Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 97
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

The real Heaven Rocks has been revealed. Because it turns out the two-times Jewels winner isn’t actually the intimidating bully  he looked at Ashburton on Saturday, with driver Natalie Rasmussen believing he is really a big pussycat. Heaven Rocks confirmed his reputation as the most exciting pacer in New Zealand --- not the best, that title still belongs to stablemate Lazarus --- with his crushing win in the $150,000 Four-Year-Old Emerald. As always he was allowed to lag behind his rivals at the start before working three wide to parked and then dispatching them at the top of the straight, winning by four and a half lengths but it could have easily been eight. It wouldn’t have been a Heaven Rocks performance without at least one moment of concern, as Rasmussen had to take hold soon after he made his winning move as he attempted to duck in. But his co-trainer says those now common theatrics from Heaven Rocks are not because he is pig-headed or crazy, in fact the exact opposite. “He is actually a very timid horse,” explains Rasmussen, who trains Heaven Rocks with partner Mark Purdon. “As a young horse he broke a pastern bone and I think that is where all this stems from. “Obviously it hurt him and dented his confidence and while he doesn’t feel any pain from it now it has changed him mentally. “That is why he is a bit wayward some times. It is not because he has any dirt in him, he is still getting over what happened.” Heaven Rocks clearly has the motor of a superstar but to take the next step, to that New Zealand Cup/Miracle Mile-type level, his rough edges will need smoothing out and Rasmussen is confident that can be achieved. “It has been a battle with him getting that confidence back but I think we are winning and giving him a break now when he is feeling good about life will help. “I think he can be better again next season, but he will need to be to actually win those top races.” Heaven Rocks shone the brightest of the stars on show on Saturday but stablemate and fellow Rasmussen drive Spanish Armada was almost as dominant, completing one of the great domestic seasons by a three-year-old pacing filly. Her 25.5 second last 400m is one of the fastest official sectionals recorded in New Zealand and she adds a Jewels to her Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series, Nevele R Final and NZ Oaks, with the Breeders Crown in Melbourne still to come and possibly a Queensland Oaks stopover as a reward. But while plenty of Jewels winners have gone on to the Breeders Crown in August, that won’t be the case for Dizzy Miss Lizzy, who was brilliant winning the opener on Saturday or juvenile trot winner Paramount King. “I’d love to be taking her over there but sadly she isn’t eligible,” said Dizzy Miss Lizzy’s trainer Nigel McGrath. And Paramount King’s co-trainer Josh Dickie knows the lanky trotter needs a break, with only his deft training skills getting him home on Saturday at a stage of the season when he looks ready for the spelling paddock. Piccadilly Princess also needs a break, winning her four-year-old mares division in steady but hardly spectacular fashion while Ashley Locaz saved the bookies by flashing past red hot favourite stablemate Spankem in the juvenile boys pace in national record time. Michael Guerin

Things were only ever going to get better for Ricky May yesterday at the Harness Jewels. The champion horseman had, what could best be described as, a bizarre start to the day after he was struck by a car when making his way onto the course. The Mid Canterbury local was knocked to the ground in the incident, but thankfully only suffered a tender wrist in the incident. After being checked by St John’s staff attending the meeting, May was cleared to fulfil his driving engagements for the day. “I was looking in the other direction and the car reversed back and hit me,” May said. “It wasn’t probably as bad as it sounds, but I guess you could say I was a bit lucky.” May shook off the jitters to produce a beautifully patient drive on hot-favourite, Enghien in the three-year-old Ruby and the outstanding gelding called on every inch of his brilliance to get past a game President Roydon. While the win might not have looked all that comfortable, for May it was really never in doubt. “I always felt like he was going to win the race, it was just a case of getting him past the line,” May said. “He is never going to be completely comfortable, but he trots through it. “There’s a fair motor there.” The win could see Enghien elevated to a position where he could potentially be in line for a Trotter of the Year Award at August’s Harness Racing Awards. That would make for back-to-back victories for Greg and Nina Hope with sons of Love You after they took the Award home last year with Monbet. Enghien’s victory was followed closely by the performance of Jewels day from the enigmatic Heaven Rocks. The monstrous pacer was simply stunning in his victory in the Four-Year-Old Emerald and drew his driver, and co-trainer, Natalie Rasmussen into making some pretty astounding comparisons. “He’s just so fast, like the only horse I’ve driven who is as fast as him is Black’s A Fake,” Rasmussen said. “When I asked him to run at the top of the straight, he just took off.” With only one Jewels win next to her name prior to yesterday, Rasmussen extended that tally to three with a victory on Spanish Armada also falling her way. Matt Markham  

Natalie Rasmussen’s reserved, but powerful, raise of the fist at the end of last night’s New Zealand Oaks at Addington was a salute to a filly who she is fast considering to be one of her favourite horses of all time. Naturally, nothing will ever quite measure up to the legendary Black’s A Fake, but if you asked the 16-time New Zealand Group One winning driver who was next, Spanish Armada’s name would be right up there. “I’ve just got so much time for this horse,” Rasmussen said. “She’s everything you could ask for in a horse really, she’s one of my most favourite horses at the moment.” With brimming confidence and a strong knowledge of what was going on around her, Rasmussen was on a one-way mission in the $150,000 Group One last night and was never going to back down from the challenge of starting off the second row and having to work her way into the race. “I just had so much faith in her, and what she is capable of. “Her work during the week was exceptional I thought and she really felt on top of her game so I knew we were good to go heading into the race. “The circumstances worked out alright, but she did have to work quite a few times in the race in tricky conditions. “But her staying ability was always going to be her best asset and it showed with the way she really kept at it the entire way to the line.” Despite the inclement weather, Spanish Armada still managed to stop the clock in a staggering 3:09.1, obliterating the previous best mark for a three-year-old filly in a 2600 metre mobile, which was held by De Lovely from when we won the Oaks in 3:10.9 back in 2010. It was another magical moment for Jean Feiss, who has enjoyed a stellar run over the past few seasons. And that fun hasn’t stopped. The Harness Jewels are the next stop on the path to greatness for Spanish Armada and based on her performances over the past two weeks, she’s going to be the one they all have to beat again over the mile at Ashburton. Bonnie Joan was a gallant second, beaten by a superstar, after doing plenty of work. “She’s gone great, as good as she could have really,” Dexter Dunn said of his drive. Upmost Delight emerged from the pack to run a strong third and earn herself a Jewels berth while Mark Purdon was simply beaming at the effort of Partyon who ran on strongly from well back in the field for fourth. Purdon, less than 45 minutes earlier, had been tasting big race success himself as a driver when he partnered Spankem to win the Sires’ Stakes Final for the two-year-olds. The Jewels leader in the Emerald, Spankem enjoyed a nice trip just off the speed before unleashing to win effortlessly. “He deserved that big one,” Purdon said after the race. “And with that run he was always going to be very hard to beat I thought. “He’s quite an exceptional horse.” Spankem is owned by the same connections who enjoyed the win of The Devil’s Own in last week’s Yearling Sales Series Final, capping a big week for the group who will now look forward to the Jewels with both horses.   Matt Markham  

There’s everything to gain and everything to lose for plenty on a big night of harness racing tonight at Addington. With the Harness Jewels meeting creeping ever closer as each day passess, the potential permutations who head into harness headquarters this evening, chasing big stake money and any form of advantage that might fall their way ahead of big meeting. From a punter’s perspective the most attention will come, not in the two or three major races of the night, but more courtesy of some of the lower profile events on the card. In particular, Four-Year-Old Ruby joint-favourite, Marcoola. The rising star hasn’t raced this year and is unlikely to race again before the Jewels, so a good run under the belt tonight will be paramount to justify his $2.60 quote that is on offer with bookmakers now. From the outside of the front line from behind the mobile, we won’t expect too many fireworks from Clint Ford, but if the speed is lacking during the middle stages, he’ll be moving and Marcoola will find himself up on the speed. Defeat tonight may result in a drifting of his current Jewels quote, so punters would be best served to take the wait and see approach with the multiple Derby winner. Of all the horses going around tonight though, the pressure is the most on Piccadilly Princess. She needs stake money to work her way into the Jewels. Currently she sits in the 13th spot on the order of entry for the Four-Year-Old Diamond, but with Rockstar Angel looking likely to fill the Australian invite spot in that race, 13th won’t be good enough to give her the chance to go for back-to-back Jewels successes. Should she only fill a minor placing tonight, the potential is still there for her spot to be taken from over the course of the weekend with both Hopes And Dreams and Idealistic Lass within striking distance if they can pick up easy kills at both Invercargill and Oamaru respectively. The former particularly looks a really strong winning chance which will see her rise up and into the top 12 for Graeme Anderson. Piccadilly Princess has the arduous task of contending with her high class stablemates, Waikiki Beach and Cash N Flow tonight which will just make her task all that much harder. Cash N Flow was given a very strong push by Natalie Rasmussen on the All Stars website this week. The four-year-old has slipped under the guard for much of his career, but compiled a rather impressive record and isn’t without a show in the Four-Year-Old Emerald next month against some quality opposition.   Matt Markham’s Addington Selections Race 1: #6 Pirate Bay, #7 Delight My Soul, #11 Hilarious Magic, #9 Late Mail Race 2: #12 Needle, #13 Lavros Jack, #3 Habibi Inta, #2 Regal Love Race 3: #5 Enghien, #6 President Roydon, #8 Kissmeimloaded, #3 Di’z Luck Race 4: #8 Don Domingo, #3 Mac Almighty, #11 Patanjali, #5 Franco Tai Race 5: #8 Sundee’s Son, #4 Paramount King, #3 One Muscle Hill, #14 Majestic Man Race 6: #3 Cash N Flow, #10 Waikiki Beach, #9 Classie Brigade, #8 Piccadilly Princess Race 7: #8 Let It Ride, #9 Eamon Maguire, #5 The Fixer, #4 Star Galleria Race 8: #8 Elle Mac, #3 Shenandoah, #4 Dizzy Miss Lizzy, #7 Bettor Joy Race 9: #3 Alta Maestro, #4 Spankem, #8 The Devil’s Own, #1 Aloka Race 10: #7 Wilma’s Mate, #9 Marcoola, #8 Habibti Ivy, #1 Missandei Race 11: #12 Spanish Armada, #6 Bonnie Joan, #9 Partyon, #5 Juice Brogden Race 12: #8 Moonrock, #4 Sparkling Delight, #13 Mongolian Hero, #1 Donegal Carrickfinn Best Bet: Don Domingo (Race 4) Value: Needle (Race 2)

When competing at the ultimate level it’s the small percentages that can often determine an outcome and for Spanish Armada they proved a major factor in her Group One success in the Nevele R Fillies Final last night at Addington.  The brilliant filly trounced her rivals in the $140,000 feature to cap a magical night for the All Stars team and particularly, Natalie Rasmussen who handled the driving duties on all four of their winners but it’s almost a case of what is still to come being as exciting as living in the moment of another premier night domination.  Rasmussen’s small percentage saves in the Nevele R Final came early on in proceedings when she threw a few form analysts books out the window by handing up to her stablemate, Partyon almost immediately. There had been some belief that she might try and take the bull by the horns and led throughout, but Rasmussen said she felt taking the sit was the better option.  “I knew Partyon would at least get me to the top of the lane,” she said.  “And I knew that Dexter (Dunn) would put the pressure on down the back which would help our chances a lot.  “But it all worked out perfectly and felt more like a bit of a trial than anything else, it was a really nice run to lead into next week’s Oaks. She’s pulled up really well this morning and you would hardly know she had run in a Group One last night. “I’m just really hot on her at the moment, she’s in such a good place and thriving.” Owned by Jean Feiss, Spanish Armada has now won four Group One races and more than $600,000 in stakes with some serious money still on offer over the next few weeks. While rapt with her performance there was a little bit of perplexity about the effort of Partyon who didn’t quite look herself.  “I think she just probably hasn’t come forward a lot from her two-year-old season, where the other fillies had.  “Mark said she was just ok last night.” Judge Mark Gallagher was unable to split second place in the race with Bonnie Joan and Delightful Memphis declared in a dead-heat for the runner-up prize after strong performances from both, particularly Bonnie Joan who worked off the second row barrier draw.  Less than an hour later, Rasmussen found herself in the winners’ circle again when The Devil’s Own emerged from nowhere to claim the $200,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Open Final.  The two-year-old pacer looked dead and buried around the final bend, but Rasmussen knew if she found clear air that he would charge to the line.  “He trailed up behind the so well and I knew if we got a gap that he would hook into it and really go but it was just a case of how early we would get it.  “I thought probably second or third was going to be our lot, but the leader started to tire a bit late and we managed to get past him, it was a pretty impressive performance.”  The Art Major colt has been a gradual improver since beginning his career and Rasmussen has high hopes for him as a three-year-old.  “He’s a pretty fair sort of horse, I quite like him.  “But he will be even better next year I think, he’s got a bit of improvement left in him yet.” Harness Jewels contender, Heaven Rocks stamped his authority early in the night when winning the Free-For-All event, but despite the victory Rasmussen wasn’t overly convinced the gelding was 100 per cent.  “We had him checked this morning because I just felt he wasn’t quite right in his gait last night and he has a slight fetlock issue but it’s nothing serious and we have got on top of it early so it shouldn’t be an issue. “The big bonus with him is that his manners are getting better and better, he jumped something last night when we turned around to score up and went off in a gallop but came back to me nicely which he wouldn’t have done a while back.  “So we will keep him on the unruly for now as I don’t want to ruin all that work we’ve managed to achieve with him.” The fourth win came of under-rated pacer Star’s Align who made us of a good drive from Rasmussen to scoot up the passing lane and win comfortably while you could argue that the victory of Australian raider, One Muscle Hill for former Kiwi Nicole Molander was also an All Stars success with the two-year-old trotter currently domiciled at their stable.    Matt Markham    

The battle for female, three-year-old, pacing supremacy will return tonight at Addington with New Zealand’s three best fillies locking horns for the first time since they met in the Harness Jewels last season. And the three stars; Partyon, Delightful Memphis and Spanish Armada all meet under different circumstances in the heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series. Partyon comes in off the back of a shock defeat last week while Delightful Memphis is riding the crest of a wave after two impressive recent performances while Spanish Armada has just been doing what she does best and that’s consistently racing with distinction. For Partyon it’s a shot at redemption after she was beaten for the first time in her career at Forbury Park last week. “It wasn’t an ideal race for her first up on,” Mark Purdon said. “Sitting parked in those conditions, when running that sort of time just proved too much.” Natalie Rasmussen takes the drives on the rangy filly tonight and with the requirement a first or second placing to make the Nevele R Fillies Final it’s expected she will look to take luck out of the equation and try and dictate terms from the front. That leaves Delightful Memphis in an interesting position. The Mark Jones trained filly has been stunning in her last two starts down in the deep south including a breath-taking New Zealand record time win off a handicap against the older horses last time. That back up a 1:51 mile win a fortnight before. She’s qualified for the Nevele R Fillies Final, so there’s not quite as much pressure on Jones to get a result but the Burnham horseman will be keen to see whether or not recent racing has improved his charge enough to really push the two top fillies. Matt Anderson has been gifted the plum drive on Spanish Armada for tonight and the youngster will be looking to make the most of his opportunity albeit from an outside of the front line draw. Beaten one in her last six starts, the dour filly won’t have any problems making her own luck tonight although she is in a similar boat to Delightful Memphis in that she has already qualified for the final on May 12.   Super Selector for Addington Race 1: Woodstone, Majestic Moment, Spurred By Success, Ed Wood Race 2: Locked Out Of Heaven, El Gran Senor, Got A Beauty, Black Art Race 3: Crusher Collins, Grand Princess, Jaw D Nancy, One Over Da Skye Race 4: The Devil’s Own, Mach Shard, Cole Porter, Bailey Major Race 5: Power Surge, Errol Finn, Kayteeoh Denario, Titanium Race 6: Partyon, Delightful Memphis, Spanish Armada, Utmost Delight Race 7: Real Obsession, Franco Rebel, Mighty Santana, North Carolina Race 8: Sugar Cane, Beg Hall, Geena’s Success, Chivasion Race 9: Mighty American, Midfrew Tarpediem, Vera’s Delight, Enchantee Best Bet: Partyon (Race6) Value: Sugar Cane (Race 8)   Matt Markham

Not even a wide draw has prevented the All Stars’ latest buzz juvenile Sicario from dominating betting in his Australian Gold semi-final at Menangle on Saturday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere was so impressive winning his Gold heat at Menangle on April 11, the Aussie TAB has him $1.55 to overcome gate seven and some quality opposition in his semi. Sicario, owned by Victorians Bill and Jean Feiss, headed straight to Sydney after winning his first start at Invercargill on April 2. His main danger in the semi clearly looks to be David Aiken’s exciting youngster Higherthananeagle (gate one), who is ironically a brother to Purdon’s former star Fly Like An Eagle. Higherthananeagle, who has raced three times for a win and two seconds, is a $3.60 shot from the pole. He led and was amazingly run down late by Lumineer in a scorching 1.53.8 mile rate in a 1720m heat of the Gold at Melton on April 7. The Angela McDowall-trained Lumineer is a $1.40 shot to win the first of the semis from gate one with young gun Jason Lee to drive. Purdon is chasing his fourth win in a Gold 2YO final following Mr Nickel in 2011, Follow The Stars in 2014 and Our Waikiki Beach in 2015. Interestingly, Purdon has only driven one of them (Follow The Stars) himself. Natalie Rasmussen drove Our Waikiki Beach, while Greg Sugars had the reins on Mr Nickel. In other Menangle news, former Kiwi star Tiger Tara’s planned race for Saturday was scrapped, meaning he will go straight into the $50,000 Group Two Bulli Cup at the same track on Saturday week. It sets the scene for a probable and mouthwatering showdown with Miracle Mile winner Lennytheshark. Lennytheshark was freshened after winning the Group Two Kilmore Cup on March 18, but grabbed the eye with a late surging second to Allblack Stride in a Menangle trial on Tuesday. Lennytheshark’s stablemate, Hectorjayjay, is also close to a racetrack return. He is also set to join the mix for the Group One Len Smith at Menangle in June followed by the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake during the Queensland Winter Carnival.   Adam Hamilton

The mental fragility of New Zealand’s most eccentric pacing talent may be a blessing for local harness racing. Because Heaven Rocks, freakish winner of Saturday's $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington, may be too loopy to take to Australia. And that could see him become a pacing rarity next season, a crowd-puller who races almost exclusively in New Zealand. The four-year-old with the huge motor and small brain recorded one of the racetrack stunners of the season on Saturday, overcoming an early gallop which cost him 40m to still thrash his older opponents. That in itself would have been impressive from the veteran of a mere 14 starts but the jaw-dropping aspect was that Heaven Rocks made up all of his lost ground inside the first 800m. Once driver Natalie Rasmussen settled the rampaging mammoth, who was scared into a gallop but rivals rushing up behind him, she gave him his head and he launched. His giant stride saw him circle the field to seize the lead with two laps to go and he left some of New Zealand’s best pacers floundering, winning by nearly three lengths in a tidy 3:58.7, his last 800m seemingly effortlessly in 54.1 seconds. Heaven Rocks’s next stop is Alexandra Park for another clash with stablemates Lazarus and Waikiki Beach in the Messenger on April 28 and then on to the Harness Jewels at Ashburton on June 3. He may not be ready to beat Lazarus yet but he appears to have a similar motor and with Lazarus now out of the Jewels officially, Heaven Rocks is odds-on to repeat his win of last season. But the more interesting question is whether the freakish show in harness racing can travel, with the Australian riches overwhelming but the downside’s obvious. Heaven Rocks may not be a perfect standing start horse yet but next season’s biggest domestic targets --- the New Zealand and Auckland Cups -- are both stands where he can start off the unruly and ease away without having horses behind him like he did on Saturday. Under those conditions, given time to settle, he could be a staying superstar. But Australia presents very different challenges. Every major race he could be aimed for there is a mobile and that would mean giving exceptional, hard-running rivals starts on sometimes smaller tracks and shorter distances. The saucer that is Gloucester Park would seem to rule out the Inter Dominions, while he would be dodgy at best for a 2240m around Melton for the Victoria Cup. And no matter how big his motor and suitable Menangle would be, horses with his lack of early manners don’t win Miracle Miles. So for next season at least Heaven Rocks might be allowed to stay closer to home, learn some trackcraft and thrill local race fans in the process while his stablemates go hunting for Aussie loot. On a night of big performances, Golden Goddess thrust herself back into Jewels contention with her first win of the season and Spankem moved to the top of the juvenile pacing pecking order with a dramatic Sires’ Stakes win. But the training performance of the night had to be Phil Williamson, who produced a debutante in Springbank Lachie to win the NZ Trotting Stakes, an incredibly rare feat for a first starter in a group three race. Heaven Rocks Springbank Lachie Michael Guerin

Natalie Rasmussen knows better than to try and dance with the devil, so you won’t see Heaven Rock’s straying too far from the nest for the next few months. The massive pacer with the big motor and even bigger bag of tricks was simply stunning when winning last night's (Saturday) Group One $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington after blowing the stand start and while he showed his best work for about 3100 metres of the 3200 metres, Rasmussen couldn’t help but ponder what could be if he was a little more tractable.  “He’s very, very good, there’s no doubting that,” she said.  “But he’s also a big orangutan.” While there must be some temptation to go and take on the best in Australasia with such an exciting talent, Rasmussen, and her training partner, Mark Purdon are more inclined to stick to the proven and keep Heaven Rocks around the Rolleston base and make a bid at a second Jewels success.  “I don’t think at this stage, with some of his mannerism, sending him away would be the best thing for him.  “He’s getting better, but he’s still a ratbag and you certainly couldn’t leave him with someone, so we are better keeping him close by where we can manage, and handle him.” That news will likely result in a shot at the Rangiora Classic in a couple of weeks before the Jewels preparation.  Becoming a dual, Jewels winners became a bit easier on Saturday night with Purdon officially withdrawing superstar Lazarus from the big race day.  Heaven Rocks has now won eight of his 14 starts and took his earnings past $200,000 on Saturday night for his connections; Phil and Glenys Kennard, Phil and Margaret Creighton, Gavin Douglas and Kevin Riseley.  After missing away from the stand start, he settled quickly into his work and Rasmussen took any further bad luck out of the equation and launched her way to the lead within the first 500 metres.  “He relaxed back to me really well which is a good thing because he can pull.  “He got a bit keen when the bell went at the mile marker, but again came back to me really well and was just travelling super from there on.” They stopped the clock in a slick 3:58.7 with Captain Dolmio emerging from the ruck to run a valiant second while North Island visitor Maxim was a very good third.  Saturday was another good night out for the All Stars with wins coming from Elle Mac, Golden Goddess and Spankem to sit alongside Heaven Rocks.  Two Brad’s enjoyed good night’s out with Brad Williamson driving his first Group race winner with Springbank Lachie who was stunning on debut in the New Zealand Two-Year-Old Trotting Stakes while Brad Mowbray grabbed himself a double with Ultimate Desire and Delishka.    Matt Markham    

Natalie Rasmussen has no idea what might happen at the start of tonight’s Easter Cup at Addington, but she does know that one of two scenarios will play out - one good and one not so good. Rasmussen has the drive on hot-pot Heaven Rocks and what the monster pacer does from behind the barrier strand will determine what happens for the remainder of the 3200 metre Group One. The 13-time New Zealand Group One winning driver was rather frank in her assessment of her chances. “He’ll either step away and probably win, or blow it and take no part,” she said. “And I don’t really know which one it will be. It very much depends on what kind of mood he is when he gets around to the start and that.” But if Heaven Rocks mood is anything to draw confidence from then punters who have him at $2.50 to win tonight might be a little worried when they hear what the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding has been like around home this week. “He’s been in a horrible mood most of the week in the weather,” Rasmussen said. “I’ve been working him on the round track and he’s been a bit of a brute and Mark (Purdon) worked him on the straight track today (Friday) and said he was good but still in a foul mood.” Second last start behind his superstar stablemate, Lazarus, Heaven Rocks will start from the outside of the front line and be given plenty of room by Rasmussen who intends to have a starters assistant at the horse’s side throughout the starting process. While the clear air in front of him when the tape pings could be a concern, there’s more worry about what will be coming from behind him. “It’s a really quick 10 metre line and those horses rushing forward on him could be a problem.” The Purdon and Rasmussen stable have three runners in the event with Chase The Dream and Piccadilly Princess also lining up in the $100,000 race. Piccadilly Princess will be looking to become the third mare since the start of the millennium to win the race and follow in the footsteps of Adore Me and Alta Serena. Nigel McGrath also has a strong hand in the race with his two runners, Classie Brigade and Maverick. The former was very good sitting parked outside Lazarus and if Heaven Rocks was to leave his manners at home he would become the most likely victor of the race. Robert Dunn also has two runners engaged with Southern import Captain Dolmio a real sleeper off his front mark and Franco Nelson who returns after setting a New Zealand record when he was produced two weeks ago. Maxim will be out to become the first North Island horse since Alta Serena in 2005 to win the Easter Cup and incidentally will have trainer/driver Brent Mangos in the bike who drove Alta Serena. Dexter Dunn will be aiming for his third straight win in the race when he combines with Titan Banner for Graeme Anderson having won with Locharburn and Christen Me in the past two years.    Matt Markham

It’s not often that positives can be found from a horse being injured, but in the case of Friday night’s New Zealand Derby winner it may have been the blessing in disguise that the doctor ordered. That’s the thinking of the colt’s co-trainer Mark Purdon who was running out of superlatives for his latest star in the wake of his victory in the $200,000 Group One event. Purdon has always known Vincent was a little bit better than normal. His, and training partner Natalie Rasmussen’s, former stable foreman Duane Marfisi knew it too. But injury struck during his two-year-old days and it led to him starting just the once. “We aren’t actually 100 percent sure what  the problem was,” Purdon said. “But at the end of the day it might have been the making of him, he’s turned out be a star.” Purchased for $130,000 at the Australian APG Sales by Jean Feiss for her husband, Bill, Vincent won on debut and had only been beaten on three occasions since and one of those came when he carried a flat tyre in the New South Wales Derby and took no part. “He’s getting better and better,” Purdon added. After keeping his hands clean out of the gate while others went to war, Purdon worked to the lead from his stablemate, Ultimate Machete, at the one mile and it all looked rather pedestrian from there. Although Purdon was concerned. “Going around the stables bend the last time we were low-flying and I knew Ultimate Machete was on my back and we had gone so hard which was always going to suit him. “I was waiting for him to go straight past me in the straight and he did level up for a moment before my guy kicked, it was a truly incredible performance.” Vincent stopped the clock in a scarcely believable 3.06.0, two and a half seconds quicker than the previous New Zealand record for a three-year-old held by Lazarus. It also bettered Mr Mojito’s all-comers record - a remarkable performance by a three-year-old. The win also gave the All Stars establishment their 200th Group One victory more than a decade after Il Vicolo gave him his first when he won the first of his two New Zealand Trotting Cups. And to top it all off for Purdon and Rasmussen, Purdon’s father, Roy was on hand to take the action in on a rare visit to Addington Raceway. The All Stars were in dominant form again on the night, winning not only with Vincent but also with Lazarus in the Group Three Gordon Roxburgh Free-For-All, Spankem in the Group Two Welcome Stakes and a lower grade race with Derby emergency, Riccardo. Lazarus readied himself for the upcoming features at Alexandra Park with an effortless display after following stablemate, Waikiki Beach, across from the outside of the mobile arm. “He stepped up from last week and felt super,” Purdon said. “That will have him ready for Auckland now, he’s in good shape.” Spankem’s win in the Welcome Stakes was predicted, and well overdue. After looking the best of the All Stars juveniles early on, a run of bad luck, big performances and learning curves led to him having to wait until his fifth start to the break the maiden status. But a $60,000 event isn’t a bad way to open your account. “I’ve always had a lot of time for him and the Auckland trip really made him. “He was pretty handy when we he went up there, but has come back even better.” Riccardo’s big victory, after getting well back and working hard, tidied up a good night at the office for Bill and Jean Feiss with this one in the name of Jean. On the ballot for the Derby, he was right at home in a lower grade race and showed plenty of fight for Natalie Rasmussen to get to the line and claim victory.   Matt Markham    

There's more questions lurking about the place than there is potential answers ahead of another premier night of harness racing tonight at Addington, but by the end of the night at least a few of them should have been answered, once and for all.  Who will take the crown as the best 2-year-old male pacer in the land, can Master Lavros shoot himself into contention for the Rowe Cup and which 2-year-old will stand up and claim some authority in what has been a very even crop thus far? The most pertinent of the above is, of course, the Group One New Zealand Derby.  Ultimate Machete, the Sires' Stakes King, against the excitement machine of Vincent and a plethora of other up and coming pacing stars, with $200,000 on the line.  From the outset this season Natalie Rasmussen has held a burning desire to run Ultimate Machete over 2600 metres.  "He's just going to love a Derby over a bit of distance," she has enthused.  "There's all the makings there of a quality stayer and he will relish a really tough run race." She gets her chance tonight, but will have to pull some of that magic out of her hat if she is to hold up from the ace alley and look to dominate from the top. With gate speed outside her, the pressure will be on and how Rasmussen reacts will hold a massive bearing on the race.  She will be keeping a close eye on Vincent too.  He was phenomenal last week after a tough run and Mark Purdon could not have been happier with him. "He kept coming and he kept fighting," Purdon said.  "That was what I was probably most pleased with, it was a good test run ahead of the Derby." Purdon will have options, he can press the go button early and try to dash to the top, or he can stay out of all the early fireworks and work into the race when it suits him.  Tiger Thompson's appearance will add a bit of spark to the race with his ability, undoubted.  The Brad Mowbray trained pacer hasn't been since his Auckland trip where nothing went right and he's hoping a freshen up and a return to the familiar Addington might do the trick.  "Because he tends to take so much out of himself in his races, backing him up isn't a great idea I don't think," Mowbray said.  "So we are going in to the Derby with one trial, some might say that's mad, but we're just happy to be there." If there is to be a sleeper in the race, in could be Jack's Legend. The Barry Purdon trained runner hasn't had an awful lot of luck in major races this season but could get it tonight if he can hold the back of Ultimate Machete early.  On record the Fred Shaw Memorial Trotting Championship should be a formality, but Master Lavros doesn't do much normal these days.  The two-time Dominion Handicap winner has a perfect chance to get his Rowe Cup campaign on track in the Group One although he will have to deal with the young legs of the likes of Everybody Knows, Wilma's Mate and Quite A Moment.  Enghien will start incredibly short in the New Zealand Trotting Derby on his efforts to date as he looks to do what his champion stablemate, Monbet, couldn't do and that's win a Group One at three.    Selections - By Matt Markham  Race 1: Curlimore, Mac Almighty, Bettor To Be Tricky, Sacred Angel Race 2: Tornado Valley, The Foot Tapper, Destiny Jones, Royal Shine Race 3: Volatile Lavra, Shesa Tricky Bridge, Gunpowder, Donegal Carrickfinn Race 4: Spankem, Major Shard, Aloka, The Brooklyn Brawler Race 5: Enghien, President Roydon, Heavyweight Hero, CK Spur Race 6: Lazarus, Waikiki Beach, Classie Brigade, Locharburn  Race 7: Quite A Moment, Master Lavros, Wilma's Mate, Everybody Knows Race 8: Ultimate Machete, Vincent, Let It Ride, Jack's Legend Race 9: Riccardo, Whittaker, Queen Bee Bardon, Shineonyoucrazydiamond Race 10: Sparkling Delight, Clasina Maria, Late Mail, Glentoro Best Bet: Sparkling Delight (Race 10) Value: Tornado Valley (Race 2)

It is the draw which totally shapes the market for NZ Derby but punters have no idea whether it is actually good or bad. Ultimate Machete is guaranteed to start favourite in the $200,000 classic at Addington on Friday night after drawing the ace on the track where he has already won the Sires’ Stakes Final and last week’s Flying Stakes. With stablemate and key market challenger Vincent drawn four, Ultimate Machete at first glance looks to have the advantage and immediately opened the $1.50 favourite with the Australian TAB. But while draws play a huge role in harness markets, whether barrier one is actually helpful for Ultimate Machete is debatable. He has yet to show blazing gate speed and is on a front line with some quick beginners, most notably Raukapuka Ruler (6) and Tiger Thompson (3). If either can cross Ultimate Machete early then the perceived advantage of the ace draw could be lost. Even if driver Natalie Ramussen is aggressive early, it still means he might work harder than Vincent, who has looked at least his equal in their two meetings. So the advantage over Vincent suggested by the draw may be false advertising, with the early tactics crucial for the pair who have long dominated the Derby market. Rival trainers will be left lamenting the draws though, with many probably going into the race thinking if they drew well and the favourites did not they had an upset chance. With the Purdon-Rasmussen pair both likely to settle handy such dreams and probably even the place hopes of most have disappeared. Plenty of the big guns are back after last Friday’s huge meeting, with Lazarus drawn widest under the preferential conditions of the free-for-all, a race in which Waikiki Beach needs to start finding some form. Last season’s near unbeatable three-year-old hasn’t won in six starts this term and needs to start earning some money to secure a spot in the Jewels in June. He probably needs to earn $40,000 by late May to make the Jewels and while he is set to race in some big money races in the next month, almost all of those are against Lazarus. Troubled trotter Master Lavros has come up with the best draw in a weak NZ Trotting Champs on Friday while Enghien faces a second line draw as hot favourite in the NZ Trotting Derby. Michael Guerin

An incident at Forbury Park involving Cambridge horsewoman Nicky Chilcott over 18 years ago was recalled when she returned to the Dunedin raceway last Thursday. Chilcott was a special guest at a function combined with the race meeting to honour women in business and the harness racing industry. Jess Smith, the Trackside television presenter and radio host, was MC for the function. “It (the function) went off really well with a number of those in attendance at a race meeting for the first time,” said Rodney Moore, the general manager of the Forbury Park Trotting Club. There were some 50 persons in attendance. Chilcott (45) is the most successful female driver and trainer (sole capacity) in the history of New Zealand harness racing with 604 and 407 wins respectively. Natalie Rasmussen has won 478 races as a trainer in NZ in partnership with Mark Purdon and driven the winners of 462 races. Chilcott was at Forbury Park in October, 1998, mainly to drive in a race for invited female drivers. She had other engagements including Honey Gazelle in the second race. She had arrived at the course and deposited her bag of driving gear in the designated facility then left to attend other matters. When she returned the bag was missing. “We searched everywhere with no luck then asked a man on the gate and he said he had seen a guy with a bag leave the course,” recalled Chilcott. “So we started looking in the streets outside, We were about to give up when I spotted this guy bending down close to a fence with the bag.” Chilcott was none too gentle with the thief and reclaimed the bag. She rushed back, geared up and made a late appearance at the start of race two. She drove Honey Gazelle to win at odds of 55 to one. The 5-year-old W R H mare trained at Waikouaiti by Graeme Chalmers, was 11/11 in the betting and set up a declared trifecta of $34,430 with Deville (12/12) and Scottish Banner (10/10). Chilcott, who attended the meeting with Michelle Wallis to represent the North Island, finished last on Chipover in the invitation race. It was won by Bernie Rae driving the Cran Dalgety-trained Silver Lined Pocket from Holmes Princess (Karen Sutherland) and Sunny Boy (Lauren Pearson). Others to contest the race were Jackie Law, Tracey Healy, Maree Price, Karen O’Connor, Joanna Davies, Jan Meikle, Jan Gould and Jo Herbert. Sutherland drove the Dalgety-trained Imagery to win earlier in the night and Healy won the last of 10 races with Lincoln Hanover for Waimate trainer Bruce Wylie. Chilcott drove her first winner, Local Choice at Alexandra Park in July 1993. Her first training win was at Cambridge in November, 1997 with Wahora. She drove in one race on Thursday, being unplaced on Jerry Fitz in the final event. Tayler Strong

There are few sights more stirring than two great harness racing horses going head-to-head in a battle royale. And that was the case in the Group One $200,000 Macarthur Square Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park at Club Menangle tonight when champion pair A Piccadilly Princess (Natalie Rasmussen) and Frith (Luke McCarthy) fought out a thrilling finish to this elite mares’ sprint. At the end A Piccadilly Princess stuck out her nose right on the line to beat the gallant Frith by a nose, with the winner rating 1:50.4 for the mile. Racegoers knew they were in for something special when the pair cleared out from their rivals on the home turn and settled down for a soul-stirring run to the line. Blake Fitzpatrick brought Bettorthenspecial with a strong finish to grab third but all honours were with the first two horses as A Piccadilly Princess’ earnings soared above the half-million dollar mark with her win. “She’s such a terrific little horse, there’s not much of her but she tries her heart out,” said leading reinswoman Natalie Rasmussen who took the reins for the Mark Purdon stables she co-runs with the ace New Zealand mentor. “My horse always gives you everything she’s got but I have to give a lot of credit to Frith as well, she never stopped trying – and they’re two great horses, that’s for sure.” A Piccadilly Princess is by Bettor's Delight from the Holmes Hanover mare Hyde Park Royal. A Piccadilly Princess’ win gave the stable the first two Group Ones of the night after their earlier win in the NSW Oaks with Partyon. . . . and the Purdon express rolled on – with some of their best prospects still to come. Amanda Zammit

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

1 to 16 of 97
1 2 3 4 5 Next »