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The best horse trained in New Zealand most punters have never heard of faces a daunting Kiwi debut at Addington tonight. Dual Oaks winner Shez All Rock not only has to overcome a second line draw in the $150,000 New Zealand Oaks but her new, red hot stablemate Elle Mac. Shez All Rock might ring a few bells with the keener New Zealand harness racing fans but to many she will be a new name. But there is no doubting her class. She has won seven of her eight starts including the NSW and Victoria Oaks, the two strongest pacing fillies classics in Australia when trained there, so she arrives here already established as the real deal. Shez All Rock is here for a two-race campaign, tonight and the Jewels at Cambridge on June 2, and has joined the All Stars stable after being purchased by clients of former Kiwi trainer Chris Ryder. But she has come a long way to find a horse right next door in the stabling block as her main danger and trainer Mark Purdon admits the cards are in Elle Mac's favour tonight. "Shez All Rock is a very good filly, no doubt about that, so we are stoked to get her, even if she isn't here for that long," said Purdon. "But she is still settling in and she is very much used to the Australian style of racing, where often they go hard the whole way, and because of that she really likes to run. "Whereas our fillies are more used to distance racing and the more relaxed style over here so, with them both drawn the second line this week, you have to think Elle Mac has the advantage. "She is on her home track, has won the Northern Oaks over 2700m and has obviously been with us from day one. "So I am not saying she is the better filly, I guess we will find that out over the next month, but Elle Mac has a lot more in her favour this week." Elle Mac smashed most of her rivals tonight in last week's 1950m Nevele R Final and looks even better suited to 2600m so it is hard to make a case to bet against her, no matter how good Shez All Rock is. Although she will be short odds a Purdon-Rasmussen win in tonight's richest race looks all but a certainty. They have the four favourites in the $170,000 Sires' Stakes Final and Another Masterpiece deserves favouritism for an array of reasons. He has been a constant improver at the highest level, has gate speed and the draw to use it and will only need to perform to the level he did in the Sales Series Pace two weeks ago to go close to winning again. Stablemate Jessie Duke should be fitter for his second in that race while War Dan Delight is something of the forgotten horse in the stable's juvenile bunch. He suffered a virus last month and is still on the way back up but Purdon says on raw ability he rates alongside the two favourites. "They are all very similar but Another Masterpiece is the one who has the form on the board at the moment and the draw. "But if War Dan Delight sits on his back he might run him close." Later in the night, northern trotter Paramount King looks perfectly placed in the $70,000 Sales Series Trot with many of the stars of that grade missing. By Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

The Auckland Trotting Club is taking a dramatic approach to becoming the country's premier harness racing club by turning every race night into a premier meeting. The ATC will boost stakes for all meetings next year to be at what is now the premier level, an increase of $40,000 per meeting. For now, New Zealand premier meetings have minimum $20,000 stakes and from next March that will be the average stake at Alexandra Park for all meetings. ATC president Bruce Carter has announced starting March 2019 the club's normal Friday night meetings will consist of two $25,000 races, two $15,000 races for maidens or those for the weak 40-50 rating band and the rest of the races will be worth $20,000. That means the non-group races at Alexandra Park from next March will average $20,000. "The stakes are based on nine-race programmes at our meetings and they will be guaranteed, we won't be relying on external funding from things like the race fields legislation which we can't control," says Carter. "We realise stakes have to go up because costs continue to go up and we want to show this commitment now. "We need more horses racing at Alexandra Park. At the moment that number is about 9.3 per race on average and we aim to get that to 11 per race and then more after that. "That is crucial to helping boost turnover but also make the industry more sustainable for trainers." The two $25,000 race guaranteed each night will usually be for the tightest class pacing and trotting races, meaning some meetings in winter races mere two or three-win front races will carry the $25,000 stake. "We realise how hard it is to keep those intermediate grade horses in the country because owners get tempted to send them offshore or sell them. "But this should mean those horses who are in that grade or just below the best open class horses can race here every meeting for usually $25,000 at never below $20,000, which makes them very viable." The new stake levels will catapult Alexandra Park further ahead of the pack Australasian-wide but their greatest problem is still field sizes. "It is remarkable, we can't attract rating 40-50 horses for plenty of meetings now racing for $14,000 whereas trainers will race at Cambridge, instead, for a lot less than that. "And the thing about it is, they are still racing the same horses, rating 40-50s, who are hardly the stars of the game," says Carter. "So I think some trainers and owners could look at their attitudes to racing here and hopefully this will help with that." The ATC will not raise stakes for their actual premier meetings but the most comforting part of Carter's announcement is that it isn't reliant on the New Zealand Racing Board reaching its financial targets, which are being hampered by the delays to the race fields legislation being passed. The money will come from the completion of the of the two major real estate developments at Alexandra Park, with their commercial and residential spaces. The first tower has already been significantly delayed but almost all the owners of the apartments pre-purchased are sticking with the development as they have increased in price since they were originally purchased. "The delay is unfortunate but were circumstances beyond our control but we are confident we will have the first building open in the New Year," says Carter. "And with that money coming online I want to thank the board and management who have worked incredibly hard to make this all happen." The latest series of increases in stakes means Alexandra Park have almost doubled stakes in five years. On the up - Alexandra Park have announced their highest stakes level increases. - From next year all meetings at Alexandra Park will have an average stake of $20,000. - The first real estate development at Alexandra Park should, after delays, be open in the New Year. Michael Guerin

Punters should be careful getting carried away with star juvenile Jesse Duke in the $200,000 feature at Addington tonight.  Because the exciting pacer might be the best freshman in the country, that doesn’t mean he is screwed down to win the richest race of the weekend. Jesse Duke has been stunning in two of his three wins this season and his only defeat came when he was checked into a gallop.  But his path to tonight’s Sales Series Pace has been anything but smooth and that, added to a second line draw, mean his opening price of $1.60 could way prove to be way too short.  Last season’s yearling sales topper copped a virus that was doing the rounds at Auckland Cup time and fell in to win his next start at Addington six weeks ago.  He was then given a break and trialled well without dazzling last week. “He has definitely come on since then and we are a lot happier with him,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon.  “But because he has missed some racing and our other horse (Another Masterpiece) has improved in that time there isn’t much between them.  “We have all seen how good Jesse Duke has been but on their work together on Monday morning I can’t split them.”Another Masterpiece may not have Jesse Duke’s sheer class but he has what at least looks to be a better draw at four on the front line as opposed to Jesse Duke’s two on the second line. “It could be a good draw or a bad one as he probably has to go forward and there could be a lot of speed.  “So that early tempo will be crucial but I don’t favour one of ours over the other.” With the All Stars domination of recent juvenile riches being almost complete it is rare northern youngsters snare a major Addington baby race but they have numbers and class on their side tonight.  Stablemates Star Of Montana (1) and Supreme Dominator (second line) are both up to winning if things went their way while Beaudiene Western (barrier three) has been brave all season and races like Addington will suit, although he might be a horse who makes the race for another by applying the pressure.  Major Express, who beat all three mentioned above at Cambridge last start, has been cruelly handicapped by drawing the outside of the front line for trainer-driver Brent Mangos.  Horses coming out of age group fixtures dropping back into the grades at the one to follow at Alexandra Park tonight as the two premier tracks both race tonight.  Majestic Hurricane (race one) has been racing in the Trotting Derbys but drops back into maiden grade tonight so only a lack of manners would see him beaten.  Something similar looks likely in race five where Forget The Price Tag and All American are also recent Trotting Derbys runners falling well back in grade.   Michael Guerin

The entire Alexandra Park track has scanned by a mental detector to avoid a recurrence of what could have been a group one disaster there last Friday. But Auckland Trotting Club officials are adamant a nail found driven into the hoof of exceptional juvenile pacing filly Princess Tiffany did not come from the construction sites alongside the track. Princess Tiffany was found to have a nail lodged in the frog, the triangle shaped  section on the bottom of a horse’s hoof, after her group one win in the Caducues Club Classic. Co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen believes the filly could have stepped on the nail in her preliminary when she felt her take a misstep, with adrenalin helping her through the race before she showed signs of soreness upon cooling down. The nail drew blood and was removed when Princess Tiffany returned to the stabling area and she was then given antibiotic shots. “She seems to have come through the whole thing well and wasn’t sore this morning,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. “So while it wasn’t a great thing to happen, we think she will be able to start this Friday. “The main thing is she seems all right and Dominique Dowding (ATC chief executive) rang to talk over the whole situation with us, which we appreciated.” Dowding says while the incident shocked the ATC they are confident the nail didn’t come from one of the two construction sites at Alexandra Park where two apartment buildings are being built. “While we can’t be certain we think that is very doubtful,” says Dowding.  “The construction sites are 8-9 metres back from the track and they are at a stage where nails aren’t being used, mainly metal and bolts. “The guys here who looked at the nail said it was very encrusted with track surface and we are thinking there is a chance it was in the surface material we put on the track last week.  “Either way, the safety of the horses and the drivers is paramount to us and the staff here have been right around the track with a metal detector three times today and found nothing else.”   Dowding says the float park area where the horses arrive and the stabling area will also be scanned.  “We can’t absolutely certain how it got there but we are confident now there is nothing else metal on the track.   “We will also have measures put in place when the construction sites move into a different phase which might involve nails. But as I said, they are a long way from the track.”  Princess Tiffany has a golden opportunity to remain unbeaten and claim another group one in the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final this Friday, drawing barrier three while her two stablemates and key rivals have drawn the second line over the 1700m. Winterfell will also be short odds in the $100,000 Northern Trotting Derby after he drew the ace but the $100,000 Messenger looks more spicy with a host of the big names drawing the front line.  Last Friday’s Taylor Mile winner A G’s White Socks has barrier two in the 2700m group one, More The Better (three), Eamon Maguire (four) and Star Galleria (barrier seven).  Speeding Spur has been the big win in the draws for the $150,000 Rowe Cup, drawing handy on the front line over 3200m whereas defending champion Temporale (eight) and Enghien (seven) are drawn wide and last Friday’s Anzac Cup winner Lemond will start from the second line.   Michael Guerin

Finally the Harness Jewels may be set for some serious Australian interest. Former Kiwi trotter Custodian, now trained in Victoria, has been issued the first Australian invite to the $1,275,000 mega meeting at Cambridge on June 2, which means he will return to the venue where he won the two-year-old division two years ago. Custodian, who stayed in Australia after winning the Breeders Crown that season, missed the back end of last season when his connections were keen to defend their title. But they have jumped at the opportunity to come back for the four-year-old trot division and take on hot favourite Enghien. And it looks likely they could have some company, with at least five high-profile Australian-trained horses in the running for invites. Since Harness Racing New Zealand started inviting one Australian runner for each division a few years ago they have had plenty of disappointments, with withdrawals for a variety of reasons seeing most Jewels meetings run with only one or two Australians and some with none. Getting Australian horses to the series is seen as pivotal in increasing awareness and popularity in Australia, leading to increased turnover. Last season two Aussies made it to Ashburton and both ran second so no visitor has won a Jewels race yet. Custodian will need to be good to change that if Enghien turns up in his best form. But HRNZ are confident they have and will continue to secure some other big names. "We have had a lot of interest, more than any other year," says HRNZ's Darrin Williams. "The Custodian team are thrilled to be coming back because Nathan Jack [trainer] loved it last time he brought a horse. "And I think having it at Cambridge helps this year as it is easier to fly in to Auckland, stay a few days and fly out again. "But we have some really high profile horses we are speaking to the connections of." The biggest of those is Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu, who is a real chance to take on Star Galleria in the four-year-old Emerald. Last season's champion Australian two-year-old trotter Wobelee is also rated a serious hope as is Ladyship Mile winner Carla's Pixel. And two of Australia's best three-year-old pacing fillies Shez All Rock and Soho Burning Love are believed to be competing for that invite, with the New Zealand Oaks next month possibly the deciding race. The New Zealand TAB has yet to open markets on the Jewels even though the main Australian TAB has had them open for the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Cambridge race on their newly resurfaced track tonight just a week after 320 tonnes of new surface was put on it in preparation for the Jewels. They host a rare Wednesday meeting the next two weeks with tonight's feature actually being a non-tote, with some of the north's best juvenile pacers in a five-horse Sires' Stakes heat. By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Enghien's defence of his Harness Jewels title is under huge pressure with no easy way to solve the problem. And trainer Greg Hope admits the young trotting star has nobody to blame but himself. Last season's champion three-year-old trotter heads to Addington's day meeting on Saturday when the Harness Jewels leaders colours will make their first outing for the season — but after wearing them for much of last autumn Enghien couldn't be further from them this term. His only two starts have resulted in two unplaced runs after galloping, meaning Enghien has a grand total of $0 next to his name on the Jewels qualification table with about $25,000 needed to qualify by mid-May. Making life even tougher for Enghien is the fact while he races four and five-year-olds on Saturday, his three confirmed starts before the Jewels cut off point are all likely to be in group one open class races. "He doesn't have an easy pathway to get the money he needs to qualify so it is starting to play on our minds a bit," says Hope. "But I suppose if he isn't good enough to win that money in the next six weeks then he doesn't deserve to be there. Still, it is harder when you are racing mainly in open class." Enghien could go about halfway to solving his Jewels qualification problems with a win on Saturday and Hope is adamant the four-year-old is close to getting things right. "We had half blinds on last week and when the horses behind him at the start came rushing up past him he panicked and galloped," explains Hope. "So we will leave those off this week and if he steps away and behaves, which I think he can do, then he has to be hard to beat. "Ricky [May, driver] said he trotted beautifully once he got going last week." And Hope has an ace up his sleeve on the steep Jewels climb — Enghien likes Alexandra Park more than Addington. "He has always been better right-handed so races like the Anzac and Rowe Cups, while they will be good fields, should see him more comfortable." The clash between Enghien, Temporale and Benchmark in the $30,000 trot will be one of the highlights of the Addington card because it looks the least predictable of the main races. Whereas the $100,000 Easter Cup looks to be More The Better's to lose, even after he was beaten when doing a power of work last Friday. He is a genuine group one horse whose earlier comeback win at Invercargill was huge and if the best version of him turns up he should win for the partial sponsors of the race, the All Stars. Hope has A G's White Socks in the Cup but warns the classy pacer has been struggling to find his best form. "He is working well but he has had problems with his heart rate coming down as fast as it should. "So I think he is a place chance but it is very hard to see Mark's horse [More The Better] beaten." The same could apply to Enhance Your Calm in race four, the Trotting Stakes, in which only the brave filly Running Free looks a serious threat if they all trot throughout. Easter treats • Best bet: Princess Tiffany (R2, No.1): Impossible to make a case against her after her last start win and she gets best draw again. • Derby trial: Sheriff (R11, No.5): Getting ready for next week's Derby and drawn inside the other key runners on same path. • Star trialist: Mr Kalypso (R3, No.3): Has raced some serious horses but still a maiden. Two recent workout wins suggest that about to change. Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Temporale might be just one win away from the greatest title in New Zealand trotting. And he could seal that deal over the next fortnight at Addington. The under-rated trotter returns in the Four and Five-Year-Old Championship this weekend when Addington host a rare Saturday daytime fixture, a back-to-the-future moment for the Easter Cup meeting. A week later, Temporale contests the NZ Trotting Champs and victory in maybe one, but definitely both, would almost certainly end any discussion over Trotter of the Year honours even before the Rowe Cup meeting at Alexandra Park. While he won the four-year-old trotter of the year last season courtesy of his Rowe Cup win, Temporale still started this season anything but a glamour horse. Up to six trotters headlined by Monbet would have been rated above him in the open-class ranks but while almost all have fallen by the wayside, the South Auckland gelding has been nearly faultless. Not only has he won the Lyell Creek and group one National Trot but he was a huge second in the A$300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton and the Dullard Cup, and hasn't been further back than second in seven races, most of the highest level. While he has been going about his business, first Monbet broke down again then a host of Paul Nairn's open-class stars went AWOL and soon after the horses that won the group ones during Cup week, Great Things Happen and Amaretto Sun, were put out for the season. "He got a bone chip again so he won't be seen until next season," says stable rep Amanda Tomlinson of Amaretto Sun, who gave their family one of the most memorable moments of the entire harness-racing season. That has left Temporale and Speeding Spur as the two biggest names racing in New Zealand trotting and with a clear advantage in the head-to-heads so far this term, the Trotter of the Year title looms large for Temporale. If he beats Speeding Spur - who returned to winning form at Addington last Friday - in one of their next three clashes he should probably win the title. Speeding Sour would need to win at least two of the big three - the Trotting Champs, Anzac Cup or Rowe Cup - to grab a last-gasp title victory. Temporale warms up for those three races off a 30m handicap this Saturday and while trainer-driver Tony Herlihy was happy with his win in a Pukekohe workout last Saturday he admits this week could be tricky. "Being off a handicap, fresh up for a while, in a big field is never easy," says Herlihy. "So I think he will improve on this week cause he has a big month ahead. "But we have had a great season so far and while he may not be a champion, well, now yet anyway, he just keeps getting the job done." Herlihy might have a new Temporale coming through in three-year-old trotter Forget The Price Tag, who will also head to Addington for the Trotting Derby next week. "He has only had two starts but I really like him and he feels a lovely horse when you sit behind him. I think a trip away will do him some good." The return to a day meeting for the Easter Cup will sit well with traditionalists and how the meeting hold ups, turnover wise, against the Sires' Produce fixture at Awapuni will be interesting. Addington officials were relieved yesterday when they received nine nominations for the $100,000 Easter Cup. "We would have run it with six but getting nine is a good result," said Addington racing boss Brian Rabbitt. By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Jason Lee will go to work at Menangle on Saturday night for a smile on his face. Because sitting behind speed machine Jilliby Kung Fu in the $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile will be payback time. “As a teenager being involved in harness racing I missed a lot of birthday parties, nights out with my mates and things like that hoping one day I would get to the top,” says the 22-year-old Victorian. “I never thought I’d be driving in a Miracle Mile at this age, not even a few weeks ago. “So to be in the middle of it will be special and I am going to enjoy it. “I have been really busy this week but I have also allowed myself the chance to think that we are going to the big dance and smile about it. I mean, it is the Miracle Mile after all.” The big dance is even more special for Lee because Jilliby Kung Fu is a family horse, trained by his mother Marg in a set-up where parents, uncles and cousins all pitch in to help. Jilliby Kung Fu was racing in the Victoria intermediate grade just six weeks ago and Lee was happy to make the Chariots Of Fire on February 10. Once there the young gun pair crossed their rivals easily and paced a 1:48.8 mile, earning them not only an invite to Saturday night’s race but plenty of respect. The plan on Saturday night is to come out humming — a Lee special — and give Jilliby Kung Fu a chance of crossing to the lead. If he does that he could cap a fairytale rise to the top of the pacing world. “We are going there to give him his shot, because you never know when you will get back to this level. “But we also know how good these horses are. We have all seen Lazarus and what a freak he is and I even think a horse like My Field Marshal could be the smoky in the race.” The Miracle Mile is just one of six group ones at Saturday night’s mega meeting, including both the NSW Derby and Oaks. Smart customer Jilliby Kung Fu at full stretch. Picture: Stuart McCormick By Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

Champion harness racing pacer Lazarus’s star is starting to shine brighter again just in time for Saturday night’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But trainer Mark Purdon still isn’t certain it will be enough for a horror week to end in glory. Lazarus has been a huge drifter in Miracle Mile markets after he was beaten into third in his prelude last Saturday, troubled by the lingering effects of a virus. Purdon has spent almost every waking minute with the superstar pacer this week as he tries to become the first horse to win harness racing’s Grand Slam of the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. And the Hall Of Fame trainer says the signs are very encouraging. “His blood report suggests his health is back to normal,” Purdon said. “And he worked well on Thursday morning, like he was back to normal. “But it is a bit of a trick with him that he is not a sensational trackworker because he is so laid back. “He is not one of those aggressive horses in his work that he will do something stunning by himself. “So because of that you never see the best, or anything really stressing, from him in work. “But he felt good, definitely not like there was anything off, so he will be better than last week.” What punters want to know is whether the version of Lazarus who was so crushing in the first three legs of the Grand Slam will turn up at Menangle on Saturday night?  “I’d love to say yes but I can’t say I am as confident I was before the other races because of his setback. “I am pretty sure he will run in three and he can definitely win but what I don’t know is what affect the last 10 days will have on him and whether he will be able to pace 1:47 coming from wide on the track.” The Miracle Mile is at 9.32pm this Saturday. Michael Guerin    

Harness racing’s greatest trainer Mark Purdon has sacked himself off champion pacer Lazarus for Saturday’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. And he says putting partner Natalie Rasmussen on the Mile favourite gives all involved their best chance. “It wasn’t a hard choice to make,” said Purdon, who has driven Lazarus to win two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, as well as the Hunter Cup earlier this month. “Obviously our team had a little bug through them last week and they didn’t race up to our expectations, and with that in mind, I want to concentrate on getting the best out of them this week. “That means me doing my job as a trainer to 100 per cent and I think if I am busy doing that then I might only do an 85 per cent job on the driving front. “This way Natalie can concentrate on the driving and make those decisions and I will handle the training details.” Rasmussen is best-known as the former trainer-driver of Blacks A Fake, who won almost every major race in Australia, except the Miracle Mile. But she finally snared the Miracle win two years ago with an inch-perfect drive on Have Faith In Me, who she co-trained with Purdon, who nosed out Lennytheshark in an Australasian record 1:47.5. Rasmussen owns the two fastest winning miles in Australasian history, having also driven Adore Me when she paced 1:47.7 winning the Ladyship Mile a year earlier. Champion pacer Lazarus will be aiming to bounce back from a shock defeat at Menangle last weekend. Picture: Ashlea Brennan. Her aggressive style, which often sees her launch between the 1200m and 800m poles and keep running hard is perfectly suited to Menangle’s big miles, not that Purdon thinks she drives there better than anywhere else. “She is a great driver on any track, simple as that,” he said. Exactly what version of Lazarus Purdon hands over to Rasmussen on Saturday night is hard to predict after his brave but well-beaten third behind Tiger Tara last Saturday. He was feeling the lingering effects of a virus which a blood report on Tuesday suggests is now gone, but Purdon is cautious. “The best thing I can go on is his blood report and it was a lot better so we should be able to get a good week into him,” Purdon said. “And the rain we had overnight on Monday helped settle the dust, which will also help. “But I will know more after he fast works on Thursday. I am confident he will be close to his peak on Saturday night but there is no money-back guarantees.” MIRACLE MILE Menangle, Saturday night 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

Mark Purdon isn’t expecting his rivals to simply give champion pacer Lazarus his $100,000 Miracle Mile prelude at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. But he would also still be surprised if his harness racing superstar was beaten. Lazarus is rated a $1.20 chance after drawing the ace in the second of the two preludes which will decide the remaining seven invitations to next Saturday’s $750,000 Mile. After dominant wins in the Inter Dominion, New Zealand and Hunter Cups this summer, Lazarus should win again but Purdon has resigned himself to his rival drivers generally making it tactically tricky for the five-year-old. And with Lazarus not blessed with the same blazing gate speed of some of his Australian rivals, Saturday night’s mile may not simply be a case of lead and win. “Obviously I’d love to be in front from the draw but they can leave the gate very quickly here in Sydney so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of them have a look,” says Purdon. “I think we should be able to hold Tiger Tara, who we have seen quite a bit of this summer, but a horse like Mach Doro could come off hard. “But if we get crossed I think they will have to go so fast to do it we can come off the markers straight away.” Considering Lazarus has sat parked in his two biggest Australian wins this season, he should be able to do so again if needed. Purdon will be in for a very different experience with Heaven Rocks in the first prelude where he could settle near last in a race Soho Tribeca should be able to control either in front or parked, making him the best bet. Saturday night’s meeting also sees heats of the NSW Oaks and Derby, with the barrier draw for the Miracle Mile to be held on Sunday around 1pm.  Michael Guerin

Trainer Michael Stanley believes Soho Tribeca gets the perfect dress rehearsal for next week’s Miracle Mile in his prelude at Menangle on Saturday night. The Victorian horseman brings the Hunter Cup runner-up to Menangle with the same ambition as all the trainers in the preludes, to snare one of the seven remaining spots in next week’s $750,000 glamour sprint. But Stanley’s bid has a little more edge because his five-year-old is seen as maybe the best chance of upsetting Kiwi champion Lazarus in next week’s thriller. Not only was he enormous coming from the outside of the second line to push Lazarus close in the Hunter Cup at Melton two weeks ago but he led and beat him in the opening heat of the Perth Inter Dominion in late November. Stanley wasn’t training Soho Tribeca then but like everybody in harness racing he realises the best way to beat Lazarus is to get in front of him, especially over a mile. “I don’t think you can come from behind him and beat him unless he has a bit of bad luck,” says Stanley. “So if we are going to beat him next week I think our best chance is to lead and make him do the work.” Which is why Saturday night sets up so perfectly for Soho Tribeca and driver Greg Sugars. They start from barrier four in the first of the two $100,000 preludes, with key rivals Lennytheshark (seven) and Heaven Rocks (out of draw) facing a lot tougher tasks. So Sugars can push the go button early and try and dictate to them, much as Stanley would like to see him do to Lazarus next week. “We get our chance this week to show them what we can do and not being in Lazarus’s heat is a big help. “So I’d love to see him in front, like I would next week.” If he finds that position tomorrow night it will take a stunning effort from any of his rivals to beat the $2 top elect. Later in the night Stanley expects his exciting filly Soho Burning Love to excel in the second heat of the NSW Oaks. “I think she’s got as good a chance as any of not only winning the heat, but the final as well,” he said. “She’s won all three runs really well this campaign and she will definitely be sharper than when she was Hunter Cup night. “She missed a lead-up run at Kilmore before Hunter Cup night and she blew quite hard after the race. “She’s a really good filly this one. Very strong. She’ll love the 2400m and I think it could find some of them out.” Michael Guerin

As harness racing sales week approaches the men behind New Zealand's biggest club are starting to believe the once impossible dream. And they say it could be reality inside three years. The sales kick off at Karaka on Monday with the stronger Australasian Classic Sale before a new format in Christchurch which sees a parade and trotters-only sale on Tuesday and 250 lots on Wednesday. But Karaka has become the hotbed of the three days, with more Australian interest and, because of a smaller catalogue, less lulls. While the sale will be strong, especially in demand for Bettors Delight and Art Major colts, Auckland Trotting Club bosses are hoping the dawning reality of what lies ahead at Alexandra Park will be enough to attract new buyers. The club has the very rare advantage of having businesspeople who are also long-time breeders and horse people on their board, giving them a handle on how one side of the industry feeds the other. And that menu is about to get a lot bigger. With Alexandra Park's first real estate developments expected to be finished by the end of this year the club is rumoured to be considering a stake structure with $15,000 maidens, $20,000 next grade races and $25,000 mid to higher level races at every Friday meeting. And that is expected to rise every year after, with an average stake of $25,000 per race at all meetings now realistic in four years. "While we can't outline the exact figures we are committed to an extra $40,000 in stakes every meeting next year and to keep increasing that," says ATC president Bruce Carter. Carter did not dismiss the figures mentioned above. Those sort of numbers would give the Alexandra Park and Karaka relationship a ratio unheard of for a major sale anywhere else in the world. The average yearling price at Karaka last season was around $38,000 but that is enormously propped up by Australian buyers looking for New Zealand's best. The actual average price paid by domestic buyers would be way lower, around the $25,000 mark. Which means the average price of buying a standardbred yearling in Auckland will by the time most of them are racing be the same as the average stake for a harness race in the city, which when you have a very strong sale is remarkable. "We are aware that is the sort of thing we have to aim at, to make racing horses viable," says Carter. "Our board know the sums of racing so we are determined to see money go into stakes. "That helps the sales but also goes into the pocket of all owners and trainers and for us it is not a case of if it will happen, but when." The remarkable ratio could make buying standardbreds a viable racing option for most chasing anything but the top lots, which on Monday are likely to be those sons, and occasional daughters, of Bettors Delight. The sales parade starts at 2.30pm tomorrow with first lot through the ring at 10.30am on Monday. Michael Guerin If you want to buy a winner then the odds are in your favour, big time, when you buy a yearling from the Breckon Farms draft at the 2018 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale. There is no doubt that this years Australasian Classic Yearling Sale is the best Catalogue of yearlings ever produced in New Zealand. Be there. To view the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale catalogue click on this link. To view the entire Breckon Farms yearlings click on this link. Art Major hits $170,000,000 in earnings Muscle Hill - World's greatest trotting sire Speedster He’s Watching a life-changer Golden cross, Andover Hall - Muscles Yankee Generational speed 1:47.4 ---- 1:46.4 The Australasian Classic Yearling Sale You need a Somebeachsomewhere filly How to buy a millionairess! This stallion has 14 colts in 1:48.4 or faster 1,846 winners for Art Major Golden cross, Bettor's Delight x Christian Cullen

Harness racing trainer Tim Butt has his insurance policy heading into Saturday night’s $200,000 Chariots of Fire at Menangle -- his brother. Butt prepares the big post-draw shortener Let It Ride in the four-year-old Group 1 mile, with the exciting pacer securing the ace. Butt, who has only been training at Menangle for a few months after making a surprise move from his New Zealand homeland, admits the draw could be good or bad. And that is where his brother, champion driver Anthony comes in. Anthony has driven Let It Ride six times for five wins and the only time they were beaten was a second to subsequent SA Cup winner Shadow Sax. He is also the leading ever driver of Grand Circuit winners, well clear of Mark Purdon, and between them the Butt brothers have won almost every race that matters in Australasia. “Having Ants on him in a Group 1 gives me so much confidence,” says Butt “I have actually been really happy with my regular driver Chris Geary and I think he has great hands but Ants has been doing it at the highest level for decades.” Butt says that could be important because while many punters will expect Let It Ride to lead, there could be plenty of early speed before the other favourites Jilliby Kung Fu and Atomic Red coming pouring the pressure on. “Leading would be good but so would trailing one of the good horses and Ants can make that decision based on the early sectionals. “But the horse is ready to do the job and has options.” Butt is enjoying his new life in New South Wales, with 12 horses in work and on his way to his capacity of 18. “I just needed a change and have always wanted to give living here a crack. We are loving it. “And to have one of the favourites in this race is a real bonus because just a month ago it looked like Vincent and Ultimate Machete were going to dominate this.” That pair both broke down, leaving three main chances at the head of Saturday night’s market, all probably feeling they have been gifted a Group 1 shot. Jilliby Kung Fu was awesome winning his qualifying race at Melton and won’t need to perform much better Saturday night, with his racing style suited to Menangle even though he is yet to race there. And Atomic Red is one of the brightest staying hopes in NSW and judging by his prelude win three weeks ago he could easily break 1:50. *A newcomer to the Butt team Saturday night is Afterdinnerspeaker (R3) but he is only set to arrive in the country on Friday. By Michael Guerin

The news is good for fans of harness racing champion pacer Lazarus - not so good for his rivals. The Inter Dominion champion has thrilled trainer Mark Purdon with how he has recovered from the hoof problems that threatened to ruin his $1.5 million summer and says he is confident the Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup is back on the agenda. Lazarus threw feature race markets into chaos when Purdon revealed on Sunday the great pacer was tender in his hooves after a jaw-dropping second in last Friday night’s Fremantle Cup, when he was three-wide throughout the race. Initially Purdon was concerned the problem could keep Lazarus off the training track for a few weeks and cost him valuable fitness heading toward the $500,000 A. G. Hunter Cup at Melton on February 3 and the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle three weeks later. But, after just three days off, Lazarus has shown enormous improvement and Purdon was able to jog him in Perth this morning. “I was never going to be sure how long it would take until I had a few days with him but he has improved a lot,” said Purdon. “I was able to get him back jogging today and I am now far more confident he will get to the Hunter Cup and then Menangle for the prelude and hopefully the Miracle Mile. So I’d expect to be in both of those.” That will see Lazarus firmly at the head of markets for both races after most bookmakers suspended markets on the two great races when news of his problems broke. He will, however, miss Friday night’s West Australian Cup as will stablemate Ultimate Machete. The four-year-old was also foot sore after finishing fourth in the Fremantle Cup and Purdon says he will now be set for the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney on February 10. In their absence former Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me (barrier four) will be the New Zealand rep in the West Australian Cup. Michael Guerin

Champion New Zealand pacer Lazarus's $2m summer is in doubt after he has been struck down by soreness. The magnificent stallion is out of this Friday's West Australian Cup and there have to be doubts over his participation in both the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile next month until co-trainer Mark Purdon knows the extent of the hoof problems. Lazarus produced one of the great modern day pacing performances in defeat when second after being three wide for the entire Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth on Friday night (Saturday morning NZ time). He covered up to 50m more than some of his opponents but was only grabbed late by NZ-bred pacer My Hard Copy, with his effort stunning even the most pragmatic members of the harness racing industry. But Purdon's pride in his champion turned to concern over the weekend after Lazarus started to feel the effects of the run. "He was fine the next morning and went out into the paddock tired but with no real problems," Purdon told the Herald. "But when I brought him back in about an hour and a half later because of the heat, he was quite sore in the hooves. "And that didn't improve when we put him back in his box or today (Sunday) like we hoped it would and he is still sore now. "We have had the vet to him and we are pretty sure it is in his hooves and probably a concussion thing from the race. "But we won't know exactly how bad it is and whether that is all that is wrong until we have a few more days with him. "So it has come as a bit of a shock but at this stage the vet thinks it is related to a hard run on the hard track." Purdon did not think the brutally hard run Lazarus had on Friday night was the reason for his problems. "I think even if he had an easier run and won he would have been sore afterwards. I just think the track has got to his hooves." The five-year-old, who was sensational winning the Inter Dominion in Perth last month, will be swum this week to try and maintain his fitness while he is kept off the track. "But the WA Cup this week is definitely gone for him and the next target will be the Hunter Cup. "We definitely haven't give up getting him to that and we have nearly three weeks but it is also not certain he will make it. "It is all a bit up in the air at the moment." The two-time New Zealand Cup winner was the hot favourite for not only the WA and Hunter Cups, the latter at Melton on February 3, but the A$750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 24. "I hope by Miracle Mile time he will be fine, unless there was something else wrong with him, but obviously we can't guarantee that." Fremantle Cup If Lazarus does miss the A$500,000 Hunter Cup the Purdon-Rasmussen stable will still have Heaven Rocks in the race, with the latter set to make his Australian debut in the Ballarat Cup this Saturday. But the stable will resist any temptation to step Auckland Cup winner Vincent up to the Hunter Cup as Lazarus's replacement. "Vincent has the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle the week after so I don't think we would target the Hunter with him but at this stage we are still hoping to have Laz there." Stablemate Ultimate Machete also pulled up slightly sore after his fourth in the Fremantle Cup but nowhere as bad as Lazarus. "He was like that for a few days after he won the Golden Nugget here last month too but I still very much expect him to make it to the Chariots Of Fire on Feb 10 and race on this campaign." Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

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