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Harness racing champion Lazarus well and truly cemented his favouritism for the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup by winning the time honoured Ashburton Flying Stakes today. The Ashburton Flying Stakes is an important lead-up to the Cup and it is the second year in succession that Lazarus has won the race, and the fourth year in a row that the winner has come from the Purdon/Rasmussen stable. Today the nuggety son of Bettor's Delight had to sprint his last half in close to 53 seconds to get past his well performed stablemate Dream About Me who had led for the majority of the race, but did it well enough to suggest he will be one of the hottest Cup favourites in recent years when the big race rolls around in November. Dream About Me was game in defeat running second, after leading most of the way and running the winner to a neck at the line, with Heaven Rocks running on into third. Piccadilly Princess ran fourth giving the All Stars Stable the first four in the race. Lazarus ran the 2400m stand in 2-56.2 with the last 800m cut out in 53.7 seconds and the closing 400m in 26.1. He will now head to Kaikoura for the Kaikoura Cup next Monday. Earlier in the day The Dorchester smashed the New Zealand 2400m mobile record after working hard during the race to lead and then running away from his rivals in the straight. The Mitchell Kerr trained colt paced the 2400m mobile in 2-52.5, a mile rate of 1-55.6. The last 800m was run in a slick 55.8 with The Dorchester winning by more than seven lengths at the line. Lazarus winning the Ashburton Flying Stakes.     Harnesslink Media    

Heaven Rocks gets what could be his best chance to beat Lazarus this spring at Ashburton today. But if you want to back him you might be smart to wait until just before start time. The two most talented pacers in the country meet again in the $50,000 Flying Stakes, the traditional best lead-up to the New Zealand Cup on November 14, for which the pair are the stand-out favourites. While they are only having their second starts of their Cup campaign their seasons have already produced drama, with Heaven Rocks suggesting he had closed the gap on Lazarus with two huge workout performances before a shock failure at Addington in a race where Lazarus's manners won their comeback clash.   That night Heaven Rocks's Cup campaign looked to be in jeopardy as he pulled up sore but he was good as gold a day later, his trainers convinced the giant was being a pussycat after a greasy heel problem. Since then he has easily beaten Lazarus in a private workout at Ashburton last Tuesday, reaffirming he has the motor to match the champ if not the manners. Lazarus is almost the complete pacer, with great manners, huge stamina and enough speed to have beaten Heaven Rocks both times they have clashed in a race. Trainer Mark Purdon still believes the five-year-old is working his way back to peak fitness so could be vulnerable to the absolute best version of Heaven Rocks today and that is where the Ashburton track could help the latter. With its sweeping bends and long straights Ashburton is the perfect confidence-boosting track for a horse with Heaven Rocks' issues and he won his only start here in stunning fashion in the Jewels. It is impossible to make a case he is a better horse than Lazarus so whether you want to back him to finally beat him today comes down to price. At anything close to $4 Heaven Rocks might be worth the risk but he was $2.70 fixed odds with the TAB bookies last night. But the Australian TAB had him a lot longer at $3.40 as he has never raced there whereas Lazarus has a number of Aussie group one wins to his name. So that name recognition plus the general distrust for Heaven Rocks could see him drift out to close to $4 on the tote by race start time, especially as the tote pool is co-mingled with Australia where Lazarus will attract most of the money. Odds aside though, Lazarus should probably be able to work to the lead, particularly in a race where several of his stablemates are underdone, and then even if he hands up the pacemaking role to Heaven Rocks he would still be favoured to come off his back and beat him. Today's main trot sees the return of millionaire trotter Stent, who hasn't raced for 21 months but gets the perfect comeback ace draw in the Flying Mile. It is a huge ask to expect him to win after such a long break. But with Monbet sidelined the open class trotters are a mixed bunch so nothing would surprise in today's sprint. Michael Guerin

Top harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, appear to hold all the cards in tonights NRM Sires Stakes Heat 3 at Addington Raceway. The powerful All Stars stable have a team of four horses entered for the $22,000 heat tonight and all are good chances in what will be a hotly contested race. Unbeaten Auckland Reactor gelding "Chase Auckland" is currently the TAB fixed odds favourite at $1.90 . TAB bookmaker Stephen Richardson said "We took a bet of $2000 to win on him just after the market opened last night and he might close shorter than what he is at now." Chase Auckland will be driven again by Natalie Rasmussen, who said on the All Stars website, "The Sires Stakes heat on Friday is going to be a fascinating race and not just for the public. It will also be a major guide to us because there are a couple of questions we are looking forward to finding the answers to as well." "Chase Auckland is my drive but this is is big test. It is one thing to be dealing to maiden and one win fields and another to line up against horses like in this field. He has the draw and I guess I would be using that otherwise I could end up locked up on the pegs but there will be quite a bit of movement in the race I would say." The two win, unbeaten pacer has drawn handily in barrier two tonight, which will aid his chances in getting a handy spot early, with second favourite Spankem drawn to follow him through from the second line. Spankem ($3.70) and The Devils Own ($4.20) both performed well in the 2yo Sires Stakes heats and final earlier in the year and are worthy second and third favourites. The Devils Own ran a meritorious second behind Pats Delight two weeks ago at Addington in the second Sires Stakes Heat and will again be driven by stable driver Tim Williams. Mark Purdon will take the reins on Spankem, who looks ready to run a big race, after a good third at the trials last week behind the Cran Dalgety trained Bonnie Joan. All U Need Is Faith is the fourth runner from the stable and is fresh up from a win two weeks ago. He can not be discounted either. as he was not far behind The Devils Own and Spankem in the 2yo Sires Stakes series last year and looks to be a better horse this season. Add in the Robert Dunn trained Alta Maestro, plus Aloka and a host of other top form horses and you get an intriguing race, full of quality and one of the best 3yo fields you could hope to see anywhere in the country.    Harnesslink Media

Harness racing pacer Heaven Rocks was back in winning form at todays Ashburton workouts.  Heaven Rocks cruised to victory in a two horse race and showed no ill effects of the heel complaint that threatened to curtail his season two weeks ago. Lazarus and Heaven Rocks were assisted by a galloping pacemaker in todays workout, running a time of 2-58 for the 2400m. Heaven Rocks sped over his last 800m in 55.9 and the final 400m in a sizzling 25.5 seconds. Both horses are nominated for the Ashburton Flying Stakes, which might end up being a contest between six Purdon/Rassmussen trained runners, according to todays workout commentator Bruce Taylor.  Bruce said, "although six runners have nominated for the race there were question marks over both Classie Brigade and Robbie Burns starting". "Mark and Natalie have ended up nominating both Waikiki Beach and Picadilly Princess just so the race will get off the ground." he said. Have Faith In Me and Dream About Me are also among the nominations for Monday's race. Late News: Northern pacer No Doctor Needed has now also nominated for the Flying Stakes bringing the nominations up to nine.   The last 600m of the todays workout. Harnesslink Media  

Twelve-time New Zealand training premiership winner Mark Purdon wasted no time getting to his 2000th winner tonight at Addington. In what was his first drive of the night he produced his customary magical drive to win on Bettor Trix, a horse he co-trains with Natalie Rasmussen at their All Stars Stable in Rolleston. Purdon became the third trainer to reach the 2000 winners club, joining his father Roy (2020 wins) and brother Barry (2414 wins) as the only other New Zealand trainers to pass the milestone. Bettor Trix (Bettor's Delight - Tricky Woman) showed she would be a threat in the major fillies races later in the season, by winning her race easily and beating a good field in quick time. The speedy filly ran the 1950m mobile in a fast 1-56.6 mile rate with a closing 800m in 57.2 and 400m in 28.7 seconds. Later in the night the Purdon/Rasmussen combination grabbed a quinella, when Tennyson Bromac beat the All Stars stablemate Ohanzee by a short margin, in a strong maiden race.  Natalie Rasmussen was the winning driver on this occasion, with Mark having to settle for second, driving Ohanzee.  Tennyson Bromac and Ohanzee were having their first start at the races, with the winner rating 1-58 for the 1950m mobile. Tennyson Bromac cut out his last 800m off the front in 56.3 with a closing 400m in 27.9 seconds.   Mark Purdon driving Bettor Trix to his 2000th training win. Harnesslink Media

It may be one of the toughest milestones to achieve in New Zealand racing but for Mark Purdon win 2000 will be a family affair. Purdon goes into tonight’s Addington meeting on 1999 domestic wins as a trainer, many on his own, some in partnership like the one he currently shares with Natalie Rasmussen. When he reaches the 2000 New Zealand wins --- and so many more in Australia --- he will join his father Roy and brother Barry as the only other trainers to do it. Harness racing company doesn’t come any more elite. “Like most milestones it is not something you think about because we go about our business and it will come when it comes,” says Purdon. “But to join Dad and Barry in that club will mean a lot. That is something I will be proud of. “It is not just about me though. So many people have to help along the way to get to this many wins. Owners, staff and of course the people I have trained with. “So I’d like it to come this week but if not at Addington we have horses in at Alexandra Park and Methven too.” The All Stars has four lower grade horses in tonight and usually they would dominate their markets but that is only half true tonight. In race two they have Major Hippie as the $2 fixed odds favourite and Bettor Trix, who won impressively on debut but they meet a sharp three-year-old in Cole Porter. “Major Hippie would probably be our better chance in that race as he trialled well recently and came his last 800m in 55 seconds,” says Purdon. “But he is no good thing because he might actually be better driven in behind, not that he gives you a choice some times.” The All Stars have two maidens in race four in Tennyson Bromac and Ohanzee and usually that would have the bookies petrified but tonight they find themselves on the third line of betting.  That is because they are up against the Gavin Smith-trained Bright Diamond, who was one of the better juveniles in the country last season, just behind the absolute stars at group one level.  He was fourth in the Jewels and trialled up well recently and also has the draw advantage while the depth in the race doesn’t end there.  Henry Hubert from the Dunn team has only had one start, for a second at Addington to subsequent Jewels winner Ashley Locaz and looked very forward at the workouts here recently so the All Stars pair have their work cut out. “Our two will probably improve with the run but I’d opt for Tennyson Bromac as the better chance of the two.” The All Stars also has six horses in the north, with Cash N Flow and Thefixer to race at Alexandra Park on Friday night while Dream About Me headlines a strong four-horse team for Methven on Sunday, suggesting Mark will be in the family 2000 club before the weekend is over. Michael Guerin

Back New Zealands best pacer Lazarus at your own peril in his $50,000 comeback race at Addington tonight. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon is adamant stablemate Heaven Rocks is a better chance in the 2600m stand and his clear best hope in a race where he has four of the five starters. Lazarus would usually deserve to be favourite in any race he lines up in. After all, he won the New Zealand Cup by 10 lengths last season and easily beat Heaven Rocks the only time they met on race night in March. But champion trainer Purdon warns punters Lazarus is only in tonights race because otherwise it would not have got off the ground.   Initially, I only nominated Heaven Rocks and Have Faith In Me and I was going to trial Lazarus and Dream About Me again, explains Purdon. But when the race only got three entries I had to put the other two in otherwise it would have been scrapped. Laz being Laz he will go great and the race wont hurt him but being a five-year-old stallion he has taken a little longer to come up, whereas Heaven Rocks is right in the zone. Heaven Rockss manners seem good too and while you can never be sure, we are going into the race expecting him to be too fit for Lazarus at this stage. Anything can happen in racing but I think it is important punters know this race wasnt initially going to be on Lazs programme and he might need a run or two before he is back to his best. Heaven Rocks opened the favourite for tonights next step on the path to the New Zealand Cup because he easily accounted for Lazarus in a Rangiora trial last week and looks far more advanced, being an athletic gelding.   Michael Guerin

Top Canterbury harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have been forced to add Dream About Me and Lazarus to the Inkwise Canterbury Classic field on Friday night just to get the race off the ground.  Mark Purdon said on the stable website, " It is not ideal but I have been quite happy with Dream About Me. Lazarus I wanted to be as forward as could be in terms of race fitness before he went racing but with only three nominations we want the race to go ahead. It is disappointing but that is the reality of the situation". The field for the 2600m standing start Inkwise Canterbury Classic is:   Book Form   Name Rating Draw Hdcp Trainer 1 6111X3   Dream About Me R129 1 Front M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 2 20X1X3   Seel The Deal R109 2 Front G P & Mrs N M Hope 3 31111X   Lazarus R130 3 Front M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 4 12111X   Heaven Rocks R125 U1 Front M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 5 2623X1   Have Faith In Me R125 U2 Front M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen Also on Friday night, the first Sires Stakes heat at Addington has drawn a top field, including unbeaten Auckland Reactor three year old Chase Auckland. Chase Auckland has looked like a potential top-liner in his first two wins, beating strong fields and running quick sectionals. The field on Friday will be his biggest test to date, with several classy two year olds from last season entered for the race. Wilma's Mate, Great Things Happen and Bordeax are all having their first start back at the races this season in the Yaldhurst Hotel Canterbury Trotting Cup. All four classy trotters have the $300,000 Dominion Handicap in November as their major target. _________________________________________________________________________________________ Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing and Alta Maestro head a strong field at Cambridge in the first Northern Sires Stakes heat. Robert Dunn has labelled Alta Maestro one of the fastest horses he has trained, and the plan is to head South after the qualifying heat.   Harnesslink Media  

Classy harness racing trotter Stent was back at the workouts yesterday after almost 2 years away from the race track with an injury. Racing against the maiden pacers, Stent ran home ok without being pushed too hard by driver Colin DeFilippi. Stent broke 58 seconds for his last 800m with the race being won by the Terry Chmiel trained Nota Bene Denario. _________________________________ Top harness racing mare Dream About me has been scratched from the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru this Sunday. Trainer Mark Purdon said "It is nothing too serious, but she was a bit lame on one foot yesterday and our blacksmith said she will need a few days to recover". _________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Ex kiwi pacer Christen Me won the overnight feature, a $17,500 Open event on Monday at Harrington Raceway. Christen Me rated 1-53.4 for his win. Another ex-kiwi pacer Bit Of A Legend also won the same night for trainer Peter Tritton. The 8-year-old Bettor's Delight stallion led and never had an anxious moment in his seventh win of the year and 40th of his career. It was a bit of a homecoming for Tritton, who was stabled at Harrington Raceway for nearly a decade before moving to the New York circuit in 2015. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Junior Driver Todd Quate has been suspended for failing to take reasonable and permissible measures to ensure a horse he was driving was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing position. The suspension relates to his drive on Four Starzzz Shiraz at Rangiora on the 23rd July 2017. Quate was suspended for 10 meetings meaning he will be out until after the Methven meeting on Sunday 15 October.   Harnesslink Media  

For many harness racing punters the open class season starts today. Because while only a tiny crowd will be at the Rangiora trials they are more than likely going to see the New Zealand Cup winner. Pacing has already had two open class races at Addington this season, both won by genuine Cup contenders in Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner. After all, the former is an Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner and the latter a placegetter in last season’s NZ Cup. And Dream About Me was excellent in her return when third to that pair last Saturday and will head to the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday. Add to that the hugely-improved form of Better B Amazed in the north and her stablemate No Doctor Needed ticking over nicely and the elite level pacers have already had some highlights, with another Cup contender Jack’s Legend returning at the Pukekohe trials yesterday. But everything changes when Lazarus and Heaven Rocks make their first public outings for the season at today’s trials. If the usual Purdon-Rasmussen modus operandi is adopted the glamour boys won’t be asked for anything like their best and, depending on the weather and track conditions, a steady early tempo and a last 800m in 56 second will probably be enough of a kick-off point. But the pair so completely dominate the market for the Cup on November 14 that every aspect of their trials and workouts and then eventual lead-up races will be scrutinized. Case in point --- 11 days ago Heaven Rocks easily beat Lazarus in a private workout at home because he half bolted after striking his sulky with his hind legs. Word soon got out and what could have been a meaningless margin saw Heaven Rocks shorten as much as a full dollar into $2.40 to win the NZ Cup with some Australian bookies. After his incredible season last term and a 10-length Cup victory in race record time Lazarus deserves to be favourite to defend his title until Heaven Rocks can beat him fair and square in a race, maybe two. But punters aren’t known for their patience and as a two-time Jewels winner and Easter Cup hero, Heaven Rocks already has an army of supporters, even though he has burned them on occasions. Trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors with Lazarus having had the manners advantage in the past but Heaven Rocks has grown up mentally in training this season. Lazarus likes to run near the pace and usually relaxes when he does, whereas Heaven Rocks often last season near bolted in his races, which can make for some spectacular viewing. If that continues today and on the road to the Cup he may look more advanced or, remarkably, even a superior horse to Lazarus, who will probably allow Purdon to be as conservative as he wants on him. But the irony is Heaven Rocks’s best chance of winning the New Zealand Cup is being more sedate, tractable and trialing like a lamb, which would see the market swing the other way. Today is only a trial, the first steps on a long road. But as it often the case with heavyweights, every blow is going to be heard. Michael Guerin

There is quiet confidence about Have Faith In Me’s return at Addington tomorrow. Quiet because after winning once in his last 10 starts and burning punters many times along the way, any confidence in the former pacing superstar comes in measured doses. “We are happy with him and think he can go very close this week,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon. Purdon doesn’t get carried away at the best of times but his reluctance to declare Have Faith In Me a great bet in the Avon City Ford Cup at tomorrow’s rare Saturday afternoon Addington meeting is understandable. This time last year Have Faith In Me was the reigning Miracle Mile and Auckland Cup champion and favourite for the New Zealand Cup as well as being openly rated by Purdon one of the best pacers in the world. While the wheels didn’t completely fall off, they went pretty flat and mystery problems, best diagnosed as a kidney complaint, mean we haven’t seen the best of Have Faith In Me in 18 months. Tomorrow looks close to a perfect chance to put his career back on track --- Purdon is adamant he is fitter and therefore a better chance than stablemate Dream About Me so the only real threat to him should be Titan Banner. “Titan Banner has a race start under his belt so he is the danger but Dream About Me I think will take a run or two to get back to her best. “But Nat (Rasmussen) has been doing a lot of the work with Have Faith In Me and she says he is in a really good space “And he seems nice and relaxed so his manners shouldn’t be a big issue hopefully.” With Purdon’s assessment of Dream About Me, who is a bigger, rounder horse than Have Faith In Me, the latter would be a near certainty at his best form but his standing start manners are far from faultless and even the all-conquering All Stars are vulnerable fresh up. Best example: in this very race last year both Lazarus and Have Faith In Me were beaten by Franco Nelson and a battling Christen Me. So it comes down to price. At $3 Have Faith In Me is worth the manners and fitness risk but anything at $2.50 or below becomes too short in a race where Titan Banner has a few advantages. The open class stars aside, Purdon tips debutant Chase Auckland as very hard to beat in race four tomorrow. “We took 21 horses to Addington for private workouts on Wednesday and he was one we were very happy with,” he told the Herald. Three other open class contenders return at Alexandra Park tonight, with Better B Amazed the possible favourite for race eight even though she isn’t off to the NZ Cup like race rivals No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind. While Bettor Be Amazed was comprehensive beating the other two last time they clashed with tonight’s race being 1700m mobile field position could be crucial and it wouldn’t surprise to see significant improvement from Hug The Wind. Michael Guerin

The nightmare for rival harness racing trainers is becoming a reality --- pacing giant Heaven Rocks is growing up. And the early market for the New Zealand Trotting Cup is starting to reflect it. The dual Harness Jewels winner has moved into $3.60 second favouritism for New Zealand’s greatest harness race at Addington on November 14, with defending champion and stablemate Lazarus drifting slightly to $2.20. The pair have only clashed once, when Lazarus was too professional for Heaven Rocks in a free-for-all at Addington last season but the latter has produced so many freakish performances trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors. But Heaven Rocks has always had manners issues on raceday, from missing away to pulling hard and hanging he is rarely a comfortable watch for his supporters. Purdon though is cautiously optimistic those days may be behind the five-year-old mammoth. “He seems like he has improved a lot this time in and I think he has grown up,” said Purdon. “Nat (Rasmussen, co-trainer) has been doing a lot of the work with him since we got back from Canada and he hasn’t done a thing wrong. “Usually he has been that way at home and sometimes a bit tricky at the races but I think you might see a better horse this season.” While stablemates and fellow NZ Cup contenders Have Faith In Me and Dream About Me trial again today and will race at Addington next week, Lazarus and Heaven Rocks could trial as early as next week before racing the last week of September of  early October. Because of his impeccable manners and 10-length demolition job last season Lazarus deserves Cup favouritism until Heaven Rocks beats him fair and square but you get the feeling Purdon wouldn’t be stunned if that happened this season. Lazarus is not only the New Zealand Cup favourite but also top pick for the A$1.1 Inter Dominion in Perth in December after key rival Hectorjayjay was ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tear. But unless Heaven Rocks did something special at Cup time and Lazarus hit a snag, Heaven Rocks won’t be heading to the Inters. “I think that style of racing might undo some of the good work we have done with him so he will almost certainly stay here for the Auckland Cup and his big Aussie aim will be the Miracle Mile,” says Purdon.  Last season’s best three-year-old Vincent will also be set for the Auckland Cup, dodging the New Zealand Cup before heading into age group races like the Chariots of Fire in the second half of the season.  At this stage Purdon doesn’t plan to have a rep in the Victoria Cup in its new October 14 time slot. Heaven Rocks last start in 1:51.8 Michael Guerin

Former American trotter Aldabaran Eagle easily won his public debut appearance at the Rangiora harness racing trials today.  Trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston, the impressive looking son of Muscle Hill comfortably accounted for a tidy field of trotters in todays race including Group one winner Eyre I Come and eight race winner Belles Son.  Aldabaran Eagle (Muscle Hill - Letsjustalkaboutme) began well from his 40m handicap in todays trial and driver Mark Purdon got a drag up to the leaders with 900m to go. The acceleration was immediate when Mark hooked out on the turn and he reeled them in easily to win by more than a length at the line. Last 800m of the Aldabaran Eagle trial Later in the day the All Stars Stable pairing of Have Faith in Me and Dream About Me were narrowly upset by the Gavin Smith trained Imola.  Imola blasted to the lead early for driver Gavin Smith and then handed up to Have Faith In Me with 1800m left to go. In the home straight Imola managed to outsprint the Purdon/Rasmussen pair and get up to win by a neck in a quickly run race. Have Faith in Me and Dream About Me who are both embarking on New Zealand Cup campaigns, were not disgraced in todays trial. Imola paced the 2600m stand in a fast 3-19.7 with closing sectionals of 58.0 and 27.8, meaning the Purdon/Rasmussen pair went condsiderably quicker from their 40m handicaps. Imola upsetting the All Stars pair Earlier another All Stars runner Renske B looked ready for her upcoming races after rating a 1:58.9 MR for the 2000m mobile. Renske B was driven by Mark Purdon and led all the way winning untouched with closing splits of 57.2 and 29.4 Harnesslink Media

Harness racing super star Auckland Reactor sired another qualifier today and this one looks well above average.  Raced by the Alabar Racing Syndicate, Chase Auckland is an exciting Auckland Reactor 3yo trained by top trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at their Rolleston All Stars Stable. Today in what was his second outing to the Rangiora track, Chase Auckland never left second gear for driver Natalie Rasmussen who took the the speedy colt to the front with 1400m to go.  Chase Auckland won untouched by more than three lengths from stable mate Bettor Trix and he qualified four seconds under the qualifying time of 2-36.2 for the 2000m. His overall winning time was 2-32.2 and he coasted over his last 800m in a quicker 57.8 with a closing 400m in 28.2. Chase Auckland winning his trial today. Harnesslink Media

The fightback begins today for former pacing hero turned mystery mess Have Faith In Me. But trainer Mark Purdon admits he doesn’t totally understand what he is fighting. The now six-year-old pacer was rated one of the best in the world this time last season and opened as last year’s New Zealand Cup favourite, fair enough too as he was the Auckland Cup winner and the fastest ever Miracle Mile winner. But while stablemate Lazarus produced the near perfect season, Have Faith In Me only showed rare glimpses of anything approaching his best and became the punter’s enemy. The wayward tendencies he was supposed to grow out of got worse and it took extensive testing before a kidney complaint was the best the vets could pinpoint as the source of his problems. Whatever it was, or still is, it has seen Have Faith In Me careen down the pecking order of our best horses as he returns to the public domain at the Rangiora trials today. Purdon, just back from a luckless but enjoyable World Drivers Champs in Canada, is quietly hopeful whatever ailed Have Faith In Me won’t be as big an issue this season. “He seems good so far, but then again he did at this stage last season too,” says the training phenomenon. “He has had a decent spell, seems sound and happy and it is a case of treating him like there is nothing wrong with him any more until we find a reason to change our minds.” Have Faith In Me will be joined at today’s trials by fellow Auckland Cup winner stablemate Dream About Me, whose season was also curtailed by health issues but not before she suggested she is a very special mare.  “She looks big and round but we are very happy with her and because these two had earlier spells than the other top horses they will race sooner. “They are likely to kick off at Addington in two weeks.”The stable’s two New Zealand Cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks are a month away from the races, with Purdon saying Lazarus has put on muscle without getting any taller.  “I am very happy with him and while the others are very good, he is still clearly the one to beat for me.  “I think Heaven Rocks has as much ability but he doesn’t have the same manners and that could be crucial while Have Faith In Me would have to return right back to his Miracle Mile best of last year to get back to Laz’s level.” The quartet give the All Stars a unheard of dominance of the New Zealand Cup market, with Titan Banner still a chance to rejoin them from usual trainer Graeme Anderson, although he is set to race at Addington on Friday night in Anderson’s name.  “I haven’t heard exactly what they are planning to do with him so am not sure whether we are getting him back,” says Purdon of last season’s NZ Cup third placegetter. Also on show at the trials today will be former US trotter Aldebaran Eagle, good enough to trot 1:52 in North America. “He obviously has real talent but has had a few issues along the way. He will be up to the good trotters here at his best. Whether he is at Monbet’s level we will have to wait and see.”  While Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen’s early season focus will as usual be on the Cup meeting at Addington, the odds are shortening on Lazarus heading to Perth for the Inter Dominions shortly after the Addington carnival. “We have nominated both Laz and Have Faith In Me and the intention is to take Lazarus so he will be going unless there is a problem along the way.” Michael Guerin

The adage "you can't pick them up and carry them" was reinforced for Mark Purdon at Century Downs , Calgary, on Sunday (our time). His drives from the inside gates  tended not to have the pace to hold a position and the ones who didn't couldn't sustain into the straight. VIOLA his first drive drifted early, got on the train with a round to go but couldn't sprint with them at the top of the straight battling on well into fifth and it didn't improve much from there and got worse at the end.   As Natalie noted, the backstretch gossip was that Mark's drives were not win material. The North Americans dominated round one but it is likely the Australasians, Shane Graham, Dexter and Mark will be a bigger threat from now on. There is still a long way to go. Leg Two (Starting today 11:54am NZ time) Vic's Regal Lady (2)  5 year old Angus Hall mare which has won over $C90,000 lifetime. She is listed at 10/1 on the early market and 5th favourite. This is a little drop in class for her/ On Golden Pond (1) Has won over $C200,000 life time but not very impressive so far this year. Dexter's drive, Bugger Bruiser outside him is 3/1 fave. It has been running in stronger races. On Golden Pond at 10/1 is equal l4th favourite. Miss Coco Luck (11) is probably Mark's best chance drawn on the inside of the second line. Listed at 9-2  second favourite. Camluck mare dropping class and has won over $C300,000. Follows out one of the warmer favourites and rates Neils Golden Girl (9) 7 yo trotter by Majestic Sun. Listed at 12-1 and probably 6th favourite. Has trotted 1.53.4 though recent form is not the best   Leg Three Georgia Downs (Starting tomorrow 12:55pm NZ Time) Megasportstar (4)  15-1 second outsider Don't Tell Terry (8)  20-1  outsider Chestnut Schofield (5) Trotter   7-1 5th favourite Sportsillustraor (7)   second favourite at 4-1 Oakley Uptown T (10)  15-1   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of All Stars Stable

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