Day At The Track
Alexandra Park,Harness racing

Punters 9.5, Bookmakers 0.5

Here is the updated score board from Inter Dominion Grand Final night: Punters 9.5, All Stars 7, Bookmakers 0.5. But the TAB’s head racing bookmaker Thad Taylor says there is a silver lining to the second worst meeting in history of the harness racing book at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The near complete domination of favourites, headlined by Interdom winners Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell, was only halted when second favourite Havehorsewilltravel won the last of the 10 races. That was the race where the bookies got their gold star for trying but by then the horse hadn’t just bolted, it was already in another post code. Multi bets had left the bookmaking team shell shocked after the favourites refused to lose and the harness book suffered its worst single-meeting loss since the great bookie-bash of May 31, 2008 when the Harness Jewels was a strip out. The TAB never officially commented on just how bad that Black Saturday in 2008 was but estimates range range between $750,000 and $1million went back into punter’s pockets. The truth will never be known. After all, this is not the sort of savaging anybody likes to admit to. Saturday night was not quite as bad because the bookies didn’t get much wrong, they priced most of the favourites closed enough to their closing prices. The problem was they just kept winning. While the night belonged to the All Stars they weren’t the only villains for the odds setters, with Barry Purdon’s magnificent mare Belle Of Montana justifying her red hot favouritism for the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, watching her made easier for punters by a brilliant Zachary Butcher drive. His father David matched that three races earlier by staying calm when heavily-backed favourite Copy That, trained by Ray Green, galloped early but recovered to win the $50,000 Alabar Classic. The exciting three-year-old was one of several chances for the bookies to stem the flow. Winterfell was rocky at times before outstaying his rivals in the Trotting Final but the baddest beat came when Another Masterpiece overcame losing 30m in an early gallop to win what was effectively the pacing consolation. “That was our real chance to get one of the favourites beaten and when he got up to win we were done,” says Taylor. “Obviously all those All Stars winners didn’t help but the team (bookies) didn’t do much wrong. “It was just one of those nights, a wake up call for us after a good start to the summer for the harness book. “I said to the guys afterwards we have copped it but the good news is the money has been shared around between a lot of punters. Almost everybody got some and we would rather that than say somebody landing $300,000 worth if multis to one person. “So the punters got us but there is plenty of racing coming up so they will have plenty to spend.”Taylor wouldn’t be drawn on how deep the well of red ink ran on Saturday night but a loss of $500,000 perhaps slightly more is realistic, which is a lot for any race meeting in this country. Their under belly was multi bets, which have always been popular with harness punters and even more so now as many of the most successful punters are restricted on how much they are allowed to bet to win. The limits for multi bets are much higher, for the obvious reason fewer of them win, but when the favourites refuse to lose like on Saturday night, the numbers add up. If Another Masterpiece or Copy That had kept galloping, or Winterfell had reverted to the trotter of just four weeks ago, the bookies would have got away with it. But for punters the night was almost as perfect as the entire series was for new pacing champion Ultimate Sniper. No matter what was thrown at him during the series the four-year-old ball of muscle found a way to win, often not my much, but the history books rarely care about margins. Just ask the harness bookies. Winning is winning. But where there are winners there will be losers. On Saturday night the winners were at Alexandra Park. The losers were at TAB head office in Petone.   Michael Guerin

Captaintreacherous, harness racing

First NZ winner by Captaintreacherous

Captaintreacherous, the former outstanding American harness racing colt pacer and the leading juvenile sire in North America with his first two crops, was represented by his first 'down under' winner in the two-year-old colt It's All About Faith. A member of the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen barn, the colt led most of the way for driver Mark Purdon in the first heat of the Breckon Farms Young Guns in a slick 1:56.4 at Alexandra Park, Auckland on Friday night (Dec. 13). It's All About Faith, who was having his first start, clocked 56.3 for the last and 28.3 for the final quarter. To watch the race replay, click here.  Captaintreacherous had three runners in the nine-horse field in It's All About Faith first, Platinum Stride fourth and Captain Nemo eighth. It's All About Faith is out of the Group 1 winning Christian Cullen mare Veste (1:57.1), who has left four winners - all inside 1:58 - from four starters, and is a member of the same maternal family as the dual New Zealand Cup winner Il Vicolo, Gotta Go Cullen and Stunin Cullen, all million dollar winners. Captaintreacherous's frozen semen is available in New Zealand and Australia through Empire Stallions in Victoria. By Peter Wharton              

Ultimate Sniper,Harness racing

All Stars dominate on Finals night

The Inter Dominion became the Inter Domination as New Zealand’s greatest ever harness stable put on a show at Alexandra Park last night. The All Stars, the aptly-named training operation of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, won both the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final with hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and the $150,000 Trotting Final with Winterfell as they unleashed the full force of their stable on harness racing’s biggest stage. Not only did they take home the two Holy Grails but won five of the support races, including another of the group ones in the Peter Breckon Memorial with Amazing Dream. In all they contested eight races last night and won seven, Copy That denying them a clean sweep by winning the Alabar Classic for the three-year-old. But while Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell did the job for punters they were anything but an easy watch as both hard to work harder than those who took the short odds would have liked. Ultimate Sniper was expected to find the front in the IRT Pacing Final but after the Barry Purdon trio showed superior gate speed Ultimate Sniper was left back in the field and had to move to sit parked with a lap to go. He mastered leader A G’s White Socks at the top of the straight and then held out trailer Mach Shard and the booming late finish of Thefixer to complete a faultless series. All this from a horse who was allowed to miss the New Zealand Cup just a month ago and who the stable had initial fears about how he would handle the Alexandra Park right-handed track. “He was out on his feet that last 50m but he kept going like the good horses do,” said Rasmussen after driving her fifth Inter Dominion final winner, having also trained Blacks A Fake to win four before she joined Mark Purdon in partnership. Purdon took the reins behind Winterfell in the Trotting Final and as expert a job as he did the winning of the race may have been the hands-on training he has done with the former problem child of the open class trotting ranks since he came north for this series three weeks ago. Winterfell gave punters some nervous moments when he was crossed early and then when Purdon asked him to work around Majestic Man he took some fancy steps. Once balanced up he got away with an easy lap but copped pressure after from Tough Monarch and then Massive Metro, who headed him at the top of the straight before Winterfell fought back. Even after all that he still had to hold out Majestic Man up the passing lane, with the latter throwing away his chance to win by refusing to go down to the passing lane. But as last night showed, getting to the All Stars horses is one thing, getting past them is quite another.   Michael Guerin

Belle Of Montana,Harness racing

Belle Of Montana confirmed as top mare

By Garrick Knight    Belle Of Montana confirmed her billing as New Zealand’s top race mare with an effortless win in the $100,000 Group 1 Queen of Hearts on Saturday night. Driver Zachary Butcher had a relatively easy task once he found the front early on in the race, his mare’s clear class edge meaning opposing drivers were simply unwilling to challenge him. As a result, the race was run in a relatively sedate 2.40.7, but punishing finals splits of 55.2 and 26.5 gave her the upper hand. Trainer Barry Purdon said post-race that the Auckland Cup in just over two weeks’ time was off the table, but she might get a wee ‘taster’ against the boys early next month. “There’s a rating 50 and faster programmed for Auckland Cup night, but I’m nut sure what sort of field that will be. “Maybe we’ll go to the mile at Cambridge the week after. We’ll see.” After that, it’s off to Aussie to tackle two key Group 1 races across the ditch. “There’s a nice race in Melbourne at the start of February, the Ladyship Cup. I’d like to target that and then possibly the Ladyship Mile at Menangle.” There are firm plans to tackle the open class ranks next season with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “Next year she’ll be five and I really think we’ve got to have a go at the really big races like the (NZ) Cup. “But for now, she’s only four and there are some good race against her own sex. “We can space them out a bit and look after her.” On hand to receive the trophy was Belle Of Montana’s Queensland owner, Dean Shannon, a self-made business tycoon with a real love of the horses. “I’ve had seven or eight businesses over the years that I built up and sold.” He’s had a longstanding relationship with Brisbane horseman Darrell Graham, who was also on course to celebrate, but Shannon decided to team up with Purdon two-and-a-half years ago, a move he’s never regretted. “I’ve bought horses from the sales for the last 20-odd years. “I decided I’d like to race a few here so I went to the sale and bought four, then I just needed a trainer to leave them with. “I went and saw Barry and asked if he had any room for these horses that I’ve just bought and he was more than happy to. “I’d met Barry and (wife) Katrina a few times over the years and they are really lovely people. And of course, he’s just an awesome trainer. “Couldn’t be happier with my decision. “And now I’m fully engaged in New Zealand racing. I’m watching it every weekend and know all the horses.” Belle Of Montana, Shannon humbly concedes, was one he picked out on his own from the sale catalogue. “She was on my short list and I came over and saw her in the flesh. “I always spend a couple of days looking at all the horses I like and get the vets to go over them “In my system that I use, she actually rated a nine out of 10. “Being a three-quarter sister to Carabella I thought I’d have to pay $100,000 for her. “So, I was stunned when I got her for $40,000 or $50,000, I can’t remember exactly how much. “She was my top pick of the sale.” Any while the other three Shannon bought in that first crop have ended up in Queensland with Graham, Belle Of Montana won’t be following suit. “One hundred percent, she will be staying with Barry for good. “She’s not going anywhere.” Except, most likely, back to the winner’s circle. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Canterbury reinsman Robbie Close will be out to keep his winning form going at Motukarara on Sunday after notching a winning treble at Addington on Friday night. Close has seven drives at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting that could add to his tally of 17 in the sulky, so far this season. The driver has racked up those victories at a strong strike rate and if he continues his form he will be on track for one of his best seasons of driving. “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, I have got a good boss to work for in Regan Todd,” Close said.  “He puts a lot of trust in the way I drive, so I can’t complain.” Close notched wins 15, 16 and 17 for the season when scoring with Unico Veloce, Sam’s Town and Cheezel at Addington. Todd has had Cheezel in fine form since the mare joined his barn this season. The 5yr-old has not missed a top three placing for her new trainer and Close ensured she would get a cheque again when giving her a perfect run in the trail. “She had copped a little bit of luck in her last two starts, running on in quick last halfs [800m].” “But, sitting in the trail she did herself pretty well.” Close won out when a battle of tactics played out in Friday night’s Show Day Futurity Consolation. The race saw plenty of lead changes and mid race moves, which the driver largely kept Sam’s Town out of. Close elected to save ground on the home turn, which may have caused the horse’s backers a few nervous moments, before the Gavin Burgess trained pacer cleared out to win. “He is not a bad horse – as long as he gets the run to suit – then he is quite a nice horse.” “It was a bit of a cat and mouse affair, but with the way things worked out it suited him really well.” Close also found himself in a tight spot in the home turn behind Unico Veloce. Once the reinsman worked the Mark Fuller trained 3yr-old in to the clear in the straight he let down with a sharp finish to reel in the leader, Prospect Park. “Mark said he got lost a bit lost in front last time at Geraldine, so he said to drive him with one run if you can,” Close said. “He got a bit lost again on the last bend when a few of them got a bit tired, but he showed a really good turn of foot to win.” Close’s best drives appear to be saved until last at Motukarara on Sunday. He combines with impressive first up winner Elo Louise in the last of 11 races. The 3yr-old produced a powerful finish to win on the track earlier this month and will attempt to do it again against a tougher field when starting from barrier 14 on Sunday. “She has just got a bad draw, she is not a bad wee filly, but that is going to make it harder.” “It’s a step up in grade, but with one run she can finish over top of them.” Close also drives consistent trotter Cabella Noir in race 10. The 6yr-old will be out to go one better than her last start second to BK Dawn at Methven, earlier this month. “She is a horse that if she hits the front too early she knocks off, she has only got a short wee sprint.” “If she gets the right run with a sit, she won’t be far away.” Close will also drive Goodthingstaketime in race 3 following his good last start third at Oamaru. “He has drawn handy and been racing well without much luck.” Close also drives Black Jacket in race 2, Smooth Debate in race 5, Nui Ba Den in race 8 and Doitson in race 9. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    If the team from Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis’ stable go as well on the track at Winton on Sunday as U May Cullect has been going off the track, they will be in for a big day. The training partners will line up five strong chances on the Winton Harness Racing Club’s innovative programme, including former All Stars pacer Freddiesam. The former All Stars 3yr-old has been sent south in the hope he will find suitable races and break his maiden after being competitive in good fields in Canterbury, recently. “The owners just wanted find an easier spot for him,” Barclay said. “With his Canterbury form, you think he would be a good show.” Freddiesam headed south after producing a sound fourth behind the talented Navagio at Kaikoura last month. The pacer showed good gate speed to lead, which he gets to show off again from barrier 1 in Sunday’s 1609m event. The ace draw gives Freddiesam an edge over his stablemate, Cab Calloway, who is drawn out in barrier 5. “From the draw Freddiesam is just a little bit sharper at the moment, I would say,” Barclay said. Cab Calloway goes in to Sunday’s race after going sound races behind smart pacers, Cassius Bromac and Silent Major, in strong maiden fields. “He is actually a really nice horse, he is a good chance as well,” Barclay said. “He just lacks a little bit of top end speed, but he tries hard.” The Barclay-Ellis team start another talented maiden in race 8 in Watch Me Now. The 3yr-old finished off strongly, but a little roughly, behind Renegade Rose at Wyndham last month. “She is definitely a nice filly in the making – she is still a bit green and learning it all,” Barclay said. “But, she is not far away from putting her hand up.” Betterthenbrie represents Barclay and Ellis in race 6 — Sunday’s feature — the Equine Stakes for mares. The 5yr-old, who starts from barrier 2 on the second row, went a reasonable race when fighting on for a last-start fifth, after running in to smart types, Rockabilly Blues and Lawrence, in her previous two runs. “Its not a bad draw for her – she should lob a nice possie and she is always there abouts,” Barclay said. “She has been going some great races this season and popping up and running some nice placings.” Lite Percussion also ran in to Lawrence recently – in his last start at Ascot Park The 6yr-old drops significantly in class when he starts in race 3 on Sunday. “I thought he definitely had a good chance,” Barclay said. U May Cullect has continued to please his trainers during his rehabilitation from the tendon injury that ruled him out of the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Barclay and Ellis have been walking the southern sensation along Oreti Beach to help build up strength in his affected leg. “He is doing amazing – we are absolutley rapt with him,” Barclay said. “He is up to walking 20 minutes and his leg looks really good.” “He is going up to Dunedin for another scan after Christmas, but it is unbeleivable how good it looks.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Co-owner Meg Butterworth perfectly summed up the feelings of those watching Copy That’s win in the Alabar 3yr-old Classic at Alexandra Park on Saturday night when she said she “nearly died three times” during the heart-stopping event. The Ray Green trained pacer set the hearts fluttering among punters who backed him in to $2.10 win odds in the group 2 feature when galloping at the 1800m before again setting pulses racing in a nail-biting finish with runner-up One Change. His trainer, owner and backers admitted Copy That gave them a fright, but one man who remained unmoved by the 3yr-old’s antics was his driver. David Butcher was at his cool and calculating best when getting Copy That back down and pacing before after his gallop an then nursing him to the finish. Copy That looked more like a $50 shot when he flew out of his gear when Butcher handed the lead away the horse’s stablemate, Line Up, and driver Anthony Butt. Butcher said it was then that his horse, raced by Butterworth and her husband, Merv,  reverted to some old tricks.  “He used to do it as a young horse - what I am thinking is when Ants has come around he has relaxed and then he has just popped out a bit.” “It is a little habit that we thought that we got him out of, but he brought it back tonight.” Though he may not have shown it during the 2200m feature, Butcher said Copy That has been pacing better since running second behind One Change in the Sires Stakes Series Final. “He is a pretty nice horse, it has taken a little bit to get him there.” “Ray has done a few little things with his gait that have really helped, because he was really rough down in Christchurch.” “When he ran second he ran in on a couple of the corners, and he is actually a little bit better left handed.” Butcher did not look to panic when One Change surged at Copy That late in the home straight. The reinsman said Copy That was already doing his absolute best at in the final 100m. “When you’re running a 55sec half (800m) and a 27sec quarter (400m) and they have run 2.37 you can’t go much better.” “I am a great believer that most horses do try – some of them have had enough – but most of them will try.” Copy That officially stopped the clock in 2-37.3 for 2200m, running home in 55.9 (800m) and 27.5 (400m). The pacer will not clash with many of the rivals he beat on Saturday night in the next 3yr-old male pacing feature of the season - he is ineligible for the upcoming Yearling Sales Series Final. Green said he and the Butterworths would need to plan where Copy That will go next. The Victoria Derby at Melton is a possible target for the pacer.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Harness racing super star Ultimate Sniper has completed a clean sweep of the 2019 Inter Dominion by winning tonights Gr1 $5000,000 IRT Pacing Grand Final at Alexandra Park. As he did in when winning all three of his heats the tough Bettor's Delight 4yo never saw the fence at any stage in the final but still had too much petrol for his opposition, racing clear in the straight and holding on grimly over the final stages to record a remarkable win. Driver Natalie Rasmussen never entertained the thought the final would be easy. "I sort of thought it might pan out like that. I didn't do too much early and then he did all the work but he relaxed so well," Natalie said after the race. "When I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was getting tired at the line but he never gave up," she said. Outsider Mach Shard rushed at Ultimate Sniper late and got within a neck of him at the post running second, and Thefixer ran home well from back in the field to grab a fast closing third. Ultimate Sniper paced the 2700m mobile in 3-14.7 a mile rate of 1-56.0. The last 800m was run in 55.2 seconds. Super sire Bettor's Delight had a night to remember winning three of the Group One races on offer, and All Stars Stables also had a terrific night winning seven of the eight races they contested.   Harnesslink Media

Harness racing master trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have grabbed another Gr1 title after Winterfell won the $150,000 HR Fisken & Sons 2019 Inter Dominion Trotting Final in a thrilling finish tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Mark Purdon seized the initiative early in the race re-taking the lead from Majestic Man after that horse had crossed him out of the mobile at the beginning of the race. Despite being nursed around the final turn and being headed early in the run home Winterfell fought back like a top horse and stuck his head in front just before the line to get a deserved win. "I had to nurse him a bit around the final turn," Purdon said after the race. "Once he got around the final turn he trotted faultlessly. But he did have ground to make up again, because he had been headed at that stage by the horse on the outside of him"  "I was a bit concerned but he was very tenacious to the line," he said. Massive Metro was brave in defeat fighting on well for third after heading the favourite on the turn and Majestic Man got going late in the run home and dashed into second. Winterfell (5g Majestic Son - Una Bromac by Live Or Die) trotted the 2700m mobile in 3-21.6 a mile rate of 2-00.1. The last 800m was run in 58.2 and the final 400m was trotted in 28.9 seconds. Harnesslink Media

Training legend Barry Purdon may not win either Inter Dominion final at Alexandra Park tonight but his horses might hold the keys to who does. Purdon rivals his brother Mark for trainer of the carnival as he has three in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final and Marcoola in the $150,000 trotting group one. That is a fair leap from just a month ago when he didn’t even train Marcoola or dual series heat winner A G’s White Socks, while Mach Shard was jarred up after a New Zealand Cup shocker and his other pacing finalist On The Cards had just started his campaign with a third in a moderate race. So Purdon has taken two stable newcomers and two $150 chances and squeezed the absolute best out of them to give them a shot at the title. That, after all, is what horse training at its most basic level is all about. To turn that training genius into something a little more spendable Purdon’s trio in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final are going to need to be in the right place at the right time and for that A G’s White Socks, Mach Shard and On The Cards all have a very valuable weapon: gate speed. They are all on the front line surrounding hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and while anything could happen inside them it looks better than even money one of Barry’s horses will lead early. On The Cards, from barrier four, is the most likely to cross to the pegs but he could easily be joined by Mach Shard and/or A G’s White Socks if they can beat Ultimate Sniper off the gate. That is very possible as Natalie Rasmussen is often neutral for the first 400m of major races. The other side of that coin flip is Ultimate Sniper attaching itself to On The Cards, following it straight across and pretty much waltzing to the lead, which would give it the luxury of a $100 chance on his back and maybe seal the fate of Ultimate Sniper’s rivals. Purdon says his three are all well, have handled the rigours of the series and are ready to run up to the best form. “We know it is going to be hard to beat Ultimate Sniper, when horses start racing like he has during an Inter Dominion they tend to hold that form and I think he will too,” says Barry. “So maybe he will be too good but our horses should be up there and handy and that will give their drivers options.” If an A G’s White Socks or Mach Shard is given free rein to charge forward and can cross Ultimate Sniper then they get their chance to lead and almost certainly trail after so any one of Purdon’s three could sneak into a quinella or trifecta spot. But while it is hard for the master trainer to be too confident of beating Ultimate Sniper, he is more upbeat about an upset in the trotting final. Marcoola was always likely to be a better horse for tonight than in the heats, with the week off a chance for him to put on weight and Purdon to train him, rather than just look after him. He has worked well this week and after driver Sheree Tomlinson impressed Purdon with her patient handling of Marcoola in his heats, the boss is happy for her to power up the big boy tonight. “I will tell Sheree I am happy for her to drive him forward if he feels like that,” says Purdon. “He is fit and ready and we realise if we let Winterfell get his way in front then he might get it too easy so we will probably be rolling forward. “I couldn’t be happier with him and with a horse like Majestic Man fast off the gate too there could be some pressure early.” Purdon has trained 31 winners in just 101 starts this season, giving him a higher strike rate than even the All Stars, and should snare another group one before the Interdom Finals are even run tonight. He has speed freak mare Belle Of Montana headlining a four-pronged attack on the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts and even though she has drawn the second line it shouldn’t matter. Belle Of Montana is so fast she almost certainly would have made the pacing final had she contested the Interdom series and she is racing horses tonight who wouldn’t have. She sat parked to beat most of them last Friday and Purdon says she will be fitter tonight. “She will definitely come on from last week and while she has the second line she is the only horse starting there so Zac (Butcher) has options. And she is probably good enough she could parked and win if she had to.”   Where: Alexandra Park When: Saturday night, first race 5.45pm What: $500,000 Interdom Pacing Final, $150,000 Interdom Trotting Final, $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial, $50,000 Alabar Classic, $40,000 Lincoln Farms Classic. Support card: Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm and Tickle Me Pink in the free-for-all trot, Miracle Mile favourite Self Assured in race nine. The Punt: Tote and Fixed all races, $10,000 included in First4 pools for Interdom Finals, head to head markets and special bet options, all at tab.co.nz Watch: Live on Trackside 2 (Sky 63) from 5.14pm including live interviews with drivers in pre-race warm ups. On track: Free admission, dining packages sold out but Macs Bar (Party Zone) open on the infield as well as seating still available in stand, Lyell Creek and Alex Park. After party after racing programme finishes.   by Michael Guerin

Race 6, 8.19pm: $150,000 HR Fisken And Son Inter Dominion Trot Final, 2700m mobile: If he races up to last Friday’s national record performance then this looks Winterfell’s  (2) race to lose. After a mainly disappointing year since a superstar three-year-old season he has bounced right back during this series and has looked safer with every start. If, and it is still a very small if, he behaves he should get the lead and can trot a sub 3:20 time for 2700m. That will take an awful lot of beating. Majestic Man (4) is the obvious danger. He has been wonderful all series and could cross to the lead, trail and await the passing lane. The mid-race pressure could determine his chances but is a winning threat.  Most on the second line have been good to very good during this series so the runs they get probably decided who gets closest out of Temporale (9), Paramount King (12), Massive Metro (13) and Tough Monarch (11). Temporale looks the best place chance of those taking the short way home but Paramount King has been the big mover so it wouldn’t surprise to see him fly home. That, of the winning chances, leaves Marcoola (8) who has been driven cold all series and has been good but not his startling best. Don’t be surprised to see him do something incredible tonight. Selections: Winterfell, Majestic Man, Temporale, Marcoola. Suggested bet: The $1.90 for Winterfell looks fairer by the day while Temporale a place is tempting as he should sit four fence and the TAB pay back to fourth fixed odds.   RACE 8, 9.35pm: $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2700m mobile: Sometimes when a horse is $1.45 you go looking for value to beat it, but really, what is the point? Ultimate Sniper (5) should win. He has been three wide for at least a lap of every race during the series and savaged the line. He might be turning into a great horse and hard to imagine any of his rivals parking him should be look for the lead. From there only a drop in his performance level or a lack of concentration can beat him. If a favourite is expected to lead and dominate you want to be on those in his slipstream and that looks a race between stablemates On The Cards (4), Mach Shard (6) and A G’s White Socks (7). The latter is the better performed of the trio and if was able to work across to the markers that would make him a huge quinella chance to cap his comeback series. Cruz Bromac (11) has been brave in a stellar last month and as the NZ Cup winner should beat most of these but faces sitting parked or one-one last lap. His best chance is if they burn early.  Thefixer (13) is in a similar position but probably not racing as well and Chase Auckland (9) will probably jump on the three wide train with his stablemates at some stage so who beats who home out of them could depend on how those cards are shuffled. Of the bolters few can win but My Kiwi Mate (1), On The Cards (4), who might be the best chance of leading early and Mach Shard (6) could all sneak some stake money and make your First4 juicier. Selections: Ultimate Sniper, A G’s White Socks, Cruz Bromac, Thefixer. Suggested bets: Ultimate Sniper should win so if you betting big take the shorts. But the best value might actually On The Cards at $8 a place at with the TAB paying back to fourth on fixed.   INTERDOM NIGHT SUPORT CARD MADE EASY R1, 5.45pm:  Three-year-olds coming out of stronger races should dominate but Down To The Bone (3) is better odds than Dina Bolt (4) so worth an each way play. R2, 6.15pm: Copy That (2) beat all of these last week after he got the lead and if he does so again should double up. The trick is Flying Even Bettor (1) drawn the ace but that still give Copy That the trailing option. So he has two shots at repeating with your biggest concern being Flying Even Bettor holding the lead until Copy That trails and THEN handing up. But David Butcher might be too smart for that. R3, 6.45pm: Oscar Bonavena (9) is the real deal and has won right-handed. Should win although Enhance Your Calm (4) was a close second to him at the workouts two weeks ago and Tickle Me Pink (3) is a class mare. Three very good four-year-olds who should be too fast for the Interdom left overs. R4, 7.15pm: Amazing Dream (5) sat parked and was a huge third last week but tonight gets a far better draw and should get the lead off Need You Now (4), who was very good beating her last Friday. They look a certain quinella with Spellbound drawn the second line. R5, 7.46pm: On a night when not many winners will come from the second line Belle Of Montana (9) should be the exception. Looks the best pacing mare in Australasia and should be able to sit parked if she has to and still win. Multi anchor. R7, 8.56pm: The Interdom Consolation and Another Masterpiece (3) looks beautifully placed from the draw after a luckless series. He is no superstar but finds himself in the right race, albeit at shorter odds than you really want. Solid Gold (4) is a chance to lead and get the trail so looks a great place bet while if there is tempo Colt Thirty One (11) and Classie Brigade (12) come into play while Our Uncle Sam (6) is the blow out. R9, 10.05pm: Self Assured (8) might be as good as the best Interdom horses so even from his draw should win as he heads toward the Auckland Cup. Bettorstartdreaming, Ball Of Art, Mr Kiwi and Double Rocket your best trifecta includes. R10, 10.33pm: The mobile start helps Havehorsewilltravel (3) and on his best behaviour could take some catching. Puma Road (7) is racing at his peak and Ace Commander (6) can be one paced but small field helps. Resonate (9) has the talent to win but if you considering backing him wait until as late as you can before the race because last Friday he got terribly stirred and was no chance by start time.   Michael Guerin

New Zealander Sarah O'Reilly emerged victorious in the 2019 Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship after the final heat was run and won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. It was a combination of relief and excitement for Sarah following the race, ''I was relieved that I crossed the finish line in the last race because I knew I had won the series. I just wanted to drive the best I could in the series and get one winner and have fun.'' O'Reilly led the series by eleven points over NSW representative Cameron Hart leading into the tenth and final heat and only a win or second from Hart would have caused an upset victory. It was not to be for Hart with his drive Johnny Mac finishing 6th, one position behind O'Reilly's drive, M T Pockets. The race was won in great fashion by The Paua Diver for Sheree Tomlinson for trainers Josh and John Dickie over Dina Brown for South Australian, Brodie Webster and Pekeson for the Tasmanian representative, Conor Crook. Sarah's victory in the 2019 AYDC was a result of brilliant and consistent driving for the entire series. Her two wins and four second placings from her ten drives earned her a total of 101 points, 12 points in front of Cameron Hart who won three races, and third was kiwi Sheree Tomlinson who finished with 68 points.   Final 2019 AYDC Points Score:   Sarah O’Reilly (NZ) 101 Cam Hart (NSW) 89 Sheree Tomlinson (NZ) 68 Corey Peterson (WA) 65 Matt Elkins (QLD) 64 John Morrison (SI, NZ) 60 Benjamin Butcher (NI, NZ) 57 Brodie Webster (SA) 49 Zac Phillips (VIC) 46 Conor Crook (TAS) 42     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a whirlwind six months for New Zealand’s most promising junior driver, Sarah O’Reilly. After a thrilling week of competition against the best of her peers from here and in Australia, she was crowned Australasian Junior Driving Champion at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Friday. It comes just five months after she secured the New Zealand title at Addington during the winter. The attention and fanfare that comes with such accomplishments has proved daunting for the quietly-spoken teenager from Rakaia. And it’s fair to say having a virtually unassailable lead for the past 24 hours weighed heavily on her shoulders. “I woke up a couple of times last night because I was so nervous,” she said. “But I was trying not to overthink it. They told me last night what I said to do in the last race to stay in front so I was just focused on that.” After reining M T Pockets in to fifth place – enough to secure the title – she finally let herself enjoy the moment, joined by her horseman father, Gerard, and mum, Jane. “It’s pretty amazing, I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect any of this. “I was just happy to drive 20 winners last season.” Gerard taught her everything she knows, she reckons, but she made special mention of another lady driver who has become a mentor and role model for her. “Sam Ottley has been really good to me. She’s been there for me since my very first workout drive.” With the two big goals already ticked off her ‘to-do’ list, O’Reilly has a rather modest target moving forward. “I just want to keep going the way I am, keep driving winners and, hopefully, beat last season’s total.” One thing’s for sure – she’s a lifer in the game.  “I just want to keep driving as much as I can for the rest of my life.” Sydney’s Cam Hart finished second after a very hot and cold series where he drove the first three winners only to have his next two drives pulled up without taking any serious part. O’Reilly’s fellow Cantabrian, Sheree Tomlinson, who won the final heat with The Paua Diver, rounded out the podium finishers, unable to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Inter Dominion runners Solid Gold and The Devils Own have been sold and will do their future harness racing in North America according to John Curtin of JC International Bloodstock. Solid Gold and The Devils Own were both to race in the $40,000 Lincoln Farms IDOM Classic on Saturday after failing to qualify for the ID19 Grand Final to be run on the same night, but have been scratched from that race. "The Devils Own has already left the Country and is on his way to Kelvin Harrison's barn in New Jersey," Curtin said. Solid Gold could not make the flight but will be on his way to Jim King's barn (Trainer of 2019 possible "Horse Of The Year" Shartin N and winner of over $2 million) in Delaware next month. In the mean time Solid Gold will have a short break from racing to recover from his four runs over the last two weeks. “Solid Gold with his gate speed and ability to run good sectionals in front will do a great job over there as will The Devils Own. “The mile racing will suit them both," he said. Also on the plane just gone and also going to Kelvin Harrison's barn is smart young pacer Claytons Bettor who has struck form in the past month winning a double at Manawatu before upsetting a good field at Cambridge last week. The four-year-old son of Betterthancheddar raced in New Zealand out of the Phil Fleming barn and is out of Live Or Die mare River Liffey, a daughter of another of the Fleming family's horses, three race winner Isle Of Inishfree Harnesslink Media

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Here is the updated score board from Inter Dominion Grand Final night: Punters 9.5, All Stars 7, Bookmakers 0.5. But the TAB’s head racing bookmaker Thad Taylor says there is a silver lining to the second worst meeting in history of the harness racing book at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The near complete domination of favourites, headlined by Interdom winners Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell, was only halted when second favourite Havehorsewilltravel won the last of the 10 races. That was the race where the bookies got their gold star for trying but by then the horse hadn’t just bolted, it was already in another post code. Multi bets had left the bookmaking team shell shocked after the favourites refused to lose and the harness book suffered its worst single-meeting loss since the great bookie-bash of May 31, 2008 when the Harness Jewels was a strip out. The TAB never officially commented on just how bad that Black Saturday in 2008 was but estimates range range between $750,000 and $1million went back into punter’s pockets. The truth will never be known. After all, this is not the sort of savaging anybody likes to admit to. Saturday night was not quite as bad because the bookies didn’t get much wrong, they priced most of the favourites closed enough to their closing prices. The problem was they just kept winning. While the night belonged to the All Stars they weren’t the only villains for the odds setters, with Barry Purdon’s magnificent mare Belle Of Montana justifying her red hot favouritism for the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, watching her made easier for punters by a brilliant Zachary Butcher drive. His father David matched that three races earlier by staying calm when heavily-backed favourite Copy That, trained by Ray Green, galloped early but recovered to win the $50,000 Alabar Classic. The exciting three-year-old was one of several chances for the bookies to stem the flow. Winterfell was rocky at times before outstaying his rivals in the Trotting Final but the baddest beat came when Another Masterpiece overcame losing 30m in an early gallop to win what was effectively the pacing consolation. “That was our real chance to get one of the favourites beaten and when he got up to win we were done,” says Taylor. “Obviously all those All Stars winners didn’t help but the team (bookies) didn’t do much wrong. “It was just one of those nights, a wake up call for us after a good start to the summer for the harness book. “I said to the guys afterwards we have copped it but the good news is the money has been shared around between a lot of punters. Almost everybody got some and we would rather that than say somebody landing $300,000 worth if multis to one person. “So the punters got us but there is plenty of racing coming up so they will have plenty to spend.”Taylor wouldn’t be drawn on how deep the well of red ink ran on Saturday night but a loss of $500,000 perhaps slightly more is realistic, which is a lot for any race meeting in this country. Their under belly was multi bets, which have always been popular with harness punters and even more so now as many of the most successful punters are restricted on how much they are allowed to bet to win. The limits for multi bets are much higher, for the obvious reason fewer of them win, but when the favourites refuse to lose like on Saturday night, the numbers add up. If Another Masterpiece or Copy That had kept galloping, or Winterfell had reverted to the trotter of just four weeks ago, the bookies would have got away with it. But for punters the night was almost as perfect as the entire series was for new pacing champion Ultimate Sniper. No matter what was thrown at him during the series the four-year-old ball of muscle found a way to win, often not my much, but the history books rarely care about margins. Just ask the harness bookies. Winning is winning. But where there are winners there will be losers. On Saturday night the winners were at Alexandra Park. The losers were at TAB head office in Petone.   Michael Guerin
Captaintreacherous, the former outstanding American harness racing colt pacer and the leading juvenile sire in North America with his first two crops, was represented by his first 'down under' winner in the two-year-old colt It's All About Faith. A member of the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen barn, the colt led most of the way for driver Mark Purdon in the first heat of the Breckon Farms Young Guns in a slick 1:56.4 at Alexandra Park, Auckland on Friday night (Dec. 13). It's All About Faith, who was having his first start, clocked 56.3 for the last and 28.3 for the final quarter. To watch the race replay, click here.  Captaintreacherous had three runners in the nine-horse field in It's All About Faith first, Platinum Stride fourth and Captain Nemo eighth. It's All About Faith is out of the Group 1 winning Christian Cullen mare Veste (1:57.1), who has left four winners - all inside 1:58 - from four starters, and is a member of the same maternal family as the dual New Zealand Cup winner Il Vicolo, Gotta Go Cullen and Stunin Cullen, all million dollar winners. Captaintreacherous's frozen semen is available in New Zealand and Australia through Empire Stallions in Victoria. By Peter Wharton              
The Inter Dominion became the Inter Domination as New Zealand’s greatest ever harness stable put on a show at Alexandra Park last night. The All Stars, the aptly-named training operation of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, won both the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final with hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and the $150,000 Trotting Final with Winterfell as they unleashed the full force of their stable on harness racing’s biggest stage. Not only did they take home the two Holy Grails but won five of the support races, including another of the group ones in the Peter Breckon Memorial with Amazing Dream. In all they contested eight races last night and won seven, Copy That denying them a clean sweep by winning the Alabar Classic for the three-year-old. But while Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell did the job for punters they were anything but an easy watch as both hard to work harder than those who took the short odds would have liked. Ultimate Sniper was expected to find the front in the IRT Pacing Final but after the Barry Purdon trio showed superior gate speed Ultimate Sniper was left back in the field and had to move to sit parked with a lap to go. He mastered leader A G’s White Socks at the top of the straight and then held out trailer Mach Shard and the booming late finish of Thefixer to complete a faultless series. All this from a horse who was allowed to miss the New Zealand Cup just a month ago and who the stable had initial fears about how he would handle the Alexandra Park right-handed track. “He was out on his feet that last 50m but he kept going like the good horses do,” said Rasmussen after driving her fifth Inter Dominion final winner, having also trained Blacks A Fake to win four before she joined Mark Purdon in partnership. Purdon took the reins behind Winterfell in the Trotting Final and as expert a job as he did the winning of the race may have been the hands-on training he has done with the former problem child of the open class trotting ranks since he came north for this series three weeks ago. Winterfell gave punters some nervous moments when he was crossed early and then when Purdon asked him to work around Majestic Man he took some fancy steps. Once balanced up he got away with an easy lap but copped pressure after from Tough Monarch and then Massive Metro, who headed him at the top of the straight before Winterfell fought back. Even after all that he still had to hold out Majestic Man up the passing lane, with the latter throwing away his chance to win by refusing to go down to the passing lane. But as last night showed, getting to the All Stars horses is one thing, getting past them is quite another.   Michael Guerin
by Garrick Knight    Belle Of Montana confirmed her billing as New Zealand’s top race mare with an effortless win in the $100,000 Group 1 Queen of Hearts on Saturday night. Driver Zachary Butcher had a relatively easy task once he found the front early on in the race, his mare’s clear class edge meaning opposing drivers were simply unwilling to challenge him. As a result, the race was run in a relatively sedate 2.40.7, but punishing finals splits of 55.2 and 26.5 gave her the upper hand. Trainer Barry Purdon said post-race that the Auckland Cup in just over two weeks’ time was off the table, but she might get a wee ‘taster’ against the boys early next month. “There’s a rating 50 and faster programmed for Auckland Cup night, but I’m nut sure what sort of field that will be. “Maybe we’ll go to the mile at Cambridge the week after. We’ll see.” After that, it’s off to Aussie to tackle two key Group 1 races across the ditch. “There’s a nice race in Melbourne at the start of February, the Ladyship Cup. I’d like to target that and then possibly the Ladyship Mile at Menangle.” There are firm plans to tackle the open class ranks next season with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “Next year she’ll be five and I really think we’ve got to have a go at the really big races like the (NZ) Cup. “But for now, she’s only four and there are some good race against her own sex. “We can space them out a bit and look after her.” On hand to receive the trophy was Belle Of Montana’s Queensland owner, Dean Shannon, a self-made business tycoon with a real love of the horses. “I’ve had seven or eight businesses over the years that I built up and sold.” He’s had a longstanding relationship with Brisbane horseman Darrell Graham, who was also on course to celebrate, but Shannon decided to team up with Purdon two-and-a-half years ago, a move he’s never regretted. “I’ve bought horses from the sales for the last 20-odd years. “I decided I’d like to race a few here so I went to the sale and bought four, then I just needed a trainer to leave them with. “I went and saw Barry and asked if he had any room for these horses that I’ve just bought and he was more than happy to. “I’d met Barry and (wife) Katrina a few times over the years and they are really lovely people. And of course, he’s just an awesome trainer. “Couldn’t be happier with my decision. “And now I’m fully engaged in New Zealand racing. I’m watching it every weekend and know all the horses.” Belle Of Montana, Shannon humbly concedes, was one he picked out on his own from the sale catalogue. “She was on my short list and I came over and saw her in the flesh. “I always spend a couple of days looking at all the horses I like and get the vets to go over them “In my system that I use, she actually rated a nine out of 10. “Being a three-quarter sister to Carabella I thought I’d have to pay $100,000 for her. “So, I was stunned when I got her for $40,000 or $50,000, I can’t remember exactly how much. “She was my top pick of the sale.” Any while the other three Shannon bought in that first crop have ended up in Queensland with Graham, Belle Of Montana won’t be following suit. “One hundred percent, she will be staying with Barry for good. “She’s not going anywhere.” Except, most likely, back to the winner’s circle. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
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