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Star three year old of the season Ultimate Sniper will be nominated for the New Zealand Cup in November though at this stage he is still in the “throw in a nomination” category in what is looking like an increasingly complicated spring racing scene. “Our other main candidates, The Fixer, Spankem, Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will be there hopefully, but we will be adding “Snip” because it could be one of those springs” Natalie Rasmussen said. One of the factors involved is just how well Ultimate Sniper has done over the winter . He is also another All Star who did not race at 2 blooming in spectacular fashion as a three year old. His 10 starts yielded 8 wins and a second placing his record only marred by a gallop in the Vero Stakes, his unplaced run. He was second to Jesse Duke in the Northern Derby Prelude then winning both the G1 Derby events here as well as the Sires STakes Final. Missing from the nominations will be Funatthebeach who left All Stars for Sydney on Sunday. He will race out of the Tritton stable though is ultimately bound for the United Stakes. Such sales, and the sad demise of some likely rivals, does give All Stars a strong Cup hand and with the Inter Dominions as a quick backup . Mark won the New Zealand Cup with Il Vicolo as a four year old and later with Lazarus at the same age.Both horses had raced at a high level at two and three   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Things are looking pretty good for Luby Lou as she treads the comeback trail starting as early as next month at Addington. The brilliant younger trotter has not raced since winning the $100,000 NZ Trotting Derby at Addington in April 2018 her fourth win in five career starts. She beat Winterfell and Majestic Man that day but went amiss and was put aside for a long spell. Now a five year old she should not be hard to place in the coming season all going well. “She had problems in both knees and rest was a big part of the solution to that “ Mark said after working her alongside Oscar Bonavena on Saturday. “There is no sign of that so far. Its early stages yet in the prep but she is coming along well” Luby Lou also won the Trotting Oaks to make her the outstanding three year old trotter of her year. She is royally bred by Breckon Farms being by Muscle Hill from Luby Ann, an American mare by Andover Hall. Breckon Farms syndicated her for racing (the Super Six syndicate) and also syndicated her younger sister TICKLE ME PINK who won the Harness Jewels Ruby for Tony Herlihy’s stable at Addington in June giving Luby Ann her second G1 winner from her first two foals. Mark also trained the dam LUBY ANN who did not show quite the racing ability of her two foals though she had a private reputation and the best was probably not seen of her. She did win 4 of 18 starts though. Her breeding career has been otherwise a challenge for Breckon Farms. She failed to get in foal for two years after Tickle Me Pink before being served by What the Hill last November. There wouldn’t be many mares at stud with two Group 1 winners from their first two foals and Luby Lou should continue the good work all going well.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Mark Purdon will be backed up on the couch watching Queensland unfold on the tv screen on Saturday but still has some salient thoughts about how the races may unfold. “The good news is that the team trained well on Thursday and Poi is happy with where they are at. That is obviously a big thing going into the races “ he said How those races may unfold is the crucial question and it is probably Princess Tiffany will be out to use her class to dominate the race with her best rival drawn badly in the second row. “There’s not a lot speed inside her and she can really sprint out of the gate if you ask her. The one horse (Write About Lexy) can go out of the gate but you would think they would be looking to trail us” “Over a sprint distance you want to be on the boil so she may well stay in front the trip. “ Mark is not fazed by the fact Princess Tiffany (parked, fought well but close) seemed to have a hard run in her leadup race last week. “She is funny like that. There is not that much of her but when she has a hard race she often improves with it. She is tough” Miss Streisand, who fought well last week and has Sydney form has to come from outside the second row which makes things difficult for her. Breeder’s Crown plans for Princess Tiffany will be confirmed after the race. Mark concedes both Jesse Duke and Self Assured face challenges in the South East Derby. “You would think Lochinvar Art would want to lead all the way and he has the speed to get there. If Self Assured followed him out on his back he might not be too far back maybe in the second and third line on the outer which means he won’t have to do too much work” Mark said. “Jesse Duke will have to go forward from where he is drawn so I could see him parked out. It means both ours could be close enough to have their chance. Hopefully that is how it will work out . I would say the one on the inside of the second row IMake Mine Memphis) will be looking for a similar run and they may not be far away “   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Braeden and Caroline Whitelock have decided to retire Kayla Marie to the breeding paddock where the Group One winning filly is sure to prove a great success. While lacking the brilliance of her close associate Princess Tiffany -as most fillies have- she has proven a worthy representative for both All Stars and her breeders, her dam , Braeside Star, G1 placed, being an early success as owners for the Whitelocks winning six and being second no less than 10 times in a 24 start career. Kayla Marie is a half-sister to Braeside Lady the dam of their first Group One winner as breeders from this family in O Baby. Kayla Marie was similarly consistent with 11 first 3 placings from 16 starts including 5 wins and a G1 result from the Sires Stakes Championship as a two year old in Auckland beating Havtime. That followed a strong second in another G1 the Caduceus Classic. This season’s highlights have been Group One second placings to Belle of Montana in the Nevele R Final and second also in the New Zealand Oaks. It is a proud record for a very game and ambitious filly always giving of her best often having to come off awkward draws.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stable http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

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

 This is the story the bookies don't want to read. Because the odds setters know there will be an avalanche of money for the All Stars runners at the Harness Jewels tomorrow and the bad news is champion trainer Mark Purdon couldn't be happier with his team. The All Stars have eight of the nine favourites for tomorrow's $1,275,000 mega meeting at Addington and as always they will be at the centre of the multi bets which are so popular on Jewels day. With the Jewels the Grand Finals of the harness racing season the pecking order is well and truly established, hence the six pacing races tomorrow all having odds-on favourites.  So punters look for more juicy returns via the multis. By comparison, the trotting races have just one odds-on chance in Enhance Your Calm and the 2 and 4-year-old trots look more open. But after a few setbacks late last week, when Oscar Bonavena just missed a Jewels start and then several of the All Stars horses reacted badly to a worming paste, Purdon couldn't be happier going into tomorrow. "The worming paste was just a reaction thing and not a big deal and the horses are all well over that," said Purdon. "The ones who raced last Friday (Turn It Up, Ashley Locaz, Elle Mac and Funatthebeach) weren't treated with it while we took a lot of the other Jewels runners into Addington on Wednesday for their final fast work. "I couldn't fault any of them. It is getting late in the season and some horses get tired but I couldn't be happier with where the team is at." Purdon thinks Elle Mac (mares) and Turn It Up (boys) will win their 4-year-old pacing races but he is not as confident with Winterfell and King's Landing in the trot.  "Winterfell is back to his best but the way Sundees Son won the two big races in Auckland if he behaves himself he might be too good for us, especially from the draws." The 2-year-old pacing races also look to the All Stars to dominate with One Change and Sweet On Me deserved favourites. "The way the draws have worked out I think One Change will lead and that will make it really hard on [stablemate] Flying Even Bettor while Sweet On Me's work on Wednesday was very good. She feels very strong and if anything tries to park her out I think she will crush them." But while the stable has $2.40 favourite Tailored Elegance in the juvenile trot Purdon warns she faces a big task. "She is very professional and a lovely filly but there are some nice horses in there and a horse like Ultimate Stride might even be more talented than her just at the moment," says Purdon. The 3-year-old races are the most interesting tactical battles for the All Stars, with none of their three favourites guaranteed the lead. Princess Tiffany looks to be in a two-horse race with arch rival Belle Of Montana and Purdon is positively beaming about his filly. "She is spot on, in a really good place but we know Belle Of Montana is a very good filly too." Enhance Your Calm has occasionally shown signs of growing pains and mental fragility this autumn but has been in the zone this week, boosting confidence he can overcome a second line draw, which may not be a disadvantage as the front line looks super fast. The best version of him would win. And Purdon saves some of his highest post-workout praise for Jesse Duke, who is the only group one winner in the 3-year-old male pace. "He worked very well on Wednesday so he is in the right place. I wouldn't be surprised if Heisenberg held the lead but if he does then I'd be keen to stay parked," he says. "That could make it a tricky race but I am confident he [Jesse Duke] is in the right form to try that."   Michael Guerin

The man who might stand between the All Stars Stables and an almost unfathomable clean sweep of the Harness Jewels says he won't be backing down come Saturday. In what might be close to a first anywhere in the racing world, the all-conquering Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable are favoured to win eight of the nine group ones at the $1.2 million Jewels meeting, and have the second favourite in the other race. The law of averages suggest at least a couple of their charges will perform below their best, suffer bad luck or simply not be good enough but it is still realistic they could win all nine group one races. Considering the Jewels is an open raceday, with no Sires' Stakes or sales restrictions and has attracted six Australian invites, an All Stars whitewash would be extraordinary and rank as one of the greatest training performances in history. But, and it is an awfully big but, they still have to win the races and local driver John Dunn says he is going to make that as difficult as possible for them. Dunn has eight drives, all on horses trained by his father Robert, whose Canterbury team he does much of the work with and included among them is the only non-All Stars favourite in Sundees Son. He deserves to be top elect for the 4-year-old trot after stunning wins in both the Anzac and Rowe Cups at Alexandra Park four weeks ago and if he races up to that level it is hard to see him beaten, especially if he brings his manners. He did just that in a sedate trial at Addington last Saturday but trotted home a quick last 800m and has the benefit of a good draw on Saturday. "While he has had some manners issues in the past he has usually been good off the mobile and I think it won't be an issue on Saturday," says Dunn, the older brother of champion driver Dexter Dunn, who is now based in North America. "He has come back from Auckland and not missed a beat so I think he will lead and they will need to be good to beat him." As solid as Sundees Son's trial was last Saturday what was just as reassuring for punters is that he didn't roll into his usual gallop after the finish line, suggesting he is a sound, happy horse at the end of his long season. Dunn crucially has the advantage of the ace draw in the 3-year-old male pace and says he will use it to try for an all the way win with Heisenberg. "I am going to drive him like I did in the Sires' Stakes Final in November," Dunn says firmly. On that occasion, over the same track and distance as Saturday, Heisenberg led and gave both eventual winner Ultimate Sniper and Jesse Duke a lot to chase before finishing third. Ultimate Sniper is spelling but Jesse Duke is the hot favourite for Saturday's race and if Dunn is true to his word and launches Heisenberg then favourite punters could be in for an uncomfortable watch. Dunn also has inside draws with Henry Hubert in the 4-year-old Emerald and Spellbound in the juvenile fillies pace, where he opts for Tiffany Rose as the stable's better chance. But it is in the very open 2-year-old trot that he has his next best chance of upsetting the All Stars dominance. One Majic Kenny has been more interested in galloping than trotting in recent starts but has the motor to match it with the favourite if he behaves as well as he did when second at the trials last Saturday. "He is good enough but I actually want the mobile to go faster. "I think it goes too slow sometimes and that trips some horses up," says Dunn.   Michael Guerin

A couple of one-time favourites for the Harness Jewels face a nervous week to even make it to the mega meeting. Because the Jewels campaigns of stablemates Smooth Deal and Oscar Bonavena hang in the balance for very different reasons. Oscar Bonavena rocketed to favouritism for the 3-year-old trot division with a comeback win at Addington two weeks ago but after three rivals passed him on the stakes-based leaderboard he is now ranked 14th to make the field of 12. So his connections have to hope for one withdrawal before the fields are drawn on Friday to even be the emergency for the $125,000 trot at Addington on June 1. Get Lucky was the last horse to usurp Oscar Bonavena with his effortless win in the last race at Oamaru yesterday, the last day for Jewels qualifying. Connections of horses have until Friday to withdraw and the fields of 12 plus one emergency will be drawn at noon. Oscar Bonavena's late fall down the ranking has seen him drift from $1.90 to win his division a few days ago to $2.80 last night. Stablemate Smooth Deal's fall has been even more dramatic as he was the $1.40 favourite to win his division a few weeks ago but has since been beaten twice, including a battling sixth at Addington on Friday night. But he was bouncing around his paddock on Saturday morning, which was enough to deter trainer Mark Purdon from scratching him from the Jewels. "He came home, ate up and has been fine since so maybe it was just one of those nights," said Purdon. "We really don't know but we will get him vetted and then decide. But at this stage, unless the vet examination and blood tests show something is wrong with him, he will still be aimed at the Jewels." Smooth Deal is likely to trial at Addington on Saturday along with many of the Purdon-Rasmussen stars including Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up.   Michael Guerin

The NZ Oaks was won easily in the end but it might well have been won at the beginning. Natalie, in superb form with three Group wins from three drives, thought so when she was able to swing in from three wide and get in front of Belle of Montana. But her decision to improve in the middle stages to take the front while the sectionals were a little relaxed was the key to an easy win. “She felt good and I though I will be off and make the ones most likely work to beat her. She never really felt like she would be beaten in the run home. A great filly and she was on her game tonight” The win heightened the 3yo Filly of the Year award contest which Belle of Montana looked to have a lead after the Nevele R last week. Now it is likely to come down to the Harness Jewels in two weeks. Princess Tiffany ran close 3.08 for the 2600m breaking by close to a second the record set by Spanish Armada two years ago. She continued a great run for owners Phil and Margaret Creighton and Braeden and Caroline Whitelock who separately set new records on the night. One aspect of that was that the Whitelocks Kayla Marie completed a “double second” chasing Belle of Montana home in the Nevele R Final and Princess Tiffany in the NZ Oaks. Bubbled Up again looked a little off her peak finishing midfield after having enjoyed a nice run The Oaks win by Princess Tiffany “It seems surreal -but its actually real” -that sum up by Mike Woodlock co-owner of One Change with Trevor Casey and All Stars, seemed to sum up the remarkable rise of the two year old with his five for five win in the $170,000 Sires Stakes Final at Addington. As for Trevor tears came to his eyes as he remembered his long time partner, the late Neil Pilcher, an original owner of the youngster after he was passed in as a yearling for $20,000 Bought post sale by the stable for $30,000, Neil’s share was taken up by All Stars on his death and Mike, a retired teacher at St Andrews College who helps out at All Stars, was offered a share. He had previously raced a horse successfully with “Pilch”. As chief admirer and handler Ashleigh said “the dream continues” after One Change, looking headed by Flying Even Bettor close to the post kicked back to win. Natalie had given him the run of the race but said afterward it went “nothing like I expected” “I didn’t know how much gate speed he had because he hasn’t be used out of the gate previously. But he had it and we got the break. I wasn’t sure we’d won. Flying Even Bettor, which went a terrific race came back at us and I wasn’t confident at all” One Change has now won over $200,000 not a bad return on his yearling price. He now heads to the Jewels and possibly the Breeders Crown in August if all goes well in the interim. “He’s done nothing wrong and shown he has the early speed as well” Mark said “Smooth Deal was disappointing and he will come out of the Jewels on that run. He is going backwards when he should be going forward” His recovery rate raised questions as well, Natalie said later. But Amazing Dream compensated Bill and Jean Feiss handsomely with an impressive win in the rich PGG Wrightson Sales Final. Natalie wasn’t afraid to use her ability to get handy and then lead and she held on gamely to win well. “She’s a good filly and she is improving. She has always been game but she has a bit of speed too which I used tonight. That was a top effort from her really” Meanwhile even Mark was somewhat taken aback with the ease of Winterfell’s win the FFA Trot which guaranteed him a start in the Jewels. “Really he won that easily and while I expected a top run I didn’t think it would be that easy” Mark said of the big trotter who has hit peak at the right time.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Early season perception clashes with late-season reality in the two group ones at Addington tonight.  The trick for punters is to work out which one matters more.  At different stages of the season it would have seemed farcical there could be a better two-year-old male pacer than Smooth Deal or a superior three-year-old filly to Princess Tiffany in the country.  But the score cards between that pair and their new division leaders in One Change and Belle Of Montana suggest the latter two might be the best of their crops.  But that pendulum could swing back the other way just as easily at tonight’s huge premier meeting.  One Change is unbeaten in three starts but has drawn (barrier four) outside Smooth Deal (two) in their $170,000 final over 1980m mobile.  When Smooth Deal was thrashing his opponents over the summer tonight’s draw would have suggested he would lead and win and plenty of punters would have been piling into a $1.20 divvy to boost their multis.  But cracks in his armour started to appear when he broke for no reason in two races and even worse he led easily and was grabbed on the line by One Change in the Sales Series Pace two weeks ago so will instead start around $2 tonight.  He was found to be affected by a virus soon after that last-start defeat but champion trainer Mark Purdon admits Smooth Deal is no longer than stable’s clear-cut juvenile star.  “We really don’t know which one is the better of them now,” says Purdon.  “So either of them could win this week and while we expect Smooth Deal to be better than last start, One Change might be too because he worked very, very well here on Tuesday.”  While there is plenty of talent in the juvenile crop it is hard to imagine one of the pair not winning whereas the $150,000 New Zealand Oaks might have a little more scope for an upset.  Belle Of Montana was mega impressive coming from well back to beat an almost identical field in the Nevele R Final last Friday and has the draw (five) to go forward and gain a huge tactical advantage over Princess Tiffany, who starts on the second line.  As stunning as Princess Tiffany has been at times, Belle Of Montana’s record this season is clearly better (3-0 head to head) so she has to be the favourite tonight.  “From that barrier I think she can come out a bit early and go forward but I will leave that up to Zac (Butcher),” says master trainer Barry Purdon.  That suggests Belle Of Montana could be seen in a different role tonight as all her major wins have come after sit-sprint tactics, even taking a trail 1200m out when a red hot favourite in the Victoria Oaks two starts ago.  She looks stronger mentally and physically than she was at the start of her debut season so should be ready to change tact and and easy lead would make the Oaks hers to lose. Still, Princess Tiffany has too much x-factor to dismiss while the likes of Northern Oaks winner Best Western and even Belle Of Montana’s stablemate Havtime have shown enough to suggest that are at least place value with their advantageous draws. Meanwhile, at Alexandra Park tonight comeback filly Tickle Me Pink should continue on her winning way even off the second line in the Northern Trotting Oaks.   Michael Guerin

Belle Of Montana has been gifted the perfect opportunity to make the Filly of the Year a one-horse race.  Because if she win the $150,000 NZ Oaks at Addington on Friday night the title is certain to be hers and the barrier draws have put her in the box seat to do just that.  The flying Clevedon filly made it three group ones for her debut season when coming from the second line to win the Nevele R Final at Addington last Friday but it was a third victory of a different kind that might be just as important in the FOTY voting.  For the third time in as many meetings Belle Of Montana beat arch rival Princess Tiffany, who was only third and appeared to race at least a couple of lengths below her best.  Princess Tiffany had started favourite and her trainer Mark Purdon suspects the NSW Oaks winner may have suffering from tying up problems last Friday, although a blood test indicated she was not overly affected by a virus which has troubled much of his team.  Excuses aside, Belle Of Montana now has a 3-0 lead in the head-to-head battle with Princess Tiffany so the latter would need to win both the Oaks this Friday and the Jewels on June 1 to have much chance of turning voters back her way in what is one of the more valuable titles handed out at the annual harness racing awards.  The problem for Princess Tiffany is she has drawn the second line again whereas Belle Of Montana is drawn to start from barrier five and one of the likely early leaders is her own stablemate Havtime.  That and the respect Belle Of Montana has earned with her string of group one wins suggest she will have a healthy lead over Princess Tiffany in the first lap of Friday’s 2600m classic. And there is the possibility, backed up by the stats, that Belle Of Montana may simply be the better filly.  The market for the Oaks will open today but the pair share Jewels favouritism at $2 each, which may not change greatly until after the draws on Friday week.  That market split is almost mirrored by the two-year-old male pacers, where One Change is $2 and Smooth Deal $2.20 for the Jewels and they also go head to head this Friday night.  They have both drawn well on the front line so neither should have an excuse in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes and after winning the Sales Series if One Change can down his stablemate again he also take a big lead in their category for the HOTY.  The Sires’s Stakes Trot for the juveniles, the three-year-old Sales Series Trot and an open class trot add some squaregaiting strength to the second-last premier meeting of the season.   Michael Guerin

Two key withdrawals and three Australian additions saw Harness Jewels markets go on a rollercoaster ride as the key contenders for the glamour meeting are starting to take final shape.  The Jewels move to Addington for the first time on June 1 and while horses have until May 19 to earn enough money to qualify most of the serious players are already locked in.  The market most still in flux is the three-year-old trotters where Enhance Your Calm the favourite could be vulnerable to either Australian star Alpha Male or the forgotten Oscar Bonavena if they make it to Addington.  Alpha Male would secure the Australian invite if he wins the NSW Trotting Derby this Saturday and then the question for punters will be whether trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin want to bring him to New Zealand, where they have rarely campaigned horses before.  Oscar Bonavena only sits 20th in the order of entry after a season interrupted by soreness and will need to win at Addington either this Friday or next to be guaranteed a Jewels spot.  And while Enhance Your Calm has hardly looked bulletproof when galloping in both his recent starts, trainer Mark Purdon puts that down to Alexandra Park being right-handed and says the leggy trotter will definitely be at the Jewels unless something goes amiss beforehand.  But Purdon confirmed two high profile withdrawals and one major yes for the Jewels yesterday with Spankem, as expected, pulled out of the four-year-old male pace and joined soon after by Chase Auckland.  “Spankem has done enough for the season and he will have a break now while Chase Auckland is too far down the rankings so he can have a spell now too instead of chasing a spot.”  But just as importantly for punters Purdon confirmed Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up, all going well, will be at the Jewels. “He hasn’t had a busy second half to the season so he will press on,” says Purdon.  Turn It Up could easily have missed the Jewels and gone for an early spell as he is one of the favourites for the NZ and Auckland Cups as well as the Inter Dominions all run between November and December 31 this year.  So Purdon’s confirmation the Jewels are still his season-ending target as well as the withdrawal of his stablemates has seen Turn It Up move from $2.90 on Friday night to $1.95 to win his division. Purdon says most of the stable’s other favoured runners are still targeting the Jewels with only form loss or unforseen problems likely to see them withdrawn.  The four-year-old male pace is often the glamour race of Jewels Day but that title could fall to the four-year-old trotters this year as it will contain Anzac and Rowe Cup winner Sundees Son, unlucky placegetter in both Majestic Man, last season’s Jewels winner Winterfell and the exciting King’s Landing. Trainer Robert Dunn has confirmed Sundees Son will head to the Jewels and while he is unruly from a stand he is not from a mobile, meaning he will be in the draw, crucial for the 1980m mobile. “Being in the draw is very important because he couldn’t give these horses a start in a sprint but he actually has good gate speed so we can’t wait to get him there,” says Dunn. “John (son and driver) and I should have about 10-12 in the Jewels.” The favoured trotting quartet will be joined by one of the latest Australian invites in Majestic Player, who won his way into the Jewels at Menangle on Saturday night. Also invited from Australia yesterday were Pete’s Big Jim, who was a close second in the juvenile male pace last year and his stablemate Falcon Stride, who will contest the four-year-old Emerald. That brings the number of Australian invites to five and with a three-year-old trotter likely they could field potentially the strongest Australian team in the history of the Jewels. **  A stronger than expected sale saw a huge increase in average at the NZB Standardbred all-aged sale at Karaka yesterday. With mainly weanling, broodmares and a very small number of yearlings offered an outstanding clearance rate of 96 per cent was surprising for the 130-plus lots. While these sort of sales can vary wildly, the average of $10,816 was an increase of over $3000 on last year. The top price was $80,000 paid for a trotting-bred filly by Kadabra by NSW owners Emilio and Mary Rosati.   Michael Guerin

Rising harness racing star Spankem claimed another Gr1 victory tonight by winning the 2019 $90,000 Dawson Harford Ltd NZ Messenger Championship at Alexandra Park. Using the same tactics as she did in last weeks Taylor Mile success, driver Natalie Rasmussen blasted off the mobile gate to grab an early lead with the showy Bettor's Delight gelding.  It turned out to be a lead she would never relinquish. As he did last week Spankem ran along in front with no attackers and he simply had too much gas in the tank for his rivals, unleashing a sizzling last 800m in 54.3 seconds and winning by half a length at the line.  Stable mate Turn It Up got closest again running home well for second with Mach Shard battling on well from the trail for third. For Natalie Rasmussen it was her second straight win in the race, after winning with Eamon Maguire last year. "He got a nice soft lead again tonight and that first lap was pretty kind," she said after the race. "I was conscious not to spark him up, because he can get a bit keen sometimes, but he was nice and relaxed tonight so he was able to hold them off. The winners time was 3-17.6 for the 2700m mobile. Spankem winning the NZ Messenger The All Stars Stables had a good night in both Islands. As well as winning three out of the four Group One races on offer at Alexandra Park, they also picked up three races at Addington including a trifecta in the rich $161,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Open, with One Chance just pipping stablemate Smooth Deal by a nose with Flying Even Bettor running third. Ashlea Locaz also won during the night as did well bred maiden first starter Only Me.   Harnesslink Media

Well bred harness racing filly Sweet On Me capitalized on a better draw this week to comfortably win the $138,000 Magness Benrow NZ Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Champs at Alexandra Park. Driven confidently tonight by driver Mark Purdon Sweet On Me (Sweet Lou - Adore Me) settled back early before launching to the lead with a lap to go. In the straight Purdon was always in control and Sweet On Me held out the stable mate Amazing Dream by three quarters of a length at the line. The Robert Dunn trained Tiffany Rose ran home well for third. The win by Sweet On Me gave the training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen it's fifth win straight in the race, with the winner pacing the 1700m mobile in a 1-57.3 mile rate. The last 800m was run in 57.3 seconds and the final 400m in 26.8. Mark Purdon thought the speedy filly was better tonight. "She was good tonight. She came off the gate nice without being to quick and settled handy but I thought I would make a move at the 1400m and take her to the front," he said. "I thought she might have got home last week,but she could have been in season a little bit and that may have had a bearing on it." Sweet On Me winning the Gr1 NZ Sires Stakes for 2yo Fillies   Earlier in the night the All Stars Stables trained Enhance Your Calm put in a huge performance to win the Gr1 $90,000 2019 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Despite breaking behind the mobile and losing 50m the Majestic Son 3yo caught the field after 800m before driver Mark Purdon looped the field to lead with a mile to run. From there he was never in danger of defeat running a slick last 800m in 56.4 seconds to win easily by 2 1/4 lengths from the Robert Dunn trained Resonate.  Purdon was not sure what caused Enhance Your Calm to gallop. "Look I can not put my finger on why he is galloping. "Afterwards he was faultless and he made a really swift move down the back with a mile to run, but I really am at a loss to explain why he has done that out of the gate," he said after the race. "We will get him to the Jewels and then he can have a good rest," he said. Enhance Your Calm winning the Northern Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

It could be a case of the same script but a different ending in the $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park tonight. The last of the four group ones at the huge premier meeting sees a return clash of seven of the eight pacers who contested last Friday’s Taylor Mile in which Spankem led and outsprinted stablemate Turn In Up (parked), with trailer Mach Shard holding on for third and Chase Auckland making good ground in the 26.1 second last 400m. Remarkably many of the key players have similar draws tonight and while this race is over 1000m longer it looks likely to play out the same way, at least early. Trainer Mark Purdon gave punters the biggest lead ever when he said Spankem would lead last Friday and not be attacked and from barrier three that should be the case again. But this time Purdon stops short of suggesting he won’t challenge mid-race. “I am sure Spankem will lead early and that probably makes him the one to beat,” says Purdon in a quote that could have been recycled from last week. But then there starts to get a bit of a twist in the tale. Firstly there are two rivals drawn inside Spankem, rather than one last Friday, which raises the possibility they both want the same spot behind him and therefore he has to work at least a little harder to lead. And Chase Auckland could also be a factor in any early rush for positions. “If they went a bit harder early, while I wouldn’t think we (Purdon and Turn It Up) would be in that rush, I wouldn’t be scared to come have a look in the middle stages.” That could be the key quote, with Purdon adamant he wasn’t going to challenge mid-race last week but suggesting he could tonight. And he then says that Turn It Up actually worked so well on Wednesday morning he thinks the Auckland Cup winner has improved with last Friday’s race. So while we still seem to have a script with Spankem leading tonight it is over a longer distance, against a seemingly fitter Turn It Up with an increased chance of a mid-race challenge. Considering there was just over a length between them last Friday that could be enough to swing you toward backing Turn It Up tonight. And if he does come looking for the lead mid-race and the early pressure sees him get it, then he almost certainly wins. The bookies market which surprisingly opened Spankem at $3.60 left enough room in the market for punters to back him and then play Turn It Up on the tote tonight because it would be a major surprise if one of the pair don’t win. Purdon can go into the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Final equally as confident as Sweet On Me should turn the tables on Amazing Dream after their national record run last Friday but the $100,000 Breckon Farms Trotting Derby may not be so clear cut. There is little doubt Enhance Your Calm is the best horse in the race and if he trots throughout he should probably win but he did gallop at the start last Friday after becoming unbalanced in his right-handed debut. Purdon believes he was safer in track work on Wednesday but he still looks a horse with a few frailties — either mental or physical— and that raises at least the possibility NZ Trot Derby winner Lotamuscle can beat him either with manners or his serious sit-sprint. “I am happy with him (Enhance Your Calm) but I have to respect Lotamuscle after the way he has raced recently and you know with Paul (Nairn) training him he will be spot on.” Michael Guerin

A dream week with barrier draws has gifted Spankem an unlikely shot at harness racing’s Horse of the Year title. Because he might now start favourite in Friday’s $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park and victory there would embellish his claims for a title which looks more open than usual. Spankem bolted away with last Friday’s Taylor Mile after being able to lead favoured stablemate Turn It Up and has the best draw (three) of the favourites again this Friday. While the Messenger is 2700m compared with last week’s Mile, Spankem still looks the likely leader and then controls his own destiny, whereas stablemates Chase Auckland (barrier four) and Turn It Up (five) will need some luck to get to the marker pegs and in front of Spankem. Last week’s declaration from trainer Mark Purdon that Spankem would lead the Taylor Mile and not hand up to Turn It Up saw the market flipped on its head and Purdon’s pre-race comments this week will again have a crucial impact. But there is more than just the first place prize up for grabs on Friday as Spankem is making a late, unlikely bid for the Horse of the Year title. Thefixer would have been the early favourite for that after he won the New Zealand Cup, always the most important race for voters, but while he has won a Ballarat Cup and Miracle Mile prelude since he has been beaten plenty of times. Turn It Up has the Auckland and Easter Cups next to his name so a win this Friday and in the Jewels in June 1 would put him in the HOTY box seat. But if he wins on Friday then Spankem’s credentials get a further boost. He has already won the Miracle Mile in 1:47.7, the prelude a week earlier, the Kaikoura Cup, two Inter Dominion heats and last Friday’s Taylor Mile. Add the Messenger this week and his claims become hard to deny. Just 30 minutes earlier the Trotter of the Year title looks certain to be decided in the $150,000 Rowe Cup which hosts the horses who have won all the previous group one trots held in New Zealand this season. Speeding Spur, who has drawn the second line on Friday, is the only trotter to have won two group ones this term and is joined by Marcoola (Dominion), Massive Metro (National Trot) and Sundees Son, who won last Friday’s Anzac Cup. Another group one victory for any of that quartet could seal them the trotter’s title, with Sundees Son the only one with a further group one opportunity this season in the four-year-old Jewels at Addington on June 1. Earlier in the night Sweet On Me will be red-hot to bounce back from her first defeat last Friday in the Sires’ Stakes Championship while the battle between Enhance Your Calm and Lotamuscle highlights the $100,000 Trotting Derby.   Michael Guerin

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