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The Mark Purdon - Natalie Rasmussen stable has labelled their open day for their owners a "big success". Over the weekend around 60 owners turned up to watch their horses in action at the All Stars stables in Rolleston. The owners were brought in in relays to comply with Covid-19 social distancing protocols.  The initiative was all about getting owners to see their horses in action after being barred from doing so during the Alert 4 lockdown. Here's a video of the open day which ran from 8am to midday on Saturday.

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's nitty gritty harness racing assessment under L3 and what is a return to racing might look like for them.   Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Champion trainer Mark Purdon hasn’t given up on getting New Zealand’s best pacer to this year’s New Zealand Cup. But the next set of scans on Inter Dominion champion Ultimate Sniper could be a crucial decider. Purdon, like everybody else in New Zealand harness racing, is adjusting to life without the early morning start and the smell of horses in his nostrils as we go through the Covid-19 lockdown. He and partner Natalie Rasmussen decided to turn all their horses out as soon as racing was halted and he says even if the country returns to Level 3 by the end of this month and racing by June, they will not line up another horse this season. “If things go as planned we are probably looking at starting training again in the first week of May, depending of course on what the Government says,” says Purdon. “So we definitely won’t have any horses racing for the rest of the season, even though like everybody else, we will be happy to see racing resume.” Purdon says the All Stars will target late August or September to roll out their horses at a time when a regionalised racing model could see Addington racing twice a week. “We have a number of horses spelling at home who can come back into work straight away and they have enabled us to keep the staff on a rotation to feed and look after the horses. “That and the Government subsidy has allowed us to pay our staff at 80 per cent of their usual wage and I think that is important.” When the horses do start to roll back into work one who there are not expected to be problems with is excitement machine Self Assured, who even though he missed the Miracle Mile last month because of a minor issue. But Purdon is also cautiously optimistic about Ultimate Sniper, who hasn’t been seen since capping a remarkable unbeaten Inter Dominion campaign at Alexandra Park in December. He was found to have a small tear in a suspensory and initially there we fears he could miss a year of racing but Purdon is now hopeful that won’t be the case. “It was a strange one because he never took a lame step so we got it early enough. “The indications are good so far and he is on the water walker at Margaret Park in Waikato. “They do a great job with them there and they are able to work through cause it is just the two of them working there I think. “I think because he has been there when he comes back into work, providing his next scan is all good, he will have a good fitness base. “At this stage, and again it is dependant on his scans, that could be in July and if it is, with that water walker fitness base, he could well make it to the Cup meeting. “So we are hoping that is the case.” One thing about the shortened season it should guarantee Ultimate Sniper the Horse of the Year title, with his only likely challengers probably Winterfell or Amazing Dream is they clean swept the rest of their races for the season, which is Amazing Dream’s case was a realistic possibility. With those races gone, Ultimate Sniper’s Inter domination should get him the top award, although whether we all get together to celebrate it in August or September is anybody’s guess. Also still in the north and having done his time on the water walker is Spankem who should be back good as gold next season but the future is less certain for his arch rival Turn It Up. He hasn’t been seen since the Jewels last season and Purdon says he will come back into work in May but he is not sure what to expect. “We will give him his chance though and see how he holds up.” While missing a series of group one races and the Jewels will sting the All Stars more than anybody, Purdon takes some solace in the fact races like the two-year-old Sales Series, now called the Harness Millions, and the Sires’ Stakes races, are likely to be run twice next season to make up for missing their usual May window this term. “I think it would be great to have some of those feature races early in the season for us all to aim at, maybe September, and then we can race through the Cup carnival here and in Auckland, providing all the travel restrictions come off.” So what does a man who has worked as hard as Purdon for years do when the merry go round stops for a while? “I have caught up on my sleep,” he laughs. “I slept in one morning till 11am, which I never thought I’d be able to do. “I didn’t realise how exhausted I was until I stopped.”   Michael Guerin

A dramatic work morning in Sydney has seen SELF ASSURED and CHASE AUCKLAND out of the Miracle Mile carnival. A foot abcess has appeared with Self Assured who will be flown home for a spell after a busy campaign. Chase Auckland is suspected to have cracked or fractured a pelvis. He is headed to Sydney University for further tests.   Courtesy of All Stars Stables www.allstarsracingstables.com  

Spankem is not likely to return to the tracks any time soon but there was better news over the fetlock injury that sidelined him from the Inter Dominion series. Originally he was programmed to have an operation on the injury. However after x rays there was doubt raised whether an operation was in fact necessary. All Stars veterinary experts and shared the x rays with other experts who came to the same conclusion. So in the meantime Spankem will have another month’s rest, Mark said, and will then be reassessed probably with further tests at the Matamata Veterinary Services where internationally sophisticated procedures will establish the immediate future with more precision. However the likelihood that an operation on the injury may not be necessary now will shorten the recovery period for the Miracle Mile winner of $1.3m though it will be some time before he is seen out again. Stablemate Turn It Up is at All Stars doing light exercise but his racing future is still in doubt. That All Stars would have five starters in the Inter Dominion Grand Final including the first two favourites after two such stars suffered setbacks is a testimonial to the depth of the current team with Self Assured also being allowed to miss the series in favour of the Auckland Cup.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Having taken no harm from his unfortunate incident in the Dominion Handicap which robbed the race of so much interest, Oscar Bonavena will soon be back in the spotlight. Mark and Natalie intend to give him three outings over the Inter Dominion and Cup carnival before he heads later to Australia. Two are at Alexandra Park and one at Cambridge in the Trotters Flying Mile. An R50 + event is on the cards for December 14 followed by the Trotters Flying Mile at Cambridge on December 24 and then the National Trot at Alexandra Park on December 31st. In spite of the Dominion debacle, Oscar Bonavena remains the most exciting trotter in New Zealand. What is more he has Alexandra Park experience from a light campaign there last summer. Oscar Bonavena might gain special attention when he lines up at the Pukekohe trials on Saturday. It is posslble his co-owner Roy Purdon will be on hand to watch the heat all going well. Oscar has won 9 of 13 starts and been second twice so far after being purchased out of the Williamson stable as a later two year old by Chris Ryder and Roy Purdon.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

When and if Self Assured lines up in the NZ Free for All on Show day at Addington it will be either his 10th or 11th start, probably the 10th. If he wins, history will be made. No horse has ever won the NZ Free for All with so few starts going back to the first edition in 1914. He will not be the first four year old to win the race of course. By a long shot. All Stars have already posted wins at 4 by Ultimate Machete, Lazarus, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus and Il Vicolo on their own. It was Ultimate Machete’s first try in open company a singular achievement at such a young age. A decade before Lordship, underlining what a great horse he was, added the Free for All to his NZ Cup win at 4 in an era of pacing giants beating the mighty Cardigan Bay in the process. His was one of the most popular wins in the history of Addington for the little black who was one of the most stylish and courageous horses ever seen on the track given his bouts of injury and the long marks he had to run from. Walk into some liquor locations on a Saturday even now and someone will tell you Lordship was the greatest of all. Self Assured may yet show he is in that class. Think of it for a moment. He had not raced until May. He has never been further back than third in a race even though thrown in the deep end having to compete against the best open horses around after his three year old Queensland campaign when unbeaten. All of the other four year olds to have won this race had a lot more experience. But there is one exception even though it was outside of the NZ Free for All. Self Assured’s grandad, Christian Cullen, put up one of the most astonishing performances of modern times winning a $100,000 Free for All at the Addington Cup meeting-as a three year old! It wasn’t the official free for all but a brave promotion at the time by the Met (who said clubs can’t be innovative given the chance ?) to lift the final night of the meeting, a G1 event over 1950m-the first time the distance had been tried- with bonus payments for pacesetters. The race was full of talent. Anvil’s Star was second, Brabham third andrise Master Musician further back. While Lordship won a free for all as a three year old it was in the autumn. No horse of that age ever looked like winning an all aged free for all in November. To be truthful none had ever tried Christian Cullen did. A week after he won the Sires Stakes final So perhaps no surprise his grandson who will have had fewer starts by FFA day could add another record. It was Christian Cullen’s 12th start the night he made history. Self Assured can top that in one respect if he can win on Show Day More of the same only better could be coming up!   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Sorting out the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday is a challenge. Even for the All Stars stable drivers. An unprecedented seven runners in the race, not an ideal for the stable, means a lot of questions and not so many answers. Spankem being restored to the front line; Chase Auckland going on to the unruly; Ultimate Sniper’s standing start record and the exciting potential of Self Assured are just a few of the talking points around the race. So what do the team think ? Nobody knows for sure. Mark says he still favours Spankem. “Being back on the front and with his starting manners it does help his chances” Natalie is aware of Ultimate Sniper’s recent hesitation of standing starts but feels she has the answer. She was very pleased with his final workout on Saturday though Tony Herlihy takes the reins on Monday. “He is a horse who likes to pace in a race with a low head carriage but it doesn’t help him at the start. I’ve made a little adjustment there and I think it will do the trick. “It is not as if he is making big errors. He comes down after a few strides. But he could be better and I think he will be” “I can’t really say how it will turn out. Much will depend on the start of course. It wasn’t the race we were thinking about before the fields were decided” Tim is wary of Chase Auckland having to start from the unruly but fully supports the decision made for the longer term. “Natalie and Mark discussed it with me and their logic is right. It will not help him in this race but looking ahead to the New Zealand Cup it is the right move” “There is a bit more excitement on Cup Day and if he draws two or three for example and starts to get on the toe the chance of him making a clean start are not great. At Methven he showed that standing on his own helps his chances. He can do it from anywhere when all is right but you don’t want to lose your Cup chance right at the start and this will help him Self Assured of course is the horse everyone is talking about. He has only had the one run back but it was a cracking effort and Blair, unexpectedly, gets a second crack. “He is good enough to win and he is a laid back guy who doesn’t worry about too much” Mark says. However he says speculation about a possible NZ Cup tilt if he won was just that. “There are no plans to make a late entry for the Cup”he said. As always Thefixer is the apple cart upsetter. He worked strongly on Saturday and while he goes on from this race given his spring setbacks, he is so competitive and such a complete racehorse he is always a threat. Natalie remains loyal and that in itself is a pointer to a big race. Another Masterpiece, Matthew Williamson’s drive, could cause some concern to rivals too. He caught the eye with his first up run and while he will obviously improve again he could easily fill a hole in a talented field like this. Of the other runners on the day Mark feels the draw gives Pur Dan the edge over Roll The Dice whose latest run was a much improved effort. “Pur Dan went a good race last time and I feel he has the advantage here” Mark is confident about Oscar Bonavena as might be expected but not sure about how Winterfell will go in the Flying Mile. “He can be an unpredictable horse at any time. Some days he will work around here like a star and then then next time he goes out he doesn’t feel the same horse. I have worked him on the straight track today for that reason. He is certainly competitive if he turns up with his best game but he can be a little hard to read at times"   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Ultimate Sniper, classy and determined as usual, finally broke through for his first win in open company, denying stablemate Self Assured of a winning debut at that level in an exciting finish and stepping up his assault on the big prizes coming up. He didn’t get it easy, missing the start again and settling well back. A big run in the middle stages to wrest the lead from Self Assured was the winning of the race even though it gave his rival the cover in the running. Ultimate Sniper dug in hard in the straight and just prevailed but did it in style. The standing start still needs some work in that field. “The problem I think is that when he races he has a fairly low head carriage but at the start he is getting his head up at the wrong time and making a mistake. We have to work on getting the right compromise for that” Natalie said “But he went very good. He is on target at this stage” Mark was not disappointed with Spankem saying pre-race the 20m start he was giving the winner would make things a little harder for him. “He got a pretty good run and the handicap was the difference in the end but he got home well. I was happy with that run Blair Orange was more than happy with Self Assured. His main concern is that he may not get to drive him again for a while. Ï don’t think I will get on him again but we will see what develops. I was really impressed. He messed up the start a bit but the way he came back to his gear so quickly in his first stand was really encouraging. It was a terrific run really when you consider he was coming out of age group racing and running against horses like those while doing it” Blair liked the run of Pur Dan in the Sires Stakes heat too. “He got a nice trip but he didn’t give any ground and it was a good effort.”" Tim was also very positive about Another Masterpiece. “He’s in for a good season on that run It was his first race for a long while and he went real good. He won’t be long showing what he can do”   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Plans for Turn It Up to resume in the New Year have had a setback after his recovery programme was interrupted last week -and it could be ongoing depending on his immediate progress. “He was doing well. He had finished his schedule of being boxed after his knee operation and was set to do month on the water walker” co-owner and trainer Mark Purdon said. “But after a week they weren’t that happy with his progress and he has gone back to box rest. They are still concerned about how it looks and so a lot will depend on what happens next” Last season’s Auckland Cup, Easter Cup and Harness Jewels winner was a star of the season with 11 wins and four seconds in 15 career starts. The decision was made to bypass any chance of a NZ Cup preparation so as not to take any risks with his knees and his racing plans were aimed at Australia in the New Year with targets like the Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile .Those plans are now under threat. “It is really bad luck and after we took the path of lesser risk after the Jewels” a disappointed Mark said “We will just have to see how it develops but it was news we didn’t need at this stage”   Courtesy of All Stars Stables. http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Only those who follow Natalie Rasmussen show a profit at the end of the season! Everyone who has studied it knows that following one rider/driver all season is a licence to lose money. Yes, there may be some good days but there will be a lot of bad ones and you have to forget all those to convince yourself this is a betting ploy that works.What is worse,if you claim you are ahead your betting mates know different. They have done the sums. The greatest of jockeys will make at the most a 30 per cent winning strike rate in a season. Not many professional drivers get even close to that. That means for 70 times out of a hundred you can only get a place dividend. Not enough folks. Not nearly enough. Natalie Rasmussen is different. Year after year she has returned her followers a profit. That is because a high strike rate and a relatively low number of drives make following her a winning proposition. And note that even she missed paying a dividend in 25 per cent of her drives. The profit this past season did not equal some former years, chiefly because Natalie’s following increased every year and longer odds winners are getting few and far between. But still her fans are winners. This past season in NZ Natalie had just 70 drives which makes her a realistic betting proposition since some have close to or more than 1000. That can get expensive. Very expensive. She paid a dividend in 51 of those drives. Late in the season she reached a return of over $700 based on a $10 each way bet on all her drives and finished close to that at the end -$690 to be exact. But we are doing this properly and if we key in the 19 losing drives that reduces the profit to $310. If you can find another horseman driving every month of the season who is close to that, good luck. This was not actually Nat’s best season. At times since coming to New Zealand she could show double that profit but her army has grown in recent times. Only one winning drive this season (A Bettor Act) topped a $200 return with a $10 each way bet whereas there were likely to be several in earlier seasons. Natalie has a remarkable strike rate and not just because she gets a nice pick of drives in the leading stable. Go back 10 years when she drove on a large scale in a Queensland season (over 600 races in at least two seasons) she still managed a win place ratio of close to 50 per cent. So if you are starting with a clean sheet and out to make a buck this season-stick with Natalie. She’s the Queen of the Silver Dollar!   Courtesy of All Stars Stables. http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

By Jonny Turner Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have chosen Oamaru as the starting point for Miracle Mile winner Spankem’s New Zealand Cup campaign. The 5yr-old, who looked sharp winning his first public appearance of the new season at Tuesday’s Ashburton trials, will be set for the Hannon Memorial on September 22. Spankem unleashed an eye-catching burst of speed to outsprint his Hannon-bound stablemates, Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland, in their 2400m handicap.  Purdon said he has been delighted with the way his Miracle Mile winner has returned from his winter spell. “He has come back really well, we are very happy with him,” the trainer-driver said.  Ultimate Sniper, was far from disgraced when overhauled by Spankem and runner-up, Clasina Maria, in the last 100m of Tuesday’s event.  The 4yr-old a half a length and a neck behind the first two in his first public appearance since winning the New Zealand Derby in April. Ultimate Sniper has returned in excellent following his battler with the knee problem, which required surgery, that ended his brilliant 3yr-old season.  Purdon said the 4yr-old and fourth placegetter, Chase Auckland, had also pleased him since returning to training.  “Ultimate Sniper had a little bit longer out than the other two.” “But, I have been very happy with the three of them, they have all been training well at home.” “And I was happy with their efforts in the trial.” Spankem and his two stablemates will trail again, next week, before heading to Oamaru for the Hannon Memorial. “We will trial them again next week and then we will look to kick them off in the Hannon,” Purdon said.  Purdon and Rasmussen’s remaining two New Zealand Cup nominees –Thefixer and Ashley Locaz – could also head to the trails this week. Defending New Zealand Cup champion, Thefixer, could not trial this week as his fitness has slipped behind his three stablemates that stepped out on Tuesday.  The pacer had to be given a few easy days to recover from a hoof issue, recently. Purdon confirmed it was the same issue that dogged the 6yr-old ahead of his epic home straight duel with Tiger Tara in last year’s New Zealand Cup.   “He has just had a slight setback, but he is over that now and he should be at the trials next week – all going well.” “It’s the same hoof problem, but we are a bit more advanced with our knowledge now, so we were on to it straight away.” Purdon said Thefixer’s hoof issue was one that was unlikely to go away.  “He is just one of those horses - we are just going to have to monitor it and keep on top of it.”  Classy trotter Oscar Bonavena looked sharp in winning the fast class trot at Tuesday’s trials.  Purdon and Rasmussen gave the 4yr-old a month off over winter, rather than sending him to the Breeders Crown. That plan could pay big race dividends at the New Zealand Cup carnival.  “We gave him those last couple of runs for the Breeders Crown, but there are probably bigger things in store for him,” Purdon said.  Oscar Bonavena powered to the line showing no signs that the knee issue that ruined his 3yr-old season was still affecting him. Purdon said the Dominion would be the major target for the lightly raced squaregaiter.  “We are rapt with him, hopefully he will be there at Cup week in the big ones.” The All Stars stable have just two Dominion nominees with Winterfell in contention for the 3200m feature, as well. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

A RETURN to winning form and gun barrier draw has restored Kiwi filly Our Princess Tiffany as a dominant favourite for next Saturday night's Breeders Crown 3YO fillies' pacing final. Punters were very wary of the All Stars filly after an inglorious unplaced heat run and she eased from $1.30 to $1.80 favourite in last night's semi, but stand-in driver Luke McCarthy weaved his magic. McCarthy surged through from the back row and took Our Princess Tiffany to the front after 500m then dictated terms before ripping home in 55.3 and 27 flat to beat No Win No Feed and another Kiwi raider, Best Western, in a slick 1min54.8sec mile rate for 2150m at Bendigo. The other fillies' semi was much weaker and won in considerably slower time (1min56.3sec mile rate) by Our Road To Mecca, beating former Kiwi Buzinga. The biggest shock of the semis came when Emma Stewart's star, Two Times Bettor, flopped badly behind Our Princess Tiffany and didn't qualify for the final. Our Princess Tiffany has gate three in the final at Melton and has already firmed from $1.20 to $1.15 on the Aussie TAB. Buzinga is $9 second elect from gate two. The other Kiwi winner on semis' night at Bendigo was Ray Green's Perfect Stride, who led throughout and just held-on by a head over Star Hunter in by far the weakest of the two semis for two-year-old colts and geldings. "That's sort of what he's like. He just does what he has to," Green said. Perfect Stride's final hopes were boosted with the prized pole draw for the final, but he will need to step-up again to beat Emma Stewart's young star Be Happy Mach ($1.70) despite drawing outside the back row (gate 13). Be Happy Mach was dominant in the stronger semi, even though he was able to wok around and final the lead from stablemate Mirragon (who ran second) in his semi. Be Happy Mach won easily in a 1min55.8sec mile rate, while another Kiwi visitor, Zachary Butcher's Zeuss Bromac, grabbed the eye in third spot. Zeuss Bromac drew gate four in the final and has already been backed from $11 into $6.50. The best of the pacing finals will be the 3YO colts and geldings pacing division after two stirring semis last night. The final will be without nominal favourite Hurricane Harley after he mysteriously flopped and missed qualifying. But Emma Stewart still holds the key with the emerging Demon Delight, who produced a monstrous run from last to win the stronger of the two semis in a scorching 1min53.8sec mile rate for 2150m. Emerging stablemate Brevity led, copped plenty of pressure from NSW Derby winner Max Delight (fourth) and ran the race of his career for a fantastic second. The other semi won strongly in all-the-way fashion by David Aiken's improving Malcolms Rhythm, who beat a brave and seemingly always luckless Lochinvar Art after blazing home in 26.2sec and the end of a cosy 1min56.2sec mile rate. The All Stars' runner Jesse Duke couldn't lift of a poor heat run and missed making the final after battling into eighth in his semi. Max Delight drew best of the big guns in the final and is a $2.60 favourite from gate four, while Demon Delight (gate 10, $3.60) and Lochinvar Art (gate 11, $3.80) look the other key players despite back row draws.   Adam Hamilton

Star three year old of the season Ultimate Sniper will be nominated for the New Zealand Cup in November though at this stage he is still in the “throw in a nomination” category in what is looking like an increasingly complicated spring racing scene. “Our other main candidates, The Fixer, Spankem, Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will be there hopefully, but we will be adding “Snip” because it could be one of those springs” Natalie Rasmussen said. One of the factors involved is just how well Ultimate Sniper has done over the winter . He is also another All Star who did not race at 2 blooming in spectacular fashion as a three year old. His 10 starts yielded 8 wins and a second placing his record only marred by a gallop in the Vero Stakes, his unplaced run. He was second to Jesse Duke in the Northern Derby Prelude then winning both the G1 Derby events here as well as the Sires STakes Final. Missing from the nominations will be Funatthebeach who left All Stars for Sydney on Sunday. He will race out of the Tritton stable though is ultimately bound for the United Stakes. Such sales, and the sad demise of some likely rivals, does give All Stars a strong Cup hand and with the Inter Dominions as a quick backup . Mark won the New Zealand Cup with Il Vicolo as a four year old and later with Lazarus at the same age.Both horses had raced at a high level at two and three   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Things are looking pretty good for Luby Lou as she treads the comeback trail starting as early as next month at Addington. The brilliant younger trotter has not raced since winning the $100,000 NZ Trotting Derby at Addington in April 2018 her fourth win in five career starts. She beat Winterfell and Majestic Man that day but went amiss and was put aside for a long spell. Now a five year old she should not be hard to place in the coming season all going well. “She had problems in both knees and rest was a big part of the solution to that “ Mark said after working her alongside Oscar Bonavena on Saturday. “There is no sign of that so far. Its early stages yet in the prep but she is coming along well” Luby Lou also won the Trotting Oaks to make her the outstanding three year old trotter of her year. She is royally bred by Breckon Farms being by Muscle Hill from Luby Ann, an American mare by Andover Hall. Breckon Farms syndicated her for racing (the Super Six syndicate) and also syndicated her younger sister TICKLE ME PINK who won the Harness Jewels Ruby for Tony Herlihy’s stable at Addington in June giving Luby Ann her second G1 winner from her first two foals. Mark also trained the dam LUBY ANN who did not show quite the racing ability of her two foals though she had a private reputation and the best was probably not seen of her. She did win 4 of 18 starts though. Her breeding career has been otherwise a challenge for Breckon Farms. She failed to get in foal for two years after Tickle Me Pink before being served by What the Hill last November. There wouldn’t be many mares at stud with two Group 1 winners from their first two foals and Luby Lou should continue the good work all going well.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

After the initial sighs of Australian relief comes the reality. And that reality is even without a full regiment of the All Stars army to converge on the Victorian carnival which rolls into gear over the next week,  we still have some serious firepower aimed at the August riches which start at Maryborough on Sunday. There would have been plenty of connections of leading Australian age group horses thrilled to here that originally the All Stars weren’t targeting the Breeders Crown with anything like the numbers of the past, although the two they are bringing in Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke are favoured in their divisions. But the Kiwi team has grown to eight and remarkably all of them are trained by people who have had success in Australia before. Joining the Purdon-Rasmussen horses will be fellow Kiwi trainers Ray Green (won BC juvenile with King Of Swing two years ago); John and Josh Dickie (numerous BC, Vic Derby wins and a Great Southern Star), Zac Butcher (who has won Victorian group ones and now make his training debut there) and Phil Williamson, who has an excellent strike rate when he ventures to Victoria. Even Jeremy Young, who makes his Australian debut as the trainer of Breeders Crown three-year-old filly contender Best Western, is widely travelled and successful in Australia when stable travelling foreman for Purdon back in the Auckland Reactor days. So with all eight of the Kiwis set to race in Victoria soon, here is a look at how they stack up.—-   Maryborough Sunday: Ultimate Stride (Redwood): Former sales topping trotter who overcame 30m handicap to win at Maryborough last Thursday, so good to go from a stand for the Redwood. “He is a good horse and better now than when he ran at the Jewels,” says trainer Williamson. “He can definitely win any race he is in and the stand doesn’t bother me.” Anthony Butt will retain the drive on the leggy son of Love You, who is a class horse and has an experience edge at the highest level on the locals. Liberty Stride (Vic Derby): It was impossible not to be impressed by her quite stunning recovery to win at Shepparton last Tuesday and Williamson says she is the real deal. “She would have raced in the best races over home but we were behind the 8-ball with her prep but she has real class. “She can give the boys plenty to think about in the Derby and the crucial factor will be whether she gets it right and is trotting after 400m. If she is, she can win.” Butt will also takes the reins on her. Kratos (Vic Derby): Won his lead-up race at Alexandra Park last Friday against older horses with a 1:59.4 mile coming off second line, his fourth win this season, all against older horses. Second in NZ Sales Series and fourth in the Jewels he is rated a good stayer and late season improver by co-trainer John Dickie. “He is getting better all the time and he will love the three races in as many weeks heading into the Breeders Crown.”Not as good as some of the Dickie superstars of the past, Kratos will still be an each way chance in the Derby and the Crown, with Josh Dickie to drive.  Shepparton, August 7: Perfect Stride: Trained by Ray Green and owned by the Rosatis, Chicago Bull’s little brother is a real speedster. Good enough to compete in the elite early season company in NZ he was put aside with the Breeders Crown in mind and jogged a 1:56.1 mile beating older horses at Alex Park last Friday. That was his second win on end and he is slick and getting tougher with time. Whether he is up to the Emma Stewart horses is a big ask but looks certain to make the final and Zac Butcher will drive in the heat at least. Zeuss Bromac: A dramatic late season improver for Butcher, this is the first horse he has trained. Third in the Jewels at only his second start he beat Perfect Stride last time they met but then missed a race two weeks ago because of a bad blood report. Looks stronger than Perfect Stride but maybe not with as much raw speed. “I don’t think missing that race will hurt him too much and he is a horse on the up,” said Butcher. “So I think he will make the final and hopefully he will keep improving on the way there. He is pretty untapped.” Kilmore, August 8 Our Princess Tiffany: Needs no introduction, she is sheer class. Already the winner of three Oaks races it will take something very special to beat her in the series if she brings her best form. Best Western: Stunned Belle Of Montana to win the Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park in March to give trainer Jeremy Young, known as Zinny, his first group one win. Not as good as Princess Tiffany but she is tough and follows a hot speed so Australian racing should suit her. “Maybe she can’t beat Princess Tiffany but she definitely can’t beat her if we don’t go so she will be on the plane with the others on Wednesday,” said Young. A strong second in a 1:55.1 mile at Alexandra Park last Friday, Best Western is yet another Breeders Crown drive for Anthony Butt.  Ballarat, August 9: Jesse Duke: Has a good horse’s record and would be a lot better but for racing some really classy stablemates in Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured. Still won a Jewels and is a good stayer but meets a solid crop of horses. Won’t just turn up and win as so many Purdon-Rasmussen horses have in the past but his $3 futures quote with the TAB could be a lot shorter because you know he will be in the final and once there the All Stars horses are there they are usually well backed. Probably no better than 3-4 others in the series. Michael Guerin

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