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In form pacer Turn It Up has captured the Gr.2 $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight. After being driven hard out of the gate early by co-trainer Mark Purdon, the classy Courage Under Fire gelding had to settle for the trail as Tony Herlihy and Star Galleria were intent on leading in the early war in the race. Turning for home Turn It Up soon had the measure of Star Galleria and he cruised to the line to win by three quarters of a length in 1-54.5. Star Galleria fought gamely for second and Ashley Locaz battled on well for third after sitting parked for the trip. New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer could not make any impression on the leaders after settling last in the seven horse field. Turn It Up will now be aimed at the rich Gr1 Waste Management Taylor mile at Alexandra Park on April 26 and also the Gr1 Messenger on 3rd May. Earlier in the night Temporale led all the way in the Cambridge Trotting Stakes for trainer/driver Tony Herlihy. Speeding Spur got closest to the winner after trailing but was still a neck away at the line.  Temporale trotted the mobile mile in 1-58.5 with a final 800m in 59.0 seconds. Temporale winning the mile   Harnesslink media  

Auckland Reactor gelding Chase Auckland ran a close second to the New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer at the Auckland Trotting Club workouts run at Pukekohe today. In what was his second public appearance after an injury layoff, Chase Auckland ran a narrow second to Thefixer after moving up to sit parked outside him for the last lap.  Chase Auckland was timed to run his last 800m in around 58seconds and the final 400m in a tick under 27 seconds.   "I was really pleased with his run. He is such a beautiful pacer," said trainer Mark Purdon.   "I want to look at possibly giving him another trial during next week if needed and then it will be off on the plane to Australia."   Harnesslink Media  

Boom pacer Turn It Up only solidified his place as the most exciting pacer in the southern hemisphere following his clinical yet dominant victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Monday). Facing the starter for only the 9th time in his career, the Courage Under Fire gelding was confidently backed to win the 3200m stand-start feature and safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz to claim his maiden feature. But it looks the first of many more to come. And he’s another star off the production line of All Stars – Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The victory provided the Purdon family with their 15th Auckland Cup, the premier pacing event in the North Island. It’s also the fourth straight success for the All Stars following on from Vincent, Dream About Me and Have Faith In Me in the previous years. Overall, Mark Purdon has been directly involved with seven (7) Cup winners – Turn It Up, Vincent, Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus plus his inaugural winner Sharp And Telford. The All Stars stable had the bulk of the runners in this year’s version with five runners engaged in the 12 horse field, they managed to finish 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th plus a failed to finish. But the focus is clearly on the winner; the four-year-old oozes class coupled with great staying prowess and looks a certain future star of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. A last start winner of the Franklin Cup, Purdon got him away safely and made his early move to find the lead with approximately 2400m left to run while Dream About Me sat behind him followed by Jacks Legend. The lead time was covered in 2:04.5. Star Galleria made an early move and raced outside Turn It Up with 1400m left to run before he gained cover on the back of Ashley Locaz as the field swung into the home straight to reach the judge and the bell. The first half of the final mile was posted in 31.5 and 32.6 seconds. Those sectionals spelt disaster for his rivals and Purdon allowed him to stride freely down the back straight while his rivals attempted to make a race of it with him. The third split was timed in 28.2 seconds. In the straight, Turn It Up safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz who chased determinedly. The final section was covered in a spine tingling 26.1 seconds. And the winning time was 4:03.0 – a mile rate of 2:02.1 – well outside of the race record held by Dream About Me (2016) at 3:55.4. “He’s an exciting horse and we’ve always held him in high regard, I was confident he would handle this way of going and he hasn’t disappointed.” Mark Purdon said. When assessing the achievement of Turn It Up, Mainland Banner quickly springs to mind when she won the 2005 New Zealand Cup at her 12th race start….it’s truly extraordinary! Looking ahead, connections have so many options to consider including the upcoming Victorian summer carnival features, Chariots of Fire, Taylor Mile & Messenger in Auckland, Jewels and the Vicbred series among others. The next leg of the 2018/19 APG Grand Circuit heads to Perth for the running of the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 18. Chris Barsby

Two legends of New Zealand racing shared a remarkable Auckland Trotting Cup victory with Turn It Up at Alexandra Park last night. But sadly only one of them was there to see it. Turn It Up did what no pacer had ever done before, winning Auckland’s richest harness race at just his ninth start. Still just a baby he led almost throughout for champion trainer-driver Mark Purdon and unleashed a 54.3 second last 800m to beat a brave Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz, leaving harness insiders wondering just how far Turn It Up can go. But with every step he takes on that path there will be an air of sadness as one of the men who he was purchased for as a yearling won’t be there to enjoy it. His former co-owner Neil Pilcher was one of the best known and popular owners in New Zealand racing, having shook the hands of probably half the horsepeople in the country during his decades transporting horses. He was a major owner for the All Stars Stable until he passed away just a few months ago before he could see Turn It Up win what would have been the first Auckland Cup for the man affectionately known as Pilch. “Neil loved the stock of Courage Under Fire and this was the one we bought that particular year for him so obviously we are sad he is not here to enjoy it,” said Purdon. Pilcher’s brother Lee has taken a small share to keep the family connection there but one of the other owners of Turn It Up might have created a unique piece of New Zealand racing history all of his own last night. Jim Gibbs is a thoroughbred training Hall of Famer and universally respected after a wonderful career as a galloping trainer and has now owned an Auckland Cup winning pacer 30 years after training Spyglass to win the thoroughbred racing equivalent.  I won an Auckland Cup with her and was beaten a narrow margin a couple of times but this is a lot of fun,” said Gibbs, whose wife Ann also shares in the ownership of Turn It Up. Joining them in the winner’s circle was Gibbs’s son Chris, who five days earlier co-trained Danzdanzdance to win the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie, continuing the impressive family doubles. While Turn It Up’s win was expected the shock of the night came in the group one National Trot when Massive Metro outsprinted hot favourite Marcoola up the passing lane. He was beautifully handled by Todd Mitchell to give trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett one of the most satisfying wins of their careers. “This means a lot to me because this horse’s dam, Paris Metro, gave me my first group in this race 14 years ago,” said Wallis. Marcoola did himself no favours galloping in the score up but driver Clint Ford was making no excuses. He would have settled back anyway and didn’t lose that much so we were beaten by the better horse on the night.” There were no such dramas with Ultimate Sniper as he led throughout to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace while Belle Of Montana divebombed Wainui Creek in the last stride to win the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championships. Earlier in the day favourite punters were left with a black eye and then a bleeding nose when first $1.10 chance Smooth Deal galloped and tailed off in the two-year-old race while Oscar Bonevena was a costly failure after an early gallop in race three.   Michael Guerin

Harness racing superstar Chase Auckland has arrived in Auckland for a short two week stopover before making his way to Australia for some rich pickings at Menangle during February.   The Auckland Reactor gelding will leave New Zealand shores on the first available flight after January 11th and will be stabled at Luke McCarthy's property close to the Menangle track.   The challenge for trainer Mark Purdon is finding suitable trials for Chase around Auckland prior to the 11th so Mark is instead looking at the option of trials and a 'soft' lead up race or races in Australia prior to his first big race on February 2nd in the $50,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes.    "I don't want to hurt him first up and it will be better to have him settle in over there and possibly have a couple of trials and a soft race or races before February 2nd,"    "He seems well and worked nicely at home on Saturday."   Chase Auckland 'pulling' Michelle along keen to get to his new paddock in Auckland.   Other feature 4yo races on the radar for Chase Auckland at Menangle are the $50,000 Paleface Adios Sprint on the 9th February and also the $200,000 Chariots of Fire a week later on February 16th.   Safely through those races the one million dollar Miracle Mile is also a possibility for the classy four year old.     Harnesslink Media

There’s a certain something with the name Purdon and the Auckland Cup. The famed North Island feature was first staged back in 1890 when Commodore proved triumphant and since then, so many great champions have won the event. Names like Cardigan Bay, Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Master Musician, Christian Cullen, Monkey King, Im Themightyquinn and Terror To Love  have all proved victorious while many more have all etched their name into the record books. But it’s the name Purdon that is synonymous with the Alexandra Park feature. Whether it is Roy, Barry or Mark – they have all made the race their own! Their haul of winners includes Sole Command, Comedy Lad, Luxury Liner (x 2), Christopher Vance, Chokin (x 2), Sharp And Telford, Holmes DG, Young Rufus and Auckland Reactor. And more recently, they have won it with Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me and Vincent. What’s even more remarkable, the Purdon name has contested the Auckland Cup every year since 1985. Most times with multiple entries. And the 2018 edition is no different. Again, the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup will be staged over the 3200m and the Purdon stables have 8 of the 12 runners. The All Stars (Mark & Natalie Rasmussen) have 5 entrants while Barry has three runners engaged. Sporting the blue and silver livery is classy four-year-old’s All U Need Is Faith, Turn It Up, Sicario and Ashley Locaz while 2016 winner Dream About Me also represents the powerful stable. Mark Purdon All five pacers are racing in super form headlined by millionaire mare Dream About Me and emerging superstar Turn It Up, a last start winner of the Franklin Cup. Big brother Barry has Raptors Flight, Jacks Legend and Mach Shard lining up. Jacks Legend finished 6th behind Vincent last year. Astute mentor Steve Reid has a pair of challengers with the highly regarded Star Galleria and Utmost Delight both engaged. Dream About Me and Utmost Delight are the only mares tackling the famed feature this year. Veteran performer Lets Elope is starting in the Cup for the second time after finishing 5th behind Terror To Love back in 2014. After spending several seasons in Australia, the Real Desire gelding has recently returned to original trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins. Promising four-year-old Triple Eight takes his place for trainer Steve Telfer but faces his biggest challenge to date. Six of the 12 runners are four-year-olds. As it stands, Sydney based pacer Tiger Tara is a clear leader in the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit and while connections have elected to bypass this feature, maximum points are up for grabs which will be crucial as the series hits the halfway mark. Chris Barsby

You don’t often see Tim Williams completely lost for words but after Cheerful’s ignominious display when she resumed at Addington last week was a time when it was pretty close. Cheerful is known for having ability but one thing she has never done according to Tim is to gallop. In a race or at home. But last week as an odds on favourite she did just that and more than once. It was “all over red rover” in no time so punters are entitled to be a little wary at Addington tomorrow when she sets out to put the record straight. “She never breaks” was Tim’s stunned reaction last week and he still feels the same way about her reliability. “I had a talk to Mark about it. He thought she might just have been a touch fresh and to just put it behind us rather than take any drastic measures. You often find too that a horse so well gaited like that often gets a bigger shock than you do when it goes wrong on raceday and finds it that much harder to recover” So nothing has been changed for this week. And nobody is thinking that it might happen again even though punters may have their suspicions. Cheerful, who is raced by Braeden and Caroline Whitelock who are expecting news on the progress of Princess Tiffany which they co-own, certainly wouldn’t mind a lift in the luck department, especially after Kayla Marie also met trouble last week. She is also out to atone on Friday. Encouraging in a way is that One Over Da Stars who is the likely favourite is far more unpredictable than Cheerful and has been disqualified in its last two after outstanding performances. There are some other useful trotters in the field but Cheerful doing things right should put a smile on your face. The other southern stable runner on show this weekend is FUNATTHEBEACH in the Ashburton Cup on Sunday, Whatever you judge his chances on don’t make it his last race at Addington. The stable was quietly confident of a big run based on his work but the result looks dismal as he finished last. Looks can be deceiving. Tim makes a strong case for the defense. “The thing was they ran home in 55. Going into that half he was a few lengths off them and then he had to improve wide to try and get into the race in the straight. Then they closed in 26 for the 400m so it was no surprise that he felt the pinch in the last 100. His work had been very good leading into that race it just didn’t work out for him” However Tim did have one reservation about Sunday’s race. The weather. “He is down to have a good hitout tomorrow (Friday) but it is looking doubtful at the moment. The track at home is slushy with the rain and the challenge will be getting on it for fast work” As it was the stable had to hopple Thefixer at home midweek because the surface was not much better at Rangiora for the trials from which he was withdrawn. Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

The connections of last season’s champion juvenile pacing filly Princess Tiffany are leaving no stone unturned to try and get to the bottom of her underwhelming start to the season.  Unbeaten last season when she won the Jewels and Breeders Crown, Princess Tiffany has finished third and fourth at Alexandra Park the last two Fridays, costing punters a fortune and confusing her trainers.  So she has been sent to Matamata’s Veterinary Services clinic for scintigraphy, a process in which dye is injected into a horse before scanning to pinpoint areas of possible soreness.  While it used to be relatively rarely used on racehorses it has become more commonplace and the All Stars, who train Princess Tiffany, will sometimes send their horses for the scanning process at the end of long campaigns.  But Princess Tiffany is just beginning her campaign and has a $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championship, for which she could still be favourite, at Alexandra Park on December 31.  So her scintigraphy is to try and work out why she is racing below her best. “Mark (Purdon, trainer) thinks something might be annoying her but we can’t work out what, which is where the scintigraphy is so good,” says stable traveling foreman Matt Bowden.  “We are not thinking it is anything serious but at least this way we will know and we are still confident of getting her to the Sires’ Stakes Final.” Princess Tiffany’s expensive failure last Friday and the horrible mid-race smash in her event somewhat detracted from the emergence of unheralded filly Belle Of Montana.  She is now a group two winner after just four starts for trainer Barry Purdon and paced the 2200m mobile in a very slick 3:28.3, quicker than both her stablemates Dream About Me (Queen Of Hearts) and Ultimate Sniper (Alabar Classic) as they won the other major 2200m mobiles on the night.  While the fields for the December 31 meeting won’t be out until December 27, there has already been a big shortener in the markets for the group ones with Marcoola now into $1.75 to win the National Trot.  He moved into a $1.90 after destroying his opposition in the Lyell Creek last Friday and is even shorter now as second favourite Speeding Spur has been ruled out of the race. “He has had a really busy time obviously with the Inter Dominion so we will freshen him up now and then all going well head back to Australia for the Great Southern Star,” says co-trainer Josh Dickie.  There must also be doubts after Luby Lou, who sits on the fourth line of betting, making it to the National Trot as she has yet to race this season and her only chance of a lead-up race would be $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge on Christmas Eve.   Michael Guerin

If you are considering a Mark Multi at Alexandra Park tonight tread cautiously. Because while champion trainer Mark Purdon will provide favourites in up to five of the races on the premier night, he has reservation about two of his biggest names. Purdon is looking after the domestic team tonight before heading to Victoria tomorrow morning to partner favourite Spankem in the Inter Dominion Pacing Final, where he has been prepared by partner Natalie Rasmussen, who will drive Cruz Bromac in the same race. There will be plenty of punters willing to multi up all sorts of All Stars-trained runners over the weekend but Purdon says any time he brings a horse to Alexandra Park for the first time there is an element of the unknown. And that applies to both Ultimate Sniper in the $50,000 Alabar Classic and Turn It Up in the $50,000 Lincoln Farms Franklin Cup. Ultimate Sniper was stunningly good winning the Sires' Stakes Final at Addington last month and will have Tony Herlihy sitting in for Rasmussen tonight but the $1.35 might be a little short. "We all know how good he is but he has never raced right-handed and he hasn't been 100 per cent comfortable yet when working that way," says Purdon. "He should be better on the bigger track at Alexandra Park but I wouldn't be saying he will just win because he has to overcome that hurdle first." Turn It Up is one of the more exciting pacers in the country and it took Interdom star Cruz Bromac to beat him in the NZ Free-For-All last start but he hasn't raced for four weeks and also hasn't been right-handed. "We have four good chances in that race and while he might be the best of them I can't separate them with any confidence, again because he hasn't raced right-handed. "So a horse like Ashley Locaz could be hard to beat, he had to be very good to win like he did here last week." Purdon's confidence levels boost closer to 100 per cent when discussing Dream About Me in the Queen Of Hearts and Princess Tiffany in the Ladyship Stakes. The latter lost her unbeaten record when third in a similar field last Friday but is better drawn and with natural improvement should win, although Wainui Creek is an exciting rival. Dream About Me held off stablemate Elle Mac in their lead-up race last Friday and a similar racing pattern and result looks likely in tonight's group one, especially with main rival Utmost Delight drawn wider than the favoured pair. Purdon and his army of punting followers won't just have eyes for Alexandra Park, with Ultimate Machete returning to mobile racing at Addington tonight too, where A G's White Socks and Alta Maestro will test any chinks in his armour. Back at Alexandra Park, Marcoola has the draw and the gate speed to dominate the $50,000 Lyell Creek Trot and he would only need to turn up in his Dominion winning form of a month ago to make the $1.90 quote look luxurious.   Michael Guerin

The All Stars stable of Natalie Rasmussen and Mark Purdon knows no boundaries. Their pursuit of excellence continues to defy belief, constantly rewriting the pages of history, producing brilliant talent season after season and across all age groups. The Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final is a time honoured feature that tugs at the heartstrings of both Rasmussen and Purdon. After all, Rasmussen and her mighty champion Blacks A Fake won the event a record four times while Purdon has lifted the trophy on six occasions – 3 pacers and 3 trotters. This will be Rasmussen’s 7th Inter Dominion Grand Final, her previous six coming with Blacks A Fake – 4 wins and 2 seconds. In fact, the last time the Pacing Grand Final was staged in Melbourne (2008 - Moonee Valley), it was Rasmussen and ‘Blackie’ that proved victorious. And now they’re chasing another slice of history this weekend. The All Stars have qualified two runners for the Gr.1 $500,000 TAB Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final, the top two point scorers following the three rounds of heats over the past week. Cruz Bromac and Spankem are the two combatants, both striving to provide the stable their third straight Inter Dominion hero. Yet all with different horses after Smolda scored in 2016 while Lazarus took honours last year. And here’s the magic, no stable has won the Inter Dominion three times and with a different champion each time. The famous stables of Bob and Vin Knight fell short back in 1990 after both Our Maestro and Jane Ellen scored in the previous. It was Thorate who scored at Globe Derby while the Knight trained Jane Ellen and Rockleigh Victory were both unplaced and therefore denied the Victorian stable a three peat. Obviously Rockleigh Victory would’ve created history if successful - three different winners in three consecutive years. But now the All Stars can claim this record if either Cruz Bromac or Spankem deliver. And both have undeniable chances, Spankem will start from gate five with Purdon driving after Rasmussen elected to stick solid with Cruz Bromac despite drawing gate nine. Purdon is taking his 9th Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final drive; he has won three finals previously with Mark Hanover, Smolda and Lazarus while he has won 3 Trotting Finals with Pride Of Petite and I Can Doosit (twice). Cruz Bromac is the only runner during the series to win all three qualifying heats. With the series undertaking several changes throughout recent years, the last pacer to clean sweep a series (3 heats & Final) was the champion performer Im Themightyquinn back in 2012 at Gloucester Park in Perth while Elsu also achieved the feat in 2005 at Alexandra Park, Auckland. So, can Cruz Bromac and Rasmussen achieve the sweep? Will it be his stablemate, rising star Spankem? The professional four-year-old has thrived during the series winning two of his three heats and looks like he’ll relish the 2760m distance. Another New Zealand four-year-old I’m Pats Delight is also relishing the hard grind of the series and looms as a serious player for a formidable combination in Cran Dalgety and Gavin Lang. Between them, they have won more features than they care to remember. However, the Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final trophy has proven elusive for both future Hall of Famers but can they etch their names into the record books this weekend? This will be Lang’s 10th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive and second for Dalgety after partnering London Legend back in 2006. I’m Pats Delight will start from gate three. Perth powerhouse Greg and Skye Bond are represented by the ideally drawn Galactic Star (gate one) and the Bettors Delight gelding has been outstanding throughout the series to date with top three finishes in each of his three heats. Last year, Galactic Star finished 5th behind Lazarus. In 2012, the Bond’s also finished 5th with Can Return Fire behind Im Themightyquinn. Ryan Warwick takes his third Inter Dominion Grand Final drive when he reunites with Galactic Star. Interestingly, the only proven Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit winner in the field this year is the tough Sydney trained millionaire Tiger Tara. And his maiden Grand Circuit victory came recently when successful in the Victoria Cup here at TABCORP Park, Melton when leading throughout. Placed third last year behind Lazarus and Chicago Bull, the Kevin Pizzuto trained and Todd McCarthy driven will need to overcome gate seven, the outside of the front-line. McCarthy is taking his 4th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. The Bettors Delight entire was placed in all three heats including his victory last weekend at Cranbourne. Local star San Carlo lines up again following his impressive efforts last year in Perth where he won a heat but in the final, he finished 9th behind Lazarus after drawing poorly. Although winless during the heats and starting from gate eight, the inside of the second-line, San Carlo still rates as a winning hope. Prepared by Steve O’Donoghue and handled by Bec Bartley, the Mach Three gelding will carry plenty of local support. Another local which will have plenty cheering is the David Aiken trained and Kima Frenning driven up and comer Wrappers Delight. A winner in the sprint heat at Ballarat on night two, the Bettors Delight gelding needs to overcome gate 11. This opportunity provides Frenning with her first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. One of the surprise packets of the series is the Mattie Craven trained and driven Can’t Refuse, responsible for some eye-catching efforts throughout the heats. The Bettors Delight gelding will start from gate two. Like Frenning, this is Craven’s first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. Another pacer that has thrived throughout the series is the Bathurst prepared Our Uncle Sam for father/son combination of Chris and Anthony Frisby. Blessed with sharp speed and great determination, the Sportswriter gelding is looking at bringing another Inter Dominion trophy back to the famous region. Memories of Honda Grattan and Smooth Satin come flooding back when assessing the chances of Our Uncle Sam. The five-year-old will start from gate 10 and this is Anthony’s first Inter Dominion Grand Final drive. There’s no doubt rejuvenated pacer Maximan will have the biggest cheer squad, the one-time claimer has thrived under the care of Shane and Lauren Tritton. It will be their 3rd Inter Dominion finalist. Boasting owners from all parts of the country, the veteran performer will start from gate six. And Craig Cross is represented by two runners, just like the All Stars, speedy pacer Mach Doro starts from gate four while Cash N Flow is looking to overcome gate 13, the outside of the second-line. Luke McCarthy partners Mach Doro while John Caldow takes the drive behind Cash N Flow, McCarthy is lining up for his 7th Inter Dominion Grand Final drive while Caldow is taking his maiden drive in a Pacing Grand Final. McCarthy has finished third four times previously but is still chasing his maiden victory. Interestingly, Cash N Flow is a former member of the All Stars operation before joining Cross earlier this year. Owner Dominic Martello races both Wrappers Delight and Mach Doro. Audi Hare (gate 12) is listed as the emergency runner. Chris Barsby

Loyalty could cost Natalie Rasmussen another TAB Inter Dominion pacing title at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. But it could hand her partner Mark Purdon a unique piece of Inter Dominion history. Rasmussen and Purdon train two of the Inter Dominion favourites in Spankem and Cruz Bromac, who after heading the points table went into yesterday’s barrier draw as the two favourites for the $500,000 pacing final on Saturday. But while Spankem has emerged as the TAB bookies elect after drawing barrier five, Rasmussen has decided to stick with Cruz Bromac, on who she is unbeaten in five starts together. “To be honest Spankem might be the better of our chances because I can’t believe how well he has come through the series,” says Rasmussen. “But I feel committed to Cruz. He has also been great through the series and being an older horse this might be his big chance to win an Inter. So I’d be happy driving either but I will stick with Cruz.” Rasmussen is already the queen of the Inter Dominion, having trained and driven Blacks A Fake to win the series a record four times and she can still win again this Saturday but Cruz Bromac’s second line draw suggests he will need mid-race pressure. Spankem has the front line draw to keep rolling forward and at least stay handy if he can’t find the lead, which looks very much on the cards. That provides champion NZ trainer Purdon with a shot at a feat that may never be repeated again: winning three consecutive Inter Dominion pacing finals on three different horses. Purdon co-trained and drove Smolda (2016) and Lazarus last year to win the pacing finals when they were held in Perth and if he wins on Saturday night he will join Rasmussen with four pacing final wins each, having won his first with Mark Hanover in 1991. Spankem is now the $2.90 TAB favourite for the final ahead of Im Pats Delight and Cruz Bromac at $4.50 each and the big winner in the draw, Galactic Star (ace) at $6.50.   Michael Guerin

A little-known former New Zealand pacer has emerged as the key player in the A$500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final.  Because while former Southland pacer Galactic Star has had a top class career in West Australia, he would rarely have been on the radar of most New Zealand punters, even the serious harness racing players, until this Interdom series in Victoria.  Yet after drawing the ace for Saturday night’s 2760m final at Melton, the attitude of his connections could decide the race.  Galactic Star, who won four races in New Zealand two years ago when trained by Des Baynes, won his first night heat of this series using blazing gate speed and has been very good when placed in his subsequent two heats.  But his impact on the final outcome has been boosted enormously by him drawing barrier one, from where he looks certain to lead.  If driver Ryan Warwick wants to stay in front that will mean no shot at the lead for key front line runners Pat Delight (barrier three), Spankem (five) or Tiger Tara (seven).  It would almost certainly mean plenty of pressure to try and break him and potentially bring a horse like series points leader Cruz Bromac into contention after he fared poorly in the draw, copping the second line  But if Warwick and the Galactic Star’s connections decide the trail is the place to be then either of the well-favoured Kiwis, Pats Delight or Spankem, will fancy their chances of running to the front and therefore becoming the one to beat.   Spankem’s incredible rise throughout this series continued after the draw as he is now the $2.80 favourite for the classic just six weeks after punters could have got $41 for him to win it.  He has thrilled co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen with how he has bounced through his three heats but she has decided to stick with Cruz Bromac as her drive out of loyalty, having driven him five times for five wins.  That means training partner Mark Purdon takes the reins behind Spankem and gives him a shot at a unique piece of Inter Dominion history as he has won the last two pacing finals driving Smolda and Lazarus so could make it a three-peat on three different horses.  Spankem, who won only once last season as a three-year-old, is favourite over Pats Delight and Cruz Bromac still the third favourite even though his task looks enormously more difficult as he won’t be able to use his gate speed.  Gate speed and tactical decisions could also decide the A$150,000 Trotting Final on Saturday, which after the draw looks a two-horse race.  South Auckland trotter Speeding Spur has the advantage of barrier one giving co-trainer and driver Josh Dickie options of whether to stay in front or elects to trail favourite Tornado Valley.  The latter has drawn barrier six and may even have the raw speed to cross Speeding Spur but if the pair lead and trail it looks curtains for their rivals. (THESE FIELDS TO BE BROKEN OUT ON RUNNER PER LINE) The fields for the two Inter Dominion finals to be run at Melton on Saturday night are: $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2760m mobile, 11.45 (NZtime) 1: Galactic Star 2: Can’t Refuse 3: Im Pats Delight 4: Mach Doro 5: Spankem 6: Maximan 7: Tiger Tara 8: San Carlo (1 second line) 9: Cruz Bromac 10: Our Uncle Sam 11: Wrappers Delight 12: Audi Hare (em) 13: Cash N Flow A$150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final, 2760m, 11.08 NZtime 1: Speeding Spur 2: Monty Python 3: Save Our Pennys 4: Rompers Monarchy 5: Big Jack Hammer 6: Tornado Valley 7: Sky Petite 8: Illawong Armstrong (1 second line, em) 9: Tough Monarch 10: Kingdom Come 11: Kyvalley Blur 12: Wilmas Mate 13: Red Hot Tooth   Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Mark Purdon appears to hold all the aces at Alexandra Park tonight but he admits he doesn't know how most of those cards will fall. Purdon starts his annual northern summer assault at tonight's meeting while partner Natalie Rasmussen is tearing up the Inter Dominions in Victoria with Cruz Bromac and Spankem. Purdon will have the favourite in four races tonight, with the hottest certain to be champion filly Princess Tiffany, who returns in race three. "Like any horse coming back she will be better for the run and that always makes them vulnerable but on class she should still win," offers Purdon. But things get a bit more complicated after that, with the All Stars having multiple runners in the other three races. The most obvious appears to be the opening event where a race fit Jesse Duke clashes with last season's leading juvenile Another Masterpiece. "I think Jesse is the better chance because he is fit and I don't think Another Masterpiece would want to be taking him on this early in his campaign." But the battle between top mares Dream About Me and Elle Mac in the Breeders Stakes may not be as obvious as it looks, even though Dream About Me finished third in the NZ Cup last start and is favourite for the Auckland Cup. "I think Dream About Me deserves to be favourite on what she has done but I worked them together the other day and the way Elle Mac sprinted up the straight right alongside her there might not be much in it. "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Elle Mac beat her." The standing start and racing luck could play the major role for not only Purdon's trio but all the big names in the $30,000 Summer Cup. The best performed horses like Jack's Legend are off 20m over 2200m and while that doesn't mean he can't win it does make him vulnerable to the tempo of the race especially if there are no mid-race moves and a 55-second last 800m off the front. Purdon says any of his trio Ashley Locaz, All U Need Is Faith or Sicario could win and the fact he has chosen to drive All U Need Is Faith over Sicario is not any guide to their chances. "They are all good four-year-olds who could win but the first thing is getting away safely and then who has the luck because I really can't choose between them." Add in On The Cards, Mach Shard, Northview Hustler and rejuvenated veteran Lets Elope and the race looks a beauty.   Michael Guerin

Mark and Natalie are hopeful that while Ultimate Machete won’t make the Auckland Cup field on December 31 he will be racing that night. He could be a starter in the Free for All on the same program at the moment only set for Elle Mac among All Stars runners. “He is progressing well enough for us to think he will make that race” Mark said “He would have a trial before hand and we are hoping he and Thefixer can be up in in Auckland later in the month” ‘They could then both go on to Australia after the Cambridge meeting where TheFixer is set down to have his next race” No risks were taken with Thefixer after his NZ Cup triumph because of the foot problem he had had leading up to that race. He has spent time on the water walker since but the good news is that there is no sign of any problem with the foot. He would also trial before heading north and then run in the Cambridge Flying Mile before heading to Australia. Ultimate Machete, one time Cup favourite, had his Cup plans aborted after he failed to fire in his final lead up races. He was suffering from a foot problem which has responded well to treatment. Given the current depth in open class ranks in Australia he would have been a major player in the Inter Dominion championships and certainly will be in races like the Victoria and Hunter Cups and other autumn features. No decision has been made on who else may venture to Australia as it will be determined by upcoming form Fingers crossed. Mark is very pleased with the way Enhance Your Calm has returned to full work. He resumed at the end of Cup week and is progressing well. “He looks magnificent. He has really done well with that break “ Mark noted   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/home/

New Zealand Cup hero Thefixer is out of the Auckland Cup.  And he will be joined on the sidelines for that December 31 classic by Ultimate Machete as the pair are instead aimed at Australian races in the New Year.  Trainer Mark Purdon will not enter the high-profile pair for the Alexandra Park feature when nominations close at 11am on Friday for different reasons.  Both horses have spent much of the last two weeks on the water walker at Stephen Boyd’s property and while Purdon is happy with their condition he thinks the Cup will come up too soon for Thefixer. “He had that time off to get his body over the New Zealand Cup win and we don’t want to rush him back,” said Purdon.  “To be ready for the Auckland Cup he probably would have needed to trial next week and I’d rather give him time, maybe go to the Cambridge Mile and then the Ballarat and Hunter Cups in Victoria and even on to the Miracle Mile.”Ultimate Machete missed the New Zealand Cup, for which he was the one-time favourite, and Purdon is reluctant to aim him at standing start races in the near future.  “He actually hurt himself when he galloped away one night and I wouldn’t want to risk that again because then his season could be over.  “So we will let him miss the Auckland Cup and look at the mobile races in Aussie.”  The Purdon-Rasmussen stable still has the two Auckland Cup favourites in Dream About Me and potential star Turn It Up while the likes of All U Need Is Faith, Ashley Locaz and Sicario are others who will be entered for the Cup.  The All Stars northern team arrives on Saturday and will also include Elle Mac for the Queen of Hearts, star three-year-olds Ultimate Sniper and Another Masterpiece and last season’s champion filly Princess Tiffany Michael Guerin

Matt Bowden is more than happy with how things are going with Inter Dominion hopefuls Spankem and Cruz Bromac as they shape up for the first heats on Saturday. The team arrived in Sydney last Friday and travelled by road to Melbourne on Saturday. “No complaints . Possibly Spankem has done a little better but not enough for anyone to be concerned about. Cruz is going good too” Poi said “Natalie arrives over by Thursday and I will be heading off to Auckland then to look after the team there. They will be based at Barry’s this year” “Natalie will be staying there for the campaign. We are based just out of Melbourne where Blacks a Fake used to stay when he went to Melbourne and it is nice and quiet here” “Spankem has never turned a hair and is a great little traveller. I will be surprised if he doesn’t win a heat of the series at least. Cruz is a hot favourite in his heat and will also be ready for a big run. I am happy with them both” Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

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