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A little-known former New Zealand pacer has emerged as the key player in the A$500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final.  Because while former Southland pacer Galactic Star has had a top class career in West Australia, he would rarely have been on the radar of most New Zealand punters, even the serious harness racing players, until this Interdom series in Victoria.  Yet after drawing the ace for Saturday night’s 2760m final at Melton, the attitude of his connections could decide the race.  Galactic Star, who won four races in New Zealand two years ago when trained by Des Baynes, won his first night heat of this series using blazing gate speed and has been very good when placed in his subsequent two heats.  But his impact on the final outcome has been boosted enormously by him drawing barrier one, from where he looks certain to lead.  If driver Ryan Warwick wants to stay in front that will mean no shot at the lead for key front line runners Pat Delight (barrier three), Spankem (five) or Tiger Tara (seven).  It would almost certainly mean plenty of pressure to try and break him and potentially bring a horse like series points leader Cruz Bromac into contention after he fared poorly in the draw, copping the second line  But if Warwick and the Galactic Star’s connections decide the trail is the place to be then either of the well-favoured Kiwis, Pats Delight or Spankem, will fancy their chances of running to the front and therefore becoming the one to beat.   Spankem’s incredible rise throughout this series continued after the draw as he is now the $2.80 favourite for the classic just six weeks after punters could have got $41 for him to win it.  He has thrilled co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen with how he has bounced through his three heats but she has decided to stick with Cruz Bromac as her drive out of loyalty, having driven him five times for five wins.  That means training partner Mark Purdon takes the reins behind Spankem and gives him a shot at a unique piece of Inter Dominion history as he has won the last two pacing finals driving Smolda and Lazarus so could make it a three-peat on three different horses.  Spankem, who won only once last season as a three-year-old, is favourite over Pats Delight and Cruz Bromac still the third favourite even though his task looks enormously more difficult as he won’t be able to use his gate speed.  Gate speed and tactical decisions could also decide the A$150,000 Trotting Final on Saturday, which after the draw looks a two-horse race.  South Auckland trotter Speeding Spur has the advantage of barrier one giving co-trainer and driver Josh Dickie options of whether to stay in front or elects to trail favourite Tornado Valley.  The latter has drawn barrier six and may even have the raw speed to cross Speeding Spur but if the pair lead and trail it looks curtains for their rivals. (THESE FIELDS TO BE BROKEN OUT ON RUNNER PER LINE) The fields for the two Inter Dominion finals to be run at Melton on Saturday night are: $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2760m mobile, 11.45 (NZtime) 1: Galactic Star 2: Can’t Refuse 3: Im Pats Delight 4: Mach Doro 5: Spankem 6: Maximan 7: Tiger Tara 8: San Carlo (1 second line) 9: Cruz Bromac 10: Our Uncle Sam 11: Wrappers Delight 12: Audi Hare (em) 13: Cash N Flow A$150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final, 2760m, 11.08 NZtime 1: Speeding Spur 2: Monty Python 3: Save Our Pennys 4: Rompers Monarchy 5: Big Jack Hammer 6: Tornado Valley 7: Sky Petite 8: Illawong Armstrong (1 second line, em) 9: Tough Monarch 10: Kingdom Come 11: Kyvalley Blur 12: Wilmas Mate 13: Red Hot Tooth   Michael Guerin

As good as Pats Delight has been during this Inter Dominion series trainer Cran Dalgety admits he is probably running for second tonight. And that will be fine by him as the heats of the series draw to a conclusion at Cranbourne. All five heats, two for the trotters and three for the pacers, have red hot favourites and it is hard to make much of a case for any of them to get beaten. Tornado Valley (first trotting heat) and Speeding Spur (second) look set to lead and win, with more interest in which one draws inside the other for next Saturday's final when the draws are made on Monday morning. The pacing heats also have three hotpots, two of them Kiwi-trained in Spankem (first of tonight's pacing heats) and Cruz Bromac (last) while Tiger Tara looks like leading and winning the middle heat. But while Cruz Bromac is expected to do the same, he at least has a quality fellow Kiwi opponent in Im Pats Delight (Aust name), who has been one of the surprise packages of this series and has emerged as one of maybe only five winning chances in next Saturday's A$500,000 final. "He has been super and is thriving over here," says Dalgety about the Canterbury four-year-old. "I'm glad we made the choice to come, it was very up in the air at one stage, because he is loving the racing style here and I think the trip will make him." After smashing his opponents, and the clock, winning his heat at Ballarat on Tuesday it is impossible to completely dismiss Pats Delight even from his second line draw over the 2555m mobile but Dalgety is realistic about the task ahead. "Cruz Bromac looks the leader and to be honest the winner," he says. "And the way he is racing and knowing Natalie (Rasmussen) won't hand up there is no point us taking off and sticking it to him mid race. "So we might end up parked and if we did then second would probably be a good result." Cruz Bromac is looking to go through the heats unbeaten and his already high chances improved when veteran Franco Nelson, who looked his only rival for the lead, was scratched out of the series yesterday. While four of tonight's hotpots should lead and win the most interesting heat tonight should be watching how Spankem overcomes his second line draw. He has at least some genuine competition in fellow heat winners Wrappers Delight and Galactic Star but if he races up to his two huge performances in the series so far he should win and could even be close to favourite for the final should he draw well on Monday.   Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Mark Purdon appears to hold all the aces at Alexandra Park tonight but he admits he doesn't know how most of those cards will fall. Purdon starts his annual northern summer assault at tonight's meeting while partner Natalie Rasmussen is tearing up the Inter Dominions in Victoria with Cruz Bromac and Spankem. Purdon will have the favourite in four races tonight, with the hottest certain to be champion filly Princess Tiffany, who returns in race three. "Like any horse coming back she will be better for the run and that always makes them vulnerable but on class she should still win," offers Purdon. But things get a bit more complicated after that, with the All Stars having multiple runners in the other three races. The most obvious appears to be the opening event where a race fit Jesse Duke clashes with last season's leading juvenile Another Masterpiece. "I think Jesse is the better chance because he is fit and I don't think Another Masterpiece would want to be taking him on this early in his campaign." But the battle between top mares Dream About Me and Elle Mac in the Breeders Stakes may not be as obvious as it looks, even though Dream About Me finished third in the NZ Cup last start and is favourite for the Auckland Cup. "I think Dream About Me deserves to be favourite on what she has done but I worked them together the other day and the way Elle Mac sprinted up the straight right alongside her there might not be much in it. "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Elle Mac beat her." The standing start and racing luck could play the major role for not only Purdon's trio but all the big names in the $30,000 Summer Cup. The best performed horses like Jack's Legend are off 20m over 2200m and while that doesn't mean he can't win it does make him vulnerable to the tempo of the race especially if there are no mid-race moves and a 55-second last 800m off the front. Purdon says any of his trio Ashley Locaz, All U Need Is Faith or Sicario could win and the fact he has chosen to drive All U Need Is Faith over Sicario is not any guide to their chances. "They are all good four-year-olds who could win but the first thing is getting away safely and then who has the luck because I really can't choose between them." Add in On The Cards, Mach Shard, Northview Hustler and rejuvenated veteran Lets Elope and the race looks a beauty.   Michael Guerin

The man behind Kiwi trotting star Speeding Spur says he is as interested as everybody else to find out how the first mega clash of the series unfolds at Ballarat tonight.  Because trainer-driver Josh Dickie admits he doesn’t know whether he can beat leading Aussie hope Tornado Valley as the series moves into the second round of heats.  New Zealand-trained horses won three of the Inter Dominion heats on the opening night at Melton on Saturday, with Cruz Bromac and Spankem impressive in their pacing events and Speeding Spur dominant in his trotting one.  But while the Kiwi pacers will be favoured in two of the three pacing heats over the 1710m mobile at Ballarat tonight, the second trotting heat could be the clash of the night.   Speeding Spur and Tornado Valley were so impressive winning their first night heats it is hard to envisage one of the pair not winning the A$150,000 Trotting Final on Saturday week and punters get a sneak preview of that tonight.  While some would like to see the pair, who completely dominate the market for the final, kept apart until then to create suspense, that wouldn’t be fair on their rivals.  So they clash in the second trotting heat at 10.02pm (NZ time) tonight, with Speeding Spur having a potentially big advantage drawing barrier five while Tornado Valley will start from the outside of the front line at seven.  Both have gate speed, Tornado Valley’s probably slightly higher after his steady diet of Australian racing, but co-trainer Dickie knows what he has to do to beat his key rival.  “Obviously I want to stay in front of him from the draw,” admits Dickie.  “I think I can because my horse has good gate speed and we couldn’t have been happier with how he won on Saturday.  “He has been working really well, felt great in the race and I think his below par effort in the Dominion (two starts ago) was just an off day. “He has always loved it over here and seems happy to be back so we are confident.”The Dickies, Josh and his father John, are getting to see plenty of Tornado Valley as he is trained by Andy Gath, with who Speeding Spur is always stabled when he races in Victoria.  “He (Tornado Valley) is a lovely horse and we are no good thing to beat him,” says Dickie.  “So I suppose we are a bit like everybody else, keen to see how they match up against each other.  “But we have the advantage at the start and we will be doing our best to use it.”  Every Inter Dominion needs a wow race to set up the rest of the carnival and the early battle of the trotting series favourites could be just that, even though it will be hardly definitive as a Grand Final guide, with that group one next week over 2760m and the final’s draw probably just as important.  After tonight’s sprint heats it looks likely all three New Zealanders in the pacing series would have won at least one heat with It’s Pats Delight, who finished a brave second to Spankem on Saturday, drawn to get maximum points in his heat at 11pm. His task has been aided further by one-time series favourite Shadow Sax, who was drawn in the same heat as I’m Pats Delight, being scratched from tonight and the remainder of the series after pulling up sore after Saturday.  Cruz Bromac is a hot favourite in his heat, the final one tonight, but his $1.45 fixed odds price seems awfully short considering his second line draw.  “It is never easy to win sprint races off the second line because you really need them to slow up in the middle stages to get into the race otherwise you have to come wide late,” said trainer-driver Natalie Rasmussen.  So while he is vying for final favouritism, Cruz Bromac is too short to be betting big on tonight with luck such a factor.  Spankem races in the toughest heat of the night at 10.32pm (NZ time) and he would need to produce something special to win as he not only faces a second line draw but high class opponents in Wrappers Delight, San Carlo and Tiger Tara. Michael Guerin

An oversight from top trainer Tim Butt has ended his Inter Dominion pacing assault. And cost him A$1000 in the process. Butt had his two pacers Let It Ride and Italian Delight withdrawn from their heats at Ballarat on Tuesday and therefore the remainder of the series after he took blood off them today for a routine blood test.  Harness Racing Victoria rules forbid horses having any form of injection used on them for a clear 24 hours before raceday so stewards had little option but to scratch the pair.  The irony is Butt, who until last year trained with great success in Canterbury, actually told the stewards he had broken the rule.  “They rang me to ask how the horses were and I told them I had just taken a blood to have it tested to make sure they were fine,” said Butt.  “Then the told me I can’t do that and it dawned on me, no injections the day before the races even if it is extracting rather than putting anything into the horses.  “It is totally my mistake. I guess in the back of my mind I knew the rule but I honestly didn’t think about it.  “So I will have to cop that and apologise to the owners.” Stewards accepted their was nothing sinister in Butt’s actions and fined him A$1000.  The pair join local star Shadow Sax in being withdrawn from the series yesterday and leave the Kiwi pacing trio of Cruz Bromac, Spankem and I’m Pats Delight as three of maybe only six serious winning chances left for the A$500,000 final on Saturday week. Michael Guerin

Natalie Rasmussen had a surprise admission after dominating the opening night of the Inter Dominions. Rasmussen drove both Spankem and Cruz Bromac to win their pacing heats at Melton in Victoria, as good as confirming the pair will be in the A$500,000 final there on December 15. But while Cruz Bromac is first or second favourite for that final after his effortless heat win, Rasmussen says she is still not certain who she will drive in the final should they both make it. Spankem caused the biggest upset of the night when he overcame sitting parked to win the deepest heat of the three on Saturday, downing fellow Kiwi rep I'm Pats Delight in a repeat of their Kaikoura Cup quinella last month. Rasmussen, who trains both Spankem and Cruz Bromac with partner Mark Purdon, says there could be nothing between them come finals night. "I think Spankem is the horse who could improve the most in the series," says Rasmussen. "He is a fat little bugger and will keep getting better with the hard racing. Inter Dominions are funny things and a lot can happen in the two weeks because they race so often and then you have the barrier draw that comes into play. "But I really think there isn't much between our pair. Getting those two first night wins is crucial because it gives them valuable points and I couldn't be happier with how they came through their runs. "They ate every bit of feed last night and this morning and when I put them in their paddock this morning they took off like mad things. It is a case of so far, so good." Both Spankem and Cruz Bromac face tricky second line draws over sprint trips when the series moves to Ballarat for the next round of heats tomorrow night and Rasmussen warns that could make those races hard to win depending on the mid-race tempo. The big winner for tomorrow night has been I'm Pats Delight, who is not only in a weak heat but has the perfect draw at barrier two, so all three Kiwis are looking good to make the final. Tomorrow night's heats will see both first night trotting heat winners Speeding Spur and Tornado Valley clash, with the former drawing inside his biggest danger for the final. Their wins on Saturday mirrored each other and whoever comes out on top tomorrow could go a long way to securing pre-draw favouritism for the A$150,000 trotting final also on December 15. The last round of heats is at Cranbourne on Saturday night.   Michael Guerin

Tony Herlihy has been in this position enough times to know Lemond holds a big advantage over his stable star Temporale at Alexandra Park. Because while the group one-winning pair may be drawn alongside each other in the main trot, even the slight edge of Lemond having draw inside his arch rival should be enough to tip the sprint in his favour. Lemond and Temporale have one of New Zealand’s racing most unheralded rivalries, having bumped heads since their three-year-old days three seasons ago. They are so evenly matched after 18 clashes the score is nine-all, with the pair having quinealled five races so it doesn’t take much to tip the scale one way or the other. Temporale’s trainer Tony Herlihy admits in race four tonight it could be Lemond who holds the aces. The pair last met two weeks ago in the Dominion at Addington in which Lemond was a brave third and Temporale a battling ninth, with Herlihy disappointed in his big trotter even though he went into the race after a slight setback. But more importantly tonight is the fact Lemond has that slight draw advantage in a race where whoever can stay in front of the other looks set to dominate. “I know it might not seem like much but that gives him the advantage this week,” says Herlihy. “If we both trot off the gate safely then he might be able to get a better run so I think I’d favour him over my horse just slightly this week.”Add in promising up and comers in Massive Metro and Hey Yo and the trot looks the best race on a night which also features New Zealand’s first tote Monte trot.  While Herlihy, our most successful ever driver, won’t be saddling up for the Monte he likes the point of difference they provide and will be an interested spectator. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about them, I’ve seen them in Victoria and it is good to have something different.”  Away from Temporale his focus will be on trying to continue his strong start to the summer which sees him in a four-way tie as the leading North Island trainer, with 10 wins for the season so far. He expects to start the night well with Forget The Price Tag, a smart three-year-old trotter last season who looks headed further than most of his rivals in race one.  He has been solid rather than spectacular at recent workouts but if he trots all the way he should win. Herlihy rates Mr Yips in race five as his best chance of the night.  He looked talented against handy opponents last season, has matured and is trialing well so looks an anchor in the $40,000 turbo Pick6 spread between Alexandra Park and some good races at Addington. Michael Guerin

New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is out of the Auckland Cup.  And he will be joined on the sidelines for that December 31 classic by Ultimate Machete as the pair are instead aimed at Australian races in the New Year.  Trainer Mark Purdon will not enter the high-profile pair for the Alexandra Park feature when nominations close at 11am on Friday for different reasons.  Both horses have spent much of the last two weeks on the water walker at Stephen Boyd’s property and while Purdon is happy with their condition he thinks the Cup will come up too soon for Thefixer. “He had that time off to get his body over the New Zealand Cup win and we don’t want to rush him back,” said Purdon.  “To be ready for the Auckland Cup he probably would have needed to trial next week and I’d rather give him time, maybe go to the Cambridge Mile and then the Ballarat and Hunter Cups in Victoria and even on to the Miracle Mile.”Ultimate Machete missed the New Zealand Cup, for which he was the one-time favourite, and Purdon is reluctant to aim him at standing start races in the near future.  “He actually hurt himself when he galloped away one night and I wouldn’t want to risk that again because then his season could be over.  “So we will let him miss the Auckland Cup and look at the mobile races in Aussie.”  The Purdon-Rasmussen stable still has the two Auckland Cup favourites in Dream About Me and potential star Turn It Up while the likes of All U Need Is Faith, Ashley Locaz and Sicario are others who will be entered for the Cup.  The All Stars northern team arrives on Saturday and will also include Elle Mac for the Queen of Hearts, star three-year-olds Ultimate Sniper and Another Masterpiece and last season’s champion filly Princess Tiffany Michael Guerin

Don't bother asking Michelle Wallis why New Zealand's leading trotting stable would bother with Monte races, which have their historic first tote event of the modern era at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. Because for Wallis and husband Bernie Hackett, the question should be, why wouldn't they bother with them? Monte racing is a harness race, almost always for trotters, with the riders on top like jockeys and they are popular in Europe and Scandinavia as well as a point of difference in Victoria, Australia. While race eight at tomorrow night's meeting may only be a $6000 start to tote Monte racing in New Zealand for trainers like Wallis and Hackett, Jay Abernethy and Derek Balle, it is the culmination of a two-year battle to get to this stage. Wallis and Hackett have two in the race and while that means racing for far lesser stake money than usual at Alexandra Park, the benefits are three-fold. "For a start these races will have their own handicapping system so if a horse wins if doesn't affect their rating back in normal races," explains Wallis. "And we have found it really beneficial for some horses, it freshens them up and changes their attitude. "Some horses we try it with don't like it and we don't persist but a horse like Makarewa Jake, we gave him his first Monte trial last year when he was battling as a normal trotter and it turned him right around. "He came out and won his next sulky race." The other benefit is giving some horsepeople who for whatever reason don't drive in races the chance to ride in them, either rekindling or igniting an interest in harness racing. "When you have stablehands who work really hard and they want to experience racing but don't want to drive in races, then this is another way to keep them involved and give them that thrill, which is why a lot of people are involved with horses," says Wallis. "And we have seen that with the galloping people already involved in the Montes." For Wallis that person is her 17-year-old daughter Tyla, who will have her first tote ride tomorrow night. "She can't wait and that enthusiasm is infectious. I think they are a great thing for trotting, they are an international part of the industry and also something different." Alexandra Park is committed to a series of Monte races over the summer and Harness Racing New Zealand has established rules around who is eligible to ride, handicapping systems and even riding weights. Wallis says the latter is nowhere as important as in the enormously more competitive thoroughbred industry when a 5kg weight difference in jockeys is considered huge. "We have found the weight doesn't seem to matter too much as long as it is not a huge difference. "And with a horse like Majestic Ali we found she was more likely to trot throughout in a Monte even though she was galloping in normal races because of the extra weight over her shoulders keeping her down." Montes can have a reputation for being messy affairs until the horses gain experience but they are also a popular export product to countries like France, where New Zealand harness racing needs to start tapping into its next overseas revenue stream. So who wins the first tote Monte in New Zealand? "To be honest, both ours have a chance but the one to beat might be Show Of Faith. From the trials I have seen she has grown a leg since they put the saddle on her," says Wallis. SADDLING UP • Monte racing is harness horses, usually trotters, competing under saddles with riders like jockeys. • It is popular in France and Scandinavia and has been running in Victoria, Australia, for several years. • Tomorrow night's tote race at Alexandra Park will be the first of its kind in New Zealand in the modern era.   Michael Guerin

The leading Kiwi hopes have been big winners in the draws for the opening rounds of the Inter Dominions at Melton on Saturday. So much so that star pacing chance Cruz Bromac and leading trotter Speeding Spur both look set to start long odds on in their first night heats. Seven horses, three pacers and four trotters will represent New Zealand as the Inter Dominion returns to Victoria and the trotting series makes a comeback after a six-year absence. While this year's series is lacking a champion like last season's Inter hero Lazarus, the Australian team is also short of some big names, meaning while down in absolute class, both series have an even look to them. And the opening night should see a big points haul for the most favoured New Zealand contenders. NZ Free-For-All winner Cruz Bromac has opened $1.45 favourite for the final pacing heat of the night, which is by far the weakest, evidenced by the fact former Kiwi pacer Cash N Flow is the clear second favourite at $4.50, with the Tim Butt-trained Let It Ride the $6 third choice from one on the second line over the sprint trip. The opening pacing heat will see Tiger Tara (barrier four) and Wrapper's Delight (two) battle for favouritism in a heat where Spankem (five) and Pat's Delight (nine) could be racing for first-night points rather than a win. Pat's Delight could at least settle handy as he follows out the fast-beginning Wrappers Delight. Speeding Spur opened $1.35 favourite for the first trotting heat after drawing ideally at barrier two and being able to avoid series favourite Tornado Valley, who has drawn barrier six in the second heat. Monty Python has barrier five in the Speeding Spur heat, while Wilma's Mate (one) and Alderbeck (four) contest the Tornado Valley heat. The series has heats at Melton on Saturday, Ballarat next Tuesday and Cranbourne the following Saturday before the two finals, A$500,000 for the pacers and A$150,000 for the trotters, are staged at Melton on Saturday, December 15. Meanwhile, New Zealand already has a major transtasman series winner in harness racing, with Sheree Tomlinson bolting away with the Australasian Young Drivers Championships in Queensland over the weekend.   Michael Guerin

Two of the most promising pacers in the north should provide punters with a Pick6  kick start at Alexandra Park tonight. After the highs of Cup week in Christchurch last week tonight’s meeting and the grass track fixture at Geraldine tomorrow give harness punters a more relaxed vibe before the Inter Dominions kick off in Victoria next week and the Alexandra Park summer carnival starts to pick up momentum. But that doesn’t mean tonight’s meeting lacks class. On The Cards (R6, No.6) headlines a smart field while Revolver (R4, No.8) looks one of the sharper lower grade pacers in the north and a horse who could end up in the better four-year-old races at the back end of the season. Revolver is unbeaten in two starts for trainer Tony Herlihy and while he hasn’t raced since April he has looked very sharp and even stronger than last season in his two recent workout wins. “I am happy with where he is at and even though he has a wide draw he feels very forward,” says Herlihy. “But it is hard to be confident from the draw.”Revolver does however come into tonight’s first leg of Pick6 with a reputation and would seem a horse most rivals drivers would be happy to trail should Herlihy choose to use him early. On The Cards was used plenty early last start but was stunning winning in a far easier grade and looks Barry Purdon’s next good open class horse.  He broke 3:20 for 2700m mobile last start and while he meets a better field tonight he has a big advantage in the draws over stablemate Mach Shard while the scratching of potential early leader Tennyson Bromac suggests On The Cards could end up in front, from where he should win.  The southern harness focus is on Geraldine for one of the first grass track country cups of the summer and brings together some serious Cup week players, none more so than Alta Maestro and Forgotten Highway.  Alta Maestro was brilliant winning in the intermediate grade last Friday but Forgotten Highway was a luckless eighth in the New Zealand Cup and his earlier form suggest he is a real open class force, particularly away from the absolute elite so he is the horse to beat. Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s Inter Dominion assault could swell to six after a couple of surprise additions. The annual trans tasman harness racing series returns to Victoria on Saturday week and has the added bonus of the return of the trotting series, which was last held in 2012. Both series will consist of three rounds of heats spread across Victoria and 2760m mobile finals at Melton on December 15 but the series, like last week’s New Zealand Cup, has been hit by the extraordinary number of injuries, retirements and overseas sales in the open class ranks this year. But while a brutal Cup week in Christchurch last week suggested New Zealand could have only two or three reps in the Inters, that number could double. Yesterday was the day many trainers sat down, dusted themselves off and planned the rest of the summer and one of the big winners has been the Auckland and Cambridge summer carnivals, with some of the industry’s glamour names staying home. That will include Thefixer, Dream About Me, Jack’s Legend, Turn It Up, Chase Auckland, Eamon Maguire and Elle Mac in the pacing ranks while Temporale, Lemond and Woodstone will also be coming north rather than heading to Melbourne.  Ultimate Machete, who missed Cup week with a hoof problem, has been on the water walker for the last week and co-trainer Mark Purdon will check on his progress before confirming an Auckland Cup campaign. That leaves the All Stars with Cruz Bromac as their confirmed Inter Dominon pacing hope with the option that Spankem could join him.  “We are still finalising a few different things and will firm everything up later in the week,” said Purdon.  While speedster Star Galleria is out of the Inters and will need a minor surgery, one surprise addition to the Kiwi pacing team could be Pat’s Delight. The Jewels winner has been both luckless and impressive over the last month and trainer Cran Dalgety is leaning toward going to Melbourne as the Inter Dominion final  could be no stronger than the Auckland Cup. “I am talking to the owner about it and he gets the final call but I am keen to go,” says Dalgety. In the trotting series Speeding Spur was always likely to go and after jogging out soundly for trainers John and Josh Dickie on Monday morning he will be in the series barring anything unforseen happening this week And he could be joined by two slightly unexpected fellow Kiwis in Alderbeck and Monty Python. Their trainer Phil Williamson says the Inter trip is on with the pair, who both had no luck in the Dominion last Friday. “I think they are both good enough to go to the series, make the final and get some money in it so we are keen,” says the champion trainer of trotters. But with driving sons Nathan, Brad and Matthew so busy at home, Williamson could be on the lookout for an Australian driver for the pair. Speeding Spur is rated the most likely New Zealand winner of one of an Inter final at $3.80 in most markets, while Tiger Tara heads many Inter Dominion pacing markets although Cruz Bromac could continue to shorten after his NZ Free-For-All win last Friday and once his participation in the series becomes more certain. Other plans for some of the big names from Cup week see three-year-old star Ultimate Sniper coming north for the Sales Series Pace at Alexandra Park on December 31 buy intermediate grade speed machine Alta Maestro will stick to a South Island standing start race programme for now to continue to educate him.   Michael Guerin

Clint Ford's greatest moment in the sulky might also be his last on raceday. Because the Canterbury part-timer suggested he might give up driving after Marcoola's magical win in yesterday's $300,000 Dominion at Addington. The magnificent squaregaiter came from third last with a sustained burst of brilliance to smash our best trotters, clearing out before the top of the straight and winning effortlessly. Marcoola is officially trained by Ford's father Ken, giving him one of the most unlikely doubles in trotting history after he won the Dominion last season with 90-1 chance Amaretto Sun. But it is Clint who does most of the training and all of the driving of the former age group star, even against his better judgment sometimes. Ford rarely drives other horses and has been his own harshest critic at times during Marcoola's career. So after his beautifully-timed surge to victory yesterday he suggested he might give up the driving game. "That might be it for me, I am only a part-timer and I might not drive anymore," he said. Yesterday's win in our biggest trotting race was only the 29th of Ford's driving career and having climbed the mountain it wouldn't surprise to see him keep his word and hand the reins on Marcoola to niece and high-class reinswoman Sheree Tomlinson. But for now the Ford and Tomlinson family can enjoy having back-to-back winners in their version of the New Zealand Cup because to trotting people the Dominion is the ultimate goal. They won't be chasing the other great trotting prize, the Inter Dominion in Melbourne next month, though as Marcoola was not nominated for the series. That would suggest he is likely to come north to contest the rich trots at Alexandra Park and Cambridge and finally live up to his enormous potential. When Marcoola emerged as a 3-year-old and then challenged Monbet as a 4-year-old he looked a superstar in the making but the next 18 months of his career had more lows than highs. But a long spell last season has seen him return bigger and stronger and yesterday's run suggests at his best he is the premier trotter in Australasia. While Marcoola's dominance was so complete there was no point making any excuses for the others, there was plenty to admire about the booming late run from Aussie raider Kyvalley Blur for second while Lemond was vastly improved on his first-day performance to hold third. But favourite Speeding Spur might have been feeling his first-day win in the Free-For-All as he performed slightly below his best in fourth place. Michael Guerin

Aussie warhorse Tiger Tara could find himself facing the same problem at Addington today that he did three days ago. But if he doesn’t, then he should win the $200,000 New Zealand Free-For-All. The big black stallion wowed fans and even rival trainers with his huge second in the New Zealand Cup after sitting parked before just going down to Thefixer, who used the passing lane to grab him. Tiger Tara has what looks to be the worst possible draw at barrier nine, the outside of the front line, in today’s 1980m mobile pace but has real gate speed and should be across most of his rivals early should driver Todd McCarthy want. But that still leaves him with the same problem as he faced on Tuesday — the likelihood he could be left parked outside a Purdon-Rasmussen horse. The most likely is Cruz Bromac, who will relish the return to the mobile and blasted to the lead to win the Len Smith Mile at Menangle over the winter. If driver Natalie Rasmussen chooses to use that speed he could lead again and then the whole question of the race may be whether she lets Tiger Tara assume the pacemaking role or not. If he leads then it is hard to imagine him beaten unless the passing lane horse, a Cruz Bromac or Jack’s Legend, got him for raw speed. But his $2.70 fixed odds quote does look appealing because if he was drawn better he would be closer to $2 and that may not be the huge factor it looks at first glance.   Michael Guerin

New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is staying home — not just from the Inter Dominions in Australia but from Addington on Friday too. Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were expected to decide on Wednesday between the Inter Dominion series which begins in Victoria on December 1 and starting Tuesday’s NZ Cup winner in the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on Friday. In the end, they decided on neither. “He was a tired horse, as you might expect, after the Cup and the best thing for him now is an easy time,” said Purdon. “So we will let him miss the free-for-all and while we thought about the Inters I don’t think he needs to be part of that series just yet. “So he will stay here, get ready for the Auckland Cup (December 31) and if we decided to go to Aussie later it will be more likely to target a one off race, like a Hunter Cup.” A similar northern programme also beckons stablemate Dream About Me, who finished third in the Cup and will miss both Friday and the Inter Dominion to be aimed at the Queen of Hearts at Alexandra Park on December 14 and then the Auckland Cup, which she won two years ago. “If she wins the Queen of Hearts it has the bonus of qualifying her for the Ladyship Mile in Sydney later in the summer,” explains Purdon. “I watched the Cup video again and saw just how hard she tried on Tuesday. She went great but I don’t want to back her up.” The All Stars, who won a remarkable eight races from nine they contested on Tuesday, are still likely to have Inter Dominion runners headed by Cruz Bromac with others like Spankem and All U Need Is Faith also possible chances. But while impressive intermediate grade pacer Turn It Up has been thrown into the big time in the $200,000 Free-For-All on Friday he is a very unlikely Inter Dominion contender. Cup runner-up Tiger Tara has again been savaged by the draw for the free-for-all, drawing the outside of the gate at barrier nine while the big winner was Jack’s Legend with barrier one. Tuesday’s group one trot hero Speeding Spur has secured his second perfect draw of the week in the $300,000 Dominion, New Zealand’s richest trot in which he will start from barrier four. That is made even more fortuitous by the fact most of the other pre-draw favourites, Marcoola, Great Things Happen, Kyvalley Blur and Temporale, have drawn the second line, suggesting they will all be giving Speeding Spur a start. Michael Guerin

The New Zealand Trotting Cup doesn’t cut in half. And Thefixer and Tiger Tara won’t receive the same prize money for the bravery at Addington yesterday. But while only the former will have his name etched on the most famous trophy in New Zealand racing, the latter shared the glory in a $800,000 thriller. Thefixer at just his 16th start held off the Australian iron horse in a pulsating finish, one that confirmed no matter how many stars are missing the New Zealand Trotting Cup is that rare equine contest that always produces a fairytale. But this fairytale has two heroes. Thefixer overcame soreness just six weeks ago which threatened to derail his Cup campaign and then recorded the second fastest time in the history of the great race, only his former stablemate Lazarus having gone faster two years ago. Lazarus was all muscle and flash, the bully who taunted his Cup rivals with an arrogant 10-length win. But this time trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen had to earn their Cup, cajoling Thefixer back to his best because only his best would do. After a dreaded false start he got the second attempt right then led and trailed Dream About Me. From there it was his race to lose but lose it he almost did. Because while Thefixer was enjoying the perfect run for driver Rasmussen, Tiger Tara came three wide to sit parked and break the seemingly unbreakable Dream About Me in front. At the 200m mark he looked set to produce one of the gutsiest Cup wins in history only for Thefixer to rally, an equine Rocky Balboa defying the bigger, strong Apollo Creed. Every centremetre Rasmussen saved on the marker pegs made the difference but the runner up was so magnificent it almost felt like their were two Cup winners. The magnificence of Tiger Tara in defeat doesn’t detract from what the winner achieved though. This was, after all, just his 16th start and Thefixer hadn’t come through the glamour of age group races and has earned his stripes in the big time the old fashioned way. Being so untapped and new his options are numerous, with Purdon and Rasmussen to sit down today and decide whether he heads to the Inter Dominion in Victoria starting December 1, a decision which will impact on whether he starts in the NZ Free-For-All this Friday. “He is a very brave horse because he was out on his feet at the top of the straight but he just kept coming,” said Rasmussen, who joins Kerryn Manning as only the second female driver to win the Cup. One horse certain to be in both the Free-For-All and at the Inter Dominion is Tiger Tara, who greatness isn’t in his raw ability but in the organ beating under his rib cage. He quite simply covered lengths more than the other placegetters and produced a run that would have won more than 100 of the NZ Cups run since the first in 1904. “He was great. There really isn’t a lot more he could have done,” said driver Todd McCarthy. “I thought I had them once I got past Dream About Me but the other little horse just wouldn’t go away.” On a day where the Purdon-Rasmussen team won a scarcely believable eight out of the nine races they contested they may have unearthed their next champion in Ultimate Sniper in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes. He came from the second line to sit parked and record a searing time to remain unbeaten after four starts, suggesting if he can hold together he could even be the best horse in the all-conquering stable in 12 or 18 months. On any normal day his supersonic effort would have earned him skiting rights for the meeting. But not yesterday. Yesterday he has to share that with Cup winner. And the Cup runner-up. Michael Guerin

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