Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 192
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

Night three of an Inter Dominion is about two things: motivation and reality. Because while of connections of the 44 horses still in the series all basically want the same thing at Alexandra Park tonight — victory — what they need is different. Probably two thirds of the qualifiers for Saturday week’s $500,000 pacing final are set in stone barring huge form reversals in tonight’s final round of heats, with six to eight rivals chasing the last four slots. In the trotting series there looks to be seven winning chances for their $150,000 final and they are all as good as in the group one already. Of course everybody would like another win tonight, such the nature of competitive sport and the Interdoms can be an expensive time off the track so money comes in handy. But there are still differing levels of motivation going into tonight’s four heats. Some have to get good points otherwise their series is over. Others know they are in the final and that is where reality kicks in. Take A G’s White Socks for example. He has been incredible in this series for trainer Barry Purdon and driver Maurice McKendry and both would love him to clean sweep the series. But he is obviously safely in the final and tonight is in a heat where two New Zealand Cup winners in Cruz Bromac and Thefixer are expected to lead and trail. Purdon is adamant barrier two on the second line is perfect for A G’s White Socks because he should be midfield on the outer without having to work. But is McKendry really going to take off and attack potential Thefixer, knowing he almost certainly won’t beat him if he does? And if he does break him doesn’t that just make him vulnerable to Cruz Bromac, let alone give A G’s White Socks a headache a week out from the a final worth almost 17 times more than tonight’s race? Sure, they want to win. But the reality is he may not be able to if the race pans out as many think and it might be silly to try and find out. The same could apply, although not quite as dramatically, to Majestic Man in the last trotting heat. He has been sensational during this series but can’t lead from the second line so why would Brad Williamson send him mid-race to attack Winterfell or Massive Metro, potentially giving him a gutbuster for no profit. In a smaller field he can still win but in a race likely to lack tempo his odds will be too short. On the flip side of that coin are horses like Bling It On, San Carlo and Classie Brigade, who need to move and get forward before the sprint goes on, wanting at least top-six finishes to qualify for their finals. They have motivation to be in the finish, even if they can’t win. Motivation plus reality in the final round of heats of an Inter Dominion over 2700m, equals back those who can win without flattening themselves. Oh, and Ultimate Sniper, who the normal rules don’t seem to apply to just now.   By Michael Guerin

Natalie Rasmussen is happy to admit she was wrong. Because being wrong might just win her next week’s $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. Driving an Inter Dominion winner would be nothing new for Rasmussen, she partnered Blacks A Fake to win four of them even before she joined partner Mark Purdon to set up their super stable. That stable now dominates the market for the pacing final on Saturday week, with five of the six favourites, only series surprise package A G’s White Socks crashing their party. But while the All Stars being favourites to win any big race is hardly a surprise both Rasmussen and Purdon were adamant just six days ago that Cruz Bromac was their best chance of winning the series. Not any more. “Yeah, the order has changed,” says Rasmussen. “Not that Cruz has done anything wrong because he hasn’t but Sniper has really stepped up. “We went into the series with a little question mark over how he would handle the right handed track but he has been perfect. “And you find in a series like this some horses love it, they love the high pressure racing. “He has been that horse in this series. When he won on Tuesday night once he got a head of steam up he just kept going. “I think it has taken us until this stage of his campaign to get him really fit and to be honest I have a suspicion, with him being a rig, he might have been pinching himself a month or so ago when he was doing things wrong. “But at the moment he is exactly where he needs to be.” For most horses the second line barrier draw Ultimate Sniper faces in his 2700m mobile heat tomorrow night would be a market cooler but has has spent much of the series three wide so Rasmussen doesn’t bat an eyelid over giving away a start tomorrow night. “He will probably go sit parked if he can’t get the lead and he will love it there. “So he is now our top chance, as everybody has probably seen.”Ultimate Sniper is the $2.4 favourite to win the final and if he wins tomorrow night what barrier he draws on Sunday will determine whether he starts odds-on for the final. The pacing series’s other unbeaten star A G’s White Socks also faces a second line draw in the later heat tomorrow but his task is enormously more difficult than Ultimate Sniper because Cruz Bromac (2) and Thefixer (4) are ideally drawn to control the race. Thefixer has been luckless in both starts in the series but Rasmussen says that will be an advantage tomorrow night. “He hasn’t had the hard runs some of the other horses have and he will be ready to do some work,” she says. “He has hit the line really well both nights and he has to go close on Friday."The pacing final is probably two-thirds finalised with those sitting between 9th and 15th on the points table scrapping out the last spots in the 12-strong field, with the most market relevant horse on the cusp being Bling It On, who goes into tomorrow night 13th equal and needing to leapfrog a couple of rivals. He should and will probably join My Kiwi Mate and San Carlo as the Australians in the final. The trotting series is more even, with probably seven horses still given realistic winning chances in the $150,000 final on Saturday week.   By Michael Guerin

Craig Demmler says the door to the Inter Dominion final is ajar, My Kiwi Mate just has to pace through it. And the 2700m of the final round of heats for the series at Alexandra Park on Friday night gives him in the perfect chance to do just that. My Kiwi Mate all but earned his spot in the A$500,000 final with his third placing on Tuesday night and he goes into Friday seventh on the points ladder with 19, giving him a huge buffer over the 13th equal pair of On The Cards and Bling It On, who sit on 13 points and at the moment tied for the emergency spot. That would suggest My Kiwi Mate could run seventh or even eighth on Friday night but Victorian horseman Demmler isn’t thinking too far ahead. “Sure, I’d love to make the final but I don’t want to be worrying about it too much cause we can’t control how the others go. “But we are a long way toward the final and he loves the series racing.” Demmler says the step up to 2700m for the final round of heats and the final will suit My Kiwi Mate, he just wishes he had more distance races to aim him at in Victoria. “He loves following a good speed and he gets a better drawn than some of those others who need points. “So getting into the final is the first thing and we will take anything else as a bonus. “We all know how hard it is going to be to beat a horse like Ultimate Sniper because he is flying but I think on our Victorian form we aren’t far behind Cruz Bromac.”Demmler is loving the series at his good friend Barry Purdon’s property, where some of the big guns of the series are also stationed. Depending on results on Friday night it is very possible five of the pacing Grand Final 12 could come from Purdon’s property as well as Marcoola for the trotting final. “I just love being here for the series, it is iconic,” says Demmler. “This is why we train horses, to come away and race the best and spend time with good friends and make new ones.” The series did however start on a sad note for Demmler, with his uncle Rodney passing away last Friday. “Rodney was in the horses early doors but got out of racing to drive trucks and he was a great guy,” remembers Demmler. “He was a very different guy from Dad (Ted, Rodney’s brother). Louder and more of a party guy. “I got the call from Dad before the heats last Friday to tell me he had passed and it really knocked me. "So I’d love to make the final to give the family something to cheer about.”   Michael Guerin

Brad Williamson might have missed his plane on the way to the Inter Dominions last night but he still got the chance to fly. Because the Oamaru driver and Majestic Man were airbourne in their heat of the trotting series as they threw down the gauntlet to their rivals with a stunning all-the-way win. After some brilliant but luckless performances at Alexandra Park in the past, Majestic Man was able to find the front last night and Williamson, driving for his trainer father Phil, barely looked around as Majestic Man controlled the 1700m mobile before racing clear of Habibi Inta, Massive Metro and Winterfell. Williamson knows he is lucky to have a serious Inter Dominion winning chance at such a young age but he was also lucky just to be in Auckland at all. “I missed my first plane out of Dunedin but it wasn’t my fault,” Williamson sheepishly said after the win. “I tried to check in and there was nobody at the counters and then nothing went right. “I was lucky to get here at all because there was only one seat on the next plane, otherwise I was going home to watch.” Majestic Man’s gate speed is going to be a handy weapon come the $150,000 final on Saturday week but he has also been superb when coming with one run in races like the Rowe Cup so he has plenty of strings to his bow. The second trotting heat last night, and fourth overall, went to Temporale who has re-emerged after trainer Tony Herlihy struggled to pin down soreness issues which bothered him last season. Almost at his wits end Herlihy sent the former Rowe Cup winner out to friends Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett to beach train and they have worked the oracle, with Temporale having been faultless this campaign. He was beaten off the gate last night but soon retook the lead and held the sizzling late run from Marcoola while Paramount King showed his first night win was no fluke his a massive third.   ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE It is going to take a very good horse to deny Ultimate Sniper the Inter Dominion Pacing title in 10 days time. That was the booming message the four-year-old sent to his rivals in the strongest pacing heat last night when he was again three wide for much of the race yet still beat stablemate Cruz Bromac. His win mirrored his stunning first night run when he was three wide for 1400m of his 2200m heat but last night was perhaps even more impressive as he was three wide the entire opening lap. That he could still surge clear at the top of the straight was a graphic example of his incredible stamina and he should only be better over 2700m in Friday night’s last round of heats and the final. Cruz Bromac would have lost few fans in second, with stewards questioning Mark Purdon over failing to hold the parked out position at the 500m mark, with the inquiry being adjourned. Earlier in the night A G’s White Sock continued his remarkable form turnaround since joining Barry Purdon just a week ago when he powered to the lead and was then too good for Chase Auckland. The night was a mixed bag for the Australians though, with Colt Thirty One all but out of the series after being trapped wide and dropping out but My Kiwi Mate, San Carlo and Bling It On still have hopes of making the final. The fields for the final round of heats will be out early this afternoon.   by Michael Guerin

Race 5, 8.20pm, Third pacing heat, 1700m mobile: After the gate speed he showed to lead on night one this looks Chase Auckland’s (1) race to lose. He set up a national record on Friday and comes into by far the weaker of the two heats tonight. If he can hold A G’s White Socks (3) at the start then he should win. The latter was outstanding on Friday and should be handy again, with even a small chance of leading, and is the logical threat. Qsld pacer Colt Thirty One (5) was never a chance coming from last on Friday but is a class horse and it wouldn’t stun to see him go forward hard early, even though he is maybe a better follower. He needs points so could light the race up but would need to be very quick to cross both those inside him. Thefixer (12) hit the line really well on Friday and might be coming right but would need to do something dramatic to win here, with Ashley Locaz (11) in a very similar situation. If the No.1 leads then My Kiwi Mate (9) has definite first four claims. Suggested bet: Chase Auckland should win but anchor him in quinella with A G's White Socks and Colt Thirty One.   Race 6, 8.52, Third trotting heat, 1700m mobile: Winterfell (5) was so good on the first night he picks himself. He has been a real trick to follow for the last 18 months but was strong to the line on Friday. Has better gate speed than many realise so could even go close to leading early. His win odds are short enough but wouldn’t surprise to see him win with Inter Dominions often being about who is spot on, which Friday suggested he might be. Majestic Man (3) sprinted brilliantly late on Friday and if he leads here will take some catching but he hasn’t won a race for a long time for a very good horse. Gets his chance to cross the No.1 here so can win. Habibi Inta (2) was a victim of circumstances on Friday night but hardly hit the line hard so he needs to step up here. He will need to be faster to lead but should at least sit handy which has been how he performs best so expect dramatic improvement. Massive Metro’s (9) draw looks bad but with the only other horse in the second line unruly he can get straight away from the inside and be midfield on the outer. He was very good on night one and could be storming home. Suggested bet: Majestic Man should lead or trail so gets his chance.   Race 7, 9.25pm, Fourth pacing heat, 1700m mobile: The best heat of the series so far and the chance for the Australians to bounce back. San Carlo (1) is a brave horse with maybe enough gate speed to hold the front, and if he does that should aid Bling It On (9), who could trail him. If San Carlo runs hard, which is his style, it is going to make it hard for Ultimate Sniper (7), whose best case scenario is probably being three wide to the breeze. He was nothing short of remarkable after being three wide for 1400m on Friday and might still be good enough to win. Cruz Bromac (8) was also very good on Friday and could turn this race on its head if, and it is a big if, he launches from the outside draw and crosses them all. But his price is short enough. Classie Brigade (5), Mach Shard (3) and Triple Eight (6) are all racing well but their place chances are probably the most realistic. Suggested bet: Back Ultimate Sniper and save on San Carlo.   Race eight, 9.53pm, Fourth trotting heat, 1700m mobile: Marcoola (1), barrier one and sprint trip, sounds very similar to night one where he was good without being scary good. While it looked like he was crossed easily by Temporale (3) on night one driver Sheree Tomlinson didn’t bustle him then but might let him roll more tonight. If he leads he should win but the $1.55 is short considering there is gate speed across the front line. Temporale (3) showed how fast he is early and peaked on his run late Friday but if he jumps to the front here will take plenty of catching. NSW trotter Tough Monarch (9) was too bad to be true on Friday so forgive that and could trail here but his fate lies in Marcoola’s gate speed. Paramount King (8) trotted a national record on Friday and had very high gate speed. Whether Joshua Dickie chooses to use it is the question. He may have surprised on Friday but he can win again.  Suggested bet: Temporale (3) looks a good each way bet.   Michael Guerin

What next from the yo-yo gang? That could be the question harness racing fans are quite fairly asking about our open class trotters heading into the second night of the Interdoms at Alexandra Park tomorrow. While the pacing series produced the largest tote upset of the opening night when A G’s White Socks’s $29.60 dividend just pipped Paramount King’s $28 return, the trotting series was more dramatic for those who didn’t finish in the money. The two horses who won the group ones during New Zealand Cup week just a fortnight earlier finished seventh (Tough Monarch) and sixth (Habibi Inta), leaving themselves in danger of missing the final on Saturday week. Both raced enormously below their group one form at their previous start but their respective trainers Rickie Alchin and Paul Nairn were happy with how they pulled up and are taking a turn the page attitude to tomorrow night. In reality, with only four days between heats they have little other choice. Their performances sums up the wildest start to a trotting season in memory where horses like Marcoola has gone from 12.5 length winners one start to finishing unplaced at their next. He gets the ace draw again tomorrow night and didn’t lose too many fans on night one but hardly gained any new ones so his $1.50 quote tomorrow night is more on record than current form. “I was happy enough with him after the big change of moving stables and think he will get better throughout the series as he settles in here,” said new trainer Barry Purdon. Just as dramatic was the form upswings of Paramount King and Winterfell in winning on night one. Paramount King was beaten 14 lengths in the NZ Trotting Free-For-All the start before when found to have a chest infection after but bounced back to set a new national record on Friday. Winterfell was so bad in the same free-for-all he was pulled out of the Dominion a few days later but was super impressive winning the second heat on night one with a sustained display of speed trotting, reminding us of the horse he was at three. Back then he looked a potential superstar in the making, winning the Sires’ Stakes, Northern Derby and Jewels, dominating a late-season crop that contained Sundees Son, Paramount King and Majestic Mac. But he has been the ultimate yo-yo since, his 15 starts since his Jewels wins bringing five wins but also six unplaced runs. He goes into tomorrow night with the momentum so crucial during Inter Dominion series and with his head back in the game might deserve favouritism for the final if he stays on song. The likes of Temporale, Massive Metro and Majestic Man are at least racing relatively consistently but for all their brave and sometimes brilliant placings they collectively have just one win in their last 22 starts. The upsets of night one’s trotting heats remarkably leaves McLovin still in contention for the final even after missing the first round with illness. He will have a private workout this morning to confirm he takes his place tomorrow night but his task is not as impossible as it first looked. But this trotting series may not come down to the best horse, simply the one who races closest to its best form.   Michael Guerin

R5, 8.04pm: First Trotting Heat, 2200m mobile.— Tactics will be crucial here because if Habibi Inta (4) runs to the front he should win after the way he destroyed the best trotters in the Dominion. Doesn’t have to lead to win but if he does lead it should be race over. That could put likely first leader Big Jack Hammer (1) in the trail and make him a logical chance while Massive Metro (5) is good enough to capitalise if there is more early pressure than expected, although the scratching of McLovin with a temperature yesterday seems to reduce the likelihood of a mid-race challenge. The blowout place chance is Valloria (4). Suggested bet: Habibi Inta to win.   R6, 8.33pm: First Pacing Heat, 2200m mobile.— Chase Auckland (3) hit peak form during the Cup carnival at Addington and races just as well here. Has decent gate speed on not a fast front line so should get to the marker pegs and have options. Ultimate Sniper (6) is not quite as daunting right-handed but if he leads or gets to control the race he can win but his fixed odds  look unders. Colt Thirty One (8) is a very good Qsld pacer who loves to follow a hot speed and could get that here is fellow Aussie rep San Carlo (5) attacks. Ashley Locaz (2) and even Solid Gold (1) have First4 chances while Our Uncle Sam (11) was brave here last Friday but in weaker company. Suggested bet: Chase Auckland to win, Colt Thirty One small saver.   R7, 9.03pm: Second trotting heat, 2200m mobile.— If the best version of Marcoola (1) turns up he should win. He clipped over a second off the national record for this trip last season and has a stunning sprint record. If he holds the front, and the withdrawal of Credit Master increases his chances of doing that, your only concern is a below-par performance. That scenario would put Majestic Man (9) in a perfect slot to run in the money while Tough Monarch (7) was very good both days at Addington and has enough gate speed to at least have a miracle shot of crossing the favourite. Temporale (5) is a force in this series but might need others roughed up tonight to win. The enigma is Winterfell (11) who isn’t the horse we all hoped he would be but the penny might drop one day. Maybe tonight, maybe never. Suggested bet: Marcoola to win but Majestic Man also a great fixed odds place bet with TAB paying back to fourth for the heats.   R8, 9.40: Second pacing heat, 2200m mobile.— Heat of the night and a lot will depend on whether the NSW pair of Atomic Red (1) and Bling It On (7) play nice or nasty. If Bling It On, a special horse, can run to the front over possible early leader Atomic Red then the race is his to lose. But, and it is a big BUT, if Atomic Red leads and stays there then Thefixer (9) gets a trail and maybe the confidence boosting run he needs after a ho-hum Cup week. If the tempo is fast early (that means a sub-41 opening 600m) then Cruz Bromac (10) is the most likely mid-race mover as he is in the zone. So much will be decided by how fast they pace that opening lap. Suggested bet: You could split bet the two favourites for a percentage profit but if you want one, Bling It On straight out.   By Michael Guerin

Most in-depth conversations with Paul Nairn about the minutiae of training trotters end up peppered with “I don’t understand, can you explain that.” So when you enquire n as to how freakish last-start Dominion winner Habibi Inta and stablemate Ronald J are heading into tomorrow night’s Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park you have to be prepared for the unusual. Habibi Inta thrashed the best trotters in the country and a couple of Aussies so pointlessly in the Dominion 13 days ago he only needs to near that form to win the opening heat of the Inters tomorrow night. If he races right up to that Dominion demolition the $2.20 TAB fixed odds will be an early Christmas present. So the good news for punters is Habibi Inta feels almost as good in his work this week as he did before the Dominion, thanks in no small way to the fact Nairn’s temporary northern base is close to the Glenbrook steel mill. Sorry, I don’t understand, can you explain that to me. “Because I needed to get some new top on the track I use when I stay up here because there are no horses trained here at the moment,” explains Nairn. “It used to be Bernie Hackett’s old place and it was well set up and then a galloping trainer was based here but nobody trains here any more so the track wasn’t the best. “So I ordered in a big load of top for the track and it was actually quite cheap to get it done because where we are is only 2kms from the steel mill where you buy the stuff from. “It is very good, like crusher dust so the track is better now.” That is handy, since a track is a fundamental part of training most horses and you don’t really want one of the favourites for the Interdoms short of work. Which Habibi Inta isn’t, cause Nairn was thrilled how he worked 3200m in 4:27 on Tuesday, work that felt close to his pre-Dominion training. “Well, it was close to 3200m. But I am not sure because I don’t really know how big the track is here,” says Nairn nonchalantly. Um, I don’t understand. “Well, the track is supposed to be 800m but I think it is 790, or maybe even 780m. I haven’t measured it yet. “But don’t worry about that. His work was very good and he feels right.“And the track is good, it has a little hill on it and my horses seem to love it.”So Ronald J worked well too then? “Actually no, I haven’t been working him. I just ride him.”Ok, you are going to have to explain that to me. “Well I worked him last Thursday and he worked really well so I decided to bring him up for the series to. “But I have been riding him rather that working him. Sometimes twice a day for about 20 minutes and it really makes them sweat. So he seems good.” So you never work your two Inter Dominion trotters together? “Well, I only brought one cart (sulky) up,” explains Nairn. Oh, that makes perfect sense then. Oddities aside the bottom line is both horses have travelled well, settled in and are eating well and Habibi Inta pleased the boss in trackwork on Tuesday. Which means the big horse must be trotting squarely, such an important factor for trotters and one that proves their all-important shoeing is spot on. “Yeah, he worked really well. But actually I worked him without shoes. “His other pair were wearing out so I worked him without them and then re-shod him after so he should be good to go for the whole series now.”
Um, ok. Actually, ah… no, don’t worry. Nairn seems to know what he is doing. He has since way before Call Me Now won him his first Inter Dominion back in 1995, a season in which he had only 40 starters for 22 winners. Because in Paul Nairn’s unusual little world, if they aren’t good enough or ready enough, they don’t start. So don’t sweat it. Just take the $2.20 tomorrow night and enjoy the ride.   ** Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn almost exclusively prepares trotters. ** He is one of the most respected trainers in Australasia with even his most successful peers often in awe of his feats and methods. ** All 344 of his career wins in New Zealand have been with trotters ** He has won trotting’s Triple Crown — the Inter Dominion Final, Dominion and Rowe Cup.   by Michael Guerin

If you are going to host an Inter Dominion trotting series you hope the best trainers in the business will turn up. This week they have. Training trotters is not for everybody, it is a game of patience, trial and error and plenty of heartbreak. But after bizarrely being canned back in 2012 the trotting series was re-born last year and they have provided some of the truly magical moments in Inter Dominion history. The series which starts at Alexandra Park tomorrow not only sees the current undisputed king of Australian trotting in Andy Gath, who trained last season’s Interdom winner Tornado Valley return to Auckland with McLovin but has at least one rep from the most successful trotting trainers in New Zealand’s recent history. Here are the domestic numbers, including wins recorded in partnerships, of the still active kings and queen of New Zealand trotting.-   599: Phil Williamson 351: Mark Purdon 344: Paul Nairn 307: Michelle Wallis 287: John Dickie 261: Tim Butt (now training in NSW) 250: Barry Purdon 132: Tony Herlihy   Michael Guerin

It is not every day the Inter Dominion Trotting favourite joins your stable a few days before the series.   But it is a case of so far, so good for Marcoola and new trainer Barry Purdon.   The exceptionally talented joined Purdon on Monday night after flying north from the Canterbury stables of regular trainer Ken Ford. And the big stallion has settled straight into his new home.   “He has been great, no hassle at all,” enthuses Purdon.   While he is well travelled Marcoola is a stallion and they can sometimes be stroppy or even sulky in new environments, so Purdon being happy with his initial look over the seven-year-old will comfort those taking the $1.90 to win his trotting heat on Friday night.   Purdon has confirmed while Marcoola is very much a family horse for the Fords he has arrived north for the series with no training instructions, as you might expect considering Purdon became the first trainer to 2500 domestic wins at Addington during Cup week.   “He seems happy here but I would also expect him to be more at home as the series continues as he gets more used to the place,” says Purdon.   Marcoola wasn’t the only newcomer to truck through Purdon’s front gate on Monday, with former Easter Cup winner A G’s White Socks having joined him for the series from the Greg Hope stable.   “He is a lovely looking horse and has come up in good condition, as you would expect from the Hopes.”   Regular drivers Sheree Tomlinson (Marcoola) and Ricky May (A G’s White Socks) will retain the drives on the pair for the series.   Purdon is happy with his long-time stable series reps of Mach Shard and On The Cards although both face tricky draws on Friday.   Purdon would have also had Ball Of Art in the series and was keen to start him had there been three heats and he was only withdrawn after the decision was made by the Inter Dominion Council to reduce the pacing series to two heats.   Michael Guerin

Steve Turnbull has driven over 3000 winners including the two most important races in Australia but he has called in the big gun for the Inter Dominions which start at Alexandra Park on Friday. And in the Turnbull family the big gun is Steve’s daughter Amanda. That is a considerable honour considering Dad has won a Miracle Mile and Inter Dominion Final with Smooth Satin, following on from his father Tony who won two Interdom Finals. But while Steve still drives and drives well, he just isn’t as good as Amanda and he knows it. “Ever since she was a kid starting out the horses just run for her,” says Turnbull. There is no hint of parental bias in that statement, it is relayed as a trainer talking matter-of-factly about the best driver for the job. “I don’t know why she is so good, I have never been able to work it out. “I will try and do the same things she does but it doesn’t work the same. “Even in track work or minor races she gets them humming along and you come up to her in the corner and think you have a chance and her ones lifts and finds another gear. “So she is a better driver than me. That much is clear.”  Amanda’s record proves it too, having won the NSW state driver’s premiership three times and she sits second on that ladder this season, her 117 wins putting her only five behind superstar steerer Luke McCarthy. Friday night she will partner both Conviction in the first Interdom pacing heat but more crucially Atomic Red in the second and the comeback pacer could be one of the most tactically important horses on opening night. A titanium-hard stayer at his best, Atomic Red has only had two starts back this season after his “buggered up knees” forced him off the track for a year. “He has horrible knees but he has never broken down and he has been very sound this time in,” assures Steve. “And he is getting fit now and has developed more gate speed. So I won’t be giving Amanda instructions from barrier one but he does tend to roll along pretty well.” What decision Amanda makes in the first 600m of the race could decide the fate of several favoured runners. If she wants to hold the front that greatly aids last season’s New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer who is drawn on her back and would mean favourites like Bling It On and Cruz Bromac could have to work during the run as they would have little chance of getting to the marker pegs. But if Atomic Red looks to trail the right horse, more than likely a favourite, then the complexion of the race changes and Thefixer could end up three back on the inside. And whoever assumed that pacemaking role could become the horse to beat. Dad Turnbull has no firm opinion on tactics and laughs that daughter Turnbull may not listen to him anyway. As for the perennial Inter Dominion concern about the Australian visitors handling the right-handed track, of which there are none in their homeland, Turnbull isn’t concerned. “I have worked him five or six times at my place right-handed and he has been fine and my track is only 550m,” he offers. The race is shaping as the heat of the night and potentially one of the most deciding of the series for which Cruz Bromac and Bling It On are the favourites. If one of that smashes the other, particularly Cruz Bromac coming off a second line draw, it could have huge market ramifications for the series which moves to 1700m heats next Tuesday and 2700m heats three nights later. The 2700m mobile pacing final for $500,000 is on December 14.    by Michael Guerin

The Inter Dominions may yet have three pacing heats when they kick off at Alexandra Park next Friday. But a betting person would be safer punting on two heats per night for both the pacers and the trotters when the series returns to Auckland for the first time in eight years. There was, somewhat surprisingly, more withdrawals from the trotting series than the pacers when second and effectively last payments were made at 11am Thursday, leaving 22 trotters and 26 pacers for the series. That guarantees two heats of 11 trotters, as was originally programmed for the opening nights of the series on Friday, with heats the following Tuesday and Friday. But the 26 pacing entries leaves officials with a decision to make: whether to hold three pacing heats as programmed, or reduce that to two? Splitting the 26 pacing entries into two heats of nine and one heat of eight is still possible or there could be attrition over the weekend that would possibly reduce the series to two heats per night of 12 starters. Officials from the Auckland Trotting Club and Harness Racing New Zealand will make their recommendations to the Inter Dominion Council who will ultimately make the final decision and that may not be until acceptance time Monday afternoon. But the need for a decision could be negated if one or even two more pacers pulls out before Monday’s acceptances. While a reduction to two heats would disappoint some who love the traditional Inter Dominion format of three rounds of three heats, in reality it could make for a great series. In recent years dividing the talent into three heats has resulted in some very dominant favourites and often uncompetitive racing. But if, and it is only an if at this stage, the pacing series reduces to two heats for this series they would likely have intruiging compositions. Two heats, if they were split on stable reps, would see three Purdon-Rasmussen horses in each, one for Robert Dunn’s stable, at least one from Steve Telfer and perhaps most importantly possibly four Australians in each heat.  While Purdon-Rasmussen horses can sometimes be too daunting for New Zealand drivers to park out or attack, that is often not the case with the Australians while the Dunn-trained horses aren’t scared to hold their own, as Classie Brigade proved in the Kaikoura Cup and NZ Free-For-All. One of those Australians in Bling It On has been the biggest market mover this week after the withdrawal of Spankem, moving into $4.80 second favouritism behind new favourite Cruz Bromac at $4.40. But the market has a very open feel to it and the outright favourite for the $500,000 final on December 14 may not be clear until after the barrier draw around noon on December 8. The trotting series has three Australian entries but Marcoola, after the news he will join the Barry Purdon stable on Monday, is now the $3.50 favourite ahead of Habibi Inta at $4 and Tough Monarch at $4.40.   Michael Guerin

The fact Solid Gold is talented enough to be heading to the Inter Dominions next week suggests he should win the main pace at Alexandra Park tonight. But the fact he is going to the Inter Dominions, which start next Friday, is why co-trainer Tate Hopkins is issuing punters with the slightest of warnings ahead of tonight's $25,000 mobile. Hopkins is only 28 and understandably excited about he and trainer partner Frank Cooney having a representative when the Inter Dominion returns to Auckland for the first time in eight years next week. "That has been his big aim and we and excited because you don't get these opportunities very often," says Hopkins. "He is a pretty good horse and on his home track so we are hoping we can qualify him for the final. That is the first aim and we will see what happens from there." Solid Gold is under-rated, having rarely dipped his hoof into the big time, but his happy place is mobile racing around Alexandra Park, perfect for the Inters and for tonight. He has won his last three mobile starts at The Park, cruising a 1:53.6 mile four starts ago but has had to cop handicaps in standing starts in his next three races, recording slick times without a lot of luck. Tonight he meets a couple of other Interdom contenders in Australian pacer Our Uncle Sam and Dance Time but with his gate speed could well settle in front of them and be the horse to beat. "But he isn't screwed down," warns Hopkins. "Obviously he has a lot of racing in front of him, four races in two weeks coming up, so he is fresh going in this and will improve. "We gave him 10 days off after his latest start and we are hoping he can win this race but he will definitely improve. "But we will leave the tactics up to James [Stormont, driver]." If Solid Gold was able to use his gate speed to lead he would probably win but a hard-running rival like Mr Kiwi, who can afford to empty the tank tonight as he doesn't have the Interdom carrot next week, could make life tricky drawn inside him. The interesting newcomer to Alexandra Park tonight is Our Uncle Sam, whose New Zealand campaign so far could barely have gone worse. While he has to overcome a right-handed debut tonight and barrier eight, he is the horse who finished second to Tiger Tara in the Inter Dominion final and Hunter Cup last season so his form line is by no means indicative of his ability. Back to a mobile tonight and with Tony Herlihy doing the driving it wouldn't surprise to see him return to something like his best and he could win without shocking. Herlihy has one of the favourites in race six with talented trotter Forget The Price Tag returning but he faces a 35m handicap, a mark made even more difficult by having 11 rivals standing in front of him. "He is well but we all know how hard it can be here [Alex Park] off a big handicap fresh up," said Herlihy. Regardless of what happens in the Inter Dominions, the Cambridge club has come up with a smart idea to attract Australians to their two huge sprint races in the weeks after. The club will provide free air travel back to Australia for the first Australian-trained horse home in both their Trotters Flying Mile on December 24 and their feature race for the year, the Pacers Flying Mile in January 10.   Michael Guerin

The old phrase a week is a long time in racing rarely applied more painfully than to Miracle Mile winner Spankem. Last week he was favourite for every harness race matters in the next three months. Today he is out of racing for the summer. The outstanding pacer was rolled late in last Tuesday’s New Zealand Cup by stablemate Cruz Bromac and then luckless when forced to sit parked in the NZ Free-For-All, so a Cup week to forget compared with the back end of last season where almost everything went perfectly. But things went from frustrating to far worse this week when the millionaire pacer was diagnosed with a fetlock issue that will see him miss the rest of the summer, starting with the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park tomorrow week. The long-time favourite for the series, which looked ideal for him with his gate speed and group one winning form on the right-handed track, Spankem won’t only miss that but the Auckland Cup on December 31 and the Australian riches in the New Year, including his Miracle Mile defence. While he was beaten fair and square last week and was no certainty to win the rich races that lie ahead, Spankem’s ability to race handy and the fact he never goes a bad race suggest even moderate luck could have seen him pick up another $500,000 this summer. Sadly for his connections and futures punters he will now spend summer with the sun on his back and a belly full of grass. “It is gutting but we still have a horse and hopefully lots to look forward to,” says part-owner Ken Breckon.  Spankem’s withdrawal from the Interdoms saw markets closed and when they re-opened New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac is the new favourite in one of the most open series in years. He will be one of the six pacing reps in the series for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, joined by Ultimate Sniper, Chase Auckland, Another Masterpiece, Ashley Locaz and Thefixer. They dominate the market but they don’t have the fear factor of All Stars champions like Lazarus and the Australian visitors for the series will be growing in confidence. The Aussie pacing team has grown to eight with Sicario now confirmed and it is looking increasingly like their will only be two pacing heats of potentially 12 runners on all three nights to decide the dozen who qualify for the $500,000 final on December 14. Futures punters should also note Spankem isn’t the only group one star from the Purdon-Rasmussen stable to miss the carnival, with Princess Tiffany not coming north for the Queen Of Hearts. “She has only been back in work for three weeks after racing at the Breeders Crown and was never going to be ready for that,” says Rasmussen. That suggests Barry Purdon holds a mortgage on that group one, also on December 14, as he now has both favourites Belle Of Montana and Wainui Creek. While the pacing series has lost its favourite the news is better for the trotting series, with both Marcoola and McLovin getting the green light. Marcoola has passed an endoscopic examination to prove he has taken no harm from his Dominion failure last Friday and he will fly north on Monday and join the Barry Purdon stable. McLovin suffered an attack of the thumps in the same race but pleased trainer Andy Gath in his work yesterday morning and is on track for the series. The final payments for the Inter Dominion are at 11am on Friday and will determine whether it consists of four heats per night (two pacing and two trotting) or whether either gait can stretch to three heats per night.   Michael Guerin

One of the favourites for the Inter Dominions is set for a dramatic late stable change before the series which starts in Auckland next week. But Marcoola will have to pass a veterinary examination today before his move to Hall of Fame trainer Barry Purdon is confirmed. The national trot mile record holder will join Purdon for the series and possibly the entire summer if a endoscopic examination shows him to be clear of any issues after a disappointing performance in the $300,000 Dominion at Addington last Friday. Marcoola lead and faded from the 400m in the group one and even allowing for the solid tempo he still performed well below his best. That has led to today’s examination, or scope as it is commonly referred to, in which Marcoola will be fast worked and have his airways checked immediately after. "There have been a few horses down here struggling with a virus which is hard to detect,” says unofficial co-trainer Clint Ford. “We are not saying that was the problem last Friday but we want to check it out  before we head north to make sure.” If he does come north Marcoola will join Barry Purdon and be trained wholly by him for the series which begins at Alexandra Park on Friday week. “We are too busy down here with my work and other things to be away for five or six weeks, which is what it would be until the National Trot (December 31). “So we have asked Barry to take him over so he has horses to work with, because when you work him by himself he can go a bit crazy. “I will pop up and see him but if he goes to the series, which he will if be is virus-free, then Barry will be in charge.” Sheree Tomlinson, the grand daughter of Marcoola’s trainer Ken Ford, will retain the drive in the series. With exceptional trotter Oscar Bonavena to miss the Inter Dominion, the best version of Marcoola could return to favouritism for the final to be held on December 14, a rare group one Saturday night meeting at Alexandra Park. In a touch of irony the horse who thrashed Marcoola and the rest of his Dominion rivals, Habibi Inta, will also be staying at Purdon’s Clevedon property but in the care of his trainer Paul Nairn while Australian pacers San Carlo and My Kiwi Mate will also be based there. The latter pair will be part of a seven-strong team of Australian pacers to tackle the Inters, joined by Colt Thirty One (Grant Dixon), Bling It On (Craig Cross), Our Uncle Sam (Chris Frisby), Atomic Red and Conviction (both Steve Turnbull). The Australians will add a crucial new dynamic to the series, with their often aggressive racing style and are the silver lining of the series lacking a champion like Lazarus to scare them away. The trotting series is likely to have three Australians in Tough Monarch, Big Jack Hammer and McLovin but the latter, who flew to Auckland last night, will need to please trainer Andy Gath in a workout tomorrow to prove he is over the thumps he suffered in the Dominion on Friday. Stronger than expected local numbers from trainers like Purdon (three) and Steve Telfer (three) in the pacing series mean there is still a chance of three pacing heats on the three nights of the series but that would depend on how many remain in the series after the final payments this Friday. Robert Dunn will have two in the pacing series and four in the trotters and one of the star locals who was in doubt is Star Galleria (Steven Reid) has passed a vet exam and should make the series. The Auckland Trotting Club would ideally like to run three pacing heats per night but the cut-off for that would seem to be 27 horses so they could card nine-horse heats. If the pacing series reduces to two heats per night they should at least have genuine depth and would raise the possibility of three trotting heats being held per night. That series had 32 horses still entered yesterday but with a few lower-grade horses at the bottom. Again 27 acceptors would seem the cut-off for three heats per night or maybe even 30 for the trotters. “We won’t make any decision around that until we know final numbers and have spoken to the Inter Dominion council,” says ATC president Rod Croon. “But we are thrilled to have the 10 Australians coming to really boost the series and some great local interest.”   Michael Guerin

Sheree Tomlinson has an unusual concern leading into today’s $300,000 Dominion with defending champion Marcoola at Addington. She is worried about her favourite horse and her mother. Tomlinson is the new driver of Marcoola, who was jaw-dropping winning this race coming from near last last season and just as spectacular in the Flying Mile at Ashburton last start. Marcoola faces excitement machine Oscar Bonavena as well as the rock-hard fit Australian pair of Tough Monarch and McLovin in New Zealand’s greatest trotting race. But while Tomlinson is excited about steering the brilliant stallion today, she is worried about his stablemate Amaretto Sun, who gave her her greatest moment in harness racing when he won this race at massive odds two years ago. Marcoola starts from barrier one and Amaretto Sun right next to him and Tomlinson says while she loves her old mate she doesn’t want Amaretto Sun, to be driven her mother Amanda, to get in front of her and in her way. “To be honest I’d rather the draws were reversed and Mum was starting from barrier one and me from barrier two,” laughs Tomlinson. “Because he (Amaretto Sun) can get away really fast and I don’t want him crossing us and me getting stuck behind him. “I am not a big fan of barrier one in 3200m standing starts anyway because the horses out wide can get a jump on you but he (Marcoola) is actually very good from behind the tapes early. “So I am hoping if we do great crossed we can get away from the inside early.” Two years ago when Amaretto Sun won Tomlinson had the luxury of driving him for luck but with Marcoola the second favourite and at his most dynamic when he gets a head of steam up, she will launch him at some stage. Exactly when that will be could depend on when Oscar Bonavena makes his move from the back. The latter has been dazzling all season and the last start wins of the pair at Ashburton, both in national records, were comparable. “It is a different situation from two years ago, more pressure this time, but I think the Australians being in the field will help because they should force the pace, which will help us.” Oscar Bonavena might be world class and jogs national record times and sizzling splits and he might simply be too good for his rivals today, even after giving away a start from the unruly. “I am happy to have him back there because I think it should ensure he goes away and then we settle for maybe even the first half of the race,” says his trainer-driver Mark Purdon. As good as Oscar Bonavena is, and he might be the real deal, is Marcoola races up to last year’s form it could be the race of the carnival, especially with the Aussies added to the mix following their group one quinella on Tuesday. While Purdon looks likely to sit and swoop in today’s big trot punters can expect his speedsters to light up early in the $200,000 New Zealand Free-For-All. Cruz Bromac returns to defend the title he won last season when he blasted to the lead and set his own terms and he looks to have the gate speed to cross to the front again but the key to the race will be whether he would hand the pacemaking role to Spankem. Both are dynamic front runners over sprint trips and if Spankem wrests the lead off Cruz Bromac he becomes the one to beat, although that would still give the latter the passing lane late. If Cruz Bromac leads and Spankem sits parked outside him or further back then Tuesday’s Cup winner could claim the dream double.   Michael Guerin

1 to 16 of 192
1 2 3 4 5 Next »