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Todays C8 and faster heat at the Rangiora harness racing trials was only a five horse affair but it was a heat full of class The heats were run on a fine day but with a bitterly cold wind blowing. Christen Me was the headline act along with Adore Me, Hands Christian, Fly Like An Eagle and Pass Them By. Fly Like An Eagle did just that at the start, scooting out to an early lead with Pass Them By, Adore Me, Hands Christian and Christen Me all racing in single file behind the leader. Passing the 900 metres mark, Tim Williams upped the pace in front with Fly Like An Eagle. Mark Purdon was the first to move at the 700 metres mark when he moved Adore Me out into the running line and Hands Christian and Natalie Rasmussen were quickly onto her back with Christen Me and Dexter Dunn biding his time at the rear. As they turned for home Adore Me gradually began to wear down Fly Like An Eagle and was then immediately attacked by Hands Christian. As these two looked like they would fight out the finish, Christen Me suddenly joined in and grabbed Adore Me for a narrow but impressive victory with Hands Christian another neck away in third. Fly Like An Eagle and Pass Them By finished in line right behind the first three. The 2600 metres from a stand was covered in 3:20.7 with the last 800 metres off the front covered in a super quick 54.6 and the last 400 metres in 27.5 Christen Me was three lengths last at the 800 and was privately timed to run that section in 53.4 with his closing 400 metres in 26.9 and what was more impressive was he seemed to do it with something in reserve. The All Stars team were happy with all of their runners. HANDS CHRISTIAN (Natalie)  "No a good run. He got a bit relaxed for a bit and I had to give him a smack on the rear to keep him up to it but they ran home in fast time and he is on target" she said ADORE ME (Mark)  "I was happy how she went. She is ready to run next week on that, he said  FLY LIKE AN EAGLE (Tim) "I didn't expect to be in front but he shot out so well that was where we finished up. He just blew out the last bit (last 800m in 54.6) and will be better for the run" said Tim "We will probably give Fly Like An Eagle another workout, maybe on Saturday before he goes to the races" Mark said. With his performance today, Christen Me sent a clear message that he is right on track for the second Tuesday in November and cemented his position as the major threat to Terror To Love's quest for four New Zealand Cups. Harnesslink Media  

Wow. How’s that for a pipe-opener? The 2014 edition of the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup has been built up over the last few months as potentially being something special. A race for the ages. An historic event. Yet, if it was even possible, our greatest race might just have gone to a whole new level tonight after the performance of the horse on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Terror To Love. The three-time Cup winner produced a stunning resumption to win the Avon City Ford Cup at his favourite place of Addington tonight. And in doing so he sent a collective shiver through the spines of those who will line up to try and stop him from creating history on November 11. In short, Terror To Love was sensational. Forget the fact that he faced only a small portion of those who will make the Cup field on the second Tuesday of November for a minute, as far as resuming runs go for him, this was as good as we have seen. Driven confidently and aggressively by Ricky May, the champ found himself in front with a lap to run and from there never let the bit drop from his mouth as he cut out some impressive closing sectional to win under double wraps. “He jogged it to be fair,’’ May said. “In fact he was bolting that much on the bend that he actually got a little rough. “Gee he’s come back super, that was a great performance fresh up.’’ History will show that normally whatever Terror To Love does fresh up, he improves on. His condition was still a little on the burly side last night, but you just know that with a race under his belt he will shed any extra coating by the time he returns for the Canterbury Classic on October 10. Terror To Love stopped the clock at 3.13 for the 2600 metre stand start – running his last one mile in a shade over 1.55 seconds. And as much as he enjoyed watching it, Paul Court, who trains with his father Graham, admitted to being a little surprised. “We knew he was as ready as he wanted him, but that was a really good effort. “He’s got so much improvement left in him yet, it’s the perfect start.’’ So what about those who finished in behind? Smolda looked on first impressions to be the most disappointing of the lot after tiring to finish fourth after sitting parked for the last 1000 metres. But the Purdon/Rasmussen barn are adamant to there is a lot of improvement left in the big pacer and race fitness is the only way they will get that. "He just blew out" said Mark Purdon. "It was his first race since March and you just need the racing to beat these top horses. "I am not really surprised to be honest especially with some of those sectionals. He should get a lot of improvement from that run" he said. Runner-up Bit Of A Legend showed he will foot it with the big guns based on his determined and tradesman like performance – pleasing both Dexter Dunn and Cran Dalgety while Franco Nelson, who missed away, was an eye-catching performance to boom home and finish in third. So the foundation has been set for Terror To Love to write his way into the record books with the next step the Canterbury Classic next month. There ready and waiting to take him on will be a host of stars which look set to include Christen Me, Adore Me, Hands Christian, Tiger Tara and others. Bring it on. Matt Markham - Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand    

Harness racing returns to Addington on Friday night with the 2014 Group Three New Brighton Cup and the time honoured classic has drawn a lovely field of high class pacers. The headline act of course is the three time New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love who is starting his quest for a  fourth in Friday nights race. Driver Ricky May is happy with where he is at this stage of his preparation. " He went really good at the trials at Ashburton recently and finished off the trial nicely. He will improve with the race under his belt but I still expect a big run from him on Friday night" he told Harnesslink earlier this week. The big danger is undoubtedly the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Smolda who is also making his seasonal debut on Friday night. Driver Mark Purdon was cautious when assessing his chances for Friday night. "He is perhaps 90 per cent ready and has done very well but it is his first go and I won't want to be driving him hard all the way to prove a point or anything. He is usually solid from a stand so the No 1 draw should not be a problem but it depends how the race unfolds. He  is good enough to win and he will be in there trying but he is not at his peak yet. " he said. Franco Nelson is another having his first run for the season and co- trainer and driver John Dunn is expecting a big run. ""He has had a lovely preparation this time in with two trials to tighten him up for Friday night and he went super both times. He has gone on with it at home since and I couldn't be happier with his condition going into the race. He has always stepped up to date when we have asked him and I am very confident that he will measure up against the likes of Terror To Love and Smolda" he said. A Bit Of A Legend from the Cran Dalgety barn is having his first run since a great second in the Breeders Crown at Melton but Cran feels he needs to step up on Friday night to have a chance "He trialled nicely but nothing special last week so I’ve got a bit more serious with his workload since then. On paper he looks like he’s fourth or fifth pick but hopefully he can lift a bit.” For us its Smolda by a nostril from Terror To Love with Franco Nelson and A Bit Of A Legend fighting out third and fourth. Harnesslink Media

The harness racing trials at Addington today (September 22nd) saw more of the All Star team step out prior to starting new campaigns and judging by their performances, the all conquering barn is in for another bumper season. In conditions that could only be described as atrocious with gale force winds and driving rain, several members of the All Stars team looked forward to resume and some looked to have made the step up since they last raced. Arden Rooney led up in the open class heat in the worst of the conditions and sprinted his last 400 meters in a quick 26.9 to defeat stablemate Hands Christian who did well after missing away and settling 15 meters behind the bunch. The other stablemate the champion racemare Adore Me was on Hands Christian's back all the way up the straight and was not asked for a serious effort in finishing fourth. Earlier on the program Hug The Wind was super impressive in winning his heat after starting from barrier nine and looks in for a big spring campaign as a 3 year old. In a hot field including stablemate Alta Orlando, Elusive Chick and Johny Rock, Hug The Wind settled back early before working forward mid-race and finishing way to well for the competition. Hug The Wind could not have been more impressive and his resumption should be a winning one. Alta Orlando was not pushed to finish fourth and he should improve bigtime with that run under his belt. Another 3 year old in the All Star barn to impress was the full brother to Adore Me in Have Faith In Me who also started from barrier nine in his heat. Last early, he looped the field to sit parked from the 1000 meters and then kicked away in the straight for an easy win over Brilliant Strike with stablemates Holy Grail and Change Stride  finishing close up behind. Have Faith In Me looks to have taken the step up since his 2 year old season and could be a bit of a smoky for the upcoming sires stakes heat. Another All Star runner Superbowlcheerleader lead up in her heat but was was collared late by Vulcan who looked sharp for upcoming events. The first run this time in for Superbowlcheerleader, she should take a lot of benefit from her outing. One of the other horses to really impress today was the Geoff Dunn trained 3 year old trotter in Kaimanawa who bolted in by 42 lengths and over 8 seconds under the qualifying time in conditions that were far from ideal. Driven by part owner Tim Williams, the son of Monarchy looked a trotter of real quality as he came his his last quarter in 29.4 in terrible conditions. Trial results here Harnesslink Media

It was a big moment for his numerous owners the Knowlers, the Kennards, Grant Dickey Stu Gillan  and Phil Creighton when Meticulous returned on a winning note to harness racing at Oamaru on Sunday. He was cleverly rated by Tim Williams to come his last 800 meters in 56.8 because Meticulous is a horse who has given his connections a few concerns to date. He crashed out of the Welcome Stakes and the Flying Stakes and his confidence has been a big thing with him. Some of that confidence came from Ashleigh Royal who has always nursed Meticulous through his setbacks and makes no secret of the fact "I just love this horse" Meticulous may have been disappointing and erratic at times but not to Ashleigh's way of thinking. "He gets the full treatment from me. I've just always liked him" she says. Small wonder Ashleigh was quickly on hand for the post race photo. Tim handled the sometimes race shy gelding calmly and he was never really tested, repeating a snappy win at the trials at Rangiora. Race confidence is a big thing in the Meticulous comeback so Sunday was an extra boost Matt Anderson was tested a little too in a different way with the other All Stars runner on the day Backup. He knew the Aussie-owned gelding was going to improve a lot and he did his best to help the horse by posting pedestrian fractions in front. But it was all hustle and bustle from the 800 meters which was covered in 55.8 Leo from the Nathan Williamson barn issued a strong challenge in the straight but Backup is better than many think and he held on easily enough in the end considering his current stage of race seasoning. Courtesy Of All Star Racing    

A brave and what looked like a successful bid to get Armbro Demon to the New Zealand Cup meeting and beyond came to an end midweek when the mare developed suspensory problems. Mark Purdon was philosophical about the injury. "She suddenly developed a problem which I thought might be a suspensory and she also had a smaller problem in the other leg. (Vet) Bill Bishop confirmed that is what it was and it means she has been retired. We found out she had had a suspensory problem before having a long spell and unfortunately it has returned'' Armbro Demon caused something of a sensation winning at the Cup meeting three years ago in only her third win up from a spell for owner-trainer Chris McLeod. She trotted the 3200m in a sensational 4.05.8 winning easily. She has only had two starts in nearly three years since having suffered an injury in 2012 and her career stands at five wins from only 10 starts. Chris, who had put so much time into the Armbro Invasion mare, agreed to lease her out for one more try for a race career and it wasn't a well kept secret around the All Stars stable that her ability  had made a deep impression at Rolleston. Armbro Demon had a few tricks to play on the unwary but she had gradually adapted well to a big stable atmosphere. Word of her ability must have leaked out because there were substantial bets placed on her in the Dominion Handicap especially in all up betting. Courtesy Of All Star Racing

Whenever the Mark Purdon/ Natalie Rasmussen barn lines up a maiden 3 year old at any harness racing meeting in New Zealand, it usually means the opposition is racing for second money. That's the way the betting public saw it tonight in race two at Addington Raceway (September 12th) with the All Stars runner Alta Ronaldo a prohibitive short priced favourite. The general consensus was that Alta Ronaldo should be a class above this lot having raced against the better 2 year olds last season. But as we all know there is no such thing as a certainty in racing and Margarita proved once again that no race is easy to win. Bred and owned by Cran Dalgety and his wife Chrissie and trained by Cran at West Melton, Margarita had the form on the board heading into tonights race. She won a race at two at Forbury in a 2:00.8 mile rate and resumed at three with a meritorious second to the very talented Bettor Scott in a 1:58.8 mile rate. Dexter Dunn sent Margarita forward from barrier seven and grabbed the lead after 300 meters with Alta Ronaldo sitting parked from the start. Mark Purdon sent Alta Ronaldo up to eyeball Margarita at the 600 meters mark but it was obvious passing the 400 meters mark that Margarita still had plenty to offer. And so it proved in the straight with Margarita holding a three quarters of a length advantage over Alta Ronaldo all the way to the finishing line. A 3 year old daughter of Bettor's Delight, she paced the 1950 meters in 2:25.4, a mile rate of 1:59.9 with the last 800 meters in 56 .4 and the closing 400 meters in a very sharp 26.9 The dam of Margarita is the smart Badlands Hanover mare Holloway 1:56.1 ($56,432) who won six races on the track in New Zealand. Holloway is a half sister to two handy types in Ducks A Flyin 1:55.2 ($93,581) and Simple Saver 1:52 ($84,658) and is closely related to the very smart Telemeconique 1:52.2 ($185,615) Why it is early in the season, Margarita looks the type with natural improvement that could mix it with the elite fillies by the time the classics come around. Harnesslink Media   

One of New Zealand’s most successful harness racing owner/breeders also knows how to cover himself when it comes to the punt. Terry McDonald, the man who owns and bred three-time New Zealand Cup winner, Terror To Love, has put $500 to win on outsider Hands Christian in the big Group One race on November 11. If Hands Christian does win McDonald stands to collect $10,500. But he would give that all away in a heartbeat to see Terror To Love create harness racing history and win the Cup for a fourth consecutive year. McDonald got Hands Christian at $21. He’s now at $15 after opening at $51. “I backed him because I honestly believe he will be one of the hardest to beat on Cup Day. He beat us in the Easter Cup and went very well against us in Auckland. “I also backed him prior to his nice trial this week,” In that trial at Ashburton (Tuesday) the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Hands Christian finished a length behind Smolda and Terror To Love. “I thought the horse went really well and reaffirmed my bet. As for ‘Terror’ he’s peaking nicely. I was rapt with that run. He was timed from post to post (last 800m) in 53.2, and both the trainers and driver think he’s still got a lot of improving in him. “He’s also a sensible bet,” McDonald said. New Zealand’s Wellington based harness racing bookmaker, Steve Richardson, who is close friends with McDonald, said he couldn’t believe the Hands Christian bet. “I rang him and said ‘what are you doing?’. I said I’m going to tell the press about you betting on an outsider and he laughed, and said ‘go for it’. “If he won this would easily be our worst result. Just goes to show what a champ both he and Terror To Love are. He has backed the horse each time, even though he calls himself a ‘goose punter’,” Richardson said. He said his mate had understandably been a bit down and believed a story like this would lift his spirits and make him laugh a bit. Life hasn’t been easy for 73-year-old McDonald of late. He is still grieving the loss of his younger Ken (69) who passed away unexpectedly in Brisbane last month. “Yes I don’t think I will ever get over that. I’m still hurting a lot, but I know he is with me. I’ve just had a tooth out today and then in a couple of weeks (24th) I have to undergo a back operation. “I had an operation eight years ago and they are now going to replace all the nuts and bolts. It needs to be done, but I’m furious that I will miss ‘Terror’s’ first run back in the Avon City Ford Cup,” McDonald said. McDonald was hoping the John McCarthy trained and Luke McCarthy driven For A Reason will make the trip over from Sydney for the New Zealand Cup. “We want the best possible field and For A Reason placed in this year’s Inter Dominion Final. It would be really fitting because my brother had a quarter share in him,” McDonald said. Courtesy Of Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

For one horse todays trials were a real milestone as he stepped back onto Ashburton Raceway "I'm back" You could almost hear Hands Christian saying it as he got back on the racetrack for the first time in over two years today (September9th). And he didn't disappoint anyone either. "He just loved being out there. You could feel it. He lapped it up" driver Tim Williams said. Hands Christian was run down by his stablemate Smolda with Terror To Love arriving late for second but it was a smart run by Hands Christian in the circumstances. After all Hands Christian has not raced since May 2012 in the Messenger after which he went amiss with a tendon injury. Just when Hands Christian was back into the swing of things last season he copped another injury but with great management and with Hands Christian being such a good patient he is finally getting back to a reasonable level of raceday fitness. Smolda, the winner of 15 from just 25 starts stole the show when running home in a very quick 54.4 and 26.3 to win by a neck from Terror To Love with Hands Christian a length away in third spot. Smolda was another one returning from an injury break today. He only had two runs back from an injury break in his last campaign before his problems caught up with him. In the second of those he pushed Terror To Love to a neck in what turned into a sprint home. Everyone has their fingers crossed that Smolda will stay injury free because he is such a great stayer and the 3200 meters of the New Zealand Cup will suit him down to the ground. With a few more runs under his belt Smolda looms as a genuine threat to Terror To Love's aim of a fourth New Zealand Cup  The overall time was a tidy 3.01 and change which while not breaking any records was a good hitout. "I don't want anything too strong'' Mark said before the heat.  "I think they are just doing a bit too well so a nice trip and a sharp sprint home should clean them up nicely." Harnesslink Media  

Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this  season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in  terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving  total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable.  Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me.  It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER  "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing

Harness racings 2 year old trotting filly Breeders Crown winner Arya is to stay in Australia for the immediate future which is probably not the news the owners of other smart two year trotting fillies in Australia from last season will want to hear. Arya was probably always going to be too good for her rivals in the $A87,000 Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown 2year old trotting fillies lineup but Mark Purdon sealed it when Meadow Valley Road made a surprise bid for the front in the first 500 meters. Mark Purdon briefly resisted then allowed Meadow Valley Road to assume command before quickly going out and regaining the lead. It was a procession after that  as Arya went on to win by 8 meters in a 2.02.7 mile rate after two middle halves in 32.5 to set up a sprint home.  Arya, co-bred and raced by Trevor Casey who also races her half-brother Stent, is by Angus Hall from the smart Sundon racemare Belle Galleon ($116,114)  Arya has now won five of her ten starts along with four placings for stakes of $102,076. She gave Trevor Casey an unusual double in that another of his young trotters Daenerys Targaryen won the Group One Redwood Classic last year. The reason that the decision was made for Arya to stay in Australia  was to avoid a clash with another of Trevor's smart young trotters in Wanna Play 1:58.2 ($50,771) who was recently voted the New Zealand 2 year old trotter of the year in front of Arya. Trevor Casey owned Wanna Play with Natalie Rasmussen but recently brought her share out and became the sole owner of the brilliant daughter of Majestic Son. Harnesslink Media 

Kentuckiana Lodge trainer Cran Dalgety has joined Patumahoe’s Geoff Small as NZ’s most successful trainers of Group One Breeders Crown Final winners after Katy Perry’s hard fought success in last Sunday’s $A297,000 Betterthancheddar @ Alabar Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park, Melton. Both have achieved five Breeders Crown Final successes in the specialised two-four age group categories, just one ahead of NZ’s premier trainer Mark Purdon. Cran Dalgety’s growing list of ABC Grand Final winners is: Sparks A Flyin (2001 3YO fillies), Smiling Shard (2009 2YO colts/geldings), Bit Of A Legend (2012-13 3YO colts/geldings) and Katy Perry (2014 2YO fillies). Former world champion driver Mark Jones partnered Sparks A Flyin. Current NZ champion Dexter Dunn has driven the stable runners since 2009. The Kentuckiana Lodge mentor is challenging as NZ’s most successful trainer at the Breeders Crown, taking into account his additional three Grand Final seconds _ Smiling Shard (2010 3YO colts/geldings), Onlyforyou (2012 2YO fillies) and Bit Of A Legend (2014 4YO entires/geldings). Northern-based, but Canterbury-raised Geoff Small, set the early pace among the Kiwis. Small’s ABC Pacing Grand Final winners are: Pullover Brown (2003 3YO Fillies), Changeover (2007 3YO Colts/geldings), Tintin In America (2009 3YO Colts/geldings), De Lovely (2010 3YO Fillies) and Cowgirls N Indians (2011 2YO Fillies). He also has a Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA (open class race) to his credit, with All Tiger in 2009. Recuperating Cambridge driver David Butcher has partnered all but one of Small’s ABC winners. Templeton driver Anthony Butt partnered Pullover Brown for her ABC win after also driving her to win the NZ Oaks that season.  Anthony Butt, a close second driving Joanne’s A Delight in last Sunday’s 2YO Fillies Final, also won the 1998 ABC 3YO Fillies Final driving Under Cover Lover, Mark Purdon, who gained early ABC Final training successes with Galleons Assassin (2005 2YO trot) and Fly Like An Eagle (2012 3YO colts/geldings), doubled his quota when (My) Ayra (2YO fillies trot) and Follow The Stars (2YO colts/geldings) delivered last Sunday. His additional driving win with (Our) Twentyten (who he formerly trained) in the 3YO trot final on Sunday, makes him jointly NZ’s top driver in the 2-4YO age group catergories, with David Butcher, who besides the Small-trained winners, also reined Miami H to win the 2010 3YO trot final for trainers Derek Balle and Owen Gillies. Victorian trotting training master Chris Lang is the most successful Breeders Crown trainer with seven wins. His successes, all in ABC trot finals, are: Kyvalley Road (2002-03 2 & 3YO trot), Right Interest (2006 3YO trot), Skyvalley (2008-09 3 & 4YO trot) and Let Me Thru (2009-10 3 & 4YO trot). Lang has also added three Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA wins, a race for open class trotters, with former champ, Sundons Gift (2007-08 & 2010). Lang’s brother, champion Victorian reinsman Gavin, although winless at the Breeders Crown this year, remains the most successful driver in Breeders Crown Finals, with 10 successes. Courtsey Of Cran Dalgety Racing

Australian harness racing fans...You have been warned! Not only will Follow The Stars be back next season, he will be better, stronger, faster.   Okay, Six Million Dollar Man reference aside, that was the call from New Zealand trainer Mark Purdon, who believes Follow The Stars will improve following a good break.   Having proven himself the Southern Hemisphere’s premier freshman, Follow The Stars is poised for  a stellar campaign as a three-year-old. Not only will he tackle the various majors on the Shaky Isles, he will return across the Tasman for several features such as the Victoria and New South Wales Derbys.   Purdon also plans to be back at Tabcorp Park Melton for the Australasian Breeders’ Crown – a race  Follow The Stars made his own last Sunday. “There is something special about this horse,” Purdon declared. “He has a real X-factor about him. “I would say he is more than up with the best two-year-olds I’ve trained...he is the best. “He will go home and have about eight to 10 weeks off now, then I’ll get him ready for our Derbys at home. “After that he will be back in Australia for the Derbys and the Breeders’ Crown again.”   Purdon’s “he is the best” statement is huge considering the outstanding two-year-olds he has  prepared. Headed by Il Vicolo and Light And Sound, the list includes Fly Like An Eagle, Lennon, Major Mark, Mr Nickel and The Court Owl – all multiple feature race winners.   As for Purdon’s plans, they represent a bleak season for Aussies as Follow The Stars already boasts an unblemished record from six mainland starts. Furthermore, the latest was the colt’s most impressive. Pushed forward from the outside of the front row, Follow The Stars worked to the lead as his talented stablemate, Kept Under Wraps was eased to take a trail. Never in danger of being beaten, the son of Art Major provided Purdon with an ‘armchair’ drive as he cruised to a soft five-metre win from Kept Under Wraps. My Field Marshall, which was three-wide without cover from the bell, was seven metres away third.   “That was a great run,” Purdon said. “I couldn’t have scripted it any better. “After he got to the front without doing too much work he was never going to be beaten. “He just did it so easy and had plenty in reserve at the finish.” Covering the last half in 55.7 seconds, the two-year-old rated 1:56.7 for the 2240 metres.   Raced by similar connections to Kept Under Wraps, Follow The Stars extended his record to an  impeccable 10 wins from 11 starts for earnings of $455,410.   Paul Courts    

Harness racing needs its pin up stars and there’s no bigger star at the moment in Australasia than Follow The Stars. Punters backed Follow The Stars into $1:10 after a brilliant semi final win at Ballarat last Saturday. One punter dropped $50,000 on Follow The Stars at that money and he would have had few worries during the running. The Mark Purdon trained son of Art Major was at his brilliant best today at Tabcorp Park Melton, taking out the American Ideal @ Woodlands Breeders Crown Final for two-year-olds. Working straight to the lead despite an outside-front-row draw, Follow The Stars controlled the race like he has done nine times before (from 10 career starts -- and his only defeat came in the Harness Jewels in New Zealand when he got knocked over, so he arguably he should have a perfect record). Follow The Stars cruised home by 4.9 metres over stablemate Kept Under Wraps for Greg Sugars, while My Field Marshall, from the Tim Butt stables, made it a trifecta for the Kiwis. While the Kiwi trainers dominated the race, there was a strong Australian connection with the winner – with Lauriston Bloodstock having bred the winner. Follow The Stars recorded a winning mile rate of 1:56.7, finishing off with a smart 55.7secs for the last half-mile. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria    

Harness racing driver Mark Purdon has paid tribute to Brent Lilley after winning the Pegasus Spur @ Woodlands Breeders Crown 3YO Trotting Final with Our Twentyten. The Kiwi horseman, who has driven three Group 1 winners today at Tabcorp Park Melton, said Lilley had done a super job with Our Twentyten, who is by Muscles Yankee out of Regal Volo. “Credit to Brent,” he said. “He’s got him absolutely spot on for today and he’s done a fantastic job.” Our Twentyten started $1.70 favourite on the tote but had his work cut out for him rounding the home turn when pole marker and pacesetter Bad Habbott, who ran a mighty race, kicked clear. Purdon took Our Twentyten back behind the leader at the final bend before peeling out again and overpowering the Russell Commens trained son of Sundon in the last 150m. “He tested me on the corner and I dropped in but by the time we straightened up he felt good again,” said Purdon. Lilley said he was thrilled to notch the Group 1. “He’s done a super job since we’ve had him. I’m grateful to Mark for the opportunity,” he said. “He’ll go for a well-deserved spell now.” Asdenro ran third for Haydon Gray, while Master Hugh was fourth for Chris Svanosio. Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria  

Harness racing has a new star as the best two-year-old trotting filly in Australasia My Arya scored a dominant win in the Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown 2YO Trotting Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park Melton today. The Mark Purdon trained and driven daughter of Angus Hall worked to the front early before getting headed by Meadow Valley Road and Chris Alford from gate 11. Purdon wasn’t having a bar of losing the lead though, the New Zealand superstar horseman yanking his star filly away from the pegs and cruising back to the front. From there she simply dictated the terms with sectionals of 32.5, 32.5, 29.1 and 29 to romp to a 16m victory over Meadow Valley Road, which ran a big race, and pole marker Glenferrie Burn. It could be a big day for Purdon, who also has Follow The Stars, Big Lucy and Our Twentyten all still to come in finals today. David Aiken trained the runner up, while Jodi Quinlan drove the third horse for Parwan trainer Geoff Walker. The winner paid $1.20 on the tote. Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria    

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