Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 700
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

It is out of the frying pan into the fire for headstrong pacing star Heaven Rocks this week. The dual Jewels winner makes his Australian debut in the Ballarat Cup on Saturday night, taking on his Auckland Cup conqueror Vincent and local Victorian hero Lennytheshark. With a campaign aimed at the Hunter Cup (February 3) and the Miracle Mile (February 24) his connections have decided Heaven Rocks has to be taken off the unruly from mobile starts so he can at least have a shot at being competitive rather than always settling last. But they probably didn’t expect the huge pacer’s first night back in the draw to result in barrier one in a hot field, which will present its own series of challenges on Saturday night. Heaven Rocks has only had one mobile start this season and behaved himself when not really asked to take on to the field in the score up in the Flying Mile at Cambridge two weeks ago. But the inside draw in the push and shove of Australian racing could see him bolt to an early lead or have no idea what to do when the outside pressure comes --- neither would surprise. Either way Vincent has emerged as the horse to beat in the A$100,000 group one over the 2710m mobile, even from barrier six, with Lennytheshark to start off the second line. Saturday’s meeting will also play host to three heats of the Victoria Derby, which is run a week earlier this season, with Spankem and The Devil’s Own the Kiwi reps against a strong local three-year-old crop. Meanwhile, an Australian campaign is off the cards for New Zealand Cup runner-up Jack’s Legend. The Auckland pacer was initially being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney on February 10 and would have needed to contest a qualifying race but trainer Barry Purdon says the four-year-old will be staying home. “He hasn’t been quite as sharp in his last few starts and with his two huge runs during Cup week maybe he is feeling the effects of a busy start to the season,” says Purdon “We have plenty of good four-year-old races still to go up here so I will set him for those instead.” With races like the Taylor Mile, Messenger and Jewels just a month apart in the north this season and the four-year-old ranks containing Vincent, Ultimate Machete, Jack’s Legend and Star Galleria among others, that last-season treble could prove one of the highlights of the pacing year. Michael Guerin

Champion New Zealand pacer Lazarus's $2m summer is in doubt after he has been struck down by soreness. The magnificent stallion is out of this Friday's West Australian Cup and there have to be doubts over his participation in both the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile next month until co-trainer Mark Purdon knows the extent of the hoof problems. Lazarus produced one of the great modern day pacing performances in defeat when second after being three wide for the entire Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth on Friday night (Saturday morning NZ time). He covered up to 50m more than some of his opponents but was only grabbed late by NZ-bred pacer My Hard Copy, with his effort stunning even the most pragmatic members of the harness racing industry. But Purdon's pride in his champion turned to concern over the weekend after Lazarus started to feel the effects of the run. "He was fine the next morning and went out into the paddock tired but with no real problems," Purdon told the Herald. "But when I brought him back in about an hour and a half later because of the heat, he was quite sore in the hooves. "And that didn't improve when we put him back in his box or today (Sunday) like we hoped it would and he is still sore now. "We have had the vet to him and we are pretty sure it is in his hooves and probably a concussion thing from the race. "But we won't know exactly how bad it is and whether that is all that is wrong until we have a few more days with him. "So it has come as a bit of a shock but at this stage the vet thinks it is related to a hard run on the hard track." Purdon did not think the brutally hard run Lazarus had on Friday night was the reason for his problems. "I think even if he had an easier run and won he would have been sore afterwards. I just think the track has got to his hooves." The five-year-old, who was sensational winning the Inter Dominion in Perth last month, will be swum this week to try and maintain his fitness while he is kept off the track. "But the WA Cup this week is definitely gone for him and the next target will be the Hunter Cup. "We definitely haven't give up getting him to that and we have nearly three weeks but it is also not certain he will make it. "It is all a bit up in the air at the moment." The two-time New Zealand Cup winner was the hot favourite for not only the WA and Hunter Cups, the latter at Melton on February 3, but the A$750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 24. "I hope by Miracle Mile time he will be fine, unless there was something else wrong with him, but obviously we can't guarantee that." Fremantle Cup If Lazarus does miss the A$500,000 Hunter Cup the Purdon-Rasmussen stable will still have Heaven Rocks in the race, with the latter set to make his Australian debut in the Ballarat Cup this Saturday. But the stable will resist any temptation to step Auckland Cup winner Vincent up to the Hunter Cup as Lazarus's replacement. "Vincent has the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle the week after so I don't think we would target the Hunter with him but at this stage we are still hoping to have Laz there." Stablemate Ultimate Machete also pulled up slightly sore after his fourth in the Fremantle Cup but nowhere as bad as Lazarus. "He was like that for a few days after he won the Golden Nugget here last month too but I still very much expect him to make it to the Chariots Of Fire on Feb 10 and race on this campaign." Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Shane Tritton has never been one to take a backward step. And it’s no different as he heads towards a clash with the all-conquering All Stars barn at Menangle on Saturday night. It’s the comeback race for Tritton’s buzz filly My Sweetchilliphilly, but she has the Purdon/Rasmussen-trained Our Bare Knuckle along with some exciting talented fillies to contend with. “I don’t know much about Mark and Nat’s filly, but she doesn’t have the form of a superstar. That said. You’ve got to respect anything they bring across,” Tritton said. “All I can do is have my filly primed and, after the way she worked last Sunday, I think she is. “She only ran one bad race last season and she was sick. “She trialled OK without Lauren asking too much of her, then her work last Sunday convinced us she was ready to go. “I’ll be disappointed if she doesn’t win. She’s ready to go a 1min51sec mile if that’s what it takes.” My Sweetchillyphilly has gate seven, but comes into six after the scratching of emergency Lisa Lincoln. Our Bare Knuckle will start from gate three. The other key runners are: Ideal Pleasure (five), Arts Treasure (six), Lady Chatto (10) and Macey Jayde (11). Tritton said his stable was about to fire right up again after a lull caused by the time he and wife, Lauren, spent at the Perth Inter Dominion. Here are some of the horses has high hopes for and his comments: REAZA GRUNTER: “She could be up with any we’ve had. There’s been something about her since we first got her. Although very different to Arms Of An Angel, she’s as good. She went a 1min50.8sec mile last Tuesday at Menangle without Lauren asking much at all of her. I think we’ll keep her here to build-up to the Ladyship Mile.” FRANCO NELSON: “He’s back on Sunday and could go to the Hunter Cup. It all depends how he goes first-up. We’re happy with him and know how good he is when he’s right.” YAYAS HOT SPOT: “He’s freshened-up well after Perth and won a Menangle trial on Tuesday. He could also go to the Hunter Cup.” CHEVRONS REWARD: “Really like her. She ran a close fourth in the Jewels final and I liked her trial win Tuesday. She’s one of a group of serious Oaks’ fillies we’ve got.” REAL SOCIAL: “He’s an X-factor horse. Good trial alongside Yayas Hot Spot on Tuesday and we’re excited to get him back racing. Could be in for a big campaign.” MY RONA GOLD: “Nice mare. Nothing went right in Perth. Look for her to get back to her best over the next few weeks.” ANYTHING FOR LOVE: “He’s shown quite a few glimpses of how good he can be. Brilliant trial win in 1min51.3sec mile on Tuesday. He’s set to go again.” GOTTA GO YA HU: “Good run behind Let It Ride and I think he’s as good as the winner. Won’t be far behind the best 4yos, but Vincent has set the bar pretty high.” ALPHA ROCK: “He’s exciting. Looked one of NZ’s best 3yos a couple of years back. A 5yo now and he’s showing us plenty.” DIVINE STATE: “A possible for the Victoria Derby. Good run last Saturday in quick time at Menangle and we’ll decide plans with him after he runs at Menangle next Tuesday.”   Adam Hamilton

“He’s in the zone and at the top of his game and I don’t think that any horse can beat him,” declared a supremely confident New Zealand trainer-reinsman Mark Purdon when assessing the prospects of harness racing superstar five-year-old Lazarus in the $300,000 Retravision Fremantle Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. “You have always got to respect the opposition, but with everything being equal, I don’t think that he can be beaten.” Purdon, New Zealand’s champion trainer and driver, is also looking forward keenly to the clash between Lazarus and his outstanding four-year-old stablemate Ultimate Machete, who will be handled by star driver Natalie Rasmussen. “They have never met in a race, but I don’t expect Ultimate Machete to be able to beat Lazarus,” said Purdon. Ultimate Machete and Lazarus are by super sire Bettors Delight, who is also the sire of six of the other ten Cup runners Chicago Bull, Bettors Fire, Ohoka Punter, Devendra, Galactic Star and Motu Premier. “I’m happy with both Lazarus and Ultimate Machete,” Purdon said. “They had a quiet hoppled run on Monday and all is well. I don’t expect either of them to have the gate speed to get to the front in the early stages. I expect Ultimate Machete to take up a forward position, while I’ll drive Lazarus like a normally do by giving him time to settle and then work him forward.” Ultimate Machete is the youngest and least experienced runner in the race, with 12 wins and ten placings from 24 starts. He has won at ten of his past 13 starts, including stylish victories at his three appearances at Gloucester Park. Between them, the 12 Cup runners have won 270 races and been placed 240 times for combined earnings of $10,380,689. Lazarus shows the way with 34 wins and seven placings for stakes of $3,330,438 from 41 starts. He won the TABtouch Inter Dominion final five Fridays ago when he settled in fifth place and then was sent forward, three wide, after a lap to race in the breeze outside Tiger Tara before surging to the front at the 100m and winning easily from Chicago Bull at a 1.57.6 rate over 2936m. At his previous outing, a week earlier, he smashed Im Themightyquinn’s track record, rating 1.54.5 over 2536m, when he settled in eighth place and made a fast three-wide move into the breeze before getting to the front with 1450m to travel on his way to victory over stablemate Have Faith In Me. Then last Friday night he was not extended in winning at a 1.55.9 rate over 2536m (the distance of the Fremantle Cup) and scoring by four lengths over the fast-finishing Motu Premier. Trainer-reinsman Kyle Harper is hoping that it will be a case of fifth time lucky for Bettors Fire on Friday night. The nine-year-old Bettors Fire greatly enhanced his prospects when he drew the prized No. 1 barrier on the front line. Harper said that Bettors Fire was in peak condition and was ready to run a big race. “I intend to take advantage of his gate speed and aim to set the pace,” Harper said. “He’s got the right barrier and I expect him to run a bold race out in front.” Bettors Fire warmed up for Friday night’s assignment with a dashing all-the-way victory over Soho Tribeca and Chicago Bull, rating 1.52.6 in the 1730m Village Kid Sprint last Friday week when he revealed sparkling early speed to burst straight to the front from barrier seven. A winner of 33 races, Bettors Fire is the only pacer to have run in the past four Fremantle Cups for a second to Im Victorious in 2014, fourth to David Hercules (2015), third to Beaudiene Boaz (2016) and an eye-catching fourth behind Chicago Bull last year when he charged home from 11th at the bell. Ken Casellas

In need of the hitout and forced to sit parked in blistering times, Lazarus simply switched into another gear down the back straight and thrashed his harness racing rivals … seemingly without being extended.  Trainer-driver Mark Purdon could hardly hide his delight after the win.  “He did that so easily. He was bolting down the back straight and could’ve gone straight past them at any time,” he said.  “He felt really sharp and he’s loving this track now. He’s getting around it so well.”  It was a contrast to the slighly wary Purdon pre-race who stressed Lazarus “could be vulnerable” having not raced for a month.  Lazarus powered clear to win under his own steam by 12.3m in a 1min55.9sec mile rate for the long 2536m trip, which was just 1.2sec outside the track record he set himself winning his third-round Inter Dominion heat on December 1.  It tightened his already vice-like grip on favouriism for next Friday’s Fremantle Cup and the WA Pacing Cup on January 19.  Interestingly, some argued the stop-start tempo of the Inter Dominion final presented the race to Lazarus.  But last night proved he is just as effective when the race is truly run after highly-talented local Vultan Tin – who ran fourth in that Inter Dominion final – led and carved out some slick splits to make Lazarus chase and work hard outside him.  Sure WA’s two best pacers Chicago Bull and Soho Tribeca weren’t in last night’s race, but Lazarus could not have been more impressive.  It wasn’t as comfortable for Purdon a race earlier when his gun four-year-old Ultimate Machete had to lift off the canvas after a hard run to make a winning return to racing.  Ultimate Machete was three-wide for close to the first lap, then parked and looked beaten on the home turn when the leader, Johnny Disco, kicked away with a big lead.  Purdon dropped back to the marker pegs on the final bend then pulled Ultimate Machete out for one last challenge at the 150m and the son of Bettors Delight lifted big time to win by 1.3m in a 1min56.3sec mile rate for 2130m.  Purdon confirmed Ultimate Machete would take on Lazarus and others in the Fremantle and WA Pacing Cups.  “It will be his biggest test and I wouldn’t say he could beat Lazarus, but he is a very, very good horse and I’m sure he’ll run well in both races,” he said. Adam Hamilton

Heaven Rocks may have finally met his match at Cambridge tonight. Because the goof with the mega motor is being paired up with Brent Mangos is what looks an inspired catch driving choice for the $60,000 Cambridge Flying Mile. Heaven Rocks will be the warm favourite for the sprint even though a dash around Cambridge hardly seems ideal for the long-striding pacer and his erratic ways. He won a Jewels over a mile there 19 months ago but that was a three-year-old and he seems even more eccentric now, not to mention he has two genuine speedsters drawn inside him in Star Galleria and Jack’s Legend. But enter Mangos, the Mr No Nonsense of the northern driving ranks and the master of the balance-em-up-and-launch-em school of driving. Mangos has been called in as the All Stars usual drivers head home or in the case of Mark Purdon to Perth tonight to drive Lazarus. So Mangos has been entrusted with getting Heaven Rocks away, around the first bend and then deciding when to push the button. He looks the ideal driver for the job but while he sits behind the most talented horse in the race it may not be a simple stroll around Cambridge for the mad mammoth.  Star Galleria was a brave fourth, just behind Heaven Rocks in the Auckland Cup last Sunday and Jack’s Legend sixth after missing away. Both are wicked sprinters with natural gate speed so should have a huge tactical advantage over Heaven Rocks. If you can back the pair at an average of $5, giving you basically a $2.50 bracket to beat Heaven Rocks, it wouldn’t be the worst bet. Heaven Rocks isn’t the only big name catch drive for Mangos tonight as he has also picked up the reins behind Kyvalley Blur in the Flying Stakes Trot after the Victorian trotter’s three huge runs during this New Zealand campaign. He has been beaten twice in as many meetings by a race rival tonight Temporale so far this summer but both runs have been excellent and if he could stay in front of the favourite he can severely test him, so against Mangos’s aggression could be an asset. Trainer-driver Tony Herlihy is using tonight’s race as a trial to confirm Temporale’s trip to Victoria later this month and says the left-handed track won’t be an issue even though only four of his 21 starts have been anti-clockwise for one win. “He does a lot of work left-handed and I don’t think it will be an issue,” says Herlihy. “But it could be a tricky little race with Kyvalley Blur drawn inside us. Still, my fella is well.”Herlihy has a vastly-improved second string in The Almighty Johnson, who from barrier one could get the perfect trip. He has really stepped up and with that right trip I wouldn’t be stunned if he tested the two favourites.” Meanwhile, Lazarus should be too good again when he returns to racing in a A$22,000 event in Perth tonight. He has drawn two in the 2536m mobile and should win without Mark Purdon needing to ask for his best, with stablemate Ultimate Machete set to be even shorter in the race before.   Michael Guerin

Up-and-coming harness racing star Ultimate Machete is an inexperienced four-year-old who has raced only 23 times but he should overcome a wide barrier and prove too strong for his 11 rivals in the Retravision Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The powerful stallion has an impressive record of 11 wins, six seconds and four thirds for earnings of $781,827 and his lack of experience should prove no problem in his battle against his 11 rivals who have chalked up a combined total of 1443 starts. Ultimate Machete, to be driven by master trainer Mark Purdon, has not been extended and has been most impressive in winning at his only two appearances at Gloucester Park beating Handsandwheels and Rock Diamonds in the $125,000 Yes Loans Classic and Maczaffair and Herrick Roosevelt in the $200,000 Retravision Golden Nugget. He is being set for the Retravision Fremantle Cup on Friday week and the TABtouch WA Pacing Cup the following Friday night, races in which he will clash with his star stablemate and Inter Dominion champion Lazarus. Purdon is riding on the crest of a wave. He and his co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen dominated the meeting at Auckland’s Alexandra Park last Sunday when they prepared six winners, including a trifecta result with their three runners, Vincent, Titan Banner and Heaven Rocks, in the $250,000 Auckland Cup, a 3200m stand-start event. The stable also produced a trifecta result in the $224,250 listed classic for three-year-old colts and geldings, with Chase Auckland beating All U Need Is Faith and Spankem. The trainers also were successful with Elle Mac in the Group 1 Sires Stakes for three-year-old fillies. In Friday night’s race at Gloucester Park, Ultimate Machete will start from barrier eight on the front line and Purdon is expected to waste little time in sending the stallion forward to challenge the likely pacemaker Johnny Disco, a speedy frontrunner who is ideally drawn at barrier two. Johnny Disco set the pace from barrier two and won from Zach Maguire six starts ago. But it is difficult to suggest that Johnny Disco has the speed and strength to seriously challenge Ultimate Machete. Ken Casellas

Newly-crowned Inter Dominion champion Lazarus will stifle betting from an ideal draw at his return to racing on Friday night. The Gloucester Park meeting also marks the return to race driving for Mark Purdon from suspension. Lazarus has gate two in a field lacking any real big names over 2230m. It will be run at 12.50pm NZ time. Most interest will centre around the start of the race where noted Tasmanian speedster Devendra, who returned to winning form in a weaker race last week, will try to spear out and lead from gate six. It will be interesting to see how serious Purdon wants to get at the start from his gun draw. Popular local Vultan Tin, who ran the race of his life for fourth to Lazarus in the Inter Dominion final, has the pole. He impressively won his only subsequent run at Gloucester Park. Purdon is using this race to prime Lazarus for the $350,000 Fremantle Cup on Friday week and the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup another week later. Friday night’s meeting also sees the return to racing of Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s Golden Nugget winner Ultimate Machete. The superstar four-year-old is drawn wide (gate eight) in the fourth race, but looks to have loads of class over his rivals. If he wins as expected, interest will focus on whether Purdon is tempted to have a crack at either the Fremantle and/or WA Cups. Remembering Ultimate Machete had already beaten Group 1 open-class rivals in the NZ Free-For-All during NZ Cup Week. The other highlight of Aussie racing this week is the return to Melton of megastar three-year-old Lumineer, who is a $1.15 favourite to stretch his unbeaten record to seven starts in the 3YO Classic on Friday night. He is a clear nominal favourite for the upcoming Victoria Derby now Purdon and Rasmussen have ruled the race out for their unbeaten three-year-old Chase Auckland. Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen repeated their feat of 2009 by winning seven races on the night at Alexandra Park on Sunday. The All Stars Stable won with A Lister, Jesse Duke, Stress Factor, Chase Auckland, Elle Mac, Vincent and Ashley Locaz. Tim Willams drove three winners for the stable, while Natalie Rasmussen drove the remaining four including the Auckland Cup aboard Vincent.  Vincent will now head to Australia in search of more wins and a possible clash with Lazarus later in the year. His first target will be the $100,000 Ballarat Cup on January 20 _________________________________________________________________________________ Olivia Thornley had her first win as a driver when she won during the Banks Peninsular meeting at Motukarara last Friday. The win came on her nine raceday drive on a horse called Awaytocullect, who is trained by Olivia's father Robin at Templeton.   _________________________________________________________________________________ Promising pacers King Size and Steiger have been put down in the last week. Steiger had an unfortunate paddock accident last week and had to be euthanised after he shattered an elbow joint.  One win pacer King Size fell during a race at Reefton on Saturday and had to be put down. Driver Dexter Dunn emerged from the crash unscathed but the race was abandoned after King Size could not be removed from the track.   Harnesslink Media

Auckland Cup hero Vincent won't be protected from champion stablemate Lazarus as the Miracle Mile looms as pacing's race of the season. The red hot favourite led home a Purdon-Rasmussen trifecta in the $250,000 Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Sunday), downing Titan Banner and Heaven Rocks in a race of twists and turns. After Titan Banner led early and Vincent trailed punters could have expected that order to remain unchanged but David Butcher driving Northview Hustler had other ideas, deciding he didn't want to sit parked so attacked for the lead. He was successful, Titan Banner came out of the trail to re-take the lead and once that game of cat and mouse calmed down Vincent strolled to the front. The magnificent four-year-old then dawdled through the middle stages before things lit up again when Heaven Rocks worked around to sit parked, attacked down the back straight and even headed Vincent at the 500m before racing erratically. But the favourite kicked back in the style of a potential pacing great and at the line was easily holding Titan Banner. "That was a huge win when you consider he is only four," said Purdon, who watched the race from the outside fence of the parade ring because he is suspended. That meant training partner Natalie Rasmussen reined the winner and Purdon admitted it was a strange feeling watching rather than being out on the track. "But it was great to see all three of them perform to that level and when Tim [Williams, driving Heaven Rocks] attacked it made the last lap exciting. The winner is a wonderful horse but I thought the other two went great and it was good to see Heaven Rocks get around in one piece." The win was followed by Ashley Locaz winning the last race to give the All Stars a remarkable seven winners at the premier meeting from only eight races but now their gaze turns to Australia. Lazarus returns to racing in Perth this Friday and the following two weeks before returning to the eastern states, where Vincent will contest the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire in Sydney on February 10. If they continue on their winning ways both will be invited to the A$750,000 Miracle Mile on February 24 and Purdon says he will not keep the pair apart. "If they are both going well enough and win their way into the Miracle Mile then I wouldn't be scared to start them against each other," he said. So could the new Auckland Cup winner beat the two-time New Zealand Cup winner in Lazarus? "I think he could," says Purdon of Vincent. "I am not saying he would but it is not impossible as Vincent is a very good horse and any horse, even Lazarus, is beatable as we saw in the early heats of the Inter Dominions. "So that could be the first time they clash and I think if it eventuated it would be great for the industry." Earlier, Temporale ended the argument over who is the best trotter racing in New Zealand when he outstayed Speeding Spur in the $100,000 National Trot, the second time he has beaten him this month and suggesting he has earned himself a trip to Victoria next month. Michael Guerin  

Unbeaten pacing star Chase Auckland may be so good he is allowed to turn his back on nearly $500,000 in coming months. The three-year-old grabbed victory from the jaws of what looked to be certain defeat when he fought back when clearly headed in the $230,000 Sales Series Pace at Alexandra Park tonight. After surging to a mid-race lead following some blazing early sectionals from his rivals, Chase Auckland was in a world of trouble as stalemate All U Need Is Faith raced past him at the top of the straight, looking set to break punter’s hearts. But in the last 50m Chase Auckland suggested he may be that little bit special as he clawed back to retain his unbeaten record at start number seven, setting off chaotic winning circle presentation scenes from his huge syndicate of owners. Chase Auckland was purchased and syndicated by stud giant Alabar to try and give his champion father Auckland Reactor a headstart to his stud career --- they couldn’t have dreamed they would purchase what has turned out to be such a stunning racetrack advertisement for the new stallion. But that campaign may not extend to Australia in coming week as co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen says the dual Derbys of Victoria and New South Wales in February may not be on his radar.  “Mark (Purdon) and I will sit down and talk about it but to be honest I think a little let up wouldn’t do him any harm because he was a maiden three months ago,” said Rasmussen. “So he might not head to Australia yet and we have two Derbys here as well as so many other races for him. “But he is a good horse, a really good horse. He had to be to fight back and win like that.”The win capped a mammoth start to the day for the All Stars stable as they also won the early races and took out group one Sires’ Stakes Fillies Championships with Elle Mac. The latter got revenge on her Harness Jewels conqueror Dizzy Miss LIzzy after they stayed out of the early speed duel before roaring around the field to put pressure into the race and leave their rivals gasping. The stable also produced last season’s yearling sales topper Jessie Duke to win on debut in the two-year-old pace, even after he looked unbalanced on the home bend, suggesting he is the early leader of this two-year-old crop. Michael Guerin   Chase Auckland winning his seventh race in a row!

Tim Williams likes going to work on New Years Eve. Which is handy because he knows better than anybody how much he has that work cut out for him in tomorrow’s $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup. Williams is the 28-year-old third-string driver for the all-conquering All Stars stables, which means his driving career can take some unusual twists and turns. Take tomorrow’s Cup for example. Williams would be watching from the driver’s room had boss Mark Purdon not been suspended for 26 days but instead he is driving the slightly mad Heaven Rocks.  Just six days ago Williams partnered Auckland Cup red hot favourite Vincent to win at Cambridge, but tomorrow co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen jumps back on, leaving Williams knowing exactly what he is up against. But you never hear Williams moan about his role in harness racing’s biggest stable.  “I have had some amazing opportunities, like driving Vincent last Sunday, so I know better than most how hard he will be to beat this week,” says Williams.  “But I can’t worry about him, I have my own job to do.” Williams is good at doing his job on New Years Eve, with two of the richest wins of his career coming at the year ender. He won the Auckland Cup two years ago on Have Faith In Me, a drive Purdon could easily have taken for himself but instead he waited for a successful Williams appeal hearing before staying loyal to the young man. Williams piloted the same horse to win the Sales Series Pace on New Years Eve the previous year. “New Years Eve at The Park has been a happy hunting ground for me,” he smiles. “And I’m lucky to have some good drives again.”Heaven Rocks and Williams have a hate-love relationship: He hates the fact they have combined four times for exactly no wins but Williams would love to change that. Their latest disaster was in the Franklin Cup two weeks ago when Heaven Rocks, galloped, led, hung badly and then galloped again. “Mark has been here working him this week and I hope he can do his magic but a lot with him depends on his body language on the day, he is just that sort of horse. “My first job is to get him away and then I hope we can get around them and make a race of it with Vincent because it would make for a great spectacle.” So can the star he drives tomorrow beat the superstar he drove last Sunday? “Um, maybe. But it will be very, very hard for us to beat him.” Not so hard is tomorrow’s $100,000 National Trot, which has been ravaged by drop outs over the last two months to the point where there look to be three serious winning hopes. One of those is Kyvalley Blur, the Victorian veteran who Williams drove to beat Speeding Spur fair and square at Cambridge last Sunday. There wasn’t a lot between the pair but Kyvalley Blur outstayed his more favoured rival and the 2700m mobile gives him a shot at doing so again, although their career records suggest Speeding Spur is still the better horse. “He trotted beautifully last Sunday and I can’t see why he couldn’t win again but it might come down to who has the luck out of my fella, Speeding Spur and Temporale, who is going well too,” says Williams. Add in A Lister (race one), Stress Factor (race three), The Devils Own (race seven), Delight In Me (race eight) and Ashley Locaz (race 12) and it would surprise if Williams didn’t leave Alexandra Park a New Years Eve winner again.  Which would be the perfect way to end a tough year during which he missed 12 weeks in the sulky after shoulder surgery and came back short on confidence and in need of some time back out on the track. “It was hard coming back and maybe my timing was just a bit off and I was struggling to win races.” That fact is impossible to deny, Williams has driven just five winners this season but 20 second placings, and that figure would be even more disproportionate if it wasn’t for last Sunday’s double. “It was very frustrating but last week’s double came just as the right time and and is a nice confidence boost. ” Right on cue for Tim’s time -- New Year’s Eve. Michael Guerin

We should be about to find out just how good unbeaten three-year-old Chase Auckland really is. Because we know he is very, very good but to win tomorrow's $230,000 Sales Series Pace at Alexandra Park he might need to be special. The three-year-old has suggested that might be the case with six straight wins since he debuted on September 16 including a national record group one in the Sires' Stakes and a last start stunner in the Alabar Classic. But as freakish as he has been, he has led or trailed in five of those wins and sat parked against moderate opposition in his second start. Tomorrow is a totally different challenge, starting off the second line against group one winning opponents in a race where a sizzling time is all but guaranteed. Co-trainer Mark Purdon is undaunted. "He is very, very good and if they go hard I think he can still come sit parked and be the one to beat," he said. Whether punters want to brave taking $1.40 to multi up Chase Auckland (R7, No.11), especially with key rival King Of Swing (1) drawn to lead or trail is another matter. In a deep field the favourite should still win but for bad luck's sake alone the $1.40 may not be worth it as a multi anchor and stablemate All U Need Is Faith (12) might make better place sense. Also facing what looks a tricky draw on paper is Bettor Joy (R8, No.9) but her inside second line marble may not be a disaster as the 150-1 chance she follows out has gate speed and could create a gap early. It has been a mixed crop with no dominant filly but Dizzy Miss Lizzy (15) and Elle Mac (14) can win at their best and Bare Knuckle (4) looks like getting one of the better runs of the favourites. Speeding Spur (R10, No.2) is the best horse in the National Trot but was disappointing by his very high standards when he couldn't run down Kyvalley Blur (5) at Cambridge last Sunday. That was only his second run back after nine months off and with the better draw he is still the one to beat, with Temporale (6) having the weapons to test the two favourites. Early season juvenile races are often not as straight forward as they seem that could apply to Jessie Duke (R2, No.8) who has a reputation as big as his yearling sales-topping price. He has a tricky draw to work with and no Alexandra Park experience so while the opposition don't look stellar yet, if he is odds on, move on. Stress Factor (R3, No.4) was racing out of his grade when he won last start so meets some of the same horses, like Musculus (1), on the same mark so if he behaves he looks the best of the early bank builders. Heavyweight Hero (R5, No.9) is an open class trotter of the future still maturing and even though he is not well handicapped it may not matter while Freedom Fighter (R6, No.12) looks one of the better value options for the day. He was third to two good three-year-olds last start, meets a mixed bunch and his second line draw will boost his dividend. If Vincent (R11, No.3) steps and races up to his recent two wins the Auckland Cup is his to lose with stablemates Titan Banner (2) the logical danger and Jack's Legend (4) the improver and he was, after all, runner-up to Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup. Michael Guerin

Vincent may have a fair way to go to match champion stablemate Lazarus but you wouldn’t know it looking at the Auckland Cup market. The exceptional four-year-old pacer is set to start one of the shortest Auckland Trotting Cup favourites in history in the $250,000 classic at Alexandra Park early on Sunday night. Bookies are likely to have Vincent around the $1.40 mark to win the great race, matching what Lazarus was a few days out from the New Zealand Cup in November. Lazarus bolted away with that race and justified his record short price and has since gone on to win the Inter Dominion. But was already established as the best pacer in Australia before his second NZ Cup win, having already won the Cup the previous season by 10 lengths, the Victoria Cup in record time, two Flying Stakes and a NZ Free-For-All. Remarkably, Vincent is approaching Lazarus-type odds for Sunday at what will be only his second open class start. He bolted away with the first in the Franklin Cup at Alexandra Park two weeks ago and showed he had taken no harm from that when he jogged to victory in the $50,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity at Cambridge on Sunday. With Mark Purdon losing his appeal against a 26-day suspension in Perth, co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen has been confirmed to partner Vincent while Tim Williams, who drove Vincent to win at Cambridge will be behind Heaven Rocks. Dexter Dunn will drive the third All Stars runner Titan Banner. While Vincent’s odds seem ridiculously short considering his lack of experience against top class older rivals, bookmakers probably don’t have much percentage to pay as they took a staggering $20,000 each way bet on him at $1.60 on Sunday and it is hard to make a case for any of his rivals to down the budding superstar. While the Auckland Cup contains New Zealand Cup runner-up Jacks Legend and the mad mammoth Heaven Rocks, it does lack Tiger Tara and Dream About Me from the NZ Cup, so Vincent’s rivals are not as strong as those Lazarus beat on November 14. While Vincent has an awfully long way to go to be compared with the open class version of Lazarus, their records are almost identical at the same stage of their careers: after 18 starts both had 15 wins with some luckless placed efforts.  Vincent’s record should be even better because the only time he has finished out of the money was when his sulky tyre was flattened by a rival in the Victoria Derby, a race he was a $1.10 favourite for. The two imposing stallions could be on the pathway to a thrilling clash in the Miracle Mile in two months after Vincent’s win at Cambridge on Sunday. That earned him an invite to the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on February 10 and if he won that, or even placed, he should be invited to the Miracle Mile two weeks later, a race that at this stage Lazarus’s final major target for the season.  With barrier four on Sunday the Auckland Cup may look Vincent’s to lose but Titan Banner’s closing sectionals were similar to his stablemate in the Franklin Cup and as a good standing start horse drawn barrier two he looms at the logical danger. Another big winner in the draws for Sunday is Speeding Spur, who has drawn barrier two in the $100,000 National Trot.  He was surprisingly beaten on his merits by Kyvalley Blur at Cambridge on Sunday but should appreciate the 2700m mobile while Kyvalley Blur (5) and Temporale (6) have drawn wider.   The National Trot lost a key player yesterday with bold chestnut Bordeaux was withdrawn with his summer campaign over.  “He has banged a hind leg and I was battling to get him right and I’d rather do the right thing by the horse and take him home,” says trainer Philip Iggo.  “So he will have a break and be set for the Rowe Cup.” But the draws for the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Championship and the Sales Series Pace have added intrigue with big names like Chase Auckland, Bettor Joy and Dizzy Miss Lizzy drawing poorly. Michael Guerin

Harness racing trainer Mark Purdon knows a thing or two about the Auckland Cup. The champion horseman has trained the winner of the North Island feature five times, including last year’s heroine Dream About Me in race record time. His other past champions include Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus and Sharp And Telford. On Sunday night at Alexandra Park, the All Stars stable will be represented by a trio of charges in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup including boom four-year-old Vincent plus Titan Banner and the enigmatic Heaven Rocks. Unbeaten in both starts this term, Vincent is clearly the horse to beat following his record breaking victory in the $50,000 Franklin Cup on December 15 followed by his easy romp in the $50,000 Futurity at Cambridge on Christmas Eve. The hulking Art Major - Kept For Pleasure entire has landed barrier four in the 3200m stand-start feature. With Purdon currently suspended, star reinsperson Natalie Rasmussen will take the drive again, just like she did in the Franklin Cup. But there is something eerily similar between his past winners and his loaded gun this year. Four of his five Auckland Cup winners have all been four-year-olds, just like Vincent. Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor and Sharp And Telford were all baby faced assassins when triumphant in the Auckland Cup. Young Rufus was a five-year-old when triumphant. So, despite his inexperience and Grand Circuit smarts, Purdon will have Vincent primed for his big open class test. Big brother Barry is also very familiar with the Auckland Cup, having prepared the winner 8 times previously. All but Holmes DG were prepared in partnership with his legendary father Roy - starting with Sole Command and followed by Comedy Lad, Luxury Liner (x 2), Christopher Vance and Chokin ( x 2). Driving champions Peter Wolfenden (Sole Command) and Tony Herlihy (all others) took driving honours for the father/son partnership. Barry took the winning drive himself when successful with Holmes DG. This year, Barry will send out talented four-year-old Jacks Legend while entrusting the drive with skillful reinsman Zachary Butcher. Other four-year-old’s competing this year include the Steve Reid prepared Star Galleria and the Greg and Nine Hope trained A G’s White Socks. Both are extremely talented types and should prove dangerous given the right luck. Herlihy will partner Star Galleria while dual Auckland Cup winning reinsman Ricky May takes the lines behind A G’s White Socks. Cup winning trainer Ray Green (2012 - Sir Lincoln) prepares Northview Hustler and will engage dual Cup winning driver David Butcher (Elsu - 2003/04) for the drive. Surprisingly, respected horseman Brent Mangos is chasing his maiden success in the Auckland Cup and will partner his talented runner Maxim. Mangos has won most features at the premier North Island track. Also chasing Cup success for the first time include Jeremy Young (Bryson Ideal), Mike Berger (Max Phactor & Lusty Mac) and Anna Donnelly (Imajollywally). As it stands, the dominant force of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have won two of the three legs this season of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit following the victories of mighty pacer Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominion. The opening leg of the 2017/18 series, the Victoria Cup was taken out by hometown hero Lennytheshark in clinical style. The Auckland Cup is the 4th leg of the 8 race series. Start time for the Auckland Cup is 7.35pm local. Chris Barsby

Newly crowned Inter Dominion hero Lazarus will race six times in three Australian states in 36 days to kick off 2018. The champion five-year-old is set to return to the track at Gloucester Park in Perth on January 5 and the following two Fridays there before travelling to Victoria for the A$500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton on February 3. And trainer Mark Purdon will be back on the sulky for all four races. Lazarus has been having an easy time in West Australia since his argument-ending Interdom win on December 8 in which he sat parked to thrash Australia's best pacers.   In the very next race that night Purdon had his reinsman's licence suspended for 26 days for pushing out driving stablemate Ultimate Machete and still hasn't heard about when his appeal against that sentence will be heard. "I was hoping we would have heard an appeal date by now but I won't be going back to Perth for that hearing, we have a QC over there to handle that," said Purdon. The suspension leaves Purdon's chance of driving Auckland Cup favourite Vincent up in the air but regardless of how the appeal goes Lazarus will miss a race in Perth that was being mooted for him on December 29. "If he races next on January 5 then I can drive him no matter what happens in the appeal so that will be his next race," says Purdon. "I will go over and drive him in that, then stay there and train him myself for the Freemantle Cup (Jan 12) and the WA Cup (Jan 19)." Stablemate Have Faith In Me is also likely to contest the latter two group ones as he races on through the summer before heading to North America under new ownership. Michael Guerin

1 to 16 of 700
1 2 3 4 5 Next »