Paul Nairn is on the verge of orchestrating Awesome Trotting Comeback Part II. The race sealing that achievement could be tomorrow's $25,000 D.G. Jones Trotting Cup at Motukarara. Nairn has long been respected as a freak even among our outstanding crop of trotting trainers, with his incredible strike rate and ability to improve horses from even the best trainers. He wrote one of the great stories of New Zealand harness racing history last season when Stig won trotter of the year after three years out retired and now he is looking to produce something not quite so spectacular but still pretty incredible with Dr Hook. The perennial group one placegetter's life was in danger when he suffered severe colic in Victoria last season when on loan to the Mark Purdon stable and Nairn feared getting him back to the races at all. However, not only has Dr Hook returned but was a brave fresh-up second against some of the best trotters in Australasia at Addington last start. With natural improvement he could go one better in tomorrow's group three feature on the grass. "He should improve on last start and that was a big run in a good field so I'd like to think he can win this week," says Nairn. The rain in Canterbury this week could aid Dr Hook on the giant grass track. "I don't think it will bother him if it gets soft, whereas it might bother a couple of the others. "So there are a few things in his favour." Although the mighty Stig will miss the race as he is on a fat-trimming programme, Nairn also has former group one winner Raydon starting. "He hasn't been trotting quite as well as I would like so I think he will need to improve." Their opposition includes Vulcan, who is incredibly nearing the $1 million stake mark, and Escapee, who is possibly our fastest trotter. As good as Escapee is, a slog on a testing grass track may not be her go but it is hard to imagine it will bother Vulcan, who has won this race before. He needed the run so was driven quietly at Addington last start but ran on well and looks the logical horse to beat tomorrow, with the small field and big track helping negate his 20m handicap. Add in the greatly improved Uncas and dual Jewels winner Cyclone U Bolt and the open-class trotting season is starting to hot up, with the tantalising prospect that the best of them all, I Can Doosit, is back in work and could be racing by Christmas. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald
The harness racing season is about to get serious. Not just because some of the best trotters in Australasia step out in one of the strongest races of the last 12 months at Addington tonight but because the couple set to dominate New Zealand harness racing also kick off their season. Champion trainer Mark Purdon is back from a rare holiday and now in partnership with Natalie Rasmussen, with the new team producing their first representatives tonight. They may only have four starters, with star trotters Escapee and Cyclone U Bolt facing a daunting task in the Ordeal Cup, but regardless of how tonight unfolds, the Purdon-Rasmussen combination would be short odds to win back the premiership Purdon lost on the last day of last season to Cran Dalgety. They have a huge number of promising youngsters who have started filtering through to the trials and workouts as well as superstars like I Can Doosit, Smolda (both back in work this week), Adore Me and Border Control to attack the best races with. And Purdon has given the first hints he may send horses more regularly to destinations like Forbury Park and Southland, which would guarantee plenty of short-priced favourites and some easy additions to their premiership numbers. "The way the programming and handicapping is going to be this season it will be smart for us to split some of the younger or lower grade horses up,” admits Purdon. “So you could see more of ours travel.” A prime example is handy maidens Machs A Flyin and Raesawinner, who clash in race one tonight. Both should leave maidens before long, with Purdon favouring Machs A Flyin, who has trialled well since coming back from a long injury layoff. But tonight’s main trot presents a vastly different test, with Escapee and Cyclone U Bolt up against Stig, Vulcan, Sovereignty, Dr Hook and The Fiery Ginga. “It is going to be a very hard race to win,” says Purdon. “Both of ours trialled well last Saturday but they are still on the way up. “Escapee is very good as we all know but her manners can be a bit tricky when she is fresh whereas Cyclone U Bolt will get things right.” So Purdon is hardly bursting with confidence in a race where luck in the running will be crucial as few horses are good enough to work in a race of this quality and still win. The obvious exception is Stig, who looked totally out of sorts in his comeback race last Friday, sweating up badly then trotting roughly and never looking a winning chance. His trainer Paul Nairn is less concerned about that than he is tonight’s wide draw from the 2600m start. “He was wheezing after the race last week and we think he might have had an allergic reaction to something,” said Nairn. “And he has worked well since so I expect him to go better but he will settle close to last and that is going to make it very difficult to get around all those good horses and win.” Nairn also has Dr Hook returning tonight and says the speedster is working well but he would be surprised if he could win having not raced since February. Vulcan has looked sharp at recent trials and is well suited by the conditions of tonight’s race but a lot will depend on what sort of passage Anthony Butt can negotiate for the 10-time group one winner from the inside of the second line. The other standout performer tonight will be unbeaten three-year-old Locharburn, who looks a certainty again in race four. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Stig could race until he’s 14 according to co-owner Jim Boyd. For now trainer Paul Nairn is just taking one race at a time with the 2012-2013 Trotter-of-the-Year. The 11-year-old gelding makes his return to racing at Addington This Friday night (September 6) in the $12,000 Sims Metals Handicap Trot. Stig will start from the 30m mark. “This will be his lead-up to the Ordeal Cup. He’s pretty sound at the moment. Any little niggles he’s had in the past certainly haven’t got any worse. “We’ve had no hiccups in his preparation so there’s no reason why he can’t carry on from where he left off last season. He’s certainly showing no signs of his age or soreness,” Nairn said. “And he’s still got that will to win which is encouraging,” he added. Nairn said Stig was in the same condition as what he was this time last year, but was starting his racing a month earlier. He said he would be better for the run but his natural talent would take him close to winning. The more seasoned fellow 30m back-markers The Fiery Ginga and Sovereignty will be toughest for Stig to beat. The son of Armbro Invasion started last season with a second behind Sovereignty at Addington on October 5 and then went on to win six of his 12 starts and $227,029 – including the Rowe Cup in May. Now the winner of 23 of his 53 starts and $816,486 Stig is looking to make amends of his second behind I Can Doosit in last year’s Dominion. His Hamilton based co-owner Boyd, who is renowned for writing and then singing a song about Stig after each of his victories, said he was set to put pen to paper again this season. “I wrote one when he won Trotter-of-the-Year and I also wrote one when he won the Rowe Cup. I’m getting one ready for the Dominion,” Boyd said. Nairn has won two Rowe Cups with Inspire in 2006 and Stig this year. He will have a three-pronged attack on the Group Ones this year with Dr Hook and Raydon also representing the stable. “Dr Hook is also coming along nicely and Raydon was sent to us from up north from Matt Hickey and is progressing well. We should see him at the end of the month,” Nairn said. As for another Australia mission with Stig, Nairn replied: “I’m playing that one by ear. There are not many 2700 races over there and he would have to line up in sprint races against much younger horses. “There’s also not as much money on offer over there for the trotters as what there is here. We’ll attack the Dominion and then head north for the racing at Alexandra Park and Cambridge again. We worry about Australia then,” Nairn said. As for Boyd: “I just want to keep writing songs about him,” Boyd said. Stig is also owned by Tim and Andrea Butt, Mrs R.I. Boyd, R.G. Thomas, and Mrs J.A. Gordon. He was bred by Jessleigh Harness Bloodstock. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Two private workouts far from the glamour of Breeders Crown week have convinced trainer Paul Nairn that One Over Da Moon is ready for the biggest challenge of his career. The Harness Jewels winning juvenile trotter heads to Melbourne today for Sunday’s A$158,000 ABC Final and will arrive the most unknown of the favoured runners at the mega rich meeting. While every other starter on Sunday has raced in Australia, One Over Da Moon hasn’t had to, because the trot series has no semi finals and he won his non-tote ABC heat at Addington. That could provide punters with a huge bonus as bookies in Australia have One Over Da Moon as long as $4.20 even though he looks the most talented horse in the race. That is also because local star I’m Stately, backed in from $1.80 to $1.60, has been winning by record margins and has drawn well on the front line whereas One Over Da Moon will start off the unruly. But Nairn is not worried about that or the Melton track which has tripped up some great trotters in the past when on debut there. “The unruly doesn’t bother me because he can get quite racey early and I hope he will settle better back there,” said Nairn. “And being two-year-old trotters there will probably be a few gallopers.” Nairn, rated by many as our greatest trainer of trotters, has been working overtime to ensure One Over Da Moon is not one of those gallopers. He added more weight to the colt’s shoes before his last-start win at Addington and has been driving him hard in bends at full speed on tight tracks to simulate what might happen at Melton on Sunday. “I took him to John Versteeg’s place, where the track is quite tight, and he handled it perfectly,” said Nairn. “And then I drove him nearly full speed around the home bend at Motukarara last week, wide outside the pylons and he handled that well too. “I am about 80 per cent confident he will trot throughout and I am excited about the race.” One Over Da Moon flies from Christchurch to Sydney today and travels to Melbourne by road but Nairn is not concerned about that either after he handled a road trip to Auckland in May without hassle. “He actually thrived on that trip so I am not worried at all.” By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Sunday’s barrier draws for the Breeders Crown finals may have sealed the fate, for better or worse, of many of the major contenders. Frith will turn up on Super Sunday with a picket fence next to her name and that is expected to continue as she will be trying to make amends for her third place finish in last year’s series. From barrier three she will be hard to hold out at the start, and the finish; however Kiwi filly Safedra (9) and Victoria’s leading chance Im Smouldering (5) will be among a large chase group in the $175,000 final. The second race is for the juvenile trotters and the all-but-unbeaten Im Stately has drawn well in four. Having gone down by a head, a head and a metre in his three defeats, the David Jack-trained colt will have to overcome his Redwood Classic conqueror in Daenerys Targaryen. The New Zealand filly has drawn the pole and despite looking shaky in her gait on more than one occasion, looms as a major threat along with Vicbred Super Series winner Claudys Princess who has drawn seven. One Over Da Moon for Paul Nairn was a winner of the Harness Jewels just on six weeks ago but will be stuck with the extreme draw if the emergency is to be withdrawn. The four-year-old trotters’ final could well be the most open of the season however Shes An Image has returned to form at her past three starts and will be aided by her front row draw of four. Directly outside her are Rosalie Bay and the exciting Maorisfavouritesun however there will also be a serious challenge from the second row as Brunelleschi, drawn nine, and Shakamond, drawn 12, are likely to be well supported. Blitzthemcalder is one of the headline horses of the series and on paper barrier six isn’t what you’d be hoping for in a Group 1 final. However the enigmatic superstar will have time to balance up early; The Boss Man and Spidergirl have drawn barriers one and two while the entire second row can all be considered chances. Lead by Our Dreamlover in nine, the talented back row may turn the race into one of the best of the season for the classic-aged squaregaiters. Majestic Amy was a $12 chance heading into her heat but off the back of an impressive win and inside barrier, she has opened the clear-cut favourite for the two-year-old fillies final. From two, Michael Muscat will have options early as major dangers Te Amo Bromac and Whereibylong have drawn inside the second row. Race 6 will be for the four-year-old boys and Ideal Scott is coming off one of the quickest last halves ever recorded at Tabcorp Park Melton and if he can replicate that he will again be hard to beat. If the emergency comes out he will assume pole position but the challengers will be lining up left right and centre. Heza Presidente in four (three with the emergency out), Kiwi hope Besotted just outside him and both Keayang Steamer (drawn eight) and Restrepo (drawn nine) all primed for battle. The two-year-old colts and geldings go head-to-head on Super Sunday for $303,000 and the race that was turning into the Purdon’s Vs. the McCarthy’s may have been won at the barrier draw. Luke and Belinda McCarthy received front row draws for all three of their superstar juveniles as impressive semi-final winner Bling It On came up with barrier one. All Eyes On Us will start from two and Lettucerockthem from five. In contrast, Barry Purdon’s pair of Our Sky Major (drawn nine) and Our Maxim (drawn 12) will have no favours in the run. The same can be said for Mark Purdon’s lone hope Messini who appears awkwardly placed in four. The four-year-old mares won’t be an easy division to predict however heat winners Born Again Sassy and Major Bonus have both drawn well in one and eight respectively. Real Bonus, who went down narrowly to Major Bonus in their heat, will start from the front row in barrier four. Cheer The Lady is coming off a heat win of her own and last year’s three-year-old fillies Breeders Crown champion will need luck from 10. Shane Tritton not only has Major Bonus qualified for the final, he will also train Light In Every Day from barrier seven in the $100,000 race. The last Breeders Crown final to be run on the program will be for the three-year-old colts and geldings and despite drawing five; Bit Of A Legend will start the shortest priced favourite of the day. Likely challengers Pachacuti and Nowitzki had no luck at the draw taking barriers 12 and 13 for connections of the promising types. by Blake Redden ( Harness Racing Australia)
Junior reinsman, Matt Purvis, waited longer than he would have liked to drive his first winner. But, when he finally did at Oamaru today, he did it in grand style. “It is good to get that first one out of the way. Driving a good horse definitely makes it a bit easier,” laughed Purvis, who was having his 36th drive today. That good horse Purvis speaks of is Elios, who recorded his fifth career win today at just start number 14. After going forward from the gate, Purvis dictated terms in front, before Elios did the rest, dashing away for an emphatic five and a half length victory. El Fuego and Nicole Harris, who was also looking for her first win, finished in second, with Uncle Trevor a further 1 & ¼ lengths away in third. “I’ve been pretty unlucky not to pick one up before now, but you can’t help bad luck. I’m absolutely stoked. We are actually about to stop of in Temuka now to stock up and have a few celebrational drinks.” Purvis got his initial groundings with Phillip Vermulean and Greg & Nina Hope, before working for trotting legend Paul Nairn. “Everyone has been great. I worked for Greg & Nina for three years, and they gave me a great grounding. I also learnt a lot from Paul and he helped me with my driving. Purvis now works for the Woodend barn of Robert Dunn, who prepared today’s winner Elios. “I really enjoy working them at the beach and Johnny (Dunn) has also been very helpful with my driving,” concluded Purvis. Purvis has always had a keen interest in the harness racing game. His dad has raced a few horses as a owner and his granddad Les Purvis was a stipe for many years. by Mitchell Robertson
2YO Ruby champion, One Over Da Moon, booked his ticket to the Australasian Breeders' Crown with a strong win in a five horse non-tote heat at Addington last night.
Master Canterbury reinsman David Butt scored his first harness racing Jewels victory when the Paul Nairn trained One Over Da Moon won today's (Saturday June 1) $150,000 Neumann's Tyres 2yo Ruby Trot.
Not many trainers would travel a horse over 1,100 Kilometres when there is an equally suitable race on their backdoor step; then again, not many trainers are as good as Paul Nairn.
Three years ago it appeared Stig's harness racing career was over. A leg injury had left him doing promotion work for dual sulkies. Fast forward 36 months and the rising 11-year-old is now the Group One $150,000 Rowe Memorial Cup champion for free-for-all trotters.
Where once there was great confidence and awe, now there is hope and crossed fingers. That is the journey heroic trotter Stig has taken punters on since a brilliant Christmas, a rollercoaster trainer Paul Nairn hopes hits a career high in Friday's $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup.
One Over Da Moon showed the family ability is right there, when taking out the Group Three 2yo Trotting Stakes at tonight's (Saturday March 30) feature harness racing meeting at Addington.
The final chapter in Stig's miracle career could feature yet another twist.
Vulcan might get a shot at the world's best trotters - simply because he isn't that good. If that sounds confusing, you are not alone. Even his trainer Tim Butt laughs at the strange situation the tiny trotter finds himself in.
Champion harness racing trainer Tim Butt is in Melbourne on what he hopes will be the most profitable holiday of his life. Butt still officially trains Vulcan, one of the favourites for tomorrow's A$350,000 Great Southern Star series at Melton and also owns 83 per cent of another leading chance in comeback hero Stig. But apart from helping to gear them up on race night, Butt says he won't have a lot to do with the pair. Because he has handed over the training of Vulcan to the man he respects most with trotters, Paul Nairn.
Trotting's comeback hero is to be given one more chance to conquer his final frontier - and his arness racing trainer Paul Nairn believes Stig can capitalise on that opportunity.