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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

By Jonny Turner Classie Brigade put a frustrating season behind him on Friday night when he dashed along the Addington passing lane to win the Maurice Holmes Vase and book his ticket to the New Zealand Cup. The one-time arch nemesis of Lazarus outsprinted the leader, Hail Christian, and held off a late dive from A G’s White Socks to win the Group 3 New Zealand Cup qualifier.  Classie Brigade enjoyed a fruitful 4-year-old season following his epic 3-year-old battles with Lazarus, but was not able to step on the track more than eight times in the next two years.  Thankfully for his owners Grant and Colin Eynon and Mark McKinnon, the stars look to be aligning for their pacer’s 7-year-old year. There is no Lazarus to contend with anymore, now he has settled in to his stud duties and Classie Brigade is fighting fit and ready for a title shot at the New Zealand Cup.   “Anytime when they go AWOL, you wonder if they are ever going to be anything like they used to be,” Grant Eynon said.  “We were thrilled with him as a 3-year-old, he ran second to Lazarus a few times and we wondered why we can’t beat that horse and we found no one else could either.” Classie Brigade’s resurgence has come following his move to the Woodend Beach stable of Robert Dunn, which is headed by his son John.  “He’s loving it at the beach,” Eynon said. “We can’t believe it – for him to come back from injury – we are just thrilled with the horse and thrilled with Robert and John for all the hard work they have done.” Though Classie Brigade has moved on from former trainer Nigel McGrath’s barn it does not mean the Eynon's can not combine with McGrath to take out the great race. The father and son pairing of Grant and Colin have their McGrath trained pacer Gran Chico nominated for the New Zealand Cup. Gran Chico has not made a public appearance this season, but is expected to trial later in the spring.  The Maurice Holmes Vase was run at a sedate pace for much of its 2600m.  Classie Brigade and driver John Dunn followed Hail Christian and Blair Orange, who led throughout.  The slow early speed set up Classie Brigade’s fast closing sectionals of 54.3sec (800m) and 26.7sec (400m). The winner wore down third placed Hail Christian early in the straight, before holding out the flying finish of runner-up A G’s White Socks.  Classie Brigade’s win saw him move to $17 in the New Zealand Cup market. A G’s White Socks was at $12 and Hail Christian at $31 on the reopening of betting following the Maurice Holmes Vase. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Addington club Racing Manager, Brian Rabbitt, is pleased with the volume of Nominations for both the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup and the Airpark Canterbury Dominion Trot. He is also happy with the level of interest shown from Australia. Connections have nominated eight pacers and three trotters for their respective features. To view the Nominations click HERE    Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

Star three year old of the season Ultimate Sniper will be nominated for the New Zealand Cup in November though at this stage he is still in the “throw in a nomination” category in what is looking like an increasingly complicated spring racing scene. “Our other main candidates, The Fixer, Spankem, Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will be there hopefully, but we will be adding “Snip” because it could be one of those springs” Natalie Rasmussen said. One of the factors involved is just how well Ultimate Sniper has done over the winter . He is also another All Star who did not race at 2 blooming in spectacular fashion as a three year old. His 10 starts yielded 8 wins and a second placing his record only marred by a gallop in the Vero Stakes, his unplaced run. He was second to Jesse Duke in the Northern Derby Prelude then winning both the G1 Derby events here as well as the Sires STakes Final. Missing from the nominations will be Funatthebeach who left All Stars for Sydney on Sunday. He will race out of the Tritton stable though is ultimately bound for the United Stakes. Such sales, and the sad demise of some likely rivals, does give All Stars a strong Cup hand and with the Inter Dominions as a quick backup . Mark won the New Zealand Cup with Il Vicolo as a four year old and later with Lazarus at the same age.Both horses had raced at a high level at two and three   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

The indecision is over and superstar pacer Tiger Tara will chase NZ Cup glory again this year. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto had refused to be drawn on plans with his reigning Inter Dominion champion, but today confirmed the NZ Cup was again his major target. “Everything now is about having at his top for NZ Cup Day,” Pizzuto said. “He’s back and going well and I’ll just take him through the free-for-alls here before we head back across to Christchurch. “He’s an older horse and I need to keep him in work, even though there aren’t any big races for him for a while.” Tiger Tara has won two of three runs back from a spell, the latest in a slick 1min53.9sec mile rate for the longer 2300m trip at Menangle in cold and very windy conditions last night. “I know he didn’t win by much, but it was a big win because the wind was so strong,” Pizzuto said. “I’m sure he’s going as well as ever and I’m still hurting over getting so close in last year’s NZ Cup without winning it.” Pizzuto has the option of heading to Melton for the $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Cup on October 12 – a race Tiger Tara won last year – but he said it’s more likely he would go across to NZ earlier than last year and have his final lead-up race over there. “That’s what I’m thinking, go over there earlier than last year. Maybe a race like Ashburton,” Pizzuto said. “If I do that, I wouldn’t take him to Victoria.” And what about defending that Inter Dominion crown in Auckland from November 29? “It’s likely, but I won’t say definite yet,” Pizzuto said. “I’m only looking as far as ahead as the NZ Cup. If he gets through that well, then I’ll look at staying over there.”   Adam Hamilton

Kirsten Barclay isn't scared of the challenges that lie ahead of Southland sensation U May Cullect. Because the way she looks at it, if taking on the best horses and trainers in the country doesn't excite her, she is in the wrong job. Barclay is the co-trainer and driver of unbeaten pacer U May Cullect, who is very good and might even be very special. He faces the biggest challenge so far of his six-start career in the $40,000 Uncut Gems Male Pace at Addington tomorrow night, up against genuine open class horses in Classic Brigade and Triple Eight. The Uncut Gems are for horses who haven't won a race worth more than $55,000 and didn't run top three in the recent Jewels. With better legs, U May Cullect would be ineligible by now. He only started racing this season as a 5-year-old because he had damaged the tendon in his near-side leg twice as a younger horse. When he did finally make it to the races this season the shock value was instantaneous, with his six wins having come with an average five-length margin. While his margins and times, including a 1:52.1 mile at his second start, are those of a good horse, his explosive speed and the same pacing action that made his sire Gotta Go Cullect one of the best juveniles of his era are what set him apart from the other open class pretenders. Already a rating90 horse U May Cullect is as good as qualified for the New Zealand Cup, which would be a dream come true for Barclay, who trains him with Paul "Tank" Ellis. But the road to the New Zealand Cup, or any other serious open class races next season, leads through the pacing might of the All Stars stables, led by Spankem and defending Cup hero Thefixer. Barclay is unfazed. "We know how good these top horses are and how good trainers Mark [Purdon] and Natalie [Rasmussen] are," she offers. "But if you aren't excited by taking them on then I think you are in the wrong game. That is what we want to do, go up against the best and see how we go. "I am not saying we will beat their best horses but there is only one way to find out. "So if he holds together and we are lucky enough to be in a race like the Cup I'd be excited about it, not scared of them." Although beating the elite is a far cry from beating up on Southland's next best, some of the horses U May Cullect meets over the 2600m mobile tomorrow night would not be out of place in a New Zealand Cup so if he beats them easily the hype machine will change gear. While U May Cullect was too old to contest the Jewels, it would have been a fascinating drag race up the Addington straight had he sat on Turn It Up's back on Jewels day, particularly as the Auckland Cup winner understandably wasn't as sharp as earlier in the season. Barclay admits as exciting as her new equine toy is — "he is amazing to drive at full speed" — she tries not to get carried away with what the future holds. "For me it is a big deal to be going to Addington with a really good horse who we think can win. "This week's race is a big deal for us and I'll be a bit nervous. "Before we won with him there in April I had only ever won one race at Addington before." That was 17 years ago so Barclay is entering foreign territory but at least she is doing so with an owner who backs her, a canny training partner she trusts and U May Cullect, who is as weird as he is fast. "Yep, he is a bit of a weirdo," she admits. "He spends most of his time being worked at the beach and he doesn't really like people fussing over him. He is a bit of a loner. "But he is lovely to work with and every time we find a new challenge for him he loves it." Challenges don't come much bigger in harness racing than the second Tuesday in November at Addington. Barclay won't shy away.   Michael Guerin

Jimmy Rattray is not fazed by the disappointing Aussie raid at the Harness Jewels. Instead, he’s excited at the prospect of attacking the NZ Cup and Auckland Inter Dominion with stable star Ignatius. But first comes the NSW Breeders Challenge 4YO series and a possible Queensland raid. “There’s no shortage of options for him, but I’ve got to work out what’s best given I’m really keen on the NZ Cup and Inter Dominion,” Rattray said. Ignatius returns from a freshen-up in the free-for-all at Menangle on Saturday night, but it won’t be easy from the outside draw. “At least it’s 2300m, which helps overcome the draw. He’s really well going into it, but you always need luck from out there,” Rattray said. “He’s had those couple of runs at the smaller tracks and had bad draws, but it’s good to get back to the big track at Menangle. “He’s ready to go this week, but the run will top him off for the semis of the Breeders Challenge two weeks later.” Beyond the Breeders Challenge final on June 30, Rattray said he was weighing-up options in the Queensland Winter Carnival, which could include the Group 1 double of Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake. “I have to work through whether Queensland fits and, if so, what races, but it’s all about having him right for NZ. He’ll be a five-year-old then and it’s the ideal time to tackle an Inter Dominion,” he said. “Auckland doesn’t bother me at all, he takes everything in is stride this horse. Going the other way isn’t an issue with him, he does a few laps that way quite often at home and is just a comfortable either way.” Rattray is the first trainer to public declare his NZ Cup plans, but expect many other Aussies to follow with the ideal timing just a couple of weeks before the Auckland Inter Dominion.   Adam Hamilton

KEVIN Pizzuto blames himself for Tiger Tara running one of the worst races of his career in the NZ free-for-all. And he wants punters and fans of the mighty pacer to know it won’t happen again. In short, Pizzuto said he gave Tiger Tara to much time in a lush paddock eating grass after his epic second to Thefixer in last Tuesday’s NZ Cup. “He was bloated and you know it feels when you’re bloated,” he said. “I made a mistake. I’m annoyed with myself. It shouldn’t have happened. “I can understand people thinking he might have been tired after the Cup, but it wasn’t that. He actually pulled-up blowing after the race. He’s simply had far too much of that green grass. “Of course you get everything checked after a run like that. I had him scoped, but he was fine. “And he’s been really well since so now I just want to get him home and focus on the Inter Dominion.” Tiger Tara is booked on a flight back to Sydney on Tuesday. It’s great to hear Pizzuto has committed to the Inter Dominion after being far from certainly at stages of last week. “I think this thing of needing to be in Melbourne five days before the heats start is crazy, but I will go down early if I have to,” Pizzuto said. “I’m taking about 15 horses down to Victoria to race them for a few weeks around Inter Dominion time.” Tiger Tara has eased from $4 to $5, but remains favourite for the Inter Dominion final. There has been lots of talk about Tiger Tara also going to Perth for the lucrative Fremantle and WA Cups in January. “At one stage I’d considered missing the Inter Dominion and just going to Perth, but now I’m committed to Victoria, I’ll wait and see how he comes through that before deciding on Perth,” Pizzuto said. “I’d love to go to Perth and probably will if he comes through the Inter Dominion really well.”   Adam Hamilton

As far as elite drivers go, the name of Natalie Rasmussen is clearly in the conversation. The trailblazing girl from Queensland can drive.....and she can drive fast. But it’s the soft hands and gentle approach that puts her in rare air. Her collection of big race trophies includes Inter Dominions, Miracle Mile, Queensland Pacing Championships and Auckland, Victoria and Hunter Cups. Rasmussen has led the way for female drivers by becoming the first to win the Inter Dominion, Queensland Pacing Championship plus the Auckland, Victoria and Winter Cups. All of the above mentioned are Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit events, the best of the best. And the latest trophy to the mantelpiece, the Gr.1 $800,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup, another Grand Circuit feature. Rasmussen produced another polished display to land the 3200m stand start feature, getting race favourite Thefixer away safely before taking the early lead from Star Galleria and then handing over to stablemate Dream About Me. It was typical of her normal poise and guile in big pressure events. The victory puts her alongside fellow Australian Kerryn Manning as the only female winners of the famed feature. Rasmussen also co-trains the winner in partnership with Mark Purdon. After a long delay following a botched attempt the first time around with the starting strand becoming entangled with Eamon Maguire, runners were called back and forced to stand to attention again. But the delay had no effect on Rasmussen or Thefixer with a safe beginning made and landing in a dangerous position while key rivals navigated some early traffic and jostled for positions. Sitting patiently in the trail, Thefixer followed Dream About Me and saved much needed energy, the lead time was covered in 1:57.8. Sole Aussie raider Tiger Tara soon made his move and circled three-wide before parking outside Dream About Me, he maintained strong pressure onwards. Approaching the home turn, Dream About Me and Tiger Tara sprinted as strong as they could and actually had Thefixer losing their backs but Rasmussen went to work and the nuggety little stayer knuckled down and picked up via the passing lane to defeat a gallant Tiger Tara with Dream About Me filling third place. The winning margin was a head with a half-length back to third. The winning time was 3:53.9 - the mile rate was 1:57.6. “I can retire happily now that I’ve finally won this race,” Rasmussen declared. “That was so so close but we got there, he’s been a project horse of mine for some time and he’s such a great little stayer, we got a great run but I was worried when the sprint went on but he fought all the way to the finish and he was brave. It wasn’t an ideal campaign with the hoof abscess but things worked out well.” It was her 7th drive in the New Zealand Cup. Her victories on New Zealand soil now tally 237 from 612 drives while amassing more than $7.9 million. The All Stars stable has now won 4 of the past 5 editions. And the efforts of super sire Bettors Delight can’t go unnoticed, his 5th straight winner of the Cup plus a trifecta! Thefixer is by Bettors Delight from the Christian Cullen mare Tosti Girl and came at a cost of $47,000 at the 2015 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. The next leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Melbourne on December 15.   Chris Barsby

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