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Please see here for the initial Rankings for the IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup and the Majestic Son Dominion Trot. Despite being installed a $2.50 favourite with the TAB, Copy That has been rated eighth in the first list of Rankings for the IRT New Zealand Cup at Addington on November 10.  In Cup week’s biggest race for the trotters, the Dominion Handicap,  last year’s champion Habibi Inta is ranked number one,  ahead of 2019 Inter Dominion champion Winterfell and Sundees Son, who opened his campaign with a second consecutive Ordeal Cup victory a fortnight ago.   The rankings will be updated every week in the lead-up to Cup week. A field of 15 will contest both features.  For more information contact Brian Rabbitt at Addington Raceway or 03 338 9094.    

New Zealand Cup favourite Copy That faces another new challenge on his road to the great race at Alexandra Park this Friday. The four-year-old finds himself in the almost unfathomable position as $2.50 favourite for the NZ Cup after entries closed last week and then things started to get bumpy for Self Assured. The long-time NZ Cup favourite and his stablemate Spankem both missed the Hannon Memorial on Sunday with hoof issues caused by a hard training track and one thing punters don’t like is uncertainty. But TAB bookie Matt Peden says that is not only one reasons Self Assured has been replaced as the New Zealand Cup favourite. “Once Self Assured was put on the unruly we couldn’t really ask punters to take the same odds for the Cup as when he was starting off the front,” says Peden. “So we have that, the fact he has been missing away and then missing a race in the Hannon, those things all pushed him out a bit more.” So after getting as short as $1.90, Self Assured is $2.70 for those who think his manners will improve and the unruly will assist rather than harm him. Peden says everything about Copy That has gone the other way, with great performances and good manners and the son of American Ideal who was $26 in the opening futures market could shorten even more should be continue on his winning way on Friday. But to do so he is going to have to overcome starting from one on the second line over the 2200m, effectively giving away a start to the north’s best pacers. He started off the inside draw from a 10m handicap to win in a similar field two starts ago but on that occasion four of his open class rivals were off 20m. This time he is giving most of them a start. The northerners will be joined by Princess Tiffany and Another Masterpiece, who are stopping over in Auckland as they head to Victoria. So while it is hard to see this week being an easy kill for Copy That if he is good enough to keep winning his $2.50 could shorten up even more. There hasn’t been great money for many of the NZ Cup favourite, with Spankem backed early at $7 and now out to $9 but there was specking for southerners like U May Cullect and Robyns Playboy. Peden says the market for the Dominion, which also became a little clearer when entries closed last week, took its biggest turn when Sundees Son smashed his rivals last start. “Before then we had a whole clump of horses around that $5.50 to $7 mark but that was the performance that shifted the market for us. “There haven’t been a lot plated at longer odds there yet.” Peden says the TAB book has been going “extremely well” and puts that down to a hard-working four-man team of price assessors as well as the great job the industry has done in making workout and trials videos accessible to everybody, including the bookies. “That has made it very hard to keep good workouts and trials secret but we are lucky to have a really strong team who love what they do.”   Michael Guerin

NZ Cup champion Cruz Bromac could launch his campaign to defend the title as soon as next Saturday. Managing owner Danny Zavitsanos said the veteran would either resume in a 2240m Melton free-for-all on Saturday or wait for the $50,000 Group 2 Smoken Up Sprint (1720m) at the same track a week later. “This week is a chance. Dean (Braun, trainer) is weighing-up his options,” Zavitsanos said. Strangely, waiting for the richer Smoken Up Sprint could be an easier option if, as it now seems very likely, next week’s race will bring together Victoria’s two best pacers, Ride High and Lochinvar Art, for the first time. Cruz Bromac hasn’t raced since finishing fifth to then stablemate Self Assured in the Group 1 Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve. Soon after he was sidelined from a planned Sydney raid because of a fetlock injury and eventually made his way back to Braun’s stable. The nine-year-old (in NZ terms) has won two recent trials, the first at Terang on September 5 and the latest just last Tuesday at Kilmore. Cruz Bromac was asked to a bit more at Kilmore, beating open-class pacer Star Of Memphis by four metres in a 1min59.3sec mile rate for 2180m and finishing-off in 56.4 and 27.7sec. Just as he did last year, Cruz Bromac will tackle the Group 1 Victoria Cup on October 10 with a view to then heading back to the All Stars’ barn in Christchurch to prepare for the NZ Cup.   By Adam Hamilton

Reigning New Zealand Cup champion Cruz Bromac looks set to be back at Addington on November 10. The pacer is one of just two Australians, along with trotter Tough Monarch, to be included in the nominations for the week's two biggest features, the IRT New Zealand Cup and the Majestic Son Dominion Trot. 34 have been nominated for the Cup and 33 for the Dominion. Addington Raceway Racing Secretary Brian Rabbitt is pleased with the response, especially in a year which has been so adversely affected by COVID-19. The Cup numbers are the same as last year and the Dominion is down a few on last year. Notable absentees in the pacing ranks are recently-crowned Horse of the Year Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland (both injured) and Another Masterpiece and Princess Tiffany who are Australia-bound for other features and in the trotting ranks Oscar Bonavena (injured). "Cruz Bromac is likely to go straight to the Purdon/Rasmussen barn as he did last year," says Rabbitt. The only other Australian entry Tough Monarch placed second in the Dominion last year and there are some question marks about his return. "We know Rickie Alchin (trainer) would love to come over here again but he has to factor in travel restrictions so we can only wait and see," says Rabbitt. The first list of Cup rankings will be released next Thursday with many of the top open class contenders, including Cup favourite Self Assured, fronting up in Sunday's Hannon Memorial.     Dave Di Somma HRNZ

IRT (International Racehorse Transport) have secured the right to sponsor New Zealand’s greatest horse race, the IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup. Addington Raceway’s Chief Executive, Brian Thompson, is thrilled to announce the New Zealand company will have the naming rights to the iconic harness race to be run at Addington on November 10. “Richard Cole and the team at IRT have been huge supporters of the industry and Addington Raceway for many years, so it’s great to see the biggest global horse freighting company involved with the industry’s biggest race,” said Thompson. “Sharing this extraordinary event with IRT is something we are really looking forward to. We can’t wait for the build-up and the big day itself and we want to wish all involved good luck in the lead up to the IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup Day 2020.” While IRT have been generous sponsors of harness racing for many years they have stepped up their involvement enormously in the last two seasons to include the Harness Jewels and Inter Dominions. “IRT NZ is proud to be the major sponsor of the NZ Trotting Cup for 2020 and is thrilled to be working with the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club for this elite event,” says IRT Co-Director Richard Cole. “The directors of IRT look forward to enjoying lots of fantastic racing at IRT NZ Trotting Cup Day 2020." The New Zealand Trotting Cup is not only the jewel in the crown of New Zealand harness racing but the centrepiece of New Zealand’s biggest racing day of any code. Thompson and the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club also wish to thank long-term NZ Cup sponsors, Christchurch Casino, for their wonderful support of the Cup. With all New Zealand sporting and racing organisations having to reassess budgets and expectations because of the economic effects of Covid-19, this year’s Cup will carry a stake of $540,000 which means, even though reduced on last season, it will be the richest harness race held in the Southern Hemisphere this season. Addington Raceway look forward to releasing more details next week on ticketing and hospitality for its two magical days (November 10 and 13) of Cup week 2020. For any questions on this media release, please contact Carlo Gomez -

The two darlings of the New Zealand open class ranks are still on target for a shot at the New Zealand Cup even if beating the boys is looking harder by the week. Brothers Barry Purdon with Belle Of Montana and Mark Purdon with Princess Tiffany have confirmed the two arch rivals of the mares ranks are still on the New Zealand Cup path even if they are unloved in the market. Belle Of Montana is rated a $26 chance to win Cup at Addington on November 10 while oddly Princess Tiffany, who has been brave and consistent in her runs this campaign behind Self Assured isn’t actually listed in the TAB market. “We are definitely still looking at the Cup with her,” said Barry Purdon of Belle Of Montana, who races Copy That in the free-for-all at Alexandra Park on Thursday night. “There aren’t really a lot of other options for mares and I still think she is up to it. “She was good fresh-up behind Copy That and then galloped from her first stand last start but plenty of them do that the first time they try a stand. “So we will keeping pushing toward the Cup but if for any reason things changed and I thought she wasn’t to it, or if Dean (Shannon, owner) didn’t want her there then she could change tact. “But it is still her aim at this stage.” Purdon also has Mach Shard in the feature tomorrow night but has scratched On The Cards but all three remain on target for the Cup. Mark Purdon says he has been happy with Princess Tiffany’s form and while Self Assured has been dominant so far the mare looks as good as the remainder we have seen in the South so far. “Again, there aren’t any mares races to aim her at and the owners are keen to have a Cup starter so while it isn’t easy for mares at this level she is heading that way,” says Mark. Last season’s Cup runner-up Spankem was supposed to return to the workouts for the All Stars yesterday but will instead trial today (Wednesday) after yesterday’s were cancelled. The stable will possibly split their open class team soon, with some to head to the Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup at Addington on September 11 while two others could head to the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru nine days later. Most importantly for futures punters, Inter Dominion champion Ultimate Sniper is still not being aimed at the Cup and is very unlikely to race during Cup week but last season’s champion filly Amazing Dream will be at Addington that week all going well “She will come back from Queensland soon and contest a fillies heat at Alexandra Park in October to try and qualified for that delayed fillies final on Cup day.” But One Change, who opened his Australian campaign with a win last week, is likely to stay in Queensland longer and not return to New Zealand for Cup time.   Michael Guerin

Champion driver Blair Orange is set to be offered the drive on pacing excitement machine Copy That in the New Zealand Cup. But Victorian-based owner Merv Butterworth says that doesn’t guarantee Orange the drive behind the Cup second favourite for the remainder of the season, just when he crossed Cook Straight. Copy That has rocketed up the markets from an opening quote of $26 to be the $4.20 second elect for the Cup to be run at Addington on November 10. That has come courtesy of three impressive Alexandra Park wins this campaign when he has looked clearly the best of the notherners while Cup favourite Self Assured has looked just at dominant in the south. Maurice McKendry, one of only two New Zealand reinsmen with over 3000 career wins, has driven Copy That in all three of those wins but Butterworth, who has been an enormous investor in New Zealand harness racing, says any time Copy That races in the South Island it is Orange who gets first refusal. “My rule on this is Blair gets offered the drive in the South Island and Maurice will drive him, if he wants, in the North Island,” says Butterworth. “So the NZ Cup drive is Blair’s if he wants it.” Orange is actually the defending NZ Cup driving champ as he won the race last season on catch drive Cruz Bromac, who is still aiming to return from Victoria for the Cup again this year. But Orange says he will drive Copy That all things being equal. “He is the horse on the rise and has a big future ahead of him so I’d love to drive him,” says Orange. “People keep telling me I will be on him but I haven’t actually heard anything official.” Well, he has now. If Copy That makes it south Orange might not have long to get re-acquainted with him as trainer Ray Green has suggested he may keep the four-year-old in the north as long as possible pre-Cup, something made possible by solid feature-race field size numbers at Alexandra Park. That could mean a run in the Cup trial a week before the great race may be the only time Orange and the South Auckland pacer partner up before the Cup. Copy That would have two shots at group one glory during Cup week, the other being the NZ Free-For-All three days after the Cup and should he win either race that would surely test Butterworth’s loyalty to his different drivers for different islands policy as it would be hard to kick off your New Zealand Cup winning driver. If he does stick to that policy though McKendry has races like the Auckland Cup, Taylor Mile, Messenger and even the Jewels, still likely to be held at Cambridge next June, to potentially look forward to in the north. The southern Cup runners clash again at Addington this Friday with Self Assured odds on but at least with some new opposition in A G’s White Socks and southern speedster Spirit Of St Louis to add to the mix. Inter Dominion Trotting champion Winterfell has returned south after his handicaps in the north were deemed to be too prohibitive and he will meet Majestic Man under mobile conditions on Friday.   by Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Plans are in place for Cruz Bromac to head back to Addington to defend his New Zealand Cup crown on the second Tuesday in November. The nine-year-old, who has not been sighted at the races since December of last year, has been in work for more than two months at Amanda Greive’s Victorian stable and is nearing a racetrack return. Managing part owner Danny Zavitsanos was at centre of incredible post-race scenes when he picked up Mark Purdon and spun him around on his shoulder in jubilation after winning New Zealand’s greatest race, last year. Zavitsanos, who races Cruz Bromac with wife Joanna, Peter and Zilla O'Shea and Warren Viney, would love nothing more than to re-enact the scene after this year’s race. “If I can get back there and win it I would pick both Mark and Natalie up – one in each arm.” The COVID-19 situation in Australasia, particularly in Victoria, means Zavitsanos is unlikely to be at this year’s cup in person.  But, with horses able to fly across the Tasman without too many restrictions, there is a big chance Cruz Bromac will be back to defend his crown. “That is my goal – to bring the horse back,” Zavitsanos said. “We are basically following the same programme as last year.” “Our aim is the Victoria Cup, a similar target to what we had last year, and if all goes well and he is coming back a treat he will be coming back to defend the cup.” The Victoria Cup is down to be run at Melton on October 10. However, Harness Racing Victoria have signalled it would not go ahead unless horses from other states in Australia can compete. That looks a long way off given horses can only race in their own region within Victoria at the moment. Cruz Bromac ran third in the Victoria Cup last year before joining Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars stable. The pacer won the New Zealand Cup after a ninth in the Ashburton Flying Stakes and second in the Kaikoura Cup and was unlucky not to double up in the New Zealand Free For All when going to the line hard held after an early gallop cost him a better position. All signs look positive for Cruz Bromac to make it back to the All Stars stable given his trip relies on him being in good shape and good form. “He is in really good order – he is probably about two to three weeks off a trial,” Zavitsanos said. “He has been in work about two and a half months.” “The horse is good, everything is well and he is actually coming up a treat.” “He is nine years old, but like last year so long as the heavens open up for us we are always a chance.” “I think the 3200m suits him down to the ground.” “And he is a sprinter, too, he was probably unlucky not to win the free-for-all on the Friday if he didn’t make a mistake.” Cruz Bromac has not started since running fifth behind Ultimate Sniper in the Interdominion Grand Final for Purdon and Rasmussen. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

If you are worried about Copy That’s standing start record on his way to the New Zealand Cup, don’t be. Because trainer Ray Green is adamant Thursday night’s stunning Alexandra Park winner will erase those fears next start. Copy That left no doubt he has the motor for open class by destroying most of the north’s pacing elite over 1700m on Thursday, blasting to the lead and tearing off a 53.8 last 800m and a 26.2 final 400m to win by five lengths. He went into the race with one race start of fitness under his belt as an advantage over his rivals but it would have mattered, it was his arrival on the big stage with his 1:52 mile rate one of the fastest seen in the north. The demolition job saw him shorten into $7.50 third favourite for the New Zealand Cup behind Self Assured at $2 and the yet to return Spankem. But while Green says the Cup at Addington is the aim, a casual punter might be wary of Copy That’s standing start record: two attempts for a pulled up and a third. They shouldn’t be as the third came in a first race for two months back in February and stepped away slowly bu safely while the pulled up three starts ago wasn’t because of an early gallop but the four-year-old entire hitting the foot rests on the sulky with his hind legs, forcing new driver Maurice McKendry to retire him from the race. Those standing start manners will get a full public appraisal next start in the standing start Spring Cup over 2200m at Alexandra Park on August 20. “I don’t think it will be a problem at all,” says Green. “He is that good a pacer he will handle it and he should get a few more before we head south.” Green says he would prefer to stay north with Copy That until at least weeks before the Cup so he can prepare him from home and with 10 starters last Thursday night two or three more NZ Cup lead-up races in the north look certain. “It is very satisfying having a horse like him,” says Green. “And there might be some good ones around but I wouldn’t swap him.” While they were all chasing a dream as soon as Copy That lead on Thursday there was still enough to like about the runs of horses like Belle of Montana, Triple Eight and Mach Shard. But while the second Tuesday in November is a long way away, Copy That deserves his place at the most favoured northerner at the moment and a horse who could excel in Australia after Christmas in races like the Bonanza, Chariots Of Fire and even Miracle Mile.   Michael Guerin

FORGOTTEN star Cruz Bromac is still a chance to defend his NZ Cup crown later this year. Exuberant owner Danny Zavitsanos said the rising nine-year-old was over his issues and would have been back racing now were it not for the impact of COVID-19. A fetlock injury earlier this year sidelined Cruz Bromac and potentially threatened his career. He hasn’t raced since a fifth in the Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve. “He had a good spell in Sydney and seems really well,” Zavitsanos said. “We could’ve had him back now, but there’s such uncertainty, especially with the Queensland Carnival, we just took it easy with him again. “He’s now down with Dean (Braun) and Amanda (Grieve) and they’ll bring him up with a view to the Victoria Cup, if it’s still run in (mid) October. “Sending him back for the NZ Cup is still a chance for sure. We’d love to do that. “Everything depends on how well he comes back to racing this time around.” In this stellar season, Cruz Bromac ran third in the Victoria Cup for Grieve and Braun, then moved across to the All Stars’ barn where he ran second in the Kaikoura Cup before his NZ Cup triumph. The gelding when ran a luckless third in the NZ free-for-all before a win and two placings in his three Auckland Inter Dominion heats then a slightly disappointing fourth in the final won by stablemate Ultimate Sniper. That fifth in the NZ Cup was only subsequent run. “It’s been a fantastic season and that NZ Cup win was so special, something we’ll treasure forever. Hopefully he comes back really well and we can have another go at this year,” Zavitsanos said. Cruz Bromac’s 11 runs this season have so far netted three wins, three seconds, two thirds and $509,348 in earnings so take his career bankroll to $1.08 million.   By Adam Hamilton 

Talk has switched to the New Zealand Cup with buzz Aussie pacer Shockwave. The gun four-year-old was being set for the Sydney Inter Dominion, but with that now postponed, connections are looking very seriously at the NZ Cup. “We’ve talked about the NZ Cup, I know the trainer (Ryan Bell) would love to give it a shot, even though the horse hasn’t contested a standing race as yet,” managing owner Kevin Jeavons said. “We’ve got a lot of thinking to do. Sydney was obviously the main aim this year and it’s disappointing that’s not happening. “I think it’s sad for the sport, way above our own interests, that we won’t have an Inter Dominion this year. “So the NZ Cup becomes an option, a real option. There’s no other features races we’d really consider leaving home for between now and the Miracle Mile, only the NZ Cup.” Shockwave was luckless through the big two WA races – Fremantle and WA Cups in January – but since stamped himself as the state’s best horse and one of the most exciting in Australia. With the Inter Dominion off and no other really major Aussie open-class races before Christmas, NZ officials appear to have a huge opportunity if they can maintain significant stakemoney for the NZ Cup and NZ free-for-all. No doubt Shockwave is just one of many top horses at least being considered for an NZ Cup raid, pending stakemoney money levels.   Adam Hamilton

The show may not go on but the Cup definitely will. That is the pledge from Addington bosses who vow the famous New Zealand Trotting Cup meeting will proceed even though Canterbury’s Agricultural Show, the other centrepiece of the region’s biggest week, has been cancelled for the first time since World War Two. The No Show will be a huge loss for the Christchurch economy as it brings so many people to the region and goes hand in hand with the racing of Cup week at Addington and Riccarton. But Addington chief executive Brian Thompson says while he feels the pain of the show organisers, his club’s Cup Day will definitely go head. “We don’t know what it will look like of course but there will be a Cup Day and a Cup week at Addington,” said Thompson. “Like everybody else we are hoping the whole country is back to level one by then and we can hold the traditional Cup week and give people an experience they can enjoy. “But if for some reason we are at level two by then or even a level one with restrictions we will be holding Cup Day, we will just within what rules are in place at the time. “We would even hold the races themselves without a crowd if we have to but thankfully it looks like that won’t be the case.” While Thompson and his team lack the crystal ball we would all love at the moment they held there first planning for Cup Day this week, with the different scenarios banded around. “Our dream result will be having Cup Day like usual and it is still six months away so hopefully a lot will change between now and then because we want to give racing people and even those who love the week to something to aim at.” For the harness racing industry in particular the New Zealand Cup will be even more of a focus after the Inter Dominions, which has followed two weeks after in recent years, were postponed for this year by Sydney harness racing officials. That could even mean Australian horses who might have stayed home could be lured to the Cup meeting providing travel between the two countries is relatively open by then. Thompson would not be drawn on the stake for the great race, or the other group ones of Cup week, suggesting there are too many sums to be done before that can even be guessed at. While it looks certain the 2020 Cup will be worth a lot less than the $750,000 it was run for this season, if the crowds are allowed back to Addington for the second Tuesday in November they really won’t care. Meanwhile, racing returned to New Zealand’s tracks for the first time in six weeks yesterday with greyhound meetings at Addington and Whanganui and they went went off without a hitch under strict new Covid-19 protocols. Harness racing is scheduled to return on May 29 and thoroughbred racing on July 3.   Michael Guerin

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Just ask Kirstin Barclay what her ultimate plans are for U May Cullect and the answer is simple: “The New Zealand Cup”. After being unbeaten in his first seven starts the Southern pacer was the talk of harness racing last year and at one stage had firmed into third favouritism for the New Zealand Cup. But after his first defeat, a fast-finishing third at Winton, he was sidelined with tendon problems for the third time in his career. It was a cruel blow for Barclay and training partner Paul “Tank” Ellis with vets diagnosing a small tear and advising their star pacer take 4-6 months off to recover. Now the six-year-old is showing promising signs. “The vet has been well pleased with the last scans, it is looking good” At the moment “Carlos” is boxed 24/7. “Initially he was not a fan. Now he gets 25 minutes walking and 20 minutes trotting a day”, with plans to increase that gradually in the next few weeks and months. And physically there have been changes. “He was actually quite a narrow light framed horse but he is carrying more muscle and condition.” “His diet is very fibre high to keep his stomach right and avoid ulcers . Meadow hay and lucerne hay is available all the time and he gets a small amount of grain hand fed to him twice a day.” As long as the scans remain positive Barclay is confident her star pacer could be at the start line at Addington in November. “We have heaps of time.” But she admits there’s been some frustration during his lay-off, especially knowing what U May Cullect could have achieved. “I see the likes of Classie Brigade and Triple Eight and how well they’ve gone and know that we were competitive.” U May Cullect beat Classie Brigade by a nose with Triple Eight third at Addington in June last year. Classie Brigade went on to win the Kaikoura Cup and then finish third in the New Zealand Cup behind Cruz Bromac and Spankem. Barclay says it would be a “dream come true” to drive U May Cullect in the Cup but she knows it is literally one step at a time. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The curse of winning pacing’s greatest races has claimed its latest victim. New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac has been sidelined for the rest of the season by a fetlock injury and his entire career may now even be in doubt. The injury was revealed by trainer Mark Purdon yesterday with the one-time favourite for next month’s Miracle Mile still heading to Sydney, but for a four-month spell on the NSW property of one of his owners. “It is a fetlock issue and the kind of thing a lot of horses his age might get,” explains Purdon. “He is a horse who has raced at a very high level for a really long time and we hope he comes back but that won’t be until next season and we would know if he makes it back until after he has had his spell.” It is only three months today since Cruz Bromac, beautifully driven by Blair Orange, scored the greatest win of his career in the New Zealand Cup, adding it to the NZ Free-For-All he won the season before. He has also been hugely competitive in two Inter Dominion series, albeit his Final chances at both ruined by bad draws, and yet he is still a touch under-rated for a horse with 23 career wins and over $1 million in earnings. His last outing was in the Auckland Cup, where he finished fifth, before heading back to Canterbury to prepare for the Miracle Mile. Cruz Bromac joins an quite remarkable list of open class stars to be sidelined by injuries in the last 16 months dating back to Thefixer’s win in the 2018 New Zealand Cup. He has struggled on and off with hoof problems since and while he had a strong Australian summer last year, Thefixer hasn’t won a race this season and looks to be heading to the paddock because of his nagging foot issues. Turn It Up won that season’s Auckland Cup and had a good rest of his four-year-old season, winning the Jewels, but has missed the entire of this year because of injury. Spankem, who won last year’s Miracle Mile and finished second to Cruz Bromac in the NZ Cup, has also been sidelined although his prognosis sounds promising. And then Ultimate Sniper, who was unbeaten in the Inter Dominions in Auckland in December, broke down after the series and while he is expected to make it back to the track it means that almost every major group one pacing race winner for older horses in New Zealand in the past 16 months has succumbed to injury at some stage. “We have had a bad run with them but they are all different types of injuries so I am not sure what we can do about it,” says Purdon. “To be honest the only thing I can put it down to is how hard the horses race these days, they go so quick in every race.” Purdon will be hoping his latest star, Auckland Cup winner Self Assured, can dodge the curse after he return to winning form at Menangle last Saturday night. He sat parked to win in 1:50.3 as his lead to the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire on Saturday week, likely to be followed by the A$1 million Miracle Mile on March 7. Self Assured as beaten twice, albeit brave both times, in Victoria recently but Purdon thinks he is back to his best form and with strength to match his speed he may prove better suited to Menangle mile racing than many Kiwi pacers. The stable has Chase Auckland and Stylish Memphis, who Purdon is caretaker trainer for, racing at Menangle this Saturday as they are aimed at the Miracle Mile and NSW Oaks (February 29) respectively. Before then premier racing returns to Addington on Friday where Princess Tiffany is hot favourite to win the Breeders Stakes, victory in which would give her direct entry to the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 7 and another shot at her arch nemesis Belle Of Montana. A G’s White Socks continues his Miracle Mile build-up in the A$50,000 Terang Cup on Saturday night while Kiwi trotters Massive Metro and Temporale tackle the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on Friday night.   Michael Guerin

The most unlikely New Zealand Cup of champion trainer Mark Purdon’s career meant so much more because he didn’t drive the winner. Purdon provided the training quinella in the $750,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington yesterday but had to settle for second as a driver, as Cruz Bromac surged past his drive Spankem in the last 50m. But for Purdon the win means as much if not more than if he had clung on to win the race himself because of the man in the sulky behind Cruz Bromac. Blair Orange has won the last two national driver’s premierships but to any Canterbury harness racing driver, the New Zealand Cup is the holy grail and Purdon was thrilled to provide his former protege with the chance to get his hands on it. Orange was a long-time employee of Purdon’s famous All Stars barn and a close personal friend of Purdon, who has stuck by him in the toughest of times. He originally wasn’t in the frame to drive Cruz Bromac, who divides his time between Victoria and New Zealand. But through a series of events, including other horses being injured and other drivers being unavailable, Orange got his Cup with an inch-perfect display. “I am thrilled for Blair,” said Purdon. “He did a great job when he worked for us and has been very successful since he left. “So to be able to give him the drive on a Cup winner is immensley satisfying for us. He is a good guy and he deserves it.” Orange sure did after the drive he pulled off, firstly managing to negotiate the standing start safely with Cruz Bromac, who only rejoined the All Stars three weeks ago after spending the whole year in Victoria. They don’t have standing starts in Victoria any more so that first mini win was crucial.                                                                                                             -HRNZ photo Once safely away he has to wrest the lead off Classie Brigade and that could have left him vulnerable as Cruz Bromac is probably best known as a sprinter but the sedate Cup speed of 3:56.9 and the inches Orange saved around the marker pegs proved the difference. He grabbed Spankem, who had worked to the lead at the 1400m mark late and only by a neck, with Classie Brigade slightly luckless when forced to change ground in the home straight in third just ahead of Chase Auckland. Defending champion Thefixer was a battling fifth. There was great irony in Orange partnering Cruz Bromac to win as he had only driven him in public once before. That was when he failed to even qualify him in an early trial when Cruz Bromac was trained by Mark Jones before being sold to Australian interests and then coming back across this side of the Tasman to join the All Stars last year. He won the NZ Free-For-All then and could return to that race this Friday and now looms as a major contender for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park in 16 days. Cruz Bromac’s win yesterday ticked him just over $1million in stakes and suggests the Australians could have a far greater role to play in the Inter Dominions than would have been expected even a few weeks ago. The horse who beat him in the Victoria Cup three starts ago in Bling It On is being set for the Auckland series while local stars like Self Assured have fallen by the wayside and while Cruz Bromac is officially trained here he will be very much claimed by the Australians as one of their's come the Inters. For Purdon it was his seventh New Zealand Cup training success as he continues to pen new pages in the record books with no end in sight. But that wasn’t why he was smiling last night. He was beaming because of what he had done for a friend.   Michael Guerin

It’s all about team work. But just how many people have played a role in the victory of Cruz Bromac in today’s (Tuesday) Gr.1 $750,000 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup at Addington is the great unknown? Highly-respected horseman Dean Braun has been a constant during his rise to greatness with previous trainer Amanda Grieve also a key member of the team while leading reinsman Greg Sugars has played his part this season. Obviously, the All Stars operation of Mark Purdon have also played a significant role, this is his second stint with the all-conquering Christchurch based stable following his highly successful campaign twelve months ago. Then there’s the behind-the-scenes people that mean just as much to Cruz Bromac as the above mentioned, the ‘farriers’ on both sides of the Tasman have played a masterful roles in making sure the big-striding Falcon Seelster gelding is pacing smoothly and at his best when it counts. At times throughout his career, he’s been bumpy and awkward but when right, he’s a magnificent sight to behold. And there was no better sight than today, on the biggest stage possible, the best day on the New Zealand racing calendar. Partnered by reigning New Zealand Driver of the Year Blair Orange, he had the eight-year-old away quickly and raced alongside early leader Classie Brigade and worked for almost half a lap to find the front, before being crossed by stablemates Thefixer and then Spankem, which left Victorian hope San Carlo exposed in the breeze. Over the course of the 3200m stand-start staying feature, Orange had Cruz Bromac sitting comfortably three back against the marker pegs. Race favourite Spankem continued to control the speed while San Carlo sat without cover, defending champion Thefixer sat poised behind the leader while Mach Shard, Cruz Bromac and Classie Brigade all occupied handy spots. Approaching the home turn, San Carlo started to give ground which enabled Orange to make his move aboard Cruz Bromac and brought the multiple feature race winner with his well-timed finishing burst. At the finish, Cruz Bromac scored by a neck margin from Spankem with a length away to the unlucky Classie Brigade in third who nosed out Chase Auckland and Thefixer. The All Stars team produced four of the first five place-getters while they have now won 5 of the past 6 editions of the Cup. The winning time was 3:56.9 - the mile rate was 1:59.1 – well outside of the Cup record of 3:53.1 set by Lazarus in 2016. For winning driver, Blair Orange has finally lifted the monkey off his back. Twice crowned New Zealand Driver of the Year, it was his 10th drive in the New Zealand Cup and his maiden success. He has been placed three times previously, twice with Highview Tommy (2011/12) and also with Titan Banner (2016). His tally of lifetime victories stands close to 1900 but today’s victory is easily his biggest triumph. “This is what dreams are made of; it’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Orange stated. “I’d like thank Mark and Natalie plus the owners for the opportunity, it’s an unforgettable day.” He added. Cruz Bromac is raced in partnership by Danny and Joanna Zavitsanos, Peter and Zilla O’Shea plus Warren Viney and was bred by the late Bob McArdle of Bromac Lodge. The victory for Sydney based Peter and Zilla O’Shea continues their amazing success with major features in harness racing after previously sharing in the ownership of former North American Mr Feelgood while they currently race last start Victoria Cup winner Bling It On. The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit is the Inter Dominion in Auckland on December 14.   Chris Barsby

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