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The Miracle Mile was a pointer, Mark’s preview of the race a major hint. Yet still punters clung to Turn It Up's chances of outsprinting the 1.47.7 miler Spankem driven by one of the best raters in the business in Natalie Rasmussen in the Taylor Mile at Auckland. Until lunchtime Friday one was at $1.55 to win and one was at $3.10. And the $1.55 odds were not about the Miracle Mile winner. They were about a horse who had won a 3200m race at Addington last start. Reality struck closer to post time no doubt driven by Australian punters who couldn’t believe their eyes. It was an absorbing contest but Spankem was always to have an advantage if he held up in front which he did with gusto. Natalie stole a quarter in 32 in the middle stages and Mark was not inclined to force the issue after having done the donkey work in the open early. “He was just so good. He seemed to really come to it on his trip to Australia and he has gone on with it. And that draw advantage was a big one” Natalie said. The win lifted Spankem over the $1M mark in earnings joining an elite list of All Stars greats. Mark was not disappointed with Turn It Up for a moment and the way he rallied late in a better than 27 last 400, that was hardly surprising. He lost few friends for the Messenger next week. The horse has yet to be further back than 2nd in 12 starts and had not been asked to run a 1.53.4 mile before. The time erased the race record of Scuse Me, 20 years ago who won for Mark with Frank Cooney in the cart. Chase Auckland went a storming race for his 4th from a bad draw and is also a factor next week. This was a race which lived up to its billing, a throwback to the good old days of head to head clashes of superstars as opposed to the “star of this month” evident in some other promotions of the night. It was a tribute to All Stars that it was a straightout contest punters could profit from but also enjoy and know they got their money's worth Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Champion trainer Mark Purdon has given punters a huge push for Spankem to upset more favoured stablemate Turn It Up in the $100,000 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park tonight. Because while Purdon won’t be drawn on who is the better pacer he believes Spankem will lead tonight’s sprint and some incredible stats suggest that makes him clearly the horse to beat. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen dominate the Mile with Spankem, Turn It Up and Chase Auckland but it is the first two who head the market as they have barriers two and three respectively. After a stunning season, including winning the Auckland Cup on this track, Turn It Up could be the best pacer in the country and many punters would expect him to go forward tonight and get the lead off either Mach Shard (1) or more likely Spankem (2). But Purdon says that is unlikely to be the case even though a lead-trail scenario would almost guarantee the stable the quinella. “Natalie (Rasmussen, driving Spankem) will probably lead and I think she has to drive her own race and stay there,” says Purdon frankly. “So I wouldn’t think I’d get the front with Turn It Up. He can still win but with Spankem likely to be in front I think he might even be our best chance.” As good as Turn It Up is, if Spankem leads then his stats this season suggest he is clearly the horse to beat at the $3.1 offered by bookies could be great value. Spankem has had 13 starts this season and led in five of those. He won them all, including the Miracle Mile and it’s Prelude as well as the star-studded Kaikoura Cup. His only other win came when sitting parked outside an inferior rival and controlling the tempo, so a similar pattern to leading. But in the seven other starts this season where he hasn’t been able to lead he has been beaten, running unplaced in three of them. Stat fact: when Spankem leads he wins, when he doesn’t he usually doesn’t. Of course nothing is guaranteed in racing but considering he was fast enough off the gate to lead the Miracle Mile two starts ago, has the uber aggressive Rasmussen on and Purdon seemingly happy to concede the front, Spankem is the horse you want to be on tonight. A reversal in the market as money comes for Spankem could even gift punters the opportunity to cover late on Turn It Up, who is exceptional and could still win from the one-one but might struggle to justify favouritism sitting parked. Purdon is very confident Sweet On Me will remain unbeaten in the Caduceus Club Classic while he warns punters on two fronts with Enhance Your Calm in the Sires’ Stakes Trot. The hot favourite was beaten after leading in the NZ Trot Derby but went into the race looking too skinny so early in a campaign. “We had the vets go over him after that race and find he had a few little niggles which were treated and he must have put on 30 or 40kgs since then so clearly they were bothering him. “So I think he will be better this week but I would like to drive him differently from the second line. “Often in is his races he has led easily but he has been explosive at the trials when driven with a sit so he might get a chance to show that this week.”  For all the class of those races the contest of the night should be the Anzac Cup, which looks the trotting race of the season so far. There are a huge number of wining chances and while the best version of Marcoola could overcome his second line draw any one of (in order or preference) Massive Metro, Lemond, Ronald J, Speeding Spur, Sundees Son, Majestic Man or even Temporale could win without shocking. Punting at the Park Best: Spankem (R7, No.2): Turn It Up might even be the better horse but if the Miracle Mile winner is going to lead in a mile at Alexandra Park you simply have to be on him. Longshot: Ronald J (R6, No.2): Had a few issues last couple of starts but at massive money tonight he could he handy in a tricky tactical race. Place punt: Kratos (R5, No.2): Not as good as some here but highest assessed of the front line horse and if he finds the markers first has options.   Michael Guerin

The man with the perfect draws to dominate the two glamour races at Alexandra Park tonight says it may not be that simple. Because Ricky May says while he can win both the Taylor Mile and Anzac Cup, it may not be a comfortable watch for punters. May has barrier one with A G's White Socks in the Taylor Mile and as the winner of the Easter Cup two starts ago he looks good enough to be master of his own destiny, which is exactly what he didn't do at Addington last start. "I stuffed up the drive last start, I gave Mark [Purdon, driving More The Better] the lead too easy and we had no chance after that," admits May. "So we have the ace this time and I think I have to be aggressive from the inside but the question is how aggressive because there is plenty of speed next to us. "I can see them going really hard and some of us are going to have to make decisions around the first bend." Translated into non-racing speak that means: we want to lead or trail the right horse but we don't want to go crazy trying to do so. That pretty much sums up the likes of key rivals Star Galleria, Let It Ride and Raukapuka Ruler, the drivers of all will want to get to the markers but not spend too much energy doing so because that could set the race up for More The Better. As good as his group one winning rivals are, Star Galleria has been brilliant this season and has the raw speed to give driver Tony Herlihy options so he deserves favouritism and if he can run to the front it will take a special performance to get past him. Let It Ride has had the right preparation of speed racing and was good enough at the workouts last Saturday to win while More The Better could be sitting just off the speed after a sizzling open sectional and swoop in what shapes as a great race. Enghien showed with his luckless last-start second at Addington he is now strong enough to beat the older trotters but if you are expecting a lead-and-win performance from barrier two you might be disappointed. For all his stamina he is still a quirky trotter who doesn't like being bustled and May suggests he will have to be patient early before making his move later. "He is at his best right-handed and I am sure he can win but he has been funny this season so I don't see us racing to the lead or anything like that." Enghien can undoubtedly win but with the possibility Lemond, Bordeaux and even Temporale could surge forward to get in front of him punters might be understandably reluctant to take his $2.50 opening price. Lemond appeals as the value in the race as he bounced right back to his best over 1700m last week and showed good gate speed. A repeat of that could see him press forward and even lead tonight from where he would take enormous running down. Earlier in the night the scratching of Luby Lou after she got tangled in a fence has opened up the Sires' Stakes Trot, with Renezmae and Winterfell the greatest beneficiaries while it is hard to make a case to bet on, or against, Princess Tiffany at $1.30 in the Caduceus Club Classic for the juvenile pacing fillies. Michael Guerin

The words of a champion horseman are one of the few ghosts haunting trainer Steven Reid as he prepares Star Galleria for tomorrow night's $100,000 Taylor Mile. The speed freak pacer is the $2.60 opening favourite for the group one sprint, one of four group races as Alexandra Park kicks off its last major carnival of the season tomorrow night. Star Galleria has developed from a speedster lacking strength last season into one of the best pacers in the country behind Lazarus with a series of high-class victories over the summer, downing the likes of Heaven Rocks and Jack's Legend with ease. While he hasn't raced since his effortless win in the City of Auckland Free-For-All a month ago, the four-year-old thrilled Reid winning his Pukekohe workout last Saturday in a fast time on a soaked track. "He felt great and I have no doubt he is better than he was a month or two ago," says Reid. "He has got stronger again and I couldn't be happier with him. "The Puke track is fast at the moment but he still paced 3:2 for his 2400m on a wet track, his last 800m in 55 seconds so he is ready." The only concern Reid had after last Saturday's spectacular workout win was the words of champion driver Maurice McKendry, who drove runner-up Let It Ride. "Maurice sat on our back and never pulled out and after the workout he told me his horse was jogging," says Reid. "So maybe he has come over here in really good form, I suppose we will find out on Friday." Let It Ride is a member of Tim Butt's Menangle stable and was a close second to eventual Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu in the Chariots of Fire in February. He looked very impressive during last Saturday's workout and his gate speed and sprint prowess are honed by his Sydney racing diet so with barrier two he has emerged as a real danger in the race. A G's White Socks has the ace draw and More The Better is drawn on Let It Ride's back, suggesting all four favourites should be handy, almost always the key to Taylor Mile success. Trotting young gun Enghien has opened favourite against the older horses in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, with the aid of barrier two and the fact his connections believe he is more comfortable around Alexandra Park. But the favourite for one of tomorrow night's other group races Luby Lou goes into the $60,000 Sires' Stakes Trotters Champs with no experience right-handed, which may be why bookies are giving an appealing $2 for the superstar filly, keeping Renezmae safe at $5.80 after her impressive northern debut last Friday. The race looks one of the deeper three-year-old trot features at Alexandra Park in recent years as the breed continues to develop at the two and three-year-old levels through better breeding and more racing opportunities. That is also being reflected in the high number of two-year-old trotters racing this season compared with five years ago, the resurgence suggesting HRNZ's recent boosts of stakes for the three trotting races at the Jewels to $125,000 was the right decision. Michael Guerin

Even from the master this was something special. Because while Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn has had more lucrative victories than Habibti Ivy’s fighting effort in the $100,000 Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park tonight, few have been more satisfying. The former high class three-year-old was the forgotten horse of New Zealand trotting just two months ago, after issues kept her away from the track for over 18 months. But not only has she returned unbeaten in five starts, she is now a group one winner after just 14 starts, with the promise of so much more to come. “That was pretty special, to win a group one at her first real attempt at open class,” said the quietly spoken Nairn. “I knew she was good but I thought she might be a little bit below her best tonight so that was brave. And she has had those problems in the past so it is special to see her reach her potential.” Nairn has made a career out of the unusual, his old school and sometimes radical methods consistently turning out open class trotters from remarkably small numbers. Habibti Ivy is the latest and with her gate speed and the beautiful long stride so common in the stock of her champion sire Love You, she is ready to make up for lost time. Love You’s triumph for the night was complete as he also sired Anzac Cup runner-up Lemond and three-year-old Sires’ Stakes winner Enghien. The trotters went a long way to upstaging champion pacer Lazarus, who had little more than a jog in the park to beat stablemates Waikiki Beach and Golden Goddess in the Taylor Mile. He worked to the front quickly and scooted his last 800m in 54.5 seconds to win his penultimate race for the season, the last coming in next Friday's Messenger Pace. And earlier his juvenile filly stablemate Elle Mac suggested she is the most advanced of her crop coming from near last to smash her opponents in the $110,000 Caduceus Club Classic.   Michael Guerin    

The history of Friday’s Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park meant more to Mike Berger than actually winning this year’s $100,000 Group One for 4-year-old pacers. “I know we have no chance of beating Lazarus. It should be just a stroll in ‘The Park’ for him. I’d be happy running in the first three, but you know me I’m always in for the fight when the big money is up. “If you aim for the moon you might end up at the stars,” Berger said. The Cambridge trainer said when he nominated outsider Max Phactor for Friday’s Waste Management 2017 Taylor Mile there were four nominations. “The club said if there was five the race would go ahead so I nominated ‘Max’. I’m delighted it has got off the ground. We won it in 2005 with V For and that was a special night. It is an honour to have your name alongside some of the great horses, trainers and drivers who have won the race. “I’m glad it went ahead. There’s too much history for it not to,” Berger said. Friday’s race has attracted six starters - three from the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable - Golden Goddess (2), Waikiki Beach (4), and the likely winner and current New Zealand Cup champion - Lazarus (6). “We could have put him in an easier intermediate grade race but I thought if you aren’t in you can’t win. I’ve been happy with all his runs this time in. If he can get a suck in behind them, then he could place or run in four,” Berger said. Max Phactor has drawn the ace and will be looking for his first win at Alexandra Park after producing nine placings. The Art Major entire justified his $2 favouritism with an easy win over the 2200m mobile at Cambridge last Thursday. Max Phactor stopped the clock in 2:43 even (mile rate: 1:59.2) and home in 58.1 and 28.4. That was his sixth win in 46 starts and took his stake earnings past $73,000. "He had a good break after racing in June and has come back a nice, strong horse. He's gone well since coming back in February. "I can't see him winning but you just never know in racing. I'd be rapt even if he ran in the first four," Berger said. The result looks one of the most predictable of 2017. Lazarus wins and adds his name to the following list of Taylor Mile champions. He is rated 130 – Max Phactor 73. Note: The Greg & Nina Hope trained Mossdale Connor set the current New Zealand 1700m mobile record in this race two years ago in 1:58.1 The last dozen winners of the Group One Taylor Mile have been (with drivers and times): 2016: Field Marshall (Dexter Dunn) 1:59.5. 2015: Mossdale Connor (Maurice McKendry) 1:58.1. 2014: Besotted (Simon Lawson) 2:00.0. 2013: Christen Me (Dexter Dunn) 2:01.5. 2012: Terror To Love (Anthony Butt) 2:03.3. 2011: Gomeo Romeo (David Butcher) 2:04.0. 2010: Second Wind (Gavin Smith) 2:02.9. 2009: Auckland Reactor (Blair Orange) 2:01.8 2008: Changeover (David Butcher) 2:03.7. 2007: Devisive (Peter Rixon) 2:02.9. 2006: Mainland Banner (Ricky May) 1:55.1 (mile). 2005: V For (Philip Butcher) 1:55.7. Footnote: The Taylor Mile is actually a 1700m mobile. From its inception in 1986 until 2006 it was run as a 1609m (mile) mobile. It was changed to a 1700m mobile in 2007.   Duane Ranger

The two biggest races at Alexandra Park tonight could hardly be more different. Because while both the Taylor Mile and Anzac Cup are mobile sprints worth $100,000, for punters they are chalk and cheese. The Mile, which is actually 1700m, looks a near benefit job for champion pacer Lazarus, even though he has drawn the outside of the six starters. A two-time sub 1:50 miler this season he is expected to roll to the lead, probably from stablemate Waikiki Beach and be winning, with the All Stars looking to have a great shot at the trifecta with Golden Goddess likely to be handy as well. So the Horse of the Year in waiting gives you an obvious anchor for Pick6 and the bonus late quaddie. But the Anzac Cup is a whole different ballgame, with the absence of Monbet and Speeding Spur producing a rare Alexandra Park group one where you could make a serious winning case for maybe 10 of the 13 starters. The race brings together three very different groups of horses --- the open class regulars like Prime Power, Realmein, Bordeaux and last-start group one winner Eyre I Come against a strong bunch of emerging four-year-olds in Lemond, Temporale, High Gait and Wilma’s Mate. Joining them will be Sunny Ruby and Great Things Happen, both returning from successful Australian campaigns which should have them nicely honed for mobile 2200m while comeback mare Habibti Ivy adds another dimension. As tempting as it will be for punters to back speedsters Sunny Ruby and Wilma’s Mate, the golden rule of premier racing at Alexandra Park is try and back horses who will be handy to the speed, preferably on the markers, because at this level the leaders rarely get tired. If Lemond had the speed to hold up from the ace he would appeal but that is doubtful, with Habibti Ivy, Prime Power and Eyre I Come all quick off the gate, with maybe Prime Power best suited to tonight’s conditions. “It will be nice to be on the speed with him for once and I think this is his chance if he can lead,” says trainer-driver Todd Mitchell. The $110,000 Caduceus Club Classic also has a rare open look to it, especially with unbeaten filly Elle Mac drawn wide, having her first start right-handed and having spent most of the week on the road traveling from her Canterbury home. “All of ours have traveled well and seem fine so she and the other fillies should go well,” confirmed trainer Mark Purdon. “But you never really know how they will handle Alexandra Park first-up under race conditions and while Elle Mac might be the best of them I am starting to think there isn’t much between them all.” The race also has depth, with Bettor Joy looking tough winning the Delightful Lady two starts ago while Caitlyn Clarke has the all-important ace draw. This is a crop of fillies where the pecking order and Jewels favouritism could change significantly over the next month. The night’s other group race provide Enghien with an interesting challenge on his Alexandra Park debut as the NZ Derby winner looks clearly the best of his crop but will need to be from his second line draw, with President Roydon best drawn to profit should the favourite underperform. Away from the group races one of the big questions of the night will be whether glamour mare The Orange Agent and new driver Todd MacFarlane can give their rivals up to a 35m start in race four. The answer is probably yes, but don’t take less than $2 to find out. Michael Guerin

One of the great races of the Alexandra Park season has been saved by some cunning co-operation, meaning Auckland race fans will get a rare opportunity to see pacing hero Lazarus. The champion hasn’t raced in Auckland for over 13 months, his last outing resulting in an effortless Northern Derby win in March last year. Since then he has taken the Australasian pacing scene by storm, winning the New Zealand Cup in record time, the Victoria Cup, Chariots of Fire, NZ Free-For-All and added another Derby. But none of those have meant a trip to Auckland, with his only northern start since the Northern Derby being in the Flying Mile at Cambridge in January. That drought was in danger of continuing this week too as the Auckland Trotting Club initially only received four entries for Friday night’s $100,000 Taylor Mile. While the ATC tries to run its best races even with small fields, four would have tested their resolve, especially with Lazarus likely to stifle betting on the Group One. Firstly trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stepped in, obviously keen to get the race off the ground, transferring stablemate Golden Goddess from her original 2700m standing start target. Then that mare’s owners Merv and Meg Butterworth allowed their low grade pacer Pavarotti to be included in the Mile, even though he will be racing miles out of his grade and is a legitimate 500-1 chance. So after some shuffling the inaccurately-named race - the Mile is actually 1700m mobile - will be held. It would have been a shame to lose the Taylor as it was for a long time New Zealand’s most important mile, before the Jewels came along at Ashburton and Cambridge and the national mile record book was torn to shreds. Eight out of the last 14 Taylor Mile winners have gone on to win either a New Zealand or Auckland Cup or the Miracle Mile. While Lazarus will be red hot on Friday at least he has the widest draw and is possibly not as dominant over sprint trips, although he does have two sub 1:50 miles to his name this season. Co-trainer Rasmussen said while moving Golden Goddess to the Mile was done to help get the race off the ground, the high-quality mare loses little from her change of plans. “She has a good draw and she will be competitive,” said Rasmussen. “She is mainly up in Auckland because it is hard to get races for her and she was going to start in the handicap, which has The Orange Agent in it anyway. “She needs money to earn her way into Jewels contention, if she ends up going there, and she can get some good money this week.” In fact it is hard to see how Golden Goddess won’t earn at least between $5000 and $10,000 for a third or fourth placing and after her win at Addington last Saturday that would take her a long way up the Jewels leader board. But her connections have still not decided whether they may head to Melbourne for the same series of mare’s races as The Orange Agent next month, so those who fancy her in the Jewels markets should be careful. While saving the Taylor Mile gives Friday’s meeting the hero factor of Lazarus, it is a wonderful card regardless, with some welcome returns from Australia boosting the $100,000 Anzac Cup. Sunny Ruby is back after a hugely successful summer alongside Great Things Happen while High Gait joins the Dickie stable for a short campaign before heading to stud. The Sires’ Stakes Trot sees Enghien draw the second line, which evens things up nicely, while the juvenile pacing fillies get serious for the first time in the $110,000 Caduceus Club Classic.   Michael Guerin

Miracle Mile placegetter Arms Of An Angel will represent Australia at the New Zealand harness racing Jewels in June. Officials issued an invitation to the connections of the Australian four-year-old mare and it was quickly accepted with trainer Shane Tritton confirming the daughter of Elsu will also be targeting the Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park on April 22. Arms Of An Angel has recovered remarkably well from her effort on Sunday and Tritton will look towards Menangle in the coming weeks to keep her 'ticking over' until her trip across the Tasman. "I've got seven weeks until the Taylor Mile, we had been working really hard with her prior to the Chariots Of Fire about teaching her to relax in her races and that all went out the window over the past few weeks," Tritton said. "What I need to do now is start tinkering with her gear in an attempt to get her to come back to Lauren after an early burn and that is what I will do in her next few starts in Sydney." The Len Smith Mile at Tabcorp Park Menangle in June is another target for Tritton this season. "Everything works out pretty well by the looks of it, we've got the Taylor Mile in April, the Jewels in the first week of June and then we have three weeks until the Len Smith Mile. "After the Len Smith Mile I think she will have deserved a good break and then I'll sit down and look at what to do with her next season." Tritton is considering leaving Arms Of An Angel with New Zealand trainer Mark Jones during the month of May as he and Lauren Panella head to the USA. "Lauren and I are getting married on May 22 and we are having a bit of a reverse honeymoon with a week in Las Vegas in the first week of May. Originally the plan had been to have a week in Vegas, a week in New York and a week in Hawaii with the wedding at the end but now with Arms Of An Angel we might have to cut short the trip. "If she settles in with Mark and he is happy to look after her while we are away it might still work itself out but we're going to have to be a bit flexible with our plans now." Tritton has also showed interest in taking talented two year old Blue Moon Rising to New Zealand for the Jewels. The youngster was impressive on debut at Bathurst before winning again at Menangle. "We'd definitely be interested in taking him too but he probably has to keep on winning to keep his name up in front of the selectors. "The plan is to take him to Goulburn and then maybe Young and if his form warrants it and the invite is forthcoming then we would be very keen for him to go." Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) is the controlling body for harness racing in New South Wales with responsibility for commercial and regulatory management of the industry including 31 racing clubs across the State. HRNSW is headed by an industry-appointed Board of Directors and is independent of Government. Greg Hayes    

The big four year old feature the $100,000 Taylor Mile at tonights harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park was wide open after the barrier draw and trying to pick a winner was really hard. When the gate left, Maurice McKendry shot the son of Bettor's Delight Mossdale Conner to an early lead and applied the blowtorch right from the start. Dalton Bromac worked to the death from barrier eight before handing up to Border Control who found the death seat with 1000 metres to go. Sky Major improved three wide but Mark Purdon was not handing up the death seat and Sky Major was left out there for the rest of the race. Meanwhile Maurice continued to roll along in front with Mossdale Conner and was still traveling well as they turned for home. Pinching a couple of lengths as they turned for home, Mossdale Conner had enough in reserve to hold out a game Border Control by a length with Ohoka Punter flying home late for third in front of another big finisher in Tiger Tara. Mossdale Conner paced the 1700 metres in 1:58.1, a mile rate of 1:51.7 with closing sectionals of 55.4 and 28. The time was a new New Zealand record, taking 1.6 seconds off the previous record held by Gold Ace and every runner in tonights race went under the previous record. The first four home were all by siring sensation Bettor's Delight, Mossdale Connor, Border Control, Ohoka Punter and Tiger Tara. Trained at Woodend by Greg and Nina Hope, Mossdale Conner is usually driven by Ricky May but with Ricky committed to Dalton Bromac, Maurice McKendry picked up the drive in the Group 1. Maurice was all smiles post race. " I was lucky to pick up the drive because Ricky was committed to another horse." "Greg asked me to drive him at the trials last week and I was really impressed as he went 2:42 for 2200 metres and had plenty left at the finish." "Greg offered me the drive after the trial so that worked out good." " I just let him roll along in front and as I thought he would, he found plenty in the straight," Maurice said. The way he won tonight, Mossdale Conner comes right into calculations for the New Zealand Messenger next week. Note: Followers of the weekly ringaround on Harnesslink would have been laughing all the way to the bank tonight after Maurice McKendry gave out $20 shot Mossdale Conner as his bet of the week. Harnesslink Media      

Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this  season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in  terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving  total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable.  Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me.  It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER  "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing

Champion broodmare Scuse Me looks set on making what could be the most impressive black-type page ever seen in a catalogue. The speedy Butler BG race mare, who has proved to be the pride and joy of long-time breeder and owner Charles Roberts, won eight races including the Noel Taylor Mile on the racetrack. When winning that Group One race in 1998 she set a long-standing mares mile record of 1:53.5. The now 20yo daughter of Super Smooth has had eleven foals of racing age and when talented freshman Have Faith In Me was successful at Ashburton on Sunday it was her eleventh winner. Have Faith In Me, A Bettor’s Delight full-brother to Adore Me, was purchased on behalf of the Dunford's by Mark Purdon for $55,000  at the 2013 Karaka Sale. He was a mammoth second in his debut behind stablemate Change Stride, before making light work of his opposition in his second start, unleashing a 26.7 last quarter to dash away for an effortless three length win. Apart  from champion mare Adore Me ($880,469), Scuse Me has also left the smart performers Toledo ($88,514) , Imagine Me ($247,175), and Megabucks, who won six races in New Zealand before heading to America where he paced a mile in 1:49.6. She is also the dam of Splendid Dreams, who won two of six starts before she was retired to stud where she has produced millionaire pacer Christen Me and the injury plagued Hands Christian, who downed Terror To Love in the 2012 Easter Cup. Hands Christian is back on the comeback trail and, like close relations Christen Me and Adore Me, he is being set for the 2014 New Zealand Cup in November, giving the blue blood family a three-pronged attack on the great race. Splendid Dreams is also the dam of In The Pocket mare Splendid Deal, who already in her short broodmare career has produced Group One performers Splendour and (Our) Maxim. They, like Adore Me and Have Faith In Me, are both by Bettor’s Delight, highlighting what is a golden gross over the Scuse Me family. Other recent winners from this ever-strengthening family, which have predominately been trained by the Purdon’s, include juvenile Lightfingered, who was a recent winner at Addington. He too is by Bettor’s Delight out of an In The Pocket daughter of Scuse Me in La Filou. The next cab off the ranks for Scuse Me is a Bettor’s Delight yearling filly called Revere Me. She also has a Bettor’s Delight weanling colt called All About Me and is back in foal to the super sire. But, come November, this family may have already developed into one of the best ever and Scuse Me, or her daughter Splendid Dreams, may have produced their very first New Zealand Cup winner. By Mitchell Robertson      

Harness racing trainers' Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick have never had a horse line up in a Breeders Crown Final before, but they won’t be too perturbed if Cyamach doesn’t make the trip across the Tasman next month. “It all depends how he comes through his next race at Alexandra Park on July 25, but after Friday’s race we couldn’t be happier with him,’’ Telfer said. “We will make a decision on the Breeders Crown then. “If we do decide to go he will race over there (Victoria) on August 17 and 24.’’ Cyamach was an impressive winner of last Friday’s fifth event at Alexandra Park – the $14,999 Prudentia Law Mobile for the C2 to C5 pacers. Scott Phelan rushed the recent Winter Cup winner to the lead from barrier five soon after the start of Friday’s 2200m mobile. From there they dictated all the pace to easily win in wet conditions by 2-1/4 lengths in 2:44 even. Central Districts visitor Te Kawau (Todd Mitchell) was an impressive first-up second after sitting outside of Cyamach for the last lap. Cyamach paced a creditable 1:59.9 mile rate in the wet and windy conditions. He sped his last 800m and 400m in 56.6 and 27 seconds. It was his ninth win in 36 starts. His bank balance stands at $154,926. Someone knew Cyamach would win. NZ harness racing bookmaker, Steve Richardson said he received a $5,000 win bet on Friday afternoon on Cyamach at $2.60. That was his also closing price. Telfer is really starting to warm to the exploits of talented 4-year-old. “He’s going really well at the moment. He’s really started to strengthen up and mature lately. He’s a nice horse who has always had speed. But now that he’s strengthened up he’s turned the corner again. “He’s the best we have got.’’ The former Australian, who came to New Zealand from rural New South Wales in 1995, said he was really enjoying his work at present. “We have a nice team, great staff, and a very nice place to work. “Chris is great to work with and Scotty (Phelan) is doing a brilliant job in the sulky,” the 43-year-old horseman said. “I can’t forget my sister Amanda (Tidswell) too. It’s a team effort,” he added. While a Breeders Crown trip would be a real highlight, Telfer said the desire to remain in NZ and focus on some our big races was huge. “It would be nice to win a Breeders Crown but to be honest I’d prefer to win a big Group One race here. “If Cyamach does go then he’s going to have to step up to the next level. Even though there will be some nice 4-year-olds missing good ones like Lennytheshark and Chilli Palmer will be there. “He will either go to Australia or be spelled after his next race,” Telfer said. He said he was quite happy to target the Group One 4&5-year-old races like the Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger with Cyamach next season. Looking to the future Telfer said to watch out for a Grinfromeartoear-Spicey colt named Ashton K. “He’s a rising 3-year-old who has been up for a while now. He trialled real nice as a 2-year-old and we have all got a lot of time for him.’’ By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)    

A belief in the direction that the Auckland Trotting Club is taking; and the future of the Franklin Training track; were two major reasons why John Street is relocating Lincoln Farm’s harness racing business from Kumeu to Pukekohe. Street recently bought the National Bloodstock property on Golding Road right adjacent to the Franklin track. He is currently spending another $500,000 upgrading the property into a racing stable. “It’s going to take a couple of months before we can move in because hardly anything has been done on the place for 20 years,'' Street said. “But I’ve got six contractors working on site now. The place has up to 60 horse boxes, so we are able to relocate all 30 of our harness horses. "This also includes 21 rising 2-year-olds. "It took a bit of time planning and negotiating but we are pleased with the purchase.'' Street said the Lincoln Farms in Kumeu would continue to house broodmares and stallions. “The property hasn’t sold yet but we are in no hurry, it is serving a very good purpose now." Street said his team could now just walk through to the Franklin track rather than the current situation where they had to be transported into Kumeu or Alexandra Park to work. “The Franklin track is in a much better state and is regularly maintained, the boys do a good job out there and I believe it will be improved even more to make it the Auckland Trotting Club’s major training centre. “The Auckland Club is doing a good job and I want to support them as much as possible. "We both see Pukekohe as the training centre of the future and personally for us the best place to further our success. “Ray (Green - trainer) and all the staff will relocate, it will be the same team with Simon Lawson, Maurice McKendry, and Zac Butcher being used as our drivers." The 69-year-old Auckland businessman who sold his Pak Save Supermarket last year, said he was now spending his retirement developing his thoroughbred and standardbred enterprises. “We are looking to have 10 per cent of our gallopers race with our trainer Lisa Latta in Singapore, and we will continue to promote our popular harness racing syndicates as well. “We have virtually sold Beaudiene Boaz to Gary Hall in Perth and the boys in that syndicate invested about $10,000 and made $40,000 each on him.” “Ian Middleton is overseeing 10 syndicates for us now, and we have got lots of people, especially South Islanders keen to get in. "I think people are realising now that we don’t keep the horse unless we make money." Street said he enjoyed syndicating standardbreds – simply because they were not difficult to sell on. “They are also easy to sell to Australia for a good price if they have or have not met their grade here,” he added. Meanwhile, Street said it was unlikely he would be relocating to Pukekohe. “I am very happy here in Half Moon Bay. Lincoln Farms was the brainchild of Street and his late great mate Graham Blackburn. The company has been in operation for more than three decades having commenced modestly with two horses in 1985 and has now won well in excess of than 300 races and millions in stakes money. Their greatest victory came via Sir Lincoln in the 2012 Auckland Cup. Their most tightly assessed horse is 14-win recent Taylor Mile winner, Besotted. Lincoln Farms has won numerous age races, the most recent of them being Group $150,000 Emerald 2yo Colts and geldings Jewels winner, Beaudiene Boaz. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

He would never admit to it, but Nathan Purdon is pretty sure he knows Adore Me better than he knows himself. As the right-hand man of New Zealand’s champion mare, the young horseman has watched and closely scrutinised every aspect of her career thus far. He can tell you just by looking at her when she’s on the top of her game and then, conversely, when she’s not. Yesterday though, the son of legendary horseman, Mark, went to a whole new level – and opponents of Adore Me in this week’s Four-Year-Old Diamond at the Harness Jewels in Cambridge, are not going to like what he had to say. “It might sound silly, but I know that right now she is as good as she has ever been in her career,’’ he said. “It’s actually unbelievable how good she is at the moment.’’ Purdon had an inkling things were getting back on track last week, then Adore Me confirmed his suspicions on Saturday when she trekked into Alexandra Park for her final public hit-out before Saturday with Purdon junior in the sulky. “She was just simply awesome. “Everything she did, she did on her own accord but she sprinted up so strongly and felt back to her old self again. “After her run in the Taylor Mile she was pretty tired, three hard runs in record time had taken a bit out of her and you could really tell. “She had three days off to freshen up after that run and has come back just incredible, really.’’ Saturday will bring mixed emotions for young Purdon as it will be the last time he takes the horse, who has become such a big part of his life, to the races for quite some time. He and older brother, Michael, are off overseas for their OE early in July and could be gone for up to a year. “At this stage we have said six months, but we are keen to try for a year and see what happens. “It means I won’t be there to see her race for a while, so I’m hoping she can sign off on the right note on Saturday.’’ Drawn at barrier five, Purdon envisages his father will have no problems handling the mare this weekend and expected him to utilise her abundance of gate speed. “She can fly out of the gate when you ask her too, like it’s actually scary how quickly she can leave it. “I can’t see anything there that would cause her too many problems.’’ At $1.15 and $1.04 on the Fixed Odds markets for the Four-Year-Old Diamond, Adore Me isn’t going to offer anyone much value, but she is certain to be the subject of nearly every multi bet on the day. By Matt Markham (Courtesy of Harness Racing NZ)

23-year-old harness racing reinsman Simon Lawson nailed his first Group One driving success when steering Besotted to a New Zealand record victory in tonight’s $100,000 Group One Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park. After making the most of his inside alley and holding the lead early, Lawson took a trail behind second favourite Elios. Besotted then powered up the sprint lane in the homestretch to win by ¾ of a length over Elios, while champion mare Adore Me endured a torrid trip and was close-up in third. Besotted upset the apple cart winning at staggering odds of $42. “He had actually been going very good races from bad barriers. I was absolutely thrilled with him last start,” advised an excited Lawson. “I decided I may as well make the most of the draw and was only ever going to hand up to Elios or Adore Me. In the end it worked out perfectly,” he enthused. Lawson was full of praise for Besotted’s trainer Ray Green as well as his owner, John Street of Lincoln Farms. “Ray always has his horses perfectly prepared. I don’t think I have ever driven a horse for him that has gone no good,” said Lawson “And it is overwhelming for a man of John Street’s stature to put his faith in a young fella like me in a big race like this one,” he added. Besotted, who is a five-year-old son of American Ideal, paced the 1700 metres in a New Zealand record time of 2.00.0 (1-53.5), which ironically shaved 0.5 seconds off the previous record held by his former stablemate Sir Lincoln. Besotted has now won 14 races and stakes close to $250,000. By Mitchell Robertson    

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