Day At The Track

Lazarus looking for back to back NZ Cups

06:43 AM 10 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Lazarus winning this years Kaikoura Cup
Lazarus winning this years Kaikoura Cup

There’s certain symmetry between Mark Purdon and his harness racing All Stars stable and the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup.

He is the country’s premier trainer and constantly strives for excellence while the Cup is the biggest racing event staged in the Shaky Isles and only the best survive.

The famous livery of blue and silver stars is no stranger to success in the Cup with victories coming via Il Vicolo (1995/96), Adore Me (2014) and Lazarus* last year.

But just like his complete domination across the southern hemisphere during the past decade, the record in the New Zealand Cup is equally impressive.

Since 2010, the All Stars have either won or been placed in the 3200m standing start classic.

Adore Me and Lazarus were completely dominant when triumphant while Sleepy Tripp (2010), Highview Tommy (2011/12), Sushi Sushi (2012), Fly Like An Eagle (2013) and Smolda (2015) all performed admirably when filling minor placings.

And that domination could easily continue on Tuesday afternoon at Addington when the stable is represented by five of the 14 runners competing in the $800,000 event.

Defending champion Lazarus is lining up as the shortest priced favourite in the races history, the $2.2 million earner is unbeaten this preparation winning all three starts.

The Bettors Delight stallion has claimed the Canterbury Classic, Ashburton Flying Stakes and the Kaikoura Cup on his way to this year’s edition, and looked in amazing touch on each occasion.

But it’s a slightly different path compared to last year when contesting the New Brighton Classic (3rd behind Franco Nelson & Christen Me), Canterbury Classic (won) and the Ashburton Flying Stakes (won).

If successful, Lazarus will join the likes of Monkey King, Flashing Red, Just An Excuse, Il Vicolo, Lordship, Highland Fling, Haughty, Lucky Jack, Harold Logan, Peter Bingen, Ahuriri, Reta Peter and Wildwood Junior as dual Cup winners.

Only Terror To Love, False Step and Indianapolis have won the race three times.

The race was first staged in 1904.

So, with Lazarus leading the charge for the All Stars, other representatives this year include the enigmatic Heaven Rocks, classy mares Piccadilly Princess and Dream About Me plus speed machine Have Faith In Me.

Heaven Rocks will be handled as always by Natalie Rasmussen, the only female driver in the event, and Rasmussen is hoping to join Kerryn Manning as a winner of the great race.

Several that were left in the wake of Lazarus last year include Tiger Tara, Titan Banner, No Doctor Needed and Have Faith In Me but can they reverse the result this time around?

Interestingly, Tiger Tara and Titan Banner who filled placings last year both line up in different stables this year.

Tiger Tara is now representing Australia and is prepared by Sydney horseman Kevin Pizzuto while Titan Banner will represent the stable of Graeme Anderson.

Cup winning trainers Barry Purdon and Robert Dunn are chasing further success; the iconic horsemen are represented by Jacks Legend and Robbie Burns respectively.

Purdon (Mark’s older brother) has won the Cup three times previously with Luxury Liner (1988), Christopher Vance (1991) and Chokin (1993) while Dunn prepared Mainland Banner to win the 2005 version.

Ricky May, a winner of the Cup on seven previous occasions (Inky Lord, Iraklis, Mainland Banner, Monkey King x 2 and Terror To Love x2) will aim for another triumph when he partners Seel The Deal.

Buster Brady (Kyle Austin & Blair Orange), Imola (Gavin Smith) and Maxim (Brent Mangos) are all looking to provide their connections their maiden Cup success.

As always, the New Zealand Cup will be a special event and Lazarus could join a very special group if successful and can he do it again with a widening margin and in race record time?

Time will tell.

Hoofnote – Lazarus sported the Black with white Lone Star logo jacket last year and will don the same silks again on Tuesday.

Chris Barsby

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