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Megastar filly Shez All Rock returns to the All Stars’ stables this week. And she’s only a few weeks away from a racetrack return. Mark Purdon said the last-start Harness Jewels winner would resume in a qualifying heat of the Breeders Crown at Addington on July 13. From there it’s back to Australia where Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will try to complete the most dominant of three-year-old filly season’s by adding the Breeders Crown title to the Jewels, NZ Oaks, NSW Oaks and Victoria Oaks victories. “It’ll be good to get her back in the stable this week and she won’t have lost much in her time out,” Purdon said. “She’ll go to the Crown heat here (Christchurch) and then we’ll work out what to do with her between that and the Crown semi-finals.” The Crown semis are at Ballarat on August 18 with the Grand Final at Melton a week later. There has been plenty of talk Shez All Rock could stay Down Under for her four-year-old season. But Purdon said he and US-based owner Chris Ryder would not final finalise future plans with Shez All Rock until after the Crown. Shez All Rock has raced just 10 times for nine wins, a luckless second and pocketed $445,192. Adam Hamilton

For the elite horse trainers race day might as well be renamed text day. For some the phone never stops, whether it is mates looking for a winner, owners wanting last minute updates, staff asking questions or even the pesky media. It would be no different, probably worse, for Mark Purdon, whose phone sometimes sits ignored for hours so he can actually get some work done. But one text on Saturday morning, as he was preparing for his six-win domination at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge, brought a wry smile to Purdon's face. It was from North American trainer Jimmy Takter, the new trainer of Purdon's champion pacer Lazarus. Takter is a harness racing legend. His horses have won more than US$120 million. He wanted to chat to Purdon. "Jimmy texted saying he had got my number off somebody and he wanted me to know that Laz has arrived safe and sound and looked great," said Purdon. "And then he asked me if we could talk sometimes because he had some questions about Laz. "I was stoked to get the text and am looking forward to talking to him because he is obviously one of the leading trainers in the world and I am really hoping Laz will do a great job up there so I am happy to help," said Purdon yesterday. "To be honest, if Laz was going really well and was set for a decent race or two in September, I'd love to go up there and watch him race and even ask Jimmy if I could spend some time at his stables. "I think that would be a really good experience." That Purdon still has that thirst for knowledge after a season in which he has won $4.4m in New Zealand alone, and it's is one of the best indicators as to why he is such a phenomenon. Then again, Takter did win US$2.7m at just one Breeders Crown meeting in 2015 so he might know a new trick or two. If Lazarus can race up to anything like his best Australasian form in North America, he could help the New Zealand punting public re-engage with harness racing in that part of the world, a relationship largely dormant for the last decade. Decades ago the performances of Cardigan Bay and Young Quinn meant US harness racing was newsworthy here and when Lyell Creek raced regularly, and with some serious success, in the early 2000s punters and harness fans watched. But the last time US harness racing captured the imagination even briefly was when Auckland Reactor headed there and bombed, turning people off very quickly. US harness racing continues to be broadcast during slow times on Trackside but the pools are very small and even with a regular smattering of former Kiwi pacers it is little more than a minor fascination for a small sector of the industry. But with Heaven Rocks and Bit Of A Legend impressive winners there over the weekend and Dexter Dunn set to start driving there soon, US harness racing could be in for a resurgence in interest, especially if Lazarus wins a major race. Whether that translates to any significant boost in turnover remains to be seen. Although Purdon could head Stateside for a Lazarus-inspired working holiday, he and training partner Natalie Rasmussen won't have anything like their usual Victorian winter team. They have only four likely Breeders Crown starters, with Shez All Rock now staying with them rather than returning to former trainer Mark Pitt and she will be set for the August series providing she passes an extensive veterinary examination. "I am a little worried she might have something bothering her and the same for Enhance Your Calm so they will both undergo scintigraphy in Matamata this week to make sure they are 100 per cent. "If they are, they will press on to the Crown with Princess Tiffany and Cheerful (two-year-old trot) but the rest of the horses who raced at the Jewels are heading to the paddock." Stateside • Lazarus has joined leading US trainer Jimmy Takter. • Soon Dexter Dunn will resume his North American driving career. • Former Kiwi stars Heaven Rocks and Bit Of A Legend were feature race winners there over the weekend. • All of them racing in the next few months could boost stagnant local interest in US harness racing. By: Michael Guerin

Three-year-old Majestic Son trotter Winterfell has given the harness racing All Stars stable six wins on Jewels day by taking out the Gr1 $125,000 Ruby Trot at Cambridge Raceway this afternoon. Trainer driver Mark Purdon had Winterfell in front from the start and the big gelding was never in danger of defeat cruising to victory and beating the Nicky Chilcott trained filly Monaro Mia by three lengths at the line. Australian visitor Wobelee held third a further half a length away after sitting parked for the duration of the race. Trainer Mark Purdon said after the race he did it easy.  "He felt strong in the running and was trotting good and solid. He was little bit rocky on the turn but never felt like he would have broken. "I think he will furnish into a lovely open class horse next season," he said The winner trotted the mile in 1-58.9 with a last half run in 57 seconds. The final 400m was cut out in 28.1 secconds. Interview with owner Trevor Casey Winterfell WHAT THE HILL 3YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1), $125,000, 3YO, 1609m   For 3-year-old trotters. Video  Weather: Overcast     Track: Fast      Race History     Plc Bk Horse Barrier Hcap Stakes Fav Time Margin Driver Trainer 1 1 Winterfell 1 fr 64,462.50 1/1 1-58.9   Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 2 9 Monaro Mia 9 fr 19,378.00 4/4 1-59.5 3.00 S W Abernethy Miss N A Chilcott 3 8 Wobelee 8 fr 12,814.00 2/2 1-59.6 3.60 C A Alford Mrs A M Alford 4 12 Stress Factor 12 fr 5,472.00 8/8 1-59.9 5.00 T M Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 5 4 Sundees Son 4 fr 4,033.50 9/9 2-00.2 6.20 J R Dunn R J Dunn 6 13 All American 13 fr 3,140.00 10/10 2-00.3 6.90 S J Lawson J W Dickie & J I Dickie 7 2 Renezmae 2 fr 3,140.00 5/5 2-00.5 8.00 D J Dunn J D Harrington 8 3 Valloria 3 fr 3,140.00 7/7 2-00.7 9.00 G D Smith R J Dunn 9 6 Rachmaninov 6 fr 3,140.00 11/11 2-01.2 11.30 T J Grant T J Grant 10 7 Majestic Man 7 fr 3,140.00 3/3 2-01.6 13.30 Brad Williamson P M Williamson 11 5 Sex On Fire 5 fr 3,140.00 6/6 2-13.5 72.90 J I Dickie J W Dickie & J I Dickie $125,000.00   Scratchings SCR 10 Puma Road 10               SCR 11 Girls On Film 11                     Divs: $1.40. $1.20. $2.20. $1.70. Quinella $5.50. Trifecta $25.20. First4 $175.90. Margins: 3 lengths, 1/2 length, 1 1/2 lengths Times: Mile Rate: 1-58.9 Last 800m: 57.0 Last 400m: 28.1 Placed Horses:       Winterfell 2014 3 Br g Majestic Son - Una Bromac   (by Live Or Die)    Trainer: M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen, Rolleston    Owner: T G Casey    Breeder: T G Casey    Monaro Mia 2014 3 B f Imperial Count - Monaro Miss   (by Wrestle)    Trainer: Miss N A Chilcott, Cambridge Raceway    Owner: J B Brinsdon, Mrs M J Robertson    Breeder: M J Wharton,Mrs H L Wharton    Wobelee 2014 3 B g Down Under Muscles - Tupenny Bit   (by Sundon)    Trainer: Mrs A M Alford, Victoria    Owner: C W Murphy    Breeder: Bromfield Park Pty. Ltd.

Shez All Rock has claimed a harness racing Jewels win for Australia by winning the Gr1 $150,000 3yo Diamond at Cambridge today. The immensely talented Rock N Roll Heaven filly blasted straight to the front in today's race for driver Mark Purdon and she gave nothing else a look in, winning untouched in a sensational time of 1-51.8 for the mobile 1609m. Mark Purdon only had to sit and enjoy the ride he said on trackside after the race. "She really did it on her own today. She just rolled along, enjoyed her work and never gave me any problems. I just had to enjoy the ride," he said. Shez All Rock has now had 9 starts for 8 wins and a second, and has claimed the two big races in her two New Zealand starts, winning both the New Zealand Oaks and now the 3yo Jewels. Shez All Rock beat Dizzy Miss Lizzy by five lengths with stablemate Elle Mac running home well for third. Shez All Rock paced her last 800m in 55.2 and the final 400m in 27.3 seconds. The All Stars Stable have now won the first three jewels races and look to have several more winning chances later in the day. Harnesslink Media Trish Trewhitt interview Shez All Rock   BROGDEN HORSE TRANSPORT 3YO DIAMOND (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1), $150,000, 3YO FILLIES, 1609m   For 3-year-old pacing fillies. Video  Weather: Overcast     Track: Fast      Race History     Plc Bk Horse Barrier Hcap Stakes Fav Time Margin Driver Trainer 1 5 Shez All Rock 5 fr 75,000.00 1/1 1-51.8   Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 2 2 Dizzy Miss Lizzy 2 fr 22,500.00 3/3 1-52.8 5.00 B N Orange N R McGrath 3 12 Elle Mac 12 fr 15,000.00 2/2 1-53.2 6.90 N C Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 4 1 Ruebe Star 1 fr 6,375.00 9/8 1-53.4 8.00 B M Mangos B M Mangos 5 11 Ivana Flybye 11 fr 4,735.00 10/10 1-53.8 9.80 B D Butcher (J) S G Telfer 6 13 Bettor Babe 13 fr 3,770.00 12/12 1-53.9 10.10 T A Cameron (J) A G Herlihy MNZM 7 4 Gold Orchid 4 fr 3,770.00 6/6 1-54.1 11.50 R T May A G Herlihy MNZM 8 6 Dibaba 6 fr 3,770.00 8/7 1-54.2 11.80 T S Chmiel T S & Mrs G S Chmiel 9 10 Bettor Joy 10 fr 3,770.00 4/4 1-54.3 12.30 D J Dunn C T Dalgety 10 9 Just Dance 9 fr 3,770.00 11/11 1-54.3 12.50 M W McKendry MNZM C T Dalgety 11 3 Come Dance With Me 3 fr 3,770.00 7/9 1-54.8 14.60 J R Dunn M P Kerr 12 8 Delight In Me 8 fr 3,770.00 5/5 1-54.8 14.70 T M Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen $150,000.00   Scratchings SCR 7 Kotare Cullen 7                             Divs: $1.30. $1.00. $2.00. $1.30. Quinella $5.70. Trifecta $15.10. TAB Double[races-2,3]:(4,5) $2.10. TAB Conc.:(4,2) $7.50. TAB Treble[races-1,2,3]:(8,4,5) $3.70. First4 $132.50. Margins: 5 lengths, 2 lengths, 1 length Times: Mile Rate: 1-51.8 Last 800m: 55.2 Last 400m: 27.3 Placed Horses:       Shez All Rock 2014 3 Br f Rock N Roll Heaven - Irish Loch   (by Mach Three)    Trainer: M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen, Rolleston    Owner: C J Ryder    Breeder: G F Tennent    Dizzy Miss Lizzy 2014 3 Br f Changeover - Back In The USSR   (by Presidential Ball)    Trainer: N R McGrath, Weedons    Owner: P F W Boag, Mrs K P Boag    Breeder: Norwegian Wood Breeding Limited    Elle Mac 2014 3 B f Bettor's Delight - Goodlookinggirl   (by Christian Cullen)    Trainer: M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen, Rolleston    Owner: Mrs J L Feiss    Breeder: Breckon Farms Ltd

Australian harness racing owners Danny Zavitsanos and his wife Joanne have won their first Group one race with exciting trotter Enhance Your Calm at Cambridge today. The exciting trotter who was formerly trained by Gavin Smith won the Gr1 $125,000 2yo Ruby for trotters to make it two jewels in a row on the day for leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rassmussen after they also won the first Jewels Race of the day with Princess Tiffany.   Danny Zavitsanos said on trackside after the race that he had had over 500 winners but this was his first group one so he was really excited.   "Mark rang me up and said I have got a horse for you if you are interested so I thought about it and bought it.   " I am just really rapt. Mark and Natalie and the team do such a great job," he said   "I had to sell a kidney to buy the horse but happy I can could get it back now the horse has won today," he joked.   Enhance Your Calm (Majestic Son-All Settled Down) led from the start for driver Mark Purdon and was never in danger of defeat winning untouched in 1-59.44 for the mobile 1609m distance.   Mark Purdon gave a lot of the credit to Gavin Smith after the win.   "I give Gavin a lot of the credit, he made the horse and did a super job with him.   "The horse travelled well out there and I put the pressure on at the 600m and he was just too good for them," he said.   Harnesslink Media   Listen to the interview with Danny and Joanne Zavitsanos Enhance Your Calm HARCOURTS TE AWAMUTU 2YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1), $125,000, 2YO, 1609m    (Qualifying Time: 2-11.1)   For 2-year-old trotters. Video  Weather: Overcast     Track: Fast      Race History     Plc Bk Horse Barrier Hcap Stakes Fav Time Margin Driver Trainer 1 4 Enhance Your Calm 4 fr 64,462.50 1/1 1-59.4   Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 2 3 Full Noise 3 fr 19,378.00 4/4 2-00.3 4.40 B G Barclay B R Gray 3 5 Cheerful 5 fr 12,814.00 6/5 2-00.4 5.10 T M Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 4 6 Sunnys Little Jestic 6 fr 5,472.00 10/10 2-00.8 6.90 B M Mangos B M Mangos 5 9 Vatican Hill 9 fr 4,033.50 11/11 2-05.3 29.60 T A Macfarlane Ms M J Wallis & B P Hackett 6 12 Oscar Bonavena 12 fr 3,140.00 2/2 2-08.5 45.60 N C Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 7 7 She Reigns 7 fr 3,140.00 7/7 2-08.6 46.10 T W Mitchell G A Rogerson 8 8 Tickle Me Pink 8 fr 3,140.00 3/3 2-09.2 49.20 R T May A G Herlihy MNZM 9 13 You Really Got Me 13 fr 3,140.00 5/6 2-13.9 72.70 J R Dunn R J Dunn 10 1 Adelle 1 fr 3,140.00 8/8 2-16.7 86.60 A P T Poutama D W & Mrs C McGowan Disq 11 Doff Your Cap 11 fr 3,140.00 9/9 2-04.3 24.70 C T Jones (J) Mrs L M Jones $125,000.00   Scratchings SCR 2 Splitting Image 2               SCR 10 Tonique De Feu 10                     Note: Doff Your Cap disqualified from 5th Divs: $1.70. $1.10. $2.00. $5.90. Quinella $6.80. Trifecta $107.50. First4 $904.10. Margins: 4 1/2 lengths, 3/4 length, 1 3/4 lengths Times: Mile Rate: 1-59.4 Last 800m: 58.3 Last 400m: 28.7 Placed Horses:       Enhance Your Calm 2015 2 B g Majestic Son - All Settled Down   (by Sundon)    Trainer: M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen, Rolleston    Owner: D Zavitsanos, Mrs J Zavitsanos    Breeder: Mrs S A Smith    Full Noise 2015 2 B g Majestic Son - Knapdale Girl   (by Sundon)    Trainer: B R Gray, Ryal Bush    Owner: Baynes Racing Limited    Breeder: Baynes Racing Limited    Cheerful 2015 2 B f Muscles Yankee - Superbowlcheerleader   (by Sundon)    Trainer: M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen, Rolleston    Owner: B J Whitelock, Mrs C J Whitelock    Breeder: Mrs S Grainger,Studholme Bloodstock Limited    

Relaxing at a Marlborough vineyard sounds like a lovely way to spend a couple of days. Unless you are supposed to be 800km away preparing two of the favourites for today's Harness Jewels at Cambridge. Welcome to the week of trainer Greg Hope, the man behind Enghien and A G's White Socks, who have the draws and group one records to both win their four-year-old Jewels today. Enghien is a genuine open class trotter up against mainly intermediate grade horses while A G's White Socks beat key rivals Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria in the Taylor Mile six weeks ago. But their week has hardly gone to plan after their Cook Strait ferry crossing was cancelled on Sunday and they had to spend three unexpected nights in Marlborough until they crossed on Wednesday, getting to Cambridge that night. "The first day we just jogged them around the grape vines at my sister's farm in Seddon, where we stayed," says Hope. "It was a bit different but I kinda think they enjoyed it. "And then we worked them properly at the Waterlea track on Tuesday so they haven't actually missed any major work." Hope's main concern was whether the extended trip would tire or tie up the talented pair but blood tests taken on Thursday allayed those fears. "Their blood came back perfect and they worked really well on the Cambridge track on Thursday so I am very happy. "Enghien is spot on but of course he might have to sit parked to win whereas A G's White Sock has had a long season like plenty of these horses at the Jewels. But he is very well." Hope isn't the only trainer thinking an unusual preparation could lead to the winner's circle today, with champion trainer Mark Purdon adamant Princess Tiffany (race one) is better now than before she drove a nail through her hoof on race night at Alexandra Park six weeks ago "She is well over that and has really gone ahead in the last few weeks," says Purdon. "Even from her barrier draw she is the best chance of our three in that race and I can see her following Kayla Marie into the race. But she still might have to sit parked to win." After a bizarre week, Purdon says he is happy with all 21 charges he and Natalie Rasmussen will take to Cambridge today, with the draw seeing him lean toward Shez All Rock in the three-year-old Diamond. "She took a few days to settle in up here but is spot on now." He is happy with their huge team and in the other races where they have multiple starters he rates Enhance Your Calm (race two), Winterfell (race eight) and Sicario (race nine) their best hopes. "But I don't think there is anything between Another Masterpiece and Jesse Duke in the juvenile pace. It could just come down to who gets the better run." Horses in drugs scare get the all-clear The 10 harness horses at the centre of a drug contamination scare this week have all been cleared to start at today's Jewels meeting. Precautionary tests requested by trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (nine horses) and Terry and Glenys Chmiel (Dibaba) and conducted by the Racing Integrity Unit showed no presence of drugs in any horse. The unusual concerns were raised when two, now former, staff members of the All Stars stables were believed to have used recreational drugs in the last week and had been in contact with all 10 of the horses tested as they were transported from Canterbury to Waikato. One of the staff members provided a sample to a professional drug tester called in by Purdon and returned a positive while the other refused a test and both were subsequently dismissed. Purdon and Rasmussen contacted the RIU on Wednesday and asked for all nine of their horses who had been in contact with the two employees be tested to ensure they were drug-free heading into today's $1,275,000 meeting, while Dibaba as also tested as it has come north on the same transporter. All 10 horses will take their places at today's meeting, which boasts nine group one races. The TAB, which had been asked by the RIU on Wednesday to suspend betting on six of the Jewels races, re-opened those at 4.30pm yesterday. "The RIU is very pleased with the result. The integrity system worked as it should," said RIU general manager Mike Godber. "The trainers were proactive in advising the RIU of the potential contamination." Michael Guerin

A cloud hangs over one of only three previous Jewels winners heading to Cambridge for Saturday's $1.275 million meeting. Because after stopping to a walk at the Pukekohe workouts on Saturday, Partyon will need to pass a vet test on Wednesday to be allowed to start in the four-year-old Diamond. Only Partyon, Enghien and Dizzy Miss Lizzy go into Saturday as past Jewels winners, Partyon's story the most remarkable as she won the two-year-old Diamond two seasons ago at only her second start. While that was a dream result, this week's preparation has turned into a nightmare. She suffered atrial fibrillation at the Pukekohe workouts on Saturday and while many horses recover from that problem and go on to race at, or close to, their peaks at their next start, it is hardly ideal for Partyon. She had only just returned to usual trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen to prepare for the Jewels after an Australian campaign and not only suffered the fibrillation but of course missed the fitness benefits of a proper hit out on Saturday. Purdon is confident she can still make the $150,000 mile but admits the preparation is less than perfect. "The good news is her heart had returned to its normal rhythm by last night (Saturday) and that is one of the most important things," explained the champion trainer. "But we will get her checked out again on Wednesday and make a final decision then. But I think she will still be starting." Partyon already faces a huge task from her second draw in one of the glamour races of the day but that is indicative of what the All Stars are up against on Jewels day. They have 20 horses entered for the meeting and only Winterfell (barrier one) has drawn inside barrier four. "I can't remember us getting a series of draws like this and I can see it being a real issue as it looks a day where not a lot of drivers are going to be handing up," said Purdon. Three final acceptors withdrew yesterday, with Kendra pulling out of the two-year-old Diamond and both Puma Road and Girls On Film withdrawn from the three-year-old Ruby. Michael Guerin

Neil Pilcher owned a champion but that is not what people will remember him for. Because tomorrow when hundreds of racing industry participants, family and friends gather at Addington Raceway to farewell "Pilch", his success as an owner will be part of the story. A small part. Pilcher died in Christchurch early on Saturday morning after years of battling a range of illnesses one might inflict in 80 well-lived years. That life consists of raising four children with his wife, Rose, a series of jobs ranging from a nurse at a psychiatric hospital and owning his own demolition company. But it was as the owner-operator of Inter-Island Horse Transport, carrying precious equine cargo from one end of the country to the other that Pilch built his reputation for not only been an astute businessman but a relentless worker. There were plenty of good and even great horses along the way, many in the last two decades with Tony Herlihy but more often than not Mark Purdon. His Purdon success stories were numerous and included Derby winners Waikiki Beach and Russley Rascal but it was Smolda who gave Pilch late in life the champion he deserved. He produced one of the great Harness Jewels wins of all time at three and then 18 months ago, when he looked past his best, won the Inter Dominion in Perth and Australian Aged Pacer of the Year. But it wasn't all glamour. "Pilch" would turn up at the All Stars, even when he struggled with his health in recent years, and tend to the training track and the morning teas. That was the sort of bloke he was, doing what needed to be done, with a smile and a cheeky chuckle which hid his great eye for equine talent. He will leave a unique hole in the New Zealand racing industry, especially in the lives of some of harness racing elite horsepeople as well as he brother Lee, who was Pilcher's partner in so many endeavours. Neil's last starter, Mach Up, won the final race at Addington on Friday night, hours before his death. That would have made him chuckle. Pilcher's life, which will be celebrated long into tomorrow night, proved you don't have to be soft to be gentle. He is survived by Rose and their four children Mark, Leanne, Jane and Brett. Michael Guerin

Speedy Australian 3yo harness racing filly Shez All Rock has crushed the opposition in the $150,000 (Gr1) NZ Oaks in what was her first New Zealand start at Addington raceway tonight. Co-trainer and driver Mark Purdon settled Shez All Rock back beyond midfield early in the race before looping the field to lead with 800m to go and then easily holding the rest of the field off up the straight. In the end Shez All Rock won untouched by more than two lengths despite a skip and a gallop just after the line. Purdon was rapt with the win saying she would improve a lot after tonights run. "I wasn't sure what to expect tonight but she delivered and delivered stylishly. "When we were travelling so well in the race and when I let her down a bit turning for home, I knew nothing would come off her back and beat her," he said after the race.  The race favourite Elle Mac was game in defeat running second and Bettor Trix was just as good in third, making it an All Stars trifecta in the race. Shez All Rock (Rock N Roll Heaven - Irish Loch) paced the 2600m mobile in 3-11.0, with a closing 800m in 56.7 and 400m in 26.9 seconds.  Harnesslink Media  

All Stars racing stables grabbed another harness racing Group One tonight when Jesse Duke got over the top of his stablemate and favourite Another Masterpiece to land the spoils in the $170,000 Garrards 2yo Sires Stakes Final. Driven beautifully by co-trainer Mark Purdon, Jesse Duke had to work a bit early to get to the parked position but then had cover from the 700m to the turn as John Dunn attacked the leader Another Masterpiece with his drive Heisenberg.  In the straight Jesse Duke had too much speed for his rivals and got up to beat Another Masterpiece by a head with yet another All Stars runner A Bettor Act running home well for third. Mark Purdon was delighted with the win and said after the race, "He is a good 2yo this one and he got the run to suit. "I had to work a bit more than I wanted early but he has improved and it worked out well. I was probably lucky that John took the sting out of our other one and we managed to capatilise," he said. Jesse Duke paced the 1950m mobile in 2-20.0 and won by a head. The smart colt paced his last 800m in 54.6 with a final 400m in 27.6 seconds.   Harnesslink  Media

Ex New Zealand star pacer Heaven Rocks is having his first North American start this weekend, when he lines up in an open pace at Harrah's Philadelphia in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Heaven Rocks is now trained by Ross Croghan an Australian born reinsman who emigrated to the United States in 1976.  Croghan now ranks among the greats in US harness racing, winning several driving titles and training well over 1000 winners. On Sunday Heaven Rocks has drawn gate 4 in a field of 8 runners for the $30,000 Open series. The race will be run over the mobile mile and the big Rock N Roll Heaven gelding will be driven in his first American start by top reinsman David Miller. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Harness racing trainer Mark Purdon is going to try his hand at training a thoroughbred in the near future. "I have decided its "now or never' training a galloper and I bought one at the May sale at Karaka. He will do a month back at Brighthill Farm who offered him at the sale and then he will come south. Barry enjoyed training the thoroughbreds and I have wanted to have a go. If I don't do it now I probably won't and the timing seems right," he said on the All Stars website  "Actually this colt wasn't my first choice but there is a story behind that. Roy and I were going to the sale but the car broke down in traffic and we ended up having to get it towed home so we didn't make it. My first choice from the catalogue was earlier on and went for a bit more than I wanted to pay. This one was passed in. I had liked the look of him and for $8000 he seemed a reasonable buy to me. Time will tell ! "Earlier Nat and I had an I Am Invincible youngster we bought at the sales in Australia but we didn't really have the time to do it and after it was broken in down here and proved a bit of a handful it ended up at Graeme's (Rogerson). I think it is best known for the day it got to the barrier and bolted over the fence before the race ! I hope this one will be different. I am looking forward to the challenge," he said. ___________________________________________________________________________________________  

There will be no long goodbye for New Zealand’s best horse and our champion trainer. Because Mark Purdon, the man who helped turn Lazarus in a harness racing hero, admits he may not even see him again before he is exported to the United States. Lazarus was sold to US-based owners Taylor Made Stallions on the weekend and will have a short race career there later this year in an attempt to win a major race or pace a super fast mile, either of which would add to his commercial stallion appeal in the Northern Hemisphere. That means he won’t race again in New Zealand and therefore Purdon may not get to give him a farewell pat as Lazarus is undergoing a month of aqua training in the Waikato and is tentatively booked to fly to the US on May 24.  “If that is the case we won’t be north with the Jewels team by them so I won’t get a chance to see him before he goes,” says Purdon. “It will be sad not having him come back to the stable for next season because he is a beautiful horse and a real pleasure to have around the place.  “But I understand the new owners motivations. He probably has nothing left to prove down here whereas if he can go up there and get a really quick mile time it would really help his stallion career in North America.” While no trainer has been confirmed for Lazarus it is believed leading horsemen Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke are in the running to take over his career. Lazarus’s departure caps an unbelievable series of elite level horses leaving the All Stars stable’s care in the last year -- with Smolda, Vincent, Waikiki Beach and Heaven Rocks also now gone. But that still leaves him with two obvious contenders for this year’s New Zealand Cup and one smokey. “Ultimate Machete and Dream About Me are the two big ones who both have open class form at that level.  “Ultimate Machete is a logical New Zealand Cup horse, it is the ideal race for him while Dream About Me is an Auckland Cup winner and we will just have to keep her feet sound. “And while we have a few other who could make it to the Cup, Thefixer is one who we definitely have it in mind for.”  Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen suffered another, far less significant, blow yesterday when they withdrew Luby Lou from the Jewels three-year-old trot.  The NZ Derby winner has been struggling with a cut on her leg after losing a fight with a fence.  “The cut is in a spot where there is movement so it is not healing as quickly as we would like,” said Purdon.  “So she will miss the Jewels, which is a real shame but she could still make it to the Breeders Crown in August.”  Defending champion Paramount King was also withdrawn from that division of the Jewels yesterday while there must be some doubt over Aussie star Wobelee coming after he was surprisingly beaten at Kilmore on Friday night. Michael Guerin

Tim Williams now has a rich 2yo PGG Sales Open to match the 3yo one he posted with Have Faith In Me with a rather surprisingly easy win in the rich feature at Addington on Friday night. Surprisingly easy because he was so well rated. Tim pushed Another Masterpiece hard enough early to get to the front. He dictated the terms astutely and had enough in the tank that stablemate Jesse Duke in spite of being in the one one, could not match his closing speed and in fact the winner seemed to have plenty left in the tank at the finish. "It was not an absolute plan to go to the front but I wanted to use the draw and the thing with this horse is that he is sensible. If you ask him to go he goes but he doesn't get carried away. Doesn't take too much out of himself and eases back just when you want. That is a big help in races like this" While the race time was a rapid 2.18.6 -last year  The Devil's Own came from off the pace to win in 2.16.5-it was also three seconds faster than Lazarus in 2015-it was the style of the win which suggested Another Masterpiece might be a well named youngster. Tim added to a night to remember by winning the Driver's Challenge even though Nathan steered Semirarmide to a late run to run Tim down in the last. Semiramide is raced in partnership by Natalie's parents Cheryl and Vic Rasmussen, Cheryl's second win on the night.  Jesse Duke got the run of the race but was unable to run his stablemate down. "I was not disappointed with him. Everyone is rating him on that huge run at Auckland but those sort of performances can be misleading. As I said in the preview there is nothing much between these two so the result was not a surprise" Mark said "He was doing his best at the turn but it was just too much for him to make up" Mark underlined how  horses develop at different rates. "I would guess Another Masterpiece was about No 4 among them at home five months or so ago but he has kept stepping up!" Mark's son Nathan  who had his own big moment last night, drove Another Masterpiece in work and  recalled that he was a "quiet achiever" "You didn't get much of a feel that he was special but he always did the times he was set and seemed to do them with a bit up his sleeve"  While the KENNARD SYNDICATES are active at the Yearling Sales and would be expected to play a role in races like this, they have won four of the last six editions of the race.  And how about famed thoroughbred trainer, Jim Gibbs and his wife Anne ? This was their third win in the race since 2014. Quite incredible. The Kennard syndicate who race Another Masterpiece including familiar faces like Kennards, Breckons. Gibbs and  Woodhams.   -All Stars Photo The modern run of success in the race for All Stars started with Isaiah in 2013 followed by Alta Orlando who won for the Gibbs and Neil Pilcher the following year. By coincidence he won last night also. Lazarus and More The Bettor and The Devil's Own have been the other recent winners but Western Cullen had won for Mark and Grant Payne in 2011. Harnesslink Courtesy of All Stars Website http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Punters should be careful getting carried away with star juvenile Jesse Duke in the $200,000 feature at Addington tonight.  Because the exciting pacer might be the best freshman in the country, that doesn’t mean he is screwed down to win the richest race of the weekend. Jesse Duke has been stunning in two of his three wins this season and his only defeat came when he was checked into a gallop.  But his path to tonight’s Sales Series Pace has been anything but smooth and that, added to a second line draw, mean his opening price of $1.60 could way prove to be way too short.  Last season’s yearling sales topper copped a virus that was doing the rounds at Auckland Cup time and fell in to win his next start at Addington six weeks ago.  He was then given a break and trialled well without dazzling last week. “He has definitely come on since then and we are a lot happier with him,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon.  “But because he has missed some racing and our other horse (Another Masterpiece) has improved in that time there isn’t much between them.  “We have all seen how good Jesse Duke has been but on their work together on Monday morning I can’t split them.”Another Masterpiece may not have Jesse Duke’s sheer class but he has what at least looks to be a better draw at four on the front line as opposed to Jesse Duke’s two on the second line. “It could be a good draw or a bad one as he probably has to go forward and there could be a lot of speed.  “So that early tempo will be crucial but I don’t favour one of ours over the other.” With the All Stars domination of recent juvenile riches being almost complete it is rare northern youngsters snare a major Addington baby race but they have numbers and class on their side tonight.  Stablemates Star Of Montana (1) and Supreme Dominator (second line) are both up to winning if things went their way while Beaudiene Western (barrier three) has been brave all season and races like Addington will suit, although he might be a horse who makes the race for another by applying the pressure.  Major Express, who beat all three mentioned above at Cambridge last start, has been cruelly handicapped by drawing the outside of the front line for trainer-driver Brent Mangos.  Horses coming out of age group fixtures dropping back into the grades at the one to follow at Alexandra Park tonight as the two premier tracks both race tonight.  Majestic Hurricane (race one) has been racing in the Trotting Derbys but drops back into maiden grade tonight so only a lack of manners would see him beaten.  Something similar looks likely in race five where Forget The Price Tag and All American are also recent Trotting Derbys runners falling well back in grade.   Michael Guerin

Luby Lou showed she was the best 3yo trotter in the country when she waltzed away to win the $100,000 (Gr1) New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington raceway tonight. Two weeks ago Luby Lou beat the fillies convincingly in the Trotting Oaks and trainer Mark Purdon was in two minds whether he would start her against the boys in the Derby.  "She is such a natural trotter and I thought if there are a few there that make mistakes, then she will be there to capitalize even if she has to do a bit of work in the running," he said tonight. During tonights race, Luby Lou (Muscle Hill - Luby Ann) was beyond midfield early before getting a beautiful cart up three wide behind the stablemate Winterfell until the home turn. In the straight driver Mark Purdon only had to flick the reins at the classy filly and she powered to the front to win easily by more than three lengths at the line. Winterfell stuck on well for second to make it an All Stars quinella for driver Natalie Rasmussen and Majestic Man battled on well into third. Luby Lou trotted the 2600m mobile in 3-14.2, not far off the New Zealand record of 3-13.5 set by Habibti in this race five years ago.   Luby Lou winning the derby   Harnesslink Media    

All Stars have dominated quite a few major races at Addington in the results column but few can match its reign of terror (for the opposition) in the Welcome Stakes in which it holds a strong hand on Friday. The stable has won the Group 2 race in eight of the last 10 years! In the last four of them it has also added  two trifectas, a first 4 and a quinella and the domination looks set to continue in 2018. Mark and Natalie have targeted the race with their youngsters though quite a few of the stable's best known horses have missed it for various reasons. The best known of recent winners is WAIKIKI BEACH who headed the first 4 of 2015, Motu Premier, Chase the Dream and MacKenzie-now a major winner in the US and a half-sister to Vincent. Neil Pilcher has one unusual record in the race. He was won it as an owner (four times) more often than Mark has won as a driver in the last decade. Mark  has driven only three of the last eight winners though he has six winners in all. One of his most memorable was way back in 1989 when MARK HANOVER won. Generally regarded as the horse who took Mark into the big time as a driver, Mark Hanover's win was one of his first big wins at Addington, a few months after Tax Credit had caused a huge upset in the NZ Free for All. Upsets are not unknown in the Welcome either. Most notable was ZACHARIA raced by Neil and Trevor Casey ( co-owner with Neil of Waikiki Beach) who won at 25/1 in 2013 driven by Blair Orange. Isaiah was the stable elect and Regulus and Tiger Tara the favourites but Zacharia-who is still racing successfully in Perth-came with the last run and downed the stars. HIGHVIEW TOMMY, ALTA ORLANDO  and KOTARE MACH have been the other winners in the last decade while earlier winners for Mark were ADVANCE ATTACK, LIGHT AND SOUND and the first BOGAN FELLA  in 1996   Courtesy of All Stars Racing stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/  

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