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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

 Harness racing tough horse Titan Banner held on by a nose to beat stablemate More The Better in a strong workout at Ashburton this afternoon. The former Graeme Anderson trained pacer will join stablemates Lazarus, Have Faith In Me and Smolda in the New Zealand Cup in November In todays workout the Art Major five-year-old held off the strong challenge of last season’s leading two-year-old pacer, More The Better after working to the lead and controlling the race from the 1000 metre mark. Titan Banner ran his last 800 metres in 56.5 seconds and his last 400m in a quick 25.9 seconds. The run will top him off nicely and trainer Natalie Rasmussen has suggested he will go to the trials again next week and then head to the Methven Cup on 16th October 2016. The Purdon/Rasmussen stable had 13 horses engaged at the workouts today and won every heat they had a horse in. Ultimate Machete was very impressive winning his heat after working hard to lead and then easily sprinting a last quarter in 26.5 second to win narrowly but well. Major Hippie, a three-year-old by Art Major, also won impressively while other stable runners to win were Spondulicks, Smiley Sophie and Boults On Fire.   Titan Banner winning todays workout   Harnesslink Media    

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

The $125,000 Northern Oaks at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tonight looked a two horse race on paper between the All Stars duo of Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princess and that is exactly how it worked out. Golden Goddess had been flying in her races and was unbeaten in her races this season until a last start defeat by Piccadilly Princess on the grass at Methven. Most pundits were prepared to forgive her that defeat as she didn't look 100% comfortable on the grass and Piccadilly Princess is a high class filly in her own right. The draw for the Oaks looked to have evened up the race again with Piccadilly Princess drawing beautifully at barrier two while Golden Goddess had drawn awkwardly at one on the second line. When the gates folded, Tim Williams sent Piccadilly Princess forward from her handy draw and grabbed the early lead but was immediately put under pressure by Bettor Think Quick and Josh Dickie and they battled for the front for over 250 metres before Josh eased Bettor Think Quick and sat in the death seat. Golden Goddess with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike had been sitting back beyond midfield watching the early battle and as soon as the pace eased, Natalie sent Golden Goddess around the field in search of the lead. Josh Dickie and Bettor Think Quick kicked up for 100 metres to make Golden Goddess work that bit harder as she went forward and Golden Goddess eventually made the front over Piccadilly Princess  with 1400 metres to go. Passing the 500 metres Golden Goddess opened the throttle up and the only filly who could go with her was Piccadilly Princess and these two cleared out from the rest of the field as they turned for home. Slowly but surely Piccadilly Princess leveled up and eased past by half a length late in the race to claim her first Group 1 victory. Golden Goddess was game in defeat in second while the next filly home in Arden's Choice was nine and three quarters lengths away in third. The daughter of Bettor's Delight from the Holmes Hanover mare Hyde Park Royal paced the 2700 metres in a very quick 3:17.9, a mile rate of 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 57 and 27.9. Piccadilly Princess takes her record to 11 starts for 5 wins and 4 seconds with $129,143 in the bank. It was a new New Zealand record for a three year old filly over 2700 metres, taking nine tenths of a second off the previous record set by by The Orange Agent in last years Northern Oaks. Tim Williams was his usual modest self on returning to the winners circle. " The feeling in the stable was she had closed the gap on Golden Goddess and I am glad she picked tonight to prove it." " We had a good draw and took advantage of it." "I didn't think I would be put under so much pressure for the early lead by Josh and Bettor Think Quick but once Golden Goddess came around and found the front , my filly relaxed beautifully in the trail." " I really want to thank the connections for putting me on tonight" " When I was suspended in December they kept the drive open for me and when I drove the stablemate at Methven instead of Piccadilly Princess they still kept the drive for me tonight." " I can't thank them enough," Tim said. Tim Williams has had a great last 18 months since joining the All Stars team but he has repaid the faith that Natalie and Mark showed in him with some outstanding drives, especially in the Group 1 events. Harnesslink Media   

The last heat of the Young Guns Series at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tonight only had seven runners but it looked a very even race on paper with as many as five good chances. The All Star duo of Pacing Major and More The Better had the form on the board down south but they had both been beaten on their first visit to Alexandra Park and there was the a question mark about them heading into tonight. But as has become the norm for All Stars runners, as you get deeper into the season, the better they get. More Than Better with Mark Purdon in the bike had an early burn for the lead but Vasari and David Butcher rebuffed that and held the lead with More The Better slotting into the trail. Pacing Major with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike worked up to the death beside Vasari and applied pressure a long way out and going past the 400 metres it was obvious that the All Star Duo were the horses to beat. Pacing Major went for broke as they straightened for home but More The Better came out onto his back on the corner and swept on by half way way up the straight for a decisive victory. The All Stars duo streeted the rest with the highly rated Mongolian Hero eight lengths away in third and at first you felt the other runners had been a touch disappointing. That was until they announced the times for the 1700 Metres mobile. More The Better had run the journey in a blistering 2:00.4, a mile rate of 1:53.6 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 28.2. The time smashed the New Zealand record for 1700 metres for colts and geldings held by Fly Like An Eagle by a massive two point one seconds. All season the All Stars juveniles had not looked as dominant as in previous seasons and rival trainers were holding out some hope that this might be the year when they beat them in some of the bigger races. However the foreman for the All Stars barn Duane Marfisi has said all season that he thought this years crop from the All Star barn were as strong if not better than last years juveniles and tonights performance has confirmed that opinion in no uncertain fashion. Next weeks $100,000 final of the Young Guns Series looks a match race between the All Stars duo and the draw will probably decide which of them comes out on top. Harnesslink Media  

The New South Wales Derby at Tabcorp Park Menangle is always one of the highlights of the harness racing season in Australia. With its stake money of $200,000 and it being run on the huge day with the Miracle Mile, it tends to draw the best three year olds from all over Australasia and this year was no exception. We had the best from Victoria, New South Wales, Perth and New Zealand in what was a great field of three year olds. The raging favourite was the brilliant Australian bred, New Zealand trained gelding Waikiki Beach who was fifteen from fifteen going into the Derby. However a lot of the competition thought they were closing the gap on the unbeaten star going by his run in the Derby heat last week where he looked vulnerable for the first time in his career. The early fireworks came from Zee Dana who burned the gate from barrier ten to lead after 150 metres for Nathan Jack. Natalie Rasmussen on Waikiki Beach came out of barrier seven and slowly worked around the field to the death seat before taking up the lead at the 1500 metre mark. No sooner had Waikiki Beach got to the front that Cant Refuse and James Rattray came around and sat on his wheel.  Natalie never really upped the tempo until the 600 metres mark but Waikiki Beach couldn't shake Cant Refuse and Zee Dana who were still in contention as they turned for home. All the way up the long Menangle straight, Can't Refuse tried to level up with Waikiki Beach but couldn't but he did manage to keep Zee Dana, who looked to be full of running in a pocket and unable to improve until the race was over. It was a lovely controlled drive by Natalie and ensured that Waikiki Beach continued on his winning way. Waikiki Beach paced the 2400 metres in 2:50.8, a mile rate of 1:55.5 which equaled the race and track record. While the margin again looked narrow, Natalie was more than happy with the performance. “ Being a Somebeachsomewhere means he does have a tendency to get a bit hot so we have been working on him to get him to relax a lot more in his races instead of pressing the go button all the time.” “ For his long term future he needs to settle better in his races and he is starting to do that now.” " If anything he has switched off a bit more than we would like in his last couple but he has only done what he has had too to win both times." "They have got up to him in his last couple but getting past him is another matter," Natalie told Harnesslink post race. His next run could be back in Auckland with a view to racing in the Woodlands Northern Derby where a clash with either Lazarus, Dream About Me or both which would be real coup for the Auckland Trotting Club Harnesslink Media

All the harness racing pundits trying to predict the outcome of this years $750,000 Sew Eurodrive Miracle Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle today agreed on one thing. The margins between the first four leading candidates on paper was so close it became incredibly hard to say with any certainty who would come out on top. Well in one minute, forty seven point five seconds this afternoon, all those questions were well and truly answered. When the dust had settled, boom New Zealand four year old Have Faith In Me had written himself into the record books with a run that will long live in the memories of harness arcing followers in Australasia. As expected the mare Arms Of An Angel from barrier one flew the start and zipped through the first quarter in 26.4 with Beautide and James Rattray on her wheel. Lennytheshark and Chris Alford slotted into a lovely one out trail behind Beautide while Have Faith In Me and Natalie Rasmussen followed Lennytheshark everywhere. Arms Of An Angel kept rolling in front with the next quarter flying by in 27.4 for an opening half of 53.8 and at that speed there was no moves midrace. Incredibly Arms Of An Angel upped the tempo even more down the back straight with a 26.5 quarter and the first to feel the pinch was Beautide, who began to battle at the 400 metres mark. Lennytheshark was quickly out to chase Arms Of An Angel at the top of the straight with Have Faith In Me chasing hard on his back. Half way up the long Menangle straight, Lennytheshark claimed Arms Of An Angel but was immediately challenged by Have Faith In Me and it wasn't until right on the line that the the four year old got his nose in front of a very game Lennytheshark. Arms Of An Angel showed real stamina to stick on for a great third after such a tough run while My Hard Copy from three back inner finished on into fourth. The time of 1:47.5 took 1.6 seconds off the old Miracle Mile race record and is the fastest mile ever run down under. All eight runners in todays Miracle Mile broke 1:50. Natalie Rasmussen was just in awe of what Have Faith In Me had done post race. " This horse is such a big baby still and is a long way from the being complete racehorse, yet he has just run 1:47.5. " He was goofing about at times during the race and paced roughly in the home straight but thats just him at this stage of his career. " I can't believe how good he went considering all the little things he still does wrong during his races." " He will go for a long spell now and I think when he comes back he will be a man and not the boy he is at the moment." " It is hard to imagine how good this horse could be when he finally puts it all together," Natalie told Harnesslink this afternoon. One thing Natalie was sure of was the significance of todays win. " Todays win is a huge career highlight, right up there with some of Blacks A Fakes big wins, Natalie said. Have Faith In Me is by Bettor's Delight and is a full brother to Adore Me 1:47.7 ($1,677,032). He is the twelve foal of the former New Zealand record holder and now champion broodmare Scuse Me 1:53.5, who is by BG's Bunny. Scuse Me has the incredible record of producing 12 foals old enough to race for 12 winners. With today's win Have Faith In Me has now won $1,324,879 from 22 starts, 14 wins 3 seconds and 1 third. The Lennytheshark camp were thrilled with how their horse had gone. Owners Kevin and Mark Riseley were smiling even though they had only been grabbed in the last stride. "He has gone huge and we were thrilled with the performance. "He has broken 1:48 and it has taken a champion sitting on his back to beat him so you can't be disappointed." "We just needed Beautide to take us to the home straight and I think we may have held on but when he stopped at the 400 metres, that left us a bit of a sitting duck." "It was such a great race to be a part of and if we were to be beaten, I am glad it was my other trainers in Mark and Natalie who beat us," Kevin said. Shane Tritton was also upbeat at the run of Arms Of An Angel for third. "Beautide made us work a bit hard early and then again in the second quarter so she never really got a breather."  "That told a bit in the last 200 metres but to hang on and run third was a great effort for such an inexperienced mare." "She has been timed in 1:48.2 and I think there is so much further improvement in Arms Of An Angel that I am already looking forward to next years race with her," Shane said. Todays race was a milestone in harness racing in Australasia. When our major races are being run in 1:47.5 the so called gap between the hemispheres is shrinking quicker than the Arctic. Harnesslink Media

Today at Tabcorp Park Menangle, Dream About Me showed once again why she has yet to be beaten in twelve lifetime starts with a display of power that left a talented field of harness racing three year old fillies with no answers. Away from the tricky draw on the inside of the second line early in the $200,000 New South Wales Oaks Final, driver Natalie Rasmussen looped the field with a mile to go to sit outside the leader Rocknroll Magic. Applying pressure from the 800 metres with a quarter down the back in 27.2, Dream About Me surged to the lead on the last corner and that was the race done and dusted. Champion West Australian filly Dodolicious ran on strongly for second nine metres in arrears of Dream About Me with a further nine metres back to the outsider Art Mistress who made ground late for third. Dream About Me cut out the 2400 metres in 2:50.3, a mile rate of 1:54.2 which equalled the track record for a three year old filly and the closing sectionals were cut out in a quick 55 and 27.8. The daughter of Bettor's Delight looked to be cruising in the home straight and looked to have plenty to offer still. Natalie was stoked with the performance  " She just won that with ridiculous ease." " She was waiting for them in the straight, flicking her ears and messing about." " This is an exceptional filly and I don't think people realise how good she is." " I know Lazarus and Waikiki Beach are outstanding colts but I seriously think she is good enough to beat them," Natalie told Harnesslink this afternoon. Leading West Australian trainer Greg Bond was over the moon with the performance of his filly Dodolicious to run second. " It is no disgrace to run second to a champion and my filly was clearly the second best filly out there today so we are thrilled with her run." " The fact I bred the filly makes the result just that bit sweeter" " It was a big call to make the trip from Perth but you never win anything staying at home" " She can go  home now and get ready for the Oaks in Perth," Greg said. A lot of pundits have been arguing over the merits of Waikiki Beach and Lazarus as to who is the best three year old in Australasia. With Natalie's forthwright comments today, two possabilities has now become three and that clash between the three All Stars champions when it happens will be one of the highlights of the season. Our Dream About Me Harnesslink Media 

Harness racing horses just don’t win 16 races in a row. Yet Our Waikiki Beach is definitely something special and he reached that mark in style with another remarkable win in today’s $$200,000 Coca-Cola Amatil New South Wales Derby at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The three-year-old gelding gave the Mark Purdon stable their third Group One for the day . . . with the Miracle Mile still to come. Driver Natalie Rasmussen explained Our Waikiki Beach only ever did what he had to do to win. And that was the case again today as the son of Somebeachsomewhere held off Cant Refuse (James Rattray) to score by 2.1m with Zee Dana (Nathan Jack) third in a 1:55.5 mile rate. It was a relieved Rasmussen who received the Derby trophy, explaining Our Waikiki Beach had been getting a little bit too fired up at his most recent start which had been a slight concern. “We’ve tried to keep him calm before his race since then,” she said. “But he’s a good boy. He just what he has to do.” And no-one does it better in the three-year-old ranks than Our Waikiki Beach who may yet rival some of the great horses with his unbeaten run. Part-owner Trevor Casey said he never expected to have a ‘second’ horse to win that many in a sequence. “I had something to do with Courage Under Fire, who won 25, but this bloke is now starting to stack up the wins as well,” said Casey. Rasmussen said she always felt Zee Dana (third) would be her biggest danger because he was so impressive in his record heat win. “Amanda Turnbull [trainer] has him flying at the moment,” she said. “But we were confident with our guy. “Mark and I don’t really go out to try and set records like that – we’re just happy if our horses are fit and healthy and going well. “Of course you have to aim for the big Derbys. “And I’d have to be happy with a day like this. They don’t come along every day.”

When the news broke late last week that the champion three year old colt Lazarus had shown signs of a bit of trouble brewing, the harness racing pundits immediately had the glamour colt at deaths door. Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen was amused with some of the stories that came out over the weekend. " Over here they have just about retired him already." "He worked this morning with Have Faith In Me so he can't be too bad." "It is just a precaution but there doesn't need to be too much wrong to bring the Derby at Auckland into doubt." "You wouldn't risk a horse like that." "We have plenty of runners in that and have decided Stroke of Luck deserves his chance if he can show the right form in the lead up race." "Dream About Me is running in the Derby at this stage but we are keeping our options open there because we have to see how she comes through the Oaks over here next week." "Even then it will probably be quite a late decision but we have Golden Goddess in the Oaks at this stage and those two are sort of like Waikiki Beach and Lazarus when it comes to a clash." "Fight for Glory had the ideal hit out last night (Friday)."  "She is a pudgy little thing and she just got away on us she was doing so well" " I didn't have to do much until the 600 metres and she did some good work from there so it was just perfect from our point of view. Natalie was particularly happy with how the team went at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. " Its was all good news from here." "Waikiki Beach and Dream About Me both had to step up and I wasn't surprised that they did." " I had done the form and thought we would have to work." " They both did the job and were running around the paddock this morning so all is well." " They had to run some fast quarters especially that last one for Dream About Me but she is such a good filly." "She just goes out and does it." "They ran Smolda close but while he looked under pressure late, its a different thing when you actually want to go past the old guy." " He is inclined to just ease off when he is in front," Natalie said. Courtesy of David McCarthy - All Stars Racing Stables  -  Check site here

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