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Bill Feiss is a man of many parts and he may not have been entirely joking when he noted at Addington  on Friday that he might approach wife Jean to add his name in the book to Jesse Duke.  Bill was responding to the habit of the Feiss's to race their horses under separate names even though they are essentially a partnership. The policy may well have cost them Owners of the Year in the past and might again this year. "It is not that big a deal though we were runners up as leading owners at Moonee Valley a few times years ago. We couldn't beat the Knights" Bill said In those days Jean was training the team herself along with son Matthew Last season Jean raced the best two year old filly and the best three year old filly and Vincent was Bill's star. Nobody would quibble with the connections of Lazarus being Owners of the Year but the Feiss partnership has built an astonishing strike rate in a relatively short time.  Jean has added considerably too to Yearling Sales turnover. She has bought  four sale toppers as yearlings just in recent years and the three to race, Vincent, Sicario and Jesse Duke have all made their mark.  Bill is hopeful about the racing future of Vincent after his stem cell operation.  "The op went well and and he has been boxed since. Now he goes into a yard and then into a paddock and he will be exercised every day. Its a long process and hopefully it will work out. The problem is that he is a colt and he is putting weight on. WE have to keep on top of that" Back in Rolleston Vincent will continue light exercise. Like his dad, Roy, Mark is sceptical of the lengthy spell originally prescribed for Vincent "I haven't had much luck bringing horses with suspensory problems back from long spells " Mark said. Most recently he was probably thinking of  the hugely talented Didjamakem Bolt who did everything by the book (including exercise and a long buildup)  but either  failed to  survive the final stages of a race preparation or had a brief racing return before experiencing further problems.  "It's never easy to get them back when they are racing at the highest level" Bill said  "But he is good enough to try and he is a sensible horse which helps" Bill and Jean were at Alexandra Park for the memorable Group One wins with Elle Mac and Jesse Duke last week and  had a tiki tour of the country driving down from Auckland during the week to watch Elle Mac score in the Nevele R heat on Friday. It would be fair to say that Bill, once a rarer visitor on this side of the Tasman where Jean is a devoted follower of her racing team, has become a more regular traveller lately. In the meantime check the ownership of Jesse Duke. Bill's name might work its way into the  book-and he will be even more regular then ! Courtesy of All Stars website

Top harness racing 3yo Chase Auckland has been pulled from the New Zealand Derby field after suffering a leg injury. The Purdon/Rasmussen trained gelding has curbed a hock meaning he will not get a chance to emulate his sire Auckland Reactor by adding the New Zealand Derby to his already impressive resume. “He has a curb and we will give him about three weeks off now and assess where we are with him,” said Natalie Rasmussen on the All Stars stable website. “If all goes well he could be got up for the Harness Jewels otherwise he will have a long break with an eye to the Cup meeting in November maybe. “It is bad luck from a timing viewpoint, though the owners have had a good run with him so far and these things are always a possibility. “We have some other nice three-year-olds to tackle the Derby but he will certainly be missed.” Natalie Rasmussen The All Stars team will still be well represented in the derby with four runners still nominated for the race including the now TAB favourite Sicario along with Tennyson Bromac, Funatthebeach and Anthem who all won their respective races at Addington on Friday night.   Harnesslink Media    

Try and not let a glaze come over your eyes but the harness racing All Stars team just keeps setting records. And they get more extraordinary even by the week. Last week the stable posted 10 wins from 10 races competed in. If that had ever happened before it was rare indeed. But five days later the score is 17 races and 17 successive wins. You can bet your  pyjamas that hasn't happened in any professional stable before. But that, as they say, is not all. Seven wins at Addington on Friday night is not a new  record in itself amazing as it might be. But it is if you consider it was a 10 race progamme. All Stars's previous 7 win records have been set on  12 race programmes. Never easy. But a little easier than a 10 race programme even if it not a Premier meeting as the others were  As is occasionally brought out driver Doug Watts drove seven winners on an eighr race programme at Reefton back in the day. Six of them were trained from one stable but the devil in the detail is that three horses won two races each. To train seven winners at Addington with seven different horses is an astonishing feat. The races were not just a+b=c either. Ohanzee had to work a bit harder than Turn It Up in the running and that made the difference (2.22.9 / 27.7) Anthem had to overcome a difficult draw and drag a puncture for the last round to run 2.22.3 / 28.4 but convincing in the end with game Duplicated third. Enchance Your Calm has, not surprisingly, something to learn about racing according to Mark but  getting some nice sectionals he outclassed his 2yo trot opponents while Elle Mac chalking up a second stable quinella with Bettor Trix, didn't run great time but ran a great race winning easily in the end after doing her fair share of work in 2.23.1 /27.8. Winterfell took advantage of stablemate Stress Factor's keenness to get on with the job trailing on the outer and just being too strong for Mark over the final stages in a very good 2.25.7 /29.3  before Funatthebeach really stood up in the open race left sitting parked and giving Alta Orlando the trail but fighting off the older former G1 winner with a game display in 2.23.5 but home in 26.6!. Then Tim joined the party with Tennyson Bromac also sitting parked and still too strong over a G1 placegetter in 2.22.1  /27.7  which was actually the fastest time of the night Courtesy of All Stars Stable website Turn It Up Anthem Enhance Your Calm Elle Mac Winterfell Funatthebeach Tennyson Bromac

The cloud of doom hovering over the career of Auckland Cup winner Vincent is clearing. The exceptional four-year-old is now rated a good chance of racing again next season just weeks after fears he may need to be retired to stud because of a suspensory injury. Trainer Mark Purdon says the magnificent looking pacer could even be back at the races as soon as early next year. "We are definitely aiming him at getting back to the races, not a stud career," Purdon confirmed to the Herald. "Initially when he got injured it looked like that may not be the case we really feared it might be the end of his racing career. "But things since then have been far more positive." Vincent had just won the Auckland Cup and was favourite for the Ballarat Cup and Chariots Of Fire when he damaged his suspensory in late January. That also ruled him out of the Miracle Mile and he was brought back to New Zealand for a thorough veterinary inspection, which had it suggested he was finished as a racehorse, would have seen negotiations start with stud farms. "But he has been at the clinic at Matamata and they are hopeful that stem cell injections into the area can help it heal 100 per cent," explained Purdon. "He has already had one course and is now on his next and apparently the nature of the injury is not as bad as it can be. So it is very early days but I'd like to think he will be back racing." Even all going well Vincent won't be back to try and thwart stablemate Lazarus's attempt at a third New Zealand Cup come November or the Inter Dominions in Victoria a few weeks later. But if and when he does make it back to the track he will add much needed glamour to the New Zealand pacing stocks. It is almost unprecedented to have so many top horses leave the country or be retired in such a short period of time, with Have Faith In Me, Heaven Rocks and Waikiki Beach having left over the summer while Smolda was retired last year. Add to that the injuries to great mares Dream About Me and The Orange Agent and Auckland Cup runner-up Titan Banner and the cupboard at the highest level is awfully bare. For once the Australian ranks seem to have more depth, with My Field Marshal there now and horses like Chicago Bull, Soho Tribeca and Jilliby Kung Fu having emerged. A fully healthy version of Vincent has done enough to suggest he is as good as them and if he can return to the track he remains the heir apparent to Lazarus, who you would have to think would be retired at the end of next season. One of the genuine class acts to have emerged from the sparse local summer of pacing has been Star Galleria, who blew his rivals away again at Alexandra Park last Friday. After a roller coaster three-year-old season last term he has developed strength to compliment his raw speed but trainer Steven Reid will not stretch him out to 3200m in the Easter Cup at Addington in a few weeks. Even though Star Galleria was a brave fourth in the Auckland Cup over that 3200m distance on December 31, Reid will stick to his original plans and aim him at the Taylor Mile and Messenger at Alexandra Park in late April and May before the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in June. With some possibility Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu could be lured to New Zealand for the Jewels a clash between he, Star Galleria and Jack's Legend would set that meeting alight. Michael Guerin

Driven by Tim Williams, More The Better, the winner of twelve races and over $500,000 proved to be too strong in the Group Three Yardhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup. Owned by co-trainer Mark Purdon, his father Roy Purdon MBE and David Levene OBE, the four year old entire was having his first start for the season. “His three year old season wasn’t as good as we'd hoped. He was a fanastic two year old. He seems to have come back just as good as he was at two. We’ve been happy with his trials and we were very confident today,” said stable manager for the Purdon/Rasmussen stable Michelle Neilson. Neilson says as a young horse he raced over the shorter sprint distances but his forte is staying races. “Our next aim is the Easter Cup at the end of the month at Addington. He’s a strong horse so it’s nice to slow him down a bit. They race a bit over short trips as young horses so the distance won’t be any worries for him now.” After beginning well from the twenty metre mark Williams settled More The Better in seventh place as the field settled into single file. With 1200 metres to run he decided to move around the field and for the last lap he sat parked beside leader My Wee Man. Inside the last 400 metres these two runners cut away from the field and were both in for the fight. But More The Better proved too good.  Williams had only to run the reins over his rump to win by three and a half lengths from a late charging Buster Brady. A brave My Wee Man was a nose back in third. “He’s got great manners and he won today with the plugs still in.” This is the second time Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have won the Northern Southland Cup. They won with Isaiah in 2015. His time of 3-20.1 is a race record. The winning time today was 3-22.6.  Sponsor Dave McHugh, his wife Glenda, and Michelle Neilson  - Photo Bruce Stewart.  More The Better is out of the In The Pocket mare Lucky Pocket which is a full sister to Christian Cullen. The win by More The Better caps off a very profitable two days for the Purdon/Rasmussen All Stars stables. They starters thirteen runs at two race meeting (Auckland and Invercargill) winning eight races and stakes of $347,900. Driver Tim Williams scored three wins at the Northern Southland meeting and one in Auckland.  Bruce Stewart Southland harness racing    

The first classic of Auckland Cup week was over almost before it began. Hot favourite Elle Mac led home an All Stars-trained quinella in the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park last night, jumping straight to the lead and never getting out of third gear. While the Alexandra Park specialist probably would have won regardless, she was all but gifted the race when second favourite and arch-rival Bettor Joy's winning chances were extinguished early. She was checked by a galloping rival in front of her, effectively knocked out of winning contention, and did a remarkable job to recover into fourth. Elle Mac had all the ingredients for an Oaks winner, being by super sire Bettors Delight, trained by the All Stars and owned by huge sales spender Jean Feiss.   But it wasn't all plain sailing for All Stars hotshots in the three-year-old features last night as the Woodlands Northern Derby market was turned on its head when Chase Auckland tasted defeat for the first time in the Derby prelude. He was forced to sit parked and couldn't grab stablemate Sicario, who was having his first start since last winter. The result suggested Monday's barrier draw will play a bigger role than expected in who wins next Friday's Derby. The other stars of the night were the Michelle Walls-Bernie Hackett training team, who won both early trots including the Northern Breeders Stakes with Majestic Ali paying $13.90.   Michael Guerin    

Being the best may not be good enough in tonight's Miracle Mile. Because Kiwi pacing hero Lazarus is the best pacer in the race, the best in Australasia and probably the best pacer in the world. But at 11.32pm tonight at Menangle with A$750,000 ($800k) on the line Lazarus faces the most daunting task of his career, maybe the most difficult faced by any horse since Menangle opened nearly a decade ago. No horse has placed in a Miracle Mile from barrier eight. It's like being asked to win the Olympic 800m medal starting 10m behind the pack. Lazarus faces covering more ground than all of his rivals - all group one winners - in a race where they could threaten the Australasian record of 1:47.5 To win, his real time, taking into account actual ground covered, could need to be close to 1:46, the world record. At his wrecking ball best of the last two New Zealand Cups days or his Inter Dominion win in December, Lazarus could do that. Maybe. But nobody, not even genius trainer Mark Purdon who has spent almost every waking minute with Lazarus this week, knows if the great one is feeling that great. Purdon was stunned by how a supposedly minor virus last week left Lazarus a shadow of himself, well beaten in a 1:51 mile last Saturday. If that version of Lazarus takes up his spot at barrier eight behind the mobile tonight he will have no chance. Purdon doesn't expect that. He is adamant Lazarus is over the virus and better than last week. "His blood reports, which are the most important thing, suggest he is over it," says Purdon. "His white blood cell count is back to normal so I have been working him this week like nothing has gone wrong." Purdon was happy with that final fast work on Thursday morning, although not cat-that-got-the-cream happy. "In a couple of his big wins in the past, like the first New Zealand Cup and the Inter final, I got off him after his last piece of fast work and thought he felt bullet proof. "I can't say he feels like that now. It is hard to tell with him because he is not the greatest trackworker, not one of those aggressive stallions who gets all puffed up and rips into it. "But his work has been as good as I'd expect and I guess we just have to go out there and see what happens. "I know punters may want more detail than that but I won't know any more before the race unless something changes. "He seems bright and happy. But you have to wonder whether the hard race last week when he wasn't right has dulled him and also whether, because he hasn't been at his peak, he is ready for a 1:48 mile. "And in this field, even that may not be good enough." Horses like Soho Tribeca and Tiger Tara are tough enough to beat Lazarus Lite. And My Field Marshal, Anything For Love and Jilliby Kung Fu have the raw speed to strike at any Achilles heel exposed late in the home straight. But most New Zealand punters won't want to back them. It would be like betting against the All Blacks, even if you knew they were vulnerable. Because that is the word to describe Lazarus tonight. He is vulnerable. There is also another word to describe Lazarus. Champion. If you want to back New Zealand's best racehorse tonight you need to decide whether he is more vulnerable or more champion. What does Purdon think? "I think he is ready to go a big race, and I am confident he will be in three. "But ... I'd really prefer if the race was another week away." Needing a miracle •The A$750,000 Miracle Mile is on at Menangle at 11.32pm (NZ time) tonight. •After a shock defeat, viral issue and with a poor draw, Lazarus faces the greatest test of his career. •No horse has won Sydney's biggest harness race from the outside barrier Lazarus faces tonight. Michael Guerin

Champion harness racing pacer Lazarus’s star is starting to shine brighter again just in time for Saturday night’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. But trainer Mark Purdon still isn’t certain it will be enough for a horror week to end in glory. Lazarus has been a huge drifter in Miracle Mile markets after he was beaten into third in his prelude last Saturday, troubled by the lingering effects of a virus. Purdon has spent almost every waking minute with the superstar pacer this week as he tries to become the first horse to win harness racing’s Grand Slam of the New Zealand Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile in the same season. And the Hall Of Fame trainer says the signs are very encouraging. “His blood report suggests his health is back to normal,” Purdon said. “And he worked well on Thursday morning, like he was back to normal. “But it is a bit of a trick with him that he is not a sensational trackworker because he is so laid back. “He is not one of those aggressive horses in his work that he will do something stunning by himself. “So because of that you never see the best, or anything really stressing, from him in work. “But he felt good, definitely not like there was anything off, so he will be better than last week.” What punters want to know is whether the version of Lazarus who was so crushing in the first three legs of the Grand Slam will turn up at Menangle on Saturday night?  “I’d love to say yes but I can’t say I am as confident I was before the other races because of his setback. “I am pretty sure he will run in three and he can definitely win but what I don’t know is what affect the last 10 days will have on him and whether he will be able to pace 1:47 coming from wide on the track.” The Miracle Mile is at 9.32pm this Saturday. Michael Guerin    

Mark Purdon will be hoping for a second training win in the Miracle Mile on Saturday night and if it happens he will know it has been well earned. So will Natalie. Both could tell you how hard a race it is to win. Bloody hard!. Even by super race standards All Stars has one on the board thanks to HAVE FAITH IN ME driven by Natalie in his fabulous, record shattering  2016 victory over Lennythshark. But both Mark and Natalie have hard luck stories in other runnings of the race. BLACKS A FAKE posted two second placings for Natalie one by half a head. IL VICOLO was twice second also for Mark. The second time, when he went down to Iraklis in December 1996 they set a mile rate which was never bettered in the race while it was run over 1760m, which it was until 2009. JACK CADE trained and driven by Mark was second to Sokyola in 2003 and SMOLDA second to Lennytheshark last year when LAZARUS was third and WAIKIKI BEACH 4th.  That makes six second placings between Mark and Natalie so perhaps Natalie's strike rate won her the drive this year ! The race is also tougher for New Zealand horses to win than you may think especially given the number of superstar horses we have developed i n the last 20 years. Kiwi-trained horses have only won four Miles this century. Holmes D G won his second in 2000, Monkey King won the first mile race nine years later and Christen Me and Have Faith In Me have scored since. The other thing about the Miracle Mile- If you are an avid supporter of the Kiwis and you have heart problems-don't watch. Only one horse has won the race over the mile  by more than 2 metres. Which isn't very far. The last three have been won by short half heads (nose to us) or a head and that tradition looks like continuing on Saturday. Only one  of the mile races has not broken 1.51 and that was when Smoken UP easily beat Karloo Mick and Imamightyquinn back in 2011. There is no fear of a 1.51 mile this year with 1.47 under threat if we get the fireworks many are expecting,    Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables               

Harness racing’s greatest trainer Mark Purdon has sacked himself off champion pacer Lazarus for Saturday’s $750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile. And he says putting partner Natalie Rasmussen on the Mile favourite gives all involved their best chance. “It wasn’t a hard choice to make,” said Purdon, who has driven Lazarus to win two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, as well as the Hunter Cup earlier this month. “Obviously our team had a little bug through them last week and they didn’t race up to our expectations, and with that in mind, I want to concentrate on getting the best out of them this week. “That means me doing my job as a trainer to 100 per cent and I think if I am busy doing that then I might only do an 85 per cent job on the driving front. “This way Natalie can concentrate on the driving and make those decisions and I will handle the training details.” Rasmussen is best-known as the former trainer-driver of Blacks A Fake, who won almost every major race in Australia, except the Miracle Mile. But she finally snared the Miracle win two years ago with an inch-perfect drive on Have Faith In Me, who she co-trained with Purdon, who nosed out Lennytheshark in an Australasian record 1:47.5. Rasmussen owns the two fastest winning miles in Australasian history, having also driven Adore Me when she paced 1:47.7 winning the Ladyship Mile a year earlier. Champion pacer Lazarus will be aiming to bounce back from a shock defeat at Menangle last weekend. Picture: Ashlea Brennan. Her aggressive style, which often sees her launch between the 1200m and 800m poles and keep running hard is perfectly suited to Menangle’s big miles, not that Purdon thinks she drives there better than anywhere else. “She is a great driver on any track, simple as that,” he said. Exactly what version of Lazarus Purdon hands over to Rasmussen on Saturday night is hard to predict after his brave but well-beaten third behind Tiger Tara last Saturday. He was feeling the lingering effects of a virus which a blood report on Tuesday suggests is now gone, but Purdon is cautious. “The best thing I can go on is his blood report and it was a lot better so we should be able to get a good week into him,” Purdon said. “And the rain we had overnight on Monday helped settle the dust, which will also help. “But I will know more after he fast works on Thursday. I am confident he will be close to his peak on Saturday night but there is no money-back guarantees.” MIRACLE MILE Menangle, Saturday night 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red. LATEST BETTING: TAB FIXED ODDS Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of The Daily Telegraph

A Miracle Mile that Lazarus couldn't lose is starting to look like one the champion pacer will struggle to win. The Kiwi pacing hero struck not one but two judder bars over the weekend on the road to the only great Australasian race to have eluded him and is set to be a huge drifter in the market. The first signs of trouble for Lazarus, and punters, came when the Inter Dominion champ was a brave but battling third in his $100,000 prelude to the Mile at Menangle on Saturday night. That was still enough to earn him an invitation to the A$750,000 super sprint this Saturday but Lazarus clearly wasn't at his best, only clawing his way into third on heart after looking beaten at the 500m mark.   He appeared still drained by the effects of a virus trainer-driver Mark Purdon had expected to be out of his system but dogged the entire Purdon-Rasmussen stable on a dreadful night at the office. "We had a bug through the team during the week but we thought they were over it," said Purdon. "They had good blood reports and we even had Laz scoped on the morning of the race so we could keep the stewards up to date but clearly he was still below his best. "So while I was disappointed in him because he tried so hard, it was hardly ideal." Purdon said Lazarus appeared to come through the hard run behind long-time rival Tiger Tara well and looked fresh yesterday, and he expects to know more about his well-being after fast work on Tuesday. But that isn't the only problem facing Lazarus as he drew the outside of the front line at yesterday's barrier draw, meaning he will start from barrier eight. Since the Miracle Mile moved to Menangle a decade ago no horse has even placed in the race from barrier eight. That saw him move from $1.70 on Saturday morning to $2.20 with the NZ TAB last night but he could stretch out to $3 with some bookies before race start time, especially depending on how Purdon assesses his bounce back to peak fitness. The big winner in the draw was the faster of Saturday's two prelude winners in Anything For Love, who has barrier three for the Mile while Tiger Tara's unbelievable run of ace barrier draws continued. He has now drawn the ace in the Inter Dominion Final, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile and whether he can hold Anything For Love at the start will be a crucial factor in the race. A$750k Miracle Mile The field for the A$750,000 Ainsworth Miracle Mile at Menangle on Saturday night is: 1: Tiger Tara (1) 2: Atomic Red (2) 3: Anything For Love (3) 4: My Field Marshal (4) 5: Jilliby Kung Fu (5) 6: Soho Tribeca (6) 7: Lennytheshark (7) 8: Charlaval (8) 9: Let It Ride (9) 10: Lazarus (10) Emergencies: Let It Ride, Atomic Red.   Michael Guerin

Trainer Mr Mark Purdon advised Harness Racing New South Wales Stewards today that ALL U NEED IS FAITH NZ had worked well this morning and will compete in Race 2, JIM BEAN WHITE NSW DERBY HEAT 1, at Menangle this Saturday. Mr Purdon stated that ALL U NEED IS FAITH NZ appears slightly behind where he would like the colt to be in its preparation and he would expect benefit with the upcoming run. Mr Purdon added that additional blood samples were not necessary. MICHAEL PRENTICE | INTEGRITY MANAGER GRANT ADAMS | CHAIRMAN OF STEWARDS                 Kind regards,       AMANDA RANDO   MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER       HARNESS RACING NEW SOUTH WALES   22 Meredith Street Bankstown NSW 2200   PO Box 1034 Bankstown NSW 1885   T: 02 9722 6600 E: T: @Amanda_Rando   W: | T: | F:              

Harness Racing New South Wales Stewards advise that two runners from the Mark Purdon stable have undergone further examination following their recent performances at Menangle. ALL U NEED IS FAITH NZ Stable representative Mr M Bowden has advised HRNSW Stewards that blood samples were collected from ALL U NEED IS FAITH NZ as the colt is recovering from a virus. Mr Bowden indicated the results were positive and displays ALL U NEED IS FAITH NZ is overcoming the virus. Mr Bowden stated that the colt worked well today and connections will have a further examination this coming Thursday with additional blood samples. HRNSW regulatory Veterinarian Dr Wainscott, has reviewed the blood results and Stewards will follow up with connections on Thursday. PARTYON NZ Stable representative Mr M Bowden has advised HRNSW Stewards that following the Group 3 Cordina Family Sibela Stakes at Menangle last Saturday, blood samples were collected from PARTYON NZ and revealed the mare is overcoming a virus. Mr Bowden advised that PARTYON NZ is now being treated and will now be set to race at Menangle on February 24, 2018. HRNSW regulatory Veterinarian, Dr Wainscott has reviewed the blood results. Stewards intend to follow up with connections on Thursday. MICHAEL PRENTICE | INTEGRITY MANAGER (02) 9722 6600 • GRANT ADAMS | CHAIRMAN OF STEWARDS (02) 9722 6600 •

The biggest name in New Zealand racing is set for a surprise season swansong - maybe even two. Champion pacer Lazarus could start in both Auckland and Christchurch before the end of the season, giving New Zealand fans a rare chance to see the freakish pacer. Trainer Mark Purdon is reluctant to confirm either of those options until after next week's A$750,000 Miracle Mile in New South Wales but says they are both on the table as he would love to give Lazarus's fans a chance to see him in the flesh. Lazarus has drawn the ace in his A$100,000 Miracle Mile Prelude at Menangle on Saturday night and is a $1.60 favourite to win Sydney's greatest harness race a week later. He would then have 13 days before the $50,000 Co-Op Taxis Free-For-All at Alexandra Park, a race his stablemate Smolda started in last season after running a close second in the Miracle Mile. "Laz has to travel home through Auckland anyway and could well be there around that time so he is definitely a chance to start at Alexandra Park," says Purdon. "I wouldn't make any decision until after the Miracle Mile because he has had a busy summer and done a lot of travelling but I would like people at home to get a chance to see him. "The way the fans in Perth and Victoria have received him has been wonderful and we know plenty of people back home would love to see him too." Even if Lazarus doesn't make it to Alexandra Park for what would be harness racing's version of a Winx-like occasion, he is almost certain to head to the Easter Cup, fittingly sponsored by Purdon's All Stars stables, at Addington on March 31. "That is definitely on his programme at this stage," confirmed Purdon. If Lazarus doesn't race at Alexandra Park he may need a blowout in the Addington free-for-all a week earlier, so he looks likely to have two starts in New Zealand to end his season. "And then regardless of what happens in the Easter Cup he will be finished for the season and we will aim him at a third New Zealand Cup next term." While he is New Zealand's most loved harness horse Lazarus has only had four starts here this season, the last being his New Zealand Cup win on November 14. Since then he has won the Inter Dominion and Hunter Cup and if he adds the Miracle Mile will be the only horse to hold Australasia's four greatest race titles at the same time. Meanwhile, exactly who drives stablemate and second favourite Heaven Rocks in the Miracle Mile is unclear, with no date set for Natalie Rasmussen's appeal against her suspension that could cost her the drive. With Jilliby Kung Fu having accepted his invitation to the Miracle Mile, the other seven spots in the super sprint will be filled from the starters in Saturday's two preludes. Lazarus's list • A$100,000 Prelude at Menangle on Saturday. • A$750,000 Miracle Mile on Feb 24. • Potentially $50,000 Free-For-All at Alex Park on March 9 or $30,000 Free-For-All at Addington on March 23. • $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington on March 31. Michael Guerin

You may not have seen the best of champion harness racing pacer Lazarus just yet. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon is predicting something special in the $750,000 Miracle Mile. YOU may not have seen the best of champion pacer Lazarus just yet. As breathtaking as his record-breaking Hunter Cup win was at Melton last Saturday night, trainer-driver Mark Purdon is predicting something special in the $750,000 Group 1 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 24. Asked what Lazarus could run for a mile around Menangle, Purdon said: “He’d go a one-minute 46 seconds mile if needed.” Remember, the track and Australasian mile race record is 1min 47.5sec set by Lazarus’ former stablemate Have Faith In Me in the 2016 Miracle Mile. Like every Miracle Mile hopeful, Lazarus will need to qualify for a berth in the race via a qualifying sprint at Menangle on Saturday week. Purdon revealed last Saturday night’s Hunter Cup was both one of his greatest moments in the sport and the defining win so far in Lazarus’ career. “All those Group 1 wins are great victories and he’s had a lot of them, but that one the other night really made a statement,” he said. “It showed everyone he was clearly the best horse going around. “I’ve said for a long time he’s the best I’ve trained.” Lazarus enjoyed a lazy Sunday after his Hunter Cup win then travelled to Sydney on Monday. “One of the great things about him is how well he bounces back from hard runs like that,” Purdon said. “Once he’d settled in here (Sydney on Tuesday), he was really bright and full of himself again. You wouldn’t know he’d had a hard run.” Purdon was also asked about the Menangle factor given Lazarus was beaten into third spot in last year’s Miracle Mile. “It’s not an issue,” he said. “He won the Chariots Of Fire here and when he ran third in that Miracle Mile, he probably wasn’t as good as I’d like to have had him on that night.” Lazarus is trying to become the first pacer since the Miracle Mile started in 1967 to win the sport’s big four — NZ Cup, Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile — in the same season. Reprinted with permission of

The difference between racing’s very good and its greatest was never more evident than in Lazarus’s A$500,000 Hunter Cup victory. The Kiwi pacing machine overcame slight race fitness concerns after his recent soundness scare to crush many of the best Australasia has to offer, becoming New Zealand’s richest ever pacer in the process. But while the victory continues his surge up the leader board of the all-time harness heroes, just a few days earlier what he makes looks so easy was looking anything but. Because on Wednesday his trainer-driver  Mark Purdon was worried after Lazarus smashed in track work by his own stablemate Heaven Rocks, who himself was a brave and luckless third on Saturday night. “I’ll admit on Wednesday I was worried,” said a beaming Purdon, who trains Lazarus with Natalie Rasmussen. “I shouldn’t have been. When it comes to race night Laz knows. He knows what it is about and knows to get serious. “He did all that work and they tell me broke the track record, he is just an incredible horse.” The difference is Heaven Rocks is a very good athlete, Lazarus is a champion racehorse. Even the clock agreed, Lazarus clipping a full second off the track record mile rate, pacing a 1:54.1 rate for the 2760m mobile.  After being forced to miss the West Australia Cup two weeks ago because of his hoof concussion issues, Lazarus lived up to his name and Purdon admits it is one of the most satisfying wins of his Hall of Fame career. But Lazarus still had one jewel in harness racing’s crown to secure, the A$750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle on February 24 to confirm his coronation. He will contest a prelude there on February 17 and Purdon has no concerns about the hoof soreness returning. “He will be fine. He recovered from that pretty quickly so I don’t have any concerns going to Sydney.” After passing Monkey King as our richest pacer he now has his sights on Blacks A Fake’s title as the highest earner in Australasian history. He is still over $1million shy of that target but the indications are he will race on next season rather than going to stud. With the Miracle Mile still to come this month and the Inter Dominions moving back to Victoria next year, meaning Lazarus won’t need to travel to Perth, he could take on  over $4million worth of races next season. If he can maintain his present stunning level, he could retire the richest and maybe even the best the Southern Hemisphere has produced. Still, Menangle and the Mile will present different challenges, it being the race where famously he was beaten fair and square for one of the few times in his career. The beaten drivers behind him produced some stunners on Saturday night and Greg Sugars couldn’t have driven brave runner-up Soho Tribeca any better but like most was left shaking his heads after chasing the wonder horse.  “My horse went great and I was happy enough with my drive but really what can you do against that?” asked Sugars. But trainer Michael Stanley issued a Miracle Mile warning. “We were thrilled with how our horse went and when you are beaten by a horse like that what can you do,” said Stanley. “But the Miracle Mile is our chance. If we can draw inside him (Lazarus) and get to the front I think he is beatable.” We will find out on February 24. Michael Guerin

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