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A lifetime of experience rather than any medical evidence suggests Lotamuscle can bounce back at Alexandra Park tonight.  But whether he bounces back far enough to beat Tickle Me Pink in the $25,000 Northern Trotting Guineas is the question for punters.  The little trotter with the big sprint let his backers down in the Northern Derby last Friday, not running past a rival in the straight after sitting in the one-one, finishing an underwhelming fourth. That was a far cry from his booming win in the NZ Trot Derby last month and even his second, coming from well back, in the Sires’ Stakes Trot two weeks ago.  Many trainers would have called the nearest equine vet to have blood test performed on Lotamuscle after such a lack lustre performance, searching for a reason. Not Nairn.  “I think it was just a bad night at the office for him,” he offers.  “I don’t get a lot of blood tests done, maybe I should because I know a lot of trainers would.  “But I find that when there is something wrong enough for a bad blood report you can tell. And this week he has been energetic and normal in his work.  “So I think he will go a lot better this week.”  Nairn has Lotamuscle and Gil Favor in the Guineas, a new race on the calendar, and as talented as they both are they will need to be good to beat Tickle Me Pink.  Tony Herlihy produced one of the training performances of the season to win the Sires’ Stakes Final with Tickle Me Pink in her first start in nine months and then allowed her to miss last Friday’s Derby.  She has natural high speed and just as importantly is drawn inside the Nairn pair tonight so gets the chance to dictate to them. She could even lead and would be extremely hard to beat.  “That first up run didn’t seem to harm her at all and she has worked well since,” says Herlihy, who also has Fortunato in the Guineas.  Herlihy though will be at Addington where he has two chances in the Sales Series Trot and says he can’t split Cheeky Babe and Bolt For Brilliance as they both take on the raw talent of Ultimate Stride and One Majic Kenny.  The highlight of the harness weekend though is the Addington clash of three Oaks winners, Princess Tiffany (NSW), Best Western (Northern) and Belle Of Montana (Victoria) in the Nevele R Fillies Final.  All three have drawn the second line so luck will come into play and it will be of huge interest to see whether the All Stars stick to their usual rule for horses drawn one on the second line with Princess Tiffany.  They have been long-term believers in pushing through with horses drawn one on the second and trying their luck rather than pulling back and going around their rivals, the latter tactic costs you too much ground.  Princess Tiffany follows out a potential leader in Wainui Creek and if she stayed in front and gave Princess Tiffany the trail this race might be over. So what does Wainui Creek’s driver Ricky May think? “I can’t really worry about Princess Tiffany but she (Wainui Creek) hasn’t quite been good enough in front lately so I will be dictated by what Richard (Aubrey, trainer) says,” says May.   Michael Guerin

Well bred harness racing filly Sweet On Me capitalized on a better draw this week to comfortably win the $138,000 Magness Benrow NZ Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Champs at Alexandra Park. Driven confidently tonight by driver Mark Purdon Sweet On Me (Sweet Lou - Adore Me) settled back early before launching to the lead with a lap to go. In the straight Purdon was always in control and Sweet On Me held out the stable mate Amazing Dream by three quarters of a length at the line. The Robert Dunn trained Tiffany Rose ran home well for third. The win by Sweet On Me gave the training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen it's fifth win straight in the race, with the winner pacing the 1700m mobile in a 1-57.3 mile rate. The last 800m was run in 57.3 seconds and the final 400m in 26.8. Mark Purdon thought the speedy filly was better tonight. "She was good tonight. She came off the gate nice without being to quick and settled handy but I thought I would make a move at the 1400m and take her to the front," he said. "I thought she might have got home last week,but she could have been in season a little bit and that may have had a bearing on it." Sweet On Me winning the Gr1 NZ Sires Stakes for 2yo Fillies   Earlier in the night the All Stars Stables trained Enhance Your Calm put in a huge performance to win the Gr1 $90,000 2019 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Despite breaking behind the mobile and losing 50m the Majestic Son 3yo caught the field after 800m before driver Mark Purdon looped the field to lead with a mile to run. From there he was never in danger of defeat running a slick last 800m in 56.4 seconds to win easily by 2 1/4 lengths from the Robert Dunn trained Resonate.  Purdon was not sure what caused Enhance Your Calm to gallop. "Look I can not put my finger on why he is galloping. "Afterwards he was faultless and he made a really swift move down the back with a mile to run, but I really am at a loss to explain why he has done that out of the gate," he said after the race. "We will get him to the Jewels and then he can have a good rest," he said. Enhance Your Calm winning the Northern Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

It could be a case of the same script but a different ending in the $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park tonight. The last of the four group ones at the huge premier meeting sees a return clash of seven of the eight pacers who contested last Friday’s Taylor Mile in which Spankem led and outsprinted stablemate Turn In Up (parked), with trailer Mach Shard holding on for third and Chase Auckland making good ground in the 26.1 second last 400m. Remarkably many of the key players have similar draws tonight and while this race is over 1000m longer it looks likely to play out the same way, at least early. Trainer Mark Purdon gave punters the biggest lead ever when he said Spankem would lead last Friday and not be attacked and from barrier three that should be the case again. But this time Purdon stops short of suggesting he won’t challenge mid-race. “I am sure Spankem will lead early and that probably makes him the one to beat,” says Purdon in a quote that could have been recycled from last week. But then there starts to get a bit of a twist in the tale. Firstly there are two rivals drawn inside Spankem, rather than one last Friday, which raises the possibility they both want the same spot behind him and therefore he has to work at least a little harder to lead. And Chase Auckland could also be a factor in any early rush for positions. “If they went a bit harder early, while I wouldn’t think we (Purdon and Turn It Up) would be in that rush, I wouldn’t be scared to come have a look in the middle stages.” That could be the key quote, with Purdon adamant he wasn’t going to challenge mid-race last week but suggesting he could tonight. And he then says that Turn It Up actually worked so well on Wednesday morning he thinks the Auckland Cup winner has improved with last Friday’s race. So while we still seem to have a script with Spankem leading tonight it is over a longer distance, against a seemingly fitter Turn It Up with an increased chance of a mid-race challenge. Considering there was just over a length between them last Friday that could be enough to swing you toward backing Turn It Up tonight. And if he does come looking for the lead mid-race and the early pressure sees him get it, then he almost certainly wins. The bookies market which surprisingly opened Spankem at $3.60 left enough room in the market for punters to back him and then play Turn It Up on the tote tonight because it would be a major surprise if one of the pair don’t win. Purdon can go into the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Final equally as confident as Sweet On Me should turn the tables on Amazing Dream after their national record run last Friday but the $100,000 Breckon Farms Trotting Derby may not be so clear cut. There is little doubt Enhance Your Calm is the best horse in the race and if he trots throughout he should probably win but he did gallop at the start last Friday after becoming unbalanced in his right-handed debut. Purdon believes he was safer in track work on Wednesday but he still looks a horse with a few frailties — either mental or physical— and that raises at least the possibility NZ Trot Derby winner Lotamuscle can beat him either with manners or his serious sit-sprint. “I am happy with him (Enhance Your Calm) but I have to respect Lotamuscle after the way he has raced recently and you know with Paul (Nairn) training him he will be spot on.” Michael Guerin

The men who have been there, done that suggest the best run as much as the best horse will win tomorrow night’s $150,000 Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park. And while the TAB market says the young gun four-year-olds have the wood on their rivals the race is shaping as one of the most even group ones at Alexandra Park in years. Last Friday’s Anzac Cup winner Sundees Son shares the $4 favouritism with fellow four-year-old Majestic Man as bookmakers signal what they see as a changing of the guard in the open class trotting ranks. But Majestic Man’s trainer Phil Williamson says while he couldn’t be happier going into the race the youngsters will need more than sheer ability on their side. “It is a very good race and there are plenty of winning chances,” says Williamson, one of only two trainers in the race to have won both the Rowe Cup and the Dominion, New Zealand’s two marquee trotting races. “I think a lot of it will come down to the run and the horse who has the luck. “This field is that even and at this level luck is crucial. I think Majestic Man will handle barrier one and if he steps away and can trail or be three back on the markers I’ll be happy. “But as good as both him and Sundees Son were last week they can’t just expect to beat these older horses with speed because 3200m is a different type of race. “So yes we can win but it won’t be easy. These races never are.” That opinion is shared by Paul Nairn, the only other trainer in the race who has won both the Rowe and the Dominion. He has Ronald J and Habibi Inta in the Rowe and thinks both can get closer than their fifth and sixths in the Anzac Cup. “Both of them had a bit of bad luck last week, Ronald J got held up a bit and Habibi Inta was hitting the stays on his sulky, which we will fix for this week. “But they are only two of about six or eight chances in the race. “One of the big things in these races is having a horse who can get away good from the standing start and get to the marker pegs because that is a huge help. “Over the 3200m it can be very hard to win if you are covering extra ground in the running line.”
 That would appear to be the problem for horses like defending champion Speeding Spur and Sundees Son, both of whom have to give away starts from the second line and will therefore almost certainly be three wide at some stage. That didn’t bother Sundees Son over 2200m last Friday and he may be so brilliant and in the zone he can still win but he did gallop shortly after the line last Friday so is still very much a take on trust horse at the early stage of his open class career. While the Rowe Cup has a huge array of winning hopes the $100,000 Trotting Derby looks to have two and once against Nairn should be to the fore with Lotamaucle. He was nearly 20-1 when he beat Enhance Your Calm in the NZ Trot Derby last month but is only $2.90 to repeat that as he appears to be a happy horse while Enhance Your Calm bungled his Alexandra Park debut becoming unbalanced and galloping early. The best version of Enhance Your Calm may be too fast for Lotamuscle but even if the favourite can lead it looks like Lotamuscle could be sitting on his back in the trail and that could make for an uncomfortable watch for Enhance Your Calm’s backers. Turn It Up ($1.65)as again opened favourite over stablemate Spankem ($3.60) even though the latter used his better barrier draw to win last Friday’s Taylor Mile and has that advantage again.   Michael Guerin

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/

Tony Herlihy was in the only spot he did not want to be shortly after the start of the $55,000 Gr2 Haras des Trotteurs 3YO Sires Stakes Championship at Alexandra Park tonight. His harness racing trotting filly Tickle Me Pink was fresh up, and was parked out in a race full of match fit colts and geldings including the two trotters Enhance Your Calm and Lotamuscle who provided the quinella in the New Zealand Derby only a few weeks ago. But in the end it did not matter as Tickle Me Pink (Muscle Hill - Luby Ann) was too good shooting clear on the turn and holding on gamely by a head to beat a closing Paul Nairn trained Lotamuscle, his stablemate Gil Favour and an unlucky Enhance Your Calm who ruined his chances with an early gallop. "She has come back in great order from Breckon Farms after being sick in Australia last winter and all credit to them and their vets and the work they did with her in the interim of getting her back to my place," Tony said after the race. "Parked was the only place I did not really want to be," he said. "But she relaxed beautifully out there and we dictated the pace a bit out there as well. "She was geting a bit tired at the line but she has gone a terrific race for a horse who hasn't raced for about 9 months," he said. Breckon Farms "The Perfect Ten" syndicate own Tickle Me Pink who trotted the mobile 2200m mobile in 2-46.3 with a last 800m in 58.1 and last 400m in 28.6 seconds.   Herlihy also won during the night with smart trotter Forget The Price Tag. The Majestic Son gelding did a similar job to Tickle Me Pink sitting parked for the last lap and proving too strong for a handy field of trotters. He currently sits in 4th place on the harness Jewels Leaderboard.   Harnesslink Media

Speedy harness racing filly Amazing Dream smashed a 2yo New Zealand record when winning the $95,000 Gr1 Woodlands Stud Caduceus 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park tonight. Amazing Dream paced 2-40.4 for the mobile 2200m beating the previous NZ record of 2-41.9 set by Spanish Armada in this race in 2016. Tonight Amazing Dream was sent forward off the gate and led early in tonight's race before handing up to Tiffany Rose and John Dunn for a trail home. Hot favourite Sweet On Me who was very short on the tote and was previously unbeaten, had to sit parked out for the last lap on the hot pace and Amazing Dream who had the better trip had too much speed up the passing lane, getting to the lead halfway up the straight and holding on to win by a neck. Sweet On Me never gave up and fought well for second and Tiffany Rose battled on for third. The winner paced her last 800m in 55.7 and her final 400m in 27.2 seconds For successful driver Natalie Rasmussen it was her fourth success in the race and also the sixth straight win in the race for the All Stars Stables. “Amazing Dream has been a little bit stiff with draws except the one time she led and won at Addington,” she said after the race. “She has always had the ability, but she is a round little girl and the hard racing has done her good. “I have been pretty confident with this one from early days and she does have quite a bit of get up and go with her.” she said. Amazing Dream (Bettor's Delight - Christian Dreamer) is owned by Jean Fiess who was on track to see her filly win tonight.   Harnesslink Media

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

A simple question could decide the $100,000 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Does a Miracle Mile winner respect an Auckland Cup winner enough to trail him, especially in a group one sprint at Alexandra Park? Because that is puzzle facing punters after Spankem drew inside stablemate Turn It Up in one of the last group ones of the northern season. The pair will dominate betting on the Mile, which actually reverts to the true mile distance of 1609m after being run over 1700m since 2007. After winning the Auckland Cup and then the Easter Cup last start, Turn It Up might be the best pacer in the country and in any normal race against even this elite level of opposition he would be expected to lead and win. But stablemate Spankem is drawn inside him at barrier two and considering he won both a prelude and then the Miracle Mile itself by leading he would seem to have every right to park out his stablemate and try for another all-the-way win if he can he reaches the front. It will be a fascinating key plot to the race, with any pre-race indications from trainers the All Stars sure to have a significant impact on the market. For all their exploits this season the pair can’t lay total claim to the four-year-old sprint with all but one of their rivals rated 90 or above, which is pretty much open class these days. While they were the big winners out of the draws in the main pacing race on a stellar premier programme at Alexandra Park, some of the other recent group one winners at the Addington carnival haven’t fared so well. NZ Trot Championships hero Speeding Spur faces the outside of the front line in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, the final lead-up to next week’s Rowe Cup. Trainers John and Josh Dickie are happy with how the veteran has come through his last-start win but with Massive Metro (barrier three) and Lemond (four) drawn inside him and Marcoola and Sundees Son certain to be moving from the second line, the race looks one of the hottest contest of the trotting season Also disadvantaged by the draw at the trifectamates from the NZ Trot Derby, with Lotamuscle, Enhance Your Calm and Tricky Ric all drawing the second line in Friday’s $60,000 Sires’ Stakes Trot. But while some of those stars face interesting nights at the office exceptional juvenile pacing filly Sweet On Me will be a long way into red odds to remain unbeaten after drawing the front line in the $100,000 Caduceus Club Final, making her everybody’s anchor in the first leg of the $40,000 Pick6. While Friday night’s meeting is one of the strongest of the season a couple of the big players will be just as focussed on Melton in Victoria on Saturday night, with northern filly Belle Of Montana opening $1,40 to win the A$150,000 Victoria Oaks. She was brilliant coming from a long way back to win her heat last Saturday and has drawn the ace in this Saturday’s classic, with her natural speeding giving driver Zac Butcher plenty of options on the Barry Purdon-trained filly. Already the winner of a group one Sires’ Stakes Championship at home if Belle Of Montana can add an Australian group one this weekend she will have gone from unknown maiden to one of the most valuable female pacers in Australasia in just nine starts. Michael Guerin

It was only a four-horse workout on a quiet Pukekohe morning but it confirmed what astute reinsman Todd Mitchell had been thinking for a while. That Massive Metro, who heads to Alexandra Park tonight, is the best trotter he has driven. And that should be good enough for punters to jump on the National Trot winner tonight. Massive Metro has taken every step asked of him by trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett this season, downing Marcoola at group one level and winning brilliantly off a handicap last start. He warmed up for tonight winning at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday and Mitchell, a four-time New Zealand Cup winner, was beaming after his performance. "We were back in the field and following Temporale when he stopped (atrial fibrillation) and my horse felt flat," explains Mitchell. "But when I pulled the plugs he just flew and bolted in. "Every time I have driven him this season he has got better and I think he is better this campaign too. "He has real speed and can stay as we saw in the National Trot. "I've always thought Prime Power was the best trotter I have driven regularly but I think this fella has a more all round game so now I'd have to say he is." While Massive Metro was sling-shotted by sprint king Lemond two starts ago Mitchell isn't worried about a repeat of that at tonight's all-mile meeting. "He really doesn't kick into gear until you pull the plugs and I couldn't find the cord that night. So it was mostly my fault." With a few question marks hanging over some of the battle-weary open class crop it wouldn't surprise to see Massive Metro win tonight and then go on to capture either the Anzac Cup (April 26) or Rowe Cup (May 3). Or both. Still, Lemond's record over sprint distances has been so good his entire career he deserves plenty of respect, especially if he is able to track the favourite into the race. Tonight's pacing feature should see On The Cards finally get back into the winner's circle after a frustrating string of placings in good fields. He looked home after a beautiful Zachary Butcher drive last Friday only to be grabbed late by Triple Eight, who is a rival again tonight. The difference is tonight Triple Eight faces a second line draw whereas On The Cards comes in incredibly well, being a rating 87 horse but with the best draw of the favourites and if he leads, he should win. One of the more interesting newcomers tonight is New South Wales filly Lulu Le Mans, who contests a handy Sires' Stakes fillies' heat. She is a member of the NSW branch of the Mark Jones stable, which is run in partnership with Aaron Goadsby and while she meets some smart local fillies from barrier two she will be hard to beat as she starts down a path that could lead toward the Jewels. All-mile meetings at the Park can be tricky for punters as the natural inclination is to back only those drawn to lead but the last all-mile night saw horses able to come from all sorts of draws to win, especially down in the grade where the progressive horses are often simply too good for the journeymen.   Michael Guerin   photo by Fokus Harness Racing Photography

Trainer Steve Telfer says the Alexandra Park stakes increases have him ready to unleash a big team for the remainder of the season but don’t be fooled into backing the one with the most senior driver. Telfer takes six horses to Alexandra Park tonight for the first meeting of the new ATC stake levels, where most horses above maidens for $20,000 or $25,000, akin to premier meeting stakes in any other parts of the country. “The stake increases are a huge help because it means even if your horse can run a placing or two a month they pay for themselves,” said Telfer. “And that means winning stakes can be profit, which makes a real difference. “So we are going to be concentrating on racing closer to home. We have a lot of younger horses and three-year-olds in work and ready to go which we have sort of aimed at for the late autumn, winter months because the stakes are great but the fields aren’t as strong.” Telfer has three chances in tonight’s $25,000 main handicap and the stable number one driver David Butcher is on Hunter Bromac, even though both Parker and Check In are likely to be more favoured. Telfer says punters shouldn’t be fooled into thinking Butcher is automatically on the stable’s best chances so don't follow him blindly. “Different owners prefer different drivers and then you have different conditions for races so it isn’t always the case David is on our best chance. “I actually can’t split them tonight, they are all good each way chances but I think Parker will step well and try and run them along.” That standing start will be crucial for race favourite Mach Shard, whose manners have been iffy at best but looks the one to beat if he behaves. Telfer has only had $30,000 Graduette runner Olivia Rachel (race one) for a week and likes the filly but says the race tonight is her first race right-handed which could be tricky. “And we have two in race five. Triolet is suited by her drawing following the speed but Court On The Edge has gate speed so the second line draw negates that.” Double Rocket looks the horse to beat in the Sales Series Graduate (race two) coming out of last Friday’s Northern Derby where he was a strong fifth. Michael Guerin

Smart 2yo old pacer Smooth Deal capped off a great night for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen by winning the $90,000 Gr1 Breckon Farms Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes at Alexandra Park last night. Smooth Deal a future harness racing star was too good for his opposition in last night 2yo feature. Trainer and driver Mark Purdon was quite happy to settle near the back of the field and bide his time before launching wide at the 800m and then carreering away in the straight for the easiest of wins on the Bettor's Delight gelding. Stable-mate of the winner Virgil rushed home late for second after an early gallop and the Mike Berger trained Eagle Watch finished third after trailing. Purdon said after the race Smooth Deal was a smart pacer who ticked all the boxes. "He is pretty versatile. When I asked him to go around and lengthen out down the back he really strode out like a smart horse and just strode away at the top of the straight. "He is a great stayer and ticks all the boxes. Just a lovely horse," he said. Smooth Deal paced the 1700m in 2-03.4 a mile rate of 1-56.8. The last 800m was run in a quick 55.9 seconds and a closing 400m in 27.8. Earlier in the night Purdon also won the $75,200 Gr2 Delightful Lady Fillies Classic with the impeccably bred 2yo filly Sweet On Me who came from a difficult second row draw to outmuscle her rivals. in a 1-56.4 mile rate. Sweet On Me is out of the champion New Zealand Cup winning mare Adore Me who won 26 races from 36 starts. Sweet On Me(Sweet Lou - Adore Me)  looks to have inherited all of the family ability going on last nights impressive victory.     Harnesslink Media

Harness racing speedster Jack's Legend made it four straight wins when he sat parked and out toughed a tidy field in tonights Gr2 $46,000 Auckland Co-Op Taxis City Of Auckland FFA at Alexandra Park.  The Barry Purdon trained Jack's Legend was taken back off the mobile at the start of the race by driver Scott Phelan, before making a forward move with a lap to run to land the parked spot outside race favourite Star Galleria. In the straight Jack's Legend (Bettor's Delight - Larissa Rose) got the measure of Star Galleria and then stuck his head out at the right time to narrowly withstand a late charge from stablemate On The Cards and Zachary Butcher. Star Galleria battled on well for third and Recco Lover was not far away in fourth. "It was a good effort sitting outside Star Galleria and beating him, and also to hold off On The Cards," Phelan said after the race. "I was travelling a bit down the back and when I got to the quarter I wasn't too sure, but he dug deep to the line so I was pretty happy," he said.  Jack's Legend ran the 2200m in a slick 2-40.5 on the rain affected track with a final 800m in 56.3 and a closing 400m in 27 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

The boss is back and that usually only means one thing: you can confidently take the short odds for Ultimate Sniper in tonight’s $250,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park. The star three-year-old pacer lost his unbeaten record in the Derby prelude last Friday when, after trailing, he hung in and paced roughly on the final bend, losing two lengths on eventual winner Jesse Duke. You can expect neither of those things — trailing or pacing roughly — to happen again tonight. Champion trainer Mark Purdon wasn’t in Auckland last week, he was busy putting the winning polish on his Miracle Mile night team in Sydney but he has been back this week and hands on with the Derby favourite. It is not that Purdon’s staff don’t do a great job when the boss is absent, after all they have won plenty of races in his absence including two last Friday, but Purdon is still Purdon and he picks up the smallest details others might miss. “I think he has a slight issue hanging from last week which we can fix for this week,” says Purdon. “I have put a Murphy Blind on him with a small hole in it to make him concentrate better. “I am confident he will be better and from that draw he will probably be in front. So he is clearly the one to beat.” Ultimate Sniper has looked a touch freakish this season and as good as stablemate Jesse Duke it is hard to see him beating him again. Another stablemate Another Masterpiece was scratched yesterday with an elevated temperature. Those looking for place and multis value should check out Bettorstartdreaming, who has the gate speed to find the markers early and follow close to the favourite which is the golden pathway to placing in major Alexandra Park saying events. Purdon has every reason to expect his heroics of last Saturday to be repeated tonight, with Smooth Deal looking a little too strong for his rivals in the $100,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns Final although Sweet On Me is going to have to overcome a tricky draw in the fillies final but she oozes class. But he has lost his big gun out of the City Of Auckland Free-For-All with Ultimate Machete’s huge frame finally giving up on him, with the multiple group one winner suffering suspensory damage which threatens his career. With him out of the race speedsters Star Galleria and Jack’s Legend become the two to beat, with the draw suggesting the former is the better bet. Michael Guerin

Huge stakes increases programmed for Alexandra Park will go ahead even after delays with one of the apartment blocks being built at the track.  And while admitting the delays were disappointing, ATC bosses say the racing business will continue to thrive.  ATC chief executive Dominique Dowding resigned on Friday for personal reasons, wanting to spend more time with an ill family member.  That has left former president Rod Croon in an executive director role until a new chief executive is found, which could be several months.  The transition period comes after a tough year off the track for the club which has seen lengthy delays to two residential and commercial towers at Alexandra Park, with original construction company Canam dismissed from one development and a subsequent legal battle between the two organisations.  The tower and a second one are now moving ahead well with Tower B to be the first opened in November this year. The more delayed Tower A will not open until April next year and the original owners of a small percentage of the 246 apartments have taken their deposits back and quit the building.  “Those apartments are going back to the market via Bayleys this week and we expect to sell them at a premium on what they were originally,” says Croon. But there is no denying the delays and construction issues will cut into the bottom line for the ATC.  “We have to be realistic about that but the good news for the racing industry is we are a trotting club and we intend to keep raising stakes because the industry needs that,” says Croon. “Those stakes increases are going to be funded long-term by the leases on the commercial spaces in the lower levels of the towers and those deals are still very much in place.  “So the stakes increases are here to stay.”  The increases start next week and are some of the largest in New Zealand racing history. They mean the normal Friday night meetings at Alexandra Park are going to match premier level stakes at other meetings in the country.  The club will still hold two races per standard meeting at $15,000 per race but all other races will be at $20,000 or $25,000 for the main pace and trot of the night.  That means, quite incredibly, a standard Friday night one-win band race at Alexandra Park will be worth twice as much as the same race at all mid-week thoroughbred meetings. The club holds it Woodlands Northern Derby meeting at Alexandra Park this Friday. Michael Guerin

Tonights win by Best Western in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks was not only a surprise to the punters but a surprise to the owner Dr A Grierson who was not on track for the win, but instead was out fishing at the time of his fillies victory. Trained by Jeremy Young at Pukekohe and superbly driven by Saliesh Abernethy, Best Western (Bettor's Delight - First Western) was unwanted in the betting market paying $38.00 to win, but the nuggety filly dug deepest in the run to the judge and got home to win by a neck, clipping more than half a second of the New Zealand 2700m record in the process. The winning time of 3-16.4 beat the old record of 3-17.1 set by Bonnie Joan in the 2017 Southland Oaks final and equated to a 1-57.0 mile rate. Bettor's Delight sired the first four runners home in the race with all four fillies going under the previous New Zealand record for the 2700m Mobile. Best Western winning the 2019 Pascoes The Jewelers Northern Oaks Earlier in the night the Barry Purdon trained Jack's Legend won the Gr3 The Founders in a 1-52.8 mile rate beating stablemate Mach Shard by half a neck. Smooth Deal won the sixth heat of the Breckon Farm Young Guns series for colts and geldings in 1-56.3 for driver Tim Williams and the All Stars Stables. All Stars also won the Derby Prelude with Jesse Duke who convincingly lowered the colours of the previously unbeaten stablemate and favourite Ultimate Sniper.   Harnesslink Media

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