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If Lazarus is to cap one of the great summers in New Zealand harness racing history he is going to have to do it the hard way. That is the reality of tonight’s A$750,000 Miracle Mile, the centrepiece of a stunning night at Menangle where Kiwi horses have favoured to win five group ones inside 140 minutes. The meeting is the strongest held at Menangle since it opened in 2008 but as good as the support card it, the Miracle Mile is the race people will remember, especially if Lazarus wins. After his New Zealand Cup demolition job, a similar display in the Victoria Cup and bullying wins in the NZ Free-For-All, Chariots of Fire and Ashburton Flying Stakes, if Lazarus wins tonight his body of work sits alongside the golden summers of Christian Cullen, Christopher Vance and Chokin.   But first he has to win and to that he might need to add a new string to his bow.  Lazarus is at his most crushing when able to lead and run consistently searing sectionals which deter challengers before rolling into a quick last 800m.  But there is next to no chance of him leading tonight and trainer-driver Mark Purdon admits if a fast tempo allows him to drive the champ sit-sprint something special could unfold. “I have never really had the chance to drive him cold before and I think he might love it,” said Purdon.  “I am pretty sure Hectorjayjay will lead and if he tries to go slow then I might have to come sit parked.  “But if the pressure is on and we follow the right horse into the race then he might come out and really sprint.”With Lazarus likely to settle midfield at best in a race where swooping victories are rare, those who take the short odds tonight could be in for some uncomfortable times.  But he is still the best horse in the race and Purdon believes having a week off from racing has helped bring both him and stablemate Our Waikiki Beach on.  “They sprinted up together well on Thursday morning and I am sure they will both be better than in the Chariots two week ago.”Purdon has already has one win going into tonight’s meeting, where he trains all five New Zealand favourites.  Auckland Cup winner Our Dream About Me, who has struggled with corns, passed a NSW stewards-ordered vet check yesterday and is almost certain to start in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile.  “She had a small corns issue and we have been working hard to get her to the race.  “She hasn’t missed any real work but it is going to be a tough for her without a lead-up races and while she is a great mare, Piccadilly Princess has to be at least as good a chance now.”  Purdon favours Vincent from the ace draw over stablemates Ultimate Machete and Motu Meteor in tonight’s NSW Derby while Partyon’s inside second line draw in the NSW Oaks may not be as bad as it looks.  She follows out a fast beginner in Takara Truffle and may be able to get a tactical advantage over arch rival Petacular.  The night’s other group one pace looks the trickiest for the New Zealanders, with Have Faith In Me and Chase The Dream both coming off hard summers into a even free-for-all tonight. Michael Guerin

Harness Racing New South Wales Stewards advise that two runners from the Mark Purdon stable will undergo a veterinary examination at the Menangle Park Training facility tomorrow morning. OUR DREAM ABOUT ME: "HRNSW Stewards advise that on Tuesday afternoon at Tabcorp Park Menangle they spoke to a representative of the Purdon stable and information was provided in relation to the horse's condition and recent treatment," reported HRNSW Chairman of Stewards Graham Loch. "Following review of the two recent trials of Our Dream About Me at Menangle, having noted that the mare last raced on 31 December, 2016, and having regard to comments made this morning by Mr Purdon on Perth radio, we have advised the trainer that we require our HRNSW Regulatory Veterinarian to examine the horse tomorrow morning." HAVE FAITH IN ME: HRNSW Stewards have received information from a number of New Zealand-based Veterinary Surgeons regarding a kidney condition sustained by Have Faith In Me. It appears that the condition was identified and treated prior to the horse racing successfully in Australia last season. "It is our position that we possibly should have been provided with the information in the past but in light of recent performances and public speculation HRNSW Stewards are attempting to gain an understanding of the condition and what, if any, issues may affect performance," said Loch. Loch added that Mr Purdon has been advised to present the horse tomorrow. ULTIMATE MACHETTE: HRNSW Stewards have also received the results of pathology tests undertaken from Ultimate Machete after racing at Tabcorp Park Menangle last Saturday night. Following the race Mr Purdon had expressed disappointment in the performance. Wollondilly Equine Clinic Veterinary Surgeon Dr Andrew Argyle has advised the pathology results were normal other than indicating that Ultimate Machete was exhibiting signs of post virus recovery. MICHAEL PRENTICE | INTEGRITY OFFICER (02) 9722 6600 GRAHAM LOCH | CHAIRMAN OF STEWARDS (02) 9722 6600                AMANDA RANDO   MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER       HARNESS RACING NEW SOUTH WALES   22 Meredith Street Bankstown NSW 2200   PO Box 1034 Bankstown NSW 1885   T: 02 9722 6600 E: T: @Amanda_Rando   W: | T: | F:              

Mark Purdon won two of the three NSW Derby heats, but still emerged from the qualifiers scratching his head.  That’s because his best three-year-old and the prepost NSW Derby favourite could only manage a well-beaten third in his heat behind NSW pacer Atomic Red, who improved out of sight and led throughout.  Purdon won the other two heats, firstly with the improving Motu Meteor and more significantly with Vincent in the third and final heat.  Ultimate Machete went into the heats a clear favourite for the final, but Vincent emerged clearly the horse to beat.  Purdon seemed at a loss with Ultimate Machete’s run and said he was “beaten a long way from home.”  The draw for the Derby is at noon (NZ time) tomorrow (Monday).  In Ultimate Machete’s defence, he did sit parked and the winner, Atomic Red, broke the track and race record for a three-year-old with a sizzling 1min54.4sec mile rate for the long 2400m trip.  It was a daring drive from Amanda Turnbull, who took the reins on Atomic Red for her father, Steve.  “I wasn’t surprised he did that, more pleased he showed the gate speed he did,” Amanda said.  “We’ve changed a few things to try and get him off the gate better and he did well tonight. I hope begins that well in the final.”  Just as he was in the Victoria Derby heat, Vincent was stunning winning his heat last night (Saturday).  The son of Art Major sat parked and looked win with plenty in the tank in a 1min55.5sec mile rate – just 1.1sec slower than the Ultimate Machete heat.  It underlined what a shame it was he copped a pucture at the start of the Victoria Derby and was retired from the race.  In the first heat, Purdon’s Motu Meteor turned the tables on Our Little General in a reversal of their quinella from the Victoria Derby two weeks ago.  Our Little General led, looked quite wayward at times, and simply couldn’t hold-off the speed of Motu Meteor – who sat parked – in a 26.3sec closing quarter.   They went much slower in that heat with a 1min57.1sec mile rate.    Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen will now have to find a driver for Motu Meteor. Purdon is set to stick with Vincent and Rasmussen is regular driver of Ultimate Machete.  Amanda Turnbull also drove three Derby qualifiers in their heats – Atomic Red, Wardan Express and Conviction – but it will be a surprise if she doesn’t stick with the impressive Atomic Red.  Adam Hamilton

Lost: The real Have Faith In Me.  If found, please return to Menangle in time for next week’s $750,000 Miracle Mile. That is the strange story of the defending Miracle Mile champion and Australasian mile record holder as he returns tomorrow night to Menangle, where he is unbeaten. If last year’s version of Have Faith In Me turned up in the $100,000 Canadian Club Sprint tomorrow night there would be plenty of punters willing to bet he could down Lennytheshark and Bling It On. After all, he came from behind Lennytheshark to down him in last season’s Miracle Mile in 1:47.5, still the fastest mile ever paced in the Southern Hemisphere. Bizarrely he has only won one moderate race since, struggling to find his best form in New Zealand and Victoria and more often than not racing erratically. Exhaustive vet tests have found a kidney abnormality which nobody knows how to fix, leaving trainer Mark Purdon with little option but to keep racing him. "It has been a strange season with him,” says Purdon. “He wasn’t himself at the start of the season and even though we now know why he hasn’t come right back to his best. “He is good enough to still be racing but can he make it back to what he was this time last season in time for the Miracle Mile? I doubt it, to be honest.” The other problem facing Have Faith In Me is his poor manners in recent starts have seen him placed out of the draw behind the mobile, meaning he will have to give the Hunter Cup trifecta of Bling It On, Yayas Hot Spot and Lennytheshark a start over the mile. “It is not going to be easy because he has to be put in the race. “He has to run top two to be guaranteed his Miracle Mile spot but as the defending champion we are hoping he can sneak in even if he only finishes third or fourth.” Purdon is more confident with Inter Dominion champion Smolda in tomorrow night’s other Miracle Mile prelude, but says it will be hard to catch Hectorjayjay. “He was a bit tired after his below par run in the Hunter Cup but his work on Tuesday morning was better. “But it stacks up as a tricky race and if he can finished top two or three and qualify then I’ll be happy.” Purdon does have four hot favourites and a second favourite at tomorrow night’s meeting, with the TAB opening a market on how may races he will win, up to three wins being the favoured option at $2.40. MICHAEL GUERIN | @GuerinSports 

Pacing champ Lazarus can go faster -- and he might have to. The four-year-old freak wracked up his fifth group one win in his last seven starts when he outmuscled his rivals in the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on Saturday night. After bullying his way to the front down the back straight he never flinched under pressure from stablemate Our Waikiki Beach in the home straight to head home a stable quinella in 1:49 for the mile. For any normal pacing great that would have been sensational but for a horse who has handed out epic thrashings in New Zealand and Victoria Cups it felt almost tradesmanlike. There was no explosion at the top of the straight, just a relentless staying performance without the icing on top. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon says there are an array of reasons Lazarus was a percentage point or two below his dazzling best. “He has had a tricky week,” admitted Purdon. “He had to travel up here from Melbourne which meant his training was interrupted. “And when he first got here the heat affected him a bit. “And he has raced for Saturdays in a row, all in group ones, which is not easy. “So I was proud of the way he stuck to it when Waikiki Beach came at him.” Lazarus’s win earns him the first invite to the A$750,000 Miracle Mile on Saturday week as well as the luxury of bypassing the preludes this Saturday. “That will be a help, having a week off and also more time to get used to the heat here. “So I am certain he can go quicker than the 1:49 and he might have to in the Miracle Mile.” Lazarus is seemingly unbeatable in front but he may not be guaranteed that role in a  Miracle Mile that could contain Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay, Smolda, Bling It On and defending champ Have Faith In Me.  At his NZ Cup best he might simply be too good for even that elite bunch but if he performs at his Chariots level then a Hectorjayjay leading or a Bling It On sitting on his back could give him, and punters, a huge fright. The remaining seven Miracle Mile invites will be issued this Saturday, with the first two home in each of the qualifiers getting a start, leaving three spots up for grabs. Our Waikiki Beach might have done enough to sneak in so will be allowed to bypass the preludes but the question mark horse will be Have Faith In Me. As the defending champion and Australasian mile holder the Menangle club will want him in the race and a top four prelude finish will probably be good enough to earn him an invite but anything below that level could make his inclusion hard to justify. Saturday’s meeting will also see heats of the NSW Derby and Oaks so will feature Ultimate Machete, Vincent and Partyon. But Auckland Cup winner Dream About Me won’t be there, with Purdon opting to trial her on Tuesday and again next week in the lead-up to the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile after a recent virus setback. “She is better now and I am happy with her but I think two trials will be enough." Michael Guerin

Lazarus is out to correct one of the great anomalies of pacing in tonight’s A$200,000 Chariots of Fire at Menangle. Because the greatest pacer in Australasia is also the slowest horse in the four-year-old group one. In a remarkable stat, Lazarus, the winner of $1.8million and the New Zealand and Victoria Cups has a fastest official mile rate of 1:52.5, the equal slowest of the 10 acceptors in tonight’s sprint. It is a staggering 3.2 seconds slower that second favourite Salty Robyn’s personal best, all because Lazarus has raced sparingly over sprint trips and never on the lightning-fast Menangle. In fact, Lazarus’s quickest mile rate was actually over the 2240m of the Victoria Cup a fortnight ago. Considering stablemate Have Faith In Me set a track record 1:47.5 in the Miracle Mile last season and Lazarus is better performed he would seem a 1:47 miler in waiting but his lack of Menangle experience should be the greatest concern for punters taking the $1.35 NZ TAB quote tonight. Menangle miles are known for their searing early sectionals and many great horses have found themselves out of their comfort zones early then struggling to make ground after. Add to that that Lazarus has raced the last three Saturday nights and travelled north from Melbourne this week and trainer Mark Purdon admits he could be vulnerable. "He seems great and has trained well but I am also aware this could be a tricky race,” says Purdon. “So while I expect him to go well I wouldn’t be surprised if the race turns out tougher than some people might think.” Purdon is aware he will need to stay handy and not give away tactical advantage to the likes of Salty Robyn with exactly who leads after 400m crucial to his chances of getting the front. If Lazarus was able to reach the lead punters will feel far more comfortable as no horse has ever run past him in his 26-start career. Purdon does have two powerful Chariots support acts in Lets Chase The Dream and Our Waikiki Beach, who he is unable to split the pair from their wide draws. The winner of tonight’s race will be invited to the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 25. Michael Guerin

FRESH from his stunning Hunter Cup-winning drive on Bling It On, Luke McCarthy has snared the drive on Lets Chase The Dream in Saturday night’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire (1609m) at Menangle.  Co-trainer Mark Purdon today confirmed he would drive Lazarus, Natalie Rasmussen would take the reins on Our Waikiki Beach and McCarthy had the gig on Lets Chase The Dream.  “I’m really happy with all the horses,” Purdon said. “Luke’s a terrific driver and he’s driven for us in a lot of big races over the years.”  Lazarus, lining-up for his fourth run in as many weeks, is the Aussie TAB’s $1.45 favourite from Salty Robyn ($4.80). Then comes Arma The Gun (gate two, $10), Sams The Master (gate one, $15) and Dashofluck (gate three, $15).  Our Waikiki Beach is an $18 shot from gate seven while Lets Chase The Dream is $21 from barrier nine.  Shane and Lauren Tritton have Salty Robyn and Anything For Love in the race.  Chris Geary will drive Salty Robyn, while Luke McCarthy’s brother, Andy, has picked up the drive on the emerging Antyhing For Love.  Shane Tritton has promised early fireworks now Anything For Love has drawn out wide in gate nine.  We’ve got no option but to burn out early and lead from the nine,” Tritton said.  “I think the draw (five) is ideal for Salty Robyn. I’ve been waiting so long for this race and the chance to take on Lazarus.”  There is plenty of depth to Saturday night’s support card as well including the Group 2 Silbelia Stakes for mares where former Kiwi pacer Cyclone Kate is $3.80 favourite in an open race from gate three.  Champion mare Frith ($4.20) resumes from a spell in gate four for new trainer Craig Cross, while Queensland raider Smooth Showgirl ($5.50) is the other key player from the pole.  Another former Kiwi pacer No Doctor Needed continues his path towards a possible Miracle Mile start in the free-for-all. He’s drawn the outside (gate seven). Adam Hamilton

RIVAL harness racing trainer Shane Tritton was the most interested onlooker as Lazarus worked a lot harder than expected to win the the Group 1 4YO Bonanza at Melton last night (Saturday).  It booked Lazarus his spot in next week’s $200,000 Group 1 Chariots Of Fire, but also raised some queries about the pin-up horse of Australasia.   As he has done a few times before, Lazarus appeared to struggle at top speed rounding the final bend in a race.  But, as great horses do, he found a way to come deep and win, which most others found impossible with the pattern of racing last night.  Tritton, who trains the Chariots second favourite Salty Robyn, is big on homework and will have carefully noted Lazarus’s battle on the final bend.  When you have won the NZ Cup by a record margin and the Victoria Cup, dropping back to race your own age should be stroll in the park.  Tritton isn’t so sure that will be the case for Lazarus at Menangle next Saturday night.  In fact, the always upbeat and confdent Tritton thinks he can beat him with his emerging star Salty Robyn.  Salty Robyn goes ino the Chariots having won his past 10 starts.  And he has run time, too. Salty Robyn’s PB is a 1min49.2sec mile and that was sitting parked.  Tritton think he can much quicker if needed.  Facts say that will be needed to test or beat Lazarus.  That’s because Lazarus’ trainer Mark Purdon thinks he can run a faster mile than his stablemate Have Faith In Me, who paced 1min47.5sec beating Lennytheshark in last year’s Miracle Mile.  If Salty Robyn has any hope, the barriers need to go his way and he needs to stay in front of Lazarus.  “I’m so looking forward to it. My horse could not have had a better build-up and he’s ready to fly. Lazarus won’t get this race on a platter,” Tritton said.  Tritton will have two Chariots runners with his emerging Anything For Love also making the field.  Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen will have three runners with Our Waikiki Beach and Lets Chase The Dream joining Lazarus.  Lets Chase The Dream showed he was primed with another dominant win at Menangle last night.  Despite sitting parked for much of the race, Lets Chase The Dream controlled the race from the “death” and dashed home in 55.3 and 26.7sec for a 1min52.2sec mile. It followed a 1min49.9sec win a week earlier.  Adam Hamilton

Most harness fans have considered Mark Purdon a legend for quite some time, but now it’s official. A humble and almost emotional Purdon was awarded Living Legend status at last night’s Caduceus Club event, which included the barrier draws for the Hunter Cup, Victoria Derby and Great Southern Star. “To come up here and be awarded this and have my up there alongside Dad (Roy) and Barry, who have also been awarded it, is really special,” Purdon said. “It means a lot to me. Coming to Australia, especially Melbourne, for the big races has been such a big part of my career. “It’s an incredible thrill to get this.” Purdon was surrounded by some of his major owners and friends and thanked them all, but saved some special words for Neil Pilcher. “It means so much for the man we affectionately know as ‘Pilch’ to be here tonight,” Purdon said. “He’s been one of my biggest supporters and a great friend. We all love you Pilch.” The timing was perfect with Purdon driving five of the 10 winners at last Saturday night’s Victoria Cup meeting, including Lazarus in the Cup and Sunny Ruby in the Group 1 Dullard Cup. His romp could continue with the likes of Smolda, Lazarus, Vincent, A Piccadilly Princess and Have Faith In Me all favourites to win major races at Melton this Saturday night. NZ media man Greg O’Connor and the NZ Trackside team compiled a moving video tribute to Purdon’s amazing career which was shown to the big crowd at the Caduceus Club event. Adam Hamilton

A couple of weeks ago Speeding Spur wasn’t going to defend his Great Southern Star title, but now he’s an odds-on favourite. A slashing first-up run at Alexandra Park combined with an ideal draw saw the Aussie TAB install Speeding Spur a $1.80 favourite for Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 feature at Melton. There no doubt he has the class, but does have he the fitness in a very different Great Southern Star to the one he so magnificently won last year? Gone are the heats and final, but also gone is the one-mile trip. The Great Souithern Star is now a one-off 2760m staying test. Barrier five certainly helps Speeding Spur’s prospects, but whether he should be as short as $1.80 is big question. He does have a couple of noted speedsters drawn inside him in Maori Time (three) and WA raider Cardigan Boko (four). Maori Time may take a sit on Speeding Spur, it is very doubtful Cardigan Boko would. The draw wasn’t as kind to last week’s Group 1 Dullard Cup winner Sunny Ruby, who will start from outside the back row (gate 13) with David Butcher aboard. The other runners with Kiwi flavour are Tim Butt’s Daryl Boko (gate nine) and Quite A Moment (gate 11), who is in the care of Lance Juistice. Star Aussie On Thunder Road, who wasn’t suited by gate one last week, is much better placed from two this week and looks as a major player. The X-factor is Cardigan Boko, who ran better than his sixth indicates last week, and has the gate speed to lead or take a forward spot from barrier four. VINCENT’S hold on Victoria Derby favouritism eased after he drew the worst possible barrier for Saturday night’s $200,000 final. “The one barrier I didn’t want was eight,” trainer-driver Mark Purdon said. That’s exactly where Vincent drew, meaning it is likely Purdon will have to drag him right back at the start to avoid being bailed-up on the marker pegs. Vincent may still be too good judging by his breathtaking heat win, but he eased from $1.30 to $1.50 on the Aussie TAB and is likely to start even longer. The news wasn’t much better for the other two Kiwi finalists. Vincent’s stablemate, Motu Meteor, drew outside the back row (gate 12), while Barry Purdon’s Be Jacks Legend is off the back row (gate 10). The winners from the draw were last season’s Breeders Crown 2YO winner A Little General, who might be the leader from gate two, and last week’s luckless third-placegetter Wrappers Delight (gate one). Mark Purdon had better luck in the draws with Lazarus (gate two, $1.04) in the Group 1 4YO Bonanza and A Piccadilly Princess (gate four, $1.45) in the Group 1 Ladyship Cup. His Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me will start from outside the front row (gate seven) in the free-for-all (race seven) where he looks a league above his six rivals. Purdon also has his comeback trotter Prince Fearless in the final event on Hunter Cup after making the long trip to Boort to win the Central Victorian Trotting Championship last week. Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon will have just the one runner, defending champion Smolda, in Saturday night’s $500,000 Group 1  Hunter Cup. The champion trainer, fresh from totally dominating last Saturday night’s Victoria Cup card at Melton, has changed plans and will not run his reigning Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me in the Hunter Cup. Purdon’s original plan was to pay the late entry for the Hunter Cup if Have Faith In Me won well last Saturday night. This morning he said: “Have Faith In Me will go around in the Bertocchi free-for-all this week, not the Hunter Cup.” Have Faith In Me was into $8 third favourite on the Aussie TAB before Purdon’s news. Have Faith In Me returned to winning form, albeit by a whisker, when he sat parked and nabbed the leader Maximan on the line to win the Pure Steel at Melton last Saturday night. It was a glimpse of the Have Faith In Me who stormed through Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile wins this time last year and looked the next big thing in the sport. Beyond this week, Have Faith In Me will head to Menangle for one of the Miracle Mile qualifying sprints at Menangle on February 18. With Have Faith In Me out, Smolda tightened to $2.60 favourite on th Aussie TAB. Lennytheshark is $3 second favourite in what now effectively looked a two-horse race. That sets the scene for a crucial barrier draw, which will be conducted at a HRV event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Adam Hamilton

Lazarus might be the best pacer in the world but he won’t be asked to prove it. Because trainer-driver Mark Purdon says his piece of pacing perfection will never campaign in North America, even though he could potentially dominate there, like he did in Saturday’s A$400,000 Victoria Cup. Lazarus turned the 2240m mobile into an advert for his future stud career, blazing to a 12m win without being asked for his maximum. His task was made easier by a second favourite Hectorjayjay being checked into a gallop early but it wouldn’t have mattered as Lazarus was in front of him by that stage and tore around the Melton track in a 1:52.5 mile rate. He becomes a rare four-year-old winner of the Victoria Cup and is now red hot for the A$1,050,000 treble of the Bonanza, Chariots Of Fire and Miracle Mile in the next month. Purdon believes Lazarus is still working his way back to his jaw-dropping level of New Zealand Cup week and if he gets there by Miracle Mile night on February 25 he could go close to 1:47 for a mile. It is a very realistic estimate considering Have Faith In Me set the Australasian record at 1:47.5 last season and Lazarus is racing to a higher level than his stablemate was then. A 1:47 mile in the Southern Hemisphere would put Lazarus in the all-time greats of the sport anywhere in the world and it would be hugely tempting to give him his shot at North America next year, where feature race success could set him up as a dual hemisphere stallion. But while that could be worth millions, Purdon says there is enough money to be won in this part of the world without the risk. “I don’t think he needs to go up there and risk the complications,” he explains. “He has some huge races to chase down here and his owners are loving racing him so we haven’t even talked about the stud stuff yet.” If he can stay sound and he doesn’t start thinking more about his love life than his track like, Lazarus could the horse harness racing has prayed for. He was the captain of a near perfect Kiwi team at Melton on Saturday, with Vincent, Motu Meteor and Jack’s Legend winning the three Victoria Derby heats. Jack’s Legend was patiently handled by Zac Butcher but still sat three wide for the last 800m and rated 1:55 for the 2240m, handing trainer Barry Purdon and Butcher as driver a perfect two from two for the night. Earlier in the evening Butcher snuck Rocker Band up the passing lane to win her first Australian start and now takes on Piccadilly Princess in the Ladyship Cup this Saturday, the winner guaranteed a start in the Ladyship Mile on February 25. Motu Meteor made the most of a trail to win his heat but it was Vincent who stole the show, sitting parked before smashing his rivals by 12m and earning $1.30 pre-draw favouritism. Among the older horses Have Faith In Me scored his first win since the Miracle Mile in a support race and while it had to be brave after sitting parked he still looks two or three lengths off the horse of last season, with the Hunter Cup on Saturday his chance to turn that around. For all the greatness of Lazarus perhaps them most heart-warming Kiwi win of the night was Sunny Ruby sneaking home in the Dullard Cup for Sam Smolenski in what was the first Australian start for horse and trainer. “That was a great buzz because obviously the Great Southern Star is the main race we are here for,” said Smolenski. “But I am loving this trip and learning so its a great experience.” Sunny Ruby will now head to this Saturday’s A$300,000 Great Southern Star against Speeding Spur, with Kiwi horses set to be favourites in all five group ones at Melton this Saturday. Michael Guerin

Lazarus’ dominant victory in the Eynesbury Victoria Cup reinforced his star-studded status and capped a remarkable night for harness racing trainer-driver Mark Purdon, who registered a fifth win on the trot. The 12m win in the $400,000 Group 1 feature prompted Purdon, not one for grand statements, to share that Lazarus just might be the greatest horse he had ever trained. Purdon had reason to be chuffed after Lazarus’ win topped an incredible winning streak and has him seemingly set for further glory on Saturday’s Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup night. “I feel good. It’s been a great night,” Purdon said. “Unbelievable, you don’t expect to come here and win them all and to do it is a great feeling.” Purdon claimed two VHRSC Victoria Derby heats, including with Vincent who put in a Lazarus like performance, won the The SEW Eurodrive Pure Steel with Have Faith In Me and then drove Sunny Ruby to victory in the Haras Des Trotteurs V L Dullard Trotters Cup. But all the success would have been soured had Lazarus not sealed the deal in the night’s showcase race, and it was a win that never seemed in doubt. Lazarus showed gate speed to match the fast starters inside him, Major Crocker and Tact Tate, and so was able to glide across and then claim the front at the time of his choosing. Lazarus’ biggest threat, Hectorjayjay, had plenty of room to advance from the back row after Major Crocker’s blistering start, but a check with Cruz Bromac saw Hectorjayjay break and plummet to the rear of the field. It as good as put paid to Josh and David Aiken’s challenger and enabled Purdon to run free up front. “You can’t afford to get checked in this sort of race, it’s tough to overcome that against a good horse like this,” Purdon said. “Luckily (Lazarus) got out of the gate good and into a good spot before I decided to take the front.” After a 44.2 lead time Lazarus set 30-second and 28.6-second first and second quarters, the latter after Bling It On loomed into the breeze and then gifted that place to trailing Hectorjayjay. Aiken's was a brave attempt to put the second favourite back into the race, but Lazarus’ 27.4 third quarter and 26.4 final quarter put him into a class of his own, winning by 12m from Major Crocker, who ran an outstanding second and finished some 7.7m clear of third-placed Bling It On. But, in the end there was only one, Lazarus, the four-year-old Bettor's Delight entire out of Bethany for owners Glenys and Phil Kennard, Trevor Casey and Kevin Riseley. “He’s a special horse,” Purdon said. “I said that to the owners as a three-year-old. Smolda got beaten in a free-and-all and I told the owners that Lazarus would have won that, and he was only three at the time.” Smolda will get his turn next week in the $500,000 Group 1 Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup, when he will take on old foe David Aiken. Purdon’s enormous Summer Of Glory could continue to blaze on February 4 with Lazarus to be an almost unbackable favourite in the Edgell Sidewinders 4YO Bonanza and Vincent likewise in the VHRSC Victoria Derby. Lararus, Victoria Cup 2017  Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Vincent had to be vulnerable after covering so much ground on the first lap in his heat of the harness racing VHRSC Victoria Derby tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton.  But when he put paid to Sydney star Blue Moon Rising approaching the home bend – with daylight to the rest of the field – he looked anything but susceptible. The Mark Purdon trained and driven three-year-old son of Art Major-Kept For Pleasure gapped them, 12.3m his winning margin. He glided through the last half in 55 seconds flat, 26.9secs the final quarter-mile. “He’s got everything going for him. He’s a lovely horse. He’s got a great heart,” Purdon said after the 2240-metre race. “He was unlucky he got injured as a two-year-old otherwise he would have been here for the APG but that’s the way it went and it may have turned out a blessing for it.” While Vincent looks clearly the one to beat come next Saturday’s $200,000 three-year-old classic, Purdon-trained stablemate Motu Meteor (Bettors Delight-Silksngems) might be the opportunist should he draw well. The Merv and Meg Butterworth owned gelding won the third heat of the Derby at Melton in 1:57.3, sprinting sharply up the sprint lane after getting smother throughout behind race leader Jilliby Kung Fu. “He got the perfect run and capitalised. He’s a nice little horse. He has probably flown under the radar a little bit,” Purdon said. “He’s not without a chance (in the big one) and if he draws like he did tonight it’ll play right into his hands.” Jilliby Kung Fu stuck on for second beaten 2.6m after crawling through his first half in 62.7. They ripped home in 28.4 and 26.4. Meanwhile, making it three out of three for “Purdon-trained Derby heat winners” was Be Jacks Legend (Bettors Delight-Larissas Rose), trained by Barry Purdon – Mark’s older brother and NZ’s most successful trots trainer ever. Be Jacks Legend went 1:55.0 from barrier seven to topple Emain Macha by 2.2m with Wrappers Delight third. The winner was driven by Zac Butcher and is owned by leviathan all-codes owner Terry Henderson, who has won a Melbourne Cup with Doriemus and also owned two-time Kiwi harness horse of the year Chokin.  “I love being back here,” Henderson said post-race. “Especially on nights like tonight when you see the best of the best … it’s just fantastic to be involved.” Butcher said Be Jacks Legend would only continue to improve. “He was a January foal so he is still growing and developing and learning the way of the game,” Butcher said. “This guy did it pretty tough over the last lap and he really stuck to his guns.” Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Star Kiwi raiders Vincent and Jacks Legend are the prepost Victoria Derby favourites, but both have wide draws to overcome in their qualifying heats on Saturday night. Mark Purdon’s Vincent, the Aussie TAB’s $1.70 prepost favourite for the final, is $1.30 to win his heat despite drawing outside the front row (gate seven) in the second heat. Barry Purdon’s Jacks Legend – who will race in Aussie as Be Jacks Legend – is a $2 shot in the opening heat from the outside (gate seven). Be Jacks Legend faces a serious test with the highly-rated Somewhere Secret drawn the pole, Emain Macha in gate five, SA Derby winner Our Jimmie in six and exciting WA raider Im Rockaria in gate eight. Vincent looks a class above his rivals with Shane Tritton’s Blue Moon Rising (gate two) and Emma Stewart’s Rocknroll Icon (three_ the next best credentialled. Former Mark Purdon-trained pacer You Gotta Have Faith, now with Nicole Molander, has drawn gate eight in Vincent’s heat. Mark Purdon’s Derby second-stringer, Motu Meteor, gets his chance from the pole in the third heat. His major rivals are Jilliby Kung Fu (gate two), Astride (four) and Breeders Crown 2YO winner A Little General (five). There is also plenty of Kiwi flavour in Saturday night’s $50,000 Group 1 Dullard Cup (2240m) – the last lead-up to next week’s Group 1 Great Southern Star. Sam Smolenski’s Sunny Ruby is a key player from gate four, Quite A Moment has barrier 11, while former Kiwi trotter Great Things Happen has gate 13. Early favourite is NSW trotters On Thunder Road from gate two. The race also marks the return of former champ Keystone Del (gate 10), who trialled well against the pacers at Maryborough last Sunday. The X-factor in the race is Swedish-bred former Victorian and now WA-trained trotter Cardigan Boko. Cardigan Boko is trained by Clive Dalton and champion WA driver Chris Lewis is making the trip across to take the reins Adam Hamilton

Vincent has a stranglehold on the VHRSC Victoria Derby if you believe the harness racing markets. The three-year-old member of Mark Purdon’s All Stars squad is long odds-on favourite according to some markets following his demolition job win at Geelong last Thursday night. Vincent led from gate two and comfortably accounted for older horses in a C2-C3 with a mile rate of 1:58.7 for the 2100-metre trip. He only really clicked up at the finish with a 27.7 final 400m dash. And he was in second gear. But the rising star Kiwi winner of six out of seven races has secured the visitor’s draw in his Derby heat (Race 4 at Melton on Saturday night), the son of Art Major-Kept For Pleasure to come out of gate seven. Despite the barrier, has installed Vincent $1.30 favourite for his heat ahead of Team Tritton trained Blue Moon Rising (gate two, $6) and Emma Stewart-trained Rocknroll Icon (gate three, $6.50). Derby heat one sees Be Jacks Legend top of the market ($2) despite his gate seven draw, with South Australian border-hopper Emain Macha $5.50 second pick, polemarker Somewhere Secret $6 and last-start South Australian Derby winner Our Jimmie $7. Last season’s Breeders Crown two-year-old champ Our Little General is favourite in the final of the three heats on Saturday night, the Stewart-trained gun a $2.30 favourite ahead of equal second picks Motu Meteor and Jilliby Kung Fu (barriers one and two, $4 apiece). Andy Gath trains unbeaten Beach Surge, who is on the fifth line of betting in heat three at $10 from gate six. “It’s a tough draw and in my opinion it’s the strongest heat,” Gath said. “I like him and he should only get better.” Meanwhile, last year's Derby winner Lazarus is favourite for the Eynesbury Victoria Cup on Saturday night. For odds on the Victoria Derby heats and other races click on this link. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

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