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These are the Final NZ Cup Rankings with 16 horses left in play. The Dominion Trot will be finalised following the Group 1 Commodore Airport Hotel NZ Trotting FFA which will be run on Tuesday. The Rankings/Fields will be available next Wednesday. View the final rankings here.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

Powerhouse Aussie veteran San Carlo is primed for his first Kiwi raid. San Carlo shares a flight with emerging trotter McLovin to Christchurch, via Auckland, next Wednesday. “It’s not ideal going through Auckland, but they have the chance to get out and spend a bit of time there before the flight down to Christchurch,” co-trainer and driver Bec Bartley said. “They get to Christchurch Friday morning, so it’s still plenty of time to settle in before the big one.” Bartley is adamant Kiwis will get to see the very best of San Carlo. “I truly believe he’s never been better,” she beamed. “It’s like he’s gone to another level this campaign. It’s so exciting.” San Carlo won the Kilmore Cup sitting parked first-up and has since produced runs of the race for fourth in the Victoria Cup and second in the Swan Hill Cup after doing all the work in quick times. “Colt Thirty One had the perfect sit on him and it took the whole straight for him to nose us out. And Colt Thirty One is a really, reallt nice horse,” Bartley said. This will be Bartley’s first drive in an NZ Cup, but she’s got great memories of the race. “I’ve been twice. The first time I went, I was lucky enough it was year Kerryn (Manning) won with Arden Rooney. We joined the victory celebrations afterwards and it was fantastic to see Kerryn treated like a celebrity,” she said.  “I’ve had such a great time both trips over and never thought for a moment I’d get to compete in it myself. I can’t wait.”  San Carlo looms as such an important horse in all the NZ races he contests because he so often makes moves in his races and connections aren’t afraid to go and sit parked. He’s sure to make the races genuine contests.  And the way he’s racing, he’s good enough to win a big one with the right sort of luck.   by Adam Hamilton

There was very little action in both set of Rankings over the past week. The notable happenings in the Dominion Rankings came in the form of Tough Monarch's win at Menangle and the defection of Enghien. Ultimate Sniper's win at Addington last Friday night in the feature handicap edged him up to ninth in the Cup Rankings, at the expense of stablemate, Ashley Locaz. This week's Labour Day meeting at Ashburton will likely add more clarity to the respective features, with a bevy of Cup and Dominion aspirants progressing their campaigns. The inclusion of Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam in the Ashburton Flying Stakes will add a new dimension to the Cup build-up. Following the withdrawal of Airpark Flyer and Star Galleria, 22 horses remain in Christchurch Casino NZ Cup contention, while 33 are still chasing the Airpark Canterbury Dominion. View the full rankings click here.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

The northern challenge for the New Zealand Trotting Cup is down to one as the road to the great race gets a lot steeper. The most important trial for the Cup at Addington three weeks today, comes up at Ashburton next Monday when many of the big names clash for the first time this season. The Flying Stakes will pitch defending Cup champion Thefixer against this season’s favourite Spankem and Australian raiders Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam, who was good enough to finish second in last season’s Inter Dominion final. But while that will thicken the plot leading into New Zealand’s biggest harness race, one horse who won’t be there is the northerner Star Galleria. Trainer Steven Reid has lost his on-going battle to get the speedster into the Cup and will instead stay home to concentrate on the Inter Dominions, which begin at Alexandra Park on November 29. “I have had three or four weeks where little things have set up back,” explains Reid. “The latest was a hoof abscess which has been cut out and while he will be back working this week, he has missed work that means he can’t race at Alexandra Park this Friday. “So I can’t have him fit enough for the Cup so the Inters become his main aim now.” That leaves Mach Shard as the only realistic Cup hope trained in the north. He starts in a $25,000 race at Alexandra Park this Friday before using the NZ Cup trial at Addington on November 6 as his final lead-up. Monday’s Ashburton meeting is a shaping as a crucial Cup week prep for not only the pacers but the trotters. The clash of the Cup favourites in the A$50,000 Flying Stakes will go a long way to determining outright favouritism because while Spankem still deserves that position he did peak after looking the winner at Addington last Friday. That was off a 30m handicap and on a sticky track, which he has shown in the past he doesn’t enjoy, and he has the luxury of starting off level terms for not only the Cup but almost every race for the rest of the season. While the Flying Stakes will have a huge impact on how punters view the Cup, the trotting races at Ashburton on Monday may tell a story of their own. Because new sensation Oscar Bonavena is being allowed to miss the Flying Mile to stick to an intermediate grade trot, suggesting he could also bypass the NZ Trotting Free-For-All on NZ Cup Day and be saved for the standing start of the Dominion three days later. Sundees Son, the other market dominator for the major trotting races during Cup week, is entered for Monday’s Flying Mile.   Michael Guerin

Star Galleria’s New Zealand Cup dream is still alive — if trainer Steven Reid actually wants it to be. Arguably the north’s fastest pacer looked in danger of missing the Cup last week when he has diagnosed with suspected suspensory damage, which would have been nearly impossible to overcome with the Cup now less than four weeks away. But to Reid’s delight his stable star scanned clear of any damage on both Thursday and Friday and is clear to race at Alexandra Park next week. But with the Auckland Inter Dominions a tasty second early summer carrot for the open class pacers, Reid says even if Star Galleria returns to his best he is not certain to head to Addington. “Sure, everybody wants to start in the Cup but there is no point going unless you give yourself a real show,” says Reid. "So he will need to go really well next week to be heading to Addington. “And by that I mean if he even won next week but I wasn’t thrilled with him he might stay home. “Things are different this season with the Inter Dominions up here. It gives us a whole other target we don’t usually have. “So we will race him next week and then make a decision around Addington.” The lure of a home town Inter Dominion will keep another northern group one winner away from the Cup carnival with National Trot winner Massive Metro withdrawn from the Dominion. Trainer Michelle Wallis says her stable star has struggled with a hoof abscess and would have needed to be racing consistently by now to be honed down for the 3200m of the Dominion. “So we have pulled him out of that and while we would liked to have gone there it is not as bad knowing we have the Inters at home later that month,” says Wallis. “And even after the Inters after are done we have races like the National Trot and the good Australian races like the Great Southern Star so he has plenty of options.” One of the potential stars of the Alexandra Park Inter Doiminions makes a surprise return at Addington on Friday night when Self Assured steps out against the big boys. The four-year-old is unbeaten in six starts and was so impressive during his Queensland winter campaign that culminated in him winning their Derby he is the $4.50 second favourite for the Inter Dominion. He was originally not set to resume for another few weeks but this Friday’s handicap pace was added by Addington at the request of trainers and now Self Assured finds himself up against Miracle Mile-winning stablemate Spankem but with a 30m start on Friday, If he remains unbeaten the open class pecking order and some major race markets could need reviewing.   By Michael Guerin

TAKE a look at San Carlo’s mighty Victoria Cup run if you’re pondering a punt on the New Zealand Cup. The results shows he ran fourth, but it was the run of the race and showed the late-maturing veteran was in career-best form headed towards the NZ Cup and Auckland Inter Dominion. San Carlo, just second-up from a spell, sat parked, poured the pressure on leader Cash N Flow in record-smashing times and still fought-on for fourth – just 8.3m from winner Bling It On. He was the ONLY horse to finish in the top seven, who raced away from the marker pegs. And that’s after doing more work than anything else in a 1min51.5sec mile rate for 2240m, which took a full second of Lazarus’ record in the 2017 Victoria Cup. Watch the video click here! “It was always going to be hard from the draw and it turned out how we pretty much expected, but he ran so well. He did us proud,” co-trainer Steve O’Donoghue said. “We think he’s better than ever and his two runs this time in point to that as well. “He sort of surprised us doing all that work and still digging in to win first-up in the Kilmore Cup, then he was so brave the other night. The shorter 2240m and drawing wide was always going to be a really big ask.” San Carlo might be a nine-year-old, but he was such a slow-maturer he didn’t have his first start until a late four-year-old. O’Donoghue now firmly has his sights set on the second Tuesday in November at Addington, then heading on to Auckland. “The Inter Dominion was always a target, but when he came back so well, and he stepped away well at home when we tried him from stand-starts, we decided to give the NZ Cup a go as well,” O’Donoghue said. “By the time we decided, the noms had closed, but we were happy to pay a late fee to be part of it. “If he steps well the 3200m will really suit him as will the big track.” San Carlo is booked to fly across November 5. “He’ll then head to Auckland when all the horses go up from Christchurch after Cup Week,” O’Donoghue said. “Being part of one Inter Dominion is amazing, but to take this horse to three consecutive Inter Dominions is special. And we think this is the best we’ve had him.” The buzz goes to another level for O’Donoghue to share the experience close friend and training partner Bec Bartley. “This horse has helped make Bec and they get along so well. He’s given her some great opportunities and she’s made the most of them,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

By Jonny Turner Woodend Beach trainer Regan Todd is in the curious position of being able to focus on the rest of his team despite the reigning New Zealand Cup winner joining his stable. Todd is effectively playing host for Thefixer as Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen attempt to revive the pacer’s spring campaign. The trainers have turned to beach training as the defending New Zealand Cup champion battles hoof problems in the lead up to his title defence. The All Stars team have been working and caring for Thefixer while he has been stationed at Todd’s stable. That means apart from some routine feeding, Todd is in the unusual position of being able to watch on as the star pacer is prepared for the second Tuesday in November. “It is a bit of a thrill having him there,” Todd said. “They’ve done absolutely everything with him, we are just lucky enough to have him staying.” “It will be great if he can go good on Sunday and head towards the cup.” The first race day step towards the New Zealand Cup comes on Sunday, when Thefixer lines up for his first start of the season in the Methven Cup. Todd has runners of his own at the Methven meeting, as well as starters at Gore on Saturday and Addington on Thursday night.  The trainer hopes Lonestar Lad can kick off his weekend in style and be rewarded for his consistency at Addington. The 5yr-old is out to score a deserving win after producing three second placings in the fours starts of his new campaign. “Hopefully Thursday night is his night,” Todd said. “He has been consistent apart from the night he sat parked – it didn’t really suit him.” “Apart from that, he has been going great races, he has been getting back and flashing home.” Lonestar Lad looks to have every opportunity to notch a victory when he starts from barrier one in Thursday night’s rating 56-80 trot. It will be up to driver Robbie Close to decide how best to use the ace draw. “We have got a good draw over the 1980m from the mobile, so we will look to make the most of it,” Todd said. “Robbie has got options whether he to hold up or take a trail.” Todd also starts Splash Cola in the event. The 9yr-old looks to have a huge task ahead of her from the outside of the front line in her first start July. Todd and Close also combine with Lets Hustle in Thursday night’s rating 45-53 event over 2600m. The pacer went a sound race in a strong event at Addington two weeks ago, won by Im A Gigolo. Prior to that, Lets Hustle was desperately unlucky behind Kiwis Are Flying. The 5yr-old looks a genuine each way chance when he clashes with two talented types in Down To The Bone and Stunin Magic on Thursday. “He has been going great for us and the last two starts he has been thrown in the deep end against some of the better ones and he hasn’t disgraced himself,’” Todd said. “He is really well and he is drawn good, too.” “So, hopefully he can slot in somewhere and finish over top of them.” The All Stars stable will also be at Addington on Thursday night with a small team. They will give leading filly Amazing Dream the first start of her 3yr-old season in a competitive mares event over 1980m. The trainers also step out Winterfell in Thursday night’s fast class trot. The 5yr-old disappointed his backers when battling in to fifth in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup. Winterfell should strip fitter for that run when he clashes again with runner-up, Valloria. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The big news surrounding Addington's feature harness racing rankings this week is undoubtedly Oscar Bonavena, who turned in a herculean performance to book his spot in the Dominion - coming from a relatively low ranking of 27. Oscar Bonavena showed tremendous character to recover from an early break and wear down defending Dominion champ Marcoola in the shadows of the post to take the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup and third place in the rankings (automatic qualifier). The only other move of note within the trotters' section was Theodosia, who continued her recent renaissance with a stylish win in the mid-grade handicap trot. Not a lot has changed in the NZ Cup rankings despite there being several race winners to consider. Spankem who won the Canterbury Classic was already locked for a start but moved up a spot by virtue of Tiger Tara's withdrawal. As a result of a stellar return to form, Henry Hubert, who placed second to Spankem, now slots into 5th on the rankings, with the first three home in the Classic given automatic qualification for our great race. Third placed Classie Brigade moves nowhere as he's already qualified for a start as a result of his Maurice Holmes Vase win. The other pacing winners across the week were Gran Chico, Cullenburn and Robyns Playboy. All three have moved up, sitting 19th, 20th and 21st respectively. Other withdrawals from the Cup and Dominion include: U May Cullect, The Bus, Sagwitch, Ronald J and Nottingham K Two. We can expect to see some more changes to the Rankings next week, following the sustaining payment, which is due Wednesday at 3.00pm. View the full rankings here.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

The big news with this week’s Rankings is the inclusion of San Carlo whose connections made the late payment last Wednesday for his nomination in the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup. Just one day later San Carlo justified his Cup nomination by winning the Group 2 Kilmore Cup. As a result San Carlo enters the Rankings in eighth position, which goes close to assuring him a Cup start. Habibi Inta was the big winner within the Airpark Canterbury Dominion Trot Rankings. His Group 3 win at Banks Peninsula placed him in eighth in the pecking order. Second placed Valloria edges close to a Dominion start. He jumps from 21st to 18th. There’s plenty more action to look forward to this week with Premier night at Addington on Friday playing to host numerous Cup and Dominion aspirants. View the full rankings here.   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

TIGER Tara’s spluttering campaign has come to an end. After weeks of uncertainty and below par form, trainer Kevin Pizzuto today confirmed the superstar would not tackle the NZ Cup or defend his Inter Dominion crown in Auckland. “The horse is in the paddock. He’ll be there for the next month or so and serve a few mares as well,” Pizzuto said.  “I tossed everything around and it’s the right thing to do.  “It really all stemmed from that gut-buster he had first-up in Queensland (the Blacks A Fake). It was at the start of the campaign, unsettled him and he just hasn’t been right since.  “You can’t go to an NZ Cup unless you’re 100 per cent and he’s not.”  But Pizzuto still hopes to salvage something from the season with his nine-year-old entire.  “Perth is the target now, the Fremantle and WA Cups,” he said. “He can have a month out now and I’ve still 10 weeks after that to get him ready for Perth.” Adam Hamilton

By Jonny Turner The lead up to New Zealand Cup has been robbed of one of its biggest talking points following the withdrawal of Southland sensation U May Cullect. The winner of seven of his eight career starts will not line up in the great race for trainers Kirstin Barclay and Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis after suffering a small tear to a tendon. Barclay, who is known for her positive outlook, admitted this year’s New Zealand Cup dream being over for U May Cullect was shattering news for her stable. “Obviously I am gutted, but you have got to keep positive.” U May Cullect had been suffering from a stone bruise since he ran sensationally quick sectionals in his season’s pipe-opener at Winton, earlier this month. Barclay and Ellis were getting on top of that problem just as the tendon issue was developing in the horse’s opposite front leg. “In the last couple of days the stone bruise was coming right, but then he started getting some heat in the other leg,” Barclay said. That heat was discovered to be radiating from a small tear in the lower region of the horse’s tendon. After scanning the tendon, vets recommended the horse have four to six months of rest. Barclay said her stable vets were positive about U May Cullect’s chances of recovering from the injury and racing again. “We are pretty positive and they are being pretty positive.” “The main thing is if it heals up good so that he can race again and he has showed that he has done that with his previous injuries.” U May Cullect made a meteoric rise from harness racing obscurity to be one of the leading contenders for this year’s New Zealand Cup after recovering from two previous tendon injuries. The good news for the speedster’s legions of fans is that the horse has not reinjured one of his previously healed tendon tears. “It is on the same leg, but it is lower down and it is not as serious.” Barclay said. “So, we will get him back and rehab him and have another go next year.” U May Cullect will be put aside for the rest of the season and aimed at next year’s spring racing. The 6yr-old’s withdrawal from the New Zealand Cup had an immediate effect on the New Zealand Cup market. The favourite, Spankem, was the most significant mover, tightening from $3.40 to $3. The 5yr-old’s All Stars stablemate Ultimate Sniper moved in from $4.50 to $4. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Defending New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is the centre of a radical plan to get him back to our greatest harness race. And while champion trainer Mark Purdon describes himself as “relatively confident” Thefixer can make it to Addington for the second Tuesday in November it is very much a case of punters beware in futures betting. Thefixer has yet to race this season and was supposed to trial this week but has been suffering from hoof soreness. Purdon, training partner Natalie Rasmussen, their vets and blacksmith have come up with an idea not even Purdon has tried before in his legendary career. They have found Thefixer is happiest when not wearing conventional shoes so they plan to shoe him the mornings he fast works, then immediately take the shoes off and only put them back on again for his next workout. “In between times he would wear a boot, similar to the ones endurance horses wear when they are competing on rocky surfaces, to protect the hooves. “It is not ideal obviously and we have never tried anything like this before but we think it can work.” Thefixer has long struggled with hoof problems, particularly in the frog area at the rear of the hoof. The stable tried to cover that with what is known as an egg-bar shoe but they found it was restricting the blood flow to the hoof and not letting it spread on impact with the ground and therefore dissipate the concussion load. “So his hooves were getting worse and after we took his shoes off on Monday he has been a lot happier since. “He will wear the endurance boots when he is on the treadmill or in the resistance cart and then shoes when he is fast worked.” Purdon says hoof issues aside Thefixer is very forward and he could even race in the Canterbury Classic at Addington tomorrow week, depending on how he handles his new regime and fast works on Monday. “Even if he can’t make it there he has races like the Methven Cup and Flying Stakes at Ashburton and the races even closer to the Cup. “So we think we can get him there but we also know things like this put him at a disadvantage compared with a horse like Spankem, whose campaign has gone so well so far.” Spankem’s track record-equalling win at Oamaru on Sunday has seen him ascend to  $3.40 favouritism for the Cup on November 12, while Thefixer is now the $4.20 second favourite but that is certain to drift. The reality is while Thefixer overcame some issues on his way to winning the Cup last year, he is at best of comparable ability to Spankem but at the moment one is in the zone and the other not so much. Both horses were among nine the All Stars nominated yesterday for the Inter Dominions, which start at Alexandra Park on November 29, with the leading stable entering six pacers and the trotters. Spankem and The Fixer are joined by Ultimate Sniper, Chase Auckland, Ashley Locaz and the surprise nomination of Queensland Derby winner Self Assured, who isn’t in the New Zealand Cup. And their trotting team is headed by Oscar Bonavena with Winterfell and Luby Lou. Entries for the Inter Dominion close at 11am on Monday morning and are free so while that may lure some decent Australian numbers in, how many make it to Auckland for the series will be interesting. There is an understandable fear of the Purdon-Rasmussen horses from Australian stables but in reality, with Thefixer’s issues, the fact Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured and only four-year-olds and Ashley Locaz and Chase Auckland lose more than they win in open class, Spankem is the only truly scary Interdom pacer the All Stars have and he was unplaced in the Final last season.   by Michael Guerin

Kevin Pizzuto is changing tack with Tiger Tara to get his NZ Cup raid back on target. Three defeats in as many runs this campaign and a couple of them well below his best, have the doubters lining-up. That comes with the territory when you’re a nine-year-old. But Pizzuto remains optimistic Tiger Tara will once again be a major player on the second Tuesday of November at Addington. And he resorting to a proven path to make it happen. “His next run won’t be until the Victoria Cup (October 12),” he said. “I’ll do what’s worked in the past, get him fit at home and just use a private trial. “He was only 75 per cent fit the other night. His run wasn’t bad at all considering the time they went and where I know he’s at.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “I’m not racing him here, I can get him fitter at home. It’s worked so many times before. "I can have him peak for the Victoria Cup if everything goes right between now and then.” So what about the NZ Cup? “It’s been the aim all along because it’s the most suitable race there is for him,” Pizzuto said. “Nothing has changed. He’ll just need to show us in the Victoria Cup that he’s right on target.”   HRNZ News

Despite the Hannon being run last week, along with several other relevant races the Cup & Dominion Rankings have been reasonably quiet. Among the Cup nominees Bettorstartdreaming’s connections might be able to do just that after his win in Auckland last week. Both he and runner-up The Devil’s Own have enjoyed moderate bumps to 26th  and 25th in the Rankings, respectively. While the only Rankings action to come out of the Hannon on Sunday saw Ultimate Sniper, nudge up a place to eighth, displacing A G’s White Socks. Among the trotters, two lower-ranked winners were the key movers. Oscar Bonavena and CK Spur won their respective races and improved eight places to 26th and 27th, respectively. Oscar Bonavena keeps his nose ahead of CK Spur by virtue of downing more highly ranked fellow Dominion nominees Winterfell, Valloria and Monty Python at Oamaru last Sunday. For his effort behind Oscar, Winterfell improved two spots to 15th, while Theodosia’s gritty fourth in the same race was enough for her to improve a place, to 35th. The action continues to warm up from here on in. We’ll see five Cup contenders clash in a near-capacity Spring Cup in Auckland on Friday. Auckland will also see some big guns back on deck in the trotting ranks. Lemond, Massive Metro and Pres The Belle will butt heads with the fit, in-form CK Spur, who could make a serious move should he down his more vaunted opponents.  The Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup will be a key stepping stone for many Dominion aspirants at Motukarara on Sunday and several lower-ranked or fringe dwellers will ply their trade in the faster-calls trot at Addington on Friday night. We are anticipating seeing some Australian contenders step out this week, with many Cup contenders looking to build towards the Victoria Cup on October 12 as the ultimate litmus test before a trip to New Zealand in November. View the full rankings here Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Jonny Turner Chase Auckland announced himself as a New Zealand Cup contender when sprinting to victory in the New Brighton Cup at Addington on Friday night.   The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 5yr-old put a frustrating past season behind him when scoring a front running victory in the group 3 feature. After being dogged by a muscle injury and a run of frustrating luck on the track last term, Chase Auckland could not have started his new season in more contrasting fashion. The Auckland Reactor gelding began brilliantly in his first standing start attempt, before taking the lead early for driver Tim Williams. Williams set a sedate tempo, that effectively won Chase Auckland the race with a lap to run. The 5yr-old gave his rivals little chance of making ground when sprinting his last 800m in 54.4sec and final 400m in 26.2sec to win. Spankem ran even faster sectional times when coming three wide on the home bend to run second.  The 5yr-old’s effort was good enough to see him maintain New Zealand Cup favouritism at $4.20 odds. Ultimate Sniper and A G’s Whitesocks trailed the quinella makers home. Hail Christian disappointed when running fifth. Classie Brigade took no part in the race when galloping badly at the start. Chase Auckland The road to the Dominion heated up when Sundees Son and Oscar Bonavena trotted to sizzling wins at Addington on Friday night. Sundees Son scorched away from his rivals when winning the group 3 Ordeal Trotting Cup by almost five lengths. The win was the Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old’s fifth consecutive victory and confirmed his Dominion favouritism. Driver John Dunn settled Sundees Son off a strong speed set up by Habibi Inta. Once Dunn asked his charge for a three wide bid at the 700m, the trotter charged around the field to score comprehensively. Destiny Jones ran home well out of the pack to grab second ahead of Habibi Inta, who held third. Sundees Son Earlier, Oscar Bonavena started his Dominion campaign in brilliant style when rattling off sizzling final sectionals to win. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 4yr-old ran his last 800m in 56.4sec and final 400m in 27.5sec to win in intermediate company. The Purdon-Rasmussen stable forwent a tilt at the rich Australasian Breeders Crown with the trotter and that looks to have paid off with the way the horse returned from a short winter spell on Friday night. Oscar Bonavena Oscar Bonavena moved in to a $2.70 win price for the Dominion, following last night’s racing. Sundees Sun heads the market at $2.30.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have chosen Oamaru as the starting point for Miracle Mile winner Spankem’s New Zealand Cup campaign. The 5yr-old, who looked sharp winning his first public appearance of the new season at Tuesday’s Ashburton trials, will be set for the Hannon Memorial on September 22. Spankem unleashed an eye-catching burst of speed to outsprint his Hannon-bound stablemates, Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland, in their 2400m handicap.  Purdon said he has been delighted with the way his Miracle Mile winner has returned from his winter spell. “He has come back really well, we are very happy with him,” the trainer-driver said.  Ultimate Sniper, was far from disgraced when overhauled by Spankem and runner-up, Clasina Maria, in the last 100m of Tuesday’s event.  The 4yr-old a half a length and a neck behind the first two in his first public appearance since winning the New Zealand Derby in April. Ultimate Sniper has returned in excellent following his battler with the knee problem, which required surgery, that ended his brilliant 3yr-old season.  Purdon said the 4yr-old and fourth placegetter, Chase Auckland, had also pleased him since returning to training.  “Ultimate Sniper had a little bit longer out than the other two.” “But, I have been very happy with the three of them, they have all been training well at home.” “And I was happy with their efforts in the trial.” Spankem and his two stablemates will trail again, next week, before heading to Oamaru for the Hannon Memorial. “We will trial them again next week and then we will look to kick them off in the Hannon,” Purdon said.  Purdon and Rasmussen’s remaining two New Zealand Cup nominees –Thefixer and Ashley Locaz – could also head to the trails this week. Defending New Zealand Cup champion, Thefixer, could not trial this week as his fitness has slipped behind his three stablemates that stepped out on Tuesday.  The pacer had to be given a few easy days to recover from a hoof issue, recently. Purdon confirmed it was the same issue that dogged the 6yr-old ahead of his epic home straight duel with Tiger Tara in last year’s New Zealand Cup.   “He has just had a slight setback, but he is over that now and he should be at the trials next week – all going well.” “It’s the same hoof problem, but we are a bit more advanced with our knowledge now, so we were on to it straight away.” Purdon said Thefixer’s hoof issue was one that was unlikely to go away.  “He is just one of those horses - we are just going to have to monitor it and keep on top of it.”  Classy trotter Oscar Bonavena looked sharp in winning the fast class trot at Tuesday’s trials.  Purdon and Rasmussen gave the 4yr-old a month off over winter, rather than sending him to the Breeders Crown. That plan could pay big race dividends at the New Zealand Cup carnival.  “We gave him those last couple of runs for the Breeders Crown, but there are probably bigger things in store for him,” Purdon said.  Oscar Bonavena powered to the line showing no signs that the knee issue that ruined his 3yr-old season was still affecting him. Purdon said the Dominion would be the major target for the lightly raced squaregaiter.  “We are rapt with him, hopefully he will be there at Cup week in the big ones.” The All Stars stable have just two Dominion nominees with Winterfell in contention for the 3200m feature, as well. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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