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A couple of one-time favourites for the Harness Jewels face a nervous week to even make it to the mega meeting. Because the Jewels campaigns of stablemates Smooth Deal and Oscar Bonavena hang in the balance for very different reasons. Oscar Bonavena rocketed to favouritism for the 3-year-old trot division with a comeback win at Addington two weeks ago but after three rivals passed him on the stakes-based leaderboard he is now ranked 14th to make the field of 12. So his connections have to hope for one withdrawal before the fields are drawn on Friday to even be the emergency for the $125,000 trot at Addington on June 1. Get Lucky was the last horse to usurp Oscar Bonavena with his effortless win in the last race at Oamaru yesterday, the last day for Jewels qualifying. Connections of horses have until Friday to withdraw and the fields of 12 plus one emergency will be drawn at noon. Oscar Bonavena's late fall down the ranking has seen him drift from $1.90 to win his division a few days ago to $2.80 last night. Stablemate Smooth Deal's fall has been even more dramatic as he was the $1.40 favourite to win his division a few weeks ago but has since been beaten twice, including a battling sixth at Addington on Friday night. But he was bouncing around his paddock on Saturday morning, which was enough to deter trainer Mark Purdon from scratching him from the Jewels. "He came home, ate up and has been fine since so maybe it was just one of those nights," said Purdon. "We really don't know but we will get him vetted and then decide. But at this stage, unless the vet examination and blood tests show something is wrong with him, he will still be aimed at the Jewels." Smooth Deal is likely to trial at Addington on Saturday along with many of the Purdon-Rasmussen stars including Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up.   Michael Guerin

The NZ Oaks was won easily in the end but it might well have been won at the beginning. Natalie, in superb form with three Group wins from three drives, thought so when she was able to swing in from three wide and get in front of Belle of Montana. But her decision to improve in the middle stages to take the front while the sectionals were a little relaxed was the key to an easy win. “She felt good and I though I will be off and make the ones most likely work to beat her. She never really felt like she would be beaten in the run home. A great filly and she was on her game tonight” The win heightened the 3yo Filly of the Year award contest which Belle of Montana looked to have a lead after the Nevele R last week. Now it is likely to come down to the Harness Jewels in two weeks. Princess Tiffany ran close 3.08 for the 2600m breaking by close to a second the record set by Spanish Armada two years ago. She continued a great run for owners Phil and Margaret Creighton and Braeden and Caroline Whitelock who separately set new records on the night. One aspect of that was that the Whitelocks Kayla Marie completed a “double second” chasing Belle of Montana home in the Nevele R Final and Princess Tiffany in the NZ Oaks. Bubbled Up again looked a little off her peak finishing midfield after having enjoyed a nice run The Oaks win by Princess Tiffany “It seems surreal -but its actually real” -that sum up by Mike Woodlock co-owner of One Change with Trevor Casey and All Stars, seemed to sum up the remarkable rise of the two year old with his five for five win in the $170,000 Sires Stakes Final at Addington. As for Trevor tears came to his eyes as he remembered his long time partner, the late Neil Pilcher, an original owner of the youngster after he was passed in as a yearling for $20,000 Bought post sale by the stable for $30,000, Neil’s share was taken up by All Stars on his death and Mike, a retired teacher at St Andrews College who helps out at All Stars, was offered a share. He had previously raced a horse successfully with “Pilch”. As chief admirer and handler Ashleigh said “the dream continues” after One Change, looking headed by Flying Even Bettor close to the post kicked back to win. Natalie had given him the run of the race but said afterward it went “nothing like I expected” “I didn’t know how much gate speed he had because he hasn’t be used out of the gate previously. But he had it and we got the break. I wasn’t sure we’d won. Flying Even Bettor, which went a terrific race came back at us and I wasn’t confident at all” One Change has now won over $200,000 not a bad return on his yearling price. He now heads to the Jewels and possibly the Breeders Crown in August if all goes well in the interim. “He’s done nothing wrong and shown he has the early speed as well” Mark said “Smooth Deal was disappointing and he will come out of the Jewels on that run. He is going backwards when he should be going forward” His recovery rate raised questions as well, Natalie said later. But Amazing Dream compensated Bill and Jean Feiss handsomely with an impressive win in the rich PGG Wrightson Sales Final. Natalie wasn’t afraid to use her ability to get handy and then lead and she held on gamely to win well. “She’s a good filly and she is improving. She has always been game but she has a bit of speed too which I used tonight. That was a top effort from her really” Meanwhile even Mark was somewhat taken aback with the ease of Winterfell’s win the FFA Trot which guaranteed him a start in the Jewels. “Really he won that easily and while I expected a top run I didn’t think it would be that easy” Mark said of the big trotter who has hit peak at the right time.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

Early season perception clashes with late-season reality in the two group ones at Addington tonight.  The trick for punters is to work out which one matters more.  At different stages of the season it would have seemed farcical there could be a better two-year-old male pacer than Smooth Deal or a superior three-year-old filly to Princess Tiffany in the country.  But the score cards between that pair and their new division leaders in One Change and Belle Of Montana suggest the latter two might be the best of their crops.  But that pendulum could swing back the other way just as easily at tonight’s huge premier meeting.  One Change is unbeaten in three starts but has drawn (barrier four) outside Smooth Deal (two) in their $170,000 final over 1980m mobile.  When Smooth Deal was thrashing his opponents over the summer tonight’s draw would have suggested he would lead and win and plenty of punters would have been piling into a $1.20 divvy to boost their multis.  But cracks in his armour started to appear when he broke for no reason in two races and even worse he led easily and was grabbed on the line by One Change in the Sales Series Pace two weeks ago so will instead start around $2 tonight.  He was found to be affected by a virus soon after that last-start defeat but champion trainer Mark Purdon admits Smooth Deal is no longer than stable’s clear-cut juvenile star.  “We really don’t know which one is the better of them now,” says Purdon.  “So either of them could win this week and while we expect Smooth Deal to be better than last start, One Change might be too because he worked very, very well here on Tuesday.”  While there is plenty of talent in the juvenile crop it is hard to imagine one of the pair not winning whereas the $150,000 New Zealand Oaks might have a little more scope for an upset.  Belle Of Montana was mega impressive coming from well back to beat an almost identical field in the Nevele R Final last Friday and has the draw (five) to go forward and gain a huge tactical advantage over Princess Tiffany, who starts on the second line.  As stunning as Princess Tiffany has been at times, Belle Of Montana’s record this season is clearly better (3-0 head to head) so she has to be the favourite tonight.  “From that barrier I think she can come out a bit early and go forward but I will leave that up to Zac (Butcher),” says master trainer Barry Purdon.  That suggests Belle Of Montana could be seen in a different role tonight as all her major wins have come after sit-sprint tactics, even taking a trail 1200m out when a red hot favourite in the Victoria Oaks two starts ago.  She looks stronger mentally and physically than she was at the start of her debut season so should be ready to change tact and and easy lead would make the Oaks hers to lose. Still, Princess Tiffany has too much x-factor to dismiss while the likes of Northern Oaks winner Best Western and even Belle Of Montana’s stablemate Havtime have shown enough to suggest that are at least place value with their advantageous draws. Meanwhile, at Alexandra Park tonight comeback filly Tickle Me Pink should continue on her winning way even off the second line in the Northern Trotting Oaks.   Michael Guerin

Belle Of Montana has been gifted the perfect opportunity to make the Filly of the Year a one-horse race.  Because if she win the $150,000 NZ Oaks at Addington on Friday night the title is certain to be hers and the barrier draws have put her in the box seat to do just that.  The flying Clevedon filly made it three group ones for her debut season when coming from the second line to win the Nevele R Final at Addington last Friday but it was a third victory of a different kind that might be just as important in the FOTY voting.  For the third time in as many meetings Belle Of Montana beat arch rival Princess Tiffany, who was only third and appeared to race at least a couple of lengths below her best.  Princess Tiffany had started favourite and her trainer Mark Purdon suspects the NSW Oaks winner may have suffering from tying up problems last Friday, although a blood test indicated she was not overly affected by a virus which has troubled much of his team.  Excuses aside, Belle Of Montana now has a 3-0 lead in the head-to-head battle with Princess Tiffany so the latter would need to win both the Oaks this Friday and the Jewels on June 1 to have much chance of turning voters back her way in what is one of the more valuable titles handed out at the annual harness racing awards.  The problem for Princess Tiffany is she has drawn the second line again whereas Belle Of Montana is drawn to start from barrier five and one of the likely early leaders is her own stablemate Havtime.  That and the respect Belle Of Montana has earned with her string of group one wins suggest she will have a healthy lead over Princess Tiffany in the first lap of Friday’s 2600m classic. And there is the possibility, backed up by the stats, that Belle Of Montana may simply be the better filly.  The market for the Oaks will open today but the pair share Jewels favouritism at $2 each, which may not change greatly until after the draws on Friday week.  That market split is almost mirrored by the two-year-old male pacers, where One Change is $2 and Smooth Deal $2.20 for the Jewels and they also go head to head this Friday night.  They have both drawn well on the front line so neither should have an excuse in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes and after winning the Sales Series if One Change can down his stablemate again he also take a big lead in their category for the HOTY.  The Sires’s Stakes Trot for the juveniles, the three-year-old Sales Series Trot and an open class trot add some squaregaiting strength to the second-last premier meeting of the season.   Michael Guerin

Two key withdrawals and three Australian additions saw Harness Jewels markets go on a rollercoaster ride as the key contenders for the glamour meeting are starting to take final shape.  The Jewels move to Addington for the first time on June 1 and while horses have until May 19 to earn enough money to qualify most of the serious players are already locked in.  The market most still in flux is the three-year-old trotters where Enhance Your Calm the favourite could be vulnerable to either Australian star Alpha Male or the forgotten Oscar Bonavena if they make it to Addington.  Alpha Male would secure the Australian invite if he wins the NSW Trotting Derby this Saturday and then the question for punters will be whether trainers Emma Stewart and Clayton Tonkin want to bring him to New Zealand, where they have rarely campaigned horses before.  Oscar Bonavena only sits 20th in the order of entry after a season interrupted by soreness and will need to win at Addington either this Friday or next to be guaranteed a Jewels spot.  And while Enhance Your Calm has hardly looked bulletproof when galloping in both his recent starts, trainer Mark Purdon puts that down to Alexandra Park being right-handed and says the leggy trotter will definitely be at the Jewels unless something goes amiss beforehand.  But Purdon confirmed two high profile withdrawals and one major yes for the Jewels yesterday with Spankem, as expected, pulled out of the four-year-old male pace and joined soon after by Chase Auckland.  “Spankem has done enough for the season and he will have a break now while Chase Auckland is too far down the rankings so he can have a spell now too instead of chasing a spot.”  But just as importantly for punters Purdon confirmed Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up, all going well, will be at the Jewels. “He hasn’t had a busy second half to the season so he will press on,” says Purdon.  Turn It Up could easily have missed the Jewels and gone for an early spell as he is one of the favourites for the NZ and Auckland Cups as well as the Inter Dominions all run between November and December 31 this year.  So Purdon’s confirmation the Jewels are still his season-ending target as well as the withdrawal of his stablemates has seen Turn It Up move from $2.90 on Friday night to $1.95 to win his division. Purdon says most of the stable’s other favoured runners are still targeting the Jewels with only form loss or unforseen problems likely to see them withdrawn.  The four-year-old male pace is often the glamour race of Jewels Day but that title could fall to the four-year-old trotters this year as it will contain Anzac and Rowe Cup winner Sundees Son, unlucky placegetter in both Majestic Man, last season’s Jewels winner Winterfell and the exciting King’s Landing. Trainer Robert Dunn has confirmed Sundees Son will head to the Jewels and while he is unruly from a stand he is not from a mobile, meaning he will be in the draw, crucial for the 1980m mobile. “Being in the draw is very important because he couldn’t give these horses a start in a sprint but he actually has good gate speed so we can’t wait to get him there,” says Dunn. “John (son and driver) and I should have about 10-12 in the Jewels.” The favoured trotting quartet will be joined by one of the latest Australian invites in Majestic Player, who won his way into the Jewels at Menangle on Saturday night. Also invited from Australia yesterday were Pete’s Big Jim, who was a close second in the juvenile male pace last year and his stablemate Falcon Stride, who will contest the four-year-old Emerald. That brings the number of Australian invites to five and with a three-year-old trotter likely they could field potentially the strongest Australian team in the history of the Jewels. **  A stronger than expected sale saw a huge increase in average at the NZB Standardbred all-aged sale at Karaka yesterday. With mainly weanling, broodmares and a very small number of yearlings offered an outstanding clearance rate of 96 per cent was surprising for the 130-plus lots. While these sort of sales can vary wildly, the average of $10,816 was an increase of over $3000 on last year. The top price was $80,000 paid for a trotting-bred filly by Kadabra by NSW owners Emilio and Mary Rosati.   Michael Guerin

Rising harness racing star Spankem claimed another Gr1 victory tonight by winning the 2019 $90,000 Dawson Harford Ltd NZ Messenger Championship at Alexandra Park. Using the same tactics as she did in last weeks Taylor Mile success, driver Natalie Rasmussen blasted off the mobile gate to grab an early lead with the showy Bettor's Delight gelding.  It turned out to be a lead she would never relinquish. As he did last week Spankem ran along in front with no attackers and he simply had too much gas in the tank for his rivals, unleashing a sizzling last 800m in 54.3 seconds and winning by half a length at the line.  Stable mate Turn It Up got closest again running home well for second with Mach Shard battling on well from the trail for third. For Natalie Rasmussen it was her second straight win in the race, after winning with Eamon Maguire last year. "He got a nice soft lead again tonight and that first lap was pretty kind," she said after the race. "I was conscious not to spark him up, because he can get a bit keen sometimes, but he was nice and relaxed tonight so he was able to hold them off. The winners time was 3-17.6 for the 2700m mobile. Spankem winning the NZ Messenger The All Stars Stables had a good night in both Islands. As well as winning three out of the four Group One races on offer at Alexandra Park, they also picked up three races at Addington including a trifecta in the rich $161,000 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Open, with One Chance just pipping stablemate Smooth Deal by a nose with Flying Even Bettor running third. Ashlea Locaz also won during the night as did well bred maiden first starter Only Me.   Harnesslink Media

Well bred harness racing filly Sweet On Me capitalized on a better draw this week to comfortably win the $138,000 Magness Benrow NZ Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Champs at Alexandra Park. Driven confidently tonight by driver Mark Purdon Sweet On Me (Sweet Lou - Adore Me) settled back early before launching to the lead with a lap to go. In the straight Purdon was always in control and Sweet On Me held out the stable mate Amazing Dream by three quarters of a length at the line. The Robert Dunn trained Tiffany Rose ran home well for third. The win by Sweet On Me gave the training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen it's fifth win straight in the race, with the winner pacing the 1700m mobile in a 1-57.3 mile rate. The last 800m was run in 57.3 seconds and the final 400m in 26.8. Mark Purdon thought the speedy filly was better tonight. "She was good tonight. She came off the gate nice without being to quick and settled handy but I thought I would make a move at the 1400m and take her to the front," he said. "I thought she might have got home last week,but she could have been in season a little bit and that may have had a bearing on it." Sweet On Me winning the Gr1 NZ Sires Stakes for 2yo Fillies   Earlier in the night the All Stars Stables trained Enhance Your Calm put in a huge performance to win the Gr1 $90,000 2019 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Despite breaking behind the mobile and losing 50m the Majestic Son 3yo caught the field after 800m before driver Mark Purdon looped the field to lead with a mile to run. From there he was never in danger of defeat running a slick last 800m in 56.4 seconds to win easily by 2 1/4 lengths from the Robert Dunn trained Resonate.  Purdon was not sure what caused Enhance Your Calm to gallop. "Look I can not put my finger on why he is galloping. "Afterwards he was faultless and he made a really swift move down the back with a mile to run, but I really am at a loss to explain why he has done that out of the gate," he said after the race. "We will get him to the Jewels and then he can have a good rest," he said. Enhance Your Calm winning the Northern Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

It could be a case of the same script but a different ending in the $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park tonight. The last of the four group ones at the huge premier meeting sees a return clash of seven of the eight pacers who contested last Friday’s Taylor Mile in which Spankem led and outsprinted stablemate Turn In Up (parked), with trailer Mach Shard holding on for third and Chase Auckland making good ground in the 26.1 second last 400m. Remarkably many of the key players have similar draws tonight and while this race is over 1000m longer it looks likely to play out the same way, at least early. Trainer Mark Purdon gave punters the biggest lead ever when he said Spankem would lead last Friday and not be attacked and from barrier three that should be the case again. But this time Purdon stops short of suggesting he won’t challenge mid-race. “I am sure Spankem will lead early and that probably makes him the one to beat,” says Purdon in a quote that could have been recycled from last week. But then there starts to get a bit of a twist in the tale. Firstly there are two rivals drawn inside Spankem, rather than one last Friday, which raises the possibility they both want the same spot behind him and therefore he has to work at least a little harder to lead. And Chase Auckland could also be a factor in any early rush for positions. “If they went a bit harder early, while I wouldn’t think we (Purdon and Turn It Up) would be in that rush, I wouldn’t be scared to come have a look in the middle stages.” That could be the key quote, with Purdon adamant he wasn’t going to challenge mid-race last week but suggesting he could tonight. And he then says that Turn It Up actually worked so well on Wednesday morning he thinks the Auckland Cup winner has improved with last Friday’s race. So while we still seem to have a script with Spankem leading tonight it is over a longer distance, against a seemingly fitter Turn It Up with an increased chance of a mid-race challenge. Considering there was just over a length between them last Friday that could be enough to swing you toward backing Turn It Up tonight. And if he does come looking for the lead mid-race and the early pressure sees him get it, then he almost certainly wins. The bookies market which surprisingly opened Spankem at $3.60 left enough room in the market for punters to back him and then play Turn It Up on the tote tonight because it would be a major surprise if one of the pair don’t win. Purdon can go into the Sires’ Stakes Fillies Final equally as confident as Sweet On Me should turn the tables on Amazing Dream after their national record run last Friday but the $100,000 Breckon Farms Trotting Derby may not be so clear cut. There is little doubt Enhance Your Calm is the best horse in the race and if he trots throughout he should probably win but he did gallop at the start last Friday after becoming unbalanced in his right-handed debut. Purdon believes he was safer in track work on Wednesday but he still looks a horse with a few frailties — either mental or physical— and that raises at least the possibility NZ Trot Derby winner Lotamuscle can beat him either with manners or his serious sit-sprint. “I am happy with him (Enhance Your Calm) but I have to respect Lotamuscle after the way he has raced recently and you know with Paul (Nairn) training him he will be spot on.” Michael Guerin

A dream week with barrier draws has gifted Spankem an unlikely shot at harness racing’s Horse of the Year title. Because he might now start favourite in Friday’s $100,000 Messenger at Alexandra Park and victory there would embellish his claims for a title which looks more open than usual. Spankem bolted away with last Friday’s Taylor Mile after being able to lead favoured stablemate Turn It Up and has the best draw (three) of the favourites again this Friday. While the Messenger is 2700m compared with last week’s Mile, Spankem still looks the likely leader and then controls his own destiny, whereas stablemates Chase Auckland (barrier four) and Turn It Up (five) will need some luck to get to the marker pegs and in front of Spankem. Last week’s declaration from trainer Mark Purdon that Spankem would lead the Taylor Mile and not hand up to Turn It Up saw the market flipped on its head and Purdon’s pre-race comments this week will again have a crucial impact. But there is more than just the first place prize up for grabs on Friday as Spankem is making a late, unlikely bid for the Horse of the Year title. Thefixer would have been the early favourite for that after he won the New Zealand Cup, always the most important race for voters, but while he has won a Ballarat Cup and Miracle Mile prelude since he has been beaten plenty of times. Turn It Up has the Auckland and Easter Cups next to his name so a win this Friday and in the Jewels in June 1 would put him in the HOTY box seat. But if he wins on Friday then Spankem’s credentials get a further boost. He has already won the Miracle Mile in 1:47.7, the prelude a week earlier, the Kaikoura Cup, two Inter Dominion heats and last Friday’s Taylor Mile. Add the Messenger this week and his claims become hard to deny. Just 30 minutes earlier the Trotter of the Year title looks certain to be decided in the $150,000 Rowe Cup which hosts the horses who have won all the previous group one trots held in New Zealand this season. Speeding Spur, who has drawn the second line on Friday, is the only trotter to have won two group ones this term and is joined by Marcoola (Dominion), Massive Metro (National Trot) and Sundees Son, who won last Friday’s Anzac Cup. Another group one victory for any of that quartet could seal them the trotter’s title, with Sundees Son the only one with a further group one opportunity this season in the four-year-old Jewels at Addington on June 1. Earlier in the night Sweet On Me will be red-hot to bounce back from her first defeat last Friday in the Sires’ Stakes Championship while the battle between Enhance Your Calm and Lotamuscle highlights the $100,000 Trotting Derby.   Michael Guerin

The Miracle Mile was a pointer, Mark’s preview of the race a major hint. Yet still punters clung to Turn It Up's chances of outsprinting the 1.47.7 miler Spankem driven by one of the best raters in the business in Natalie Rasmussen in the Taylor Mile at Auckland. Until lunchtime Friday one was at $1.55 to win and one was at $3.10. And the $1.55 odds were not about the Miracle Mile winner. They were about a horse who had won a 3200m race at Addington last start. Reality struck closer to post time no doubt driven by Australian punters who couldn’t believe their eyes. It was an absorbing contest but Spankem was always to have an advantage if he held up in front which he did with gusto. Natalie stole a quarter in 32 in the middle stages and Mark was not inclined to force the issue after having done the donkey work in the open early. “He was just so good. He seemed to really come to it on his trip to Australia and he has gone on with it. And that draw advantage was a big one” Natalie said. The win lifted Spankem over the $1M mark in earnings joining an elite list of All Stars greats. Mark was not disappointed with Turn It Up for a moment and the way he rallied late in a better than 27 last 400, that was hardly surprising. He lost few friends for the Messenger next week. The horse has yet to be further back than 2nd in 12 starts and had not been asked to run a 1.53.4 mile before. The time erased the race record of Scuse Me, 20 years ago who won for Mark with Frank Cooney in the cart. Chase Auckland went a storming race for his 4th from a bad draw and is also a factor next week. This was a race which lived up to its billing, a throwback to the good old days of head to head clashes of superstars as opposed to the “star of this month” evident in some other promotions of the night. It was a tribute to All Stars that it was a straightout contest punters could profit from but also enjoy and know they got their money's worth Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

Speedy harness racing filly Amazing Dream smashed a 2yo New Zealand record when winning the $95,000 Gr1 Woodlands Stud Caduceus 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park tonight. Amazing Dream paced 2-40.4 for the mobile 2200m beating the previous NZ record of 2-41.9 set by Spanish Armada in this race in 2016. Tonight Amazing Dream was sent forward off the gate and led early in tonight's race before handing up to Tiffany Rose and John Dunn for a trail home. Hot favourite Sweet On Me who was very short on the tote and was previously unbeaten, had to sit parked out for the last lap on the hot pace and Amazing Dream who had the better trip had too much speed up the passing lane, getting to the lead halfway up the straight and holding on to win by a neck. Sweet On Me never gave up and fought well for second and Tiffany Rose battled on for third. The winner paced her last 800m in 55.7 and her final 400m in 27.2 seconds For successful driver Natalie Rasmussen it was her fourth success in the race and also the sixth straight win in the race for the All Stars Stables. “Amazing Dream has been a little bit stiff with draws except the one time she led and won at Addington,” she said after the race. “She has always had the ability, but she is a round little girl and the hard racing has done her good. “I have been pretty confident with this one from early days and she does have quite a bit of get up and go with her.” she said. Amazing Dream (Bettor's Delight - Christian Dreamer) is owned by Jean Fiess who was on track to see her filly win tonight.   Harnesslink Media

Champion trainer Mark Purdon has given punters a huge push for Spankem to upset more favoured stablemate Turn It Up in the $100,000 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park tonight. Because while Purdon won’t be drawn on who is the better pacer he believes Spankem will lead tonight’s sprint and some incredible stats suggest that makes him clearly the horse to beat. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen dominate the Mile with Spankem, Turn It Up and Chase Auckland but it is the first two who head the market as they have barriers two and three respectively. After a stunning season, including winning the Auckland Cup on this track, Turn It Up could be the best pacer in the country and many punters would expect him to go forward tonight and get the lead off either Mach Shard (1) or more likely Spankem (2). But Purdon says that is unlikely to be the case even though a lead-trail scenario would almost guarantee the stable the quinella. “Natalie (Rasmussen, driving Spankem) will probably lead and I think she has to drive her own race and stay there,” says Purdon frankly. “So I wouldn’t think I’d get the front with Turn It Up. He can still win but with Spankem likely to be in front I think he might even be our best chance.” As good as Turn It Up is, if Spankem leads then his stats this season suggest he is clearly the horse to beat at the $3.1 offered by bookies could be great value. Spankem has had 13 starts this season and led in five of those. He won them all, including the Miracle Mile and it’s Prelude as well as the star-studded Kaikoura Cup. His only other win came when sitting parked outside an inferior rival and controlling the tempo, so a similar pattern to leading. But in the seven other starts this season where he hasn’t been able to lead he has been beaten, running unplaced in three of them. Stat fact: when Spankem leads he wins, when he doesn’t he usually doesn’t. Of course nothing is guaranteed in racing but considering he was fast enough off the gate to lead the Miracle Mile two starts ago, has the uber aggressive Rasmussen on and Purdon seemingly happy to concede the front, Spankem is the horse you want to be on tonight. A reversal in the market as money comes for Spankem could even gift punters the opportunity to cover late on Turn It Up, who is exceptional and could still win from the one-one but might struggle to justify favouritism sitting parked. Purdon is very confident Sweet On Me will remain unbeaten in the Caduceus Club Classic while he warns punters on two fronts with Enhance Your Calm in the Sires’ Stakes Trot. The hot favourite was beaten after leading in the NZ Trot Derby but went into the race looking too skinny so early in a campaign. “We had the vets go over him after that race and find he had a few little niggles which were treated and he must have put on 30 or 40kgs since then so clearly they were bothering him. “So I think he will be better this week but I would like to drive him differently from the second line. “Often in is his races he has led easily but he has been explosive at the trials when driven with a sit so he might get a chance to show that this week.”  For all the class of those races the contest of the night should be the Anzac Cup, which looks the trotting race of the season so far. There are a huge number of wining chances and while the best version of Marcoola could overcome his second line draw any one of (in order or preference) Massive Metro, Lemond, Ronald J, Speeding Spur, Sundees Son, Majestic Man or even Temporale could win without shocking. Punting at the Park Best: Spankem (R7, No.2): Turn It Up might even be the better horse but if the Miracle Mile winner is going to lead in a mile at Alexandra Park you simply have to be on him. Longshot: Ronald J (R6, No.2): Had a few issues last couple of starts but at massive money tonight he could he handy in a tricky tactical race. Place punt: Kratos (R5, No.2): Not as good as some here but highest assessed of the front line horse and if he finds the markers first has options.   Michael Guerin

A simple question could decide the $100,000 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Does a Miracle Mile winner respect an Auckland Cup winner enough to trail him, especially in a group one sprint at Alexandra Park? Because that is puzzle facing punters after Spankem drew inside stablemate Turn It Up in one of the last group ones of the northern season. The pair will dominate betting on the Mile, which actually reverts to the true mile distance of 1609m after being run over 1700m since 2007. After winning the Auckland Cup and then the Easter Cup last start, Turn It Up might be the best pacer in the country and in any normal race against even this elite level of opposition he would be expected to lead and win. But stablemate Spankem is drawn inside him at barrier two and considering he won both a prelude and then the Miracle Mile itself by leading he would seem to have every right to park out his stablemate and try for another all-the-way win if he can he reaches the front. It will be a fascinating key plot to the race, with any pre-race indications from trainers the All Stars sure to have a significant impact on the market. For all their exploits this season the pair can’t lay total claim to the four-year-old sprint with all but one of their rivals rated 90 or above, which is pretty much open class these days. While they were the big winners out of the draws in the main pacing race on a stellar premier programme at Alexandra Park, some of the other recent group one winners at the Addington carnival haven’t fared so well. NZ Trot Championships hero Speeding Spur faces the outside of the front line in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, the final lead-up to next week’s Rowe Cup. Trainers John and Josh Dickie are happy with how the veteran has come through his last-start win but with Massive Metro (barrier three) and Lemond (four) drawn inside him and Marcoola and Sundees Son certain to be moving from the second line, the race looks one of the hottest contest of the trotting season Also disadvantaged by the draw at the trifectamates from the NZ Trot Derby, with Lotamuscle, Enhance Your Calm and Tricky Ric all drawing the second line in Friday’s $60,000 Sires’ Stakes Trot. But while some of those stars face interesting nights at the office exceptional juvenile pacing filly Sweet On Me will be a long way into red odds to remain unbeaten after drawing the front line in the $100,000 Caduceus Club Final, making her everybody’s anchor in the first leg of the $40,000 Pick6. While Friday night’s meeting is one of the strongest of the season a couple of the big players will be just as focussed on Melton in Victoria on Saturday night, with northern filly Belle Of Montana opening $1,40 to win the A$150,000 Victoria Oaks. She was brilliant coming from a long way back to win her heat last Saturday and has drawn the ace in this Saturday’s classic, with her natural speeding giving driver Zac Butcher plenty of options on the Barry Purdon-trained filly. Already the winner of a group one Sires’ Stakes Championship at home if Belle Of Montana can add an Australian group one this weekend she will have gone from unknown maiden to one of the most valuable female pacers in Australasia in just nine starts. Michael Guerin

Young harness racing driver Ben Hope won his first Group race yesterday when Muscle Mountain was successful in the Gr3 "Majestic Son" NZ 2yo Trotting Stakes at Addington Raceway. Hope who is sitting third on the National Junior Drivers premiership table drove another calculating race with the unbeaten Muscle Mountain (Muscle Hill - Paramount Faith) when after finding the front shortly after the start he decided to hand up to second favourite Ultimate Stride with a lap to go.  Ultimate Stride was all done at the 400m and Muscle Mountain looked like being a chance of being carted back behind him, but Ben Hope managed to extract the speedy gelding out of a tight spot on the turn and from there he cruised home to win easily without being pushed. Muscle Mountain ran the 1980m mobile in 2-29.1 a mile rate of 2-01.1 with the winner coming home his last 800m in 58.6 with a closing 400m in 27.98 seconds. One Majic Kenny was brave in second for driver John Dunn and the Purdon/Rasmussen trained filly Tailored Elegance rattled home late for third. There were two false starts in the event with multiple offenders breaking stride in the runups to the start.   In the other 2yo (pacing) race on the day there was also sensation when raging hot favorite Smooth Deal galloped out of contention shortly after the start dashing his chance and also the hopes of punters many of whom had included the son of Bettor's Delight in multi bets during the day. Mark Purdon wasn’t sure what happened when Smooth Deal went out of his gear early in his Sires Stakes heat at Addington. “He’s done it before but there was no apparent reason for it this time. He might have touched a knee it is just hard to say” Mark said. Smooth Deal had already qualified for the Sires Stakes final during his Auckland campaign, so Saturday’s failure was not as crucial as it might have been if he had not qualified. All Stars Stables had better luck later in the day taking home wins with Princess Tiffany, Winterfell and Ashley Locaz. Star 3yo old filly Princess Tiffany looked to have come back to racing in great order, winning Heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series with an easy all the way win. Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave nothing else a chance when shooting Princess Tiffanyto the lead from the start and then blazing home her last 800m in 55.2 to win untouched by more than 2 lengths. Winterfell also was back in winning form easily accounting for a tidy field of trotters in the Rating 70 and faster Trot. The son of Majestic Son settled back in the running for driver Mark Purdon and despite trotting a fraction roughly at the last bend he had too much speed for the opposition in the straight going straight past them and posting a quick 3-17.8 for the 2600m stand. Ashley Locaz gave Purdon a race to race double when gaining a deserved win in the R90 and faster pace. He too led for most of the way in his win holding off a good field with a sizzling last 800m in 54.9 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

Harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and their All Stars Stables have a very good representation in the Hydroflow "Easter Buny" Pace for Rating 90 and faster pacers at Addington on Saturday. The stable have four of the seven runners in the $17,000 race with Ashley Locaz (Mark Purdon), Elle Mac (Olivia Thornley), Funatthebeach (Tim Williams) and Eamon Maguire (Natalie Rasmussen) all having a start. Of the four, Mark Purdon thought that Eamon Maguire would be the best of the All Stars runners when assessing the stable chances during the week.  "I think Natalie’s drive Eamon Maguire will be the hardest of ours in the open handicap. "These four are all smart horses as we know if one level below the likes of Spankem and Turn It Up and they can all do it in this class on their day. "Eamon Maguire seems well and I think you will see an improved horse on Saturday compared to his last run when the field was tougher." Eamon Maguire an Art Major 5yo has been out of form for his last five starts, but struck form about this time last year running a couple of terrific races at Addington before heading North and running an eyecatching second to A G's Whitesocks in the Gr1 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park. He then went on to win the Gr1 NZ Messenger Championship on the same track before winning the 4yo Emerald at the Cambridge Harness Jewels in 1-51.9 a few weeks later. Saturday's assignment looks well within his grasp with Natalie Rasmussen taking over the reigns this time from Jonny Cox who has driven him in his first three starts this year. Earlier in the program Mark Purdon looks a moral to take out the third heat of the Garrards Sires Stakes Series for 2yo colts and geldings with classy pacer Smooth Deal. "He is forward for a big race Saturday."  Heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series is Race 3 on the day and features the Purdon/Rasmussen trained Princess Tiffany up against a handy field of 3yo fillies including the speedy Kendra and improving Wainui Creek. "Princess Tiffany is well and ready to go so she should be hard to beat," Mark said. Trotter Winterfell gets into a winnable race with Purdon thinking he would be a top chance to run in the money. "I am hoping Winterfell is at least in the first three," he said.  "He is training up fine but I would like to see him transfer that to raceday and get a confidence boost. I think that will help him a lot. The only Group race on the day is the (Gr3) Majestic Son NZ 2yo Trotting Stakes for $30,000. It is hard to see the unbeaten Greg and Nina Hope trained Muscle Mountain being rolled in this race after being so dominant in his first three races. He is likely to start a short priced favourite with Ultimate Stride from a bad draw and the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained trotting filly Tallored Elegance his main dangers.   Harnesslink Media

There could hardly be a more appropriate horse to launch the Harness Jewels for 2019 than Sweet On Me.  The unbeaten juvenile filly will take the Jewels preparation to the next level when she rolls on to Addington today for her Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes heat in the Jewels yellow colours, worn every year by the leader of each division.  Sweet On Me will be the first horse to wear them this season and it is fitting it will be at Addington, the new southern home of the great day.  But that isn’t the only reason it is appropriate Sweet On Me is the first wearer of the colours for this year’s Jewels.  Because her dam, champion mare Adore Me, wore them twice to victory at the Jewels themselves, at Ashburton in 2013 and Cambridge in 2014.  Both year’s Adore Me bolted home before going on to pace a then Australasian record 1:47.7 at Menangle.  Sweet On Me is her first foal, by Sweet Lou, and is already enormously advanced on dear old mum as Adore Me didn’t race until she was three. “She is a very, very good filly,” says co-trainer Mark Purdon, trying not to get too carried away after just three starts.  But he and everybody else knows that Sweet On Me looks a standout not just for race six at today’s rare day Addington meeting but for the entire season.  So for all the quality of those she meets today, and the field does include some smart fillies, it will be a major shock if she is beaten.  With the Jewels less than two months away the first outing for the leader’s colours comes in the same week the TAB opened odds on all nine races.  And Australian interest in their invites has been enormous, with the connections of up to 20 horses already expressing their interest.  HRNZ’s Darrin Williams said the first Australian invite was not too far away but the organisation may wait until after the Easter break to see as much exposed form as possible.  Another possible Jewels contender on show today is Wainui Creek, who takes on older horses in race eight trying to bounce back from her last-start failure.   Michael Guerin

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