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Champion driver Gavin Lang secured gate three for both his 2018 TAB Inter Dominion pacing and trotting drives at this morning's barrier draw. Held at Zinc Federation Square on the banks of the Yarra, the TAB ID18 Barrier Draw and Breakfast of Champions attracted plenty of guests and grabbed the attention of morning commuters in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Lang, who pilots impressive Kiwi Im Pats Delight in the pacing grand final and trotter Save Our Pennys in the trotting decider, has two live chances on the biggest stage of all. The master reinsman said both horses were progressing well through the ID18 series to date but would have to step it up again to secure harness racing's holy grail. Save Our Pennys heads into the trotting decider a $14 shot after finishing second in all his qualifying heats behind the raging ID18 favourite Tornado Valley. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven a lot of very good trotters in my career and I would have been prepared to say this one’s not a patch on any of those ones, especially the three Inter Dominion winners,” Lang said when asked about the recent progress of the seven-year-old. “But I must say he’s really exceeded my expectations (through ID18).” Lang also said Save Our Pennys’ fitness was improving each run after his first-up second off a 30-metre handicap in the Geelong Trotting Cup. “He got beaten on his merits at Geelong and I thought if he improves 10 per cent from that in the first of the Inter Dominion heats I’d be pleased. I wasn’t expecting him to come out and run second,” Lang said. “He’s improved each run through this series and three seconds is more than I would have expected. “The distance of the final (2760m) is no burden for him and he’s just an old-fashioned horse who puts his head down and gets on with it. He’s got a great demeanour.” Cran Dalgety-trained Im Pats Delight is a four-year-old New Zealand pacer, who has gone from strength to strength through the heat rounds. “It’s a daunting task for a four-year-old to contest an Inter Dominion series but he is very mature and he seems to be getting through each run well,” Lang said. Meanwhile, Nat Rasmussen has chosen Cruz Bromac as her ID18 drive in the pacing final with partner Mark Purdon picking up the reins aboard fancied stablemate Spankem. Click here for the ID18 final fields   Trots Media - Cody Winnell

NATALIE Rasmussen is no closer to choosing between Inter Dominion big guns Cruz Bromac and Spankem as her drive in next Saturday’s $500,000 Grand Final. Most expected she would do so after Monday's barrier draw, but that’s not the case. “It’s such a hard call. I’d like to wait as long as possible, but I’ll probably do it after I see the draw and then jog them both on Tuesday morning,” Rasmussen said. “They are both so well, have thrived over here and did it really again in their heats tonight (at Cranbourne).” Mark Purdon will drive whichever Rasmussen opts not to partner. Spankem again stamped himself as the “find” of the series when he dominated and won easily in the first of the third round pacing heats at Cranbourne last night. The nuggety gelding made a midrace move from a back row draw to find the lead and cruised to a 7.7m win over a gallant Galactic Star in a 1min58sec mile rate for 2555m, capped by closing splits of 54.8 and 28sec flat. “He’s done so well, almost too well, during the series. He’s put on at least 5kgs during it. I had to jog him the morning of the Ballarat heats and then had to gallop him this morning (before Cranbourne),” Rasmussen said. “He’s just such a good doer.” Galactic Star finished the qualifiers with a win and two strong placings and with Todd McCarthy driving Tiger Tara in the final, trainer Greg Bond confirmed stable driver Ryan Warwick would come across for Perth for the Grand Final. As sharp as Spankem looked, Cruz Bromac did more work, went much quicker time and seemed to win just as easily in his Cranbourne heat last night. “Well I didn’t pull the plugs, so he did it pretty easily,” Rasmussen said. Cruz Bromac went a 1min56.5sec mile rate, ran home in 55.0 and 28.5sec and finished the only unbeaten runner through the three rounds of heats. The Aussie TAB was more impressed with Cruz Bromac and firmed him from $4 into $3.40 favourite for the final, while Spankem eased from $4 to $4.20. The Kiwi influence on the final absolutely extends to Cran Dalgety’s four-year-old Im Pats Delight, who ran a terrific second to Cruz Bromac last night. It followed a second to Spankem on night one and easy win on night two. Driver Gavin Lang was so bullish after last night’s race and headed to the final. “Swap the runs tonight and Cruz Bromac would’ve have beaten us,” he said. “Just looking at this horse, he’s improving through the series and I’m sure he’s got a great chance in the final. I’m really looking forward to it.” Lang, arguably the greatest driver of all time, has never won an Inter Dominion Pacing Final. Australia’s best hope, warhorse Tiger Tara, snared his first win of the series when he worked to the front and just staved-off the much-improved Our Uncle Sam in a 1min57.1sec mile rate. He is $4.60 third favourite for the final. “He was all out on the line. Sure I’d like him to have a little more easily, but there’s a couple of things to consider,” driver Todd McCarthy said. “He wasn’t totally at home on the track and switched on and off a fair bit, plus his first two heat runs were so soft I actually think he needed the run tonight. “Kev knows the horse so well. I’m sure with the week until the final he’ll have him spot on. We just need a (good) draw now.” Highly-rated Victorians San Carlo and Wrappers Delight divided opinions last night. San Carlo did plenty of midrace work to park outside Tiger Tara and battled away well for third. It’s clear he will need a gun draw and the right run to win the final. Wrappers Delight, who led throughout at Ballarat, had a cosy three-peg run, got clear at the right time and just plugged away in the home straight when fifth to Spankem. It was a very plain run, but driver Kima Frenning remained upbeat. “I was happy with the run. It was his first run over the long distance for a long time. He’ll be better for it,” she said. On what he did last night, he’s no longer a winning chance in the final. The crucial barrier is at 11am (NZ time) tomorrow morning. INTER DOMINION PACING FINAL FIELD AND MARKET $3.40 CRUZ BROMAC, $4.20 Spankem, $4.60 Tiger Tara, $6.50 San Carlo, $7.50 Im Pats Delight, $9 Wrappers Delight, $12 Galactic Star, $41 Our Uncle Sam, $61 Cant Refuse, $71 Cash N Flow, $101 Mach Doro, $151 Village Witch (2nd emerg), $201 Audi Hare (1st emerg) Adam Hamilton

Champion trainer Mark Purdon appears to hold all the aces at Alexandra Park tonight but he admits he doesn't know how most of those cards will fall. Purdon starts his annual northern summer assault at tonight's meeting while partner Natalie Rasmussen is tearing up the Inter Dominions in Victoria with Cruz Bromac and Spankem. Purdon will have the favourite in four races tonight, with the hottest certain to be champion filly Princess Tiffany, who returns in race three. "Like any horse coming back she will be better for the run and that always makes them vulnerable but on class she should still win," offers Purdon. But things get a bit more complicated after that, with the All Stars having multiple runners in the other three races. The most obvious appears to be the opening event where a race fit Jesse Duke clashes with last season's leading juvenile Another Masterpiece. "I think Jesse is the better chance because he is fit and I don't think Another Masterpiece would want to be taking him on this early in his campaign." But the battle between top mares Dream About Me and Elle Mac in the Breeders Stakes may not be as obvious as it looks, even though Dream About Me finished third in the NZ Cup last start and is favourite for the Auckland Cup. "I think Dream About Me deserves to be favourite on what she has done but I worked them together the other day and the way Elle Mac sprinted up the straight right alongside her there might not be much in it. "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Elle Mac beat her." The standing start and racing luck could play the major role for not only Purdon's trio but all the big names in the $30,000 Summer Cup. The best performed horses like Jack's Legend are off 20m over 2200m and while that doesn't mean he can't win it does make him vulnerable to the tempo of the race especially if there are no mid-race moves and a 55-second last 800m off the front. Purdon says any of his trio Ashley Locaz, All U Need Is Faith or Sicario could win and the fact he has chosen to drive All U Need Is Faith over Sicario is not any guide to their chances. "They are all good four-year-olds who could win but the first thing is getting away safely and then who has the luck because I really can't choose between them." Add in On The Cards, Mach Shard, Northview Hustler and rejuvenated veteran Lets Elope and the race looks a beauty.   Michael Guerin

As if there was not enough excitement in the camp more is coming as Chase Auckland readies for a brief northern campaign and then an assault on the Chariots of Fire when he is likely to clash with Spankem all going well. Chase Auckland was the pre-eminent three year old last season before going amiss in the latter part and he has had a patient buildup through the spring toward an Australian campaign. “He is ready to go to the trials now and after that he would head north” Natalie said “He’s doing great. We would probably give him a race at Cambridge even though it is not a qualifying race for the Chariots now and then he would head over for those leadup races for that. “Spankem will stay over here for the Bonanza ($A100,000 January 26) and then go on to Chariots trail. Chase Auckland and will probably go straight to Sydney. Chase Auckland won eight of his nine starts at three and ran second to stablemate Sicario in the other earning nearly $400,000 for his Alabar Farms Syndicate who are naturally his greatest fans. He had a minor hiccup in the spring which crossed out the NZ Cup meeting and the Auckland Cup. That could be a blessing in disguise as he faces a busy summer and autumn all going well. He is likely to trial next Tuesday at Rangiora. Ultimate Machete trialled on Wednesday and won well. A decision has yet to be made on whether he will trial again before heading north. Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Natalie Rasmussen had a surprise admission after dominating the opening night of the Inter Dominions. Rasmussen drove both Spankem and Cruz Bromac to win their pacing heats at Melton in Victoria, as good as confirming the pair will be in the A$500,000 final there on December 15. But while Cruz Bromac is first or second favourite for that final after his effortless heat win, Rasmussen says she is still not certain who she will drive in the final should they both make it. Spankem caused the biggest upset of the night when he overcame sitting parked to win the deepest heat of the three on Saturday, downing fellow Kiwi rep I'm Pats Delight in a repeat of their Kaikoura Cup quinella last month. Rasmussen, who trains both Spankem and Cruz Bromac with partner Mark Purdon, says there could be nothing between them come finals night. "I think Spankem is the horse who could improve the most in the series," says Rasmussen. "He is a fat little bugger and will keep getting better with the hard racing. Inter Dominions are funny things and a lot can happen in the two weeks because they race so often and then you have the barrier draw that comes into play. "But I really think there isn't much between our pair. Getting those two first night wins is crucial because it gives them valuable points and I couldn't be happier with how they came through their runs. "They ate every bit of feed last night and this morning and when I put them in their paddock this morning they took off like mad things. It is a case of so far, so good." Both Spankem and Cruz Bromac face tricky second line draws over sprint trips when the series moves to Ballarat for the next round of heats tomorrow night and Rasmussen warns that could make those races hard to win depending on the mid-race tempo. The big winner for tomorrow night has been I'm Pats Delight, who is not only in a weak heat but has the perfect draw at barrier two, so all three Kiwis are looking good to make the final. Tomorrow night's heats will see both first night trotting heat winners Speeding Spur and Tornado Valley clash, with the former drawing inside his biggest danger for the final. Their wins on Saturday mirrored each other and whoever comes out on top tomorrow could go a long way to securing pre-draw favouritism for the A$150,000 trotting final also on December 15. The last round of heats is at Cranbourne on Saturday night.   Michael Guerin

Second row draws in 1710m races are never good news at any level but even those couldn’t dampen Natalie’s spirits on Sunday morning. “You are in a series. You just have to expect the draws are going to go against you at some stage. Two at the same time not ideal but you just have to roll with it and hope for some luck in the running” However she is counting the positives not the negatives. “I really can’t get over how well the two boys have come through the race. They ate everything up and are bouncing around like schoolboys. You couldn’t have better news than that in a high pressure series like this” Spankem was and is the surprise packet, at least to Australians and, going by his price, many Kiwis as well. Spankem came to Australia as a three year old in search of the Victorian Derby along with stablemate The Devil’s Own. He won his heat- at Ballarat incidentally- and was a good fourth in a highly competitive Derby Final. Colt Thirty One beat Poster Boy and The Devil’s Own with Spankem 4th in a 1.54.5 mile rate. This time he has travelled even better. “He’s got all you want for a horse over here on a tough campaign. He can work in a race and still sprint if you want him and he just seems to love being here. “ Natalie said echoing Poi’s thoughts from last week. “A horse like that is a big asset in a a series like this” That is taking nothing from Cruz Bromac who only did what he had to to win at cramped odds. Though perhaps primarily regarded as a speed horse Cruz can be devastating at any distance with a lead into the action and the distance of the later heats won’t bother him. After the 1710m heats on Tuesday there is a round of 2555m heats at Cranbourne next Saturday and the 2760m final at Melton the following week. While Tuesday’s draws are difficult they are not impossible by any means. Spankem follows out Ellmer’s Image who went average on the first night and may not be able to carry him into a prominent position early but he showed on Saturday how he is capable of making his own luck. Given bold front runner Alpha Rock has also drawn the second line it is another back rower, Tiger Tara who looks the one to beat on his first night run though even he is not set an easy task from outside the second row. Cruz Bromac, the fastest heat winner on the first night follows out the Tim Butt-trained Italian Delight, whose poor run on the first night attracted the attention of the stewards. Galactic Star the former Kiwi from Perth who won the second heat on Saturday is also drawn on the second line. Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/   Fields for Tuesday night click here!

There’s an art to having horses at the peak of their powers on the harness racing big stage, and Mark Purdon and Nat Rasmussen mastered it years ago. Tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton the pair’s brushwork was typically brilliant on the Tabcorp Park Melton canvas, producing a winning double from the opening three TAB Inter Dominion pacing heats with Spankem and Cruz Bromac. Western Australian Galactic Star claimed the other pacing heat for another well-known training partnership in Greg and Skye Bond, the six-year-old holding off local star San Carlo. “I’ve got a lot of respect for San Carlo, he’s one of the better horses in the series, so I thought ‘if we hang on here we’re pretty good’, so I was so proud of him,” Galactic Star’s reinsman Todd McCarthy said. “I think so,” McCarthy said when asked if Galactic Star was a serious ID18 player. “He’s one of those horses if he gets a good draw he can certainly be in the money.” Galactic Star took up the running early with Mach Doro leader’s back from the pole, while Bec Bartley took San Carlo to the chair for the final six furlongs. At the finish just a neck separated Galactic Star and San Carlo, the second horse losing no admirers, the winner rating 1:54.1. Mach Doro boxed on for third ahead of Motu Meteor and Cant Refuse, both those long-shots securing important points for Kerryn Manning and Matthew Craven respectively. Spankem – just a four-year-old – produced a 1:54.3 mile rate to win his heat by 3.2m over Im Pats Delight, while Tiger Tara got back and charged home late into third place. Given Spankem is here with the four-year-old features front-of-mind – the Bonanza and the Chariots – how’s he going to go once there?   Todd McCarthy couldn’t have been more proud of Tiger Tara. “I was rapt with him.” “I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. There was a bit of a breeze up the home straight so I was happy to drive him with a sit tonight.” My Alpha Rock finished in fourth place after initially leading – as promised by trainer Shane Tritton – from the pole, while Wrappers Delight lost no fans with his fifth placing. The last heat of the night for the pacers was the quickest with Cruz Bromac taking up the running for Rasmussen and pacing 1:53.8 to score by 5.1m over Cash N Flow. Series late entrant Maximan produced a big run to finish third despite his back-row draw and Our Uncle Sam was fourth. The ID18 series rolls into Ballarat on Tuesday night before Cranbourne next Saturday night. Click here for Videos and resultsfor first night of Inter Dominions Trots Media - Cody Winnell  

Mark and Natalie are hopeful that while Ultimate Machete won’t make the Auckland Cup field on December 31 he will be racing that night. He could be a starter in the Free for All on the same program at the moment only set for Elle Mac among All Stars runners. “He is progressing well enough for us to think he will make that race” Mark said “He would have a trial before hand and we are hoping he and Thefixer can be up in in Auckland later in the month” ‘They could then both go on to Australia after the Cambridge meeting where TheFixer is set down to have his next race” No risks were taken with Thefixer after his NZ Cup triumph because of the foot problem he had had leading up to that race. He has spent time on the water walker since but the good news is that there is no sign of any problem with the foot. He would also trial before heading north and then run in the Cambridge Flying Mile before heading to Australia. Ultimate Machete, one time Cup favourite, had his Cup plans aborted after he failed to fire in his final lead up races. He was suffering from a foot problem which has responded well to treatment. Given the current depth in open class ranks in Australia he would have been a major player in the Inter Dominion championships and certainly will be in races like the Victoria and Hunter Cups and other autumn features. No decision has been made on who else may venture to Australia as it will be determined by upcoming form Fingers crossed. Mark is very pleased with the way Enhance Your Calm has returned to full work. He resumed at the end of Cup week and is progressing well. “He looks magnificent. He has really done well with that break “ Mark noted   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/home/

New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is out of the Auckland Cup.  And he will be joined on the sidelines for that December 31 classic by Ultimate Machete as the pair are instead aimed at Australian races in the New Year.  Trainer Mark Purdon will not enter the high-profile pair for the Alexandra Park feature when nominations close at 11am on Friday for different reasons.  Both horses have spent much of the last two weeks on the water walker at Stephen Boyd’s property and while Purdon is happy with their condition he thinks the Cup will come up too soon for Thefixer. “He had that time off to get his body over the New Zealand Cup win and we don’t want to rush him back,” said Purdon.  “To be ready for the Auckland Cup he probably would have needed to trial next week and I’d rather give him time, maybe go to the Cambridge Mile and then the Ballarat and Hunter Cups in Victoria and even on to the Miracle Mile.”Ultimate Machete missed the New Zealand Cup, for which he was the one-time favourite, and Purdon is reluctant to aim him at standing start races in the near future.  “He actually hurt himself when he galloped away one night and I wouldn’t want to risk that again because then his season could be over.  “So we will let him miss the Auckland Cup and look at the mobile races in Aussie.”  The Purdon-Rasmussen stable still has the two Auckland Cup favourites in Dream About Me and potential star Turn It Up while the likes of All U Need Is Faith, Ashley Locaz and Sicario are others who will be entered for the Cup.  The All Stars northern team arrives on Saturday and will also include Elle Mac for the Queen of Hearts, star three-year-olds Ultimate Sniper and Another Masterpiece and last season’s champion filly Princess Tiffany Michael Guerin

Matt Bowden is more than happy with how things are going with Inter Dominion hopefuls Spankem and Cruz Bromac as they shape up for the first heats on Saturday. The team arrived in Sydney last Friday and travelled by road to Melbourne on Saturday. “No complaints . Possibly Spankem has done a little better but not enough for anyone to be concerned about. Cruz is going good too” Poi said “Natalie arrives over by Thursday and I will be heading off to Auckland then to look after the team there. They will be based at Barry’s this year” “Natalie will be staying there for the campaign. We are based just out of Melbourne where Blacks a Fake used to stay when he went to Melbourne and it is nice and quiet here” “Spankem has never turned a hair and is a great little traveller. I will be surprised if he doesn’t win a heat of the series at least. Cruz is a hot favourite in his heat and will also be ready for a big run. I am happy with them both” Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Harness racing driver Natalie Rasmussen capped off an amazing week by reining Cruz Bromac to an easy front running victory in yesterdays $184,000 Woodlands New Zealand Pacing Free For All at Addington Raceway.  After an unlucky run in Tuesday's New Zealand Trotting Cup, Cruz Bromac relished the shorter 1980m distance of yesterday's race and the son of Falcon Seelster blasted to the lead shortly after the mobile barrier arms folded. From there the race turned into a procession. With main rival and TAB favourite Tiger Tara caught three wide early and then parked, Cruz Bromac never really eased the pace and won easing down in a super quick 2-18.5 for the 1980m mobile. That equated to a mile rate of 1-52.5 with the last 800m cut out in 55.6 and the closing 400m run in 27.0 seconds. Stable mate of the winner Turn It Up ran on from three deep on the fence to grab second off the trailing Jack's Legend who battled on well for third. Tiger Tara wilted to last after finding his early efforts out wide too big a hurdle to overcome. Natalie Rasmussen really burned early on Cruz Bromac and thought he might be found wanting at the finish, "I really maxed him out to get across and sometimes they are found wanting when you do that, but he really tried hard down the straight.He was getting tired but he really gave it his all. "Since he joined us he has really impressed us, each run he has been really solid and good. "Mark and I will sit down next week and work out where we go, but I would say more than likely Inter Dominions first and then go from there," she said. The win by Cruz Bromac gave Natalie her third Group one success for the week after also winning the NZ Cup with Thefixer and the Sires Stakes Final with Ultimate Sniper on Tuesday.   Harnesslink Media

New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is staying home — not just from the Inter Dominions in Australia but from Addington on Friday too. Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were expected to decide on Wednesday between the Inter Dominion series which begins in Victoria on December 1 and starting Tuesday’s NZ Cup winner in the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on Friday. In the end, they decided on neither. “He was a tired horse, as you might expect, after the Cup and the best thing for him now is an easy time,” said Purdon. “So we will let him miss the free-for-all and while we thought about the Inters I don’t think he needs to be part of that series just yet. “So he will stay here, get ready for the Auckland Cup (December 31) and if we decided to go to Aussie later it will be more likely to target a one off race, like a Hunter Cup.” A similar northern programme also beckons stablemate Dream About Me, who finished third in the Cup and will miss both Friday and the Inter Dominion to be aimed at the Queen of Hearts at Alexandra Park on December 14 and then the Auckland Cup, which she won two years ago. “If she wins the Queen of Hearts it has the bonus of qualifying her for the Ladyship Mile in Sydney later in the summer,” explains Purdon. “I watched the Cup video again and saw just how hard she tried on Tuesday. She went great but I don’t want to back her up.” The All Stars, who won a remarkable eight races from nine they contested on Tuesday, are still likely to have Inter Dominion runners headed by Cruz Bromac with others like Spankem and All U Need Is Faith also possible chances. But while impressive intermediate grade pacer Turn It Up has been thrown into the big time in the $200,000 Free-For-All on Friday he is a very unlikely Inter Dominion contender. Cup runner-up Tiger Tara has again been savaged by the draw for the free-for-all, drawing the outside of the gate at barrier nine while the big winner was Jack’s Legend with barrier one. Tuesday’s group one trot hero Speeding Spur has secured his second perfect draw of the week in the $300,000 Dominion, New Zealand’s richest trot in which he will start from barrier four. That is made even more fortuitous by the fact most of the other pre-draw favourites, Marcoola, Great Things Happen, Kyvalley Blur and Temporale, have drawn the second line, suggesting they will all be giving Speeding Spur a start. Michael Guerin

As far as elite drivers go, the name of Natalie Rasmussen is clearly in the conversation. The trailblazing girl from Queensland can drive.....and she can drive fast. But it’s the soft hands and gentle approach that puts her in rare air. Her collection of big race trophies includes Inter Dominions, Miracle Mile, Queensland Pacing Championships and Auckland, Victoria and Hunter Cups. Rasmussen has led the way for female drivers by becoming the first to win the Inter Dominion, Queensland Pacing Championship plus the Auckland, Victoria and Winter Cups. All of the above mentioned are Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit events, the best of the best. And the latest trophy to the mantelpiece, the Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup, another Grand Circuit feature. Rasmussen produced another polished display to land the 3200m stand start feature, getting race favourite Thefixer away safely before taking the early lead from Star Galleria and then handing over to stablemate Dream About Me. It was typical of her normal poise and guile in big pressure events. The victory puts her alongside fellow Australian Kerryn Manning as the only female winners of the famed feature. Rasmussen also co-trains the winner in partnership with Mark Purdon. After a long delay following a botched attempt the first time around with the starting strand becoming entangled with Eamon Maguire, runners were called back and forced to stand to attention again. But the delay had no effect on Rasmussen or Thefixer with a safe beginning made and landing in a dangerous position while key rivals navigated some early traffic and jostled for positions. Sitting patiently in the trail, Thefixer followed Dream About Me and saved much needed energy, the lead time was covered in 1:57.8. Sole Aussie raider Tiger Tara soon made his move and circled three-wide before parking outside Dream About Me, he maintained strong pressure onwards. Approaching the home turn, Dream About Me and Tiger Tara sprinted as strong as they could and actually had Thefixer losing their backs but Rasmussen went to work and the nuggety little stayer knuckled down and picked up via the passing lane to defeat a gallant Tiger Tara with Dream About Me filling third place. The winning margin was a head with a half-length back to third. The winning time was 3:53.9 - the mile rate was 1:57.6. “I can retire happily now that I’ve finally won this race,” Rasmussen declared. “That was so so close but we got there, he’s been a project horse of mine for some time and he’s such a great little stayer, we got a great run but I was worried when the sprint went on but he fought all the way to the finish and he was brave. It wasn’t an ideal campaign with the hoof abscess but things worked out well.” It was her 7th drive in the New Zealand Cup. Her victories on New Zealand soil now tally 237 from 612 drives while amassing more than $7.9 million. The All Stars stable has now won 4 of the past 5 editions. And the efforts of super sire Bettors Delight can’t go unnoticed, his 5th straight winner of the Cup plus a trifecta! Thefixer is by Bettors Delight from the Christian Cullen mare Tosti Girl and came at a cost of $47,000 at the 2015 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Melbourne on December 15.   Chris Barsby

The New Zealand Trotting Cup doesn’t cut in half. And Thefixer and Tiger Tara won’t receive the same prize money for the bravery at Addington yesterday. But while only the former will have his name etched on the most famous trophy in New Zealand racing, the latter shared the glory in a $800,000 thriller. Thefixer at just his 16th start held off the Australian iron horse in a pulsating finish, one that confirmed no matter how many stars are missing the New Zealand Trotting Cup is that rare equine contest that always produces a fairytale. But this fairytale has two heroes. Thefixer overcame soreness just six weeks ago which threatened to derail his Cup campaign and then recorded the second fastest time in the history of the great race, only his former stablemate Lazarus having gone faster two years ago. Lazarus was all muscle and flash, the bully who taunted his Cup rivals with an arrogant 10-length win. But this time trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen had to earn their Cup, cajoling Thefixer back to his best because only his best would do. After a dreaded false start he got the second attempt right then led and trailed Dream About Me. From there it was his race to lose but lose it he almost did. Because while Thefixer was enjoying the perfect run for driver Rasmussen, Tiger Tara came three wide to sit parked and break the seemingly unbreakable Dream About Me in front. At the 200m mark he looked set to produce one of the gutsiest Cup wins in history only for Thefixer to rally, an equine Rocky Balboa defying the bigger, strong Apollo Creed. Every centremetre Rasmussen saved on the marker pegs made the difference but the runner up was so magnificent it almost felt like their were two Cup winners. The magnificence of Tiger Tara in defeat doesn’t detract from what the winner achieved though. This was, after all, just his 16th start and Thefixer hadn’t come through the glamour of age group races and has earned his stripes in the big time the old fashioned way. Being so untapped and new his options are numerous, with Purdon and Rasmussen to sit down today and decide whether he heads to the Inter Dominion in Victoria starting December 1, a decision which will impact on whether he starts in the NZ Free-For-All this Friday. “He is a very brave horse because he was out on his feet at the top of the straight but he just kept coming,” said Rasmussen, who joins Kerryn Manning as only the second female driver to win the Cup. One horse certain to be in both the Free-For-All and at the Inter Dominion is Tiger Tara, who greatness isn’t in his raw ability but in the organ beating under his rib cage. He quite simply covered lengths more than the other placegetters and produced a run that would have won more than 100 of the NZ Cups run since the first in 1904. “He was great. There really isn’t a lot more he could have done,” said driver Todd McCarthy. “I thought I had them once I got past Dream About Me but the other little horse just wouldn’t go away.” On a day where the Purdon-Rasmussen team won a scarcely believable eight out of the nine races they contested they may have unearthed their next champion in Ultimate Sniper in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes. He came from the second line to sit parked and record a searing time to remain unbeaten after four starts, suggesting if he can hold together he could even be the best horse in the all-conquering stable in 12 or 18 months. On any normal day his supersonic effort would have earned him skiting rights for the meeting. But not yesterday. Yesterday he has to share that with Cup winner. And the Cup runner-up. Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon has taken his place alongside two other greats of harness racing by training the winner of his sixth New Zealand Trotting Cup today with Thefixer. Today's win by Thefixer takes Purdon's number of training wins in the race to six which equals the six wins trainers James Bryce and Cecil Devine have also had in the country’s biggest harness race. Natalie Rasmussen drove a perfect race to win her first New Zealand Cup as a driver giving her the race she always wanted to win. "New Zealand is home now. To come here and win this race, it means everything. I could happily retire now," she joked. She paid tribute to Mark Purdon on trackside after the race. "Mark and I are just soulmates, we run our business together, we work together, we live together, we are best friends. I am really lucky to have him in our life. He's just a wonderful, wonderful horseman and I am just really proud of our whole team, right from the top all the way through." Thefixer trailed for the majority of the race and just when it looked like the Australian visitor Tiger Tara was in for a hard fought win, Thefixer poked up the passing lane for a narrow head victory. Thefixer ran the 3200m stand in 3-53.9 which was only 0.8 of a second outside the race record set by the mighty Lazarus in 2016. The last 800m was run in 55.6 seconds. Tiger Tara fought gamely for second after working hard during the running and race leader Dream About Me battled on to hold down third. Cruz Bromac was a touch unlucky getting clear air late and running home well into fourth. All Stars Stables had a day to remember winning 8 of the nine races they contested which surely must be some sort of record in itself.   Harnesslink Media    

Harness racing has a new superstar and his name is Ultimate Sniper.  On a perfect Canterbury day the showy looking Bettor's Delight colt won a grinding finish in the the 3yo $170,000 Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway. Trained by the all conquering All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Ultimate Sniper had to sit parked on a hot pace but found extra reserves in the home straight to wear down his stablemate Jesse Duke who trailed and battled well to be only three-quarters of a length away at the line.  Heisenberg ran third after setting a hot pace in front and Mighty Flying Art ran home well for fourth. Ultimate Sniper ran the 1980m mobile in a lightning time of 2-19.0 for the 1980m mobile, a mile rate of 1-52.9 with the last 800m cut out in a super quick 54.6 and 400m in 28 seconds. Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave a lot of credit to the horses toughness in the run. “This guy is very similar to his big brother Ultimate Machete,” she said. “He just does not know when to give up and just fights right to the line. “Jesse Duke had the run to beat him today but my fella has a hell of a motor and was just too tough. The win was the fourth for the day for the All Stars Stable who also won with Having The Faith in Race 2, Winterfell in Race 3 and also with All U Need Is Faith in Race 4   Harnesslink Media    

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