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Harness racing Australasian mile record holder Have Faith in Me was the worst behaved of the 'Purdon/Rasmussen' trio at todays Ashburton workouts. However it did not matter and he was too good at the finish beating stablemates Smolda and Lazarus by a small margin.  Have Faith In Me (5g Bettor's Delight - Scuse Me) broke badly at the start and gave his rivals a 20m headstart before driver Natalie Rasmussen looped the field and held on to win narrowly. Smolda put in his usual tradesman like performance for driver Tim Williams running on in the straight to get within a head of the winner at the line. Lazarus would have pleased trainer and driver Mark Purdon beginning well and trailing before going to the line hard held a nose away in third.  Quick As A Trick put in a solid run for fourth hard held in behind Lazarus and only a length away from Have Faith In Me at the line. Quick As A Trick will line up in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday in a bid to improve his ranking for the New Zealand cup in November. The workout was run in 3:07.0 for the standing start 2400m wih a final 800m in 57.3 and 400m in 27.1   Have Faith In Me winning todays workout   Earlier in the day Cullenmore (4g Christian Cullen - Nevermore) the only other horse Mark and Natalie had todays workouts cruised to the line hard held to beat his rivals easily in a sedate 3:14.1 with a sharp last quarter in 27.6    Harnesslink Media                                                                         

The chances of Lazarus taking on pacing’s big boys in the New Zealand Trotting Cup are increasing by the day. And they could get their most serious boost yet today. Last season’s champion three-year-old is the $3.70 second favourite behind stablemate Have Faith In Me in the TAB market for New Zealand’s greatest harness race at Addington on November 8. But he has yet to race in anything like open class and his trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are usually reluctant to throw 4-year-old’s into our toughest race. Yet as Lazarus prepares for his first public spin around of the season at the Ashburton workouts today, Purdon says the Cup is a very real possibility. The stable takes its big three to today’s 2400m standing start affair, with Have Faith In Me and Smolda also entered. “They are all at about the same level of fitness at the moment and we are happy with all three of them,” Purdon told the Herald. “While Lazarus has never raced these sort of horses he has been working with the other two and holding his own. “Whether that means he can win a Cup, where you often have to be able to do work against a field full of the best horses, remains to be seen but at this stage he is on target for it. Purdon has no great expectations timewise from today’s workout, saying anything between a 3:5 to 3:10 overall time for the trio would be fine by him. But the workout and another one next week for the trio still has genuine significance  from a New Zealand Cup, and possibly Inter Dominion, point of view. While Smolda, second in the Cup last season and winner of the Hunter Cup, is a proven standing start stayer, both Have Faith In Me and particularly Lazarus are inexperienced from a stand, even though Have Faith In Me overcame a poor stand record to win the Auckland Cup. Purdon hopes all three will handle the standing start today in the non-pressure environment, rather than starting the campaign on the back foot. “That would be ideal but this is also what workouts and trials are for,” he adds. “If one of them starts to miss away and not behave from the stands and that continues through until the first couple of races then targets could change. “It is was Lazarus then maybe the Cup would fall off his agenda but more likely if Have Faith In Me didn’t handle the stands then he is the most likely one we would change tact with and look at the Inters in Perth.”That rich series starts just two weeks after the New Zealand Cup and if Have Faith In Me was to be aimed at the Inter instead of the Cup it would dramatically change the markets for the two mega races. Purdon says that decision won’t be made for at least a month, with potentially one of his big guns a chance of racing at Addington on September 23. “We could have one, maybe even two, ready for that race and then all three of them for two weeks after that Addington again. “So the standing start thing will be important but at the moment all three are still on track.”Titan Banner has also rejoined the stable to be aimed at the Cup but will not resume until closer to October after racing at the Jewels.   Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon has no regrets not to be hunting down the toughest record in harness racing. Even though he knows his Breeders Crown winner Waikiki Beach should be on the doorstep on greatness. He ended his 3-year-old season with one of his bravest performances, leading throughout after copping enormous pressure to win A$185,000 group one at Melton. That took Waikiki Beach’s record to an extraordinary 23 wins from 24 starts, his sole defeat coming in a nothing Tuesday race at Menangle, when he was clearly underdone. Had Waikiki Beach won that race he would now be unbeaten in his first 24 starts, a record famous in New Zealand racing as the number Courage Under Fire put together to start his career. “Maybe he should be unbeaten but that sort of thing doesn’t bother us much,” said Purdon. “They all get beaten some day and it was just one of those things.
 “So that pressure is not on him any more and he can start his next season as a very good horse but with no records to worry about.” Waikiki Beach will return to New Zealand for a six-week spell in the almost unbelievable situation of not being the stable’s highest rated 4-year-old of the new season. That honour lies with three-time Derby winner Lazarus, who is the second favourite for the New Zealand Cup, a race Waikiki Beach has not been nominated for. “They will clash eventually, maybe in a race like the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney next March but not in the open class races this year,” said Purdon. “And while we are aiming Lazarus at the Cup races, I still think there is nothing between them and when they do meet it might just be the horse who gets the better run.”
 Waikiki Beach was part of a rich Purdon treble yesterday, better than the master trainer expected because of tough draws and good local opposition. Harness Jewels winner Partyon remained unbeaten by leading throughout in her A$280,000 two-year-old fillies final, blasting to the lead from the outside of the front line in a race-winning move. Early aggression also proved the key for stablemate Custodian in the juvenile trot, when he pressured key rival Illawong Byron, who broke, leaving Custodian to win untested   Michael Guerin

The master finds himself in an unusual situation on Breeders Crown day tomorrow. Because champion trainer Mark Purdon expects to lose more races than he wins. And he wouldn’t be stunned if his five-strong team came away with only one victory. While a Group 1 win would rate as a successful day for almost any other trainer on the planet, this is after all a man who won seven races on New Zealand Cup day two years ago and regularly dominates entire premier programmes. Point in case, at the Jewels two months ago he won five of nine races. But that won’t be repeated tomorrow. The combination of leaving some of his best talent at home, stronger than usual Australian opposition headed by the powerful Emma Stewart stable and some bad barrier draws has Purdon hopeful rather than confident. His near guaranteed winner should be Our Waikiki Beach, who is $1.10 to win the 3-year-old male pacing final, where his only danger would be getting crossed early from barrier one. But Purdon’s only other favourite is Harness Jewels winner Partyon in the juvenile fillies pace and while she may be the best horse in the race she faces the biggest task. She has the outside of the front line with the connections of second favourite Miss Graceland already stating they are keen to lead from barrier four and stay there. The latter is very good and if she makes Partyon work early then both could be softened up for Victoria’s best filly Petacular to take advantage later. So Purdon has a decision to make early. “There is no point going back but whether we can get across to lead is another matter,” he told the Herald. “She is well and will be improved by her win last week and if she leads she will be very hard to beat.”
 Pacing Major also faces a tricky draw in the A$280,000 juvenile boys final and was only steady when second last week so will need to improve or hope hot favourite Tingara Beach gets crossed at the start to turn the race upside down early. Harness Jewels winning trotter Custodian galloped in his final lead-up last Friday so Purdon is not only wary of that but of Redwood winner Illawong Byron in the juvenile trot. “I think the second line will suit my horse but Illawong Byron is very good and he will be hard to beat.”
 And Purdon realises My MacKenzie, probably only the fourth or fifth best 3-year-old filly in his stable, is racing for place money at best against Heavens Trend and Rocknroll Magic in her final. But Kiwi trainer Paul Nairn could claim two finals tomorrow with Wilma’s Mate and Conon Bridge both in perfect form for their 3-year-old trot finals while the Auckland-owned pair of Our Regal Love and High Gait also have serious hopes.   Michael Guerin

Unbeaten Partyon will improve into the Betterthancheddar @ Alabar Breeders Crown Final after her Semi-Final win, said harness racing trainer-driver Mark Purdon last night at Bendigo. After finishing 1.4m ahead of runner-up My Casino Belle in the first Semi-Final for the two-year-old pacing fillies in 1:58.5, Partyon was installed $1.75 fixed odds favourite with for next Sunday’s Group 1 final at Tabcorp Park Melton. “She was quite casual actually. I think she will be better with the run under her belt and she was busy looking at everything with the new track and new surroundings,” Purdon said. “She’ll be spot on for the final.” VIDEO: MARK PURDON TALKS ABOUT PARTYON AFTER WINNING SEMI Partyon, by Bettor's Delight out of Beach Parade and unbeaten in four starts, began from barrier 11 last night at Lord’s Raceway but wasted little time getting into the race, Purdon pushing her forward to find the lead after 300 metres. Once in front there were very few moves made in the run and Partyon dictated terms before dashing up the straight with a 27.2 final quarter to hold off a valiant My Casino Belle for Brad Hewitt. But while Partyon, who won the 2YO Diamond at the New Zealand Harness Jewels meeting in June, is all the rage for the Final Victorians Petacular and Miss Graceland will be far from easy-beats next Sunday. Michael Stanley trained Petacular in particular has had a super season with eight wins – including victory in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series Final – from 10 starts for over $160,000 in stakes. MARKETS: TAB FIXED ODDS BREEDERS CROWN MARKETS Last night she was at the top of her game once again, taking out her Semi-Final by 4m over Emma Stewart trained Miss Graceland in 1:57.7. Driven by Chris Alford, Petacular overcame a barrier 11 draw, circling the field to assume control at the mile. VIDEO: PETACULAR GRABS ANOTHER WIN, THIS TIME IN SEMI-FINAL Miss Graceland, who started from barrier 13 last night, moved to second at the 500m before dropping on to Petacular’s back for a breather turning for home. Those two dashed right away from the rest of the field and the winner never looked in any serious danger, scoring by 4m with third-placed Miss Dangerfield coming in 23.9m behind the winner. Petacular, by Somebeachsomewhere out of Ideal Priority, drew poorly for the Final resulting in putting her up as a $5 third favourite, with Miss Graceland drawing well in gate four for the Final opening at $3.50. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Harness racing star Our Waikiki Beach has been handed a tricky start to his Breeders Crown defence. The exceptional three-year-old confirmed his place as favourite for the ABC series with a dominant win at Melton last Saturday but his path to final has been made more difficult by a bad draw in his semi final at Bendigo on Saturday night. Our Waikiki Beach, the winner of 21 of his 22 starts, will start from the inside of the second line in his 2150m semi final. While he follows out one of his key rivals in Iceenothink and the field is not strong, his early fate could now be in the hands of his rivals and may force trainer-driver Mark Purdon to pull back to near last as getting locked away on the markers would seem his biggest danger. That could mean a harder night at the office than Purdon would have liked and while only bad luck would stop him from qualifying for the final on Sunday week, the other New Zealand-trained three-year-old in the series, Franco Cristiano, looks to have an easier path. He has drawn barrier three in the other semi and in a series that lacks depth he will be expected to win for John Dunn. Purdon didn’t have a lot of luck with barrier draws for his other series favourites, with both Pacing Major (two-year-old boys) and Partyon (juvenile fillies) drawing the second line. Pacing Major won his Australian debut last Friday against older horses but faces a huge task on Saturday as his semi contains some serious opponents in Astride, The Little General and Bettor Be Gold. Partyon should remain unbeaten in her semi as she has drawn a weak field and has already shown the ability to work in her races. The New Zealand-trained winners in the draws apart from Franco Cristiano were My MacKenzie, barrier one in a weakish semi, and Luisanabelle Midfrew, who gets barrier two in the other three-year-old fillies semi. Meanwhile, several of New Zealand’s contenders for the trotting divisions of the Breeders Crown attempt to qualify at Maryborough on Wednesday. High Gait, Temporale and Our Regal Love will all be well favoured in their heats on the all-trotting programme.   Michael Guerin

So far it has been a very happy reunion for Mark Purdon and his young harness racing star Our Waikiki Beach.   While the megastar three-year-old has raced 10 times for nine wins, a second and earned almost $200,000 this season, Purdon hasn’t actually seen much of him because he’s been racing exclusively in Australia.   Purdon spent all last week with the gelding – and his other four Breeders Crown hopefuls – and didn’t hide his excitement.   “Gee he’s well. He’s right where I want him, very forward,” he said.   Our Waikiki Beach underlined that when he simply outclassed and out-zipped two high class rivals in Menin Gate and Franco Cristiano at Melton last Friday night.   Before the race, Purdon said: “He’s so well, I think he’ll win if he gets a decent run, but he not get that.”   Purdon’s wish came true when Menin Gate led, Our Waikiki Beach made an early move to sit parked then landed the one-one trail behind Franco Cristiano.   Despite some awesome closing splits, Our Waikiki Beach was too fast. He peeled out of the perfect trail and stormed past Menin Gate to win by two metres with another 3.3m away to a very gallant Franco Cristiano in third spot.   “He felt great. It’s just the run he needed. He’s ready for the semis (of the Crown) now,” Purdon said.   The mile rate was 1min53.8sec with closing splits of 55.8 and 27.6sec, but Our Waikiki Beach was timed to run a 27.2sec last quarter.   Let’s remember the horse he ran down did win three Derbys last season and is the reigning Victorian Horse of the Year.   Franco Cristiano’s first Aussie run was a gem given he needed the hitout, did the midrace work and fought on so well.   But it’s still hard to see him how he can turn the tables on Our Waikiki Beach.   It was a good weekend for Purdon and his Crown players with two-year-old Pacing Major also winning against older rivals at Ballarat last Friday night.   “It was just the run I’d hoped for. He needed it and I’m glad I got the run into him before the semis,” he said.   Purdon said his other three Crown contenders were also right on target.   “I’m actually really happy with all of mine,” he said.   “I think I’ll give Custodian another run at Melton next weekend. He went really well at Maryborough and another run will bring him right on for the Crown.”   Adam Hamilton

TWO of Mark Purdon’s Breeders Crown big guns will have to step out of their age group for warm-up harness racing in Victoria next weekend.  Finding races for megastar 3-year-old (Our) Waikiki Beach and gun 2-year-old Pacing Major has proven very challenging for Purdon.  “I entered Our Waikiki Beach for Melton (last Friday) but the race was scrapped and Pacing Major is a nuggety sort of horse who will need racing before the Crown,” Purdon said.  “My only option is to run them against older horses.”  Purdon has nominated (Our) Waikiki Beach for an open-aged metropolitan maiden race (M0) at Melton on Friday night.  “And I’ve put Pacing Major in against older horses at Ballarat on Saturday night because there isn’t a 2-year-old race here he’s eligible to run in,” he said.  Purdon said his five-horse Breeders Crown team was thriving at Anton Golino’s state-of-the-art training complex near Ballarat.  “This place is as good as I’ve seen in this part of the world. It’s truly world class,” he said.  “It’s a lot like Jimmy Takter’s (New Jersey) stable and Anton trains a lot like he does, too.”  Purdon is also enjoying spending time his sons Michael and Nathan, who both now work for Golino.  “It’s great. It was a real buzz to see Nathan win that Group 1 in Queensland with Ohoka Punter,” he said.  In other stable news, Purdon said headline horses Have Faith In Me, Lazarus and Smolda were all eight weeks into their training campaigns.  “They all seem to have come back well,” he said.  Asked about the Perth Inter Dominion, he said: “We’re keen to be part of it, but it’s too early to say which horse or horses will go across.  “In the case of Have Faith In Me, we don’t have to make a decision until mid-October which way we go and we’ll know more about how he’s handling the standing-start racing by then,” he added.   Adam Hamilton

Breeders Crown 2016 is shaping as Goliath versus Goliath in more than one division. Mark Purdon’s Allstars camp is always the talk of the town in August, but Emma Stewart’s 2015-16 domination of the home-ground harness racing ranks is unwavering. Tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton Stewart’s Smythes Creek operation drew the headlines for the umpteenth time this season, notching a winning treble courtesy of stable stars Delight Me and Ideal For Real, and up-and-comer Stay And Play. Both Delight Me and Ideal For Real look early favourites for their respective four-year-old Breeders Crown categories. Heavens Trend and Rocknroll Magic are both logical top picks in the three-year-old fillies, which gives Stewart three of the six pacing Breeders Crown favourites at this stage in the Race of the Royalty. WIN A $10,000 TROTS BET, BREEDERS CROWN SKY BOX PACKAGE + 2 NIGHTS @ CROWN Meanwhile, Purdon’s here with plenty of firepower and the Allstars look to have the other three pacing division favourites in Our Waikiki Beach (three-year-old males), Partyon (two-year-old fillies) and Pacing Major (two-year-old colts and geldings). Last year Purdon pocketed three Crowns on Super Sunday while Stewart won one. This year the battle of the two power barns of Australasia certainly looks closer. Stewart combined with the state’s leading metro driver, Gavin Lang, for a double tonight, the Ice Man hitting 43 victories for the season, five clear of the Candyman Greg Sugars and the Puppet Chris Alford. Delight Me (Bettor's Delight-Cornsilk) cruised to a 1.5-metre win in the Benstud Standardbreds Pace, controlling the race from the 1100m after working to the front. She got home in 55.6secs to beat stablemate Miley Rose. That’s 11 out of 13 now for Delight Me. Is she Australia’s best mare? It’s an intriguing discussion. And fans of New South Wales pair Frith and Arms Of An Angel won’t be taking a backward step at this stage. Note, I’d include Nike Franco among Australia’s best too, but she has reportedly been sold to the US for a substantial sum and will continue her racing career there in coming weeks. Ideal For Real (American Ideal-Tamara Hall) went back to the rear early in the Cougar Bourbon Pace tonight, but the $1.04 polemarker rounded up his rivals and ran away for an easy 10.8-metre win over Phil Monty in 1:55.7. Stay And Play (Live Or Die-Play Ball) won Heat 2 of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Championship over 2240m for Stewart and Alford in 1:56.6 over Metrofromelle by 7.1m, while Snip Of Grand for Sebastopol’s Alex and Adrian Douglas won the other heat in 1:57.3 by 1.9m over Royal Hustler. Stallion honours for the night went to Shadow Play with a winning double courtesy of The Shady One (Shadow Play-Demi Plie) in the Rayner Real Estate Pace Final for Wayne Potter and John Caldow (1:58.4, 2240m) and Irish Player (Shadow Play-Hula Gold) for Mario Azzapardi and Charlie Borg in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Country Series A Final (2:01.2, 2240m). Kotare York (Mach Three-Kotare Yoyo) took the 1720m SEW-Eurodrive 4YO Pace for Geoff Webster and Emmett Brosnan in 1:59.5, and Stunning Grin (Grinfromeartoear-Rosalee Hanover) won the Exclusive Homes Pace over 1720m for Vince Vallelonga and Michael Bellman in 1:54.2. An eight-race card awaits at Bray Raceway Ballarat tomorrow night before Sunday's dual Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors Redwood Day at Maryborough. Cody Winnell

Mark Purdon is not letting a minor setback ruin the start of his latest harness racing Victorian campaign. Because Purdon is in this one for the long haul, which means spending basically the entire month based in the state. Australasia’s top trainer flew into Melbourne on Monday and headed to Anton Golino’s stables where he prepares potentially four Breeders Crown favourites for their shots at the title. Our Waikiki Beach and My Mackenzie had already travelled south from Sydney to be joined by Pacing Major (two-year-old male pacer), Partyon (two-year-old pacing filly) and Custodian (juvenile trotter). The power-packed assault was supposed to start this Friday at Melton where Purdon wanted to line up Our Waikiki Beach but that didn’t eventuate, not that the boss was too concerned. “It is no big deal,” Purdon said. “All it means is he will probably have a trial instead now before the Crown semi-finals. “But I am happy with him and he trialled well last week before he came south.” WIN A $10,000 BREEDERS CROWN TROTS BET In fact Purdon is happy with his entire ABC squad, with the fact he will be with them for the next month ominous for rival trainers. While he has some high-class personnel in his employ, Purdon’s team is like most of the other top stables – at its most potent when he or partner Natalie Rasmussen can be hands-on with the horses. Which is exactly what the Victorian-based horses will get during August. “I will pretty much be here all the way through with them,” says Purdon.  He is thrilled with how his three New Zealand-based juveniles have travelled across, with Custodian to now start the stable assault in the Group 1 Seelite Windows and Doors Redwood Classic at Maryborough on Sunday. “I was really happy with his last trial,” Purdon said. “He has handled the standing starts well and is quite a sensible horse. “So I think the Redwood will suit him and it helps that the Crown trots are split on sex.” His two-year-old pacers Partyon and Pacing Major are already proven at the highest level and Purdon believes they have only improved since impressive Harness Jewels performances on June 4. “I have been driving Pacing Major a lot myself and really like how he has been working,” Purdon says. “And the other filly won her ABC heat well. BOOK YOUR BREEDERS CROWN DINING PACKAGE AT BENDIGO OR MELTON “So we are going into the trip with all the horses exactly where he need them, which is a good start.” The Purdon stars will be joined by plenty of other big names in coming weeks, starting with Temporale and Wilma’s Mate in the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotting Derby on Sunday. Both have slight manners concerns but overcame early gallops to win at Alexandra Park and Addington respectively last start and add genuine depth to what should be a great Derby. Also in the Derby but racing as a Victorian will be Matatoki, who has been sold to Merv and Meg Butterworth and has joined trainer Kerryn Manning. He still has a bit to learn and probably sits as the least-favoured of the Kiwi trio in the race, especially from a second-line draw. And while Purdon has pulled Heaven Rocks from the Breeders Crown after an unsatisfactory trial last week, fellow Canterbury three-year-old pacer Franco Cristiano is coming for trainer Robert Dunn, with his son John to do the driving. And Group 1 winner Luisanabelle Midfrew, who beat the older mares in the New Zealand Breeders Stakes, races at Addington on Friday night in preparation for the Crown. She will come over under the guidance of trainer Nigel McGrath with Matthew Williamson to drive but will be transferred after the Crown to Sydney trainer John McCarthy. by Michael Guerin Fields for Maryborough, Sunday 07 August 2016 Form guide for Maryborough, Sunday 07 August 2016

He’s regarded as one of the best trainers of a standardbred in the world and now Mark Purdon will get the chance to show his driving prowess on the world stage. Purdon was announced at Saturday night’s Harness Racing New Zealand Awards Evening as the New Zealand representative at next year’s World Drivers’ Championships to be held in Canada during August. The news came as both a massive honour and shock for Purdon. “I’m really excited to have been given the opportunity to represent New Zealand,” he said. “Mixing it with some of the best drivers in the world will be a great experience and one that I’m already looking forward too.” Purdon has never been chosen to the New Zealand representative before but as the winner of close to 1,500 races in New Zealand and with an impressive resume’ of big race victories across Australasia, there are few better qualified candidates. Harness Racing New Zealand boss, Edward Rennell, said Purdon was a worthy candidate to fly the New Zealand flag in Canada. “Mark has been a leading driver here in New Zealand for an extended period of time as well as a being a 10-time winner of the trainers’ premiership either on his own or in a partnership,” Rennell said. “Last season (2015-2016) he was the leading UDR driver in the country and second on the stakes schedule behind Dexter Dunn. “Mark has made a contribution to the industry over an extended period and recognising his contribution through selection as New Zealand’s representative is well warranted and deserved.” New Zealand will have a strong chance in the series which runs from the 12th to the 19th of August with Dexter Dunn gaining automatic entry into the series as the defending champion following his victory in Australia at the last World Drivers’ Championship. New Zealand has a proud history in the series which was first contested for in 1970. Kevin Holmes (1978), Robert Cameron (1983), Tony Herlihy (1985), Maurice McKendry (1991), Mark Jones (2003) and Dunn last year are Kiwi winners.   Courtesy of  Matt Markim

Champion harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is adamant his superstar Have Faith In Me is as good as any pacer in the world. And he should know, having just watched the best in North America live. Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have just returned from a month-long trip to the United States and Canada during which they spent time at the stables of leading trainers Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke. They also saw the elite US free-for-all pacers race, headed by the big three of Always B Miki, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete. While Purdon has huge respect for the trio, he is certain his Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me is at least as good. “They are very, very good horses, especially those three but our horse is just as good. I have no doubt about that.”
 It is hard to argue with Purdon, who is never one for over-rating his horses. The top US free-for-allers can break 1:47 for a mile but they spend their entire careers being honed for magical miles, whereas Have Faith In Me paced an Australasian record 1:47.5 winning the the Miracle Mile in February only a few starts after winning a 3200m standing start Auckland Cup on December 31. Fully ingratiated into US style racing with one of their wider, faster sulkies behind him and Have Faith In Me would clearly be a sub 1:47 pacer. “I am sure he would be but I don’t think there is any great desire to race him up there,” Purdon told the New Zealand Herald. “If he is the best down here this season, which we hope he will be, then he can win more money than he could up there because up there he would be one of three or four with similar ability.” Purdon had his first real look at Have Faith In Me in a month yesterday and is certain the four-year-old has thickened and should be stronger next season. But before you start looking for somewhere to back him in the New Zealand Cup be warned --- while that is his first goal it is by no means certain. Purdon and Rasmussen have the three New Zealand Cup favourites, the other two being Lazarus and Smolda, and will let the trio tell them who will be suited to the New Zealand Cup on November 8 or who might be better off in Perth at the Inter Dominions, which start two weeks later. “At this stage we will bring all three of them up and start racing mid September with the Cup as their aim,” he explains. “But if any of them didn’t feel like they were right for the Cup then we could change tact. Have Faith In Me for example, if he started to gallop away from the stands in his lead-up races we could favour the Interdoms, because they are all mobile, especially as he would be on the unruly in the Cup, which is like being off a handicap. So we will aim them at the Cup and see what happens.” Purdon was thrilled and surprised by just how much Lazarus has filled out during his spell, which will hopefully help him bridge the gap from champion three-year-old to open class performer by Cup time. Purdon says his time away from his Rolleston base gave him and Rasmussen a chance to learn how trainers like Burke and Takter go about their business as well as consider their own as they stare down another premiership win. “At some stage we would like to have less horses but after the numbers we got from the yearling sales this season I’d say we are going to have about the same size stable again next season. “And the trip was great but we don’t have any aspirations to try training up there. We have a lot invested in the property down here and you can’t just up and move that to the States. “So while I’d like to go up there and visit those top trainers again, because you always learn things, I don’t see us campaigning horses up there any time soon.”
 Courtesy of Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon Well naturally Jewels day was a great one for us, and it was a great feeling after all the hard work we and the staff had done in the leadup. Those couple of weeks before are so important and our team in the north made a big contribution. The highlight? I think overall it would be HEAVEN ROCKS. The other wins were all outstanding for one reason or another but he gave me the feel of a really good horse. So he will earn his go at the Breeders Crown now. We have Custodian, Partyon and Pacing Major going over to join My MacKenzie and Waikiki Beach. The Jewels are being talked about. I feel that it might be time to try them at Alexandra Park and Addington for two years just to see if it can draw bigger numbers. That would mean a change in distances but I don't think that would be too much of an objection. I just feel after 10 years it might need some adjustment to help it grow because it is a great concept. Being at tracks with full facilities might be part of the answer. It makes me smile a bit when people say we are dominating the big races and stakes and nobody else is getting a look in.  We might have won a lot of money last Saturday but we came home to a lot of bills. In fact we recently commissioned a survey of our business over two years (2014 and 2015) and you would be surprised how narrow the margin of profit in training horses is and our rates are higher than most. Our staff ratio is high because when you have valuable horseflesh you have to look after that investment and you don't take shortcuts.  There are all sorts of other costs like track maintenance when so many horses are being trained on it. I am not saying we are complaining given our success but it is interesting to see all your costs laid out versus income instead of just thinking you are doing better than you are. Natalie and I leave on Wednesday for a month vacation starting in New York and we are really looking forward to a break after all that has been going on . We will be back before the Breeder's Crown heats up but we will miss the Breeders Challenge.   Natalie Rasmussen There wasn't really any of our horses in the Jewels you could say were disappointing. Two were definitely unlucky. Dream About Me and Pacing Major were just beaten by the draws they had and there is not much that could be done about that on the day. However that does bring up one change I think should be considered for the Jewels -not having a second row. I know it will affect the size of the field but there might be too many horses racing at Cambridge as it is. My feeling is that the Harness Jewels are a championship and within reason should be treated as such and every horse should have its chance. Even if they started more on the front it would be better, or at least fairer. Other than that the concept seems good enough.  I think people expect it to retain the status of the Breeders Crown but the BC races can be worth over $300,000 and that makes a difference ! Yes Mark and I have had an expert survey of our business done and it was an eye opener. Basically if the horses aren't racing we are barely making anything  on training. The outlook for the industry is not that good at the moment and if our stable is not showing any margin on training costs when our rates have to be at the top of the market then how bad it must be for those whose horses aren't winning the big stakes ? The problem is not a new one. It is all about stakes being relatively static over 10 years or so but costs of services continuing to rise.  And owners have other costs besides just training rates. Of course we have high overheads because we only want to do things one way and that is properly. That is the only way to approach running a business like ours. But its a mistake to think, as many people do, that just because we have won a lot of money it means a huge profit. You should see some of the bills we have to deal with!   I am not complaining because we have had a good season and are luckier than most but it helps you understand how those trying to make a living training without a topliner have to battle away just to survive. Hopefully it will improve but that is not likely in the short term. But Mark and I can put our concerns out of the way during our trip and I am looking forward to the break. Reprinted with permission

It's busy as usual for harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, as their All Stars stable continued on the domination of todays Harness Jewels at Cambridge Raceway. This time it was in the NRM Equi-Jewel 2YO $150,000 Emerald. The 2yo Bettor's Delight colt More The Bettor was super in winning, but at one stage it didn't look like he had any show. “I was a bit worried with a lap to run, the three wide line was going nowhere and I was in a bit of trouble. Thankfully the race opened up with that galloper and we were able to get around them” said Mark Purdon. Ultimate Machete was massive in defeat, putting up a huge effort to push a smart colt all the way to the line. “He just wouldn't lie down, I thought we were going to go straight past him, but to his credit he dug deep” While all that was happening, Pacing Major and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen were sitting pretty, in the trail and full of runner. But with Tim Williams setting Ultimate Machete loose around the field to find the front, it put paid to Rasmussens chances after she was locked away on the fence. Owned by Roy Purdon, Sir David Levene and Mark Purdon, More The Better took his record to 10 starts for 6 wins and 4 seconds, with a staggering $320,000 in stakes. Winning Time & Margin: 1-53.38MR, with a half a head back to Ultimate Machete in 2nd and 1½ lengths back to Pacing Major in 3rd. Andrew Fitzgerald

Partyon, remember the name, because by the way Harness Racing trainer and driver Mark Purdon talked about her, means that this filly could be something special. It's well known that the Purdon/Rasmussen team have a team full of stars, but they usually have a potential superstar that they save to either, start as a late 2yo, or as a 3yo. In the RA & JV Yarndley $150,000 2YO Diamond at Cambridge Raceway the 2yo Bettor's Delight filly boomed off the gate to find the lead, and from there on, Purdon was always in control cutting out the first 800m in a steady 58.9. “I've known about this horse's talent for some time now, and today everyone else got to witness just how good she is” said Mark Purdon. Owned by the Breckon Farms-The Top Ten Syndicate run by Ken & Karen Breckon who was stoked with todays victory. “We have had plenty of success with these syndicate's, including a bunch of first time owners. Another syndicate of ours owns, High Gait, who won the Group 1 Victorian Trotters Oaks last night at Melton. So it's been a great 24 hours for everyone involved in our Syndicate. A full brother to Partyon was sold for $44,000 to Ken Breckon at yesterday's Weanling and All Age Sale. He was a standout type, and his price could have doubled with his big sisters win today. Winning Time & Margin: 1-55.58MR, , with 2 ½ lengths back to Delightful Memphis (Blair Orange) in 2nd and ½ a length back to favourite Spanshis Armada in 3rd. Andrew Fitzgerald

Harness racing driver and co-trainer Mark Purdon, directed all the praise for today's win in the $100,000 Mitre 10 Mega Cambridge 2YO Ruby, to New Brighton Roddy Butt. The former trainer and major owner of Custodian, sold a large amount of the 2yo Muscle Mass gelding a few weeks back to a Syndicate set up by Sydney based trainers Nathan Jack and Amanda Turnbull. “Roddy deserves the praise here, he arrived in great condition and all we had to do was keep him fit” said Mark Purdon. The race was thrown into disarray early, with heavliy backed favourite Enghien galloped behind the gate and adding 50m onto his task. While he tacked on and still looked a massive chance with a lap to run, he jumped out of his gait again, when Ricky looked to put him into the race at the 800m mark. Meanwhile Mark Purdon has Custodian with great cover early, but was out and around to find the spot outside the leader inside the final lap, before wearing his opposition into the ground at the top of the straight. “I sold a large share in him recently to Nathan Jack and Amanda Turnbull, and they asked if I would be offended if they sent the horse to the All Stars barn. I said of course not, they are the leading trainers for a reason and off he went” said Roddy Butt. Winning Time & Margin: 1-59.67 MR, 57.5, 28.8, with a short head back to Heavyweight Hero (Todd Macfarlane) in 2nd and 1 ½ lengths back to Habibi Inta in 3rd. Andrew Fitzgerald  

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