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Classy harness racing trotter Stent was back at the workouts yesterday after almost 2 years away from the race track with an injury. Racing against the maiden pacers, Stent ran home ok without being pushed too hard by driver Colin DeFilippi. Stent broke 58 seconds for his last 800m with the race being won by the Terry Chmiel trained Nota Bene Denario. _________________________________ Top harness racing mare Dream About me has been scratched from the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru this Sunday. Trainer Mark Purdon said "It is nothing too serious, but she was a bit lame on one foot yesterday and our blacksmith said she will need a few days to recover". _________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Ex kiwi pacer Christen Me won the overnight feature, a $17,500 Open event on Monday at Harrington Raceway. Christen Me rated 1-53.4 for his win. Another ex-kiwi pacer Bit Of A Legend also won the same night for trainer Peter Tritton. The 8-year-old Bettor's Delight stallion led and never had an anxious moment in his seventh win of the year and 40th of his career. It was a bit of a homecoming for Tritton, who was stabled at Harrington Raceway for nearly a decade before moving to the New York circuit in 2015. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Junior Driver Todd Quate has been suspended for failing to take reasonable and permissible measures to ensure a horse he was driving was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing position. The suspension relates to his drive on Four Starzzz Shiraz at Rangiora on the 23rd July 2017. Quate was suspended for 10 meetings meaning he will be out until after the Methven meeting on Sunday 15 October.   Harnesslink Media  

For many harness racing punters the open class season starts today. Because while only a tiny crowd will be at the Rangiora trials they are more than likely going to see the New Zealand Cup winner. Pacing has already had two open class races at Addington this season, both won by genuine Cup contenders in Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner. After all, the former is an Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner and the latter a placegetter in last season’s NZ Cup. And Dream About Me was excellent in her return when third to that pair last Saturday and will head to the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday. Add to that the hugely-improved form of Better B Amazed in the north and her stablemate No Doctor Needed ticking over nicely and the elite level pacers have already had some highlights, with another Cup contender Jack’s Legend returning at the Pukekohe trials yesterday. But everything changes when Lazarus and Heaven Rocks make their first public outings for the season at today’s trials. If the usual Purdon-Rasmussen modus operandi is adopted the glamour boys won’t be asked for anything like their best and, depending on the weather and track conditions, a steady early tempo and a last 800m in 56 second will probably be enough of a kick-off point. But the pair so completely dominate the market for the Cup on November 14 that every aspect of their trials and workouts and then eventual lead-up races will be scrutinized. Case in point --- 11 days ago Heaven Rocks easily beat Lazarus in a private workout at home because he half bolted after striking his sulky with his hind legs. Word soon got out and what could have been a meaningless margin saw Heaven Rocks shorten as much as a full dollar into $2.40 to win the NZ Cup with some Australian bookies. After his incredible season last term and a 10-length Cup victory in race record time Lazarus deserves to be favourite to defend his title until Heaven Rocks can beat him fair and square in a race, maybe two. But punters aren’t known for their patience and as a two-time Jewels winner and Easter Cup hero, Heaven Rocks already has an army of supporters, even though he has burned them on occasions. Trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors with Lazarus having had the manners advantage in the past but Heaven Rocks has grown up mentally in training this season. Lazarus likes to run near the pace and usually relaxes when he does, whereas Heaven Rocks often last season near bolted in his races, which can make for some spectacular viewing. If that continues today and on the road to the Cup he may look more advanced or, remarkably, even a superior horse to Lazarus, who will probably allow Purdon to be as conservative as he wants on him. But the irony is Heaven Rocks’s best chance of winning the New Zealand Cup is being more sedate, tractable and trialing like a lamb, which would see the market swing the other way. Today is only a trial, the first steps on a long road. But as it often the case with heavyweights, every blow is going to be heard. Michael Guerin

There is quiet confidence about Have Faith In Me’s return at Addington tomorrow. Quiet because after winning once in his last 10 starts and burning punters many times along the way, any confidence in the former pacing superstar comes in measured doses. “We are happy with him and think he can go very close this week,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon. Purdon doesn’t get carried away at the best of times but his reluctance to declare Have Faith In Me a great bet in the Avon City Ford Cup at tomorrow’s rare Saturday afternoon Addington meeting is understandable. This time last year Have Faith In Me was the reigning Miracle Mile and Auckland Cup champion and favourite for the New Zealand Cup as well as being openly rated by Purdon one of the best pacers in the world. While the wheels didn’t completely fall off, they went pretty flat and mystery problems, best diagnosed as a kidney complaint, mean we haven’t seen the best of Have Faith In Me in 18 months. Tomorrow looks close to a perfect chance to put his career back on track --- Purdon is adamant he is fitter and therefore a better chance than stablemate Dream About Me so the only real threat to him should be Titan Banner. “Titan Banner has a race start under his belt so he is the danger but Dream About Me I think will take a run or two to get back to her best. “But Nat (Rasmussen) has been doing a lot of the work with Have Faith In Me and she says he is in a really good space “And he seems nice and relaxed so his manners shouldn’t be a big issue hopefully.” With Purdon’s assessment of Dream About Me, who is a bigger, rounder horse than Have Faith In Me, the latter would be a near certainty at his best form but his standing start manners are far from faultless and even the all-conquering All Stars are vulnerable fresh up. Best example: in this very race last year both Lazarus and Have Faith In Me were beaten by Franco Nelson and a battling Christen Me. So it comes down to price. At $3 Have Faith In Me is worth the manners and fitness risk but anything at $2.50 or below becomes too short in a race where Titan Banner has a few advantages. The open class stars aside, Purdon tips debutant Chase Auckland as very hard to beat in race four tomorrow. “We took 21 horses to Addington for private workouts on Wednesday and he was one we were very happy with,” he told the Herald. Three other open class contenders return at Alexandra Park tonight, with Better B Amazed the possible favourite for race eight even though she isn’t off to the NZ Cup like race rivals No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind. While Bettor Be Amazed was comprehensive beating the other two last time they clashed with tonight’s race being 1700m mobile field position could be crucial and it wouldn’t surprise to see significant improvement from Hug The Wind. Michael Guerin

The nightmare for rival harness racing trainers is becoming a reality --- pacing giant Heaven Rocks is growing up. And the early market for the New Zealand Trotting Cup is starting to reflect it. The dual Harness Jewels winner has moved into $3.60 second favouritism for New Zealand’s greatest harness race at Addington on November 14, with defending champion and stablemate Lazarus drifting slightly to $2.20. The pair have only clashed once, when Lazarus was too professional for Heaven Rocks in a free-for-all at Addington last season but the latter has produced so many freakish performances trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors. But Heaven Rocks has always had manners issues on raceday, from missing away to pulling hard and hanging he is rarely a comfortable watch for his supporters. Purdon though is cautiously optimistic those days may be behind the five-year-old mammoth. “He seems like he has improved a lot this time in and I think he has grown up,” said Purdon. “Nat (Rasmussen, co-trainer) has been doing a lot of the work with him since we got back from Canada and he hasn’t done a thing wrong. “Usually he has been that way at home and sometimes a bit tricky at the races but I think you might see a better horse this season.” While stablemates and fellow NZ Cup contenders Have Faith In Me and Dream About Me trial again today and will race at Addington next week, Lazarus and Heaven Rocks could trial as early as next week before racing the last week of September of  early October. Because of his impeccable manners and 10-length demolition job last season Lazarus deserves Cup favouritism until Heaven Rocks beats him fair and square but you get the feeling Purdon wouldn’t be stunned if that happened this season. Lazarus is not only the New Zealand Cup favourite but also top pick for the A$1.1 Inter Dominion in Perth in December after key rival Hectorjayjay was ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tear. But unless Heaven Rocks did something special at Cup time and Lazarus hit a snag, Heaven Rocks won’t be heading to the Inters. “I think that style of racing might undo some of the good work we have done with him so he will almost certainly stay here for the Auckland Cup and his big Aussie aim will be the Miracle Mile,” says Purdon.  Last season’s best three-year-old Vincent will also be set for the Auckland Cup, dodging the New Zealand Cup before heading into age group races like the Chariots of Fire in the second half of the season.  At this stage Purdon doesn’t plan to have a rep in the Victoria Cup in its new October 14 time slot. Heaven Rocks last start in 1:51.8 Michael Guerin

Former American trotter Aldabaran Eagle easily won his public debut appearance at the Rangiora harness racing trials today.  Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston, the impressive looking son of Muscle Hill comfortably accounted for a tidy field of trotters in todays race including Group one winner Eyre I Come and eight race winner Belles Son.  Aldabaran Eagle (Muscle Hill - Letsjustalkaboutme) began well from his 40m handicap in todays trial and driver Mark Purdon got a drag up to the leaders with 900m to go. The acceleration was immediate when Mark hooked out on the turn and he reeled them in easily to win by more than a length at the line. Last 800m of the Aldabaran Eagle trial Later in the day the All Stars Stable pairing of Have Faith in Me and Dream About Me were narrowly upset by the Gavin Smith trained Imola.  Imola blasted to the lead early for driver Gavin Smith and then handed up to Have Faith In Me with 1800m left to go. In the home straight Imola managed to outsprint the Purdon/Rasmussen pair and get up to win by a neck in a quickly run race. Have Faith in Me and Dream About Me who are both embarking on New Zealand Cup campaigns, were not disgraced in todays trial. Imola paced the 2600m stand in a fast 3-19.7 with closing sectionals of 58.0 and 27.8, meaning the Purdon/Rasmussen pair went condsiderably quicker from their 40m handicaps. Imola upsetting the All Stars pair Earlier another All Stars runner Renske B looked ready for her upcoming races after rating a 1:58.9 MR for the 2000m mobile. Renske B was driven by Mark Purdon and led all the way winning untouched with closing splits of 57.2 and 29.4 Harnesslink Media

Harness racing super star Auckland Reactor sired another qualifier today and this one looks well above average.  Raced by the Alabar Racing Syndicate, Chase Auckland is an exciting Auckland Reactor 3yo trained by top trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at their Rolleston All Stars Stable. Today in what was his second outing to the Rangiora track, Chase Auckland never left second gear for driver Natalie Rasmussen who took the the speedy colt to the front with 1400m to go.  Chase Auckland won untouched by more than three lengths from stable mate Bettor Trix and he qualified four seconds under the qualifying time of 2-36.2 for the 2000m. His overall winning time was 2-32.2 and he coasted over his last 800m in a quicker 57.8 with a closing 400m in 28.2. Chase Auckland winning his trial today. Harnesslink Media

The fightback begins today for former pacing hero turned mystery mess Have Faith In Me. But trainer Mark Purdon admits he doesn’t totally understand what he is fighting. The now six-year-old pacer was rated one of the best in the world this time last season and opened as last year’s New Zealand Cup favourite, fair enough too as he was the Auckland Cup winner and the fastest ever Miracle Mile winner. But while stablemate Lazarus produced the near perfect season, Have Faith In Me only showed rare glimpses of anything approaching his best and became the punter’s enemy. The wayward tendencies he was supposed to grow out of got worse and it took extensive testing before a kidney complaint was the best the vets could pinpoint as the source of his problems. Whatever it was, or still is, it has seen Have Faith In Me careen down the pecking order of our best horses as he returns to the public domain at the Rangiora trials today. Purdon, just back from a luckless but enjoyable World Drivers Champs in Canada, is quietly hopeful whatever ailed Have Faith In Me won’t be as big an issue this season. “He seems good so far, but then again he did at this stage last season too,” says the training phenomenon. “He has had a decent spell, seems sound and happy and it is a case of treating him like there is nothing wrong with him any more until we find a reason to change our minds.” Have Faith In Me will be joined at today’s trials by fellow Auckland Cup winner stablemate Dream About Me, whose season was also curtailed by health issues but not before she suggested she is a very special mare.  “She looks big and round but we are very happy with her and because these two had earlier spells than the other top horses they will race sooner. “They are likely to kick off at Addington in two weeks.”The stable’s two New Zealand Cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks are a month away from the races, with Purdon saying Lazarus has put on muscle without getting any taller.  “I am very happy with him and while the others are very good, he is still clearly the one to beat for me.  “I think Heaven Rocks has as much ability but he doesn’t have the same manners and that could be crucial while Have Faith In Me would have to return right back to his Miracle Mile best of last year to get back to Laz’s level.” The quartet give the All Stars a unheard of dominance of the New Zealand Cup market, with Titan Banner still a chance to rejoin them from usual trainer Graeme Anderson, although he is set to race at Addington on Friday night in Anderson’s name.  “I haven’t heard exactly what they are planning to do with him so am not sure whether we are getting him back,” says Purdon of last season’s NZ Cup third placegetter. Also on show at the trials today will be former US trotter Aldebaran Eagle, good enough to trot 1:52 in North America. “He obviously has real talent but has had a few issues along the way. He will be up to the good trotters here at his best. Whether he is at Monbet’s level we will have to wait and see.”  While Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen’s early season focus will as usual be on the Cup meeting at Addington, the odds are shortening on Lazarus heading to Perth for the Inter Dominions shortly after the Addington carnival. “We have nominated both Laz and Have Faith In Me and the intention is to take Lazarus so he will be going unless there is a problem along the way.” Michael Guerin

The adage "you can't pick them up and carry them" was reinforced for Mark Purdon at Century Downs , Calgary, on Sunday (our time). His drives from the inside gates  tended not to have the pace to hold a position and the ones who didn't couldn't sustain into the straight. VIOLA his first drive drifted early, got on the train with a round to go but couldn't sprint with them at the top of the straight battling on well into fifth and it didn't improve much from there and got worse at the end.   As Natalie noted, the backstretch gossip was that Mark's drives were not win material. The North Americans dominated round one but it is likely the Australasians, Shane Graham, Dexter and Mark will be a bigger threat from now on. There is still a long way to go. Leg Two (Starting today 11:54am NZ time) Vic's Regal Lady (2)  5 year old Angus Hall mare which has won over $C90,000 lifetime. She is listed at 10/1 on the early market and 5th favourite. This is a little drop in class for her/ On Golden Pond (1) Has won over $C200,000 life time but not very impressive so far this year. Dexter's drive, Bugger Bruiser outside him is 3/1 fave. It has been running in stronger races. On Golden Pond at 10/1 is equal l4th favourite. Miss Coco Luck (11) is probably Mark's best chance drawn on the inside of the second line. Listed at 9-2  second favourite. Camluck mare dropping class and has won over $C300,000. Follows out one of the warmer favourites and rates Neils Golden Girl (9) 7 yo trotter by Majestic Sun. Listed at 12-1 and probably 6th favourite. Has trotted 1.53.4 though recent form is not the best   Leg Three Georgia Downs (Starting tomorrow 12:55pm NZ Time) Megasportstar (4)  15-1 second outsider Don't Tell Terry (8)  20-1  outsider Chestnut Schofield (5) Trotter   7-1 5th favourite Sportsillustraor (7)   second favourite at 4-1 Oakley Uptown T (10)  15-1   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of All Stars Stable http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Fields are now set for the first leg of the harness racing 2017 World Driving Championship, set for Saturday, August 12 at Century Downs in Balzac, Alberta. Eleven of the top harness racing drivers from around the globe will compete in the first of five legs.  Drivers will earn points based on their finishing position and the top point-earner will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money. The Century Downs leg consists of five races, with the WDC races slated for Races 4-8. Each race will feature 11-horse fields. Here are the entries for the World Driving Championship races. World Driving Championship - Race 1 (Century Downs - Race 4) Purse: $5,400 - 1-1/16 miles (nine on gate, two trailers) (Post - Horse - Driver - Country) 1. Drawing Dead - Shane Graham (Australia) 2. Tigra Seelster - Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) 3. Dream N Of Mona - James MacDonald (Canada) 4. Freesia - Dexter Dunn (Defending Champion / New Zealand) 5. Viola - Mark Purdon (New Zealand)   6. Run And Tell - Gerhard Mayr (Austria) 7. Sacred Valley - Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 8. Whitehouse Secret - Mika Forss (Finland) 9. Janet Rose - Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 10. Ashlynn Grace - Marcus Miller (USA) 11. Triple Action - Rik Depuydt (Belgium)   World Driving Championship - Race 2  (Century Downs - Race 5) Purse: $9,200 - 1-1/16 miles (nine on gate, two trailers) (Post - Horse - Driver - Country) 1. Emmas Big Girl - Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 2. Mystery Mania - Shane Graham (Australia) 3. You Name It - Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) 4. Brighten Your Life - Mika Forss (Finland) 5. Big Shir - Rik Depuydt (Belgium) 6. Moon Struct - Marcus Miller (USA) 7. Im Gracies Wigwam - Mark Purdon (New Zealand) 8. Lucky Lucka - James MacDonald (Canada) 9. Lissoy - Dexter Dunn (Defending Champion / New Zealand) 10. Wild Chic - Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 11. Remember Terror - Gerhard Mayr (Austria)   World Driving Championship - Race 3 (Century Downs - Race 6) Purse: $6,500 - 1-1/16 miles (nine on gate, two trailers) (Post - Horse - Driver - Country) 1. Debonator - Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) 2. Exclusive - James MacDonald (Canada) 3. Crack The Cognac - Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 4. Kavola - Marcus Miller (USA) 5. Pinkmakesboyswink - Shane Graham (Australia) 6. Miss Bojangles - Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 7. Mods Mystery - Gerhard Mayr (Austria) 8. Alfa Bagel Hanover - Rik Depuydt (Belgium) 9. Rain Delay - Mika Forss (Finland) 10. Wazzup Buttercup - Mark Purdon (New Zealand) 11. Astrid The Axe - Dexter Dunn (Defending Champion / New Zealand)   World Driving Championship - Race 4 (Century Downs - Race 7) Purse: $6,100 - 1-1/16 miles (nine on gate, two trailers) (Post - Horse - Driver - Country) 1. Test Pattern - Rik Depuydt (Belgium) 2. Is Santa Real - Gerhard Mayr (Austria) 3. Sufferin Succotash - Mark Purdon (New Zealand) 4. Starry Eyes - Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 5. Orangevale Gazette - Marcus Miller (USA) 6. Blue Star Eclipse - James MacDonald (Canada) 7. Make Some Smiles - Dexter Dunn (Defending Champion / New Zealand) 8. Newport Min - Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 9. Barbarela Rose - Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) 10. Outlawintriguedbyu - Shane Graham (Australia) 11. Wild Flight - Mika Forss (Finland)     World Driving Championship - Race 5 (Century Downs - Race 8) Purse: $6,500 - 1-1/16 miles (nine on gate, two trailers) (Post - Horse - Driver - Country) 1. Pocket Novel - Dexter Dunn (Defending Champion / New Zealand) 2. Coliseum Hanover - Rik Depuydt (Belgium) 3. Vow To Win - Mika Forss (Finland) 4. Sin Machqueen - Gerhard Mayr (Austria) 5. Big Zeus - Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) 6. Charge And Go - Mark Purdon (New Zealand) 7. Gray Zee - Marcus Miller (USA) 8. Amysterytome - Noel Baldacchino (Malta) 9. Chief Saratoga - Shane Graham (Australia) 10. Cenalta Eclipse - Bjorn Goop (Sweden) 11. Barossa Blue Genes - James MacDonald (Canada) The WDC leg is the culmination of the First Annual Calgary Racing Festival. The week-long event, running through to Saturday, includes an Industry Day, Mid-Summer Classic card, Charity Bowling and Charity Golf tournaments, and a Charity Gala. The defending champion, New Zealand’s Dexter Dunn, represents the International Trotting Association. The World Driving Championship will also consist of the following top-ranked international competitors: Shane Graham of Australia; Gerhard Mayr of Austria; Ric Depuydt of Belgium; James MacDonald of Canada; Mika Forss of Finland; Noel Baldacchino of Malta; Mark Purdon of New Zealand; Eirik Hoitomt of Norway; Bjorn Goop of Sweden; and Marcus Miller of the United States. The drivers will then head to Ontario for the next two legs at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville on August 14 and Georgian Downs in Innisfil on August 15. The action then moves to Trois-Rivières, Que. on August 16, where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg before the drivers head to Prince Edward Island's Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship on August 18, one of the major highlights of Old Home Week. The World Driving Championship -- along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, to be hosted in Charlottetown --  are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations. All legs of the World Drivers Championship will be televised live on Sky Racing, starting on Sunday morning Australian time.   Important Links:   Full entries for Saturday's card (morning line odds to be added when available) http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/racing/entries/data/e0812cnden.dat   Electronic program pages for the World Driving Championship races: https://goo.gl/AystvB   For more information about the 2017 World Driving Championship, visit www.worlddrivingchamps.com

New Zealand faltering challenge for the Breeders Crown roared back into life yesterday. Because three wins in as many races for the Kiwi-trained pacers at Menangle have boosted chances of a serious New Zealand team at the rich Crown finals day at Melton in Victoria next month. For much of the last decade New Zealand horses --- both pacers and trotters --- have dominated Breeders Crown day, with the added bonus of Kiwi horses who travelled to the meeting extending their season by a month because of the late finish to the Australian harness racing season. That has often promoted the crazy situation of horses turning four in New Zealand on August 1, yet reverting to racing as three-year-olds when they cross the Tasman for the Crown a few weeks later. But while the Breeders Crown, with its two-year-old pacing finals worth money than A$300,000, has been enormously lucrative for New Zealand horses, this year’s representation was looking shaky. Already the biggest names from the two and three-year-old pacing ranks have pulled out, their trainers instead preferring to spell horses like Vincent, Ultimate Machete and Spankem after long seasons rather than press to until last August, meaning they would probably not race again until after Christmas. So the all-conquering Purdon-Rasmussen stable won’t have their absolute superstars at the Breeders Crown and Mark Purdon even expressed doubts over whether he would have any reps at the meeting unless they could win their heats in impressive fashion yesterday. That box was ticked on three separate occasions as first juvenile Sicario, then group-one winning filly Partyon and Queensland Derby winner The More The Better also easily won their heats at Menangle.  None of them were asked for their best by catch driver Luke McCarthy but Partyon still paced her last 400m in a sizzling 25.9 to confirm she will be returning to Melton to defend the title she won as a two-year-old last season. The More The Better won even easier and in a similar final sectional with a 26.1 last 400m while Sicario’s win was mere trackwork so the All Stars will have three major players for the Crown semi finals on August 19, followed by the finals on August 27. But they will be readied for the series without the Purdon-Rasmussen polish, with Purdon leaving yesterday for a holiday before representing New Zealand at the World Drivers Champs, with Rasmussen also holidaying before supporting her partner at the series.  “We are lucky we have good staff but it still makes it tricky getting them ready for the Crown with both of us being in Canada,” admitted Purdon. Top horseman Cran Dalgety is also taking three reps to the Breeders Crown, even after two of them, Bettor Joy and Master Moonlite, were beaten in their non-tote heats at Addington last Friday. Bettor Joy was clearly outpointed by Angel Of Harlem, who trainer Barry Ward is likely to send to Anthony Butt to train and drive for the Crown. But with those defeats for Dalgety’s big name pacers and Purdon-Rasmussen not sending their top guns, the New Zealand team for the Crown is in the usually unthinkable position of not having any dominant favourites for the pacing series. Northern pacers King Of Swing and Big Mach are also likely starters but Alexandra Park heat winner Utmost Delight is out of the series and heading to the paddock. New Zealand’s trotting team for the Crown is also lighter than usual but does boost the shining light of three-year-old star Enghien, who will be red hot to win his division as well as the Victoria Trotting Derby in two weeks on the way through. Michael Guerin

Having conquered Queensland, the All Stars’ juggernaut moves to Menangle this week.  Luke McCarthy is down to drive Mark Purdon’s three Breeders Crown heat runners on Tuesday. All will be commanding favourites.  First out is talented two-year-old gelding Sicario, who should make it five wins from eight starts, now he’s drawn gate two in race three.  NSW Oaks winner Partyon has the right draw (gate four), but faces the biggest challenge against Queensland Derby placegetter My Casino Belle (gate seven) and Shezallapples (five).  Brad Hewitt’s My Casino Belle ran third to Partyon in Queensland’s Provincial Oaks, then turned the tables when second to Shartin in the actual Queensland Oaks. Partyon ran third.  But, My Casino Belle, lifted to another level to sit parked and run a monstrous third to The More The Better and Shartin in the Queensland Derby last Saturday week.  The More The Better, who smashed the clock winning the Queensland Derby, looks a league above his rivals in his Crown heat (race five) at Menangle.    Still on the Crown heats at Menangle, and another highlight will be the return of unbeaten juvenile filly My Sweetchilliphilly.  It’s a while since we’ve seen the daughter of Betterthancheddar with trainers Shane and Lauren Tritton, sending her for a spell after a sparkling Pink Bonnet win at Menangle on April 8.  But it was her previous win, when My Sweetchilliphilly sat parked in a 1.54.7 mile rate for 1730m to win the Group One Bathurst Gold Tiara final, which showed her potential greatness.  She wasn’t eligible for the NSW Breeders Challenge, so the Trittons gave her a break with a view to a late season surge towards the Breeders Crown.  My Sweetchilliphilly has sharpened-up for her return to Menangle trial wins on June 20 and July 4.  She looked simply stunning on July 4, when she toyed with older rivals to win by 6.4m in a 1.53.6 mile and closed in a 27.7 split.  My Sweetchilliphilly has gate five in the first Menangle Crown heat and should be untroubled to stretch her unbeaten record to five wins.    Champion driver Chris Alford must have known he was in trouble, on the home bend with buzz juvenile filly Molly Kelly in the Tatlow Stakes at Melton last Saturday night.  Alford surprised many when he opted to drive Molly Kelly instead of the unbeaten stablemate Nostra Villa. He was the regular driver on both.  Molly Kelly led and had a cosy trip, but when Alford tried to pinch a break on Nostra Villa turning for home, he couldn’t shake her off. And then came Peter Manning’s filly, Amelias Courage, along the sprint lane.  In an absolute slugfest to the wire, Nostra Villa found a way to win again, making six wins from as many starts for Emma Stewart.  She beat Amelias Courage by a nose with Molly Kelly another half-head away in third spot. The mile rate was a steady 1.58.7 for 2240m, but they zipped home in 56.2 and 27.4.  Stewart’s dominance in Victoria’s juvenile races continued later in the night when nominal Breeders Crown favourite Poster Boy snared the Tatlow Stakes for colts and geldings with Alford aboard.  The race provided a trifecta for Stewart with Poster Boy working to the front earlier, and easily beating Tam Major and Big Bad Bruce with a 26.5 last quarter.  Poster Boy ran sixth on debut at Menangle in February, but was spelled straight after and has returned with six impressive wins from as many starts.    Chicago Bull is out having a rest, but trainer Gary Hall Sr still found a way to win the free-for-all at Gloucester Park last Friday night.  Classy mare Ideal Alice made the most of gate one to lead throughout in a 1.57 mile rate for the 2536m.  It was only her second run back from a spell, following a successful summer campaign where even beat star Kiwi mare, Piccadilly Princess in the Parliamentarians Cup at Gloucester Park.  The other highlight of the night was popular trainer Gary Elson’s double with his classy four-year-olds Ideal Tyson and Sprinter.  Ideal Tyson, with Aiden De Campo aboard, toyed with his rivals in the opening race by 7.7m in a 1.57.5 mile rate for 2536m.  Sprinter took on a stronger field and won even more impressively for driver Gary Hall Jr by 9.3m in a 1.55.6 mile rate for 2130m.    Classy mare Bettorthanspecial snared the last feature of the hugely successful Queensland Winter Carnival.  The Shannon Price-trained five-year-old caused a minor upset, beating hot favourite Major Cam by a half-head in the Patrons Purse (2280m) at Redcliffe last Friday night.  It took her record to an impressive 51 starts for 25 wins, 18 placings and almost $330,000 in stakemoney.    With some of the big guns away, classy NZ-bred free-for-aller Allblack Stride returned to winning form at Menangle last Saturday night.  But it wasn’t easy going for the Craig Cross six-year-old, who led staved-off a rejuvenated Major Star, to win by a whisker in a 1.52.4 mile.    When Andy Gath took Burnaholeinmypocket home from the 2015 Harness Jewels he thought he had his next stable star.  And anyone who saw the son of Bettor's Delight charged home late for fourth to subsequent Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me, in his Jewels final would have said the same thing.  Instead, Gath’s had a largely frustrating two years.  But, Burnaholeinmypocket is now starting to at least show glimpses of that potential from 2015.  The five-year-old has now won four of his past six starts, including his first in genuine open-class in the Our Maestro free-for-all (2240m) at Melton last Friday night.  “It was the first time he’d drawn the front row in eight starts, and we thought he was a great chance of leading, which he did. It was great to get a draw to use his gate speed again,” Gath said.  It was his 17th win from just 42 starts and took him past $200,000 in earnings.    Fresh from his triumphant Group One Blacks A Fake win on Hectorjayjay a week earlier, young gun driver Josh Aiken snared another feature at Melton last Saturday night.  Aiken teamed with top trotting trainer Anton Golino and the huge Yabby Dams operation to win the Group Three Sumthingaboutmaori free-for-all (2240m) aboard Glenferrie Burn.   Adam Hamilton

Hall-of-Fame galloping trainer Graeme Rogerson notched up his second harness racing win of the season at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday, and in doing so he said he still loves training standardbreds and will always have a few in his Hamilton barn. Todd Mitchell wore the familiar red, blue and green Rogerson colours to victory behind a 3-year-old son of Bettor's Delight gelding, named Flash Boy. They had a neck to spare over Bettor Buy A Rose and Zac Butcher. The 3-year-old bay paced the Turf Bar Maiden in 2:47.8 for the 2200m mobile. He came home in 59.4 and 25.8 and produced a 2:02.7 mile rate. That was his first win in two starts. It was also Rogerson's first victory since Little Bro and Hayden Cullen won at Cambridge on November 17. Prior to that his last two victories came via Easy For Cullen and Steve Phillips won at Rotorua on January 24 last year. Prior to that his previous solo victory came via Muscle And Power (David Butcher) and Cambridge Raceway on August 18, 2011. “I don‘ t get to the trots much these days but I still enjoy watching them on TV and training a few. I’ll always have a trotter or two – I like them. We’ve got a few young ones coming through next season. “I’m looking forward to them going around. As for this fella, well Mark Purdon had Flash Boy. He had a throat infection and Mark sent him to us. Our vet saw to him and he’s come back good this campaign,” Rogerson said. “I think he’s capable of going on with it,” he added. Rogerson has only had 26 starters to the races this season compared to 500 (46 wins) in 2011, or the 717 starters (98 wins) when he was at his peak with Steven Reid in 2009-2010. All up Rogerson has trained 344 winners and netted more than $2.3m in stakes since he first took out his licence in 2007. They comprised 51 winners ($369,418) as a solo trainer in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and this season. Rogerson trained a further 108 winners ($680,223) when he trained in partnership with Peter Blanchard from 2012 to 2016. He also conditioned a whopping 168 winners ($2.2m) in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 with Steven Reid. Rogerson started training standardbreds with Peter Simpson in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. They won 17 races together and $189,464 “I’m very busy with galloping. As you well know I have a horse or two there as well. Warren Rich, Hayden Cullen and Michelle Northcott oversee the standardbred arm of our operation. “They will tell you about some of the nice ones we will have going around. We have lots of babies including three or four trotting yearlings,” Tauherenikau-based Rogerson said. He did make special mention of a couple of up-and-comers They were a 3-year-old Bettor's Delight - Tanisa Bromac filly named Trinity Bromac; a Monarchy - Santorini yearling filly named Estelita and a brown Monarchy - Banana Smoothie yearling filly named Splitting Image. “Quite a few of them show a lot of promise. With all our young ones and nine above average trotters I think we will be in for a much better season after August,” Rogerson said. Duane Ranger

Sometimes it is not about the money. Because Mark Purdon’s third Derby winner of the season has proven to be his most satisfying because he could share it with some of those closest to him. Purdon trained and drove The More The Better to overcome a second line draw in the A$75,000 Queensland Derby on Saturday night, last season’s juvenile of the year remaining unbeaten in three Australian starts. Winning Derbys is a lucrative hobby for Purdon, having already captured the two strongest in Australasia this season with Vincent --- training the quinella in the NZ Derby and trifecta in the NSW classic. But Saturday was different because not only does the champion trainer part own The More The Better, he shares in that ownership with his father Roy and his long-time friend Sir David Levene. Roy is the patriarch of the world-famous racing dynasty and the most popular figure in New Zealand harness racing but now 90, he rarely races horses these days. So to have him on track at Albion Park was something special. “It made for a very special win,” says Mark. “Dad made the effort to come across and so did Pilch (close family friend Neil Pilcher). We have had a great week and got out every day to see people and have a look around. “So to have both of them here as well as the boys (sons Nathan and Michael) makes this win more memorable.” The More The Better hasn’t improved as much this season as stablemates Vincent and Ultimate Machete so has dropped down the pecking order but his unbeaten Queensland campaign and the looming Breeders Crown prove the three-year-old season is now so long there are plenty of spoils to go around. His win was the consolation as the end of a tough week for Purdon-Rasmussen stables with first Smolda and then superstar filly Spanish Armada retired. “We think she has a fracture in her leg and there was no way we would take any risks with her so she will be retired to stud,” says Purdon. A standout juvenile, Spanish Armada was the best of her age this season, winning a string of group ones but her NZ Oaks victory in May was one of the greatest in the classic’s long history. Saturday’s other Albion Park highlight was the supersonic sprint that saw Hectorjayay down My Field Marshal in the A$200,000 Blacks A Fake. Michael Guerin

The 2017 Brisbane winter carnival at Albion Park finished with a bang last night (Saturday). During the month of July, the metropolitan venue has played host to number of special events featuring some of the best stables in the southern hemisphere and that culminated with the running of the Gr.1 $200,000 UBET Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship plus the Gr.1 $100,000 QBRED Triad 2yo Finals. Millionaire pacer Hectorjayjay made a clean sweep of the open class features, fresh from his triumph last week in the Garrards Sunshine Sprint when leading throughout, the David and Josh Aiken pacer sailed down the outside to complete his unique double by winning the Blacks A Fake on a rain soaked track. Hectorjayjay proved too good defeating the New Zealand trained My Field Marshal and race favourite Tiger Tara in a thrilling finish in the 2680m feature rating 1:56.1. During the past decade, only Blacks A Fake and Im Themightyquinn had completed the Sunshine State open class double. Last year, Hectorjayjay was the beaten favourite in the Blacks A Fake behind Ohoka Punter. In the Triad Final for colts and geldings, local ace Colt Thirty One stamped himself as the best rookie pacer in the state with a thumping victory in the $100,000 feature defeating Only One Promise and Ark Patrol. The Mach Three colt rated 1:53.9 for the 1660m event and remains unbeaten on local soil, his only two defeats coming earlier this season at TABCORP Park, Menangle. Prepared by leading horseman Grant Dixon, Colt Thirty One has won 6 of his 8 starts to date and is eligible for the Australasian Breeders Crown in Melbourne next month. Inter Dominion winning horseman James Rattray claimed the fillies feature when race favourite Arts Treasure led throughout defeating Fame Assured and Well Disguised in a time of 1:56.0. It’s the second juvenile Gr.1 feature victory for Rattray this season following his success last month with Ignatius in the Breeders Challenge Final at Menangle in an Australian record time of 1:51.3. Interestingly, both Arts Treasure and Ignatius are progeny of emerging sire Roll With Joe. The victory of Arts Treasure also provided Rattray with his maiden feature race triumph in Queensland. The Gr.2 $75,000 AQWA Constructions Queensland Derby was taken out by New Zealand colt The More The Better who proved too strong for game fillies Shartin and My Casino Belle in a driving finish. Prepared by master horseman Mark Purdon, the Bettors Delight colt made a clean sweep of his three start Brisbane campaign winning the Premiers Cup, Provincial Derby and last night’s blue riband classic. It was the second Queensland Derby triumph for Purdon after preparing Best Deal Yet back in 2012. Albion Park Club Chairman David Fowler was naturally delighted with the night’s racing. “This is our premier meeting of the year and it delivered on all levels, the racing was fantastic while the public interest was also at a very high level which is very pleasing. The club and staff have done a wonderful job.” Fowler stated. Racing continues on Tuesday afternoon. Chris Barsby

Mark Purdon has snared two Derby placings with Motu Meteor this season, but now finds him as a major rival this weekend.  Since finishing second in the Victoria Derby and third in the NSW Derby, Motu Meteor has followed the path of so many other Merv Butterworth-owned pacers and moved to Kerryn Manning’s barn.  Manning and Butterworth decided last week to make a late raid on the Queensland Derby after Motu Meteor resumed from a spell with a sharp Ballarat win.  And now the draw has boosted his chances. Motu Meteor has gate one.  Purdon’s runner is raging hot favourite The More The Better, who has looked terrific winning both runs during his Queensland raid.  The More The Better is a $1.50 on the Aussie TAB despite drawing the back row (gate 11), while Motu Meteor is a seemingly generous $4.50 from the pole over 2680m.  The other key player in the race is last week’s sparkling Queensland Oaks winner Shartin from gate two.  Nobody is better placed to line-up The More The Better and Motu Meteor than Purdon and he is openly surprised by the stark difference in the odds for the Derby.  “I don’t think there is much between them,” Purdon said. “If More The Better had the run Motu Meteor did in the NSW Derby I think he would’ve run third to those other two (Vincent and Ultimate Machete) as well.  “Motu Meteor’s got the good draw and if he can get the right sort of run, he will be hard to beat.”  Purdon takes the reins on More The Better this week with Natalie Rasmussen heading overseas today (Thursday) on holiday. Purdon’s Queensland raid ends on Saturday night and he then moves his Breeders Crown team to Sydney for qualifying heats at Menangle.  This will be a light Breeders Crown compared to recent years for the All Stars team.  “We’ve got just three for the Crown. Partyon and More The Better as well as the two-year-old Sicario,” Purdon said.  Adam Hamilton

RIGHT here, right now Chicago Bull looks the horse to beat in the Perth Inter Dominion. Yes that could mean having to beat the likes of Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Hectorjayjay, Tiger Tara and others, but the little “Bull” has plenty in his favour. The Inter Dom is in his own backyard, he’s never raced better and – most importantly – he gets around Gloucester Park like no other horse since his champion stablemate Im Themightyquinn. Chicago Bull made it five wins on end and three-from-three this campaign with a breathtaking display at Gloucester Park last Friday night. The pint-sized son of Bettors Delight scorched around 1730m at Gloucester Park in a 1min52.6sec mile rate to win by nine metres. It was just 0.1sec outside Run Oneover’s track record. To explain, Chicago Bull’s stablemate and multiple Group 1 winner Beaudiene Boaz found the front with a lap to go and just kept running. Chicago Bull was last, came three-wide with a lap to go, drew alongside Beaudiene Boaz rounding the home bend, but then just left him standing. He was timed to run a 55.4sec last half off the track. And Chicago Bull appeared to win with plenty in reserve for driver Gary Hall Jr. THE All Stars’ Queensland raid had mixed success at Albion Park’s big meeting  last Saturday night. While both the Purdon/Rasmussen raiders – Partyon and The More The Better – won impressively the previous week, only one of them repeated the dose this time. It was Bettors Delight colt The More The Better, who blew away his rivals in the Group 3 Provincial Derby and appears set to do the same in next week’s Group 1 Queensland Derby. Any fears an inside back row draw might prove tricky were quickly erased when there was an early speed battle and Natalie Rasmussen snagged The More The Better right out the back into clear air. With the sting out of the frontrunners, it was always just a matter of when Rasmussen launched and how far she won by. The More The Better powered past his rivals rounding the final bend and cruised to a 6.2m win in an impressive 1min55.2sec mile rate for 2138m. It was exactly the same time posted by Dean Braun’s Kiwi-bred filly Shartin, who led throughout to win the Group 1 Queensland Oaks over the same trip. Driver Luke McCarthy used the pole to lead and pinched some cosy early splits before Partyon came to sit parked and put some pressure on down the back straight. Shartin handled the challenge, pulled clear of Partyon and held-off My Casino Belle, who sat behind her, to win by 2.2m. The Kiwi other filly Delightful Memphis found it impossible to make ground from the one-one trail in closing splits of 54.3 and 26.4sec. She ran fourth. WELL-KNOWN owner Merv Butterworth’s decision to “scatter” some of his emerging stars is reaping rewards. Motu Premier enjoyed a fantastic couple of years in the All Stars’ barn, but Butterworth felt he was better placed staying in Australia after Mark Purdon guided him through a successful Menangle raid back in April/May. Instead of leaving him in Sydney or sending him to Melbourne, Butterworth moved Motu Premier across to the WA’s stables of his long-time friend Ross Olivieri. The result has been three impressive wins from as many starts so far. The best of them came when Motu Premier came from a back row draw to sit parked and powerfully win the Winter Wonder Pace in a brisk 1min55.6sec mile rate for 2100m at Bunbury last Saturday night. In doing so, he beat high quality Gloucester Park performers Bettor Reward and Touch Of Success despite doing all the work. At Ballarat last Thursday, Butterworth’s three-year-old Motu Meteor impressively broke through for his first win for new trainer Kerryn Manning when he resumed from a spell. Motu Meteor won heats of the Victoria and NSW Derby for the All Stars’ and ran second in the Victoria Derby and third in the NSW Derby finals. UNBEATEN juvenile filly My Sweetchilliphilly is close to returning for her Breeders Crown assault. Shane and Lauren Tritton’s young star has looked awesome winning all four starts, but was spelled after the Pink Bonnet victory at Menangle on April 8. “She wasn’t eligible for things like the (Australian) Gold of NSW Breeders so we took the chance to give her a break with the Crown in mind,” Shane Tritton said. The daughter of Betterthancheddar sparkled winning a Menangle trial in a 1min53.6sec last Tuesday. That’s quicker than she’s gone winning a race so far. My Sweetchillphilly’s best win so far came when she sat parked and poured the pressure on throughout to win the Bathurst Gold Tiara by 21m on March 25. She went a 1min54.7sec mile rate for 1730m, which would equate to at least a 1min52sec mile around Menangle. She will be the “fresh” player to tackle Emma Stewart’s batch of star juvenile fillies headed by the likes of Molly Kelly, Nostra Beach and Nostra Villa. Another juvenile to impress at those Menangle trials last Tuesday was John McCarthy’s unraced Kiwi import, Rakasinc. By Changeover out of Rakarach, the gelding zoomed away with a 24m win in a 1min53.7sec mile so he’s one to watch when he steps out at the races. Adam Hamilton

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