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By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Olivia Thornley is keeping a cool head as her drive in one of the country’s richest age-group races of the season looms. The twenty-year-old has been entrusted with the drive behind Aladdin, a genuine contender in the inaugural running of the listed $200,000 Harness Million Two-Year-Old Colts And Geldings Final at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Thornley took the drive behind Aladdin when he caught the eye when flashing home for fifth placing behind American Dealer in last week’s Group 1 Sires Stakes Final at the same track. With even more cash on the line this week, trainer Mark Purdon is more than happy having the rookie reinswoman in the sulky behind his pacer. “Olivia has really stepped up for us over the last six months and she is worthy of the opportunity.” Thornley is naturally thrilled to get the opportunity to drive Aladdin in two on the country’s biggest age group races in the space of a week. The reinswoman said her Sires Stakes Final outing has eased her nerves leading in to the Harness Million. “I probably got rid of the nerves last week because that was a group 1, so now I am focussing on the race.” Aladdin was second last on the home turn before unleashing a powerful finish in last week’s race. Thornley admitted she did not think her pacer would flash home quite as well as he did. “He went very good.” “When we were turning for home I thought we could run in the top six, but I didn’t expect him to finish off the way he did.” Aladdin has not drawn ideally again this week, but is slightly better off in the Harness Million with barrier 2 on the second row. “As long as we get a little bit of luck we should get a good run and hopefully we should be there abouts at the finish,” Thornley said. Thornley drives Aladdin with the support of Purdon and Rasmussen, as well as the horse’s owner Jean Feiss. The prominent owner has backed the reinswoman in the past by giving her the drive on her former classy racemare, Elle Mac. Repaying that faith would make victory in the Harness Million a extra special, Thornley said. “It would be a huge thrill, especially to do it for Jean, she has been such a great supporter of mine throughout my All Stars career.” “To get a win like that for Mark and Nat would be great, too.” Aladdin disappointed in his first look at Alexandra Park in Krug’s win in the last heat of the Sires Stakes Series. But now that the horse has a better feel for the track Purdon can not see why the pacer will not go a big race in Friday night’s history making race. “I think his first up run helped him a bit – it sometimes does going the Auckland way for the first time,” the trainer said. “His run last week showed more of the ability I thought he had.” “He is going to be handy in the run given the horse he follows out [B D Joe].” “With a better run than he got last week you would think he could feature in the finish.” Aladdin opened the equal fourth favourite for the Harness Million Two-Year-Old Colts And Geldings with his stablemate Bettor Call Me at $34 odds. Krug headed the market at $1.55 ahead of It’s All About Faith ($3.10) and American Dealer ($18). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The old timers used to say that patience was the only thing in racing that didn’t cost much and Olivia Thornley proved the theory last night at Addington. The astute young driver has always favoured the “soft hands, quiet aggression” approach to her driving and as with all youngsters sometimes it has cost her. But lessons well learned and what a beaut drive to get Aqua Sancta home at Addington. Olivia pushed forward early, settled in the trail and was then caught three back. But until the 600m she sat in her usual calm manner but eased off the fence at the right time and was trailing the leading contenders at the home turn. A good place to be. Then she capitalised, surging forward, the blinds working to help the enthusiasm of the horse who had been disappointing last start, to give Olivia a well deserved win. A natural horsewoman off the track, Olivia is an increasing presence on it and with the continued backing from Mark and Natalie looks in for a lot more success yet. It was a great result all round for All Stars in their debut for the night with Aladdin coming off the trail to run down What’s Your Secret on a slushy track but still breaking 28 for the last 400m and running 2.27 overall. “He was really good” Mark said of the winner. “He had the run but as I said in the preview I think he needed more racing than we thought and he has kept improving which is a big thing. Good to win a race for Jean and Bill too” Natalie wasn’t disappointed with What’s Your Secret by any stretch. “Look, she went really good. I was quite thrilled with her actually. She did the work and fought on strongly..I can’t wait to get her in behind and let her sprint home (parked on debut) and while i am not comparing her to the top fillies we have had at this stage I really like her and I think she has a future at higher level” Natalie’s enthusiasm on a cold night didn’t end there. Rock Legend’s Sires Stakes heat placing had her buzzing. “I was just thrilled with that. I mean he had to work into the open and work hard and he ran on well. He booked his trip to Auckland (Sires Stakes heat) on that run. “Horses like him that keep improving with every run are exciting” Mark was in no way disappointed with Its All About Faith who trailed winner Krug and fought on strongly. You got the impression he is looking forward to the next clash between the two which may not happen until the Sires Stakes Final. But the pair seem headed for more great clashes. “I was a wee bit surprised Krug went to the front like that” Mark said suggesting the stable’s pre race map was different from the outcome. “However we got the run after that and he was not good enough on the night. But actually I was thrilled with him” Tim was not disappointed with Delightful Dude but “hoped for a little more” and Olivia who got cover behind Natalie with Stag Party though his was a fair effort at this stage of his career.   Courtesy of All Stars Stables

The final stage of the 2018 Airpark Canterbury Cadet of the Year competition is upon us with the four finalists excelling in all of their regional challenges.   Representing Canterbury is the regional winner Ben Hope. Ben, a finalist last year, was a convincing winner who scored highly in all three components of the regional competition.   Travelling up from the Deep South to contest the title this year will be Ellie Barron, the Southern regional winner and the Northern regional winner Luke Whittaker will also make the trip down.   This year along with the three regional winners, the next highest score from all of the competitors would advance through to the final. Olivia Thornley, also from Canterbury, took these honours and will be joining her four counterparts.   All four finalists have displayed a comprehensive range of skills in their horsemanship, driving and all-round general knowledge to set the stage for an exciting and competitive final.   They will now battle it out for the right to call themselves the Airpark Canterbury Cadet of the Year.   The final competition has been designed to call on not only the contestant’s equine knowledge but to also challenge the finalists in a diverse range of practical, theoretical and technical tasks.   Each phase of the competition will be evaluated and marked and the Cadets will earn points for each task based on performance, accuracy and speed. The final will be held throughout Christchurch on Wednesday the 25th of July.   The winner will be announced at the 2018 Annual Harness Racing Awards Function on Saturday the 29th of September this year to be held at Alexandra Park.   For any further information please contact Natalie Gameson on 03) 964 1193 or natalie@hrnz.co.nz   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc      

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen repeated their feat of 2009 by winning seven races on the night at Alexandra Park on Sunday. The All Stars Stable won with A Lister, Jesse Duke, Stress Factor, Chase Auckland, Elle Mac, Vincent and Ashley Locaz. Tim Willams drove three winners for the stable, while Natalie Rasmussen drove the remaining four including the Auckland Cup aboard Vincent.  Vincent will now head to Australia in search of more wins and a possible clash with Lazarus later in the year. His first target will be the $100,000 Ballarat Cup on January 20 _________________________________________________________________________________ Olivia Thornley had her first win as a driver when she won during the Banks Peninsular meeting at Motukarara last Friday. The win came on her nine raceday drive on a horse called Awaytocullect, who is trained by Olivia's father Robin at Templeton.   _________________________________________________________________________________ Promising pacers King Size and Steiger have been put down in the last week. Steiger had an unfortunate paddock accident last week and had to be euthanised after he shattered an elbow joint.  One win pacer King Size fell during a race at Reefton on Saturday and had to be put down. Driver Dexter Dunn emerged from the crash unscathed but the race was abandoned after King Size could not be removed from the track.   Harnesslink Media

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