some horses can trot the bend really fluently and with some it takes them more time to get confident with it. It’s just a matter of having more practice and we’ll see if she gets better or not but when she does she’ll be competitive to race in the nice three year old fillies races we’re hoping.” Sun Mist is a daughter of champion mare Merinai which won nineteen races including a Rowe Cup and Dominion Handicap. Sun Mist has been a great breeder for her Winton owner Michelle Caig, leaving Pretty Sunday the winner of fifteen races, Sonofearl which won twenty three and Rosemma which won eight. Caig is presenting a quality Love You colt out of the mare at next month’s New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sales.  Meanwhile the Mark Purdon Natalie Rasmussen trained Funatthebeach set a new track record when he won the McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Trotting Cup. His time for the 2000 metre mobile was 2-22.2. The previous open track record was 2-25.8 recorded by Bettor Think Twice in 2015. Funatthebeach winning the McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Trotting Cup - Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography The New Zealand record for 2000 metres mobile of 2-21.8 is held by another Purdon runner Auckland Reactor. That was recorded in Auckland in 2008. In today’s pacing feature driver Tim Williams didn’t get involved in the early rush with the Somebeachsomewhere gelding settling him at the tail of the field as Mossdale Rose, Queen Bee Bardon and A G’s White Sock took turns at leading. When Letspendanitetogetha made a lightning move with 900 metres to run Funatthebeach hopped onto his back. At the 600 it became obvious the race winner was going to be either A G’s White Socks or Funatthebeach, but Funatthebeach was the bravest winning by half a length.   Bruce Stewart  

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

Two legends of New Zealand racing shared a remarkable Auckland Trotting Cup victory with Turn It Up at Alexandra Park last night. But sadly only one of them was there to see it. Turn It Up did what no pacer had ever done before, winning Auckland’s richest harness race at just his ninth start. Still just a baby he led almost throughout for champion trainer-driver Mark Purdon and unleashed a 54.3 second last 800m to beat a brave Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz, leaving harness insiders wondering just how far Turn It Up can go. But with every step he takes on that path there will be an air of sadness as one of the men who he was purchased for as a yearling won’t be there to enjoy it. His former co-owner Neil Pilcher was one of the best known and popular owners in New Zealand racing, having shook the hands of probably half the horsepeople in the country during his decades transporting horses. He was a major owner for the All Stars Stable until he passed away just a few months ago before he could see Turn It Up win what would have been the first Auckland Cup for the man affectionately known as Pilch. “Neil loved the stock of Courage Under Fire and this was the one we bought that particular year for him so obviously we are sad he is not here to enjoy it,” said Purdon. Pilcher’s brother Lee has taken a small share to keep the family connection there but one of the other owners of Turn It Up might have created a unique piece of New Zealand racing history all of his own last night. Jim Gibbs is a thoroughbred training Hall of Famer and universally respected after a wonderful career as a galloping trainer and has now owned an Auckland Cup winning pacer 30 years after training Spyglass to win the thoroughbred racing equivalent.  I won an Auckland Cup with her and was beaten a narrow margin a couple of times but this is a lot of fun,” said Gibbs, whose wife Ann also shares in the ownership of Turn It Up. Joining them in the winner’s circle was Gibbs’s son Chris, who five days earlier co-trained Danzdanzdance to win the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie, continuing the impressive family doubles. While Turn It Up’s win was expected the shock of the night came in the group one National Trot when Massive Metro outsprinted hot favourite Marcoola up the passing lane. He was beautifully handled by Todd Mitchell to give trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett one of the most satisfying wins of their careers. “This means a lot to me because this horse’s dam, Paris Metro, gave me my first group in this race 14 years ago,” said Wallis. Marcoola did himself no favours galloping in the score up but driver Clint Ford was making no excuses. He would have settled back anyway and didn’t lose that much so we were beaten by the better horse on the night.” There were no such dramas with Ultimate Sniper as he led throughout to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace while Belle Of Montana divebombed Wainui Creek in the last stride to win the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championships. Earlier in the day favourite punters were left with a black eye and then a bleeding nose when first $1.10 chance Smooth Deal galloped and tailed off in the two-year-old race while Oscar Bonevena was a costly failure after an early gallop in race three.   Michael Guerin

Harness racing superstar Chase Auckland has arrived in Auckland for a short two week stopover before making his way to Australia for some rich pickings at Menangle during February.   The Auckland Reactor gelding will leave New Zealand shores on the first available flight after January 11th and will be stabled at Luke McCarthy's property close to the Menangle track.   The challenge for trainer Mark Purdon is finding suitable trials for Chase around Auckland prior to the 11th so Mark is instead looking at the option of trials and a 'soft' lead up race or races in Australia prior to his first big race on February 2nd in the $50,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes.    "I don't want to hurt him first up and it will be better to have him settle in over there and possibly have a couple of trials and a soft race or races before February 2nd,"    "He seems well and worked nicely at home on Saturday."   Chase Auckland 'pulling' Michelle along keen to get to his new paddock in Auckland.   Other feature 4yo races on the radar for Chase Auckland at Menangle are the $50,000 Paleface Adios Sprint on the 9th February and also the $200,000 Chariots of Fire a week later on February 16th.   Safely through those races the one million dollar Miracle Mile is also a possibility for the classy four year old.     Harnesslink Media

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