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Harness Racing Waikato has received the best possible Christmas and New Year’s present. New Zealand ‘pacing’s pin-up boy’ – Lazarus is coming to Cambridge Raceway on January 6 to compete in the Group Two $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile. Co-trainer and driver Mark Purdon confirmed his nomination with HRW staff yesterday afternoon (Thursday). The winner of 19 of his 22 starts (placed in other three) and $1.49m in stakes, will have his first race back in the mobile mile (1609m) event since winning the coveted New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway on November 8. Harness Racing Waikato’s Business Development Manager, David Branch was almost doing handstands and termed the news is as big as when Christian Cullen (Danny Campbell), Auckland Reactor (Purdon), and Adore Me (Purdon) lined up in the HRW’s most prestigious pacing event back 1999, 2009, and 2015 respectively. Adore Me set the race and track record of 1:51.69 when she won. Lazarus will by-pass the Group One $250,000 Auckland Cup on December 31 in favour of Cambridge. Thereafter the 4-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight will then embark on an Australian campaign which includes the Group Two $50,000 Hondo Grattan at Tabcorp Park Menangle on January 21; the Group One $400,000 Victoria Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on January 28; and the Group One $200,000 (4YO) Chariots of Fire at at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 11. "We are really excited to hear Lazarus is coming to our meeting. Cambridge loves a champion and I'm sure the community will get involved. Hopefully we can attract the same big crowds that Christian Cullen, Auckland Reactor, and Adore Me brought us," Branch said. Lazarus’s co-owner Trevor Casey said his co-owners wanted to give the club the opportunity to promote 'Laz' coming to their Raceway. “The Cambridge Club has always looked after me and I’m just so happy to support them. 'Barney' (Waikiki Beach) will also be in Cambridge at that time as well, but will not race. "Maybe we could get him on-course too," Christchurch-based Casey said. Waikiki Beach has won 23 of his 24 starts and ran second in the other. He has banked $846,720. Casey co-owns him with Mrs C M Rasmussen. Casey co-owns Lazarus with Phil & Glenys Kennard and Kevin Risely. “It would be so good if there was a big crowd to come and see him. We are working on an ‘owner-for-the-day promotion’ with him. “We just think it would be good to give the harness community a chance to see a champion,” Casey said. Branch said his Club would be getting behind the champion and doing all they could to get a big crowd for January 6. “This is big news. Lazarus and Monbet are our harness racing stars at the moment and it’s only right that as many Waikato locals and other visitors get to see him close up,” Branch said. “This is a great chance for us to capitalise,” he added. Lazarus has won eight Group One events and four Group Twos. An amazing feat considering he only started racing 22 starts ago on December 19, 2014 with a half-length win on debut at Alexandra Park. Duane Ranger

Jeremy Young could finally step out of Mark Purdon’s shadow on New Year’s Eve, and if he does he will realise a lifetime dream for both himself and his late mentor and friend Bryan Newberry. “I rode on the coat tails of Mark for many years when I worked for him. I tasted Group One victory on many occasions thanks to him and it felt great. “Now I just want to have a taste of what it's like to have a Group One starter in my name. It's always been a dream to line a horse in an Auckland Cup or New Zealand Cup, and if it does happen I will be there to give the others a fright. “If we are good enough to get in my fella can definitely upset a few,” Young said. The Franklin trainer was referring to Brydon Ideal’s nomination for the Group One $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park on December 31. Young said it would be an absolute honour to have Newberry’s yellow and purple colours line up in a Cup. “I know Bryan has had some nice horses in his time including open class pacers Colonel Brydon, Brydon Delight and Rum Brydon, but this would be special to have Brydon Ideal line up in the big race. “He was the last horse that Bryan had anything to do with. He enjoyed watching him race. It would be an honour for Bryan’s horse to make the final 15,” stressed Young who works a team of about 10 at Pukekohe. Newberry passed away on April 20 of this year. Young trained five winners for him in his final season – the last of them being Brydon Ideal when he won a C3 to C7 pace at Alexandra Park on April 15. Newberry owned and bred the American Ideal gelding. “The biggest thrill I got with Auckland Reactor was when Mark (Purdon) and I took him up close and personal to his fans, but I can honestly say that winning any race for Bryan was right up there with that Auckland Reactor experience simply because it made Bryan so happy – and he deserved to be happy in his final years,” Young said. Auckland Reactor won the 2009 edition of the great race and Young remembers the great thrill he got when he was ‘Reactor’s’ strapper. “They were great times I will never ever forget. I travelled all over with the champion and I’m grateful for my years with Mark. I learnt so much. “But now is the time for me to come out of his shadow and have my own Group One starter. Brydon Ideal is eight now and this will be his last chance,” Young said. “If he doesn’t line up this year I don’t think he ever will,” He added. Brydon Ideal was one of 26 nominations for the Auckland Cup on December 31 when the nominations were released last Friday. “He’s got to make the field yet but I couldn’t be more pleased with his first-up third for four months at Alexandra Park last Friday (November 26). “For him to go 2:40.6 after just one trial gives me a lot of confidence. Sure he will be an outsider if he makes the field but the further they go the better it will suit him. All he needs is a hot pace,” said Young. The 43-year-old Franklin horseman said he would not be frightened off by the big guns. “I know some of Mark and Natalie (Rasmussen’s) horses are absolute freaks but there’s no point in lining up against them if you are going to be scared off. “If I make the field I’m going into the race to at least place. If you go in being beaten that’s what will happen. Upsets can occur in racing and my fella won’t be outclassed as much as what the tote will say,” Young said. "He's an underrated stayer," he added. He said he would continue to campaign Brydon Ideal throughout December with the hope of making the final Auckland Cup field. “I’ll be blown away if he makes it. Hopefully it will be new direction in my career. I started with just American Empress when I went out on my own. “And she has now qualified for the Group One ($150,00 Alabar) Sires Stakes 3YO Fillies Final. That’s so satisfying, and to have two horses line up in Group One races on New Year’s Eve would be unbelievable,” Young said Duane Ranger

Harness racing champion New Zealand trainer-reinsman Mark Purdon is full of hope that star young pacer Mr Mojito can atone for his flop in the McInerney Ford Classic last Friday night by winning the $50,000 Garrard’s Horse And Hound Four-Year-Old Championship over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. “He was a victim of circumstances last week and I hope he can make amends this week,” Purdon said. The tyre on the gelding’s nearside sulky wheel was punctured about 600m after the start and Mr Mojito simply raced at the rear and finished in eleventh place, more than 20 lengths behind the winner Chicago Bull in last week’s feature event. “It was the result of a chain reaction, with the pace easing,” Purdon explained. “I didn’t want to over-tax Mr Mojito because he had no chance with a flat tyre … and if I had tried to stay on the back of Chicago Bull he would have run home a tired horse. “Take no notice of his run; just turn the page and hopefully we’ll see the best of him on Friday,” Purdon said. Mr Mojito has taken no ill-effects from last Friday and I’m happy with his condition. He’s had a quiet couple of days and I’m keeping him a bit on the fresh side. Mr Mojito, a son of American stallion Real Desire, has won at seven of his ten starts and Purdon has a high opinion of the gelding who will start from the No. 2 barrier on the front in Friday night’s race. “It won’t be easy with several good horses in the race,” Purdon said. “And you’ve got to respect the No. 1 horse (Nathans Courage).” The Victorian-bred Nathans Courage, trained at Pinjarra by Michael Brennan, is a brilliant frontrunner who should take a power of beating. The gelding, who has won nine times from 20 starts, will be driven for the first time by Gary Hall jun., who replaces regular reinsman Michael Grantham, who is serving a nine-day suspension. Nathans Courage started from barrier two on the back line in a 2536m event last Friday night when he raced three back on the pegs and fought on to finish a close fourth behind A Piccadilly Princess. Leading trainers Greg and Skye Bond hold a strong hand with two talented New Zealand-bred pacers Mister Daytona and Vanquished. Mister Daytona, to be driven by Ryan Warwick from the No. 3 barrier, has impressed in winning at ten of his 12 starts, while Vanquished, to be driven by Ryan Bell from barrier five, has won at ten of his 21 starts. He raced three back on the pegs and finished fast to be second to Chicago Bull last Friday night. Ace trainer Gary Hall sen. will be represented by the speedy Harry Hoo, a winner at ten of his 31 starts, but at a disadvantage from out wide at barrier nine. Oakford trainer Ross Olivieri said that he expected an improved showing from stable newcomer Motu Gatecrasher, who will be driven by Chris Lewis from barrier four. Motu Gatecrasher set the pace before fading to seventh behind Chicago Bull last Friday night. “He will improve on his first-up effort,” Olivieri said. “He really needed the run and has taken no harm from it. His work since then has been a mile better.” Ken Casellas

Richly-talented New Zealand four-year-old A Piccadilly princess faces an acid test when she lines up against smart and seasoned West Australian six-year-old Ideal Alice in the $35,000 TABtouch Parliamentarians Cup for harness racing mares over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. A Piccadilly Princess made an auspicious West Australian debut last Friday night when she unwound a sparkling late burst to charge home from fourth on the home turn to score an easy win over Ideal Tyson and the pacemaker Johnny Disco. Later in the evening Ideal Alice was an unlucky fourth behind Major Reality in the $50,000 Norms Daughter Classic when she was badly blocked for a clear passage until very late in the race. Ideal Alice, trained by Gary Hall sen., finished boldly to win from Quite A Delight a week earlier. She is an M8-class mare clashing with A Piccadilly Princess, who advanced to a M1 classification after her victory last Friday night. “A Piccadilly Princess is a good little mare, who won three group 1 events as a three-year-old,” said trainer-reinsman Mark Purdon. “I’ve seen Ideal Alice and she’s the one to beat, without any doubt. I don’t think we could sit outside of her and beat her. I doubt that A Piccadilly Princess could beat out Ideal Alice. “I reckon that leading will be the game plan for Ideal Alice. It would be nice if we can get a nice trip somewhere.” The Ross Olivieri-trained Lady Willoughby will be driven by Chris Voak from the No. 5 barrier and should be prominent. She has been a consistent performer, with her 51 starts producing 16 wins and 14 placings. She resumed after a two-month absence when she finished strongly to win over 2185m at a 1.57.4 rate at Pinjarra on Monday afternoon. “She can step up, but realistically she’s a place chance with a small winning hope,” Olivieri said. Ken Casellas

The opening night of Mark Purdon’s Perth raid had it all. It started with on a high when exciting young mare A Piccadilly Princess escaped a tricky spot to brilliantly win the opening race. Then came Smolda’s fighting and encouraging second to Bettors Fire in the second Inter Dominion heat. But the disappointment came Purdon’s buzz four-year-old Mr Mojito, who was crunched in from $3.10 to $2.10 favourite, copped a flat tyre early and was never a factor in the Group 1 McInerney Ford 4YO. “Someone got on my wheel early and punctured my wheel. I was never a chance after that,” Purdon said. Purdon essentially eased Mr Mojito out of the race in the final stages to finish 61.1m from the winner in 11th spot. Mr Mojito gets his chance to bounce back with the 4YO Championship next Friday night and the Group 1 Golden Nugget on December 9. A Piccadilly Princess’ win was sweet given the controversy of the week when she was balloted out her target race, the $50,000 Norms Daughter. The daughter of Bettors Delight needed to win last night to be assured of a berth in the remaining feature mares’ race during the Inter Dominion series. “It was disappointing to miss out on a run in the main race, but I’ve got to say the officials here were great and did everything they could to make sure there was a race she could run in,” Purdon said. A Piccadilly Princess had a dip for the lead early, but Johnny Disco held the front so Purdon restrained and took the one-one trail on Sprinter. “We were held-up a bit before the home turn, but she’s so quick. She had them covered quickly when I got her into the open,” Purdon said. A Piccadilly Princess ran home in 55.5 and 28.1sec to win by 2.1m in a 1min55.4sec mile rate. Her main Perth target is the $125,000 Group 1 Mares’ Classic at Gloucester Park on Inter Dominion Grand Final night (December 9). Purdon was pleased with Smolda’s start to the Inter Dominion. The eight-year-old worked across from a wide draw to find the spot outside the leader and main danger Bettors Fire and fought on well for second in a 1min54.7sec mile rate. “I was very happy with the run. I was almost able to drop in (to a trail) early and if I did, I think I’d have gone close to winning,” Purdon said. “He kept coming and was still making ground on the winner on the line.” The other Kiwi in the Inter Dominion, Franco Nelson, also pleased his caretaker trainer and driver Dexter Dunn with a third to Hectorjayjay last night. “He ran well. He struggled a little bit around the last bend when they were really sprinting so I might put a pole on him for the next heat (Bunbury on Tuesday),” Dunn said.   Adam Hamilton

It will be the case of a very long time between drinks for champion New Zealand harness racing trainer-reinsman Mark Purdon when he drives outstanding young mare A Piccadilly Princess in the $23,000 McInerney Ford Classic Consolation at Gloucester Park on Friday night. This will be the first time he has driven at Gloucester Park for 7567 days. He last appeared at West Australia’s pacing headquarters  when he was in the sulky behind 20/1 chance Ima Villain in the Interdominion Drivers’ Invitational event, a stand over 2900m on March 8, 1996. Ima Villain finished seventh in a field of 14, with Victorian Chris Alford driving the winner Judicial, who defeated Helluva Time, handled by WA’s Chris Lewis. The only previous time the 52-year-old Purdon had travelled from New Zealand to WA was in 1986 when he had about four unsuccessful drives at Gloucester Park and Northam in a junior drivers’ series. This is the first time he has been in WA since 1996. He has driven more than a hundred group 1 winners and has been a dominant force in New Zealand for several years and has also been successful in many races in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. He has high hopes that A Piccadilly Princess will give him his first driving success in WA. His only previous starter as a trainer in WA was with Lets Chase The Dream, who was driven by Lewis when he won a prelude of the WA Derby last April and then finished second to Chicago Bull in the final of the classic. Lewis stands in the path of Purdon winning the McInerney consolation on Friday night. He will drive the speedy frontrunner Johnny Disco, who has drawn the prized No. 1 barrier. Johnny Disco, a winner at nine of his 22 starts, should be close to his peak at his third outing after a spell for Pinjarra trainer Ross Ashby. In a strong field, several runners have sound prospects. They include champion trainer Gary Hall senior’s Zach Maguire, Overboard Again and Mach Time, Gary Elson’s Ideal Tyson and Sprinter, Michael Brennan’s Nathans Courage and Mista Shark and Annie Belton’s Mister Versace. Purdon drove his first winner, Dark And Dusty, at Ruakaka on February 1, 1982 and he was inducted into the Interdominion Hall of Fame five years ago. He has been associated with many champions, including Mark Hanover, Young Rufus, Il Vicolo, Auckland Reactor, Adore Me, Follow The Stars , Our Waikiki Beach, Smolda, Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me and Lazarus, the runaway winner of the New Zealand Cup at Addington early this month. A Piccadilly Princess faces a moment of truth on Friday night as the only mare in the field of 11. She has won at nine of her 19 starts and has earned $337,353.      “She goes pretty good,” Purdon said. “She’s not top-class yet and wouldn’t beat open-class horses. But she did race in the junior Free-For-All on Cup day (November 8). She has won the Jewels (the Diamond for fillies in June), the North Island Oaks and the Victoria Oaks. “We’ve got another filly Dream About Me (a four-year-old with a record of 19 starts for 16 wins, two placings and $796,614) and she’s not in her class. But she’s pretty smart and has a good all-round game.” Purdon had hoped that A Piccadilly Princess would get a start in the $50,000 Clipsal By Schneider Electric Norms Daughter Classic on Friday night. But despite her outstanding record she is still classified as an M0 performer and the conditions of the race declare that preference in field selection is given to fillies and mares assessed M1 and better. A victory on Friday night would improve A Piccadilly Princess’s classification to M1 which would make her a certain starter in the $125,000 Mares Classic at Gloucester Park on December 9. “It’s my fault that she didn’t get a start in the Norms Daughter Classic,” Purdon said. “I didn’t look at the official program close enough. Winning would be a big help on Friday night.” Ken Casellas

One of New Zealand’s best mares has been given a shock snub by West Australian pacing officials, leaving her main summer target dangling by a thread. Three-time group one winner Piccadilly Princess missed the cut for the A$50,000 mares race at Gloucester Park in Perth tomorrow night, even though she probably would have been favourite for it. And while trainer Mark Purdon was stunned by the decision, he says he has nobody but himself to blame. “When I first looked at the race it said a mares free-for-all and I thought she would be bound to get start with her record,” said Purdon. “But I should have looked at the small print, which said preference would be given to M1 mares. “So the handicapper was in the right, even though he had the discretion to put her in.” While Piccadilly Princess’s latest New Zealand start was in near open class company against the likes of Dream About Me, Locharburn and Field Marshal, in Australia her three group one wins last season don’t carry metropolitan penalties so she is assessed as an M0, metropolitan maiden. Every starter in tomorrow night’s A$50,000 Norm’s Daughter is M1 or faster. The problem is Piccadilly Princess now needs a metropolitan win to force her way into her main Perth target, the A$125,000 mares classic on December 9. “While I would have liked to have got a start in the mares race this week she does get a run in a A$23,000 race so I am hoping she can win that and qualify her for the December 9 race.”Piccadilly Princess is part of a rare three-strong Purdon team in Perth, with Smolda in the Inter Dominions which start tomorrow night while exciting four-year-old Mr Mojito tackles a A$125,000 four-year-old race. Smolda has been discarded by Australian bookies after drawing the outside of the front line in his Inter Dominion heat, even though he doesn’t clash with series favourites Lennytheshark or Hectorjayjay. “The draw makes it very tough on this track but he will have to be put in the race,” says Purdon. “I am happy with him now. Initially he lightened up on the trip but is back to his proper weight. “But the way they drive over here he could be wide for a big part of the race so it won’t be easy to win.” Mr Mojito has drawn one on the second line in his 2536m mobile group one, which won’t be run till 2.05am (NZ time). “He is working well and I think he is our best chance this week. “He is very strong and can work in his races, which he will need to do.”The night, or should that be morning as all the major races are after midnight NZ time, has had plenty of extra spice added to it by almost all the favourites in the three Inter Dominion heats drawing poorly. Meanwhile, Purdon says his New Zealand Cup hero Lazarus is likely to have his next start in Sydney as part of a four-race Australian campaign. “He is likely to go to Menangle on January 21 and then to the Victoria Cup at Melton a week later,” says Purdon. But then in a surprise move, Lazarus could miss the A$500,000 Hunter Cup and return to Sydney for the Chariots Of Fire in February 11, therefore enabling him to qualify for the A$750,000 Miracle Mile on February 25. And stablemate Have Faith In Me is going to be set for a defence of his Auckland Cup title after extensive vet tests failed to find anything wrong with him, even though he never looked comfortable before galloping in the New Zealand Cup. “The vets can’t find anything so we will keep pressing on toward the Auckland Cup and he will have a lead-up race up there. “We will also nominate Dream About Me and Titan Banner for the Auckland Cup, with Dream About Me to have her lead-ups in the mares races.” Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon is glad he had to send his trio of stars from Christchurch to Perth so early for the Inter Dominion Carnival. A long, multi-stop trip via Sydney and Melbourne took a fair bit out of Smolda, Piccadilly Princess and Mr Mojito. “They will have been here almost 12 days by the time they line-up this week and that’s been important,” Purdon said. “I got here three days after the horses did and it was noticeable the had all lightened-off. “But this past week has been really good. They all look and seem great again now.” Purdon’s lone Inter Dominion runner Smolda has already attracted betting support ($5.50 into $4.50) despite drawing the outside barrier (nine) in the second of Friday night’s opening round heats. “The draw isn’t great, but he’s can do some work if he has to and still be right there at the finish,” Purdon said. Hardest for Smolda to beat will be local injury-plagued speedster Bettors Fire if he is able to pounce on the lead as many expect from gate three. Others in the mix include John Of Arc (gate five), Yankee Rockstar (six) and Ohoka Punter (10). The draw is ideal for Ohoka Punter as the lone back row runner with new trainer Gary Hall Sr conceding a recent health scare means the high-class pacer will be a touch underdone for Friday night. Purdon’s bad luck with draws extended to Mr Mojito, who will need luck inside the back row in the $125,000 Group 1 McInerney Ford 4YO Classic (2536m). Judging by his past two NZ wins, Mr Mojito is the best horse in the field, but a lot will depend on where Purdon lands from the draw and whether he can see daylight when it matters. Kim Prentice’s recent stable addition Soho Tribeca (five) and Gary Hall Sr’s Chicago Bull (six) are the main dangers. Purdon’s fears a handicapping quirk could deny his star mare Piccadilly Princess a start in the $50,000 Norms Daughter Classic (2130m) turned into reality. Despite being open-class in NZ, Piccadilly Princess is an M0 (city class maiden) under the Aussie handicapping system and thus was balloted from the feature race due to a clause giving preference to M1 or higher graded mares. “It’s disappointing. Yes, we should have looked into the conditions deeper, but it’s hard to believe a filly who’s done as much as her can’t make the cut. I hope the change the rule in future for their own so they ensure they get the best possible field,” Purdon said. Piccadilly Princess would have started favourite from just about any draw in the Norms Daughter. On a brighter note, fears the four-year-old may not get a start at Friday night’s meeting at all did not eventuate. She has drawn gate four in the opening race – a consolation of the McInerney Ford Classic – and a win will ensure she escapes the ballot for the two remaining mares’ features during the Inter Dominion Carnival.   Adam Hamilton

Luke Edmonds has worked alongside some of the biggest players in the New Zealand harness racing industry for more than half of his life, but this week the 35-year-old’s life took a complete U-turn. Edmonds left his job at Woodlands Stud to work in in the construction and driving industries at the East Tamaki-based Abernethy Projects Limited. He has been employed by some of New Zealand’s best trainers in both Islands starting off with Mark Purdon and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) when they worked together at Ardmore in the late 1990s. “If I didn’t make the change now I’d always be left wondering what if, or what would might have been. Horses are all that I have known since I was young, and I will always be grateful to the industry for what it’s done for me. It’s just the right time to try something different. “Who knows what the future will hold? Standardbreds have been very good to me and maybe after 10 or so years I may return and give back what I have learnt,” Edmonds said. Edmonds started work with 'Abernethy Projects' yesterday (November 14). He said his career change came about via Jay and Sailesh Abernathy’s cousin Dan, who offered him the job at exactly the right time. “Hopefully I’ll get to drive the diggers one day. Sailesh, who works for his father’s company – Abernethy Construction, is a pretty good digger driver. He also goes all right out on the race track too,” said Edmonds. The Auckland-born and educated horsemen drove 20 winners ($152,795) from 296 drives between 2001 and 2011. He also placed 55 times. Edmonds worked for Purdon in both Islands from 1999-2002 and from 2002 to 2010 was employed by Herlihy. He also worked for a couple of years at Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick’s stable at Stonewall Stud before working for Te Akau Stud and then the last 18 months at Woodlands Stud on the outskirts of Clevedon. “It doesn’t surprise me that Mark Purdon is now the champion trainer he now is. He’s so thorough with his horses. It takes a genius to keep churning out the best 2-year-old pacer year after year. That’s where his champions stem from. “As for Tony, well he’s so laid back and nothing seems to faze him. I learnt so much from both of them – valuable knowledge that will stay with me for life,” said Edmonds. Long before he got his first harness racing job at 17, Edmonds visited his uncle Murray in Christchurch every school holidays before he finished high school. “That’s where I got hooked and where I learnt a good work ethic. Uncle Murray had real good family values. I also helped Mark and Tony when I was at school and then they offered me a job. “I got my junior’s licence when I was working for Tony. I have driven, broken in horses, and all the other jobs that come with working in a stable. “Then I decided to give the breeding side of things a go and moved across the road to Steve and Jill Stockman’s at Stonewall Stud. That is where I leant the intricacies of breeding,” Edmonds said. His first winning drive came behind behind the Henk Habraken trained outsider Ozone Vance at Cambridge Raceway on April 5, 2001. The Enterprize Zone gelding and junior driver Edmonds were the $26.60 ninth favourites in the 11-horse field. Edmonds said the 16-race winner Cool Hand Luke was the best horse he had driven in work. “I’ve had some awesome times in the sport which will stay with me forever. Driving the Herlihy trained Puhinui Rainbow to consecrative victories in early 2007 was also a highlight,” Edmonds said. “I just want to thank everyone for what they have done for me in the past 18 years. I have made friends for life and learnt so much valuable equine information and skills. I am so happy with where I go to,” he added. Duane Ranger

It’s not so much a case of how to win today’s Group One New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington, but more how to beat Lazarus. Three days after his record breaking and emphatic victory in the New Zealand Trotting Cup the newfound King of harness racing in New Zealand will be back on the same hallowed turf he burnt up on Tuesday to try and grab another Cup Week Group One. Providing he has come through the 3.53.1 second two miles he unleashed earlier in the week, it’s hard to make a case against him. But racing can be a fickle game at times and the Free-For-All has a tradition of being an unkind beat to Cup winners. In the past 30 years only 9 horses have achieved the double, with Monkey King doing it twice in 2009 and 2010. Half of those come in a golden run in the early 90’s when Christopher Vance, Blossom Lady, Chokin, Bee Bee Cee and Il Vicolo picked up the double. Other to have done the double in the past three decades include; Just An Excuse (2004), Christian Cullen (1998) and Master Mood (1986). So the odds, you could say, are for once stacked against Lazarus’ favour. Gerard O’Reilly, who is charged with the drive on Tuesday’s Cup runner-up Tiger Tara has no intentions of taking it quiet from his barrier draw of one as he and the pacer look to become just the second horse in the past 40 years alongside Monkey King to win the Show Day pacing feature in consecutive years. “We’d be silly not to try and use the draw,” O’Reilly said. “I would think that the plan will be to come out and try and lead early and then assess the situation from there. “He does race a lot better when he’s up competing for the speed so we’ve got the chance to do it. “He went great on Tuesday, it was pretty satisfying consider things hadn’t really been going our way up until then.” With Lazarus as short as $1.18 to win today, there is value around almost the entire field outside of him. Tiger Tara is rated a $15 third favourite with Tuesday’s Junior-Free-For-All winner, Dream About Me the second elect at $6. Locharburn, who finished second behind Dream About Me on Tuesday and was at one stage the second favourite for the Cup, is a staggering $31 to win today - thanks largely to the fact he has drawn outside of Lazarus. “It’s going to be tough from out there,” trainer Kevin Chapman said. “But I don’t think we will be sitting back because Tuesday showed that if you are too far back in races like this you’ve got no hope at all. “He’s come through Tuesday well, he was probably about 95 per cent for that and will come on with the run under his belt.” John Dunn will take the drive on the big gelding with Dexter Dunn electing to stick with Christen Me. Dunn’s Cup drive, Franco Nelson, bordered a plane for Perth and the Inter Dominion Series early on Friday morning alongside Smolda, Piccadilly Princess and Mr Mojito from the All Stars barn. Matt Markham

Il Vicolo conquered it twice and Adore Me did it once, but Mark Purdon might have found one to usurp them both. You could even go as far as to say that what unfolded at Addington Raceway just after 5:20pm last night could be one of the greatest performances by a harness racing horse on this side of the world. Because what Lazarus did to win the New Zealand Trotting Cup of 2016 was quite simply stunning. Not only did it defy the basic theories of logic on so many levels. But it was done with such an ease - a scarcely believable feat considering that when the stopwatches ceased clicking, Lazarus had just run the fastest ever two miles in New Zealand, clocking one and a half seconds faster than any time ever recorded before. Oh, and did we mention he did it all in a 10 length winning margin with Purdon flourishing his whip in both euphoria and pure admiration from 100 metres short of the winning post? The New Zealand Trotting Cup has long been regarded as one of the hardest races in the world of harness racing to win and here’s Lazarus - a mere four-year-old who rocks up and does the majority of the work in the race at a breakneck speed - winning it like a $1.10 favourite should win their maiden on a cold Sunday afternoon in Oamaru. Staggering really isn’t it? Even Purdon, who isn’t one to get caught up in the hoopla of big victories allowed himself a few seconds to compose himself before answering the first of probably 1,000 questions he was asked in regards to the performance. “It’s a really emotional moment, just one of the greatest moments in harness racing for me,” he said. Stopping the clock at a time of 3:53.1, Lazarus etched his name into the annals of harness racing. And it’s going to take a long time to see something quite as special. “The time just outstands me, I just had a handful of horse around the corner. “I said come on boy, let’s get a break now and he put it beyond doubt within 50 metres.” Purdon wouldn’t commit to exactly where Lazarus currently sits on his list of stars throughout the decades he’s been training. When you’re competing against Il Vicolo, Auckland Reactor, Adore Me and Have Faith In Me there’s a bit to live up to, but Lazarus is doing it and doing it very well. His win gave a grand result to part-owners, Phil and Glenys Kennard and also Kevin Riseley after they won the Sires’ Stakes Final with Ultimate Machete while their other co-owner Trevor Casey is on this unstoppable train of success. While it all looked easy, there was pressure leading into the Cup and this season for Purdon and his training partner, Natalie Rasmussen thanks to a comment made months ago in relation to this horse. The night was April the 8th, New Zealand Derby Night at Addington Raceway. Purdon had just won another race, fittingly the Derby and en route back to the stables with Lazarus in front of him he beamed and talked of the potential of this raw, but brilliant son of Bettor’s Delight. The usual superlatives flowed - things like ‘he’s a nice wee horse’ and “he’s just got such a great will to win’ flowed freely from the master horseman. But it was a comment at the conclusion of the interview that struck the sweetest chord. “He’s that good I think he could win the Cup in November,” he said. How right you were Mr Purdon. How right you were…. Matt Markham

Humbled and proud. That’s how Natalie Rasmussen described her history-making drive in today’s NRM Group One Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway this afternoon. The former Australian trainer/driver became the first woman to win the $170,000 feature behind the 3-year-old she co-trains with Mark Purdon – Ultimate Machete. “It’s an absolute honour to have achieved this. I didn’t realise. If it can attract more young girls and women to our great game then I’ll be happy. “I’m doing what I enjoy and today’s win was one of the highlights of my career,” Rasmussen said. Ultimate Machete not only beat his stablemate and favourite More The Better (Mark Purdon) by a length but he also smashed the New Zealand 1950m mobile record by 0.8 of a second set by have Faith In Me in the same race two years ago. He stopped the clock in 2:16.5 (mile rate 1:52.7) with final 800m and 400m bursts of 55.9 and 28.4. Ultimate Machete did a bit of work to go and sit parked and then from the 800m to the 600m put paid to the pace-making North islander, Star Galleria (Tony Herlihy MNZM). Then in the lane his characteristic toughness kicked in. “He’s a such a strong horse. And he really displayed his toughness today. He’s is showing glimpses of what Lazarus showed us in the race last year. “I’m not saying he’s a Lazarus but he is doing everything he should be at this stage of his career, and Lazarus went almost three seconds slower than him when he won last year,” Rasmussen said. “I love driving him. He’s a lovely powerful horse,” she added. Ultimate Machete is the fifth of seven foals out of the four-win Armbro Operative mare, Reality Check. He has now won three of his nine starts – all three at Addington Raceway. The bay colt is owned by Glenys Kennard, Phil Kennard, Gavin Douglas, Kevin Riseley, Phil Creighton, Margaret Creighton. It was a great day for Phil & Glenys Kennard and Kevin Riseley as they also have shares in the New Zealand Cup winner – Lazarus. He was bred by Katrina and Graeme  Walsh. Purdon and Rasmussen have now won the last three Sires Stakes Finals thanks to Lazarus and Have Faith In Me’s victories in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Duane Ranger

Mark Purdon’s  sixth win in the Group Three $35,000 Junior Free-For-All  behind Dream About Me  at Addington Raceway yesterday will always bit  more  special  than the others. “She reminds me a lot of Adore Me and  we know how good she is. She’s an amazing mare and won’t be out of place in next year’s New Zealand Cup,”  said Purdon who drove the mare and trains her with Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston. Dream About Me started from gate nine and Purdon said he thought he might have made an error with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight and Splendid Dreams. “I ended up parked outside Locharburn and Field Marshall was in the trail. They are quality horses who wouldn’t be out of place in the Cup. “For her to out-stay good horses like that is a bit special. She has traces of Adore Me in her. I rate her very highly,” Purdon said. Like Adore Me, Dream About Me was bred by retired legendary Auckland veterinarian. He shares in the ownership with the estate of Mrs June Roberts, Paul Kenny, and Mrs Mare Kenny. Splendid Dreams is the daughter of former New Zealand mile record holder Scuse Me, who left 2014 New Zealand Cup winner Adore Me and yesterday’s second favourite for the Cup – Have Faith In Me. Both were by Bettor’s Delight. Dream About Me  paced the  2600m mobile in 3:10.3 (mile rate 1:58.2) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 54.8 and 27 even. There was just a neck and head back to Locharburn and Field Marshall. It was Dream About Me’s second consecutive win this campaign and 16th  from 18 overall. And just under $800,000 in stakes. Three of those wins have come at Addington. “That was a slick last half considering she was doing it into a strong wind. She’s a real up and comer this girl. The owners are going to have a lot of fun because she’s the realk deal all right,” Purdon said. Purdon has now won six Junior-Free-For-Alls. He also won the race with Adore Me three years ago, Auckland Reactor in 2008, Jack Cade 2003, Young Rufus in 2001, Il Vicolo 1995, Tax Credit in 1988. Dream About Me will now return on Friday to take on the boys in the Group One New Zealand Free-For-All. Locharburn and Field Marshal will both be there, but so too is likely to be Lazarus – and even potentially Have Faith In Me. A decision will be made today on whether or not the latter is getting on a plane to head to Perth for the Inter Dominions or not, but if he doesn’t the Free-For-All is a likely target. But with Lazarus and Have Faith In Me in the race – there’s a solid Group One drive on offer for someone as Purdon and Rasmussen are seemingly unlikely to jump ship Duane Ranger

Sometimes when the head can’t comprehend the heart takes over. Which explains the raw emotion that poured out of champion horseman Mark Purdon as he oversaw the coronation of harness racing’s new king at Addington yesterday. Lazarus did the unthinkable in the $750,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup, distancing his rivals by a record margin and obliterating the national 3200m record in 3:53.1 of power pacing that left even the modest hardened racegoers stunned. The time, on a blustering Canterbury day, was absurd while the margin was Winx-like in its brutality. For racing people their combined shock value instantly raise an unanswerable question: just how good is this horse? He is clearly now a champion and has produced one of New Zealand racing’s most unforgettable performances. As a four-year-old yet to scratch the surface of his potential and with the very real possibility he can continue to improve, maybe what we saw yesterday was a horse who will one day sit alongside Cardigan Bay, Christian Cullen and Highland Fling among the elite few. The horse of his generation. But that is too much information for even the smartest racing brain to process in a mere four minutes or the dizzying moments that followed. So as trainer-driver Purdon enjoyed the rarest of rides up the Addington straight behind Lazarus, his head let his heart take over. First there was a prolonged whip flourish from a man who usually wins groups ones impersonating a statue. Then, more incredibly, there were tears. Tears, on a racetrack, from the man who is redefining his industry but who has also known its darkest days. Purdon, the biggest brain in harness racing, became the computer who cried. The reaction was understandable because when you have dedicated every day of your adult life to striving for perfection, it must be humbling when you find it. Lazarus be Purdon’s masterpiece, a horse who can win everything in Australasia and with owners ambitious enough to consider taking on the world. “That was special,” said Purdon, who trains Lazarus with partner Natalie Rasmussen. “He is special. A horse shouldn’t be able to do that.” The muscular stallion stepped away quickly at the start of the 3200m but was beaten to the lead by stablemate Smolda and he had to work hard to wrest that lead away. The early burn – filling lugs with burning air and legs with lactic acid – should have left him vulnerable later but Lazarus simply never slowed down, an equine Forrest Gump running for the pleasure of it. Had he set the national record after a cosy trip you could point to a rocket fast Addington track and rationalize what has happened. Had he won by 10 lengths in a slow time you could belittle the opposition. To do both is a game changer. And the game is only beginning. He will return to Addington for the NZ Free-For-All on Friday, then head to Auckland for the Cup there on December 31, with Victorian and NSW campaigns to come ending in the Miracle Mile. Taking a line through stablemate Have Faith In Me, who galloped at the 600m mark of yesterday’s race, Lazarus will smash the Australasian mile record the first time he needs to. That will eventually aid his stallion career, which already look set in stone, with the next two years simply deciding his fee. But racing fans can only hope Lazarus doesn’t go to stud until he has climbed his Everest. Because at Addington yesterday it felt like harness racing discovered its Usain Bolt. by Michael Guerin

If harness racing was simple, a game played out on paper, Lazarus has already won today's $750,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup. There is no other argument to be made. The 4-year-old, who has only ever been beaten by bad luck, has had the most faultless Cup preparation, dominating the two lead-up races that matter. He has becoming increasingly confident from a standing start, can sprint hard or stay long and is trained by the most powerful harness racing stable we have ever seen. To put some icing on the Cup cake, his most dangerous rival is his stablemate Have Faith In Me, who should settle a conservative 12 lengths from him. Have Faith In Me is good, very, very good at his best but is he 12 lengths, or even four lengths better than Lazarus? No. Is he better than Lazarus at all? Probably at his peak, but not so far this spring. Add to that the fact champion horseman Mark Purdon, who trains four in today's classic, including remarkably third favourite Smolda as well, has told the Herald he expects the winner to come from his top two and that Smolda, being older, is a length behind them. So this is Lazarus's Cup to lose, evidenced by one of the shortest prices in the history of our greatest race. But before punters gorge themselves on the $1.80 price for the 4-year-old it pays to remember one thing - this is the New Zealand Cup, not a Derby. Derbys, or most other major pacing races in this country, tend to run to form. Sanity usually prevails. However, the New Zealand Cup script often has a twist in it tail. Consider the fact Purdon, now training with Natalie Rasmussen, has been at the absolute top of the industry for 20 years but has only trained one New Zealand Cup winner since 1996. Trainers you have almost never heard of train New Zealand Cup winners. Horses that couldn't get beaten do. The reasons are numerous, some obvious. The standing start in front of harness racing's biggest crowd adds an element of intrigue and doubt. Then there is the searing early speed, with most of the winners in the past decade being those who have missed the early fireworks. The lung-searing effect of the best horses on a rocket-fast Addington track when nobody wants to go home wondering. It wasn't that long ago the Cup was won in 4:5, two years ago Adore Me ran 10 seconds faster. At that speed, with pacers racing on the absolute limit of their potential, only the smallest thing needs to go wrong, even for just 200m, and even the best become vulnerable. The Disney version of today's race script is Lazarus and Smolda will head forward after the early dash and Lazarus will end up in front, with the pivotal moment of the race being when Have Faith In Me invariably moves around the field. If and when that happens does Purdon, driving Lazarus, take a trail, all but guaranteeing the stable a Cup quinella, or does he stay infront and the two wonderful sons of Bettors Delight make each other earn the right to be in the winner's circle? Purdon admits either scenario is possible but regardless, Lazarus is his horse to beat today. "He could definitely end up leading but even if he did trail a horse like Have Faith In Me I think he could probably come off his back and beat him," Purdon told the Herald. "They are my top two chances and with the likelihood Lazarus should get the easier run then he has to be our best hope. "But the one thing that would change all that is if he was slow away and Have Faith In Me settled near him or in front of him. Then the whole race changes." Of course that shouldn't happen. Lazarus has been pacing's perfect prince for more than a year and especially this spring. If this was any other race Lazarus would look close to a certainty today. But it is not, it is the New Zealand Cup. Which is why you should back them both. For the full programme click here Guerin tips LAZARUS HAVE FAITH IN ME SMOLDA Addington's big day What: New Zealand Cup Day. When: First race 12.05pm today. Where: Addington, Christchurch. Races: $750,000 New Zealand Cup, $170,000 Sires' Stakes Final, $80,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All, $35,000 Pacing Free-For-All. Punt: Fixed odds all races; head to heads; $50,000 Pick6. View: Trackside starts with preview show from 10am, the live coverage from 11.30am. By Michael Guerin - NZ Herald

Mark Purdon pauses then smiles as he reels off the list of harness racing drivers for Saturday morning work at All Stars Stables' Rolleston base. "This one will surprise you," Purdon chuckles. It sure did. "David Walsh" is not the first name which comes to mind when guessing who might be jumping in the sulky behind group one-winning pacer Piccadilly Princess. So what exactly is the jockey with the most wins in New Zealand playing at? The answer: upskilling. Walsh, 57, has been out of action since he was forced to have an operation when riding in Mauritius in August. Walsh first had to deal with diverticulits, which affects the colon and bowel function, about three years ago, but it flared up again during his riding stint on the island nation in the Indian Ocean. He also had his appendix removed at the same time. "I was in quite a bad way but I've come right. But I've got to have another operation sometime in the near future. "I've been told I could ride a little bit but be very careful but certainly not raceday. I thought it's better to be doing this [driving] than trying to get on their back." Walsh, who eclipsed Lance O'Sullivan's record of 2359 New Zealand winners at Marlborough in April 2014, applied for a stipendiary steward role early in the year, but missed out. He sees the mornings at the country's leading harness racing stable as a ideal way to learn more about the standardbred code. "I thought it can't hurt to have a bit more knowledge about how the trotting side goes, with the gear and what all the bits and pieces are and if you drive a few, you can get a better understanding," he said. "Mark was kind enough to let me come out. I've done a little bit of it in the past but only very spasmodically, but it's great. Even though the horses overall are quieter [than thoroughbreds], horses are horses and they have the same wants and needs." Walsh is still keen to pursue a steward's role when one becomes available, but hasn't ruled out a return to riding either. "It's 50:50 but I'm not making any decisions until I've had my next operation and I know how I feel and where I'm at," he said. "In the meantime, I can apply for the stewards' thing and if that comes about, I've got a choice. It's good to have two or three irons in the fire." By Matt Smith Reprinted with permission of The New Zealand Herald

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