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Few would have noticed that the Allstars team had a couple of starters at Tabcorp Park Menangle last Saturday night as the big night of harness racing was in Victoria with the $500,000 Hunter Cup, the $300,000 Great Southern Star and the $200,000 Victoria Derby were the races that all were engrossed in from both sides of the Tasman. While the Allstars team was not as dominate in Victoria as they were the previous week, winning with Lazarus only, it was left to Natalie Rasmussen to produce the goods looking after (Lets) Chase The Dream and Partyon at Tabcorp Park Menangle and she did not let the side down, winning with both horses. Lets Chase The Dream Partyon The Group 1 winning filly Partyon was having her seventh lifetime start and remains unbeaten with a 1:52.4 winning performance. At her previous start on the 14th of January, Partyon produced a record breaking 1:51.3 victory and this was at her first start back after a four and a half month spell.  Partyon now has a record of 7 starts for 7 wins and $265,075 in earnings. Partyon is by the sensational Bettor's Delight out of the Beach Towel mare Beach Parade who is out of the Falcon Seelster mare Idle Franco. Partyon has a full brother for sale at the upcoming Australasian Classic Sale at Karaka on the 20th of February called Kokomo Beach and sells as Lot 104. What price this colt? Not only is he a full brother to Paryton he is also a full brother to (So) Ubettabelieveit (1.55.7, 4 wins 3 places $47,861) and these are the only two foals from Beach Parade three-year-old and older.   This is the family of Indigo Franco (1.54.2m, 21 wins $76,960), Group 1 placed Innocent Franco (1.58.4f, 11 wins 11 places $46,285), Glenferrie Blade (1.56.1f, 9 wins 10 places $66,485), Glenferrie College (1.53.6m, 13 wins 21 places $84,793) and 3-time Group 1 winner Franco Ice (1.55f, 20 wins 14 places $620,311). Lot 104 – Kokomo Beach (brown colt Bettor’s Delight / Beach Parade) 2017 Harnesslink Media

THE last time champion reinswoman Natalie Rasmussen drove on an Australian harness racing track she walked away with a Miracle Mile trophy and three Group 1 races. It has been almost a year since that historical day where Rasmussen sat behind the fastest pacer outside of North America in Have Faith In Me where he stopped the clock in 1:47.5 to win the Miracle Mile. But Rasmussen, a former Queenslander who now calls New Zealand home, is back on New South Wales soil racing at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. The four-time 'Inter Dominion Queen' is flying all the way from Christchurch for two drives. It is a fair distance to travel just for a couple of drives, especially considering the 39-year-old is trying to scale down on the driving aspect of her career. However, with an invitation to the Chariots Of Fire on the line and her partner Mark Purdon taking care of some Group 1 races in Victoria on the same night, Rasmussen has taken the drive on Our Waikiki Beach in the Cordina Foods Paleface Adios Stakes (1609m). And it hasn't been made easy for Rasmussen with Our Waikiki Beach drawing barrier 11 for the Group 2 decider. "It's a tough race, they are all tough races, but over the mile drawn out wide makes it harder," Rasmussen said. Our Waikiki Beach faced just his third defeat in 26 starts at Menangle last Saturday when finishing eighth in the Hondo Grattan Stakes. After showing blistering gate-speed from barrier one and being caught in an early speed battle when the first quarter was posted in 25.6s, Our Waikiki Beach was beaten by 12m by the winner Salty Robyn. "He was only second up and didn't need a run like that but that's what happens unfortunately," Rasmussen said. "The team in Sydney seem to be happy with him after the run so we will just have to wait and see." Despite his recent defeat Our Waikiki Beach is the second favourite for this feature with TAB Fixed Odds at $4.80. The Brad Hewitt-trained Arma The Gun is the equal $3.60 favourite with the Shane and Lauren Tritton-trained Anything For Love. Rasmussen's second drive on the night is expected to start at much shorter odds. She is driving Lets Chase The Dream, known as Chase the Dream in NZ, in race eight. Just two starts ago this pacer became the third horse to secure a position in the upcoming Chariots Of Fire when winning the Four and Five-Year-Old Stakes in Waikato. "He looks very well placed in that race," Rasmussen said. "He has been racing open-class horses back home and should run a pretty good race."   AMANDA RANDO MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Dominant New Zealand harness racing trainer Mark Purdon says he has never tackled a Summer Of Glory campaign with such a strong hand. The All Stars stable will unleash a fab four on the Victorian summer carnival, with Lazarus, Smolda, Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner on course for the state’s flagship races. “This is a very strong hand,” said Purdon, who co-trains with Natalie Rasmussen. “I have never had four eligible horses for this level of an event.” The master trainer outlined his Victorian assault today. Titan Banner and Smolda, the latter fresh off Inter Dominion and SA Cup triumphs, will likely face-off against Lennytheshark for the January 21 $120,000 PETstock Ballarat Cup. Resuming stablemate Have Faith In Me has been geared towards the night’s $18,000 free for all, while Lazarus is a “wait and see”. January 28 then brings the $400,000 Eynesbury Victoria Cup, which Purdon said Lazarus, Titan Banner and Have Faith In Me would likely contest, taking on the Vics including David Aiken’s stable heavyweight Hectorjayjay. Smolda will then attempt to defend last year’s win in the $500,000 Del-Re National Hunter Cup, likely with another showdown against Lennytheshark. Smolda will “probably” be joined by Have Faith In Me and “possibly” Titan Banner. Lazarus will contest the night’s Edgell Sidewinders Four-Year-Old Bonanza. Elsewhere, Purdon’s super three-year-old Vincent is favourite for the VHRSC Victoria Derby, and Purdon said “he has been impressive lately. I wouldn’t put him in (reigning Derby winner) Lazarus’ class, but he has been very impressive”. Team Purdon will also bring Prince Fearless to contest the trotting events, but his performance would dictate whether that includes the $300,000 Prydes Easifeed Great Southern Star, with Purdon stressing his hope had been a level below the top rung. by Michael Howard

If there’s a bottom to Ultimate Machete, Natalie Rasmussen hasn’t found it yet. And chances are that it might take her a while to find it as the exciting three-year-old goes from strength-to-strength. He claimed his second major three-year-old feature for the season last night when winning the NZ Yearling Sales Series Final in emphatic fashion over his stablemate, More The Better. Asked for plenty by Rasmussen, who co-trains the colt with Mark Purdon, Ultimate Machete portrayed all of the same staying abilities he put on show in the Sires’ Stakes Final back in November. “He just keeps digging, every time you ask him to,” Rasmussen said. “I think he’s tougher than that other horse (More The Better) but he might have more speed than this guy. “I know a lot of people are saying that he’s the clear top one now but there’s not much between them in our opinion.” An $84,000 purchase as a yearling after being bred on the West Coast by Graeme and Katrina Walsh, Ultimate Machete has been a revelation this season and soon will give Australia a chance to witness his power when he heads to Sydney to contest three-year-old features there. More The Better on the other hand will head to Melbourne. “It will be nice to split them up for a bit,” Rasmussen said. “They are both quality horses and will continue to do good jobs. “Ultimate Machete just screams out that he will love the distance of the Derby and then when we can get him to two miles that will be even better.” Ultimate Machete paced his 2200 metres last night in a staggering 2:36.1 – bettering Have Faith In Me’s national mark by almost 1.5 seconds. Owned by Phil and Glenys Kennard, Phil and Margaret Creighton, Gavin Douglas and Kevin Riseley, the Bettor’s Delight colt out of Reality Check has now bankrolled more than $280,000 in stakes. Jack’s Legend picked himself up another placing with a good run for third after settling on the fence.  Matt Markham

Vincent is going home but he shouldn't be expecting a warm welcome. The big mover in the New Zealand three-year-old pacing ranks is set to return to his native Australia in a few weeks for the heats, and hopefully final, of the Victoria Derby on February 4. He paid for the trip with a magnificent display of power pacing to beat the older horses at Alexandra Park today, a win that looked dramatic enough but the real quality of which wasn't evident until the time was announced. In just his sixth start Vincent sat parked for the last lap and bolted in but in doing so broke the national all-comers record over 2700m from a standing start --- so paced the popular distance faster than any horse in New Zealand history. So while he didn't start the season rated one of the glamour three-year-olds in the All Stars arsenal, he is set to be their Victoria Derby rep. That will be a return to where the son of Art Major was purchased two years ago for A$130,000 as co-trainer Mark Purdon continued to mix his major yearling purchases between Australia and New Zealand. "He just keeps getting better and would be working his way up the ladder," said co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. "He is big and strong and that was a huge win when you consider the time." Vincent He isn't the only early winner from Alexandra Park today who could be heading to Australia, with trainer Robert Dunn considering the trip with Alta Maestro. The beautiful juvenile remained unbeaten when winning another heat of the Young Guns, his gate speed a crucial weapon in out-pointing Spankem. Dunn has one eye on the famous Bathurst Gold Crown with Alta Maestro, a series he won over 25 years ago with his all-time great Master Musician. But before any NSW plans are confirmed, Alta Maestro will stay in the north for the group one Young Guns Final in early March. Alta Maestro - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

Bookies may not be able to split them but co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen says two factors may give Titan Banner an edge over champion stablemate Dream About Me in the Auckland Cup in a fortnight. The pair dominated the open class features at Alexandra Park on Friday night, Dream About Me jogging home in the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts while Titan Banner overcame a hard run and a 20m handicap to win the Franklin Cup. That sees them head the market for the Decemeber 31 Auckland Trotting Cup at $2.60 for Dream About Me, just shading Titan Banner at $2.70. Dream About Me is a proven Group One mare whose every step seems to take her closer to the record of former champion stablemate Adore Me. But Rasmussen, who trains the pair in partnership with Mark Purdon, says while Dream About Me may be flat out better than Titan Banner, come the Cup she will need to be. “She is very, very good Dream About Me and maybe the better horse,” said Rasmussen. “But Titan Banner has a lot more standing start experience which could help him get in front of the mare. “And of course he has raced over 3200m before, in the New Zealand Cup. “So that might even things up a bit.” Dream About Me’s group one $100,000 event  night was as good as over when she strolled to the front after 400m and she barely broke workout speed to win from Rocker Band. But Titan Banner was made to work way harder when he looked to cross Christen Me with a lap to go in the Franklin Cup but he started to goof, leaving him sitting parked and making him worker far harder than has he wrested the lead. To still forge past Christen Me and leave most of the other Cup contenders in his wake was a huge performance. They were two members of the expected All Stars domination on Friday night as Spanish Armada and Ultimate Machete were too good in their elite three-year-old races. Ultimate Machete led and was barely asked to raise a sweat to win the Alabar Classic but Spanish Armada had to out-tough arch rival Delightful Memphis in the Peter Breckon Memorial in what was a definitive performance. The big trot of the night provided the greatest upset when Sunny Ruby was good enough to capitalise on a beautiful drive by new trainer David Butcher to win the $40,000 Lyell Creek. She flew off the gate to lead then took a trail and Butcher found the perfect gap in the home straight to run down leader Marcoola. The favourite initially looked disappointing but was found to have a flat tyre suffered soon after the start so maintains his place at the head of the markets for the National Trot, also on Decmeber 31. Another to catch the eye was Bordeaux, who made up huge ground after an early gallop, suggesting the group one trot is shaping as a more even contest the earlier thought. Michael Guerin

No female has ever driven the winner of the Auckland Trotting Cup in its 126 year history, but after last night’s (Friday) meeting at Alexandra Park, Natalie Rasmussen now looks on the verge of creating history.   The former Queenslander drove the winner of both the major races at ‘Northern Headquarters’ and she now has the choice of getting in behind the first or second favourite for the $250,000 Group One feature on December 31.   Cup favourite, Dream About Me, was impressive in the Group Three $30,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes, while second favourite, Titan Banner exploded away to win the Group Three $30,000 Summer Cup.   Those wins came a few hours prior to Smolda and Mark Purdon’s neck win over Hectorjajay in the $1.1m Inter Dominion grand Final in Perth.   For good measure the Mark Purdon-Rasmussen Stable also quinella-ed the $22,000 Auckland Co-Op Taxis 3yo Stakes when Ultimate Machete Rasmussen) and More The Better (Tim Williams).   Rasmussen was rapt with another successful night at the office, but she wouldn‘t commit to an Auckland Cup drive three weeks out from the great race.   Her best placing in the race was fifth behind Smolda in the March 2015 Auckland Cup.   “I don’t mind who I drive in the big race. We will sit down as a team and talk about it, but I’m not too perturbed either way. I just know they are both very good chances in the big race,” Rasmussen said.   The Canterbury-based horseman was full of praise for both Dream About Me and Titan Banner, and believed the former deserved to be the Cup favourite. In that case Purdon is likely to return from Australia to take the reins of Titan Banner.   “Wow he (Titan Banner) really made a statement tonight didn’t he? I think gained a lot of respect,” Rasmussen said.   It was a gutsy performance by the Art Major gelding. In fact the win was so comprehensive the New Zealand TAB reacted by slashing his Cup odds from $7 to $3.   Rasmussen settled Titan Banner at the rear from their awkward nine-draw. They made their move at the bell and were three-wide without cover down the back straight.   In the home straight the 5-year-old simply said goodbye to his eight opponents running away to win by two-and-half-lengths from New Zealand Cup runner-up Tiger Tara (Gerard O’Reilly). No Doctor Needed (Ricky May) were two lengths back in third.   It was Titan Banner’s 11th win in 31 starts. He’s also placed 12 times for $169,213 in stakes. He was the $6 third favourite.   He paced the 2200m mobile in a slick 2:38.8 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 56.1 and 27.6.   “That was a very impressive first-up run at Alexandra Park. He’s come of age tonight, but in saying that he did do a similar thing when he beat Christen Me in the Winter Cup back home in May.   “We will have to speak to the owners but I’d say he would by-pass next week’s Franklin Cup and then go straight into the Auckland Cup. He’s not the sort of horse who likes to race week-after-week,” Rasmussen.   One pacer who will race next Friday night, but not in the Franklin Cup, is New Zealand’s best female pacer, Dream About Me.   The talented 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare will be a hot favourite for the Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & Mares Pace.   Last night she paid a paltry $1.10 when winning the Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes. As expected she was a class above her seven opponents and won as she liked, virtually untouched.   That three-and-a-half length victory saw TAB bookmakers reduced her opening Cup odds from $2.90 to $2.80.   “She felt good tonight and as well all know she is a serious racehorse. I liked the way she hit the line. She’s now unbeaten in four starts on the track. She’s a gem,” said Rasmussen.   Dream About Me and Rasmussen started from the outside of the front line and then found themselves in the one-one on a slowish pace down the back straight the first time.   They then went and sat parked at the 1500m before taking over at the bell. That was the winning of the race.   Dream About Me then cruised to victory pacing the 2200m mobile in 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and home in 57.4 and 27.2. It was her 17th career win in 20 starts. She's also placed twice and now banked $809,989 in stakes.   Three-year-olds Ultimate Machete and Spanish Armada also impressed Rasmussen.   “Ultimate Machete has carried on from where he left off in the Sires Stakes (3yo) Final. I had to nurse him around a couple of the bends, but that was an impressive first-up look at the track. He’s a bit special.   “And so is Spanish Armada. She got back and I really liked the way she ran on for second. I think we will have a good month in Auckland,” Rasmussen said.   One of the other highlights of the night came in race three when the Ken & Tony Barron trained Dom Domingo won by nine lengths - on debut.   The American Ideal gelding and Blair Orange ran away and hid stopping the clock in 2:41.1 and home in 58 flat and 27.7.   His winning mile rate for the 200m mobile was 1:57.8. On that run the 4-year-old will be winning again soon.   Next Friday’s Group meeting at Alexandra Park will comprise:   Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes   Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters   Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & Mares Pace   Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic   Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup   Duane Ranger

The biggest certainty of the huge transtasman harness racing night ahead is that the All Stars stable will taste feature race success. But picking which of the seven major races they contest that will come in is the tricky part for punters. Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen will bring many of the stars of New Zealand Cup week to Alexandra Park tonight when they not only have favourites in the age group features and the first northern juvenile pace, but New Zealand Cup placegetter Titan Banner in the Summer Cup. Not long after Alexandra Park stops the fun begins in Perth, where partner Mark Purdon has Smolda in the Inter Dominion Final alongside fellow Kiwi rep Franco Nelson, while the All Stars have Piccadilly Princess and Mr Mojito as favourites in group ones there. Complicating matter for punters though are a series of poor draws, with Piccadilly Princess in her A$125,000 mares' race the only other of the stable's big names to draw good marbles. "She has the best draw and has worked on well so she is the best of our chances over here," said Purdon from Perth. "Smolda is going good enough but not as well as when he won the Hunter Cup earlier this year and on this track I think our best chance is if they go very hard and come back to us. "And Mr Mojito has a tricky draw. I'll go forward on him and think he can still win but he might need to be a few lengths better than them so he faces a big task." At Alexandra Park, the super stable has had a horror run with draws, some because of the conditions of their races, which means they are also going to need to be clearly superior to their rivals to win. Titan Banner is one of the few not to draw wide but has the inside of the second line in the 2200m mobile Summer Cup, which has drawn a wonderfully even field. Any one of Christen Me, Tiger Tara, Hughie Green or even Locharburn could also win depending on the run they can secure, with a sub 2:40 looking on the cards. "We are really happy with how Titan Banner has trained on and think he has a great chance, but he is going to need luck, too," said Rasmussen. Also drawn poorly is Auckland Cup favourite Dream About Me in the mares' race but after overcoming something similar to win an open class at the Cup carnival she should still be too good for Rocker Band. Sires' Stakes Final quinella mates Ultimate Machete and More The Better will dominate betting on the 3-year-old race but Rasmussen warns the result is not as clearcut as the former's national record victory at Addington would suggest. "I thought More The Better was just as good as Ultimate Machete in the final and he has the Alexandra Park experience behind him so he might just be the better chance," she says. Spanish Armada returned with a sharp win at Addington last start but draws outside arch rival Delightful Memphis tonight and Rasmussen admits if the latter is able to secure the lead Spanish Armada will struggle to beat her in the fillies' clash. Tonight's meeting also sees the All Stars roll out their first juveniles and while they will attract plenty of money there are no certainties. "Ideally we would have liked to trial them once up here but the club needed the numbers to get this race off the ground so we put them in. "Sure they can win but they are not screwed down yet, with Spankem the more advanced at this stage." Lennytheshark out • Defending champion Lennytheshark has lost his battle to be ready for the Inter Dominion final. • The third favourite was withdrawn from the great race in Perth yesterday lunchtime. • This has allowed former New Zealand pacer The Bucket List into the race. - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

One of harness racing’s most reticent figures allowed his confidence levels to rise notably last night at Addington. Mark Purdon isn’t renowned for his outward talk about horses, he’s always just prefered to let the horse do the talking out on the track. But when Lazarus cemented himself as favourite for next month’s New Zealand Trotting Cup with a scarily easy victory in the Canterbury Classic last night, Purdon couldn’t help but give out a few compliments to his latest star. “He’s taken to open class racing like a little professional,” Purdon said. “In his first run he was a little bit hesitant about it all I think, including the start but he stood up there at the barrier tonight and went away like he’s been doing it for a long time. “Everything we throw his way he seems to take in his stride, he’s some horse. “I’m extremely happy with where we are at the moment, he’s putting it all together nicely.: Away safely last night, Purdon moved around the field to find the lead inside the final 1600 metres. Once there it was always going to be a case catch me if you can. “He relaxed beautifully in front and when I asked him to sprint he really hooked into it. “We will head to Ashburton now, he should cop the racing pretty good now I would think.” The result, in a New Zealand record time of 3.11.4 - bettering the previous mark which was held jointly by Christen Me and Bettor’s Strike, was the perfect result for co-owner Trevor Casey on his birthday. Casey is joined in the ownership by Phil and Glenys Kennard, who had double the reason to smile with Smolda running a great third, and also Australian based owner Kevin Riseley. Lazarus got home a length the better of an equally as brave Christen Me who showed he is no spent force just yet with another grand effort. Smolda was back in third while Have Faith In Me was fourth. Bookmakers have reacted to the performance by installing him a warm order favourite across the board, Natalie Rasmussen, who drove Have Faith In Me, is starting to get concerned about the stand start manners after the Miracle Mile winner panicked and lost considerable ground at the start of the race. “It’s an issue, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s running out of chances to get it right. “There’s plenty of time on our side. I’m not really sure he was happy with being on the outside of the front line. “If he was behind them it would have been a bit better I think, we just can’t afford to be giving away starts like that every time we go to the races. “It will end up costing us if he goes like in one of the real big races, when he’s not ready, he just panics.” Smolda will be pointed toward next Sunday's Methven Cup after his great run. “He’s gone super, we did a bit of work to get to where I wanted to be but he knocks of and has a look around,” driver, Tim Williams said. Franco Nelson was also very good in fifth after working wide around the last bend which isn’t really his go. The slight concern from the race was the performance of Locharburn who failed to show his usual fighting spirit and was beaten a long way from home. He was found after the race to have suffered from an arrhythmic heartbeat and has been stood down until a clearance is received.     Matt Markham

As a $200,000 yearling the pressure has always been on You Gotta Have Faith, but this season might be the chance for him to pay back the faith shown in him by his owners, Mark and Dennis Dunford. The royally bred 3-year-old certainly started off on the right hoof when he booked himself a spot in the rich New Zealand Sires’ Stakes Final on Cup Day with a bold victory in Friday night’s heat at Addington Raceway. A descendant of Charlie Roberts wonderful family, You Gotta Have Faith has not only the pressure of the big price tag to contend with but an incredible family heritage as well. “He’s got a fair bit on him already when you look at it,” Natalie Rasmussen, who co-trains the gelding and was also in the bike on Friday night, said. “We always thought he’d be a better three-year-old than what he was at two and he’s come back bigger and stronger this time in and hopefully he should be in for a good season.” He will need to be though with a couple of high class stablemates in More The Better and Ultimate Machete still to join the Sires’ Stakes fray. Rasmussen was able to steal the race on Friday night - producing some incredibly slow sectionals. Although she put that more down to the horse’s inability to take the bit in his mouth and run along than anything else. “He just didn’t really want to go, so I thought getting him out and running would help, but it clearly didn’t early on.” After settling back in the field she moved forward to parked with a lap left to run and pulled the field almost down to a light canter. “He didn’t want to get into it and get running until another horse came up beside him. “But he did fight when the others ranged up to him at the top of the straight, he kept finding when I asked him for an effort and that’s a good sign. “He should be in for a good wee season this guy.” In the stall next to You Gotta Have Faith things weren’t quite so rosy. Stablemate and race favourite, Bettor Be Gold and Mark Purdon were flat keeping up at the 400 metre mark. “There was nothing there when I asked him to run up onto the back of them coming around the bend. “It’s a little disappointing because he has trialled so well in the lead up to this week.” Afterdinnerspeaker from the Ken and Tony Barron stable was a solid second in the heat, booking himself a spot in the rich final while Mongolian Storm was brave after sitting parked before fighting on strongly to finish third. It was the Tim Butt trained The Bachelor who really caught the attention after his good win the week before.   Matt Markim

Champion harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is adamant his superstar Have Faith In Me is as good as any pacer in the world. And he should know, having just watched the best in North America live. Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have just returned from a month-long trip to the United States and Canada during which they spent time at the stables of leading trainers Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke. They also saw the elite US free-for-all pacers race, headed by the big three of Always B Miki, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete. While Purdon has huge respect for the trio, he is certain his Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me is at least as good. “They are very, very good horses, especially those three but our horse is just as good. I have no doubt about that.”
 It is hard to argue with Purdon, who is never one for over-rating his horses. The top US free-for-allers can break 1:47 for a mile but they spend their entire careers being honed for magical miles, whereas Have Faith In Me paced an Australasian record 1:47.5 winning the the Miracle Mile in February only a few starts after winning a 3200m standing start Auckland Cup on December 31. Fully ingratiated into US style racing with one of their wider, faster sulkies behind him and Have Faith In Me would clearly be a sub 1:47 pacer. “I am sure he would be but I don’t think there is any great desire to race him up there,” Purdon told the New Zealand Herald. “If he is the best down here this season, which we hope he will be, then he can win more money than he could up there because up there he would be one of three or four with similar ability.” Purdon had his first real look at Have Faith In Me in a month yesterday and is certain the four-year-old has thickened and should be stronger next season. But before you start looking for somewhere to back him in the New Zealand Cup be warned --- while that is his first goal it is by no means certain. Purdon and Rasmussen have the three New Zealand Cup favourites, the other two being Lazarus and Smolda, and will let the trio tell them who will be suited to the New Zealand Cup on November 8 or who might be better off in Perth at the Inter Dominions, which start two weeks later. “At this stage we will bring all three of them up and start racing mid September with the Cup as their aim,” he explains. “But if any of them didn’t feel like they were right for the Cup then we could change tact. Have Faith In Me for example, if he started to gallop away from the stands in his lead-up races we could favour the Interdoms, because they are all mobile, especially as he would be on the unruly in the Cup, which is like being off a handicap. So we will aim them at the Cup and see what happens.” Purdon was thrilled and surprised by just how much Lazarus has filled out during his spell, which will hopefully help him bridge the gap from champion three-year-old to open class performer by Cup time. Purdon says his time away from his Rolleston base gave him and Rasmussen a chance to learn how trainers like Burke and Takter go about their business as well as consider their own as they stare down another premiership win. “At some stage we would like to have less horses but after the numbers we got from the yearling sales this season I’d say we are going to have about the same size stable again next season. “And the trip was great but we don’t have any aspirations to try training up there. We have a lot invested in the property down here and you can’t just up and move that to the States. “So while I’d like to go up there and visit those top trainers again, because you always learn things, I don’t see us campaigning horses up there any time soon.”
 Courtesy of Michael Guerin

It it is easy to make the mistake of thinking the All Star’s domination of Jewels Day is boringly repetitive. Just like last year the harness racing super stable --- surely New Zealand’s greatest ever of either code --- won five of the Jewels races at Cambridge.   The stats are hard to comprehend. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained not only the five winners but seven other placegetters, including two trifectas. They have won nearly $4million in stakes in New Zealand alone this season and every group one pacing race for two and three-year-olds held in this country. But it was fitting the five winners wore four different sets of colours because while whether the All Stars monopoly is good for the industry is open to debate, the diversity of their winners is not. Each of the five winners has a different story of joy, battles won and lost and memories that will last forever. Here they are: Custodian, 2YO Ruby: Roddy Butt sometimes feels guilty about inheriting his grandfather’s racing colours. Because the red and gold silks of seven-time premiership winner Wes Butt deserve to be on show behind good horses more often. “But I chose a different career path so they don’t get shown off very often,” says Roddy, a former professional rugby player and now development officer. Roddy used and train and still shares in the ownership of Custodian so to see those colours he inherited 20 years ago win a Jewels race will forever be special. “When I asked Mark to wear them he was great about it and it means a lot to our family,” says Roddy. Partyon, 2YO Diamond: Jeff Wilson’s timing was perfect as usual. The face of New Zealand rugby broadcasting had a rare winter weekend off and spent some of it watching the Jewels with good mate John Hart. The pair are in the Breckon Farms syndicates which not only won with Partyon but the Victoria Trotting Oaks on Friday with High Gait. “There is nothing like owning a racehorse, even if you only have a small share,” said the dual international. “It is a different type of nerves from when you play because it is out of your control. “So John and I watched it and had a couple of wines to celebrate. “Then we started discussing why the All Stars are so good. They are like the All Blacks, they are the best but keep innovating to improve.”
 Piccadilly Princess, 3YO Diamond: As 50th wedding anniversary presents go, a Jewels win takes some beating. The Patterson boys from Christchurch are well known in harness racing, they run the Commodore Hotel where so many racing visitors to the city stay. But while some of them who own Piccadilly Princess were at their parents 50th anniversary, watching en masse in Queenstown, Thomas Patterson was trackside at Cambridge. “It is pretty special to have her win against those two other fillies, even if it means my Uncle Mike and I, who got us into racing, were a day late for the anniversary celebrations. “They all loved it down there, so I am sure they won’t mind.” More The Better, 2YO Emerald: Roy Purdon doesn’t get to the races as much as he used to. The legend of New Zealand racing -- how he hasn’t been knighted is baffling --- says the cold doesn’t agree with his arthritis. “But I watched it at home and loved it. I celebrated with a whiskey and water, mainly water these day,” laughs the 89-year-old. Roy has raced some great horses, including Sole Command, but this is his first group one winner in a long time.  “It’s special to race it with Mark (son) and see what they did yesterday. Mark is a superstar.”
 Heaven Rocks, 3YO Emerald:  He is very big, very fast and very dumb. But what Heaven Rocks lacks in experience, one of his owners makes up for. Kevin Riseley may live in Victoria but like so many Australian harness fans he loves having some of his horses trained here because of the standard of racing, trainers and the greater industry profile. “We love coming to the races here,” says Riseley, who also owns Inter Dominion champ Lennytheshark. He and dozens of Australians like him, are huge contributors to the yearling sales here, without which the whole industry grinds to a halt. Michael Guerin

It's busy as usual for harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, as their All Stars stable continued on the domination of todays Harness Jewels at Cambridge Raceway. This time it was in the NRM Equi-Jewel 2YO $150,000 Emerald. The 2yo Bettor's Delight colt More The Bettor was super in winning, but at one stage it didn't look like he had any show. “I was a bit worried with a lap to run, the three wide line was going nowhere and I was in a bit of trouble. Thankfully the race opened up with that galloper and we were able to get around them” said Mark Purdon. Ultimate Machete was massive in defeat, putting up a huge effort to push a smart colt all the way to the line. “He just wouldn't lie down, I thought we were going to go straight past him, but to his credit he dug deep” While all that was happening, Pacing Major and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen were sitting pretty, in the trail and full of runner. But with Tim Williams setting Ultimate Machete loose around the field to find the front, it put paid to Rasmussens chances after she was locked away on the fence. Owned by Roy Purdon, Sir David Levene and Mark Purdon, More The Better took his record to 10 starts for 6 wins and 4 seconds, with a staggering $320,000 in stakes. Winning Time & Margin: 1-53.38MR, with a half a head back to Ultimate Machete in 2nd and 1½ lengths back to Pacing Major in 3rd. Andrew Fitzgerald

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's expected dominance on Saturday is probably best summed up by TAB bookmakers. Even with three of their best (Lazarus, Have Faith In Me and Waikiki Beach) not attending the Harness Jewels at Cambridge and their team being luckless with barrier draws, the bookies have Purdon and Rasmussen's All Stars stable paying $501 to not win a race. In nine previous editions of the Jewels, the All Stars stable has won 25 races - a country mile ahead of any other trainer. One power stable dominating Group I races might not be healthy for betting figures but it is hard not to admire their record of achievement. Purdon and Rasmussen will attack Saturday's Jewels with 16 runners spread over six races. Last year they won five races from 23 starters over nine races. The bookies' favourite option for Saturday is four wins at $1.90. With no runner in the four-year-old Diamond, the All Stars start their day in race two - the two-year-old Ruby. Custodian, formerly trained by Roddy Butt, will make his first start for the All Stars following a change of ownership.   Purdon said there had been no major changes and rated Custodian a strong place chance but if $1.40 favourite Enghien​ is tardy off the gate, he can be a big player in the race. Race three, the two-year-old Diamond, should see the All Stars go close with only Delightful Memphis ($4), who has drawn the outside of the front line, likely to be capable of stoping a Purdon and Rasmussen victory. In just her second start, debut winner Partyon​ ($3.60) has the best of the draws from barrier four and despite her inexperience, Purdon believes she is right in contention. "If she finds the front it will be tough for anyone to run her down. "She's going to be handy, Spanish Armada is going to have to go around her, Delightful Memphis has drawn wider than her so she does have the advantage," he said. Purdon, who drives Partyon ($3.60), said he would be pressing forward and looking for the lead. Speculation has been mounting in the last two weeks that Spanish Armada ($1.65) will struggle with the Cambridge way around. All her previous starts have been at Alexandra Park but Purdon said she had improved and would be a danger from her second line draw. "We're very happy with her now," he said. There is no All Stars runner in race four, the four-year-old Ruby. Race five, the three-year-old Diamond, is one of the more intriguing for the All Stars stable. Dream About Me ($2.20) is the best of their three fillies but needs luck from the inside of the second line. "You couldn't afford to go back to last and drive her like a motor car because you would get nothing," Purdon said. "We've just got to push through, take our chances and hope the runs come." Stablemates Piccadilly Princess ($4.50) and Golden Goddess ($2.25) will be vying for the lead from barrier two and three and Purdon believes the pair are more even than most realise. Race six is almost certain to see an All Stars win in the two-year-Emerald. Even with the scratching of Motu Meteor, the stable has four runners with More The Better a $1.60 favourite on the second line. "He's a very good colt, unless he gets bad luck like a check or something like that he will be right in it," Purdon said. Pacing Major ($2.40) has come up with the inside of the second line but Purdon said if he gets a trail through he is a definite winning chance. Purdon and Rasmussen do not have a runner in the three-year-old Ruby but have a live chance in race eight - the four-year-old Emerald. Titan Banner ($2.90) starts from the outside of the front line with $1.65 favourite Field Marshal leaving the mobile from the ace. Purdon said the best scenario is to be outside Field Marshal by the time they enter the final half. "He's the horse to beat and you wouldn't want to be giving him lengths and be coming wide at Cambridge. "He (Titan Banner) is a chance but I'll think he need things to go his way," Purdon said. The final race of the day, the three-year-old Emerald, shapes as a race the All Stars should win. The inexperienced Heaven Rocks ($1.95) is favourite from barrier five but Chase The Dream ($2.80) has a more reliable feel to him from barrier six. Purdon was happy with Chase The Dream's work on Thursday morning but feels if the best Heaven Rocks shows up he would be tough to beat. "He's got a lot of raw ability and if he was on his best behaviour and got out of the gate good to lead he probably wouldn't get beat I wouldn't think." But Heaven Rocks finding the front is no certainty. Purdon will be pressing forward but not with a lead at all costs attitude. "He's not the sort of horse you would want to throw the reins at and charge the gate with," Purdon said of Heaven Rocks whose manners have let him down in the past. Matt Kermeen

Mark Purdon is warning punters Dream About Me is no certainty at the Harness Jewels. The winner of 14 races from just 15 starts has been crunched into $1.35 favouritism in the pre-barrier market for the three-year-old Diamond, following her almost unbelievable win in the Group I New Zealand Oaks on Saturday. Purdon, who co-trains the Bettor's Delight filly with Natalie Rasmussen, said the win was easily a career-best performance at Addington Raceway but believes the barrier draws will play a key role in the Group I Jewels on June 4. Dream About Me's form in the Oaks is leading to comparisons with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's 2014 New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Adore Me.  And if the winner of more than $750,000 in stakes does draw poorly, Purdon is rejecting speculation that she only has to line up to win. "I wouldn't say that over a mile at Cambridge. The draws will be crucial and the other two fillies (Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princes) are very good to so you wouldn't want to have too much bad luck," he said. Purdon and Rasmussen along with Dream About Me's owners will not be drawn into a decision on heading across the Tasman for the Breeders Crown until the Jewels are out of the way. "We'll probably make final decisions after the Jewels. "She's had a great season and there are the mares' races for next year so it will come down to whether we go that way (Breeders Crown) or set her for those mares' races here nest season," Purdon said. Dream About Me settled second to last in Saturday's Oaks from her second line draw but with around 1500m to run Purdon was on the move around the field, three wide without cover. It took the pair more than half a lap to get to the breeze in driving rain and windy conditions and Purdon admitted after the race he was questioning whether the filly had enough left in the tank to finish off the 2600m trip. "I thought it would come down to a dour sort of stayers' race and the last furlong would be down to the survival of the toughest and thankfully it turned out she was the toughest." Purdon was helped by the tiring Amazon Lily giving him the opportunity to duck into the trail behind leader Golden Goddess before taking an inside run to win by half a length. "She's just exceptional," Purdon said of Dream About Me. Golden Goddess is a $3.40 chance for the Jewels with the third All Stars stablemate Piccadilly Princess ($6) the only other runner in single figures. The All Stars stable trained the trifecta in the Sires Stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings with More The Better again edging stablemate Pacing Major. More The Better is a $1.80 favourite for the two-year-old Emerald at the Harness Jewels with Pacing Major at $2.50. Titan Banner, a newcomer to the Purdon and Rasmussen stable, has moved into a $2.50 second favourite for the four-year-old Emerald following his upset win over Christen Me in the Winter Cup. Christen Me did start 20m behind Titan Banner, formerly trained by Graeme Anderson, and only went down by a neck. Field Marshal, who is recovering well following a bout of colic last Tuesday, remains Emerald favourite at $1.65.     Purdon and Rasmussen trained six of the 12 winners at Addington with Bettor Be Gold, The Manipulator and Heaven Rocks joining the three feature winners. Purdon drove five winners with Rasmussen picking up one. The All Stars stable then picked up a Group II placing at Menangle when High Gait finished second in the New South Wales Trotting Oaks on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Purdon's son Nathan picked up his first training win on Saturday night when Ohoka Punter, formerly trained by Tony Herlihy, won his the first start of his Queensland campaign. Mat Kermeen

Everything went to plan for the four harness racing big guns tonight at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park. Spanish Armada got things off to a flying start when she was successful in the $138,000.00 Group 1 Magness Benrow Sire Stakes Fillies Championship. Away nicely from barrier 6, co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen had the classy 2yo Bettor’s Delight in front and dictating after 300m. No one was keen to take the recent Caduceus Club Final winner on and she was allowed to stride along in front. While some punters who took the $1.30 around the favourite would have been nervous when the Mark Jones trained filly Delightful Memphis popped out of her 1-1 spot to issue a serious challenge, to wear the leader down to just a winner margin of a neck. The winner’s time for the 1700m trip was 2:02.3, Last mile in 1.55.7 – 800m 56.4 – 400m 27.7. The PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 2yo Fillies Final set down for the 13th May will be the next clash of these two talented fillies. No doubt with a handy draw Delightful Memphis could turn the tables on the top seed Purdon/Rasmussen runner. Spanish Armada _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tonight’s Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby victory for Marcoola once again justified owner/driver Clint Ford’s decision to not sell his star 3yo colt. With an offer reportedly around the $250,000.00 mark, Ford was quick to make it clear that he wouldn’t be for sale. Since that offer Marcoola has won just over $120,000.00 in stakes, while adding the NZ Trotters Derby, Sire Stakes Trotting Championship and now the Northern Trotting Derby to his resume. A 3yo Colt by Champion sire Sundon out of the Ford Family’s handy race mare Arabess – Marcoola is the horse most people dream of breeding and owner themselves. A smart drive from Clint tonight got the chocolates as he once again showcased his class by demolishing a top class field. Allowed to settle early by Ford, Marcoola was then set around to find the top, this move left 2nd favourite High Gait in a world of trouble covered up four back the pegs. In a surprise move, High Gait’s driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy to stay tucked along the rail and was seen storming home for an unlucky 3rd. Marcoola went to the line, with plenty in the tank as Ford only flicked the reins at his charge in the home straight to score by 1 length in an overall time of 3:23.7, Mile rate of 2:01.4 – 800m in 58.2 – 400m in 29.6. The Harness Jewels looks his race to lose on the back of this 7 race winning streak. Marcoola _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Field Marshal was another short favourite to salute the judge, this time doing the sort after Taylor Mile/Messenger double. After a huge performance in last weeks Taylor Mile, Trainer Tim Butt was confident his top class Art Major 4yo would handle every part of the 2700m trip.  Given a lovely trip by leading driver Dexter Dunn, Field Marshal was dominate beating Australia visitor My Kiwi Mate by 1 ¼ Lengths in a sizzling 3:15.8. With tonight’s victory, Field Marshal climbs over the $250,000.00 mark in stakes earnings, with a healthy record of 14 wins from just the 25 starts. While Field Marshal in a clear leader on top of the Harness Jewels leader board, Australian My Kiwi Mate catapulted himself into 22nd spot, just $10,000.00 short of the 12th place Captain Doimio. With connections chasing a jewels spot, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see My Kiwi Mate line up at Alexandra Park over the next few weeks in order to qualify. The 4yo Jewels invite is likely to go to the Amanda Turnbull trained Tact Tate, who will make their decision in the coming days. Field Marshal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Superstar trotter Monbet was absolutely sensational in the 2016 Rowe Cup, winning from an awkward, inside the back row draw. Trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope, Monbet started one of the hottest favourites in history after arch rival Speeding Spur was stuck down by a suspensory injury that could see him sidelined for 10-12 months. Away nicely from the tapes, Monbet settled in before driver Ricky May sent the $1.11 favourite around to the lead with two laps to run. From there on after the 4yo Love You gelding never looks in danger. Owned by the Hopes and M J Molloy, they also turned down a reported offer of $600,000.00 a few weeks back. Since that offer Monbet has earn't a tidy $184,000.00. Co trainer Greg Hope confirmed last night that providing his charge recovers well they will look to take their place in the Cambridge Harness Jewels, where he will start one of the shortest jewels favourites ever. Waimate trotter Valmagne was the run of the race behind the winner. Co Trainer Josh Kennett was stoked with the performance of his stable star, “He has gone super, last week he broke just as he was getting into it” said Kennett. Monbet Andrew Fitzgerald

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