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The riches-laden racing record of Princess Tiffany is set to be added to over the next month or so with the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained mare making her first appearance this time in at Rangiora trials on Tuesday. While the trial win (the daughter of Art Major won well in an overall time of 2.29.9 over the 2000m mobile) had its usual class about it more pressing matters will be foremost in her connections minds as they plot their way towards Group racing success in both New Zealand and Australia. Immediate racing options for Princess Tiffany would seem abundant but also come with a catch as the Group 1 Breeders Stakes at Addington on February the 14th, itself a fine race to compete in and potentially win, clashes ever-so-closely with two Ladyship Mile lead-in races on Australian turf with those races all but promising Ladyship Mile starts to those finishing within the top three. The Breeders Stakes offers that carrot only for the horse first across the line.. A betting man could offer a compromise of a bob-each-way with Princess Tiffany competing at Addington and, if missing out on that prize, flying the Tasman for a tilt at The Robin Dundee on the 22nd the following week although that would seem a stern examination of the horses ability to have three major races (if you include the then following Ladyship Mile) in a little over two weeks and would be highly dependent on logistics falling into place. As things are it would seem a bounty of sorts awaits whatever racing schedule is decided and with Princess Tiffany's NSW and Queensland Oaks wins no doubt fresh in the memory bank you couldn't blame connections demanding a continued assault on group racing features on Australian soil. Buyers at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale can snare a little of the Princess Tiffany factor for themselves in the form of "Miki Diamonds" who is being offered by Breckon Farms. The colt ,lot 103 , is by Always B Miki and is a 1/2 brother to both Princess Tiffany and Rock Diamonds (22 wins) with first dam Dancing Diamonds being a NZ Yearling Sales Championship Final winner herself. The maternal line and wider family has produced wonderful racetrack results of late and include Sir Major Stride, 1.55.1 pacer Code Red and the Golden Slipper winner of 2010 in the form of Ohoka's Bondy. To say it's a family of winners would be understating it by some margin. by Ben Mcmillan, for Harnesslink    

Self Assured sets the pace, harness racing trainer driver Mark Purdon varies the pace,  third successive Auckland Cup for All Stars with a four-year-old. That’s setting the pace-big time! Self Assured left no doubt he is a star with a huge future after giving Mark an armchair drive in the $245,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup yesterday. Mark conducted the pace like Mantovani, easing in the middle stages and sprinting home in 26.9 to outclass his rivals in a great display of legal theft. The overall time of 3.59.5 won’t threaten the record books but All Stars have made a habit of stealing the race in recent years. Turn It Up, who won the Cup at his 9th start last year ran over 4.03 while Vincent the previous year in the hands of Natalie did not break 4.04. The fastest recent Cup since the 3200m was restored was Dream About Me who ran 3.55.5 for Mark in 2016 “He began so brilliantly I had to use that advantage”Mark said. “Yes we got away with a few cheap sectionals but you can’t take anything from him. He was taken on early. He is a terrific young horse” Mark didn’t win his first Auckland Cup until 2009 with Auckland Reactor but Self Assured is his 3rd driving winner in four years and 4th training success in that time. Thefixer trailed the winner all the way but could not foot it with that last 400m. “He was really good, tried hard, Self Assured was just too fast the way the race was run and is a terrific horse “‘ All Stars always thought so but a couple of setbacks as a youngster which including careering around the training track with a cart and no driver had connections holding their breath. But he showed in a triumphant Queensland winter campaign he was the real deal and has gone on proving it since. Australian four year old features now beckon and who knows? maybe the Miracle Mile won by Spankem as a four year old last season Tim thought Chase Auckland was really good having had to work in the middle stages and Blair thought Cruz Bromac may have just been feeling the effects of a busy campaign. Another Masterpiece broke at the start showing pace in the middle stages before the effort told. Self Assured has now won 8 of his 10 starts REMARKABLE 7TH SUCCESSIVE 3YO SALES PACE FINAL TO ALL STARS One Change spent the first part of his racing career as a nice little horse who might make the grade with the good ones. Now he is the best one and the others are trying to make the grade with him. “The horse who knows how to win” even if it is not by a lot, added to his Sires Stakes triumph in New Zealand and his honour as the leading juvenile last season with a typical no nonsense win in the $200,000 race. “I used him early because of that draw. After I handed to Tim on Flying Even Bettor because he was pressing, we got the run and he had his chance but I took some time to get past Tim. He came up trumps again. He knows where the post is. His win, the 8th of 11 starts for All Stars, Trevor Casey and stable associate Mike Woodlock, lifted his total earnings to nearly $500,000, not a bad return for the $30,000 he cost as a yearling. Initially picked out by the stable, he failed to impress in a veterinary examination. After he was passed in Trevor drew the stable attention to the fact he was still available and it was decided to take the risk. Some risk. Amazingly since 2013, All Stars have won this race with Isaiah, Lazarus, Ultimate Machete and Ultimate Sniper-all raced by Kennard syndicates-Have Faith in Me and Chase Auckland before One Change. It is the only stable in NZ to have won a feature race 7 times in a row a feat it has now achieved twice. While One Change went about his business in his usual efficient manner, drama was the lot of Smooth Deal checked by a breaking Line Up soon after the start and seemingly out of the race. He recovered to make a big run down the back before wilting the last bit for a brave fifth. Flying Even Bettor went a mighty race too wresting the early lead, setting a strong pace and just going down over the final stages. “He was a little hard to rate down the back. He was flopping along one minute and hard on the bit the next. So that was a big effort”Tim said. Mark refused to concede Smooth Deal was a special beaten but did go as far as to say he would have been “right in it” but for the early check. JEAN WASN’T THERE BUT THE RESULT WAS THE SAME ! It was back to business as usual in the Alabar Sires Stakes Filly Championship as Amazing Dream added her name to the list at least partly because of the skills of the serial winner of the G1 feature, Natalie Rasmussen. Natalie bided her time longer than perhaps some were expecting at the back, flushed out Ricky May and Stylish Memphis with a round to go and in the end was a convincing winner making her to top filly of the season to date with more to come. It was Natalie’s 5th driving win in the race since 2013 the first being Willow owned by Bill Feiss. His wife Jean has won the race a further three times and Natalie steered Golden Goddess to win for the Butterworths to give the stable its 5th win in the race also. Before the race much was made of the draw and how the smart fillies Spellbound and Need You Now were a danger on the front line but in spite of a lead-trail scenario they only battled in the run home leaving Stylish Memphis and Amazing Dream to fight it out. It must have been deja vu for Stylish Memphis’s co -trainer Mark Jones as Delightful Memphis, a full sister, had been runner up to Spanish Armada in her year before going on to a distinguished career. What was also unusual about yesterday’s race was that Jean Feiss was not there. An indefatigable traveller to New Zealand from Australia to watch her horses race, she was in Malta on New Year’s Eve and could not be there. The winning of the race may well have been Natalie’s ability to give her charge cover down the back straight but the determined filly left no excuses, powering away over the final stages. Natalie had also nailed Dina Bolt’s hopes doubting the crushing odds the public had about him. She gave him a nice drag in the trail, he took some time to wind up and while going strongly at the finish had to settling for second, Courtesy of The Allstars Site

Captaintreacherous, the former outstanding American harness racing colt pacer and the leading juvenile sire in North America with his first two crops, was represented by his first 'down under' winner in the two-year-old colt It's All About Faith. A member of the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen barn, the colt led most of the way for driver Mark Purdon in the first heat of the Breckon Farms Young Guns in a slick 1:56.4 at Alexandra Park, Auckland on Friday night (Dec. 13). It's All About Faith, who was having his first start, clocked 56.3 for the last and 28.3 for the final quarter. To watch the race replay, click here.  Captaintreacherous had three runners in the nine-horse field in It's All About Faith first, Platinum Stride fourth and Captain Nemo eighth. It's All About Faith is out of the Group 1 winning Christian Cullen mare Veste (1:57.1), who has left four winners - all inside 1:58 - from four starters, and is a member of the same maternal family as the dual New Zealand Cup winner Il Vicolo, Gotta Go Cullen and Stunin Cullen, all million dollar winners. Captaintreacherous's frozen semen is available in New Zealand and Australia through Empire Stallions in Victoria. By Peter Wharton              

When a youthful Mark Purdon captured the 1991 Auckland Inter Dominion aboard Mark Hanover trained in partnership by legendary father Roy and older brother Barry, little did he realize what the future was to hold. All in, the Purdon’s have figured in nine Inter victories, three in the pacing ranks and six with the trotters. For champion trainer/driver Mark it has been a ritual to go in search of Australasia’s most prestigious harness event, with success coming on several occasions. Following Mark Hanover, A few years went by before Mark’s name began to become dominant, especially in the trotting ranks scoring with Pride Of Petite in 1996 (Melbourne), and 1997 (Adelaide) when driven by brother in law Tony Herlihy which became one of the greatest races ever seen at Globe Derby Park, then came Buster Hanover (Sydney) in 1998 with Herlihy again the winning reinsman. Thirteen years elapsed before I Can Doosit trained and driven by Mark with Grant Payne as associate trainer scored successive victories – Auckland in 2011 and Melbourne 2012. Back in 1993 Mark’s father Roy had combined with Barry to land the 1993 Trotters Grand Final in Auckland with Night Arrow. In 2016 and 2017 it was the pacers that really made Mark a force to be reckoned with when two outstanding horses Smolda and Lazarus came on the scene. Smolda being victorious in 2016 and Lazarus 2017 when both series were held in Perth. Partner Natalie Rasmussen is no stranger to the Inters either after her outstanding pacer Blacks A Fake scored at Hobart in 2006, Adelaide 2007, Melbourne 2008 and Menangle 2010 and could have easily been five after going down narrowly to Mr Feelgood at the Gold Coast the year before. Barry Purdon himself will have two Grand Final runners this year when A G’s White Socks and Mach Shard step out to do battle. Since registering the partnership, Mark and Natalie have qualified five horses for this year’s series headed by Ultimate Sniper, Cruz Bromac, Chase Auckland, Thefixer and Ashley Locaz. With Mark, Barry and Natalie being the most prolific name in New Zealand and Australian harness racing, the name Purdon will be prominent for a long period of time to come.   Len Baker

A desire to take on some on the best trotters in the world is one reason Oscar Bonavena won’t be at this season’s Inter Dominions in Auckland. Because trainer Mark Purdon believes the sensational four-year-old is good enough to race extensively in North America and that is his ambitious long-term aim with Monday’s stunning Ashburton winner. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen didn’t pay up yesterday for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park on November 29, preferring to concentrate on the Dominion at Addington on November 15 and and Australia later in the season. “I think if we look after him now it will pay dividends in the long run and the series can be hard on horses,” said Purdon. “So he will miss the Inters and his next start will be in the Dominion. “Then he can head north for the Flying Mile at Cambridge (Dec 24) and the National Trot (Dec 31). “After that we want to look at Australia, where the Great Southern Star at Melton will be his big aim.”But Purdon is thinking even further ahead, with plans for Oscar Bonavena to be staked for the best races in North America and head there for a long campaign.                                                                                   --HRNZ Just when and for how long could isn’t set in stone and could depend on how he handles their racing style and Purdon says the fine details have yet to be worked out. “I’d love to give him his chance up there because I think he is good enough and the money is so big. “So we will stake him for those and whether we train him up there or Chris (Ryder, part owner) takes him over we will decide closer to time. “So while that is all a long way off that is the plan and one of the reasons we are missing the Inters.” The thought of Oscar Bonavena maturing even more and performing to his best in the US would make local trotting fans salivate as he has the raw speed and stamina to go close to a 1:50 mile time under the right circumstances. The Interdom trotting series has been hit hard by withdrawals but is still headlined by Marcoola, Sundees Son, Majestic Man and northern group one winners Temporale, Massive Metro and Lemond along with Australian raiders Tough Monarch and Big Jack Hammer. The pacing series has survived the latest round of payments far more intact with most of the biggest names still there but Purdon has a very slight word of warning around second favourite Self Assured.  “At this stage we are taking him but that won’t be absolutely confirmed until after the Cup carnival because that is when we make our final decisions, after seeing how they all come through that.”
 So punters would be wise to hold off backing Self Assured, especially as the All Stars already have Spankem, Thefixer, Chase Auckland and Cruz Bromac for Auckland and it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Self Assured have the Miracle Mile as is prime target. Another horse whose Inter campaign must be in doubt is Ultimate Sniper, who will be allowed to miss the New Zealand Cup after his below par performance at Ashburton on Monday. He will instead head to the NZ Free-For-All but with so many four-year-old options in the second half of the season he is no good thing to be at Alexandra Park for the series, with the Auckland Cup on December 31 maybe a better option rather than the four-race Inters.   Michael Guerin

Not many trainer-drivers would gift away a near certain group one winning drive. But then again, not many horseman get to experience them as often as Mark Purdon. Purdon was set to cross the Tasman to Victoria this week to partner $1.15 favourite Princess Tiffany in the A$200,000 Breeders Crown three-year-old filly final but has instead retained Luke McCarthy as the driver. McCarthy partnered Princess Tiffany when she was surprisingly beaten in her heat of the series two week ago but was aggressive as she smashed her rivals in her semi final at Bendigo last Saturday. With some key rivals underperforming and missing the final and Princess Tiffany drawing barrier three she will be seen as past the post by most punters. Purdon was initially going to head to Victoria to train both Princess Tiffany and stablemate Jesse Duke this week and drive both in their finals. But Jesse Duke looked a tired horse when he dropped out in his semi final on Saturday and missed his final so the Harness Jewels winner will have a spell and be sent to North America for new trainer Chris Ryder. “I was going to go over but Poi (traveling foreman Matt Bowden) has got her right and Luke has been very good driving for us for a long time so I am happy to leave him on,” said Purdon. “So we will stay home where we have a big team and concentrate on them and watch the race on television.” Princess Tiffany’s form rollercoaster over the last fortnight has summed up her season where her best has been brilliant but her worst average, with Belle Of Montana usurping her as our best filly. Ironically, if Princess Tiffany wins this Saturday and adds the Crown to her NSW Oaks win she might be voted Australia’s best filly even though she isn’t ours. Meanwhile, Purdon’s big-name stars like Thefixer, Spankem, Chase Auckland and Ultimate Sniper are working down well to a trials resumption early next month and to start racing in October as the prepare for the New Zealand Cup and Auckland Inter Dominions. As for the Crown at Melton on Saturday night, New Zealand also have favourites in two-year-old male trotter Ultimate Stride and three-year-old trotting filly Liberty Stride while the A$300,000 male juvenile pace draws have fallen perfectly for Zeuss Bromac and Perfect Stride who can now test the favoured locals.   Michael Guerin

Don’t bother asking Mark Purdon why group one stars Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke flopped so badly at the start of their Breeders Crown campaigns.  Because the champion trainer admits he doesn’t know. And he will be as interested as anybody to see how they bounce back in the semi-finals of the rich Victorian series at Bendigo on Saturday. Both Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke were were beaten as short-priced favourites in their heats of the Breeders Crown in Victoria late last week, Princess Tiffany unable show any acceleration as a $1.04 chance after having the perfect trip.  “She should have won by three or four lengths so she was very disappointing,” says Purdon.  “Her work before the race had been really good and her blood report since doesn’t show any problems.  “So we have no excuses. The only thing we can put it down to is the very wet track.  “But she will need to go better this week.”  Princess Tiffany, who has won three Oaks and is the defending Breeders Crown champion, has drawn the second line in a very strong semi final and while she has the luxury of only needing to finish in the first half of the field to make the final, that hardly helps punters.  Both horses will again be driven by Luke McCarthy, with Purdon staying home then going across to train the pair for their finals next week. Jesse Duke only battled to the line when well-beaten fourth in his heat last Friday and has draw the outside of the front line in his semi final on Saturday night which contains all three of last week’s heat winners. “He was disappointing too and didn’t have the wet track as an excuse so we went to see better from him this week too.”
The other Kiwi pacers in the ABC have had mixed luck in the draws, with Best Western facing a tricky marble in the Princess Tiffany heat. But juvenile pacers Perfect Stride (three front line) and Zeuss Bromac have drawn well, the latter starting from one on the second line but behind a horse who should give him a great trail into the race. While the pacers will try and earn their finals spots this Saturday, the three New Zealand-trained trotters in the Crown have straight heats into the final at Maryborough today. And trainer Phil Williamson believes to can win two of them. Williamson couldn’t be happier with Redwood winner Ultimate Stride heading into his juvenile boys trot heat and he would only need to behave and produce his best to win while the Oamaru trainer is confident placing Liberty Stride on the unruly will aid her in her three-year-old fillies heat. “I trailed her on Sunday and she really pleased me,” says Williamson. “She should follow them out more relaxed from the unruly and the reason she has galloped the last start two starts was because she didn’t know what to do when the pressure went on early and tried to race them. “So I think she will be fine this week.” The other Kiwi in the series Kratos would do well to run a place in his three-year-old boys trot heat as he is up against Derby-winning star Majestuoso and runner-up All Cashed Up.   Michael Guerin

After the initial sighs of Australian relief comes the reality. And that reality is even without a full regiment of the All Stars army to converge on the Victorian carnival which rolls into gear over the next week,  we still have some serious firepower aimed at the August riches which start at Maryborough on Sunday. There would have been plenty of connections of leading Australian age group horses thrilled to here that originally the All Stars weren’t targeting the Breeders Crown with anything like the numbers of the past, although the two they are bringing in Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke are favoured in their divisions. But the Kiwi team has grown to eight and remarkably all of them are trained by people who have had success in Australia before. Joining the Purdon-Rasmussen horses will be fellow Kiwi trainers Ray Green (won BC juvenile with King Of Swing two years ago); John and Josh Dickie (numerous BC, Vic Derby wins and a Great Southern Star), Zac Butcher (who has won Victorian group ones and now make his training debut there) and Phil Williamson, who has an excellent strike rate when he ventures to Victoria. Even Jeremy Young, who makes his Australian debut as the trainer of Breeders Crown three-year-old filly contender Best Western, is widely travelled and successful in Australia when stable travelling foreman for Purdon back in the Auckland Reactor days. So with all eight of the Kiwis set to race in Victoria soon, here is a look at how they stack up.—-   Maryborough Sunday: Ultimate Stride (Redwood): Former sales topping trotter who overcame 30m handicap to win at Maryborough last Thursday, so good to go from a stand for the Redwood. “He is a good horse and better now than when he ran at the Jewels,” says trainer Williamson. “He can definitely win any race he is in and the stand doesn’t bother me.” Anthony Butt will retain the drive on the leggy son of Love You, who is a class horse and has an experience edge at the highest level on the locals. Liberty Stride (Vic Derby): It was impossible not to be impressed by her quite stunning recovery to win at Shepparton last Tuesday and Williamson says she is the real deal. “She would have raced in the best races over home but we were behind the 8-ball with her prep but she has real class. “She can give the boys plenty to think about in the Derby and the crucial factor will be whether she gets it right and is trotting after 400m. If she is, she can win.” Butt will also takes the reins on her. Kratos (Vic Derby): Won his lead-up race at Alexandra Park last Friday against older horses with a 1:59.4 mile coming off second line, his fourth win this season, all against older horses. Second in NZ Sales Series and fourth in the Jewels he is rated a good stayer and late season improver by co-trainer John Dickie. “He is getting better all the time and he will love the three races in as many weeks heading into the Breeders Crown.”Not as good as some of the Dickie superstars of the past, Kratos will still be an each way chance in the Derby and the Crown, with Josh Dickie to drive.  Shepparton, August 7: Perfect Stride: Trained by Ray Green and owned by the Rosatis, Chicago Bull’s little brother is a real speedster. Good enough to compete in the elite early season company in NZ he was put aside with the Breeders Crown in mind and jogged a 1:56.1 mile beating older horses at Alex Park last Friday. That was his second win on end and he is slick and getting tougher with time. Whether he is up to the Emma Stewart horses is a big ask but looks certain to make the final and Zac Butcher will drive in the heat at least. Zeuss Bromac: A dramatic late season improver for Butcher, this is the first horse he has trained. Third in the Jewels at only his second start he beat Perfect Stride last time they met but then missed a race two weeks ago because of a bad blood report. Looks stronger than Perfect Stride but maybe not with as much raw speed. “I don’t think missing that race will hurt him too much and he is a horse on the up,” said Butcher. “So I think he will make the final and hopefully he will keep improving on the way there. He is pretty untapped.” Kilmore, August 8 Our Princess Tiffany: Needs no introduction, she is sheer class. Already the winner of three Oaks races it will take something very special to beat her in the series if she brings her best form. Best Western: Stunned Belle Of Montana to win the Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park in March to give trainer Jeremy Young, known as Zinny, his first group one win. Not as good as Princess Tiffany but she is tough and follows a hot speed so Australian racing should suit her. “Maybe she can’t beat Princess Tiffany but she definitely can’t beat her if we don’t go so she will be on the plane with the others on Wednesday,” said Young. A strong second in a 1:55.1 mile at Alexandra Park last Friday, Best Western is yet another Breeders Crown drive for Anthony Butt.  Ballarat, August 9: Jesse Duke: Has a good horse’s record and would be a lot better but for racing some really classy stablemates in Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured. Still won a Jewels and is a good stayer but meets a solid crop of horses. Won’t just turn up and win as so many Purdon-Rasmussen horses have in the past but his $3 futures quote with the TAB could be a lot shorter because you know he will be in the final and once there the All Stars horses are there they are usually well backed. Probably no better than 3-4 others in the series. Michael Guerin

There was class personified when some of the biggest names in Australasian harness racing flew into Melbourne from Queensland winter campaigns this week. Heading the list was the next superstar for the powerful New Zealand All Stars stables, three-year-old gelding Self Assured (Bettors Delight-Star of Venus (Christian Cullen), who is unbeaten in six race starts. Two of his Kiwi stablemates in Princess Tiffany (Art Major-Dancing Diamonds (Bettors Delight) and Jesse Duke (Bettors Delight-Daisy Dundee (In The Pocket) also made the trip. Boom Victorian colt Lochinvar Art (Modern Art-Ponder In Paris (Ponder), possibly the best Australian juvenile going around at the moment, was also on the plane south. The quartet were all air freighted from Brisbane. Check out the composure of Lochinvar Art and Jesse Duke arriving at Melbourne airport here: https://www.facebook.com/laura.crossland.965/videos/10219563655342554/?t=10 https://www.facebook.com/laura.crossland.965/videos/10219563656222576/?t=0 David Moran, partner of trainer Laura Crossland, said Lochinvar Art had enjoyed a few days off in a grass paddock before making the trip home. "We left him with some friends of ours in Kylie Rasmussen and Darren Weeks and he looks a picture. The short lay-off has done him wonders," Moran said. Lochinvar Art was sensational in two runs at Albion Park, finishing runner-up both times to Self Assured in the $31,600 South East Derby G3 (July 13) and then the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. "He needed the run on the first night, but he showed he was cherry ripe with an amazing performance to hang in there in the Derby which was run in race record time," Moran said. "Both Laura and I believe that effort wasn't far off being his best-ever run in his 25 career starts," he said. "And after all that, he pulled up unbelievably. He reminds me a bit of the old-school horses - he's so tough, he's got a big heart and just gives it his all." Lochinvar Art at the beach with Alex Alchin Self Assured recorded a mile rate of 1.54-2 for the 2680m Derby with closing quarters of 26.7 and 27.1. To put it into perspective, the time was only 0.5sec slower than that of Colt Thirty One who took out the Group 1 Blacks A Fake - a Grand Circuit event - at the same meeting. Lochinvar Art, Our Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke will now campaign in the coming Breeders Crown Series, kicking off at Ballarat on August 9. Semis will be run at Bendigo eight days later with the $200,000 final at Melton on August 24. Self Assured, owned by Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so is heading home to New Zealand, to prepare for his next campaign - the All Stars website confirming a nomination for the Alexandra Park Inter Dominion is likely. "He will fly out to Auckland soon and spend time on agistment. We aim to have him back up and going in November," Purdon said Purdon and his partner Rasmussen are currently taking a short holiday on the famous Gold Coast, before also heading "back to work". "We always try and pencil in a break after a major carnival, otherwise it's so difficult to get away. We cut our numbers back to 40 after the Jewels and our next focus is on the new season." The recent victory was Purdon's 182nd Group One as a winning driver and his 100th as a trainer. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Mark Purdon’s 100th Group 1 training triumph marked the arrival of his next superstar.  All who watched Self Assured roar through four stunning Queensland Winter Carnival wins were convinced he’s poised to become the sport’s next big thing.  As if last week’s narrow but mesmerizing South-East Derby win wasn’t head-spinning enough, Self Assured raised the bar again with the first of what should be many Group 1 wins in last night’s (Saturday) $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby.  Self Assured used a good draw to lead, but copped plenty of pressure, most notably from Lochinvar Art down the back straight, but still left his rivals standing in track record time.  Unbeaten in six runs, he smashed the race record and Self Assured’s 1min54.2sec mile rate for the 2680m was only 0.5sec slower than they ran in the Group 1 Blacks A Fake – a Grand Circuit race - on the same night.  Just as he did the week before, Self Assured smashed the clock with closing splits of 53.8 and 27.1sec.  “I was a little bit worried (when the pressure came on). Either one of those horses, you could’ve let go, but he’d worked so good during the week I didn’t want to take any risks,” Purdon said.  “I was a little bit concerned when we straightened for home, but when I pulled the plugs he went into another gear.  “He’s a really good horse and he showed that tonight.”  Self Assured, the latest All Stars’ gun to be owned by Australian Jean Feiss, is not Breeders Crown eligible so it’s spell time now.  “Heads to Melbourne with Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke, then onto to Auckland where he will agist and have a bit of a break with a view to having him back in November for the support races at Cup time. It’ll be a.8/27 nice introduction to Cup class racing for him.”  The All Stars’ also grabbed third and fourth in the Derby with Jesse Duke (third) and Our Princess Tiffany (fourth) and that pair now head to the Breeders Crown.  The run of Lochinvar Art to finished second after powering the pressure on Self Assured down the back straight in a 26.7sec split was enormous and he looks the horse to beat in his Breeders Crown division despite a long season.   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon will return to the sulky aboard the sport’s most exciting pacer Self Assured for Saturday night’s $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby. Sidelined for two weeks with an eye infection, the champion horseman said he would return from his Canterbury stables to Brisbane on Wednesday and would be fine to drive this week. “The eye is about 85 per cent right, so I’ll definitely be OK for this week,” he said. “It’s been good to come back home and rest it as much as possible. That’s helped a lot.” Purdon confirmed he would three runners in the Derby with superstar filly Our Princess Tiffany joining Self Assured and Jesse Duke. “I’ll drive Self Assured. Kylie (Rasmussen) will stick with Tiffany and I want Luke (McCarthy) on Jesse Duke if he’s available,” he said. “It’s not often we run our fillies against the boys, but this filly is up to it. If she didn’t have a setback, we’d have run her against the boys in the NZ Derby and I think he’d at least run second in that. “She’s so strong and keeps reeling-off those quick times when she’s on the speed. “She did that (Queensland Oaks) really easily the other night and I think she’s back to that terrific NSW Oaks form.” Self Assured was so stunningly impressive winning last Saturday night’s Group 3 South-East Derby he will be favourite from any draw this week, but Purdon believes Our Princess Tiffany is good enough to test and maybe even beat him. “If she draws to make the lead like she did the other, she would take a heck of as lot of running down, even by Self Assured,” he said. “It was quite freakish what he (Self Assured) did the other night, running home in those times, a 26.1sec last quarter, when he outside the leader.” The barrier draw for the Queensland Derby and Saturday night’s other feature, the Group 1 Blacks A Fake, will be done at 11.30am (NZ time) tomorrow (Tuesday).   Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon is back home and won’t drive two of his stable stars at Albion Park’s Group 1 meeting on Saturday. Instead, he’ll be watching on TV at home and hoping his troublesome eye infection recovers in time to be drive in the Group 1 Queensland Derby a week after. “I certainly wasn’t going to be right this week and your eyes are so important, so I’ve booked other drivers for the two races,” Purdon said. Kylie Rasmussen will drive $1.10 favourite Our Princess Tiffany from an ideal gate four in the $100,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks and buzz pacer Self Assured (gate 10) in the Group 3 South-East Derby. Luke McCarthy has landed the drive on Jesse Duke (gate five) in that Derby. “The horses are in great hands,” Purdon said. “Tiffany can and should improve on what she did winning last week. She’s drawn well and I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t win again. “I thought Self Assured’s win was enormous last week. I’d lean to him even though he’s drawn the back row in the Derby this week. Jesse Duke has the better draw and I’m sure he’ll run another big race.” Purdon reaffirmed plans for all three of his stars to come together in Saturday week’s Group 1 Queensland Derby. “If Tiffany comes out and wins really well this week then she’ll join the boys in the Derby,” he said. “As for drivers, if I’m ok then I’d drive Tiffany or Self Assured and Kylie (Rasmussen) will drive the other. I’d like to keep Luke (McCarthy) on Jesse Duke.” The big winner from today’s (Tuesday) barrier for the $100,000 Group 1 Sunshine Sprint was local star Colt Thirty One. “Barrier two is great. Draws are so important, especially in sprint races here (Albion Park). It’s a huge help,” Colt Thirty One’s trainer-driver Grant Dixon said. In contrast, recent Group 1 Len Smith Mile winner Majordan was dealt a huge blow with a back row draw (gate nine), negating his blazing gate speed and love of leading. The other key runners are Inter Dominion runner-up Our Uncle Sam (gate four) and classy former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow (gate six). Colt Thirty One has already been crunched from $2.20 into $1.75 on the Aussie TAB from Majordan ($4), Our Uncle Sam ($5) and Cash N Flow ($9).   Adam Hamilton

IT only took Mark Purdon one race to stamp himself on the Queensland Winter Carnival. Purdon and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen’s first two runners this raid – Self Assured and Jesse Duke – snared the quinella at the Albion Park last night (Saturday). The quinella came the day after the Allstars’ glamour filly Our Princess Tiffany blazed her way to a 1min51.4sec trial win for 1660m at Albion Park to show she was right on target. The hype around the Aussie-owned Self Assured continued to grow despite his third win from as many starts only being by a whisker over Jesse Duke after trailing the last-start Jewels winner throughout and getting last shot at him. Self Assured, the latest exciting pacer raced by Victoria’s Jean Feiss, was privately-timed to run his last quarter in a scorching 25.9sec.  “We were rolling along and he did a good job to get up,” Purdon said.  Jesse Duke made him earn it, peeling-off a 53.9sec last half in front after driver Kylie Rasmussen dictated terms in front.  It’s going to take something special to stop the Allstars winning the Queensland Derby and Oaks judging by Princess Tiffany’s trial and the fact Self Assured and Jesse Duke are Derby-bound.  “Princess Tiffany will line-up next week and we’ll have one of these boys (Jesse Duke or Self Assured) in the Premiers’ Cup next week as well,” Purdon said. _______________________________________________________________________________ EMMA Stewart dominated last night’s stellar Vicbred semi-final card, but arguably the best horse at the meeting was Mick Stanley’s Rackemup Tigerpie. More on yet another monster night for Stewart soon, but let’s talk about Rackemup Tigerpie first and where he’s headed. With Chariots Of Fire winner Poster Boy falling ill and being scratched from the Vicbred series, Rackemup Tigerpie looks to have the final at his mercy judging by last night’s powerhouse win. Perhaps because of Stewart’s dominance, punters surprisingly crunched Major Times into clear favouritism over Rackemup Tigerpie, but he was no match. Rackemup Tigerpie did all the work around the field then parked and left Major Times standing in a slick 1min55.8sec mile rate for 2230m. It was 1.2sec faster than the improving Three Summas went in the other semi. “He’s come back really well and is still on the up,” Stanley said of Rackemup Tigerpie. “He felt great in the run and will be better again for the final.” He will need to be now he’s drawn gate 12 in the final. Longer term, Stanley is looking at the Victoria Cup in October. Back to Stewart and she looks set for a gala night next Saturday in the Vicbred finals after winning a staggering eight of the 12 pacing semi-finals run last night. Of all her wins, it was a runner-up who set tongues wagging. Art Major colt Mirragon was beaten a nose in his semi after striking early trouble and settling down at least 60-70m from the leaders. As good as stablemate Pandering was winning the other semi, Mirragon looks something special. It was also great to see Stewart’s star juvenile of last season, Hurricane Harley, back to his best winning a semi of the 3YO series by a big space in quick time. _______________________________________________________________________________ HOPES continue to grow Colt Thirty One is good enough to snatch a hometown win in of the upcoming major races at Albion Park. Trainer-driver Grant Dixon bypassed the Chariots Of Fire and happily skipped last week’s Redcliffe Cup to focus on this Winter Carnival. And, instead of taking the easy option against his own 4YO age group, Dixon is setting Colt Thirty One for the two marquee races of the Carnival – the $100,000 Sunshine Sprint on July 13 and the $250,000 Blacks A Fake a week later. Both are Group 1. Colt Thirty One made it seven wins from eight starts this campaign when he did all the work, ran time and won with authority in the Wondai’s Mate at Albion Park last night (Saturday). It was his 30th win from just 43 starts and he smashed his PB race time with a scorching 1min51.3sec mile rate for the 1660m despite sitting parked. It took 1.3sec of his previous best. It was just 0.9sec outside Im Themightyquinn’s track record, but it must be noted the times were absurdly fast across the board at the Albion Park meeting. Veteran Holy Camp Clive went 1min51sec flat winning the race before Colt Thirty One, albeit after a soft run behind the leader and use of the sprint lane. Colt Thirty One’s owner-breeder Kevin Seymour is clearly excited: “Grant has got him peaking nicely towards the Winter Carnival. That was pleasing.” Dixon snared the quinella last night with rejuvenated veteran Ohoka Punter – also owned by Seymour – following his fantastic second in the Redcliffe Cup a week earlier with a game second last night. _______________________________________________________________________________ DRIVER Mark Reed wasn’t as surprised as punters when he upstaged Chicago Bull aboard Golden State in the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night. “I thought he’d hold the lead and could run 1min55sec for the 2130m, so I wanted to hold the front unless Chicago Bull got to me really easily and quickly,” Reed said. “Chicago Bull had to do a lot of work to get there and, no matter how good you are, it’s hard to come from that far back and do all the work in times like they ran tonight.” That said, Chicago Bull looked flat and tired late to run a 2.8m fourth with inferior horses like Tommy Be Good and Tact Major getting past him late. Chicago Bull has mixed his form somewhat on the comeback trail, but connections are not fazed, citing the fact he’s still not full wound-up after so long on the sidelines. The Gloucester Park card also features Group 1 Westbred Classic finals for the juveniles. The colts and geldings went to top young trainer Justin Prentice,  but not with the pacer most expected. Prentice took the reins himself on Major Martini, who upset stablemate Aristocratic Star. The long-time power combo of trainer Ross Olivieri and Chris Lewis combined to win the fillies’ final with Sweet Lou’s daughter Double Expresso. Chicago Bull’s shock defeat aside, his stablemate Ideal Liner was the other major talking point of the night after overcoming an awful draw to win his seventh race from just eight starts this campaign. Everything about Ideal Liner says he’s an open-class star in the making and already a horse to treat seriously for the WA and Fremantle Cups in January.   Adam Hamilton

THE All Stars’ latest budding star Self Assured will back-up quickly at Albion Park next Saturday night. It takes a lot to surprise Mark Purdon, but that’s exactly what Self Assured did when he ran down decorated and more-seasoned stablemate Jesse Duke in a “warm-up” race at Albion Park last night (Saturday). Jesse Duke ran home in mesmerizing splits of 53.9 and 26.1sec, but Self Assured came off his back and snatched victory by a nose. “I didn’t think he could do that,” Purdon admitted. “He could be a really nice horse. “We changed a few things after that last win of his back home because he paced a bit roughly at times. We added the overcheck and took the half blinkers off. “He’s been unlucky in that he had a freak accident at home and missed lots of the good races back home, like the Jewels.” Self Assured will chase his fourth win from as many starts in the $31,600 Group 3 JC McMullen (formerly Premiers’ Cup) at Albion Park on Saturday night. Princesss Tiffany will also open her Queensland campaign in the $31,600 Group 3 South East Oaks this week. “Jesse Duke will have this week off and go to the South-East Derby the next week,” Purdon said. Purdon said the plan was for Princess Tiffany to join Jesse Duke and Self Assured in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (July 20) if she pleased him through the South-East Oaks and Queensland Oaks.   PURDON’S PLUNDER Where his stars are headed in Queensland: PRINCESS TIFFANY July 6: $31,600 Group 3 South-East Oaks July 13: $100,860 Group 1 Queensland Oaks July 20: $100,660 Group 1 Queensland Derby SELF ASSURED July 6: $31,600 Group 3 JC McMullen July 20: $100,660 Group 1 Queensland Derby JESSE DUKE July 13: $31,600 Group 3 South-East Derby July 20: $100,660 Group 1 Queensland Derby   Adam Hamilton

Superstar pacer Turn It Up is out of the New Zealand Cup and Auckland Inter Dominions and almost certain not to race again this year. The Auckland Cup, Easter Cup and Harness Jewels winner has undergone an operation to remove cartilage damage in both his front legs, an issue which may have been bothering him in the second half of this season. While trainer Mark Purdon says the prognosis is good for a full recovery the time Turn It Up will need off to recover from the operation rules him out of the biggest races of the domestic season. “The vets have told us 12 weeks away from training,” Purdon told the Herald. “So it probably won’t even be back jogging until mid-September and that means the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominions in Auckland are definitely gone. “And I’d be almost certain he won’t race again this year so the Auckland Cup would be gone too. “But that still leaves some big races in Australia in the second half of the season, races like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile. “So while it is disappointing to not have him for races like the Cup and the Interdoms, long-term it is the right thing for the horse.”Purdon says the issues weren’t causing Turn It Up any pain when racing but they could have deteriorated with time so operating now was the best option. Turn It Up, who has never finished further back than second in 15 starts, having won 11 of them, was favourite for both the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominion but markets are now suspended. His withdrawal still leaves the All Stars with the two New Zealand favourites in Miracle Mile winner Spankem and defending Cup champion Thefixer. Michael Guerin

You can almost hear the sighs of relief from this side of the Tasman.  Because that will be the overwhelming response when the connections of Australia’s best young harness horses realise they don’t have to combat the full force of the All Stars machine this winter.   Aussies preparing horses for the elite races at the Queensland and more importantly Breeders Crown carnivals would have been waiting to hear which members of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable were coming to savage them as they so often have in the last five years.  The answer is: almost none.  In a remarkable change of attitude from much of the last decade Purdon has decided he may have only three, or even two, horse campaigning in Australia over the winter.   He has confirmed impressive lower-grade Ashburton winner from Sunday, Self Assured, will head to the Queensland winter carnival and be aimed at the Derby and could have a maiden stablemate who joins him and stays on in Australia.  That is hardly frightening stuff for the Aussies but there could be a far more high profile stable rep should outstanding filly Princess Tiffany pass a coming veterinary examination with flying colours.  “She could go to the Queensland carnival and then on to the Breeders Crown but it will all depend on how her scintigraphy goes this week,” explains Purdon. “She is heading to Matamata for that and if she has no issues then Queensland and Victoria are on the cards.  “But if she goes to the Breeders Crown (August) she will probably be our only horse there.”That will be music to the ears of trainers and owners in Australia as when the All Stars best turn up for the Breeders Crown they are almost always favourite and usually win.  Purdon says the change of attitude this season comes as many of his horses have  had long campaigns while others need remedial work.  “Sweet On Me has a bone chip in her knee, which while it isn’t too bad, we want to get taken out now so it isn’t a problem long-term,” he says of Saturday’s two-year-old fillies Jewels winner.  “And the other two-year-olds like One Change, Flying Even Bettor and Amazing Dream, they have had plenty of racing and/or travelling. “So we are happy for them to go to the paddock now and there are so many options for them as three-year-olds.”With the two-year-old Breeders Crown pacing races worth A$300,000 they must be hard to miss but horses who have gone there in the past have often struggled to win major races pre-Christmas upon returning to New Zealand. Perhaps more surprisingly Purdon will bypass the Victoria Trotting Derby and Breeders Crown three-year-old trot with Oscar Bonavena, even after he missed the Jewels.  He easily beat older horses at Ashburton on Sunday and has had a shorter than expected campaign but Purdon says he is so good he is happy to spell him now knowing he might be good enough to race in open class next season.  While Purdon often changes his mind with horses depending on how they look one week to the next, the prospect of his elite horses missing the Australian winter will have a profound effect on futures markets, especially as once they go to the spelling paddock the decision is more or less final.  And it could convince fellow Kiwi trainers with group one performers to look more seriously at Australian campaigns where they don’t have to take on the all-conquering partnership.   Michael Guerin

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